The Cleveland Indians are not playoff-bound in 2021.
Despite some preseason optimism, the results haven’t been there for the Indians, as the club is currently 54-55 with two months to go.
The injury bug has been of the biggest contributing factors to Cleveland’s disappointing campaign.
More specifically, the health of the rotation has been a huge issue at multiple points throughout the year.
Injuries are part of baseball, but at the end of the day, truly elite teams will find a way to overcome health-related setbacks.
The Indians aren’t built for that.
These two injuries have been too tough for Cleveland to overcome this season.
2. The Loss Of Aaron Civale
The Indians have been without Aaron Civale’s services since late June.
He hit the 60-day injured list with a middle finger sprain, and although he is expected to be back soon, his return won’t come in time to save the Indians’ playoff chances.
Civale has been one of Cleveland’s most reliable starters for several years now.
He was working on a 3.32 ERA, 4.27 FIP, and 1.07 WHIP over 15 outings before hitting the IL this season, and he has a career ERA of 3.53 over 37 starts.
Needless to say, that’s a tough loss to deal with.
1. The Loss Of Shane Bieber
Shane Bieber is the identity of this Cleveland rotation, and without him, the staff lacks a true ace.
The reigning Cy Young Award winner has been on the shelf since the middle of June with a right shoulder strain.
Indians are placing Shane Bieber on the injured list with a strain in his right shoulder.
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) June 14, 2021
Like Civale, Bieber is expected to return soon, but again: It’s going to be too little, too late for the Indians.
Bieber had a 3.28 ERA, 3.10 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP over 14 stars before straining his shoulder.
In 2020, the righty had a 1.63 ERA, 2.07 FIP, and 0.87 WHIP.
That level of production is virtually irreplaceable.
How Has Cleveland Dealt With The Injuries?
Entering the year, Cleveland’s rotation had a lot of question marks.
The team was optimistic about its trio of Bieber, Civale, and Zach Plesac, but beyond those three, there were some major concerns.
Well, at one point, all three of Bieber, Civale, and Plesac were on the injured list.
You can probably guess how Cleveland performed during that stretch.
As a result of all of the injuries and a lack of depth, the following players are/were in the rotation at one point:
- Triston McKenzie (5.89 ERA)
- J.C. Mejia (8.75 ERA)
- Eli Morgan (6.09 ERA)
- Logan Allen (9.13 ERA)
- Sam Hentges (9.00 ERA as a starter)
- Cal Quantrill (3.71 ERA as a starter—he has been a diamond in the rough)
The 2021 season has been a very forgettable one for the Indians, but there are better days ahead.
As mentioned, Quantrill—who used to be a reliever—has done a nice job for Cleveland as a starter this season.
When you throw him into the mix with Bieber, Civale, and Plesac, you’ve got a really nice foundation for next year’s rotation.
Fully healthy rotation looking good for the 2022 #Guardians with 1-4 solidified & a developing McKenzie/Morgan combo or someone else possible at 5.
1) Shane Bieber
2) Aaron Civale
3) Zach Plesac
4) Cal Quantrill
5) Triston McKenzie/Eli Morgan/ ?
— Guardians Prospective (@CleGuardPro) August 7, 2021
If the Indians have a strong offseason, they could find themselves back in the playoff mix in 2022.
Time will tell if that’s the case.