While we at FanGraphs have tried to supply you with plenty of Indians-related content during their historic torrid streak — Cleveland matched the 2002 Oakland A’s for the American League record with a 20th straight win Monday night — it seems like the club’s run might be failing to receive the recognition, nationally, that it’s due.
Perhaps one reason is Major League Baseball’s criteria for what constitutes a “winning streak.” The 1916 New York Giants are credited with baseball’s longest winning streak, at 26 games. But that Giants club didn’t actually win 26 consecutive games. Over a 27-game span in September of that year, they sandwiched a 12- and 14-game winning streak around a tie.
A 26-game winning streak? Fake news!
To this author, it’s nonsensical that a “winning streak” would not feature an actual, uninterrupted, consecutive series of wins. A better way to characterize the Giants’ feat would to define it as baseball’s record non-losing streak. The “real” mark ought to belong to the 1935 Cubs, who won 21 straight and whose achievement Cleveland has the opportunity to match this afternoon against the Tigers.
So the significance of Cleveland’s game today is perhaps in the eye of the beholder. What’s undisputed, however, is that the Indians have matched the A’s for the AL record of consecutive wins and are just the third team to record a stretch of 20 straight wins.
Winning streaks of at least 20 games in baseball history:
2017 Indians (20)
2002 Athletics (20)
1935 Cubs (21)*
*longest streak in history
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) September 13, 2017
Whatever happens Wednesday afternoon, one could argue that this is the most dominant stretch of play in baseball history. It’s certainly a more dominant run than the Moneyball A’s of 2002 produced — at least as judged by run differential.
2017 Indians 2002 Athletics
— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) September 13, 2017
Let’s consider some winning-streak facts, many of which have been supplied by the helpful Indians media relations department:
Fact: The Indians have outscored their opponents 134-32.
The quick math yields a run differential of 102. The Dodgers, the club which Sports Illustrated asserted on a recent cover was perhaps the “Best. Team. Ever?” (note the wiggle-room-creating question mark), had led baseball in run differential for much of the season and as a recently as Sept. 5. The Indians overtook the Dodgers in run differential on Sept. 6 (190-187). Less than 10 days later, the Indians have built their run differential lead to 220-168 over the second-ranked Dodgers, entering play Wednesday.
Fact: The Indians have trailed in just four innings.
Four! In 180 innings!
Fact: Cleveland has more home runs than opponents have total runs.
It’s 38 to 32 in favor of Cleveland.
Fact: Indians starting pitchers have gone 18-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
The streak has been fueled by starting pitching. It’s a group that I noted was distancing itself from the pack earlier this summer, a group which Jeff Sullivan — without hyperbole — found was closing in the status as the best in MLB history.
The staff has been dominant from top to bottom and is on pace to become the first to strike out better than 10 batters per nine inning in MLB history.
It’s a staff that positions the club well for October. Remember, this was a team that advanced to Game 7 of the World Series last year down its No. 2 and No. 3 starters in Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. The Indians’ run last fall was a MacGyver-like formula of Kluber, Andrew Miller, and duct tape.
Fact: Cleveland pitchers have combined for seven shutouts.
The latest came courtesy Corey Kluber on Monday night versus Detroit. Kluber has gone 9-1 in his last 11 starts with a 1.93 ERA and leads the AL with a 2.44 ERA. He has perhaps emerged as a frontrunner in the AL Cy Young race.
Klubot, photographed below from my living room couch after recording the final out Monday night, does not seem to be caught up in the emotion of the streak.
Klubot getting caught up in the emotion of the moment per usual pic.twitter.com/z2bEf0Gp5f
— Travis Sawchik (@Travis_Sawchik) September 13, 2017
Said Kluber to reporters afterward.
“I don’t want to dumb it down, but we went through something similar to this just last season,” Kluber said. “So we’ve got a little bit of that experience as well. To me, last year we embraced the winning streak more than we are this time. This time I think we’re just going about our business.”
Fact: The Indians are 13-0 to begin September.
It’s the best start to any month since the 1991 Twins went 15-0 to open June.
Fact: Yandy Diaz is batting .377.
A Fringe Five alum, Diaz has been so good during the streak that Cleveland has discussed using Jason Kipnis in center field when he returns from the DL to avoid disrupting the infield. It’s a position Kipnis last played at Arizona State.
Overall, members of the Indians bench have been playing like stars, as Dave wrote earlier this week. Their stars are playing like superstars. That makes a team that’s awfully tough to beat. That allows for one of the best runs in MLB history — if not the best stretch in MLB history.
— WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW (@Indians) September 13, 2017
And on Wednesday, the Indians have a chance to pass the A’s and match the Cubs for the longest winning streak in history — depending upon how to define winning. That’s the most impressive fact.