Bottom of Order Needs to Step Up for Tribe

With the Cleveland Indians rolling along at 30-17 this season, it is hard to find negative things to talk about with the ballclub.

However, with Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner out of the lineup right now, the depth, or lack of it,  in regard to the everyday players is starting to show.

It seems crazy to say this based on the fact that the Tribe is second in the American League in runs scored.

Right now, Manny Acta is forced to put these names in the batting order on a daily basis:  Orlando Cabrera, Jack Hannahan, and Austin Kearns. 

None of these guys have done much with the stick recently, and it is hurting the offense.  And all of the players involved have recent track records which show the recent trend isn’t likely to change.

Cabrera is hitting .235 in May with a 558 OPS, which is terrible to say the least.  You could write this off as a slump, except that his OPS last season with Cincinnati was 631.

There is no question that Cabrera has meant a lot to this team in terms of leadership, but it is tough to keep him in the lineup on an everyday basis if he hits like he has this month.

Hannahan is batting just .190 in May with an OPS of 495.  Remember that the left-handed hitter entered 2011 with a lifetime average of just .224. 

He has been a tremendous upgrade with the glove, especially when you compare his defense there to what the Indians has last season, but it’s difficult to have that type of hitter at what is primarily an offensive position.

Kearns has actually picked it up lately, hitting .308 in May in 26 at bats, but is hitting just .210 on the season, and has yet to hit a home run.

With the pitching staffs Cleveland has faced lately, it is tough enough to score runs with a lineup of good hitters, let alone one that has so many holes in it.

To be fair, when Sizemore and Hafner are healthy, you can probably accept sub par offense in a couple of spots where you are getting good defense. 

However, it makes it pretty easy for opposing hurlers when there really is no threat once you get past the sixth or seventh spot in the batting order.  With two good hitters out of there, that’s how the Tribe lineup looks right now.

It also doesn’t help that clean up hitter Carlos Santana is in a funk and his batting average has dropped to .203.  The switch hitting catcher does walk a lot so at least he’s not making a lot of outs.

Fortunately for Manny Acta and Chris Antonetti, the two areas of concern have solid alternatives at Columbus, as the organization’s best prospects, 2B Jason Kipnis (.292, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 865 OPS) and 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (.283, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 808 OPS) play the two positions in question.

Add to those names, Cord Phelps (.310, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 937 OPS) who can play both spots and has more AAA experience than the other two players.

Yes, the Indians are 2nd in the AL in runs scored, but it is no secret that over the last couple of weeks, the Tribe has struggled to score runs.

What the management has to analyze is whether or not it’s a slump or a trend.  Based on the past track records of the players who are struggling, you have to wonder if a change is coming soon.

MW

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