Tribe Offense Looks for Balance

A look at the American League leaders in offensive statistics, at least the traditional one, doesn’t show a lot of players who toil for the Indians.

Yes, Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner are in the top ten in walks received, and Asdrubal Cabrera is among the leaders in doubles and on base percentage, but by and large there aren’t many names among the lists.

For example, there are ten AL players who have driven in 30 runs this season.  None wear a Cleveland uniform.

The Tribe ranks in the middle of the pack (8th) in the league in runs scored, so they can’t be considered to have a great offense or a poor one.  The absence of a big bat probably is the reason for this ranking.  Still, the Indians’ attack has gotten it done with balance.

With the season in between the quarter pole and the one-third mark, the Tribe has several players who are on pace to drive in between 80 and 90 runs this year.  It’s that type of balanced attack that has kept the offense above water so far in 2012.

To date, Santana and Jason Kipnis have led the team in RBI’s with 24, with Hafner close behind at 23.  Cabrera has driven home 20.  All four players are on pace to collect more than 80 ribbies this season.

Jack Hannahan has knocked home 18 runners despite missing the last 10 games with a back problem.  He likely would have more than 20 had he stayed healthy, although his career track would contradict maintaining this pace for an entire season.

The biggest problem for Manny Acta right now is that the guys in the middle of his lineup, Santana and Hafner, are not driving the ball.  The three players leading the team in extra base hits are Cabrera with 19, followed by both Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley with 16.

Santana and Hafner have just 12 each.

Doubles have been the hit of choice for the three leaders, with each of them ranking in the AL’s top ten in that category.  If the middle of the order joined the extra base hit party, the Cleveland offense would be much improved.

One problem that has been quite evident of late is the lack of production from anyone off the bench, save for Jose Lopez.

While Lopez has been a huge bonus since returning from Columbus, going 12 for 39 (.308) with a home run (a game tying blast vs. Seattle) and seven runs batted in, the rest of the bench bunch has been impotent at the plate.

Backup catcher Lou Marson has been completely out of sync, with just three hits in 30 at bats (.100).  Marson looks to be guiding his bat through the strike zone rather than swinging at the ball.  Shelley Duncan has returned to being, well, Shelley Duncan, hitting just .200 in 95 at bats, striking out in one third of them.

Aaron Cunningham is the only back up CF, and that’s why he remains on the roster despite batting just .192 with a 519 OPS.

It’s a chicken or the egg thing.  The bench probably needs more playing time to hit better and stay sharp, but it’s tough for Acta to take out one of his regulars for a player who can’t hit, especially when the number of good hitters in the lineup is short.

The bottom of the usual Tribe lineup has 1B Casey Kotchman (.216) and LF Johnny Damon (.162), two guys who a struggling.  Why add a third or fourth poor hitter if you don’t have to?

It’s another thing that GM Chris Antonetti may have to address sooner than later.  Until then, or until Santana and Hafner can turn singles into doubles and home runs, Acta will have to hope the balanced attack continues to provide enough runs to get a lead and turn games over to the bullpen.

MW

 

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