The front office of the Cleveland Indians took a calculated risk before the season, stocking the lineup full of left-handed hitters.
The rationale was that there are more right-handed pitchers than southpaws, and Progressive Field favors hitters who swing from the left side.
They may be right. After all, the Indians have the second most home runs hit by left-handed hitters in 2012, trailing only the Yankees.
The problem is the lineup has no balance, because the Tribe doesn’t have enough good hitters, something predicted here before the season.
A look at a normal Cleveland lineup shows the top four hitters in the batting order have batting averages between .272 (Jason Kipnis) and .295 (Asdrubal Cabrera).
That’s the good news.
The bad news is the balance of the lineup have averages between .221 (Carlos Santana and Casey Kotchman) and .201 (Johnny Damon).
Only the third base platoon of Jack Hannahan and Jose Lopez are in the middle, hitting .250 and .257 respectively.
The extreme split in the lineup was never more on display than it was Monday night against the Angels.
After Kipnis walked, Michael Brantley singled and Santana walked to load the bases, the bottom of the order came up to face LA ace Jared Weaver.
Damon grounded out weakly to third, forcing Kipnis at the plate. Kotchman popped out to the catcher, and Shelley Duncan struck out.
No runs scored in a situation where you have to get at least one, and should get two tallies.
When the bottom of the order hits, the Tribe can score some runs, as they did over the weekend in Baltimore. However, as anyone can see from the batting averages, that doesn’t occur very often.
The front office and the optimistic fans will gleefully point out every time guys like Kotchman or Duncan get two or three hits and drive in some runs.
If this deal were offered, who do you think would wind up on top?
Those fans would get $5 when the player of their choice has a good game, but give up the same amount when they take the collar, or go 1 for 5.
The point is those hitters at the bottom of the order don’t produce frequently enough to continue to play, and the Indians’ front office doesn’t seem to be in a big hurry to replace them.
The season is reaching the half way point on the 4th of July, and changes need to be made in the lineup.
Really, if the Indians replaced Damon, Kotchman, Duncan, and Aaron Cunningham with minor leaguers would they get less production?
In fact, three of them (Duncan excluded) have negative VORP (value over replacement player) meaning they are producing less than the average player at their position.
In a close race, there is no time for wishing and hoping that these players will start hitting at a high level, so GM Chris Antonetti needs to bring someone else in, either through a trade or by dipping into the minor leagues.
Before you laugh at the last comment, check out Matt LaPorta’s numbers in the major leagues in 2011 with Kotchman’s numbers. Don’t say there isn’t someone in Columbus that could help.
Travis Hafner will return to the team today and that should help, but how much? Hafner’s stats, especially his power numbers, have been in steady decline over the last few years.
He’s no longer a middle of the order threat, but he will add a hitter that can draw a walk and has occasional pop.
Something has to be done, because the circumstances that occurred Monday are becoming more and more frequent.