Looking at Tribe After Two Months

The calendar turns another page today and as we enter June, we are also entering the third month of the major league baseball schedule.

And it is fitting that the Cleveland Indians played their 54th game last night/this morning, which also marks 1/3 of the schedule has been played.  The Tribe’s record is 29-25, which means they are on pace to win 87 games in 2013.

For the record, for the first 27 games of the season, Cleveland went 14-13, which means they improved slightly in the last 27 contests.

The Indians’ offense has been a little better than expected, ranking fourth in the American League in runs scored per game at 4.93, trailing just Detroit, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay.  They rank 7th in on base percentage, but 3rd in slugging behind the Orioles and Rangers, both of whom play in great hitters parks.

The Tribe is 4th in the AL in home runs, behind those same two teams and Toronto, another team that plays in a very good place if you have a bat in your hands.

The one concern about the Cleveland offense going into the season was strikeouts, and that concern has manifested itself.  The Indians hitters have struck out 455 times, an average of 8.4 per game, although you have to go down to 10th among the league leaders to find an Indian, with Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs tied for that spot.

Both players have fanned over 200 times in a season, so that’s not a surprise.

Individually, really no one really overachieving among the everyday players, although fans should be pleasantly surprised by the production of Ryan Raburn (.296, 5HR, 16 RBI in 98 at bats) and Yan Gomes (.310, 5 HR, 14 RBI in just 71 at bats).

Jason Kipnis has been streaky and his numbers reflect it (.238 average, .307 OBP).  The Tribe needs better out of the second baseman if they are to contend all season.  Asdrubal Cabrera got off to a slow start, but had a solid May (.278, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 806 OPS) and actually leads the Indians in extra base hits with 24, ahead of Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana’s 21 each.

To us, an elite offensive player is a guy who has an on base percentage over .350, and a slugging percentage of over .450.  The Tribe currently has two of these players:  Santana and Swisher.  That should put to rest any concern about these two players.

Santana’s average slipped big time in May, but he still takes walks and has a .390 on base percentage.  We’ve heard some mild concern about Swisher, but people have to realize big money doesn’t make you a better player.  Swisher is who he is, a player who has pop and gets on base.

The recent problem for the Indians has been pitching, with the staff ranking 10th in the AL in ERA.  However, the starting pitching, supposedly the weak link of the team, hasn’t been bad, but the bullpen has struggled mightily of late.

New pitching coach Mickey Calloway has emphasized throwing strikes, and all five Tribe starters have strikeout to walk ratios of over 2:1, which is outstanding.

The only complaint about the starters is the need to work longer in the games.  With the bullpen struggling, the starters need to get through six innings consistently.  There have been too many “five and flys” this season.

With Chris Perez on the disabled list, much focus has been put on the back-end of the ‘pen, but the left-handed relievers have been terrible.  Terry Francona cannot be confident in any situation where he needs to get a tough left-handed hitter out, because Nick Hagadone, Scott Barnes, and Rich Hill have not been effective, nor have they been able to throw strikes.

Hill has walked 10 in 15-1/3 innings, and Hagadone has also issued 10 in 13-1/3 frames.  Barnes has only walked three in eight innings, but has allowed three home runs.

The team needs to find someone who can be effective in this role, or it will haunt them all season.

The Cleveland Indians hit the one-third point in the campaign in good shape, on pace to win 87 games and just a half game out of first.  Fortifying the bullpen, especially with an effective southpaw would seem to be #1 on the priority list right now.

MW

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