As spring training approached, we discussed how apparently the Cleveland Indians’ plan to improve the team that won 92 games a year ago, was to hope for a return to form by several veteran players.
The Tribe finished fourth in the American League in runs scored in 2013, but you had to figure on regressions by players like Ryan Raburn, Mike Aviles, and even Jason Giambi.
To account for that, the front office needed bounce back seasons by Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Asdrubal Cabrera.
So far, that formula is a big, fat dud.
Bourn has missed more than half of the Tribe’s games this season, but he has actually been the best of the three, hitting .266. However, he has a poor .299 on base percentage for a leadoff hitter, continuing a downward trend from his .348 mark in ’12. It was just .312 last season.
Swisher has hit just two home runs thus far, and his batting average is also below the Mendoza line at .197 and his OPS has dipped to a terrible 597. A figure like that for a full season would get a player released.
Cabrera has his batting average at .211, but he has just eight extra base hits on the season and his OPS is also ridiculously low at 604. It is getting to the point where you have to think Francisco Lindor could hit just as well (at least) and provide better defense to boot.
Add in the horrific start to Carlos Santana’s season and you have one of the worst batting teams in the American League this season.
The Indians have scored three runs or less in 19 of the 32 games played thus far, a whopping 59% of the contests.
You aren’t going to win many games with that kind of attack.
Is there a solution for manager Terry Francona?
Tito exhibits a great deal of patience to be sure, as does the entire organization, but with so many players not hitting what can be done.
At this point, the Indians only have a handful of players with an OPS of 700, which is slightly below average. They are Lonnie Chisenhall (911), Michael Brantley (776), David Murphy (744) and Yan Gomes (724). In addition, Nyjer Morgan is at 791, but has played only 11 games.
Outside of Gomes, all are left-handed hitters, which makes it difficult to balance the lineup on a nightly basis.
One solution would be to group all of these guys together, particularly when a right-hander starts for the opposition and hope you can generate some offense that way.
However, that makes you susceptible to a lefty coming out of the bullpen late in games to match up with all of these guys.
The other problem that Francona has is that the only bench guy hitting is Mike Aviles, currently at .271, but with just two extra base hits. So, if he replaces one of the regulars, he doesn’t exactly have a better alternative.
Right now, it appears the Indians’ plan has backfired, and once again, they failed to seize an opportunity to build on a playoff team by doing relatively nothing in the off-season.
Perhaps tonight, the Tribe bats will turn it around. If they don’t do it soon, then it is just one more reason for fans to feel disenchantment with the management group.