Tribe Has Four Hitters Having Good Years. Why Are They Struggling?

This weekend is the biggest weekend of the season for the Cleveland Indians.

Win two out of three against the Detroit Tigers in Motown and the Tribe keeps their slim playoff hopes alive.  If they lose two out of three, then those hopes will be dashed and the last two weeks of the campaign should be used to evaluate young players.

While the offense exploded for eight runs in the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader sweep of the Twins, the second game was back to the same attack, in which getting runs seems to be like getting blood from a stone.

It seems that if the starting pitching can’t hold the opposition to one or no runs, the Indians don’t have a chance to win.

When looking at the statistics, it is clear that the Indians have a very strange offense.

We feel having an OPS of over 800 stamps a player as very good offensively.  Currently, Terry Francona can write down the names of four players who fit that criteria in the lineup everyday:  Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Carlos Santana.

That would seem to be a good start having a solid offense.

For example, the Angels lead the American League in runs scored and have only three batters (Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Kole Calhoun) with OPS over 800.  The Tigers are second in the AL in scoring and also have three hitters over that figure:  Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez.

So why is the Cleveland offense sputtering?

Mostly because the other five players which make up the rest of the batting order for the Indians are having terrible offensive seasons.  The only two players with figures near the league average of 709 are Michael Bourn and David Murphy, and there is no one in the category of a solid offensive player, which would be an OPS around the 750 range.

By contrast, the Angels have four hitters with OPS in the 750 range–Josh Hamilton, Chris Iannetta, C. J. Cron, and Howie Kendrick.  The Tigers have two in Rajai Davis and Torii Hunter.  Surprisingly, Ian Kinsler’s figure is virtually the same as Murphy.

That’s why they have more consistent offenses than the Indians.

As currently constituted, the Indians have a lineup with four very good offensive players and five mediocre offensive players.  That isn’t a good formula for scoring runs.

Francona tries to group his four big bats together in the batting order, but for some reason he has been sticking Jason Kipnis right in the middle of the foursome and that isn’t helping the situation.

He should move Gomes up to the 5th spot followed by Chisenhall with Kipnis dropping to 7th.  Perhaps that will generate some more runs.

With Bourn and Murphy being the best of the rest of the hitters, and rookie SS Jose Ramirez contributing a bit at the plate, that leaves two spots for Francona to try to use the best match up to generate the offense.

Kipnis is taking one spot, leaving DH, the one spot on the team were the only skill necessary is hitting as a huge gaping hole.

Our preference would be to just put Jesus Aguilar in their and let him play everyday to see if he can get something going.  He has the best minor league track record among the rest of the roster.  However, because he’s a rookie, the skipper seems hesitant to put him in there and leave him alone.

What this means is the Tribe misses Nick Swisher a little more than people realize.  And it’s definitely an area that needs addressing over the off-season.

MW

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