If you were going to write a blueprint on how to contend for a division title in baseball, we would guess it wouldn’t say to start off 4-11 against your own division foes.
That’s what the Indians have done and in the process have dug a little hole for themselves.
They are now seven games out of first place and the calendar hasn’t even turned to May.
There is plenty of time for the Tribe, as they haven’t reached the 27 game point of the season, the one-sixth pole if you will, but it will come sometime next week, and right now, Terry Francona’s team looks moribund at best.
The culprit? The same as last year, an inconsistent offense that lacks hitters who provide professional at bats.
Last weekend’s series at Comerica Park was a perfect example of what we are talking about, as the Indians scored 13 runs in the first contest, and followed up the next day by tallying just one.
The team’s best hitter to this point has been a guy many people wanted to replace before the season opened, Ryan Raburn, who has hit .385 in 26 at bats and is tied for the club lead (with Brandon Moss) in extra base hits with seven.
Of course, three of Moss’ long hits game in the 13-1 rout of the Tigers we were speaking of earlier.
Granted, it is early, but the usual Indians’ line up features a lot of players batting anywhere from .240 to .150.
On the other hand, at what point is it no longer early?
When the same things are occurring to start the year as ended last season, there may not be time to wait.
We had discussions over the weekend about CF Michael Bourn, who was finally dropped out of the leadoff spot after starting off 2015 the same way he closed last year: Striking out a lot, not getting on base, and not stealing bases.
At this point, it would be a shock if Bourn caught fire and wound up the year with an average of over .250.
Jason Kipnis is looking like the ’14 version which was an injury plagued campaign.
Lonnie Chisenhall is looking like second half Lonnie, not the one who flirted with .400 in the first half of 2014.
The defense continues to struggle. Thank goodness Cleveland pitchers lead the American League in strikeouts, lest more balls be put in play to challenge the tin gloves the Indians’ fielders use.
GM Chris Antonetti has built this team on pitching, yet continues to put subpar defenders behind his collection of power arms in the front of his rotation.
We have been clamoring for Francisco Lindor to be called up since the trading deadline last season, but once again, today we heard a bunch of corporate speak about how he is not yet a finished product.
And we say that despite the fact we like Jose Ramirez. Ramirez will be a good player someday, but he’s a second baseman, not a shortstop. Lindor is a shortstop.
Roster problems weren’t taken care of either this winter. When Antonetti traded for Moss this winter, they didn’t move David Murphy, despite the plan to play the newcomer in RF.
Therefore, the Tribe doesn’t have a backup centerfielder on the roster. Wouldn’t Tyler Holt fill a role with this team?
Anyway, based on past experience, Antonetti will wait and wait before making any changes with the roster. By that time, it may be too late.
We picked the Indians to emerge as the division winner, but right now, this team doesn’t have the look of a playoff team, except for the starting pitching.
Hopefully, the season doesn’t get away from them by then.