Although the ever patient front office of the Cleveland Indians says you cannot evaluate a team until they play 40 games, we have always done the first look-see of the club after they have played 1/6th of the schedule, or 27 games.
The Indians hit that mark after Thursday’s loss to Kansas City, and the results aren’t good at all.
The Tribe sits at 10-17 on the year, a pace that will give the club its first 100 loss season since 1991, when they were still playing at old Municipal Stadium.
It has been a total team collapse.
The offense, which ranked in the top half of the American League in scoring runs last season, is currently 10th, and has scored three runs or less in 11 of the first 27 games. So, there is a good chunk of games where they would be lucky to win the way they score.
We have always said you need seven solid hitters to win in the AL, putting pressure on the opposition pitching staffs. If we set the benchmark as an OPS over 700 (which is below the league average), in terms of everyday players, Terry Francona has four at his disposal: Michael Brantley (935), Carlos Santana (797), Brandon Moss (736), and Jason Kipnis (722).
Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles qualify too, but they only play against left-handers.
And to be fair, Lonnie Chisenhall is creeping closer to the 700 mark at 691.
That means on most nights, pitchers can relax after the first four or five Tribe hitters. The worst offenders are Michael Bourn (522) and Jose Ramirez (455). The front office’s stubborn refusal to bring up Francisco Lindor and to continue to play Ramirez is mind-boggling.
Now, we understand Lindor isn’t tearing up the International League, hitting just .248. But his OPS is 683, more than 200 points higher than Ramirez. And Lindor is a better defensive player.
The pitching staff hasn’t fared much better, ranking second to last in the league in ERA.
The main culprit here has been control, the Tribe ranks 12th in the AL in walks, and a terrible defense. This week’s Sports Illustrated has an article saying Cleveland’s defense ranks among the worst of all time!
Moss is not a RF by trade, he’s more of a 1B/DH. Bourn doesn’t cover ground like he used to in CF. Ramirez isn’t good, and losing Yan Gomes to an injury after five games isn’t helping either.
The ballclub’s best defender by metrics? The much maligned Chisenhall.
Corey Kluber’s struggles have been well documented. The defending Cy Young Award winner is 0-5 with a 5.04 ERA. T.J. House wasn’t good, but didn’t really have a rotation set, so between that and his shoulder troubles, we will give him a bit of a pass.
The bullpen has been chaos, however. Cody Allen, the closer, has allowed 15 hits and eight walks in 10 innings of work.Nick Hagadone’s control troubles have resurfaced. Scott Atchison is starting to pitch like a 39-year-old. Bryan Shaw’s workload over the last two seasons look to have caught up to him.
The best reliever on the team has been Zack McAllister, who has a 1.72 ERA out of the ‘pen.
This is an area that can be fixed because bullpens can be interchangeable parts, but it will take some tough decisions by the front office.
Austin Adams has pitched well in Columbus and looked good in two appearances here. Why not get him up here? C.C. Lee has a live arm and did some good things at the end of ’14, get him up here too.
GM Chris Antonetti and president Mark Shapiro preach patience all the time. It is no longer early. Right now, the Cleveland Indians are a bad baseball team.
The time to start fixing the team is right now, before it gets too late and what shaped up as a fun summer of baseball is totally ruined.