We all know the Cleveland Indians got off to a bad start this season, and then played much better in May.
However, they are back in a rut again, treading water in June, having won just six of their last 15 games.
They are trying. They’ve brought up heralded prospect Francisco Lindor to play shortstop and add Giovanny Urshela to play third base, and tomorrow will mark the debut of right-hander Cody Anderson, who will start against the Rays.
The hitting takes the bulk of the blame, but in reality, they are only half of the problem, because the team ERA ranks 12th in the American League, although they might rank higher if not for some questionable official scoring.
First, the hitting. Despite ranking 3rd in the AL in on base percentage, and 9th in slugging, the Tribe ranks 10th in the league in runs scored. This is mostly because they are terrible with men on base.
That’s mostly because they don’t have enough solid bats in the lineup.
Right now, they have Jason Kipnis, who is having an MVP quality season leading off, and Lindor is hitting second, with Michael Brantley third. Kipnis (.417 OBP) and Brantley (.381) get on base a lot.
After that, there aren’t a lot of guys doing anything.
David Murphy and Ryan Raburn are doing well platooning at DH, but Raburn has slowed after a hot start. Carlos Santana is batting .212, and his most consistent skill this year is walking. While that is better than making an out, it’s usually not resulting in runs being scored.
Yan Gomes has been pretty consistent, but was out six weeks with a knee injury, and is batting .211 on the season.
Brandon Moss has shown some flashes, but because he strikes out a lot, he is prone to those 0 for 15 slides that don’t help the team score runs. Michael Bourn is a blight on the offense with his .238 average and OPS under 600.
So, how would you expect Kipnis and Brantley to score based on who is hitting behind them?
We have always maintained you need to have at least seven solid hitters to have a formidable offensive team. How many do the Indians have?
Right now, three (Kipnis, Brantley, DH platoon) and we think Gomes, Moss, and Santana can be. That still leaves them one bat short. Lindor and Urshela are too young and inexperience to be counted on, although both haven’t been bad so far.
The pitching has been a disappointment too. They lead the AL in striking out hitters, but when teams hit the ball, it hasn’t been good.
Tribe pitchers have the 2nd highest batting average against on balls put in play and have allowed the third most home runs in the league. The first figure points out the Cleveland defense hasn’t been good most of the year.
None of the starters have an ERA under 3.00, and several parts of the bullpen have been crazy inconsistent as well. Cody Allen has righted himself after a bad start, and Bryan Shaw has been solid lately too, but Zack McAllister is up and down.
Why Ryan Webb and Austin Adams haven’t received a better chance is a mystery, and it may be time to cut bait on Nick Hagadone and Scott Atchison.
The fifth starter spot has been held by several guys, and perhaps the best of them, Shawn Marcum (who pitched well in four of six starts) was designated for assignment on Thursday.
Maybe Anderson can stabilize that spot.
Because the American League is so tightly packed, if Terry Francona’s club can get some consistency and can rattle off something like 14 wins in a 20 game span, they would be in the top half of the league record wise.
Unfortunately, outside of a three-week stretch in May, they haven’t been able to do that.