You may guess that the Cleveland Indians might be among the leaders in the American League in leaving runners on base, and you would be correct.
In fact, they lead the AL with 670 LOB to this point in the season.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it shows they do indeed get base runners, they just lack the ability to get a hit to score them.
Second in that category is the Boston Red Sox, another team who is having problems putting runs on the board, but the next two teams in leaving runners on are Oakland, who ranks 7th in runs scored, and New York, 2nd in the AL in runs per game.
One statistic to look at in examining Cleveland’s problems is slugging percentage, which is the ability to get extra base hits. The Indians rank 4th from the bottom in that category, ahead of only Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Chicago in the junior circuit.
Those three teams are also the same trio that are behind the Tribe in average runs per night.
Cleveland does hit plenty of doubles, they are second in the AL in that stat due to the presence of Jason Kipnis (tied for the AL lead) and Michael Brantley (4th in the AL), but the absence of the long ball is hurting the ability to put up runs. The Indians are second to last in dingers ahead of only the White Sox. Chicago’s inability to hit homers is really telling in that they play in a home run friendly park.
Thank goodness for the acquisition of Brandon Moss, who has hit 15 bombs this season, despite his struggles at the plate. Otherwise, Terry Francona’s squad might rank last in home runs.
What this means is that on most nights, Cleveland needs three hits to score, which might be easier if their team batting average wasn’t .249, and on usually they have only three hitters with averages over .250 in the lineup: Kipnis, Brantley, and David Murphy.
Moss is on pace for over 20 dingers in 2015, but he’s the only Tribe hitter who is on pace to reach that plateau. Carlos Santana is the only Tribesman in double figures at the moment, and he has just 10.
Look at what happened Saturday night, when the Indians hit three homers. They scored nine runs. It makes it a lot easier when you can get three runs on one swing as they did on the long balls by Brantley and Yan Gomes.
And the way the lineup is constructed, you have Kipnis (.405 OBP) and Brantley (.371) hitting at the top of the order, and the batting averages of the players following them (excluding the Murphy/Raburn platoon) on most nights are usually this: .222, .222, .220, .231, .229. Yikes!
And Murphy is a guy to keep an eye on. He’s a lifetime .275 batter, currently hitting .307. Over the last month, he’s dropped to .255, which means he is regressing to his normal statistics. That’s not going to help.
It is doubtful the Tribe can do anything about the power at this point. Perhaps bring up Jerry Sands again or maybe Jesus Aguilar, who have the ability to hit some home runs. Could GM Chris Antonetti find some better hitters for average on the market? It’s probably more likely than getting someone who can hit 25 homers, so maybe that is possible.
Francisco Lindor is starting to hit a little better, but that only helps the top of the order, which isn’t really the problem right now.
It’s not as simple as the guys in the lineup getting better. It’s flawed right now. The guys with the low batting averages aren’t just having bad years, they don’t hit for high averages.
If the Indians want to generate more offense, they need to correct that problem.