We have been watching baseball for a long, long time, but we don’t dismiss some of the statistical analysis that is somewhat new to the game.
In fact, we were faithful readers of Bill James’ Baseball Abstracts when they first reached baseball fans’ consciousness and we agree with many of the things he first brought to light. Some of these concepts was the importance of on base percentage, and that OPS is a very good judge of offensive talent.
However, the game isn’t played on paper, it takes place on the field, and so it galls us when we read how the Tribe PR department, front office, and the fans who don’t think they do anything wrong, tell us how “unlucky” the current Indians are.
For example, it’s not bad luck that four to five hitters in the Tribe lineup on a regular basis are hitting under .230.
The biggest debate from the stat people is 1B Carlos Santana, who is revered by the sabermetric crowd because of his ability to draw walks. Despite his .224 batting average, he gets on base 35.4% of the time.
There is undoubtedly value in that. Another thing we learned from James is that the game of baseball is played based on the number of outs. Each team gets 27 of them. So, Santana has value in that he makes outs just 64.6% of the time, compared to let’s say, Brandon Moss, a player with a similar batting average (.220), but he makes outs 70.8% of his at bats.
However, the Tribe needs Santana to provide pop in the middle of the lineup, which he’s been unable to do. His career slugging percentage is .435, not sufficient enough for a middle of the order hitter.
Therefore, Santana really shouldn’t be hitting in the #4 or #5 spot in the batting order. Ideally, he would be more effective either hitting in front of someone who can drive him in, so he should be hitting #7 or #8 to get on base in front of Jason Kipnis, or in the two hole so Michael Brantley can get him home.
The organization is also guilty of using small sample sizes to deflect criticism. They are quick to quote that a certain player has had success over something like a 10 game stretch. Big deal. Most decent major league players can stretches that long where they appear to be pretty good.
The reality is you have to look at the season as a whole. Now, if you want to say a player got off to a slow start, and over the last 60 games, they are having success, we will listen to that argument.
The only statistic that matters is the winning percentage of the team. And right now, the Cleveland Indians are failing in that regard. No team gets to move up in the standings because the numbers show they aren’t as bad as they appear. It’s akin to putting lipstick on a pig.
Here’s another statistic we like to use: In the 14 years that Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti have been in charge, the Indians have four seasons over .500 and two playoff appearances. Guess what? Not good.
Are some of the hits by the opponents lucky? Perhaps. On the other hand, right now the starting pitchers are putting this team in a hole on a nightly basis. Last night, they were down 3-0 after the first inning.
Saturday night, they were losing 5-0.
Thursday, it was 4-0 after four frames.
This team’s offense doesn’t allow them to come back, so it is incumbent on the starters to put some zeroes on the board early. Is there any statistic that covers that up?
The entire organization needs to examine itself and look at different ways of getting it done. It’s not working right now.