The way the Cleveland Indians are playing isn’t making us worried, but it is time to be slightly concerned as we are in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend.
The Tribe is sitting at just one game above the .500 mark at 24-23, and it is particularly concerning that they are just 8-13 at Progressive Field, the worst home mark in the American League.
The main culprits for the malaise of Terry Francona’s club would be an inconsistent offense, ranking 10th in the AL in runs per game, and the instability of the starting pitching, which can’t seem to get deep into ballgames.
The Indians have scored three runs or less in 24 of their 47 games to date, a total slightly more than 50%. It is tough to win games in today’s baseball that way, and Francona’s club is just 7-17 in those contests.
When they get to four runs, they have an outstanding 17-6 mark, which of course, is championship level. The question is how can they be more consistent on a daily basis.
It would help greatly if Edwin Encarnacion (who actually has hit better lately) and Carlos Santana started providing some pop in the middle of the order. The latter has just five home runs on the season, after hitting 34 a year ago.
Another thing killing the offense is a 668 OPS for hitters leading off an inning, which includes a .305 on base percentage. Guys leading off an inning simply aren’t getting on base, which makes it hard to get something going.
And when they do get runners on, Cleveland is hitting just .205 (670 OPS) with runners in scoring position, meaning the Tribe isn’t coming up with the clutch hit.
The Indians aren’t a big power team, so they rely on hits to score runs. Last year, Cleveland hit .262 as a team. This year? That mark has dropped to .240. That’s a huge drop off.
Right now, the Tribe only has four regulars hitting over .250, which isn’t great. They are Francisco Lindor (.279), Jose Ramirez (.265), Michael Brantley (.291), and Lonnie Chisenhall (.261). Only one, Brantley (.367) has an on base percentage over .350.
That’ an awful lot of outs being made. Until that changes, we fear the offense is going to continue to struggle.
As for the starting pitchers, length of starts is becoming a huge factor. Right now, it is rare to see an Indian starter still around the in the 7th inning, and that puts a huge burden on the bullpen.
Right now, they have been more than up to the task, but will we be able to say the same thing come August.
Since Mike Clevinger completed seven innings against the Astros on May 20th, no Cleveland starter has accomplished this, and only two (Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco) threw a pitch in the seventh.
Most nights, you look at the box score and see 5+ innings out of a starter. That’s not good enough, and that Tribe starters have the highest ERA in the American League doesn’t bode well either.
Perhaps we will see some change when staff ace Corey Kluber returns to the rotation this week. The speculation is that Clevinger will stay and Danny Salazar will go to the bullpen for the Carrasco like refresher course in pitching.
We are still in May so it is too early in the season to panic, but on the other hand, almost 1/3rd of the season has been completed. Progress has to be seen if the Indians are going to make the playoffs in 2017.