In modern baseball, OPS is getting to be the key offensive statistic. In our view, this is just a continuation of our belief that having an on base percentage of over .350 and a slugging average of more than .450 means you are a very good hitter.
The Cleveland Indians are fourth in the American League in runs scored despite having just three players who have played more than half the team’s games that have OPS over 800: Jose Ramirez (991), Francisco Lindor (950), and Michael Brantley (852).
By contrast, the Boston Red Sox lead the AL in runs scored and have five regulars over 800. Houston is second in scoring, and they have four players over that figure, five if you count Max Stassi.
The Yankees are just ahead of the Indians in plating runs, and they also have five players with OPS over 800.
Why do we bring this up? Because of our fear that the Tribe’s offensive showing may be unsustainable unless they start getting help from others.
Certainly, Edwin Encarnacion has been a contributor as well, leading Cleveland in RBIs, and his OPS is getting closer to the coveted 800 mark at 781.
The Indians have the highest Wins Above Average in the majors at two positions, third base, manned by Ramirez, and at shortstop with Lindor.
Conversely, the Tribe ranks in the bottom five at second base and in right field, although had Lonnie Chisenhall stayed healthy, they would rank higher there, but as we know, Chisenhall has had all kinds of calf issues.
Terry Francona’s squad also ranks in the bottom ten in baseball in centerfield, where it seems no matter who Tito puts out there simply cannot hit.
A good offense can have a couple of holes, but having three guys who can’t hit, puts a strain on it, and remember, right now when Roberto Perez is catching, he’s not contributing at the plate either.
Jason Kipnis has started swinging the bat better, so that will help greatly if he continues in that direction. But Chisenhall’s injury leaves a big gap in the attack, particularly since Tyler Naquin hasn’t hit since coming off the disabled list.
The right-handed hitting part of the platoon out there, Brandon Guyer, has not returned to his 2016 form against southpaws, and he is virtually unplayable against righties, being 2 for 41 on the season vs. RHP.
Yonder Alonso has been alright hitting behind Encarnacion in the lineup, but do you think opposing pitchers think twice about pitching around the veteran slugger in a crucial situation with Alonso there, especially if you can bring in a lefty.
Alonso is batting .206 vs. southpaws, and has a .322 on base percentage overall. It’s pretty clear that despite all of the complaints over the years about Carlos Santana, the team misses his ability to work the count and draw walks.
The need to lengthen the lineup is the reason why the national media speculate about Cleveland dealing for Manny Machado. They understand the need to have the lineup be strong beyond the lethal top three in the batting order.
When Kipnis is productive, and he hasn’t been for much of the season, that helps. A healthy Chisenhall, which has become rare the past season, also is a factor, although we doubt many would think that.
There is no question that Ramirez and Lindor are having MVP caliber seasons, and Brantley has been very good too. But they need help, and that’s one of the needs president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff need to address.