What’s Wrong in Cleveland? Part 1: Hitting
After coming with a game of the World Series in 2007, the Cleveland Indians have been stuck in a rut all season long and at this point are five games under .500. Here is what I think is wrong in Cleveland and how it can be fixed.
I should preface this small two part series of articles with this statement. I don’t think the Indians or the Tigers are out of the running for the AL Central title. I’m not sold of the White Sox pitching to hold up or such as Dye & Thome holding up over the course of a full season. I do have more faith in the Twins, as they just always seem to find a way to get things done. Still, with the Tigers within 5 games and the Indians with 6.5 I’m still counting on one of these two clubs to win the division.
I was asked the question “what is wrong with the tribe” after my typical Blue Jays bashing in the article “What’s wrong with the Toronto Blue Jays“. Unlike the Jays, who only have an offensive problem, the Indians seem to be a mess in all facets. Part one is devoted to hitting and part two will cover the pitching woes. Without further delay:
The Tribes 4.51 R/G is slightly below the AL average of 4.56. The BA is an AL low of .245 and overall OPS is right near the bottom at .713 (tied with the Toronto Blue Jays.) What’s happening is the BABIP for the Indians is sitting at .283, which is below the league average of .296 even with the LD% being 20%.
I chalk some of this up to being unlucky so far. The tide would turn if they had the horses. This leads to problem number two.
All clubs receive injuries so we won’t harp on them too much here. The Indians case is a little different from most, as the opening day #3 and #4 hitters are currently on the DL. This will make the low BABIP/LD% vs RS that much tougher to bring back in line. I have to face the facts here. Hafner is not the same size or the same player that he was back in 2006. Read in to that what you will. Victor’s internal stats (LD, GB, etc) are in-line with career norms, yet his HR power has disappeared completely. Victor had zero dingers in over 200 PA. In 2007 he knocked out 25 in around 625. Can this be blamed on the elbow injury? I guess we will find out later this season.
The Indians lacked slugging all year. In the corner outfield positions they have primarily doubles hitters. Garko is more of a batting average/doubles threat at first and as outlined Hafner & Martinez contributed little to the bottom line. The only players slugging over .450 on the club are rookie Ben Farncisco, a 15ish HR level career minor leaguer and Grady Sizemore. Sizemore is having a typical season, with an OPS just below .900 and 17 HR to this point. The problem is that he hits in the leadoff spot. Last season manager Eric Wedge gave Sizemore a few opportunities in the three hole and he produced a .991 OPS. This season he hasn’t left the leadoff spot. This is a poor decision in my estimation. At this point the Indians have to try something to get the offense going and that should include moving Sizemore back into the three hole.
Stay tuned on thursday as I will go over the pitching woes of the Indians.