No, this isn’t a poll; it’s what the Indians have to deal with because of their offense.
The Indians are 10th in the AL in starting pitching and 3rd in relief pitching. They rank 6th in overall pitching. The boogeyman that was the bullpen seems to have been exorcised, but another one has taken his place, and this one resides in the team’s bats.
What does a bad offense do? It makes the margin of error for winning much smaller. A prime example took place during Tuesday’s win against the Twins. Joe Mays, who the Indians have historically owned, could have been forced out of the game multiple times. But he wasn’t, allowing the Twins to get to their bullpen, and keep the game close. Minnesota was one hit away from tying the game. Some times you can blow the game; remember a game a couple weeks back against the Angels? Bob Wickman didn’t really pitch poorly…but his one mistake (a leadoff walk) allowed Garret Anderson’s bloop hit to tie the game, and eventually lead to an Angels’ win.
An interesting (and crude) measure I like to look at is to see what percentage of a team’s wins come with saves. The Indians have 11 wins, and Wickman has saved 7 of them. Now, there are other teams with higher saves per win ratios (the Pirates’ Jose Mesa has saved every one of his team’s wins as of yesterday), but 7 saves out of 11 wins is an indicator of how “tough” the team’s wins have been.
On the other hand, BJ Ryan has only 5 saves; his team has 18 wins. The Marlins’ staff only has 3 saves among them; their team has won 15 games. Notice a trend? A bad offense can make winning games a lot tougher, and makes the pitching staff throw more high-leverage innings.
So, now that I’ve made a circuitous explanation as to why a bad offense isn’t conducive to winning baseball games, who are the culprits? Let’s take a look at the lineup’s VORP, along with their positional rank among AL players:
C Victor Martinez -.6 (23rd)
1B Ben Broussard 2.8 (9th)
2B Ronnie Belliard 6.7 (4th)
3B Jose Hernandez -1.9 (16th)
3B Aaron Boone -7.1 (Last out of 23)
SS Jhonny Peralta 1.4 (13th)
SS Alex Cora 1.5 (11th)
RF Casey Blake -.4 (13th)
CF Grady Sizemore 3.1 (9th)
LF Coco Crisp -2.6 (19th)
DH Travis Hafner 11.8 (3rd)
That’s an ugly sight. Essentially, Belliard and Hafner are the only two players hitting better than league-average, you have Broussard and Sizemore a bit below-average, and the rest are scraping the bottom of the list. Boone’s -7.1 VORP is astounding; only Jack Wilson has a higher negative VORP. Yes, some of these players (Victor Martinez, I’m looking at you) will bounce back. But some I’m not so sure of; Coco Crisp is a reach in left field even with his glove, and Casey Blake in right field was going to be average at best. What’s even more amazing is that this is the lineup that started Opening Day; no one’s (knock on wood) has gone on the disabled list as of yet.
So are there any reinforcements on the horizon? Yes. Jody Gerut is about two weeks from returning to the lineup, and he could add some punch to the lineup, pushing Coco Crisp or Grady Sizemore out of the lineup. There’s Juan Gonzalez but….no, just forget about him. Among the regulars in AAA, Jake Gautreau and Ernie Young are having good seasons thus far. Ryan Garko is also available, but you’d have to find somewhere he could play. However, other than Gerut, I think the Indians are pretty much stuck with what they presently have. The team just has to hope that Boone can shake off 15 months’ worth of rust, and that Victor can get hot.