Getting to the Bottom of the Offense

Let me try to examine why the Indians can’t seem to score any runs lately.

(1) Lack of patience. The Indian hitters are allowing starting pitchers for the most part to coast through six or seven innings a night, as I’m sure you’ve learned listening to RoboAnnouncer. What are the causes of this? I’m sure pressing has something to do with it; because the Indians haven’t been scoring many runs, each hitter seems to take it upon himself to make up for everyone else. Besides Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner, I see a lot of players swinging at the first fastball they see. And while that’s great if you can hit that first pitch hard somewhere, it isn’t so great if you pop it up or ground weakly to second base.

(2) Lack of Travis Hafner. Pronk has been by far the best offensive player in the lineup, and losing him for four games has made a mediocre offense downright anemic. Obviously the team isn’t going win without him, but his absence illustrates the lack of other consistent offensive weapons. Right now, the Indians have a lot of just plain mediocre hitters in their lineup, which is fine if you have those two or three consistent run producers, but in the Indians’ case there’s no one that can carry an offense besides Hafner.

(3) Facing Good Pitching. The White Sox have by far the league’s best pitching staff, and moreover the best starting rotation in baseball. But that doesn’t totally excuse the lack of production against them last weekend. It’s one thing to get shut down by a great pitching performance; it’s quite another to just give up outs and hack at the first fastball you see. That’s what made the four game series so frustrating; it wasn’t just that the Sox shut the Indians down, but that the Indians themselves were willing accomplices.

(4) A Collective Slump. This has happened before with this team, and happens with other teams as well. I can’t explain why these things happen, just observe that they do happen.

(5) Some bad luck. The Indians are hitting .258 with RISP; that’s worst in the league. Their team BABIP (Batting Average of Balls In Play) is .290; only two teams have lower averages. This bad luck doesn’t explain away all the Indians’ problems, but it has a place in the discussion.

Just for kicks, here’s the July OPSs of the Indians that regularly play:

Grady Sizemore: .479
Coco Crisp: .735
Travis Hafner: 1.277
Victor Martinez: .678 (mostly OBP driven)
Aaron Boone: .767
Jhonny Peralta: 1.007
Ronnie Belliard: .519
Ben Broussard: .575
Casey Blake: .478

I don’t like to use three-week stretches to pass judgment on a player, but I think is useful to see where the problems are currently. Casey Blake has no earthly business in right field every day, given his age and career stats, but I’ve harped on that enough over the past year. Grady Sizemore’s slump has really hurt the Indians in that Hafner has been coming up to bat with no one on base, and therefore, no one to drive in but himself. I’m for sticking with Grady in the leadoff spot, but that doesn’t mean he should be exonerated of all blame. Ben Broussard is in one of his patented cold streaks. Ronnie Belliard generally fades down the stretch, but not usually this badly.

Jason Dubois probably isn’t much of a short-term answer, but I’d feel a lot better about things if at least the Indians took a chance on him playing consistently, for at least you know there’s some upside.

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