First of all, let us start that it is way too early to make any conclusions about any major league baseball teams after five games.
However, if you thought coming into the 2021 season that the offense would be a problem for the Cleveland Indians, they have done nothing to make you feel differently.
Remember, the Indians ranked tied for 13th in the American League in runs scored last year and dealt one of their best hitters in the off-season. So, it’s not like there isn’t a reason for concern.
In the season’s first five games, the Tribe scored two runs or less in three of them, and let us remind you that even with Cleveland’s usually excellent pitching, winning when the team scores two runs is very, very difficult.
The average American League team scored 4.58 runs per game on average last season, and the Indians were best in the Junior Circuit in run prevention, allowing 3.48 runs per contest. So, scoring two runs usually means adding one to the “L” column.
Thank goodness for Jose Ramirez. The AL MVP runner up belted a pair of two run homers Wednesday, accounting for the only runs in the Tribe’s second victory of the season.
There are some good things to take note of thus far, although you can look at them in different ways.
Cleveland is last in the AL in striking out, and even in today’s game where hitters fan a lot, that’s a good thing.
The counter to that is they haven’t faced any of the game’s big strikeout pitchers. Detroit and Kansas City ranked in the lower half of the league in that category last season. In fact, the Tigers pitching staff was last.
And they’ve been drawing four walks per game, which has to be a staple of their offense. They probably won’t see a premier pitcher until they visit Chicago next week to take on the White Sox.
They have also hit some home runs. Ramirez’ two yesterday give the team seven on the season, and partially because of that, they rank 8th in slugging percentage.
However, some of the things we were concerned about have reinforced those feelings.
Terry Francona has for some reason decided the bat the centerfielder in the leadoff spot, and while Jordan Luplow has had tremendous success against lefties in his career, so it makes sense with him, hitting Ben Gamel first raises some eyebrows.
The veteran has a .331 on base percentage for his career (his best mark was .358 with Seattle in 2018), so it’s tough to find a reason for him to bat first. Luplow’s has a lifetime .379 OBP vs. southpaws as a contrast.
To be fair, we know Cesar Hernandez is a better hitter than he has shown so far (2 for 18 with four walks). But the offense can’t be solely dependent on Hernandez, Ramirez, Eddie Rosario and Franmil Reyes either.
Another problem for the attack has been the inability to get runners on base early in innings.
Too often, the Tribe gets a couple of hits with two outs, making it tough to score. And they’ve also banged into five double plays, third in the league to date, so they aren’t putting a lot of pressure on opposing pitchers.
They’ve also scored only two runs before the sixth inning. So, starting pitchers haven’t been able to protect any leads thus far.
Again, it’s early, so it is way too early for concern. But the Indians could have eased the minds of many supporters with a good start at the plate.
If they can score, then they can surprise in the AL Central.