We have talked about this many times throughout the baseball season, so excuse us for being redundant. The Cleveland Indians aren’t a good offensive baseball team.
They continue to rank 11th in the American League in runs scored per game at 4.05, almost a half run behind the league average of 4.42. We understand that batting average isn’t en vogue as a key statistic anymore in the game, but the team average of .221 ranks second to last (Seattle) in the AL.
They are 14th in the league in on base percentage too, and the team OPS of 679 is ahead of just Texas, Detroit, and Seattle.
To try to generate even this much offense, Terry Francona and his staff have had to sacrifice things, which is scary when you think about it.
What they have seemingly decided to ignore was on full display over the weekend in Baltimore, where the woeful Orioles took two of three from the Tribe.
It seems to get to a point where they can average a paltry four runs per contest, the Indians have given up a lot on the defensive side of the game, which is kind of weird, considering the backbone of the squad is the pitching staff.
Our guess is the theory is if you can strikeout enough hitters, defense doesn’t mean as much as it used to, because the ball isn’t in play. And currently, Cleveland pitchers rank 6th in the AL in striking out hitters. They led the league in the shortened 2020 season and were fifth in 2019.
And the defense has been lacking at key positions too.
Bradley Zimmer returned to the roster last week, and hopefully he can provide something offensively, because his defense is badly needed in CF. Harold Ramirez has been getting time out there, and he has helped with the bat in his hand (791 OPS, .278, 3 HR, 13 RBI), but he’s not acceptable defensively.
In Sunday’s loss to Baltimore, a pop fly that was in the air for a long time fell in for a hit, and there have been several other fly balls that have landed in the outfield that should have been turned into outs.
Who would have thought where Cleveland missed Francisco Lindor the most was defensively? The Tribe started Andres Gimenez at the spot to open the season, and our guess was watching Amed Rosario out there in spring training games didn’t exactly make the brass feel all warm and fuzzy.
Rosario has made several misplays, some not scored as errors, but giving the opposing teams extra outs. And he can stop trying to make superfluous throws to first when he has not realistic chance to get runners any time now.
The former Met has been okay offensively (he still has an OPS under 700), he stands out because as a whole, the Tribe doesn’t have many better than average bats, but hopefully, Gimenez can hit better because he’s the better defender, and Francona can figure out a way to get Rosario in there.
We should also mention he has plus speed.
We haven’t talked about Josh Naylor either. Naylor has spent most of the season in RF, but his best position defensively is 1B right now.
Naylor works hard, and plays with joy and enthusiasm, but it doesn’t help the pitching staff when only Eddie Rosario in LF has been solid defensively.
Add in that Cesar Hernandez hasn’t been as strong in the field as he was a year ago, and you can see the traditional baseball adage of being strong defensively up the middle does not apply to the 2021 edition of the Cleveland Indians.
You want to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Unfortunately, with the current roster of players, the Tribe has had to minimize their strength (pitching) to put some runs on the board.
Hopefully, they can overcome this and stay in the AL Central race like they have to this point in the season.