It is still early, very early in the 2021 Major League Baseball season. We still are just a middle past the middle of April, and the Cleveland Indians have only played 15 games (8-7), less than 10% of its schedule.
However, for many, including ourselves, who were concerned about the ability of Terry Francona’s squad to score runs, the trepidation is real.
Through the first 15 games, the Indians rank dead last in the American League in scoring.
The current trip. which included seven games, saw the Tribe tally 20 runs, and two of those occurred in the ten inning win over Chicago last Tuesday, when the dumb MLB rules people gave Cleveland a runner on second to start the inning.
Wednesday night, they were no hit by Chicago’s Carlos Rodon in a game were their plate appearance got progressively worse as the night moved on.
Cleveland is last in the AL in on base percentage, 9th in slugging (mainly because they are 3rd in the league in home runs), last in batting average, and second last in OPS+.
Without a doubt, they are one of the worst offenses in the game to date.
In their 15 contests, they have scored two runs or less six times, three runs or less eight times, and four runs or less in all but three games.
‘Keep in mind, the average team in the Junior Circuit scores 4.5 runs in a game.
When you score that few runs, the other parts of your game have to be perfect. Your pitchers can’t have bad outings, and the Tribe had two of them (Zach Plesac and Logan Allen) this week.
You can’t make defensive mistakes, which have cost Cleveland in both games in Cincinnati. You can’t make base running errors either, like Eddie Rosario’s in the 8th inning Saturday.
The entire team is living on the edge right now.
We felt going into the season, Francona had four, maybe five solid hitters in his lineup. When two of them are going through tough periods, like Cesar Hernandez and Jose Ramirez went through at the beginning of the trip, that means you have two or three hitters contributing.
That simply doesn’t cut it.
The front office had an entire season to find a center fielder after Oscar Mercado lost the job, and they still haven’t found one.
They seem to be trying to give the job to Amed Rosario, a converted shortstop who is more of platoon piece (he hits southpaws very well), and started the year using Ben Gamel there as well.
They seem hesitant to give Jordan Luplow, who also hammers lefties, a shot at a full time job out there, although the former Pirate didn’t have huge platoon splits in the minors.
The best thing you can say about the offense is they generally put the ball in play.
Former Tribe skipper Mike Hargrove used to say something to the effect of if you have a good leadoff hitter and a cleanup hitter, your lineup takes shape on its own.
Right now, the Indians have no one who should hit first, except Hernandez, who has told Francona he doesn’t like hitting first.
He leads the team in walks with eight, and has a career .351 on base average.
They really don’t have a true #4 hitter either. Franmil Reyes is too streaky at this point in his career, and Eddie Rosario isn’t bad, but ideally should hit fifth or sixth.
That means Francona is left with putting together a puzzle every night, and that makes his job very difficult.
Where can the offense come from? That’s the million dollar question. Yes, there are alternatives in the minors, but we don’t a big impact will come from there.
Perhaps a change in approach by Francona? Maybe the team can be more aggressive on the basepaths, more steals, more hit and runs? They don’t strikeout, so the latter might be a plan.
The Indians have to start putting together a way to score more often, otherwise, the margin for error for this baseball team will continue to be very thin.