Where’s the offense? Ball Played

Denizens of the Rogers Centre were welcoming of the returning star, Edwin Encarnacion, as they stood to applaud loudly when he first stepped to the plate. The Toronto Blue Jays (12-20) were less welcoming. Despite having a rough go so far in the 2017 season, the Blue Jays jumped ahead of the Cleveland Indians (17-14) early, and the Tribe’s continued hitting woes ensured the loss, 4-2. Starter Trevor Bauer was not sharp as he allowed four runs. The offense was near inept as it appeared a shutout would be possible until Francisco Lindor plated two in the eighth inning.

Inept Offense

Since May 1, the Indians have scored a meager 13 runs over seven games to average less than two runs per game. A stark contrast to the last April game against the Seattle Mariners where the team scored 12 on that lone Sunday or April in general when they were scoring 4.85 runs per game. The Indians had finished the month of April as the fourth best team in wRC+ (110) with a slash line of .253/.334/.424. May has seen the Tribe batting .201/.278/.309 for a 63 wRC+, which is the absolute worst in MLB.

The sample size is exceedingly small, but the month has been so poor for the Indians that only three regular hitters are above 60 wRC+ (which is a line to indicate 40% worse than the average MLB hitter). Yan Gomes (.385/.500/.538, 197 wRC+), Edwin Encarnacion (.333/.429/.500, 164 wRC+), and Carlos Santana (.300/.344/.500, 133 wRC+) have flourished. Everyone else has been allergic to production.

Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have now fallen below .300 batting averages for the season to give the team zero players with such a mark. The Tribe has even been 0-for-2 in stolen base attempts as little has been working to kick the offense into gear. After showing never-before-seen patience at the plate from Abraham Almonte in the opening month, he has been the absolute worst hitter on the team as he is mired in a 0-for-19 slump with a measly one walk. The -100 wRC+ attached to his mark means he has been 200% worse than the average MLB hitter.

The fact that the Tribe has won three games during this seven-game set is a testament to their pitching, which has allowed two or less runs in those three wins and the bullpen has yet to allow a run during this stretch.

Of course, poor hitting is not the only reason the Indians haven’t been scoring runs.

The Indians are not likely the fourth best offense in MLB, nor are they the absolute worst. Many expected them to finish as a Top 10 hitting club, and the length of the season should bear such out. This particular slump though has been brutal, and the Tribe needs to find a way to generate some offense. Perhaps putting hitting guru Jose Ramirez third instead of the struggling Jason Kipnis would help, but the struggles have been deeper than some lineup tinkering can fix.

Bauer Woes continue

There will be games where allowing four runs in six innings is acceptable (Bauer’s ERA ‘dropped’ to 7.37), and such an outing should at least give the Tribe a chance to win. It is just Bauer has relied upon such pitching lines every time out, which is troublesome for a player from which much more was hoped. He has only given up less than four runs in a start once thus far. Bauer looks poised to see Michael Clevinger bypass him as the fifth starter when Corey Kluber returns if he doesn’t figure out how to return to his innings-eating self. As noted on Monday at WFNY, rooting for Bauer is complicated and there are many fans who would be fine writing him off.

Bauer understands that his pitching has not been horrific. Let’s hope he also understands there’s a timetable on him showing better results.