Ailing Indians lineup struggles again: Between Innings

The Cleveland Indians (69-56) lost for the second consecutive game to the Boston Red Sox (73-53), 6-1, as they have been out-scored by 13 runs in those contests. After scraping by with a comeback, walk-off win in the first game of the series, the Tribe has looked out-classed by the Red Sox over the last two nights. The team can still split the four-game set with a victory on Thursday, but they will need Trevor Bauer to out-duel Chris Sale in the nationally televised game (MLBN) to get it done.

Ailing Lineup
The Indians have gone 4-for-56 with seven walks, two hit-by-pitch, 19 strikeouts, and two home runs over the last two games (.071/.200/.179). The bottom-three spots in the lineup have gone 0-for-19 with a single walk. The overall team’s season slash of .256/.332/.432 has now fallen to the lowest levels it has been at since mid-June.

If the team was at full strength, then having such meager outputs as the season winds down would be troublesome. Instead, Carlos Santana has been sitting on the bench resting his achy back with Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Abraham Almonte are on the DL. The consequence has been Brandon Guyer batting against right-handed pitchers such as Joe Kelly, and Yandy Diaz being the designated hitter on Wednesday.

Basically, the offense right now is hoping to get a couple walks when one of the legitimate MLB hitters gets a hold of one.

Diaz (.186/.256/.200) was brought up to give his great batting average and on base percentage in Triple-A (.350/.454/.460) another opportunity to translate to MLB production. His limitations are known, but his MLB results should still be a bit better than they have been to this point (last MLB hit was on April 20). As it is, Diaz is 9-for-18 when his batted balls have an exit velocity above 100 miles per hour.1 When the exit velocity dips into double-digits though, he is just 4-for-32. 20 strikeouts and seven walks complete his MLB numbers. Still, watching him battle Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning on Wednesday (earned an 11-pitch walk) it was easy to see the hitter within Diaz desperate to make his mark.

Kluber Dominance
Watching Corey Kluber pitch is a brilliant experience (12 strikeouts, one walk). Even nursing a sore ankle that was evident when Eduardo Nunez forced him to track down a slow roller down the third base line, Kluber’s amazing pitching repertoire was too much for the Red Sox to handle. Kluber continues to lead all MLB pitchers in swinging strike percentage as 16.2% of his pitches have induced swings through nothing but air.

Even more ridiculous is that Kluber does not have a specific Whiff Pitch. On Wednesday, he recorded swings-and-misses against his four-seam fastball (2-in-10 swings), sinker (1-in-4 swings), changeup (1-in-3 swings), slider (7-in-15 swings), and cutter (9-in-21 swings). Hitters are much more apt to swing at his cutter, slider, or changeup, but Kluber maintains a high strike percentage on his hard stuff as batters just watch more of those stay in the zone.

Bullpen concerns
The Indians relief group gave up four runs in 1 1/3 innings the day after giving up three runs in 2 1/3 innings. Five different relievers have been utilized (Zach McAllister, Shawn Armstrong, Tyler Olson, Joe Smith, and Bryan Shaw) with the only one of them not giving up a run being Olson, who only pitched one batter (he walked him). Shaw has continued his second half troublesome trends and Andrew Miller being on the DL hurts.

The Indians relief corps still lead MLB in FIP and rank high in several categories, but the recent struggles are worth tracking to see if they are notable or just a blip. Hopefully, Cody Allen, Nick Goody, and even Dan Otero can solidify the short-term and Miller’s knee allows him to replicate his dominant 2016 postseason.

Congratulations to the Chisenhalls

  1. .500 batting average sounds good except balls hit with this velocity on average obtain much higher averages, but the average for such batted balls do not have a low launch angle as Diaz does. []