I said it yesterday, and I’m never the guy to say it—I can’t wait for football to start so I have a distraction from this Indians season. I’m always the guy my friends text to get positive motivation. I even got one this week: “Gerbs, I need you to cheer me up…this is bad,” and the thing is, I couldn’t disagree with him. This is bad. The best I could muster is “Frankie Lindor is hitting bombs! Oscar Mercado actually looks like he knows what he’s doing at the plate! Our bullpen has been good to great at times when not all the bad pitchers pitch!” The highlights, such as Shane Bieber’s 15K performance Sunday, are being dulled out by three consecutive losses to an Oakland club still finding it’s footing. It’s not that the losses are piling up, it’s the way they are happening that makes it disheartening.
In what could or should be a semi-productive offense full of grinders and on-base machines, you can see the vacuum left by the loss of a player like Edwin Encarnacion. I’m aware I’m using a 1.8% sample of a season to make judgment calls on, but it’s been apparent all year: this team lacks players who can get the hit when it’s needed. Over the sweep by the A’s, multiple chances to add to leads or get back into games were squandered. In the three-game losing streak, Cleveland left 25 men on base. To give context on how many that would be, in that three-game stretch, Cleveland left 8.331 per game, which would be the worst by almost a full runner if you spread that out over a season. Obviously, thankfully, we can all safely admit that the season was not won nor lost in a three-game stretch at the end of May, but to take a gander at the future outlook of this offense and feel good is starting to sound more and more delusional.
Now I’m not saying there is a problem with grinding at-bats and working a walk, a lot of #IndiansTwitter and the Tribe blogosphere wrote about the virtues of the front office building a roster of players that don’t give away at-bats and getting men on base is key to any kind of success offensively, but there is a blindingly glaring issue when you are unable to get runners across the plate. To preface my argument, I went digging to show how much of an issue the lack of power and run-producing is on this roster.
As a team, the Indians are 5th in TTO%.2 The league is trending towards being TTO heavy, as evidenced by the fact that so far in 2019, only one team is below 30% in TTO% and in 2014, a mere five years ago, there were 13 that finished the year below 30%.3 The team walk rates and strikeout rates are almost exactly where you’d want them to be considering such a high TTO%, the team 5th in walk rate, 14th in strikeout rate, but as a roster, the team is 24th in home runs total. When you take into consideration that the team hit 216 home runs just a year ago, you can see an issue and why the run production is dipping.
Having a grind-it-out offense is fine when your pitching is on point, as the plan was for the year. Heading into the season with a rotation of five potential Cy Young finalists, you can see the blueprints in the making: get a few runs across the plate, win a lot of 3-2 or 2-1 ball games. However, when two of those starters land on the injured list before May even started and the expected ace in waiting doesn’t seem to have a feel for anything he’s throwing, the house of cards comes crumbling. Suddenly the razor-thin margins the front office prepared manager Terry Francona for vanish. When your two lotto ticket free agents of Hanley Ramirez and Carlos Gonzalez show you exactly why there was no market for their talents, it gets even worse. Basically, everything that could have gone wrong for Cleveland this season has. So maybe things start to look up…because this sure feels like rock beneath us. Oh hey, look I guess maybe I can be positive.
Thing I got an odd amount of joy out of this week
I wish I could cancel Kevin Durant as well Chris Broussard, but their tiff from this past week made the inner drama-lover in me happy. It started when Chris Broussard was on The Undisputed, saying that he and KD would sometimes “talk for 2 to 3 hours” that they shared intimate details of each other’s lives, hopefully, a risotto recipe or two exchanged…who knows. Then KD calls out Broussard saying that he (Broussard) doesn’t even have his number. Which should have ended it! But then, the best is Broussard responds saying that the two talk over multiple social media outlets via DM. SHOW US THE RECEIPTS CHRIS! DROP THEM SCREENSHOTS! BODY THE MAN CHRIS! I don’t know why I enjoy the pettiness between these two. KD is a snake who ran off to get rings he couldn’t win in Oklahoma City and is now about to slink away to New York with Kyrie Irving and the No. 3 pick (presumably), and Broussard has been dunked on so many times by athletes that it shouldn’t be funny anymore…but it is.