New Offensive Message Delivers More Chances For Tribe To Score
By Mike Brandyberry
There are many ways to send a message. The most important part is to make sure that message is clearly conveyed and received by the intended audience. Indians hitters have received this year’s message loud and clear.
“There was a clear message in spring training,” Indians hitting coach Bruce Fields said. “We had a clear message we delivered.”
A year ago the Tribe struggled offensively, striking out far too much and not reaching base enough. In 2011, the Indians struck out 1269 times, good for second most in the American League. The team averaged nearly eight strikeouts a game (7.83). This year the team has cut that number down a full strikeout (6.88), good for the second least amount in the AL.
“We showed them some information,” Fields said. “It was easy to get everyone to buy in because it was true.”
By not swinging at so many poor pitches, the team has been able to draw many more walks. A year ago, the team finished with a .317 on-base percentage. This year the team currently reaches base at a .338 clip.
“Hafner has always been a good OBP guy, so has Santana,” Fields said. “They’ve improved this year and we have just got others to buy the approach.”
The approach has been received by the entire team and has affected the offensive production throughout the lineup. Travis Hafner, Carlos Santana, Jack Hannahan, Shelley Duncan and Asdrubal Cabrera all have substantially higher on-base percentages.
“Every at bat counts,” manager Manny Acta said. “We don’t give anything away, always try to have a good one, keep guys moving and make things happen.”
Hannahan, who had possibly his best year as a major leaguer in 2011, is off to even a better start this season. Hannahan is hitting .306 on the season, with a .386 on-base percentage this year. A year ago he hit .250, with a .331 OBP. Some of Hannahan’s success is a product of others embracing the approach, too.
“A guy like Casey Kotchman, who has struggled, has drawn a walk in front of Hannahan,” Acta said. “Then when he gets a big hit, we score because we had a good at bat in front of it.”
Those big hits have allowed a slightly increased run production for the team, but it has greatly increased the team’s two-out productivity. The Indians are currently one of the best teams in baseball at scoring with two outs, something an inconsistent offense can certainly benefit from.
The Indians are still a team built on pitching and defense, but the message has been clear from the coaching staff to the offense; change your approach, see more pitches and draw more walks. So far, the message has been heard loud and clear and paid dividends with the team in first place.
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