Indians Offense Struggling in August
Ronnie Tellalian | On 15, Aug 2013
On August 13, the Indians defeated the Minnesota Twins 5-2. They have gone 13 consecutive games without scoring more than five runs in a game; it is the longest such stretch of the season. The offensive woes the Indians have faced in those 13 days have had some hard consequences.
Since the beginning of August, the Indians have been in a nasty backslide. They have gone 5-8 in the month, and suffered through a rough six game losing streak. They went from a half game lead in the wild card and just three games back of the division, to three and half games back in the wild card, and a daunting six games back in the Central. They have been outscored by their opponents 62 -38, and it’s those 38 runs in 13 games that are the most alarming. The Indians cannot afford to have a major offensive laps; they don’t have the lineup to handle that kind of drought.
For the first four months of the season, the Tribe played as one of the top five offenses in the American League, but since the beginning of August, they have been one of the worst. Over the last 14 days, they are dead last in the league with a .220 batting average. They are last in the league with an abysmal .270 on-base percentage, and they are 14th in slugging with a .340 percentage. Only the Rays have hit fewer home runs than the Indians over that time, and again, only the Rays have scored less runs.
I don’t think the Indians offensive woes have been a big secret, so the real question is why? Why has the Tribe struggled so mightily to score runs lately? There actually has been a major difference in the approach of the team at the plate during the last two weeks. Combine that with some consequences on the bases, and we have our answer. First things first, let’s look at how the plate approach has changed, and hindered the offense since August 1.
During the first half of the season, the Indians scored the fourth most runs in the American League. They did this with a patient approach. Their 9.2% walk rate in the first half trailed only Boston and Oakland. In terms of home runs and batting average, they were very middle of the road; their patience is what set them apart. In the month of August, their walk rate has dropped to league worst 5.4%.
It’s not just the walk rate, during the first half of the season the Indians were exceptional at laying off pitches outside the strike zone. They swung at only 27% of pitches outside the zone, which was the second best in the league. In August, they have swung at 31% of pitches outside the zone, only the eighth best total. Not only are they swinging at more of those pitches, they are making contact with less. In the first half, they made contact with 68% of pitches outside the zone, and in August, that number has dropped to 62%.
The Indians have some good hitters on the team and they need those good hitters to step up and take control of this offense. Jason Kipnis is by far the dominant bat in the lineup and he is performing well and consistently through this stretch. Michael Brantley is right behind him, both in production and consistency. Michael Bourn has been solid for the Tribe, as has fourth outfielder Ryan Raburn. Carlos Santana began the season slowly once again, but he has actually picked things up pretty well in July batting .294/.380/.471, and hopefully he can find that swing in August. Nick Swisher has done better since moving up to the two hole, batting .262 there. Asdrubal Cabrera is having possibly the worst offensive season of his career, performing like a below average hitter. Drew Stubbs in Drew Stubbs and Lonnie Chisenhall is still trying to find his place.
If the Indians can get back the patience they had at the plate in the first half of the season, they can get back to the offense that scored 4.8 runs per game through the first 95 games of the season. They have 42 games to turn things around and climb their way into a one of the five playoff spots. The Central Division and the two wild card spots are on the radar and still attainable for the Indians. One big game can turn things around and the Indians can be that team that gets hot at the right time and makes a huge playoff run.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images