Indians Offense More Average Than You May Think
Laurel Wilder | On 01, Oct 2014
Today continues DTTWLN’s three week examination of the Indians 2014 season and where it fell short of the playoff expectations established last winter. The staff will examine where the season went wrong and the challenges the front office faces to make the Indians contenders in 2015.
If a team wants to be on fire, they need something to get the flames started. Unfortunately for the Indians this season, the lack of lumber in their lineup prevented them from igniting any sparks.
All their other struggles notwithstanding, their lack of ability to put runs on the board certainly put the Indians at even more of a disadvantage than bad defense or unstable pitching. Without runs, games cannot be won, only lost.
Overall, the Indians scored 669 runs, good for seventh in the American League. They ranked eighth in the AL with a .253 batting average, which was set as the league average for the season, and came up with a +16 run differential. Their numbers are all fairly average but, when looking at what they could have been, and their lack of ability to put up strong offense when it mattered, the Indians offensive struggles are clearly felt.
Of their 162 games this season, exactly half of them resulted in scores in which the Indians scored three runs or fewer. That’s 81 games in which the Indians were unable to deliver strong offensive performances; 81 games that occurred with three runners or fewer crossing home plate.
Of those 81 games, the Indians emerged victorious on only 25 occasions; they fell victim to their outscoring opponents in 56 of these three-run-or-less contests. It doesn’t matter how well their pitching may have been in these games, if batters cannot deliver RBI hits, there’s no way a team can be the victor. The Indians lost 37 games this season by either one or two runs, meaning 37 games could have been saved by a little more power at plate.
On the flip side, when the Indians were able to hit, they could really hit. They had 22 games in which they scored four runs, and went 9-13 in those contests, but turned the tables once they could put at least five runs on the board. They went 11-4 during games in which they scored five runs, and totaled a record of 40-4 when they scored six runs or more in a game. The Indians also had eight games this season in which they posted scores in the double-digits, including three 12-run games and their unforgettable 17-run rout in Texas.
Yes, these numbers are great to see written down, but it still stands that, even if a team scores 17 runs in a game, it’s only one check in the W column for the season. It’s the struggle of inconsistency that has plagued the team all season; the potential is there, but is either untapped or a fluke.
By overall numbers, the Indians hit slightly better with runners in scoring position than they did overall on the season, as they posted a .258 average in those 162 games. They hit 38 home runs and drove in 488 runs. They ranked seventh in the American League with RISP, as Detroit led the league with a .282 average and 554 RBI and Kansas City coming in second with a .271 average and 504 RBI.
Not surprisingly, Michael Brantley led the Indians in such situations, hitting .376 with runners in scoring position with four home runs, 76 RBI, and seven stolen bases. Of the 388 runners on base when Brantley appeared at the plate this season, 78 of them scored, which ranks Brantley 19th in the American League for percentage of base runners who scored on Brantley’s plays.
David Murphy came in next, with a .360 average and 50 RBI. Yan Gomes (.289 with RISP) and Carlos Santana (.243) each had 52 RBI with runners in scoring position, while Lonnie Chisenhall came in fifth with 46 RBI and a .287 average.
However, the numbers then drop. Jason Kipnis drove in 25 runs with runners in scoring position, despite having the fourth-most plate appearances in such situations with 135. He hit only .181 when tasked to drive in runs, comparably bad to Asdrubal Cabrera’s .188 average with RISP in his 112 plate appearances with runs on the line. Nick Swisher, another offensive disappointment, hit .250 with runners in scoring position and knocked in 33 runs, though his overall .208 average and 42 RBI hardly put him in the strong offensive category for the Tribe.
Shockingly, Swisher did come in at fourth in average with runners in scoring position and two outs, as he hit .279 with 18 RBI, trailing Michael Bourn, who led the team with .341 and 13, Brantley (.306 and 27), and the youngster Tyler Holt (.286 and 2). Chisenhall fell in after Swisher, with a .269 average and 18 RBI.
Last season, the Indians finished fifth in the American League with 711 RBI and had a just-below league-average .255 batting average. The lineup had very similar names, names that fell short this season. Kipnis was an All-Star second baseman and Swisher made himself one of the most well-known names on the team. There’s no clear answer as to what caused the decline in offense. Players suffered from injuries, but even healthy players could not consistently start the rallies needed to put the Tribe ahead.
At the end of the season, the Tribe again suffered from the plague of an inconsistent season. For fans sitting in the stands, hoping to hear the pop of the bat, there wasn’t any “Woah!” but, instead, plenty of offensive woe.
Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images