Before the 2015 regular season began, the Cleveland Indians were highly regarded as a sleeper team who could steal the AL Central from the mighty Detroit Tigers. With the addition of Brandon Moss and a young and hungry rotation, the Indians looked good and were ready to win. The only question, which has been a pressing question for at least the last 4-5 years, is, can the Indians hit lefties?
Well, after 12 games and an extremely subpar 4-8 record, the Indians are answering that question with a resounding NO. Actually, the Indians have been offensively inept against both righty and lefty pitchers this season.
So far this season the Indians are hitting a combined .219 average against all pitching and a horrible .203 against left handed pitchers. Not to mention the team is only scoring 3.2 runs per game, and have only 24 extra-base hits and 9 home runs on the season.
The Indians, who were supposed to be a power threat with four guys who hit 20+ HR a year ago, have been in a big power drought this season and are looking for a spark somewhere in the lineup. The struggle, plus the loss of Yan Gomes have been major contributors to the bad start. The stats have been bad so for the Indians, and we as a fan base might continue to see this hitting trend unless the Tribe can make adjustments.
For many fans, the thought process after the first couple of weeks of the season (when the team has been bad) is that it’s still early and once everyone’s healthy we will be fine. But that might not be the case for this Indians squad because of the heavy amount of left-handed pitching the Indians will be facing in AL Central play for the rest of the season.
In the AL Central alone there are 8 left-handed starting pitchers that the Indians have to face. Tommy Milone from the Minnesota Twins, Danny Duffy and Jason Vargas from the Kansas City Royals, David Price and Kyle Lobstein from the Detroit Tigers, and of course Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and John Danks from the Chicago White Sox.
In the first 12 games of the season the Indians have already faced four of those pitchers listed including White Sox SP John Danks twice. If you include in Astros SP Dallas Keuchel that’s already five lefty starters faced and six in 12 games.
It is usually rare to face that many lefties in a 12 game span but the AL keeps feeding the Indians lefty starters and of course a ton of lefty relievers to boot. In the American league there are a total of 20 lefty starting pitchers and countless lefty specialists that the Indians will face throughout the rest of the season.
The Tigers are 11-2 (they are hitting everything in sight) and the Royals are 10-3 (no hangover here) to start the season and the Indians are at the bottom of the hill beginning their 5 1/2 month climb to try to make it to the top.
After suffering a heart-breaking loss to the Chicago White Sox the Indians are well aware that they need to make the necessary adjustments against lefties so they can stay afloat in the Al Central and try to fight for at least a wild card spot.
The past does show that the Indians can make up for slow starts against left-handed pitching. In 2014, the Tribe started the season with a .205 batting average against lefties and brought it up to a .252 average by season’s end. And in 2013 the Indians actually hit a .271 clip against lefties surpassing their batting average against righties (.247) for the year.
History shows that its possible for the Indians to come back and finish the season strong. But, they better start making adjustments and making them quick or it’s going to be a long season.
By: Gabe Cohn
Follow me on Twitter: @CSTGabe