Indians Turnaround: Trends That Will Change
The Cleveland Indians open up a three game series against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive field on Friday night. The Indians are coming of a road trip in which they went 0-6 and looked terrible. Nothing was working as their pitching, defense and offense all failed them. The tribe batted just .187 overall and .167 with runners in scoring position while stranding 36 men on base during their trip out west. The Indians’ offense averaged only 2.2 runs a game over the 6 game span and only scored over 3 runs one time. Indians’ starting pitching was mediocre at best on the trip and they have the third worst ERA in the league. It doesn’t help that the defense has been even worse, leading the league in errors. The Indians’ bullpen has been the one bright spot so far as they have transitioned into 2014 with some new arms very well. The Indians cannot seem to break several incredibly frustrating trends that started early in the season. Breaking these trends will lead to the Indians starting to turn this around.
First of all, they are a team that needs to score first to win consistently. The Indians feed of each other. Notice how when one guy gets a big hit, others usually follow. They play their best baseball when they are confident and loose. One way to loosen up the starting pitcher and the offense is to get an early lead.
Another brutally annoying problem the Tribe has repeated is the inability to put up a shutdown inning. It seems as though every time the Indians bats do show some life and score some runs either the defense, pitching or both give those runs right back. In many of Tribe losses before this road trip they were able to stay in games with late inning rallies that either tied the game up or took the lead just to watch the opponent take control of the game right back the next time they came to bat. The Indians starting pitching has to enable this team to build on momentum by shutting down opposing hitters after the offense has scored.
Finally, the biggest problem so far has been the Indians’ inability to get more than one or two guys going on any given night. The entire lineup with the exception of Michael Brantley and David Murphy has started the year slumping. It has taken some time to get everyone going but despite their rough road trip even Carlos Santana is showing signs of coming around. Michael Bourn is hitting the ball well after an abysmal return from his injury and Nick Swisher is starting to find it as well. More than anything the Indians need to start scoring in bunches as opposed to just a run or two at a time. As more guys start to produce the less guys will put pressure on themselves to do it all.
This team has an identity. They will grind as much as any team in the league and keep things tight until they can get a timely hit. Once they get a lead their bullpen is no nonsense. The Indians have to win close games. That’s who they are. They have to play loose and play mentally fresh. I believe in this team just like I did last year. Manager Terry Francona will get them mentally healthy and once that happens the wins will come. This team is made up of guys who are built for the marathon of a season and the toll that it takes on a player. It’s way too early to be panicking. The toughness and mental strength of this team and its leader will help them persevere and they will be exactly what we thought they were. For me, that means they are a play-off team. They haven’t even played 30 games yet and before this brutal road trip they took 3 out of 4 from a good Royals Club. Not to mention, the rotation will look a lot better with Trevor Bauer in it. When our baseball team goes through a slump like this we forget that every team in the league goes through a number of these every season, even the best teams in baseball.
By: Brad Ward
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