The 2015 season for the Cleveland Indians has truly been a rough one. The Indians sit alone in last place in the American League Central with a 14-23 record and are currently 9.5 games out of first place.
No one expected this extremely slow start from the Indians after they were predicted to win the World Series by Sports Illustrated and predicted to at least grab one of the two wild card spots by other major sports networks.
There are a lot of reasons why the Indians continue to struggle this season but one of the main reasons is their horrendous play against the American League Central. From the beginning of the season and up to this point the Indians have played the ALCD 24 times in 37 games this season (65%).
This year, the Indians have played two series against the Detroit Tigers, two series against the Minnesota Twins, two series against the Kansas City Royals, and two (in the middle of the 3rd) against the Chicago White Sox. In these series the Indians have lost all of them and were swept once in April by the Detroit Tigers.
Their record in those central division games is an horrendous 7-17 mark. Along with the 7-17 record, the Indians pitching has supplied a 4.50 ERA in those games and the Indians hitting has produced a horrendous .230 batting average.
The main problem that goes beyond the stats alone is the fact that the Indians pitching and hitting never align in the same game. In these AL Central games the Indians either get fantastic pitching and no run support or poor pitching and a lot of run support.
An example of the first case occurred on Monday night against the Chicago White Sox when Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber went nine innings, struck out 12, and only allowed one earned run (only because of a misplay from catcher Roberto Perez), and still lost. The Indians fell on a walk-off hit by Carlos Sanchez in the 10th inning, 2-1. The Indians couldn’t get the necessary run support and defense to win even though they got another fantastic outing from Kluber.
An example of the latter case occurred on Saturday, April 11th when the Indians got an awful collective pitching performance from Kluber and the bullpen but got six runs of support. The Indians ended up losing that game 9-6 after the bullpen completely blew up that game in the 9th inning. So, even though the Indians order gave plenty of run support – the pitching couldn’t come through to pull out the victory
The pitching and hitting have not align for many games this season and it’s the main reason for the disappointing play against the American League Central.
Another reason for the bad play against the central division has been the overall productivity from the batting order, especially against left-handed pithing. As we all know the ALCD is filled with elite left-handed starting pitching and the Indians have an overabundance of left-handed hitters in their lineup. The Indians have continued to make hitting against left-handed pitching their major weakness this season.
Against the lefties from the AL Central, the Indians lineup is only batting .240 with a .364 slugging percentage. The Indians have not been able to produce extra based hits against lefties and have been terrible with runners in scoring position, leading to their demise.
The Indians have struggled against lefties this season, but besides the hot hitting duo of Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley, they have also struggled against righties as well. The Indians batting order, excluding Kipnis and Brantley, have generated a subpar .220 combined average against all AL Central pitching.
The subpar pitching and hitting have made it extremely difficult to win against our foes from the central, but through all of the pain and suffering this season, things may be looking up for the faltering Tribe.
A couple of positives for the Indians have been their overall run total in the month of may and the dynamic duo of Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley. This month, the Indians are in the top five in runs scored with 81 after having a rough time scoring in April. As for the “Dynamic Duo,” Kipnis has a .333/.399/.497 slash line, has hit four bombs and has driven in 17 runs while holding down the leadoff spot. And Brantley (the model of consistency) has a .336/.416/.546 slash line, has hit four home runs and has driven in 22 runs in the three hole.
Besides the increase in production, another positive is that Indians catcher Yan Gomes looks to be making a speedy recovery from his knee injury and is close to a minor-league rehab assignment, which will knock struggling catcher Roberto Perez out of the starting lineup. With our four hole hitter and starting catcher back, the lineup will become more balanced and the pitching staff will be more under control. The Indians desperately need Gomes to run the staff, especially against the central because he knows the hitters’ tendencies and good ways to get them out. Having Gomes back will help the Indians turn their season around.
Another thing to be exited and hopeful about is the eventual call-up of prized SS prospect Francisco Lindor. This call-up (whenever it happens) will help the Indians overall defense and any shortstop would be able to produce more at the plate then Jose Ramirez right now.
The Indians have been tremendously bad this season and have not been able to get the job done against the AL Central putting them in a hole that they might not be able to climb out of. But, if they continue to produce runs, get Gomes healthy, and improve their overall pitching the Indians may be able to make it interesting come September.
By Gabe Cohn
Follow Me on Twitter: @CSTGabe