Eleven games in and the Cleveland Indians are now 2.5 games back of the Minnesota Twins at 5-6 on the year. Any other year and there would be little panicking only eleven games into a season. Baseball is a 162 game marathon and with that come the perennial ups and downs of every team and it is about riding the tide and giving players the opportunity to heat up. This isn’t a normal season as the season is one sixty game sprint and the talk around the league leading up to this abbreviated season was the need to start hot and avoid the typical early-season struggles. With each game, this season counting as 2.7 games of a 162 game season the Indians’ current four-game losing streak is about equal to an eleven game losing streak. That type of streak even in 162 games can be a set back most teams can’t overcome. This is why only eleven games in the Indians should be hitting the panic button on their season.
The reason for the panic isn’t the pitching especially the starters as through eleven games the Indians rotation has a 2.70ERA and including the bullpen, they have a 2.44ERA which is second only to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Majors. The culprit or culprits for the slide and the potential of this season getting away is the Indians lineup. So far the team is hitting .190 with a .282 on-base percentage and it is only that high due to the fact that Jose Ramirez (.300/.391) and Cesar Hernandez (.297/.381) have started out the season strong. The .190 team batting average is the second-worst in all of baseball only ahead of the rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates, and this is a cause for concern.
Coming into this year the team was clearly going to only go as far as their pitching would take them but it looked as though the lineup would at least hold their own considering the Tribe have two bonafide all-stars in Ramirez and Francisco Lindor along with a veteran in Carlos Santana who made his first all-star team last year. They also added a young power hitter in Franmil Reyes and signed the high ceiling but low floor Domingo Santana to add some pop the lineup. Thus far Reyes looks lost at the plate hitting only .171 with only one homer and Domingo Santana has been the low floor player that allowed the Indians to sign him hitting only .158 with only one extra-base hit. Adding on top Lindor’s slow start (.250/.283) and the ever streaky Carlos Santana struggling (.200/.364) and this is an Indians lineup that through eleven games has only scored 28 total runs which come out to 2.5 runs a game. The lack of offense can also have a negative impact on the pitching staff placing undue pressure on them to put up zeros. This leads to pitchers trying to make the perfect pitch each and every batter they face which can lead to bad mechanics.
The Indians have their work cut out for themselves, the ultimate hope is that the lineup eventually comes around and the offense can at least be league average which should be enough to get them to the playoffs. The idea of looking to trade for a bat is complicated by the shortened season and the expanded playoff field. With more teams able to qualify for a playoff spot, teams will be less inclined to move a player who can help them which leads to a shallow pool of players available. Realistically, the Indians probably wouldn’t be able to add an impact bat without trading away one of their top-end starting pitchers or Francisco Lindor and that would be a break-even scenario at best for the Indians. All hope isn’t lost yet, but if the runs don’t come soon the season could be over before September.