In 2014, the Cleveland Indians have been a extremely inconsistent ball club. The fielding has been atrocious, and the pitching didn’t truly come alive until the second half of the season. But, the most inconsistent part of this Indians team is their offense, especially in the second half of the season.

After having a nice August where the Tribe went 17-9 with a potentially 18-9 record because of that postponed game in Kansas City, the Indians are only 8-10 in the month of September because of their total lack of offense. In the month of September, the Indians are averaging 3.33 runs a game, which ranks in the lower half of Major League Baseball during a point in the season where the Indians need to keep on winning. So what are the causes for the offensive struggles?

Well lets look at the normal starting lineup for the Tribe:

1. Michael Bourn, CF- .258 AVG, 3 HR, 27 RBI, .316 OBP.

2. Jose Ramirez, SS- .248 AVG, 1 HR, 12 RBI, .292 OBP.

3. Michael Brantley, LF- .322 AVG, 20 HR, 95 RBI, .380 OBP.

4. Carlos Santana, 1B- .233 AVG, 27 HR, 82 RBI, .364 OBP.

5. Yan Gomes, C- .284 AVG, 19 HR, 66 RBI, .318 OBP.

6. Jason Kipnis, 2B- .242 AVG, 6 HR, 41 RBI, .314 OBP.

7. David Murphy, RF- .264 AVG, 7 HR, 56 RBI, .321 OBP.

8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B- .285 AVG, 13 HR, 59 RBI, .344 OBP.

9. Designated Hitter.

When taking a look at this lineup, the problems stick out like a sore thumb. Let’s start with Michael Bourn at the number 1 slot. During the 2014 regular season Bourn has been incredibly inconsistent due in large part to injury. During the course of the year Bourn has only played 99 games and only stolen 10 bags in those games because of a hamstring injury. This is a huge problem because Bourn was signed to be a table setter for this offense, but he has not been able to contribute the way that this offense needs him to this season. A little lower down the lineup we take a look at Jason Kipnis at the number 6 spot. Last season Kipnis became an All-Star caliber second baseman with a bright future, but this season he got off to a bad start with a .245 average and 3 HR through the middle of May and then the unthinkable happened. Kipnis ended up straining his oblique against a 67mph curveball thrown by Angles pitcher Jared Weaver. A month later he returned from the injury and has not been the same hitter since. Kipnis, who was our number 3 hitter a year ago, has amounted to nothing this season which has really hampered an offense that was ready to improve from a season ago. And as we go to the seventh spot, in David Murphy, and the designated hitter spot, which was Nick Swisher’s spot, we notice more injuries. David Murphy was brought to the Indians on a two year deal to fill in the right field spot on the roster. But after a stellar first half of the season he has faltered completely and he suffered a strained right oblique that he still hasn’t come back 100% from. And then Nick Swisher who had microscopic surgery on both knees who has had an atrocious year overall.

While these problems are major reasons why the Indians offense has struggled, the team as a whole this year also hasn’t been as clutch as a season ago. Last season the Indians relied on 2-out runs and had a great year with runners in scoring position and 2 outs. This year the Indians have declined drastically in that very important category. Last season the Indians hit .252 with runners in scoring position and 2 outs which was 6th in all of baseball. This year the Indians are hitting in .207 with runners in scoring position which is 20th in baseball. There’s the difference right there, the lack of clutch two out hitting is the major cause for the offense’s collapse in 2014.

Although there has been a collective decline in the offense there have been some impressive breakout seasons. In 2014, LF Michael Brantley has had a Silver Slugger/MVP/Gold Glove level season and the first 20 HR/20 SB season since Shin-Shoo Choo in 2010. Yan Gomes has developed into one of the best hitting catchers in all of baseball, and Lonnie Chisenhall has finally broken out after 3 sub par seasons with the ball club. These three players have really picked up the slack for those who are not producing this season.

So, right now, the Indians are one or two pieces away from being a true contender in the AL Central. I looked at potential free agents that can help the Indians moving forward, but this year’s free agent class is a little weak. Some notable free agents include former Indian Victor Martinez, big right-hander Mike Morse, and right-hander Josh Willingham. I also looked at names like Pablo Sandavol, Chase Headley, and Nelson Cruz, but those free agents would be a stretch for a budget ridden Cleveland Indians. Out of all these free agent candidates, I think the Indians should try as hard as they can to pick up Victor Martinez. I understand that there is no way he can repeat the kind of season he is having right now, but he would be that veteran presence we need that can balance our lineup and fill the 4 hole in the lineup. He can help out the good young Indians hitters learn and grow into better players and hitters and maybe propel us back into AL Central contention.

While the Indians are still in the running for a wild card spot, if the Indians continue at the pace they are setting offensively, they can knock themselves out of the race by weeks end.

Overall, the Indians have struggled this season generating runs because of injuries and lack of 2-out clutch hitting, but if Kipnis and others can have bounce back seasons and the Indians can pick up another bat or two, the Tribe can improve offensively and get back into contention in the AL Central in 2015.

 

 

 

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