Even through a rough 15-game stretch to begin the 2014 season, the Cleveland Indians have a lot to be positive about. Sitting just below .500 at 7-8, the Tribe has seen some uncharacteristic play from the majority of their lineup. The lumber is on ice and the pitching has been suspect through five completed series. With no place to go but up, the Wahoos have yet to even play close to their best baseball.
As we all know, it starts and ends with pitching. The Indians’ ERA rests at 4.19, good for 22nd in the majors. Tribe arms have collected just six quality starts, own a BAA of .262 and 4.12 BB/9, which is the second-worst in baseball. Perhaps the most telling metric is that the Indians lead the league with a opponent’s BABIP of .337. Cleveland’s luck will inevitably change as last year’s highest opponent’s BABIP was .314.
Behind the stunning performances of right-handed starter Zach McAllister, the others have sputtered early on in 2014, getting into trouble with lopsided innings. Danny Salazar is all too familiar to this as 10 of his 12 earned runs have come in just four innings of work. Nine months removed from his first All-Star game, Justin Masterson has an ERA of 5.87 through his first three starts.
The Indians’ offense is a one man band in the first half of April as Michael Brantley leads the team in BA, OBP, HRs and hits. There has been close to no production from the No. 2 through No. 4 batters as Nick Swisher is hitting .164, Jason Kipnis .212 and Carlos Santana a measly .157. They are far too talented to continue this horrific trend of creating outs.
Even though some fans may be in a hurry to press the panic button, these three also rank in the top three on the team in walks. While their approach may not be the problem, their luck might be with the three’s BABIP averaging .209.
All signs point towards both the pitching staff and the offense flipping the script in the weeks to come. It’s moments like these where a patient manager like Terry Francona comes into play as he refrains from drawing negative conclusions in the marathon run towards October. He understands the value of patience and how worrying about a two-plus week span can get the best of you.
This mentality has rubbed off on his club throughout hardships in the 2013 season.