I try not to pay attention to spring training, but this spring has gone on forever.
I looked today at spring stats (numbers before Friday's game) because I've been worried about the offense. With the prominent exceptions of Sizemore and Peralta, there doesn't seem to be a lot of hitting. Anytime I watch, I see weak grounders, pop-ups and off-balance swings. Who's squaring up on the ball?
The Indians have scored 135 runs this spring, which is good for 20th most in the majors. They are 23rd in on-base percentage, and 17th in both total bases and slugging percentage. The team is also 22nd in the majors in doubles, which is one of my favorite indicators of offensive prowess. These mediocre numbers come in what appears to be a hitter's park (let us hope so for the sake of Indians pitching, which has allowed more runs than all but seven other teams). I don't recall there being one of those 16-4 romps we remember from alligator land.
It wasn't long ago the Indians could really knock the ball around. The team scored 870 runs in 2006. The Tribe could go on a tear and score six or seven runs without breaking a sweat. I know offenses have lessened in the past few years (thanks to the humidor, etc.), but the Indians have had what could be generously described as an unreliable offense over the past two seasons: in 2007 the team scored 811 runs (still quite good) and 805 in 2008 (good for sixth or seventh in the bigs as I remember). But I can't forget that stretch in late April when the starting pitching was truly incredible—when Laffey, Lee and Jake were in the top ten in ERA—and the team couldn't score four runs if it had five outs an inning.
So what can be expected this season? Another awesome season from Sizemore; perhaps a breakout season from Peralta. Regression from Shoppach, Choo, Carroll and DeRosa. More of the same from Garko, Barfield, Dellucci and Hafner (this is not a good thing). Some improvement from Victor and Francisco.
Can this team score 800 runs? I fear not. The offense has underperformed for the past two seasons, but maybe what we see is what we get. And the starting pitching won't be as good as it was in 2008, so the offense needs to show some vitality.
I'm not exactly encouraged by what I'm seeing in Goodyear.