A quarter of the way through the season is a traditional time to assess what a baseball team has. And what this baseball team has is not good.
So far, we are enjoying yet another season of dashed hopes and inexplicably underwhelming performances. By my count that’s five out of the past six seasons, which makes it hard to believe it’s just bad luck.
Let’s start with an appallingly bad offense. The Tribe is 27th in the majors in runs scored; 29th in home runs; 24th in doubles; 26th in slugging—and that was with Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore in the lineup. I thought there were troubling signs with this offense in 2009, and I expected the offense to sputter, but I didn’t anticipate anything anywhere near this bad. This team is on a pace to score 604 runs.
It’s easier to list the hitters who have played up to or beyond expectations: S.S. Choo and Austin Kearns (riding a .420 BABIP). Virtually every young player—from Valbuena to LaPorta to Marson to (dare I say it?) Donald—has been a profound disappointment. The other remaining irregulars (Peralta, Hafner, Grudz, Redmond) have not exactly set the world afire. It’s odd that so few players met or exceeded expectations, but results are results.
I’m reminded of the joke about the restaurant where the food is bad but the portions are small. The Indians can’t score, but they can’t pitch, either. Pitchers have thrown the fewest strikeouts in the majors (and are sixth in the majors in issuing walks). Only the Brewers have a worst on-base percentage against.
It’s hard to find a positive with the pen. Tony Sipp has been impressive, though I’m now convinced it’s just random, and if his performances ever matter he will suck. Chris Perez has been promising. But Jensen Lewis, Zombie Perez, Joe Smiff, Kerry Wood, Aaron Laffey—need I go on? Hard to believe, but the FO has built yet another disaster pen.
Starting pitching has been about where I expected it to be. Westbrook looks good, Fausto shows promise, Masterson remains an uncertainty. Huff is a stiff and Talbot has been pretty good as a fifth starter. But this team does not seem to have even a replacement level starting rotation yet, and that bodes ill for 2011.
Say what you will about the talent in the minors. I’ve become dubious of the whole lot of them. Remember: Jhonny Peralta once tore up the International League. The Indians have had quite a few players who looked great in Akron or Buffalo only to founder in Cleveland.
Another area of failure, one less often considered, has been the front office. Mark Shapiro seems to have gone into hiding. Success has many parents, but failure is an orphan. It would be admirable if Shapiro had the courage to address the fans about this sorry state of affairs.
Right now, this is a team of historically bad proportions. If matters do not dramatically improve—and it’s hard to imagine where such improvement would come from—we’re looking at a 100-loss season.