The Indians have not exactly been clutch so far in 2014

Another strikeout in a key moment - Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Just how pathetic has the Tribe fared in the “clutch” this year?

After numerous games of watching our hitters struggle to come up with a key base hit in a key moment, I surmised that they were approaching a level of ineptitude rarely seen.

One way of looking at this is to examine performance with runners in scoring positions (RISP), specifically with two outs, at bats when usually either at least one run will score, or the inning (and scoring threat) will end. I chose this because I feel the Tribe has left a lot of guys in scoring position, which is a very "unclutch" thing to do. Turns out that yes, they have done terribly. Here are the ten worst teams this season (through Monday's games):

Team

Year

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

BAbip

Astros

2014

94

119

213

238

451

133

Indians

2014

115

133

261

214

475

158

Yankees

2014

127

191

268

226

494

272

Mets

2014

105

191

276

234

510

262

Cardinals

2014

118

178

254

271

525

205

Diamondbacks

2014

119

182

244

291

535

228

Blue Jays

2014

97

174

268

291

559

217

Tigers

2014

85

210

247

321

568

291

Braves

2014

96

146

271

317

588

140

Cubs

2014

100

209

280

319

599

242

League Total

2014

3425

212

310

339

649

261

Thankfully the Tribe is not the worst this year, but when you are in Astros territory, that does not bode well. The only thing that's kept the Indians out of the basement is their ability to take a walk. The Indians are still 174 points behind league average in OPS. The Indians' .214 slugging percentage is the worst of any team. Their sub-.200 BAbip is really bad too, hopefully we'll see some positive regression there (and everywhere) soon.

How does this compare to the team's very worst seasons with two outs and RISP? Records prior to 1973 are incomplete, so I reran the data from that point forward.

Here are the Indians' five worst seasons since 1973:

  1. 1989: .543 OPS
  2. 1981: .607 OPS
  3. 1987: .625 OPS
  4. 1992: .643 OPS
  5. 2003: .648 OPS

The full slash line for 1989 was .175 (BA, .293 (OBP), .250 (SLG). Each of those is the team's worst figure from the 40+ years for which this data is complete.

Just so it's not all doom include, here are the Indians' five best seasons since 1973:

  1. 1999: .953 OPS
  2. 2006: .850 OPS
  3. 1994: .846 OPS
  4. 1996: .840 OPS
  5. 2001: .823 OPS

Those best seasons were somewhat the result of MLB's historically high levels of offense during those years, but that 1999 team was tremendous with RISP even without the benefit of the era they played in.

Back to the bad seasons...

Even as bad as that 1989 team was (really bad), the 2014 squad is on pace to shatter those numbers. (Yes, it's only been a month, and things will get better... but how much better?)

I found it was odd that a third of the league has an OPS under 600, considering the Indians have only finish so low once. I decided to look at how many teams around MLB finished below 600 for an entire season since 1973. There have been only 22 such seasons, out of a total of 1132 team seasons since then. 22 out of 1132 works out to just 1.9% of all seasons, so a sub-600 OPS with RISP and 2 outs is rare indeed. Here are those 22 seasons:

Team

Year

OPS

Team

Year

OPS

Team

Year

OPS

1

Indians

1989

543

9

Mets

1981

578

16

Angels

1977

594

2

Giants

2011

561

10

Mets

1977

583

17

Dodgers

1986

596

3

White Sox

1976

563

11

Padres

1974

586

18

Mariners

2010

596

4

Marlins

2013

569

12

Cardinals

1986

592

19

Rangers

1984

597

5

Royals

1981

574

13

Brewers

2002

592

20

White Sox

1988

597

6

Cardinals

1984

575

14

Orioles

1974

594

21

Angels

1998

597

7

Mets

1974

577

15

Expos

1976

594

22

Astros

2011

597

8

Braves

1975

577

Yes that's right, our very own Indians own the very worst season in the last 41 years!

The likelihood that all ten (or even three) of the current teams below 600 will stay there is pretty small. 1974 was the only year with three teams. Using the incomplete data from 1968, the Year of the Pitcher, also had only three teams below that mark.

Finally, let's identify the biggest culprits for the Tribe's struggles in this area so far in 2014:

Player

PA

AVG

OPS

BAbip

Mike Aviles

7

000

000

000

Nyjer Morgan

2

000

000

000

Elliot Johnson

1

000

000

000

Jason Giambi

1

000

000

000

Asdrubal Cabrera

13

000

231

000

Lonnie Chisenhall

4

000

250

000

Nick Swisher

11

000

273

000

Jason Kipnis

15

071

276

091

Yan Gomes

9

111

333

200

Michael Brantley

16

214

527

231

Ryan Raburn

9

250

583

333

Carlos Santana

12

143

643

167

David Murphy

10

333

1178

333

Michael Bourn

5

400

1200

400

Cabrera, Swisher, Kipnis have been dreadful with just one hit and seven walks between them. Santana is only third best because he has five walks to go with his lone single. Murphy and Bourn are the only bright spots, with even Michael Brantley putting up poor numbers in these situations so far.

The Tribe bats need to awaken in a bad way. The numbers are downright dreadful and would set records right and left. Luckily they have five months to try and not only pass that 1989 team, but hopefully move all the way up to respectability.

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