The Indians defense has been awful in 2014

One of the numerous errors committed by the Indians - Jonathan Daniel

After watching error upon error (upon error...), I was curious just how poor the Tribe’s defense is faring this season.

After each game of seeing numerous errors (and plays that weren't ruled errors but could have been), it seemed to me that the Indians were reaching levels of ineptitude not seen around these parts in many years.

I know there are newer methods of grading defense (UZR, dWAR, etc), and believe me, the Indians score poorly in all of them, but for this exercise I am just looking at old-fashioned errors and fielding percentage. In part this is because I want to go back more than a decade or so to make comparisons and many of the newer stats do not go back more than a few years.

It turns out that yes, this year's team is approaching fielding lows not seen in many years. Through Monday, the Indians have committed 31 errors in 32 games, with a 0.974 fielding percentage. That puts them at second in errors (one behind the Dodgers), and gives the Tribe the very worst fielding percentage in MLB.

"Leading" the way have been Yan Gomes, who's already made 7 errors, followed by Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera, who have 4 errors apiece. Lonnie Chisenhall has made 3 errors in only 68 innings of work.

The good news is that the Indians are all but guaranteed not to set a team record for errors, because (per Baseball-Reference) in their inaugural season (1901) the Blues committed 329 errors in just 138 games. Keep in mind that the gloves used in those days were basically a clump of fabric over the hand, and the condition of the fields was something less than we're familiar with today. That incredible total actually gave Clevelane the second fewest errors in the American League though, so much more common were errors in that era.

The 31 errors they already have put them on pace for 157 over the full 162-game season, which would match the 1986 team for the franchise's most errors since 1932. The 1958 team committed 152 errors in 153 games, which works out to 161 errors over a 162-game schedule. That's the last team the Indians made errors at a higher clip than they're doing so far this season.

That 1987 Indians (who made 153 errors) was the last Cleveland team to finish last in MLB in fielding percentage, at 0.975. To find an Indians squad that finished worse than 0.973, we have to go back all the way to 1939, when the Tribe committed 180 errors in 154 games and finished with a 0.970 fielding percentage.

Finally, those 31 errors have resulted in 19 unearned runs so far. Again, extrapolating that to a full 162-game season would result in 96 unearned runs. The 2003 team had 96 unearned runs and the strike-shortened 1994 season factors out to 97 unearned runs. The last Cleveland team to break the century mark in unearned runs was the 1987 edition, which had 122.

Let's hope the defense starts to regress back towards the middle. Otherwise, our pitching staff has that many more outs to get, and right now, the team needs all the help it can get.

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