SSDD: Same Script, Different Day.
Here’s your recap: an Indians starter pitched well (today, Ubaldo Jimenez), but made one mistake (today, a 3-run home run to Brian McCann), and the inept Indians offense couldn’t muster much of anything (0 hits with RISP, with the lone run coming off a solo home run by Lonnie Chisenhall) and the Indians lost in Atlanta again.
The Tribe scored 3 runs in this entire series, and never really threatened to score more.
The Indians now head to Detroit, essentially with the season on the line.
That’s your recap, basically. But I have a lot more space, so let’s talk about this inept offense, and why it is so inept, shall we?
To start off, let’s do a little player comparison:
Player A: .240 AVG / .310 OBP / .373 SLG / 15:1 SB:CS / .683 OPS / 9 HR / 41 RBI
Player B: .268 AVG / .320 OBP / .355 SLG / 19:10 SB:CS / .676 OPS / 5 HR / 38 RBI
Player A is Drew Stubbs, someone who I think is a great and reasonably priced 9-hitter who can sometimes do great things in the field and who has tremendous speed.
Player B? That’s Michael Bourn, the high-priced ($12m a year for four years) free agent lead-off man that has quietly been one of the biggest busts in the American League. At this point he’s not even outperforming Drew Stubbs, an admittedly flawed player who I happen to love for his underdog status, and it’s not really particularly close.
Unfortunately, I can’t even make a case that this is a down year for Bourn, as his career stat line is .271/.336/.374. He’s also 30 years old, which means it’s quite possible his diminished speed (19 steals is bad enough, but the 10 caught stealing to go with it is downright abominable) is here to stay. Yes, Bourn is only one season removed from stealing 42 bases for the same Atlanta Braves that just swept the Indians, but he’s done nothing to suggest he has that kind of base stealing ability here in Cleveland. For all the talk about Nick Swisher being a bust (more on him in a minute), I haven’t heard one significant peep about Bourn, and I haven’t seen anyone else point out the more important point: In 2013, he’s been a worse hitter than Drew Stubbs. That’s bad.
Also, despite his diminished stat line, his .346 BABIP in 2013 is virtually identical to his career BABIP of .343. Yikes.
Now, let’s talk about Nick Swisher, who has occupied the #2 spot in Terry Francona’s lineup for roughly the entire second half of the season. In the first half, Nick Swisher’s .242/.352/.398 stat line was apparently unacceptable for the clean-up spot, so he was moved up in the lineup. This left the Indians without a suitable clean-up hitter (Asdrubal’s stint in the 4-hole was the stuff nightmares are made of, and Carlos Santana takes batting cleanup as an invitation to swing as hard and as long as possible), and it’s had a ripple effect on the rest of the lineup.
Oh, and #2 hitter Nick Swisher is hitting .242/.314/.405 in that role, so that experiment has kind of been an abject failure. When Swisher bats with the bases empty, he doesn’t take as many walks (because pitchers aren’t nearly as careful with him), and so Jason Kipnis often bats with 2 outs and nobody on. In essence, moving Swisher up in the lineup has created a vacuum for the team; when the Indians do get runners on base, it falls upon the shoulders of the weaker hitters in the lineup to drive runs in. Surprise, surprise, this has been a terrible recipe. In the first half, the Indians posted a .330 team OBP and a .748 team OPS. Since Swisher moved up, those numbers are .308 and .681, respectively.
Let me put those second-half numbers in context for you: at the time of his designation, Mark Reynolds posted a .307 OBP and a .680 OPS with the Indians. In other words, the Indians have collectively produced like Mark Reynolds since the All-Star Break. If that doesn’t send chills down your spine, I don’t know what will.
Also, I think Asdrubal Cabrera is broken, and perhaps permanently. When he was mired in the cleanup spot, I joked on Twitter that Terry Francona was trying to sabotage Cabrera’s career and/or break his spirit. Joking aside, it may have worked; since the All-Star Break, Cabrera has a .255 OBP and an OPS of merely .584. For reference, that number would make Cabrera the third-worst regular position player in all of baseball measured by OPS. Somewhat ironically, it would also make him the third-worst regular shortstop in baseball by OPS (Miami’s Adeiny Hechavarria (.569) and Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar (.562) are worse). I think this is a good time to remind you that the Indians utilized Cabrera as a cleanup hitter for about three weeks.
Yes, the whole team is mired in a slump right now, but it has lasted the entire month and coincides with Nick Swisher being moved up in the lineup. I think Francona has no choice but to move Swisher back down and hope the offense regains the ability to hit.
But to be frank, it may already be too late. Nothing short of a sweep of the Tigers can get the Indians off of life support, and with the way this team has hit for the past month, well… it ain’t lookin’ good. I hate to be so negative (and I still have hope!) but the numbers don’t lie: this is an offense that has essentially jumped out of an airplane without a parachute.
(Bonus note: Lonnie Chisenhall has a .508 OPS since the All-Star Break. Andy Marte had a .635 career OPS and had a higher fielding % at 3B (.945 to .941). Just saying. He’s a bust.)