The Cleveland Indians: Things Fall Apart

To say the Indians have been playing awful recently would be an understatement. The Indians haven’t been just awful lately, they’ve been a heaping pile of flaming garbage. They’ve been, as I like to say, a dumpster fire.

If you need some visual imagery, here it is:

As I write this post the Indians are losing, 9-1 to the AL Central-leading Kansas City Royals in the 7th inning. Over the past 30 days, the Indians are hitting .233/.297/.353 with a .256 wOBA and 84 wRC+. For reference, a .320 wOBA and 100 wRC+ is average. So the Indians have been an absolute disaster at the plate as of late.

For the season, they’re not much better, .248/.320/.383 with a .308 wOBA and 99 wRC+. Still below average. Besides for Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and the platoon of David Murphy and Ryan Raburn the Indians offense is nonexistent, simply put, it sucks.

Jason Kipnis is putting up MVP-caliber numbers, .321/.397/.476 with a .377 wOBA and 147 wRC+ but the vast majority of the lineup is awful. They can’t hit, especially with runners in scoring position and most especially with the bases loaded. The Indians are one of the WORST CLUTCH HITTING TEAMS OF ALL-TIME.

And to make matters worse, this inability to give pitchers run support has started to wear on the Indians starters. In the first half, Indians starters had a 4.11 ERA, 3.45 FIP and 3.29 xFIP with 9.28 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9. In the second half, Indians starters have a 6.95 ERA, 5.22 FIP and 3.52 xFIP with 9.05 K/9 and 2.91 BB/9.

A pitching staff that was among the best in baseball has seen little to no support throughout the year, and has collapsed in the second half. Last year’s AL Cy Young Corey Kluber has the worst run support in the AL with just 2.52 runs per game. Trevor Bauer is in the bottom 15 as well, with 3.74 runs per game.

The Cleveland Indians are falling apart. The team that was projected by Sports Illustrated to win the World Series, now sits in last place in the AL Central, 15 games back of the Kansas City Royals.

And this begs the question of why? Why does a team with one of the most talented and youthful starting rotations in baseball, headed by the AL Cy Young winner, a team picked by many to win the AL Central, a team having a huge bounce back season from its second baseman that nobody expected, fall apart?

The answer is simple really. The pieces are there. The Indians front office did a great job of putting the core together: Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Yan Gomes, Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and Cody Allen. These four positional players along with four starters and closer stack up on paper with the best in baseball. Surround them well and you have a playoff team.

But that’s where the Indians have gone wrong. The Indians Front Office has done an astoundingly awful job of surrounding the core with talent.

Let’s start with the MLB Draft. There is not a single first round selection made by Cleveland on the Indians or another MLB team’s 25-man roster from 2003-2011. Lonnie Chisenhall is the only Indians’ selection of note, and he seems to be a Quad-A player at this point.

Between 2005 and 2010, the Indians only drafted two players on the current roster, Kipnis and Allen. That’s not good. The Indians front office’s record in the draft, is poor to say the least.

And they’ve further failed to surround the core through free agency. Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn’s signings are HUGE busts, and their $24 million combined salary is dragging down this team. Bourn has a -0.4 fWAR this year, meaning he’s hurt more than he’s helped the Indians while Swisher is striking out in Double A ball and has a -0.6 fWAR as well. Cutting either or both would help more than keeping them on the everyday roster!

And while they’ve hit a home run with many trades in the past, trading for Brandon Moss looks like a bust.

The Indians have failed to bring in adequate players to surround the core. Swisher, Moss, Bourn, Shawn Marcum, Gavin Floyd, Brett Myers and Anthony Swarzak. The list goes on and on. The Indians front office has done a terrible job finding the right pieces to make the Indians a playoff contender ever since the Wild Card loss. They’re basically the same team!

The Indians have, and probably still have a window of opportunity to contend, but it could close shut real fast. The Royals are here to stay, and it’s only a matter of time before the Tigers turn things around.

The Indians front office needs to do a much better job this offseason, surrounding the core with the right pieces, pieces that fit and will perform. This may very well be their last shot.

Cut Swisher and Bourn, they’re playing below average and are wasting roster spots that could be given to up-and-coming youngsters. They need to find another bat or two, preferably at CF, LF or 3B. And you can never have too many bullpen arms as well.

The core pieces are there, the front office just needs to find the right combination to surround them. But they’ve failed so far, and if they fail again, they NEED to be held accountable.

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