The formula for success in Major League Baseball is no secret.
Good pitching + timely hitting = victories.
Every team knows it, though some have more resources to perfect it.
The 2009 Cleveland Indians, however, have gone a different direction.
Atrocious pitching + alarmingly unclutch hitting = infuriating losses.
Why the Tribe seems to relish antagonizing it's own fans is anybody's guess. A couple more weeks of the type of baseball we have seen so far and I may end up sitting on a cold table with a doctor telling me, "If I could get you to lay off the baseball for a while we might get that blood pressure back in a safer range."
Going into the season, we knew the starting rotation would be the team's weakness. The optimist in us hoped a revamped bullpen and potent lineup could compensate. The bullpen has been pretty good. The hitting has let them down.
Here's the funny part: talent-wise, the lineup is as good as any in baseball.
Yes I said it.
The Indians constantly have runners on base. That isn't the problem.
When RBI opportunities arise, they suddenly become Miss Teen South Carolina (U.S. Americans) and an eighth-grade boy on his first date rolled into one.
Monday night was the worst example yet.
Having already blown a bases-loaded one out chance and a second-and-third with no out opportunity earlier in the game, the Tribe, amazingly, was still in the game trailing the Royals 4-0 in the ninth.
The first two batters single. Kansas City manager Trey Hillman immediately summons dominant closer Joakim Soria. Undaunted, both Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo also single making the score 4-1 and loading the bases—still no out.
Now the Indians have the meat of the order; Vic Martinez, Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta coming up. Perfect scenario for a comeback right?
Soria uncorks a wild pitch to Martinez, its a 4-2 ballgame with runners on second and third, still no out.
There is no freaking way they don't tie this game right? All they need is sacrifice flies from their three- and four-hitters.
After casually watching two Soria fastballs go breezing passed like they were pretty girls in the mall, Victor strikes out on a comically slow curveball. One down.
Next is Hafner. Also watching a fastball right down the pipe, Hafner then blasts one about six feet in front of the plate. Two down.
Finally its Peralta's turn. By now the Royals fans are in a frenzy, they know whats coming just as much as we do.
Two-strike curveball seems to giggle at Peralta as it settles right over the plate for a called third strike. Game over.
It was the 11th strikeout of the game for the Tribe hitters.
After Monday, the Indians had a strikeout to plate appearance ratio of 24 percent. The league average is 18 percent.
ESPN and the Elias Sports Bureau created a stat called "productive out." It basically means if you have a runner on base with less than two outs, you move the runner along if you get out.
The league average for productive outs is 30 percent, the Indians productive out percentage is an embarrassing 14 percent, less than half the league average.
When a major league baseball team advances a runner to third base with less than two outs, there is little excuse to leave the man stranded any more than half the time. In fact, the league average for scoring that man is 50 percent. The pathetically inefficient Indians have scored just four of the 14 runners in that situation for a sad 29 percent.
The numbers don't lie, especially the ones in the standings. The Eric Wedge era has been plagued with poor fundamental baseball. Unlike the last two seasons, there is not going to be a Cy Young Award-winning pitcher to mask the problem.
The Indians can pull the small market card all they want. But when the talent on the roster matches that of any other team in baseball, people start to get antsy.
The amazing ALCS run in 2007, mostly fueled by 19-game winners C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, bought Tribe brain trust a honeymoon period. Last season's tank job evened things out.
With a dire economy and LeBron's legend unfolding merely a couple hundred feet away, the Indians cannot afford to be the worst fundamental team in baseball, in the standings or owner Larry Dolan's bank account.