Assessing the Cleveland Indians' Biggest Weaknesses Prior to Opening Day

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Assessing the Cleveland Indians' Biggest Weaknesses Prior to Opening Day
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians made some major strides this offseason.

Among several other players, the Indians brought in Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher who can certainly help the team compete in 2013. 

The Indians also made moves to shore up their pitching staff, including a trade for highly touted prospect Trevor Bauer.

Even with these moves, the Indians are far from perfect.

But what exactly are their biggest weaknesses?

 

Plate Discipline

The Indians have re-tooled their offense this offseason by adding Bourn, Swisher, Drew Stubbs, and Mark Reynolds.

There's plenty of talent at the big league level, but the team lacks plate discipline. 

Last season, the nine players slated to start every game struck out a combined 1,013 times in 4,458 at-bats.

The combined strikeout rate for Indians' position players was 20 percent.

The Indians have a lot of offensive talent and with the new lineup they've created, they're going to score, however, the strikeouts are going to be a cause for concern moving forward. 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds will need to cut down on their gaudy strikeout totals in 2013.

The most glaring source of strikeouts comes in the form of Reynolds and Stubbs. Last season, the two combined for 325 strikeouts.

Toss in Michael Bourn and you have 480 strikeouts in 1,785 plate appearances. That makes for a 27 percent strikeout rate.

The Indians will need their team, and in particular Stubbs, Reynolds and Bourn, to cut down on their strikeouts if they're going to produce at a satisfactory rate.

 

Starting Pitching

The Indians pitching staff is far from a strong point.

The Indians recently selected the contract of left-hander Scott Kazmir, making him the team's fifth starter. 

The Indians rotation now features Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, Zach McAllister and Kazmir (per Baseballprospectus.com).

That rotation will do little to instill a sense of confidence in fans, and for good reason.

Here's what the starting rotation has done over the past two seasons.

Player Name GS IP W-L ERA ERA+ WHIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB H/9
Masterson 67 422.1 23-25 4.05 97 1.36 6.8 3.3 2.07 9.0
Jimenez 63 365.0 19-30 5.03 82 1.50 8.0 4.3 1.87 9.3
Myers 33 281.1 10-22 4.19 93 1.29 6.4 2.3 2.79 9.3
McAllister 26 143.0 6-9 4.47 87 1.43 7.8 2.8 2.76 10.0
Kazmir (2010-11) 29 151.2 9-15 6.17 65 1.61 5.5 4.8 1.15 9.7
Totals 218 1363.1 67-101 4.62 N/A 1.42 9.32 3.46 2.02 9.32

 

The Indians lack a true number one, and a two. Masterson has the ability to pitch like a third starter and McAllister is still just 25 years old with room to grow.

With no front-end starters to speak of, the Indians pitching staff is a crap shoot in nearly every game.

The Indians have some solid pitching prospects, but Bauer is the closest thing to major league ready, and even he posted a 6.06 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP over 16.1 innings.

 

Viable Bench Bats

The Indians starting lineup has plenty of potential, however, the depth on the bench leaves a lot to be desired.

According to Baseball Prospectus, the Indians will bring Ryan Raburn (2B/OF), Mike Aviles (IF/OF) and Lou Marson (C) off the bench in 2013.

Aviles managed a rather successful 2012 season with the Boston Red Sox, but averages just 95 games played per season over the course of his five-year-career.

Raburn was a productive part of the Detroit Tigers lineup for three straight years between 2009 and 2011. Unfortunately, Raburn struggled mightily in 2012 and found himself without a job by November 20th (per ESPN.com).

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Marson, a 26-year-old catcher, is a career backup with no big league success to speak of.

Providing Aviles can continue with his recent success, then the Indians have one player capable of stepping in and making contributions both offensively and defensively.

However, Raburn and Marson are unlikely to make any sort of significant impact on this year's Cleveland Indians team.

If the Indians can work through these shortcomings, they could sneak up on a lot of baseball fans in 2013.

 

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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