If the Cleveland Indians were a company on Wall Street, they would be looking for a bail out.
In business, as your company approaches the end of a quarter and earnings are set to report, often times you take an opportunity to perform a SWOT analysis.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
This is a continuous improvement exercise. I don't think anyone would argue that after two and a half months, the Indians are desperately in need of improvement.
Heading into the All-Star break, the Indians have the worst record in the American League. They are 12 games below .500, and 10 games back in the division.
This would be the equivalent of a corporation reporting that sales have declined 30 percent, gross margins are compressed, and they realized a net loss for the quarter.
Shareholders in business would be the equivalent of the fans, and a shareholder upon hearing that report would more then likely start dumping the stock and taking their losses.
I'm sure fans of the Indians feel like dumping this team and buying a new one.
But sometimes in baseball, there is more to a team then wins and losses, and it just takes a focused look at some key areas to really tell the true story.
Herein lies the purpose of this article, which is to perform a SWOT analysis on the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians scored more then enough runs for them to be a .500 team or better. Their 375 runs is good for fourth in the American league.
The Indians demonstrated good patience at the plate, working the counts and drawing walks. Their 289 walks is good for third in the American league.
In an odd category, the Indians have showed they aren't afraid to take one for the team. Their 48 hit batters is first in the American league by 14.
In the field, the bright spot has been the emergence of the middle infield and the ability to turn the double play. The Indians' 78 double plays is good for second in the American league.
But when a team is dead last in the league, the weaknesses probably outweigh the strengths.
Point blank, the pitching has been horrible. The Indians' staff has given up more runs then any other team in the major leagues.
The team ERA is .527, again, worst in the major leagues.
What could possibly lead to the above two points, you ask? The Indians lead the league in walked batters. You give free passes, you will not win in this league.
When the pitching staff isn't giving up walks, they are giving up homers. Their 85 home runs given up is fourth to last in the major leagues.
The bullpen has set a new standard for futility. In 26 opportunities to save games, the it has only successfully saved 13. This is last in the major leagues.
From a hitting perspective, the Indians struggle putting the ball in play. Their 570 strike outs is worst in the American league.
The Indians obviously allow a lot of base runners, which means in order to limit damage, they need to be able to get strikeouts. The Indians are fourth to last in the American league in that category.
I understand that evaluation of coaching is subjective, however, I think it's safe to say that the Indians coaching staff has done a poor job all year. From coaching the bases to selecting the line ups to managing the fine details of the game. the Indians always seem to be three steps behind.
Looking at those weakness stats can get depressing, so let's give some depth to this SWOT analysis.
The reality is nobody is running away with the division. The Indians, I believe, have played as bad as they can play. A good seven- or eight-game win streak, and they are back in the race.
The Indians have been ravaged by the injury bug. Some of those guys are set to come off the disabled list, which could help the team.
It may be time to go a different direction with the manager. The team has not responded to Wedge, and clearly with three out of the past four seasons being major disappointments, the fans need a change, and a new manager could bring rejuvenation.
Young players are getting a lot of valuable at-bats and mound appearances. I like the Indians' young talent. If they were contending, guys like Ben Francisco would have to sit down because they are struggling.
The display by the bullpen this year should clearly have an impact on general management's future decisions. In major league baseball, a team has to spend money on arms for the bullpen, and it can't be $10 million on on closer and expect that to fix the problems.
Time to look at moving some of the high-priced merchandise that hasn't produced as planned. Mark DeRosa was a pricey acquisition, and although he's started to hit lately, I don't think the Indians can afford him long term. Let contenders overpay with prospects.
Obviously, a lack of success is hurting team confidence, especially in the bullpen. Some of the younger arms need to experience success, or the Indians risk losing their confidence for good.
Being 10 games out, the team has not given up on the season, which is admirable. However, they need to fight the urge to give up their young talent to try and fix holes in this years team. I don't think that's a good investment.
Injuries are beginning to pile up, and it's clear that a guy like Travis Hafner may be tainted goods. They pay him way too much for no productivity, and I'm afraid he just isn't going to get healthy.
The fan base is restless. If the team doesn't turn it around, I fear a public revolt against the team, which is never a good situation.
At the end of the day, this SWOT analysis should give a pure look at the good, the bad and ugly and help paint a picture of hope or despairs depending on the perspective.
When I review the list, I feel extreme frustration when I look at the weaknesses.
Throwing strikes and putting the ball in play are the truest of fundamentals in baseball. If the Indians are struggling in these areas, what kind of talent are they really dealing with on this club?
The bottom line is the Indians clearly don't equate to a Fortune 500 company today, but if they maximize their strengths and opportunities, and eliminate a few weaknesses, they could be closer than we think.