Cleveland Indians: Sorry Derek Shelton, it's Time for Someone Else

harry jamesCorrespondent IMay 20, 2008

The Indians' front office has to do something. That is clear at this point. It can't keep going this way. The Indians offense isn't getting any better.

Monday night's 4-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox may be just one game out of 162, but it speaks to what has happened this whole season. Cleveland is not hitting. But the real problem is that there is no improvement.

The Tribe's season is officially 45 games old. Outside of a game here and there, the team has been atrocious at the plate. As of this evening, here are the Indians' hitting statistics, as a team, compared to the other 29 teams in baseball: 

30th in batting average at .234

22nd in runs with 183

30th in hits with 344 

19th in home runs with 36

30th in total bases with 527

22nd in runs batted in with 179

23rd in on-base percentage at .317 

27th in slugging percentage at .366

When Jason Michaels was released in favor of Ben Francisco, the Indians' brass finally admitted that the team was in an offensive slump. At the ensuing press conference, Cleveland Indians GM Mark Shapiro admitted that the key to offensive success lies within. Since that time, the Indians are averaging only 3.7 runs and seven hits a game. That is not going to get the job done.

The Indians have been lucky to this point. They havebeen able to stay in contention despite their hitting woes, because of their outstanding starting rotation. Given Cleveland's starting pitching, the Indians should be in first place by several games.  

But as the starters start to come back down to earth, the Tribe front office needs to make another change. It's time for Derek Shelton, the Indians hitting coach, to get his walking papers.

Rewind to 2005. The Indians were struggling at the plate. Eddie Murray was ousted after such a drought by the Indians lineup. Yet, for some strange reason, in similar circumstances, the team continues to stick with Shelton.

Don't get me wrong. I am thankful for what Shelton has done, but we are not just talking about one or two hitters. We are talking about seven of the Cleveland Indians' regular starters. Victor Martinez and Francisco are the only two Indians hitting above .300. The team has only four hitters hitting above .240. The statistics speak for themselves.

It's not just this season either. In 2006, we saw a dramatic drop off from Jhonny Peralta. Again, Shelton never got Peralta turned around. Last season, the Indians had only one hitter who batted over .300 for the whole season.

Most importantly, Shelton cannot get the most important hitter, Travis Hafner, straightened out. Since last May, Hafner has been in a slump that is progressively getting worse.

Since putting up career numbers in 2006, Hafner has been anything but spectacular. Most Indians fans know that if the Indians are to have a chance at a World Series title, Hafner is going to need to be hitting like his old self. But in a year, Hafner has just gotten worse.

It’s understandable that teams go through hard times at the plate. But this is becoming more of a trend then an isolated incident. This lineup, on paper, should be one of the most feared lineups in the game. But that is not the case. And let’s not forget the slump this lineup was in through most of May and June last season.

So what is the answer? Michaels was the scapegoat. Michaels went to Pittsburgh and hit .294 over his first nine games. That leads me to believe it's not the hitters, but the hitting coach. This slump has continued, and it’s time to find a new hitting coach.

Firing Shelton is the only way to change some things around. There is no way this team will win the division the way they are hitting now. Maybe this team needs a fresh set of eyes to diagnose the troubles of the Tribe bats.