We're almost two months into the season, and the Indians are having a problem hitting the ball. Yet, they have done little to fix it.
A team that quite a few people picked to win the World Series and many others expected to be one of the better teams in baseball is one of the most underachieving teams this season.
The Indians have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. After C.C. Sabathia’s first few starts, he has been phenomenal and the rest of the rotation has been solid.
Fausto Carmona has had some control issues but is in the top five in ERA. Paul Byrd has been shaky but solid if nothing else, and Westbrook went on the DL but has been well above average this season by his standards.
Without Cliff Lee, the Indians would easily be last in the division, thanks to Lee’s first few starts carrying an ERA under 1.00.
Aaron Laffey came up to replace Westbrook in the rotation for a month when he was hurt, and all he has done is lead the league in ERA (if he had enough innings pitched). Laffey will remain up here with Carmona on the DL, and Jeremy Sowers has been solid in his spot starts this season.
Despite this great pitching, we're talking about a team with a sub-.500 record. I know, how could a team with the pitching just described be under .500?
Well, it starts with hitting, which currently the Indians have none of. It's like in softball. You have most teams who can hit and score 20+ runs a game, and you have those one or two odd teams that can't hit and score only three or four runs a game.
Well, four runs would be glorious for the Indians at this point. Only a small handful of times this season have the Indians given up more than five runs in a game. If the Indians averaged five runs a game, they would easily be fighting for the division lead. Instead, they are usually poking through a solid two to three runs per game and losing games, 3-1, 2-0, 3-0.
You could say it all starts with Travis Hafner. A guy who between 2004-2006 was one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. Now he is hitting barely above .200.
But it’s not just Hafner. Grady Sizemore's average has dipped up and down, but he is getting on base. Asdrubal Cabrera is hitting below .200 and is overmatched every time at the plate.
Jhonny Peralta is leading the team in home runs but barely hitting .250. David Dellucci, Casey Blake, Ryan Garko are all hitting below .250. Garko and Franklin Gutierrez have lost their jobs to Michael Aubrey and Ben Francisco.
Francisco is the only Indians hitter getting on base two or three times a game because of a hit. Victor Martinez is hitting above .300 but has nine extra base hits, and none of them are home runs.
It’s time to push the panic button. A lot of people said they would have this turned around by Memorial Day. Well it’s the week of and the Indians apparently didn’t get that memo.
They have made few changes. Cutting Jason Michaels was a good move, but that won’t solve the problem. Aubrey is a rookie and will not either. Putting Hafner on the DL wont help his poor hitting.
The Indians need new life breathed into them on offense and in the bullpen. It's very hard to make a major trade before July, so the best thing the Indians can do is fire hitting coach Derek Shelton. The Indians approach at the plate is awful and that stems from Shelton.
Firing Eddie Murray was a classless move the way the Indians did it, but it worked in 2005 and the Indians started hitting. The pitchers know the Indians' approach now and are working to beat it. It's time for a new voice and approach from the hitting coach's area.
The bullpen right now is its own can of worms. Joe Borowski was awful early on, but since coming off the DL has looked great. Rafael Perez has been steady and much better since early in the season.
Jensen Lewis was doing okay, but not well enough to beat out Jorge Julio’s 5.00 ERA a few weeks ago. He was sent to Buffalo. Julio has since been released. Rafael Betancourt has been terrible, having the Bartolo Colon syndrome early in his career, afraid to throw inside.
The Indians need to do something. This team’s starting pitching is too good to waste, especially now that Sabathia is almost guaranteed to be leaving at this year's end, which without major changes is looking more like September rather than October.
The time to panic is now; if you want to win you have to do something about it. Make a bold trade, not a stupid trade, but one that can help without hurting you one or two years down the road.
The Indians need to win now, because without Sabathia, they don’t have a truly consistent ace. Carmona may become that ace, but not soon enough. The point of keeping Sabathia around is to win, so if they don’t win soon, Sabathia’s time with the Tribe may come to a close sooner than all expected.
Eric Wedge’s theory of the week to help the team, play burned out prospect Andy Marte more. Sure Eric, that will help tons, a guy who strikes out almost every other at bat and who’s nickname should be E5 because that shows up in the box score every time he plays.
Where is the Staples Easy button when you need it?
Panic Mode is now, Indians.