Baseball is one of the few sports that numbers stand out, sometimes larger than the game itself. Everyone knows that Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games and that Ted Williams hit .406 and is the last player to hit .400 for a full season.
For Cleveland Indians fans, there is only one number that matters, 1948. That was the last year the Indians won the World Series. 2008 was supposed to be the year that had the makings of ending the 60-year drought. Unfortunately for the Tribe faithful, there are a bunch of numbers that are preventing that and making Clevelanders sick to their stomachs.
4 (As in 4 Runs Per Game)
For the season the Indians have scored three of fewer runs in 30 of 62 games. That is nearly HALF of their games. Their record in games where they score three runs or less is 6-24. Yes, you read that correctly. They lose 80 percent of the time when they score three runs or less. No "George W. Fuzzy Math" there.
That would make the Tribe 22-10 when they score MORE than 4 runs a game. That's a .688 clip, folks. The Indians went 96-66 last year, that's a .593 winning percentage, for reference.
.242 (Team Batting Average)
That would be DEAD LAST in the American League, behind the .251 hitting Seattle Mariners, and 28th out of 30 teams in MLB only ahead of San Diego and Washington.
Number of regular players hitting over .242? Five. Ben Francisco, Victor Martinez, Ryan Garko, Franklin Gutierrez and Grady Sizemore. It would be worse but the last three guys have been hot lately.
Does it seem like it's been worse that that? Well, yes. The Indians were last in MLB for batting average and runs in May. They hit .211 with 78 runs for an average of 3.4 runs per game.
The rarefied air of Arlington, Texas, has heated the Indians bats up lately as they have scored at least four runs in the last six games, but could only muster a 3-3 record.
10-14 (Record Vs. the AL Central)
(3-10 in the last 13 games)
One of the things I DO like about Eric Wedge is the emphasis that he puts on the divisional match-ups in the era of the unbalanced schedule. Last year the Tribe went 48-24 (.667) in the AL Central. 11-7 vs. Chicago. 12-6 vs. Detroit. 11-7 vs. Kansas City. 14-4 vs. Minnesota. This year not even close. 3-6, 2-2, 1-2 and 4-4 versus those teams, respectively, in 2008.
21 - Record in the last 21 games...6-15
On May 15, the Indians stood at 22-19, 1 1/2 games AHEAD in the AL Central. Now they sit at 28-34, 6 1/2 or 7 1/2 games BEHIND depending on the outcome of tonight's White Sox/Twins game. Numbers are special in baseball but the one that matters the most is wins. The Indians have done little of that lately.
0 - Relief Pitchers that can be counted on every night
It's none. Zip. Zero. Nada. I like Joe Borowski but don't give me the BS that he hasn't given up a run since coming off the DL. He's JOE FRICKIN' BOROWSKI! He is an adequate reliever but he will implode from time to time, it's a proven fact. His ERA is still at 8.00 after five consecutive scoreless appearances. That has to be an Iron Joe record by the way.
The infuriating thing is when Uncle Eric makes the call to the bullpen he has no idea what he is going to get that night. None whatsoever. Rafael Betancourt is an absolute train wreck and now sports a 7.27 ERA. 7.27!?! He had a 1.47 ERA last year. WTF?!?
It doesn't matter who Wedge trots out there, everyone has had a hand in it. Masa Kobayashi has stretches of solid pitching but is good for a hiccup now and again. Rafael Perez has been hit or miss all season. Jensen Lewis and Tom Mastny find themselves in rustic Buffalo, N.Y., for their performances. Craig Breslow and Jorge Julio are no longer with the team.
What makes it worse is that if the starting pitcher or one reliever gets into a jam, it's been almost automatic that the oncoming reliever will fail to get out of the jam. This has been as much to blame as the Tribe's putrid offensive efforts.
With the margin of error so small, the "lights out" bullpen from 2007 has been replaced with "The Son of the Bullpen from Hell" in 2008. When the reliever you cringe least about upon entering the game is Joe Borowski you know you have issues.
100 - Games Remaining
For all the gloom and doom the 2008 season has been for the Indians, they still have 100 games to go. An eternity. Despite the awful May, a sub-.500 record, the bumbling offense and the Son of the Bullpen from Hell, the Indians are still in the middle of the AL Central race.
They finish off their longer road trip of the season in Detroit before heading home for a date with the Twins and the start of Interleague Play. If they want to still have a chance to contend in 2008, they need to correct some of the numbers before hitting mid-season, because right now the numbers say they have no shot at all.