That’s another number looking like 2015 in an unflattering way.
So the Indians are playing more low-offense games than the previous three seasons. But they’re afloat because they are winning more of those games. That’s proof of the strength of this rotation, and Bauer, Carrasco and Bieber are healthy and effective right now. Perhaps they’ll survive without run support, and perhaps that will make the difference between the Indians making or missing the postseason.
At the moment, they’re on track to score two runs or fewer in 59 games. In the previous four years in the American League, only four teams had more games like that in a single season.
You’re not just talking about an exceptional pitching performance to turn a team like that into a playoff team. You’re talking about an unprecedented performance. At their current pace, you’re looking at the Indians winning 21 games in which they scored two runs or fewer. In the previous four years, the most games won by a team that way was 13.
This staff is elite. But can Bauer, Carrasco, Bieber, and when healthy, Kluber and Clevinger, really lead the Indians to eight more 2-1, 2-0 and 1-0 wins than any other team in the last four years?
That’s why Kluber’s broken arm piled on Clevinger’s aching back isn’t the issue, because attempting to lead the league in games won 2-1 isn’t a real strategy, and we’ve all known that since spring training.
The Indians have to lift themselves out of the bottom of the league in runs scored. As we mentioned in February in 3rd & Short, the Indians ranked third, third and second in runs the last three seasons while winning the Central. The fear was this season looking like 2015, when the Indians ranked 11th in the league in runs and finished third in the division with 81 wins. That’s what this looks like so far.
The lineup may come around. Or not.
In their first 30 games, the Indians played 19 games without Francisco Lindor in the lineup and 11 with him. They averaged 3.7 runs per game without him (12-7) and 3.8 with him (5-6).
In their first 30 games, the Indians played 16 games without Carlos Gonzalez in the lineup and 14 with him. They averaged 3.5 runs per game without him (10-6) and 4.1 runs with him (7-7).
In their first 30 games, the Indians played 24 games without Jordan Luplow in the starting lineup and six with him. They averaged 4 runs per game without him (15-9) and 2.7 runs per game with him (2-4). (Note: Jordan Luplow statistics are provided only for entertainment purposes and to break up the monotony of yet another story about the Indians’ lack of offense and aren’t intended to provide any actual analysis about the team.)
Listen, is there a world where by the middle of the season, the Indians are finally putting their most productive lineup on the field and scoring more than two runs a game all the time? Sure.
But that can’t just be a hope. That’s a must.
Unless the Indians truly plan to win in a way that nobody ever wins.
Three Things To Make You Feel Better About The Indians’ Lack Of Run Production
3. Detroit is worse
Teams heat up with the weather, but for the moment, Detroit is averaging 3.48 runs per game. No American League team has been that unproductive over a full season since Seattle in 2011. So the Tigers would take Luplow in their lineup right now.
Entering the weekend, 72 American League hitters had cracked at least four home runs. That included two Indians (Leonys Martin and Carlos Santana) — and no Tigers. Among players with enough at-bats to qualify, there were no Tigers in the top 50 in the AL in OPS.
As he winds down his Hall of Fame career, Miguel Cabrera had 33 hits entering the weekend, and 27 were singles.
2. The outfield must improve
The Indians’ outfield production ranks 13th in home runs, last in RBI, 14th in batting average, 13th in on-base percentage, 14th in slugging percentage and 14th in OPS. Martin, who ranks 73rd in the league in OPS, passes for productive in this group.
The Indians were on a search-and-rescue operation with this outfield since Opening Day. So far they’ve determined that Greg Allen and his .105 batting average wasn’t it. They need to make more determinations on other guys who aren’t the answer in order to give someone else a shot. Prospect Oscar Mercado is the guy whose name must be called at some point.
By promotion, by eventual trade, or by someone getting hot, the outfield, pegged as deficient and hitting that mark so far, can’t get worse. Last season, the Indians’ outfield ranked 10th in the AL in OPS. Even approaching the bottom third of the league, instead of making the case as the worst-hitting outfield in a 15-team league, would qualify as progress.
1. Trevor Bauer might win every game 2-1
The new ace is in the business of exploring uncharted pitching territory. In the first five years of his career, he was 0-22 when getting two runs of support or fewer. In 2017, he was 2-6. Last year, he was 0-6. He’s 1-1 so far this year. The Indians have scored 2, 4, 1, 6, 7, 2 and 7 runs in Bauer’s starts — decent support. He’s 4-1, and the Indians are 5-2 in his starts. That includes two wins by a score of 2-1.
In four of Bauer’s seven starts, he has been in complete control, allowing one run in seven innings, no runs in seven innings, one run in 6 ⅔ innings and one run in eight innings. He’s angry that doesn’t happen every outing.
With every pitching injury, the Indians lean more on Bauer. With every middling hitter they send to the plate, they lean more on Bauer. That’s what he craves. Tell Bauer the Indians weren’t going to score more than a run a game for him the rest of the season, and he’d take it as a challenge.
Trying to make the playoffs with a bottom two offense is no way to go about a season. But if there’s a starting pitcher who wouldn’t mind his team giving that a shot, the Indians have him.
Bauer has a career record of 30-3 when his team scores at least six runs. That is conventional, and Bauer is beyond that. If anyone would want to claim a crown as the king of 2-1 wins, Bauer’s the guy.