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2002/06/18

“We do a good job drawing walks. They keep rallies alive. They set up rallies. But sooner or later, you’ve got to hit.”

–Lou Piniella, Mariners manager as quoted in The Week in Quotes

Sweet Lou was actually talking about his Mariners, not the Indians, to which we at TribeScribe West say “Shut your piehole, you whiner. You think you’ve got problems?” Seattle is currently fifth in the AL in scoring (5.32 rpg) while our Tribe is twelfth (4.10 rpg), ahead of only the pitiful D-Rays and Tigers. The Indians walk more than Seattle (and the rest of the AL) and have outhomered the Mariners as well, yet score less than Ellen DeGeneres at a Britney Spears concert. What, dear reader, is the problem? Sooner or later, you’ve got to hit.

The Tribe offense thus far has been more mystifying than Doug Henning’s World of Magic. So are the following offensive problems real or illusions?:

  • Now you see them, now you don’t. The league-leading walk rate masks the troubles the Tribe has in getting people on base. How much the Tribe misses the table-setting singles of Kenny Lofton and Robby Alomar is evidenced by their .329 team OBP. Nearly every key Indian is hitting below his career average, so there is hope that a few more balls will drop for hits in the second half. On the other hand, some of these guys weren’t that good to begin with. Verdict: Real
  • Nothing up their sleeves. Despite better-than-average homers and triples, the Tribe’s seam-busting power of years past is history. While the singles shortage has contributed to the awful .393 team slugging percentage, the dearth of doubles has starved the run-hungry offense. The Tribe has only 94 doubles through 69 games, by far the worst in the AL. Verdict: Real
  • Disappearing into thin air. One of every nine Indians baserunners is eliminated by a double play or a caught stealing (worst in the AL), pointing to a lack of team speed. Ricky Gutierrez has been indicted elsewhere for his 11 GDP, but Matt Lawton and Travis Fryman are guilty as well. On the other hand, GDPs are a byproduct of having a lot of baserunners. Case in point: the Yankees. Despite hitting into 70 double plays, New York has the third-best runs per game in the AL. Meanwhile the league’s best team at avoiding the DP and CS, Tampa Bay, barely edges Detroit for the worst offense. Verdict: Illusion

  • Sawed in half. The Tribe has stolen fewer bases than every AL team except the A’s, which may be a good thing considering their league-worst 53% success rate. Lawton and Omar Vizquel have been the team’s most prolific basestealers but neither has come close to the break-even success rate (67%), sapping the Indians’ run potential. But with only 49 steal attempts, not many baserunners have been lost. There is still hope that Vizquel, Lawton and Milton Bradley can improve on these numbers in the second half. Verdict: Illusion

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