Cleveland Indians Takeaways: Where the Heck is the Offense?

Cleveland Indians

The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians concluded a two-game series Wednesday. Cleveland came away from the series 0-2 as Chicago got the sweep. For the Indians, it was a series that once again highlighted the team’s offensive struggles. Furthermore, the pitching staff took a bit of a hit as the news regarding the punishments for starting pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac hung over their heads.

Between both games, the Indians were outscored by the Cubs 14-3. The offense went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position (RISP) and left 15 men on base. The real problem was that there was no ignitor in the Indians lineup to get a rally going. More on that in the proceeding paragraphs.

Besides the offensive struggles, there were a few other takeaways from this series. Those will be discussed in length below.

Indians Offensive Struggles

As mentioned previously, the Indians failed to find an ignitor in their lineup during this series. As indicated by the RISP and the number of men left on base, there wasn’t one-hitter in the lineup that did something productive. During the first game, the sole run for the Indians came via a double that designated hitter Franmil Reyes hit to score shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Meanwhile, one of the two runs that the Indians scored on Wednesday, came via a sacrifice fly that third baseman Jose Ramirez hit scoring right fielder Tyler Naquin. The other resulted from a single that Lindor hit to advance Ramirez to third base and bringing Cesar Hernandez home.

Regardless though, the Indians did not have productive at-bats. In total, the team recorded 20 strikeouts between both games. At the conclusion of play Wednesday, the batter with the highest batting average is the aforementioned Franmil Reyes (.292). Reyes also has a .754 OPS on the year, but 21 strikeouts over the span of 65 at-bats.

Collectively as a unit, the Indians offense has a .195 batting average which is by far the worst in all of baseball. The next closest team is the Cincinnati Reds who had a .209 team average heading into play Wednesday. Also, the Indians rank last in all of baseball in team OPS (.596). The Pittsburgh Pirates come in just ahead of them at .601.

Tale of Two Starting Pitching Performances

Starting pitching has been the hallmark of the Cleveland Indians all year long. At the conclusion of play Wednesday, the Indians still have the best team ERA (2.39 over 19 games) in all of baseball. However, this series was really a tale of two different starting pitching performances.

Tuesday, right-hander Adam Plutko got the start on what would have been the aforementioned Mike Clevinger’s day to start. Plutko pitched four innings while giving up one run and one walk on four hits. He threw a total of 78 pitches – 49 of which were strikes. Plutko had an average velocity of 87.3 miles per hour (MPH) and relied heavily on his slider (42%) and four-seamer (38%).

In contrast, Carlos Carrasco got the nod on Wednesday and wasn’t as impressive as his last start. Carrasco pitched four and one-third innings while giving up three runs, five walks, and a home run on 103 pitches. Additionally, he recorded a total of seven strikeouts and had a cumulative whiff percentage of 34% on the night.

Tuesday, the bullpen came in and pitched a total of five innings combining for six earned runs, three walks, and a home run along with three strikeouts over that span. Wednesday, the Indians relief relied on four different relievers who threw a total of 88 pitches – 51 of which were strikes. The star of the night was James Karinchak who has been a pleasant surprise for the team so far.

James Karinchak Continues to Dominate

So far this season, Karinchak has a 1.04 ERA over eight and two-thirds innings of work. The 24-year old right-hander, who is in his rookie season, has been a nice late-inning weapon for Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians. Karinchak was originally drafted by the organization during the ninth round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island.

He has the ability to throw a mid-90’s fastball as well as a mid-80’s curveball. In addition, Karinchak has started to briefly use a sinker but has only relied on it under 1% of the time so far this season.

While it is a small sample size, he has been able to hold right-handed batters to a .067 Opponent Batting Average Against. Additionally, 12 of the 17 total strikeouts that Karinchak has on the year have come against righties. Against left-handers, the results for him are less effective overall. Lefties are hitting .273 with Karinchak on the mound.

The real key to success for Karinchak is going to be to continue to attack opposing hitters early in the count. To date, he has a first pitch swing percentage of 73.1%. Furthermore, by attacking hitters low and away in comparison to the strike zone, he should continue to experience success.

Next Up for the Indians

The Indians have an off day on Thursday before starting a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers on Friday. The first pitch happens at 6:10 Eastern. Right-hander Aaron Civale (1-2, 2.84 ERA) gets the nod for Cleveland while right-hander Ivan Nova (1-0, 5.74 ERA) gets the call for Detroit.

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