Are struggles against southpaws a short-term issue or long term problem for Cleveland Indians?
Left-handed pitching killing Cleveland Indians’ offense
Yes, it has only been eight games. But I argue there should be concern about the Cleveland Indians offense. The squad is currently 26th in wOBA at .272 and 21st in team batting average at .221. Perhaps more importantly, the Tigers and Royals are currently first and second in all of baseball in both categories. Simply put, the Indians offense must heat up. So the question becomes, is the cause of the poor hitting a short-term problem likely to remedy itself over the course of the year, or something bigger?
Many would argue the former, but I think a left-handed heavy lineup is a long-term issue for the Tribe, one that could spoil many quality starts from Tribe pitchers over the course of the season.
Shortly after signing Brandon Moss, several important figures in the Indians front office commented that a lefty-heavy lineup was beneficial to the Tribe given the short porch in right field. Why sign power hitting righties when they are at a disadvantage at Progressive Field? Moss plus a healthy Jason Kipnis and steady Michael Brantley could be deadly, they said.
The issue for the Tribe seems to be that the lefties have to make solid contact for the park to be advantageous, and that simply is not happening as it stands.
The Indians are incredibly vulnerable to left-handed pitching, especially with the absence of Yan Gomes. The player with most RBIs on the Tribe to this point is Carlos Santana, who looks poised to have a big year. Next, with four, are Ryan Raburn and Jerry Sands. Why are Raburn and #Jerry tearing it up early on? They are right handed in a lineup that will face more left-handed pitching this season than any other team in baseball.
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The Indians have managed to score 27 total runs over their first eight games, for an average of 3.8 runs per game. They have recorded 138 at-bats against lefties to this point, second most in all of baseball, yet they have managed only a .210 batting average and .564 OPS. Brandon Moss has two hits in 20 at-bats.
Ultimately, the Indians will need to hit left-handed pitching to be successful this season. While they have seen a disproportional number of lefty starters, five over their first eight games, teams will continue to overload the Tribe with lefties out of the bullpen late in games.
With only Mike Aviles, Roberto Perez, Sands, and Raburn on the roster as true hitters from the right side, plus switch-hitting Jose Ramirez and Carlos Santana, the Indians will be thrilled to get started in Minnesota Friday where they will face righties for the next three games.
Hopefully, the Indians struggles against lefties will fade as the season goes on, or their playoff hopes may fade instead.
Statistics via Fangraphs