The 2018 season of Major League Baseball (MLB) has officially started, and the Cleveland Indians are off to a mostly rocky start. The Tribe is currently 2-4 and sits at third in the division. Obviously, it’s a bit early to already condemn the team for the 2018 season and look to start selling off their assets. That being said, there are some early trends that we can keep an eye on to understand how the Indians are performing this year.
One glaring issue for the Indians right now is their struggles to hit the ball and get on base. The Indians are dead last in the entire league in batting average at 0.167. Their on base percentage (OBP) is not much better, coming in at only a 0.263. While these numbers will certainly improve, they provide Tribe fans with one possible reason for the team’s struggle right now.
Looking at the player stats for the team, we can see some alarming stats. Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion is one of the team’s leaders in batting average and is second on the team in OBP. When a power hitting, aging slugger is leading the team in getting on base, that becomes a problem. Shortstop Francisco Lindor is currently sitting at a 0.192 batting average and a 0.276 OBP. For a player that hit over 0.300 in 2016 and0 .273 in 2017, the argument can certainly be made that he is just struggling out of the gate. Second baseman Jason Kipnis is only batting 0.174, in stark contrast to his spring training when he was arguably the Indians’ best hitter. As these two hitters get back to their career averages, the IndIans should see a noticeable spike in offensive performance and should get back on track.
On the defensive side, the Indians have also been having a starting pitching issue. Currently, the team is ranked 13th in team ERA at 7.94. That number is simply unsustainable. Tribe pitchers have had mostly up and down games. Against the Angels on Tuesday, Josh Tomlin was lit up for eight earned runs in three innings, the explanation behind his 24.00 ERA right now.
The Indians have not come out with the hot start that most fans expected from them. While many are likely overreacting, there is no real cause for concern this early in the offseason. The team had similar woes to start last season before reeling off 22 wins in a row to solidify themselves among the American League elite. With the same core that has led to their unprecedented run of success these past few seasons, most fans around the league expect the Indians to be competing for a championship come November.