The Sports Report

A Statistical Take on Sports and Politics

Cleveland Indians Offensive Production Analysis

The Cleveland Indians last season finished exactly at 0.500 last year with their 81-81 record, which leaves the unit open to direct comparison to the MLB averages in many different regards. Today’s post will be the first in a series of articles I will write in comparing the Indians production in the 2008 season to registered MLB averages in 2008, and seeing what can change for the Tribe in 2009.

Interestingly, the Indians offensive production tailed down in 2008 for the second consecutive season, only averaging 4.97 runs per game, down from 5.01 in 2007, and 5.37 in 2006. The Indians ranked seventh in run production last season, and were eighth in 2007 and second in 2006. When looking at the run production breakdown for the Indians last season, it is not a surprise to see that we were above average in comparison to the entire league:

The average MLB team in 2008 scored 7+ runs in about 24.6% of their ball games, and had a winning percentage of 0.873 in those games. The Indians, in contrast, scored that many runs in 27.2% of their games but had a lower winning percentage at 0.841.

In 2008, the average scored between 4-6 runs right around the league average of 33.7% of the time. The Indians then made up a lot of ground in this category, having an impressive 0.630 winning percentage in these games compared to the league average of 0.596.

Where the Indians then lost ground on the average mark, were the games when they only scored between 0-3 runs, as the average MLB team in 2008 had a winning percentage of 0.202 in these games. The Indians only had a winning percentage of 0.156 in these games, but were able to keep even by having this happen only 39.5% of the time compared to the league average of 41.7%.

Add up all these numbers, and you arrive at 0.500, just where the league average clearly stands. What this shows then is that the Indians did a poor job in 2008 at winning close ball games, as was clearly known by our below average bullpen, but also were able to win a lot of ball games when scoring a decent amount of runs between 4-6. Looking towards the future, what this indicates is that the Indians must be able to convert the pitchers ball games where the winning team puts up fewer than four runs, and has to continue converting when the combined scores are in double digits.

Unsurprisingly, the Indians only had above average production from three different spots in the lineup in 2008. The number 1 slot (96.5% of plate appearances to Grady Sizemore), the number 6 slot (eight different players with at least 50 plate appearances led by solid play from Choo, Peralta, Blake and Shoppach) and the number 9 slot (mostly Cabrera and Shoppach) were the only positions where the Indians were above average. More at bats and a higher spot in the order is necessary for Peralta, Choo and Shoppach (if possible) in 2009, as they showed that they are way above average for their old spot in the lineup.

What is a concern for the Tribe was their clear struggle in the heart of the order last season. The average major league team in 2008 had about 86 home runs and 321.5 runs batted in, in the 3-5 spots in the lineup. Last year, the Indians only had 54 home runs and 278 runs batted in, in these spots in the order, and here is a look at their basic batting rates:

Indians: 0.260 batting, 0.329 on-base, 0.415 slugging
MLB Average: 0.282 batting, 0.362 on-base, 0.487 slugging

Sorry to break it to you Mark Shapiro, but those numbers are atrocious. Jhonny Peralta, Grady Sizemore, Shin Soo-Choo and Kelly Shoppach were the only bright spots on the offensive end for the Tribe in 2008, and none of them regularly hit in the heart of the order. Ryan Garko, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez combined to hit 0.259 with only 21 home runs in 1,091 plate appearances. In the 2007 season, these three players combined to hit .285 with 70 home runs in 1,847 plate appearances. If we can even get 1,500 productive plate appearances out of these players in the heart of the order, it would go a long way towards making this team even more productive than they were last season.

Results: The bullpen will be the key for the Tribe in the 2009 season, but also we need to count on the team producing a ton of double-digit games yet again. We scored at least nine runs 27 times last season, while the average MLB team did this feat only 19.2 times all year. We never have been very good in small ball type games over the past several years, but it will be important to monitor how often we get past that six or so run margin this coming season. The pitching staff will take care of itself, but I am definitely more concerned about having steady production from all of our hitters in 2009. We can only hope and pray that Martinez, Hafner and Garko all stay healthy enough to complement the powerful and consistent nucleus of Sizemore and Peralta. We know the latter two will produce, but we are going to need more than just them in order to kick it up a notch and hopefully get up and over the 0.500 mark this coming season.

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April 6, 2009 - Posted by | Cleveland Indians Future | , , ,

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