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Indians defense in 2014 was bad… really bad

How bad was it?

One of the team's many miscues this year
One of the team's many miscues this year
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Early in 2014, the Tribe defense was so atrocious, it was on its way to some historic numbers, at least for the modern era. Were they able to right the ship and avoid infamy?

Team Errors

Through 31 games, the Indians had 30 errors and were on pace to have more than 150 for the first time since 1987. At just past the midseason point, the pace had slowed a bit to 76 errors in 94 games, or a pace of 131. That would still have been the worst since 1993.

Thankfully, the defense in the second half of the season continued to improve. The Indians finished with 116 errors. That is a marked improvement of only 40 errors in the final 68 games (a better than average rate). If the Indians had kept at the pace of the final 68 games for a full season, they would have ended up with just 95 errors, which would have been in the top half of the majors. But that initial torrid pace was enough to have the Tribe finish with the most errors in the majors, with the A's finishing five back.

The Tribe was equally judicious when it came to fielding errors versus throwing ones. They finished fourth overall with 58 fielding errors and third overall with 57 throwing errors. I am not clear what the missing error was per FanGraphs.

Team Fielding Percentage

The team started off very rough with a 0.973 percentage. That number would have been the worst team since the 1939 squad had a 0.970 mark. After 94 games, the percentage had climbed to 0.979. The last Cleveland team with a number worse than that was the 1993 team at 0.976.

That strong finish allowed the team to finish at 0.981. The last team with a worse percentage was the 2003 team that finished at 0.980. As with total errors, the improvement made in the second half in fielding percentage did not get them out of the MLB cellar. The Rangers, A's and White Sox all finished just ahead of the Tribe at 0.982.

Unearned Runs

The 116 errors committed by the defense led to 72 earned runs. That led to 62% conversion rate by the opponent, which is actually pretty good for the Tribe. In 2011 and 2012, the Tribe allowed 77 and 79 unearned runs respectively, which were conversion rates of 82 and 70%. The Tribe pitching staff was even better in 2013 when the conversion rate was just 52%.

Other Advanced Metrics

The 2014 Tribe doesn't look too good when it comes to many other defensive metrics either. FanGraphs has them at second worst in defensive rating (Def) at -64.8. They were dead last in UZR (-72.4), Range Runs above average (-62.8), and Defensive Runs Saved (-75).

From BRef, the Tribe was fourth worst in Total Zone Runs above average (-50) and dead last in BIS (Baseball Info Solutions) defensive runs saved (-74). And last but not least, they were also dead last in dWAR at -6.2 with the Twins closest to them at -5.1.

In Conclusion

While the first quartile of the season was horrendous, the improvement of Lonnie Chisenhall at third base, the return of Yan Gomes' form, and the play of Jose Ramirez after Asdrubal Cabrera was traded prevented this season from reaching historic lows. The damage had already been done though, and by consensus the Indians probably rate as the worst defensive team in baseball for 2014.