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Mid-season report, Cleveland Indian fielding improving, but still awful

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The defense was awful early on this season, but it's been a while since we checked in. Have things gotten any better?

Ball in glove? Nope, not this time
Ball in glove? Nope, not this time
Rick Yeatts

Things have to be getting better, don't they?

Team Errors

When we looked at this back in early May, we had data through 32 games. At that point the defense had already made 31 errors, just one behind the Dodgers for last in MLB. The Tribe also had a 0.974 fielding percentage, which was dead last in MLB.

The 31 errors through 32 games put them on pace to match the 1986 squad for futility, with 157 errors. Those 157 in 1986 are the team's most since 1932. There's also the 1958 team, which made 152 errors in 153 games, a 161-error pace, if it they had played 162 games.

At the All-Star break, the Indians now have 76 errors in 94 games. That puts them on a pace for 131 errors. That is a marked improvement from May, but would still be the team's highest total since 1993, when the team made 148 miscues. They are still dead last in MLB in errors, with the Diamondbacks next at 71.

Team Fielding Percentage

Back in May, they also were the worst in MLB in fielding percentage at 0.974. You have to go back to 1958 and 1959 for the last time the Indians had that poor of a percentage, with 1939 the last time their percentage dipped below that number, at 0.970. Since, May the Indians have definitely improved their lot, but the overall percentage has only inched up to 0.979. That same 1993 squad was the last team to finish worse than that, at 0.976.

Individual Errors

The team leaders back in May were Yan Gomes with 7, Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera with 4 apiece, and Lonnie Chisenhall with 3 in just 68 innings in the field. Cabrera now leads the team with 14, Chisenhall is right behind him at 13, Gomes is at 11 and Swisher is at 9.

Gomes Errors

Gomes' fielding woes were so bad, he was on pace to shatter the team record for errors by a catcher. (24, by Nig Clarke in 1907, and Steve O'Neill in 1914 and 1915). His pace would have also surpassed the AL record (41) set by Oscar Stanage of the Tigers in 1941. Since that post, he has made only two more errors, which has slowed his pace to just 19 errors, which is much more acceptable. That would still be the most by a Tribe backstop since Andy Allanson's 20 in 1986.

Chisenhall and other Third-Base Errors

Chisenhall, along with Santana, had many fielding adventures around the third-base bag. By the end of May, they had combined for 14 errors in just 109 chances, for a spectacularly bad fielding percentage of 0.872. At that point Carlos had played 26 games at third while Lonnie had appeared there in only 19 games. Since then, Carlos has not played a game at third, while Lonnie is up to 53 games.

Chisenhall has improved his fielding percentage from 0.814 to 0.893 (still really bad). Lonnie is on a pace to commit 22 errors at the hot corner, but that is because the ratio does not realize he will play almost every day at third until the end of the season since Carlos is no longer playing. My best guess is that he finishes with 25+. Casey Blake was the most recent palyer to tally that high, with 26 in 2004. Back in May, all the third baseman combined were heading towards a team record 44 errors by the end of the year. They are now on pace to finish with 38, still bad, but not all-time bad. The last Indian team to have that many was the 1957 team, with Al Smith leading the fumbling.

In Conclusion

So while the earlier posts were definitely based on small sample sizes, the alarming trends were definitely there. Now that we have a half season of data, the outlook is not as bleak as it was before. While the team defense has improved, it is still league worst. And while Gomes seems to have returned to the defensive stud he was last year, third base is still a huge problem, with shortstop now replacing catcher as a trouble spot.