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Is the Indians offense any good, or is its run scoring a mirage?

By traditional standards the Indians have one of the top five offenses in the AL, but something seems off about that, because it does not feel like they score enough, especially against weaker pitchers.

Has the offense belly-flopped?
Has the offense belly-flopped?
Jason Miller

A week or so ago I had made a comment on a game recap on how the offense seemed to disappear after an offensive explosion. I was provided with some data that showed the Tribe offense is actually among the top five in American League. Sure enough, the Tribe rank 5th in runs per game, at 4.34.

That sounded heartening, but something kept nagging at me about it. I felt there must be something that the basic data isn't telling us, because at least to the naked eye, the offense really wasn't performing well, especially against non-elite starters.

I decided to review each game, and see what the offense did against the opposing starter, rather than take the final game result. (This data is through the Sunday's game against Baltimore). As I said, the Indians have scored 4.34 runs per game so far this season, with a total of 534 runs scored. Let's break that up between starters and relievers:



Runs Average


vs. Starters





vs. Relievers





While there have been a number of games where we have faced the back end of the bullpens, the majority of this year's games have been pretty close, which means the offense is typically facing high-leverage relievers most of the time. It is kind of surprising that they are scoring runs at a better clip against the bullpens than the starters.

Let's tabulate the total runs scored in each game against the opposing starting pitcher:

Runs vs. Starters














This means, in 50.4% of this year's games they have scored two or fewer runs against the opposing starting pitcher [Note, two of those games do include rain shortened or injury removals]. And of the 19 times they did manage 3 runs, eight of those were still quality starts for the opponent. Removing the two rain shortened starts and adding in the eight quality starts, the Indians have scored 2 runs or fewer against the opposing starter, or scored 3 runs but taken more than 6 innings to do it in 56.2% of their games. That's 56% of the time that the Tribe offense hasn't gotten the job done.

Focusing on those 60 games where the offense generated two runs or less, let's see how they did against the elite, average and poor starters. I used the midpoint FIP for the 90 qualified AL starters, which came out to 3.66. Anything 20% better (2.93) I considered elite and anything 20% worse (4.39) I considered poor:

0-2 Runs off Starters








The elite starters are Felix Hernandez, Jose Quintana, and Max Scherzer twice each, plus Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, and Hyun-Jin Ryu each once. There is no crime in being shut down against those guys.

It's the 16 weak games against poor starters that stand out. Scott Carroll (twice), Dan Haren, Erik Bedard, Jake Peavy, Hector Noesi, John Danks, Esmil Rogers, Chris Young, Vidal Nuno, Miguel Gonzalez, Brandon Workman, Kris Johnson, Josh Lindblom, Eric Stults and Miles Mikolas, those are not guys an offense should be struggling against.

Some of the average starters that have shut down the Tribe offense are rookies like Andrew Chafin, Robbie Erlin, Matt Shoemaker and Shane Greene.

And as has been discussed multiple times, left-handed starters seem to dominate this offense. The opposing starter has been left-handed 36 times this season, including 34 starts that were not impacted by weather or injury. Of those 34, the lefty starter allowed two runs or fewer 19 times.

If this team is to get a hot stretch going and make a real run at the playoffs, they are going to have to figure out to hit southpaws, and they're going to have to figure out how to do better against crummy starting pitchers, both righty and lefty.