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Just how bad is the Indians offense?

Historical context on how poor this offense has been

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cleveland Indians baseball is unwatchable right now.

Perhaps you saw this Ken Rosenthal tweet yesterday that illustrated how futile the Tribe offense has been:

That was before the offense exploded for two runs in the first two in the first two innings against the Reds on Monday night. Of course, that was all the offense could muster and Zach Plesac wore a hard luck loss because of it.

After Monday’s loss, Cleveland’s offense ranks at or near the bottom in most offensive categories: 29th in batting average, 28th in expected batting average, 29th in slugging and expected slugging, 28th in weighted on-base average, and 29th in isolated power. Unwatchable might actually be too kind.

In more historical perspective, this is the worst start for any Cleveland team in the last 40 years. With just 28 runs scored, the 2020 club has the fewest runs scored through 11 games since 1970, no other team had scored fewer than 30 runs. That includes the awful teams of the early 1980s who could not even scratch out a .500 record for the entire first half of the decade.

In terms of batting average, this year’s team is the worst since ... last year. In fact, poor starts seem to be something of a late-career Terry Francona staple, with the worst three team averages through 11 games coming in the three most recent seasons. The only other seasons since 1970 in which the team struggled to hit above .200 came in 1970 and ‘71.

In terms of slugging, however, the 2020 squad is setting the pace for futility. With a team slugging percentage of just .277, this group of players is the worst in 30 years. The 2017 team had its own struggles, with just .284 slugging through 11 games, but the only other teams below .300 slugging in the last 40 years were the ‘79 (.246) and ‘71 teams (.287).

Of course, 11 games as a sample, even of the entire team, is miniscule. And, obviously, the last two years did not feature historically futile offenses. In 2018, Cleveland scored 818 runs, which ranked third in the league; in 2019, the team scored 769, which ranked 15th.

Thus, while slow offensive starts seem to be something of hallmark for Francona-led teams at this point, it’s not a death sentence for the season. Even with this weird season, things can turn around. They do have to turn around quickly, though, because more than 18% of the season is already gone.