Cleveland Indians

Can the Indians Offense be Average?

In 2019, the Indians offense was a below-average unit. In 2020, there are real questions about whether the Indians improved that lineup in any material sense.

The offense was 9th of 15 in the American League in wRC+, a statistic utilized to measure a teams ability to create runs scaled to 100. The Indians offense was at 94, 6% below-average. One commendable exception being base running, where they were a tick above-average.

The Indians had six hitters in 2019 with above-average offensive lines; and well, that list alone provides grounds for concern.

Courtesy of Fangraphs

Jordan Luplow is a platoon bat, who has not, as of yet, demonstrated the capacity to exceed the role of bench bat against the less frequent side of the platoon. However, there may be some basis for optimism regarding his ability to hold his own as a full-time player, as discussed previously at EHC.

The next key performer is a significant regression candidate in Carlos Santana, who, though eminently disciplined and increasingly powerful posted production 15% better than his career average. Santana will begin the season at the not-so-young age of 34. Another rock solid Santana season would probably represent significant regression from the best season of his career, 2019.

Francisco Lindor was the third best offensively, and one could reason that the early season injury held him below his usually, more remarkable offense. The Indians will be expecting significantly more production from Lindor in 2020.

The Indians refusal to expend currency would suggest that Yasiel Puig is likely not returning in 2020, a player whose offense was a nice lift in the second half.

Jose Ramirez is the Indians biggest “positive regression” candidate. Ramirez was lost for much of the season and still ended with above-average offensive production but projects to be 15-20% better in 2020.

Finally, Tyler Naquin a surprising bounce-back performer in 2019 and punisher of right-handed pitching will likely not play a full season due to his late 2019 ACL tear.

Of course, the farther one goes, the less one clings to optimism, Roberto Perez posted a line that screams regression, Mike Freeman was almost certainly an aberration, and Oscar Mercado is as likely to decline, as to make an additional offensive leap.

However, there are a few positives, Cesar Hernandez should be a lock for an offensive improvement over Jason Kipnis. Franmil Reyes is a beast who should provide real middle of the lineup power.

Reyes’ Baseball Savant page is born for stalking, a thrilling canvas that screams damage. 19th barrel rate among qualified hitters at 9.3%! Fourth in average exit velocity at 93.3 MPH. Seventh in hard hit percentage at 51%.

Franmil Reyes: Impact Right-Handed Bat

In 2019, the Indians had three full time players who posted above average production, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana. The Indians have likely added maybe one player to that list, Franmil Reyes. Lindor and Ramirez are two strong candidates for additional production but Santana should decline a bit. There is not a lot of nearby offensive production either, with Daniel Johnson, and perhaps Nolan Jones being the major ceiling types.

Johnson, at the very least, should crush the frequent side of the platoon, and could perhaps cover Naquin’s risk and role. Jones is just 21, with a massive strikeout rate, and long levers, it could work soon but it may take Jones some serious time.

The Indians had a fledgling offense in 2019 which was buttressed by a super-human Carlos Santana performance. Outside of Reyes, who was rostered in 2019, and Cesar Hernandez, a league average type hitter, there is not much basis to expect the Indians to be significantly better. Once again, the Indians will be relying on Lindor and Ramirez to carry the offense without much lineup depth, and above-average pitching to limit run scoring.

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