"George, I am really gonna make some changes."

Let's talk a little about this offense.

 

Aside from the occasional random outburst, we've seen the bats struggle to get hot all season. The Indians have only had 13 games in which they've scored more than four runs. They've scored 108 runs in those games and only 186 for the season. So 58.1 percent of their runs have come in 13 stinkin' games.

 

Obviously, the offense has been a concern all year. But this road trip has taken matters to new levels. What we're seeing now is an utterly lifeless approach. For all the Tribe's struggles early on, the club was batting a somewhat respectable (given the circumstances) .275 with runners in scoring position, heading into this trip. But in the last five games (all losses, as you know), they've hit .108 (4-for-37) with RISP, lowering the season mark to .259.

 

In other words, things are getting worse, not better. And we're 46 games into the season. The Tribe has the best starters' ERA in the big leagues, and it's going to waste.

 

Clearly, it's time for changes, but what do you change?

 

Do you fire hitting coach Derek Shelton? If you're one of the dozens of angry e-mailers writing into my inbox on a daily basis, you do. Personally, I'm not convinced that's the answer. As I wrote in this week's mailbag, it's difficult to discern how much credit to give a hitting coach when things are going well and how much blame to give him when they're going poorly.

 

Being around this team on a daily basis, I see the way Shelton works with the hitters, how he goes over the scouting report on that day's pitcher with each guy before each game and has them recite their expected approach, and I've seen how he generally has a good working relationship with the members of this lineup, as well as the other coaches.

 

Dismissing Shelton -- while a possibility, of course -- would seem to me to be more of a message-sender than anything else. And if these guys don't get the message by now, when will they ever? They see the standings. They've seen quality start after quality start wasted. And they've seen one of the more popular guys in the clubhouse sent packing for Pittsburgh.

 

The only messages that absolutely should be sent should come in the form of playing time -- or lack thereof. I liked Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto's suggestion that Michael Aubrey should be stealing some starts against right-handed pitching away from Travis Hafner (.193 against righties) and Ryan Garko (.214). Aubrey's spot on this roster is considered tenuous, but there's no reason it should be at the moment. He's a fine defender, he's homered in his first two starts and he's done nothing but hit when he's healthy in the Minors. Give him a shot.

 

On the other side of the infield, I am past the point of believing Eric Wedge has any intention of giving Andy Marte another legitimate shot at third base, so it's time to cut bait. When Joe Borowski returns from the disabled list tomorrow, try to sneak Marte through waivers, rather than dumping Aubrey.

 

Up the middle, Asdrubal Cabrera simply has to go to Buffalo for a little while to get his bat straightened out. I know he adds quite a bit to this club defensively, but he takes away quite a bit offensively, especially against lefties. Bring up Josh Barfield and have him share the second-base starts with Jamey Carroll for a while. Let's see how much Barfield has matured as a hitter in the past year, and let's give Asdrubal a little time to right himself.

 

Cabrera, if he hits, is this team's starting shortstop of the future. So start dangling Jhonny Peralta. See what kind of interest is out there. He's been around too long to have the mental lapses he shows at the plate and in the field. His contract would be attractive to some teams.

 

Speaking of trades, as the market heats up in the coming weeks, I would hope the Indians would explore interest for Paul Byrd, Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers, as well. Byrd, of course, wouldn't have much value at this point, and Sowers is still something of a project, so Laffey is the most appealing trade bait of the three. You hate to part with starting depth, and you have to like the way Laffey has handled himself at the big-league level, but the Indians need help -- particularly in the middle infield and at third base -- and Laffey would have to be attractive to other teams right about now.

 

I appreciate the Indians' respect for the length of the season, but this division is utterly winnable. And with the starting pitching the Tribe is getting this year, there is no reason for this club to be patient to a fault.

 

Those are some of my suggestions. Feel free to share yours.

 

And here are the lineups for tonight's series and road trip finale with the Sox...

 

INDIANS (22-24): CF Grady Sizemore, LF Ben Francisco, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, 1B Ryan Garko, 3B Casey Blake, SS Jhonny Peralta, RF Franklin Gutierrez, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera. LHP Laffey on the mound. 

 

WHITE SOX (25-20): SS Orlando Cabrera, 2B Alexei Ramirez, LF Carlos Quentin, RF Jermaine Dye, DH Jim Thome, 1B Paul Konerko, 3B Joe Crede, CF Nick Swisher, C Toby Hall. LHP Mark Buehrle on the mound. 

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Twenty-five percent of Peralta’s hits (32) are home runs (8). Now, if he had 60 or 70 hits, that would really be impressive.
  • If the Indians are swept in Chicago today, it would be the first time since Sept. 2003.
  • How about LHP David Huff? A day afer being named the Eastern League Player of the Week, he gives up a run over seven innings in a 4-1 win over Altoona last night. He’s now 4-1 with an Eastern League-best 2.03 ERA. He has a 1.01 ERA over his last seven starts.
  • Gutierrez is batting .128 (5-for-39) in 13 May games.
  • Martinez is 3-for-his-last-25. And homerless. Still.
  • Don’t forget that strikeout promotion from the other night. If you’re buying tickets online at Indians.com for the June 10 Dollar Dog game against the Twins, you can save $9 on lower reserved, upper box, mezzanine and bleacher seats. You can enter the promo code STRIKEOUT through midnight, Sunday, May 25.

~AC 

15 Comments

Anthony…what is Eric Wedge thinking!!!?…starting Guitierrez and former high school teammate of Ryan Grako and UCLA alum Ben Francisco in right field? That’s going to leave a big hole in left….but in all seriousness I agree with you that firing Shelton would be a rash decision, but something needs to be shaken up, I just don’t know what. There is no possible firing or trade I can envision that would make the team better. I think the best thing we can do is tough it out and pray for the law of averages to leave our pitching alone and help our batting.

Ugh, I definitely don’t want to part with Aaron Laffey, he has been quite the pleasant surprise this as well as last season.

Why hasn’t Wedge started Fransisco is left field more often? Isn’t he supposed to be part of the future outfield? If Gut can get it back together at the plate, how sweet does the outfield look with Fransisco, Sizemore, Gut left to right?

I agree that they should be shopping Byrd and Sowers, but not Laffey. Looking to the future, the reality is they’re losing Sabathia next year. Carmona, Lee, Westbrook, Laffey, Adam Miller still sounds pretty good, and that’s a great rotation for the price. Take Laffey out of that mix, not so much. As crazy as it may sound, I really think they should trade Sabathia now. They’re not going to get much for Byrd, but Sabathia’s another story. Trade him to a National League team that needs pitching, the Phillies or Mets come to mind. This wouldn’t mean they’d be giving up on this year if they can get some good hitters out of it. See above rotation: that’s still 4 guys with ERAs under 3.00, with either Miller or Sowers in the 5th spot. Also their 2 best hitting high level prospects are 1st basemen, Aubrey and Jordan Brown, and they’ve got Garko, I’d think they could make some mutually beneficial trades sending 2 of these 3 elsewhere in exchange for someone at any other position other than catcher or center field.

I agree Sabathia being moved is not waving the white flag. It makes sense because the Tribe will not re-sign him. I think Byrd, Peralta, Garko & Dellucci should all be considered in some sort of package. I realize C.C. is the only one of those with real value. Laffey, Lee & Westbrook are the future. With Miller’s injury past, flukes or not, I would also consider moving him.

Thanks for the catch on the dual-RFs situation. It has been corrected.

Guys, keep in mind that there aren’t many teams who would be willing to deal for Sabathia because of the cost to re-sign him next year. If they can’t afford him, then they’d be trading away people for a half-season rental, and most teams these days don’t seem willing to do that.

I realize that we’d all rather trade Byrd or Sowers, but you can’t get something for nothing. I think Laffey is great and I’d love to keep him around for next year, but he’s clearly going to bring the best return on the open market.

At this point even if Choo lives up to his potential when he returns and Adam Miller dominates from the bullpen, we’re still going to need help.

I wouldn’t expect to get a Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips for Sabathia, but even a good 3B prospect would be nice. And you’re right, we need a LOT of help, that’s why trading Laffey makes no sense. Unless we’re getting a new infield for him, I don’t see how you can make that move. Trading Sabathia is a low risk move that will certainly bring SOME value, a player who can hopefully help this year and beyond. The only reason to trade Laffey would be if you think the team has a GOOD chance of making it to the playoffs this year if they pick a couple people. Unless basically everyone in the lineup picks it up, that’s not going to happen, no matter who you get for either Laffey or Sabathia

I like just about everything you said in this article. Marte is a complete waste of space on the roster, and if he is still there when JoBo comes back tomorrow it will be a disgrace.
Shelton doesn’t deserve to lose his job over this, at least not at this point. However, like you suggested with Aubrey, those who are considered everyday players need to start seeing less time. That includes Victor Martinez, coming into Sunday’s game he was batting .318, when he left the 22nd he was batting .300. That’s 18 points in 4 games for those who are keeping score at home. If his finger is truly a problem he may just be given the time off he needs, otherwise I think that he should be spelled by Shoppy more often.
Sending Cabrera down seems like a good idea as well, if Barfield is going to play he should start now or give us reason to unload him. When it comes to trades though, I think we have to hang on to Laffey, he has too much upside. We need to keep C.C. this season too, because we need him too much on the field and in the clubhouse. Besides, I really don’t think he will get an offer as big as what he would like, which would prompt him to take a hometown discount later on. I would really like to see Byrd gone, I really would have liked to have seen him gone after last season, but I don’t have a front office job. Overall, things need to be changed, and soon. Otherwise, we are looking at missing the playoffs from a division, which you eloquently stated, is “utterly winnable”. What would be worse than that with the potential we possess?

Peralta has picked up where he left off last year–swinging the bat like a golf club. His wild swinging should have been worked on long before this season started. I don’t care what kind of relationship the batting coach has with the coaches and players. Watching lead-off batters get on base only to have the next two strike out or hit into a double play is getting a little old. Is it just a coincidence that everyone on the team is in a slump at the same time for two months? Another game with less than five hits–the coach has to go–now!

Look around baseball. There are a lot of teams struggling offensively. This speaks to a bigger issue – a baseball wide issue. Take a wild guess.

Rearrange the lineup (no more Dellucci in the three hole!) and play for a couple runs a night.

Everyone bunts from now on, boys!

so you’re saying it’s the bats? That’s what I’m thinking; they need new bats. The ones they have do break too easily, did someone convince them to use balsa wood bats, or maybe bats recycled from previously broken bats and glued together? Maybe the indians should fire Shelton, and hire Albert Belle as hitting coach … Albert knew how to make a good bat

The only thing Belle would be good for is teaching the players how to cork their bats and keep tabs on their wives with GPS locators. I loved Albert Belle but somehow I don’t see him as a teacher/coach. He was more of the “see it, hit it” approach. Their is no quick fix in this situation for the Tribe.

exactly, he can teach them how to cork a bat … it was a joke

Anthony – I think you’re right about knee-jerk reactions. Dumping Shelton for the sake of different voice in the hitters ears’ isn’t going to fix anything.
I Don’t see any emotion from these guys – the other night when Peralta hit Carroll into the double play. I would have loved to see Carroll (who seems scrappy). have a few words with him, maybe a shove. I loved it when V-Mart got into it a little with Julio. I wish that he was catching last night and would’ve busted Julio in the mouth after the second walk. V-Mart would’ve been ejected but then Julio wouldn’t have given up the slam.
How about this for an attitude changer – send all of them down,expect for Lafferty and Lee. Then send them all to Akron, let the Aeros play for the big club for a game.

I know it can’t haapen but hey, it might light a spark.

Great feedback from true fans. I don’t really care what move the Tribe makes as long as they do something that at least looks like it is going in the right direction. Why is Wedge so reluctant to change or accept when he is wrong. I understand what he is trying to do in the 2 hole but you can’t keep hitting guys who are batting under .200 in one of the most important spots in the lineup. In addition, despite his recent slump, Victor is the best hitter in the lineup on a consistent basis, why not move him to the 3 hole to ensure that he gets an at bat in the first inning. Finally with regards to Marte, either play him consistently to see what you got, or get rid of him (anyway possible). I have not been a big Marte fan in the past, but you have to know what you have. Can he really be worse than anybody in the lineup right now? At least he is still young and hopefully not reached his full potential.

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