Yesterday, we looked at how the Cleveland Indians will look to produce more runs in 2012 than they did in 2011. will attempt to also reduce the amount of runs scored against. But that’s not the only area in which the Tribe could stand to improve: the Indians allowed 760 runs in 2011, which ranked 10th in the American League. Preventing runs means both pitching better (both starters and relievers) and playing better defense.
Improving the Defense
The Indians defense was poor in several areas in 2011. Fielding percentage is a statistic whose value is often disputed, but without a doubt errors do lead to additional baserunners (obviously a huge component to scoring runs) and, by extension, additional pitches that a staff has to throw. The Indians’ defense committed 110 errors in 2011 (fourth-most in the AL) and finished the season with a fielding percentage of .982 (11th).
Another means of measuring defense is Baseball Prospectus’ defensive efficiency, a measure of how many balls in play a team converts into outs. The Indians ranked 10th in the AL in defensive efficiency, as only 70.7 percent of balls in play became outs.
And looking at Bill James’ manufactured run statistic, the Indians’ defense gave up 179 manufactured runs—third-most in the AL (Cleveland scored only 136). But James ranked the Tribe’s fielders in the upper half of the AL with eight runs saved above the average team.
The Indians hope that having Casey Kotchman (player profile here) and Jack Hannahan (player profile here) as anchors in the infield will take some of the pressure off of Asdrubal Cabrera (player profile here) and Jason Kipnis (player profile here) up the middle. The Indians also need Cabrera to focus on making the routine play and are confident that Kipnis has better range than Orlando Cabrera showed in 2011. Just the presence of a healthy Shin-Soo Choo (player profile here) and his arm in right field will go a long way in cutting down some of the advances on balls hit in the outfield.
The Indians are far from the Tampa Bay Rays but the hope is that through having a more everyday unit playing together that the mental part of the game—throwing to the right base, cutting down lead runners, and making the routine plays—will all improve.