With a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Twins Wednesday night, the Cleveland Indians finally snapped an 11-game losing streak that had been dogging them for nearly two weeks. It was a miserable skid of terrible baseball that lasted almost a fortnight, and it effectively ruined any playoff hopes the Tribe might have had for the 2012 season.
In this week’s edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists (featuring guest contributors Mike Brandyberry from Did The Tribe Win Last Night? and Andrew Zajac from Indians Prospect Insider): Who or what was the biggest cause of the Indians’ losing streak?
Mike Brandyberry (Did The Tribe Win Last Night?): The biggest cause of the Indians’ losing streak is the complete implosion of the starting rotation. As I write this (Monday) the Tribe hasn’t had a quality start from a starting pitcher in 10 games. When your offense is average at best, anemic at worst, and your starting staff is now struggling to give the team five or six quality innings, it’s a mess. The Indians have had too many games in this losing streak that they are out of way too early. You can’t blame the offense, the manager or anyone else when you are giving up double digit runs in five of the ten losses.
The sad part I believe is that fans are going to find out that most of the replacements for Josh Tomlin and Derek Lowe are not going to be any better. Corey Kluber is mediocre at best. Chris Seddon is a journeyman. Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff have each been inconsistent at Columbus. Having seen two of the three rehab starts from Roberto Hernandez, I don’t have a lot of hope that he will stabilize the situation. Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez have been disappointments, but along with Zach McAllister are the best hopes of a good start. To fix this for this year, and more importantly beyond this season, Masterson and Jimenez must find some consistency before the staff can stabilize behind them.
Andrew Zajac (Indians Prospect Insider): Starting pitching, and to some extent pitching in general, played a huge role in the Tribe’s losing streak. No matter how explosive of an offense you have, if your starters can’t make it past the second, third, and fourth innings while giving up five or more runs, you simply can’t stay in a ball game. The team ERA during that streak was above 8. Ideally, you’d like to see your starter go six or seven innings and give up four runs or less. That simply wasn’t happening. The bullpen had its fair share of hiccups, but starting pitching goes a long way and is a big key for any team looking for a world series crown.
Lewie Pollis: At the risk of sounding like a copout, I don’t know that there is a logical explanation for a streak this bad. I crunched some numbers about the probability of the losing streak earlier this week, and the unlikelihood is staggering. The odds of an average baseball team going 0-11 in a given stretch of 11 games are just 1 in 2,048. A team with the Tribe’s current winning percentage would have about an 0.1 percent chance of suffering such a skid. Heck, even the miserable 1962 Mets would have had only about a 4 percent chance of dropping 11 straight.
Clearly there are some specific things that went wrong. We saw some brutal pitching, a complete lack of offense, and did I mention the pitching? But an 11-game losing streak? That’s a level where pure ineptitude can’t take you. It wasn’t a fun ride, but dropping almost a dozen games in a row is actually a pretty incredible feat.
Katie Hendershot: Really, I think a lot of it comes down to the ownership. I don’t see it fitting to blame Manny Acta, Chris Antonetti or Mark Shapiro. All of them have made questionable decisions, and in Acta’s case, some that directly impacted the terrible stretch of games the last two weeks, but they only have so much to work with.
The pitching was abysmal during that stretch and that’s frustrating, especially when most of the starters have at one point shown their upside. The reality of the Indians’ pitching staff is that they are average. You can’t expect average players to perform like superstars on a daily basis. The only way we will get that is if the Indians sign a proven star.
There were breakdowns on every part of the roster in the past week, making it impossible to place the blame on a singular thing. I think a lot of it comes down to the ownership and their reluctance to spend money on proven players. That’s not to say that I don’t think that the players, Acta and the front office had nothing to do with the losing streak, because obviously they had a direct impact. I just don’t think you can place all of the blame on them without acknowledging the strain of the ownership’s budget.
Ed Carroll: The 11-game losing streak was really a combination of a lot of guys playing poorly, but the starting pitching was especially awful. With the exception of rookie Corey Kluber’s second start (the 11th loss), there wasn’t a quality start to be found. However, I really blame bad drafting for putting the Indians in this position. Other than Jason Kipnis and Vinnie Pestano, the team has failed time and again at producing impact players through the draft (although injured 3B Lonnie Chisenhall and rookie Cody Allen could join those ranks).
Small-market teams have to draft well to survive, they can’t always outsmart teams in trades (although shrewd trades by the Tribe have kept this franchise afloat). The Indians appear to have turned a corner with their drafting, especially with 2011 top pick Fransisco Lindor, but they’re now paying the price for the bad drafts of the past.
Brian Heise: I most blame Manny Acta for the Indians’ recent 11 game losing streak. While he may not be the one out there on the field making the plays, he is the one responsible for having his team ready to play each and every day. Over those 11 games the Indians weren’t prepared, showed little to no fight, and generally seemed as if they were just going through the motions. At other times you could go as far as to say the Indians had quit on him which is a fate worse than death for a manager.
I understand it’s not Acta’s style to argue calls, get thrown out of games, or flip over tables in the club house, but sometimes those things need to be done to serve as a wake up call. Instead, Acta continued with his even keel “that’s just baseball” aw shucks mentality. Losing 11 games in a row isn’t “just baseball.” Where’s the fire and the passion? Teams take on the personalities of their managers and I feel like Acta’s lack of fire has been absorbed by the Indians each of the past two seasons. That needs to change or else it’ll just be more of the same in 2013.
Merritt Rohlfing: There can be little doubt this 11 games of just brutal baseball has to be laid at the feet of the pitching staff. Sure, the offense is to blame on some level, but the pitching staff from front to back didn’t execute. Blowouts to the Twins, multiple-run leads blown in the late innings, it was just gut-wrenching. They even came back late to salvage that 10th inning sock to the belly, but then Miguel Cabrera happened somehow. So you’d think I’m on board with the firing of Scott Radinsky, but it’s not his arm throwing the ball. The Indians pitching was going to be what decided their fate this season, and came to pass.