Give a team a nickname and look what happens.
While the “WINndians” find their lead in the AL Central growing smaller and smaller, having just been swept by the Texas Rangers at home, they’re also generating fewer and fewer runs. Aside from a 13-run outburst in Toronto, the Tribe is averaging just 2.45 runs in their last 12 games. What happened to the offense?
Maybe we can blame the Travis Hafner injury for derailing the Indians. Or perhaps Shin-Soo Choo’s DUI arrest has affected the overall production in the lineup.
What’s clear is that Orlando Cabrera, 36, is not the answer as a number-two hitter. His batting average has dipped below .250 and his on-base percentage is only slightly better. There is very little pop in his bat and he consistently finds ways to ground into double plays or leave men on base. As the Indians starting second baseman, O-Cab started strong but is showing signs of his age.
Meanwhile, the Tribe has two 2B prospects in Columbus who seemed primed and ready for the major leagues. Cord Phelps and Jason Kipnis are both putting up strong numbers for the Clippers down in triple-A. But keeping them down on the farm will only cause them to languish.
Some will argue that sending O-Cab to the bench in favor of a prospect will hurt team chemistry. But right now, whatever chemistry once existed seems to be fading. Bringing up Phelps or Kipnis could be the shot in the arm this team needs.
And at third base, Jack Hannahan has done a fine job defensively but his bat is also becoming a liability in the Indians lineup. His .231 batting average and .673 OPS are well under league average for third basemen.
Again, the answer is only 120 miles to the south in Columbus. Lonnie Chisenhall is having another strong season in the minors and his defense has improved. At some point, the Indians have to decide if Chisenhall’s value at the plate exceeds his shortcomings in the field. That seems to be the only thing holding him back.
If the Indians wish to remain in contention through the long summer that lies ahead, they NEED more production out of their lineup. And that means taking a chance on a few youngsters.