Some Indians hitters are unlucky, some are plain struggling

Each has been technically unlucky, but some more than others

Alex Hooper
April 12, 2018 - 4:43 pm
Apr 11, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; (Editor's note: multiple exposure) Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) hits a line drive double to left field in the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. The Indians won 5-1.

Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports


Cleveland, OH (92.3 the Fan) – Yes, the Cleveland Indians offense is struggling, we knew this. They are no longer the only team with a negative oWAR on the year at -0.7, now joined by their last two opponents, Detroit and Kansas City at -0.1.

As has been reported, the Indians hitters met with hitting coaches Ty Van Burkleo and Victor Rodriguez to discuss just how unlucky they have been this season. The team has hit the ball hard, and often, yet did not register 10 hits in a game until Wednesday night.

It cannot be possible that everyone has been unlucky or subject to the weather, right? Let us take a look at who is struggling and who is lucky.

Yonder Alonso - .184/.295/.368, 89 wRC+

If you have been following this saga closely, you already know the answer to this. Alonso is in a five-way tie for the most barreled balls in 2018 (7), trailing only Mookie Betts at 8. Alonso is by himself atop the mountain of unluckiness, aka wxOBA-wOBA, with an expected wOBA of .493 based on quality of contact, and a .292 wOBA in actuality.

Ironically, number two on that list is the man Alonso replaced in Cleveland, Carlos Santana.

Verdict: Unlucky

Edwin Encarnacion – .146/.255/.366, 76 wRC+

Prone to slow starts, it looked like Encarnacion was going to buck the trend with three home runs prior to the Indians home opener. The DH produced a .200/.333/.650 slash with a 171 wRC+ in six games on the west coast, while going .095/.174/.095, -24 in the six games since. Sample size, and what not.

While no one with the Indians is outperforming their xwOBA, Encarnacion is the 3rd-closest on the team to his expected mark, off by just .052. Among Indians with 20+ at-bats, Encarnacion is ahead of just (SPOILERS) Jose Ramirez with an average exit velocity of 87.7 mph. That places him at 152nd in baseball.

Verdict: Struggling

Francisco Lindor – .184/.245/.224, 32 wRC+

He has begun to heat up a little bit, results-wise, and should be close to an absolute break out. Lindor is behind Alonso just barely in exit velocity (90.0 vs. 90.4 mph) and has been barely less lucky by way of xwOBA-wOBA (-0.175 vs. -0.201).

Among everyone in baseball, Lindor is the 5th unluckiest in wOBA and 3rd unluckiest with an expected slugging% of .571 compared to that actual .224 mark.

Verdict: Unlucky

Jose Ramirez – .146/.300/.293, 69 wRC+

You now already know where this is going, though Ramirez looks like he is also heating up, if you want to read into two games. We’re already reading into 12, so for the purposes of this exercise, the MVP is near! Just kidding.

Regardless, Ramirez has the lowest quality of contact on the team thus far with 87.2 mph EV on average. He and Encarnacion have only made “good contact” on 2.13% of pitches, according to Statcast. For Ramirez, he has barreled 2 of 235 pitches, with 3 more qualified as just “good.”

Verdict: Struggling

Tyler Naquin – .235/.316/.412, 92 wRC+

Here is a case of a player, though with an even smaller sample size, hitting to his expectation. Naquin is currently only underperforming his xwOBA by .056, barely more so than Encarnacion. His average exit velocity has been just a tick higher than Lindor, but has produced more stabilized results.

Verdict: Neither

Jason Kipnis - .109/.196/.152, -2 wRC+!!!!

Kipnis is middle of the pack in terms of average EV, sitting 3rd of 5 Indians with those 20 Abs at 88.1 mph. Not exactly scalding the ball. By the numbers, he has managed to be 102% worse than league average. Some of that is luck, and some is performance.

As far as his luck goes, the second baseman is just behind Lindor and Alonso in xwOBA-wOBA, but the difference is that those two are producing excellent xwOBA at .390 and .493 respectively.

The entire trio is struggling to get their results, but in Kipnis’ case, even if he were exactly performing to his xwOBA, his actual wOBA would place him in a tie with Evan Gattis and Luis Valbuena for 154th in baseball. His xwOBA is 214th in baseball.

Verdict: Both

Just 12 games in, it cannot be stressed enough that the sample sizes are small. Those xwOBA numbers will hit peaks and valleys through the next 150 games, and the actual results will likely fluctuate even more erratically.

For now, every Indians hitter has been unlucky to some degree, but some more so than others, and some more justifiably so than others.