The Cleveland Indians' outlook for the second half of the season is, at best, murky. On paper it should be better than murky because the Indians are well fortified in the most important area of all: starting pitching. In the first half of the season the Indians had four quality starting pitchers, but still had a losing record.
Those two statements don't seem to go together, but they have for the Indians, which is why the second half seems so uncertain. They clearly have enough starting pitching to reach the playoffs, but even with that starting pitching the Indians had a winning record for just one day in the first half: April 9, when their record was 2-1.
This, despite the fact that the Indians became the first team in major league history to have four pitchers with 100 strikeouts before the All-Star break: Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. For most of the season Kluber, Carrasco and Salazar have ranked in the top five in the American League in total strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings, and the Indians' staff is on a pace to break their own major league record for most strikeouts in a season, which they set last year.
The bullpen has been very good as well. The Indians are fourth in the league in bullpen ERA, and closer Cody Allen is 19-for-20 in save opportunities and has been almost untouchable since late April. In 31 games since April 29 Allen is 16-for-16 in save chances, with a 1.15 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .157 batting average. So the Indians appear to have enough pitching to make a run at a postseason berth, but all that pitching is being sabotaged by a stagnant offense. The Indians rank 12th in the league in total runs scored and runs per game.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor, the Indians' top prospect, and third baseman Giovanny Urshela were both promoted to the big league club in June. Both have significantly upgraded their positions defensively. Virtually all of the Indians' other position players are having sub-par offensive years, to such a degree that it has been difficult for the Indians to sustain any winning momentum.
The most dramatic reflection of why the Indians' offense needs to improve in the second half is Kluber's record in the first half. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner is 4-10, despite a fine 3.38 ERA. Kluber has had the worst run support in the American League: 2.4 runs per start. In his 10 losses the Indians have scored a total of 16 runs.
They lead the AL in Runners In Scoring Position and are last in the AL in bring those same runners home, Too often they are '1st Pitch Swinging" and hitting into double plays.