Similarly to last year, the approach on offense for the Cleveland Guardians is to dominate opponents with the strength of their bullpen, find opportunities to steal bases and consistently string together hits, all while remaining steadfast and disciplined every night. Some think how the Guardians operate on offense is vile, distasteful or even repulsive. A frustrated Chicago White Sox fan even called it a “disgusting brand of baseball.”
No matter how people felt, calling their game disgusting became Cleveland’s rallying cry. The Guardians would beat you their way and never even think about apologizing. It’s what led to Cleveland securing the AL Central Division title for the first time in several seasons and the club’s first since adopting the Guardians moniker. Disgusting or not, Cleveland found a recipe for success and was understandably going to apply it as things advanced. Besides, why try to fix something that isn’t broken?
Unfortunately, the Guardians are playing the wrong kind of disgusting baseball as of late. Cleveland’s offense is a short series of no’s: no energy, no direction and no consistency. Their bats have gone dormant and, in turn, the Guardians are spreading their bullpen thin. The Athletic‘s Zack Meisel recently pointed out that if things don’t improve for Cleveland, they’re on pace for the second-worst slugging percentage ever. Sure, it’s only thirty-one games into a 162-game slog, but how the Guardians have looked on offense through the first month of play is a bit concerning.
This season, Cleveland has 17 home runs, fewer than every team not named the Nationals. Over half of the Guardians’ games this season have been decided by one run. When teams enter cold spells like this, they turn to their power hitters to awaken the offense. That would typically be José Ramírez, Josh Naylor and Josh Bell for Cleveland. Unfortunately, the trio isn’t giving the Guardians hardly any offensive juice. All three share the title for most home runs on the team with three apiece and are also tied for 88th overall in baseball.
As Jeremy Clarkson would say, it’s all about speed and power. Unfortunately, if Cleveland cannot rely on their strength, it all falls apart rather spectacularly. The Guardians can’t be fussy and need offense from everyone – not just their most significant threats. Cleveland needs singles, doubles and triples. As simple as it sounds, the Guardians need their hitters to hit.
Sure, they rank second in the majors with 37 stolen bases and have an 84 percent success rate when attempting to steal. Cleveland has also recorded the eighth-most walks in baseball. Unfortunately, the Guardians can’t be productive whenever they make contact. Cleveland’s .307 on-base percentage ranks 24th in baseball, ahead of only the Oakland A’s, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. The way the Guardians are playing isn’t a recipe for success, it’s a recipe for failure and the wrong kind of disgusting to associate their brand with.
So, what can Cleveland do to snap this endless cycle of futility? As frustrating as it may seem for those living in the moment, it will take time. Ramírez is hitting his lowest slugging percentage for the first time in eight years. Once he finds a rhythm and the weather gets warmer, Ramírez will wake up and provide a spark. Meanwhile, Naylor and Bell will likely follow a similar path and make Tom Hamilton hoarse with a surge of home runs. All three are historically great players and should find their stride over the remaining 131 games of their MLB season.
That’s the thing – baseball is a sport that spans several months and seasons. Every team goes through ruts like these and perhaps this is just the Guardians getting it out of the way now instead of when things are tighter. Things will eventually get better for Cleveland and the best course of action is to hit reset mentally heading into tonight’s game against the Minnesota Twins. Obviously, it won’t spark everything all at once for the Guardians. But, at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at [email protected] He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.
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