Orbiting Cleveland: Analyzing the four-game win streak
Is the Tribe's current win streak the start of something special or just a tease?
When you're hot, you're hot. And right now, the Cleveland Indians are on fire.
As you know, these last four games have been fun — very fun.
Just take a look at these numbers:
10, 9, 14, 6 — the number of runs the Indians have scored in each of their past four ball games.
14, 14, 17, 14 — the number of hits the Indians have tallied in each of their past four ball games.
Now, let it be known that I am not IBI's resident mathematician; that honor belongs to Jim Piascik. However, if I am correct, it appears as if the Tribe has averaged 9.75 runs and 14.75 hits in their past four games. The results of those four games has also been the same — win.
That's not hard to believe as it seems logical that any team that averages nearly double-digit run output is going to be in line for a lot of wins. But what's been the difference from this week to last?
Let's take a look at some more numbers. This time lets look at a span of four games from last week that directly preceded the Indians' current offensive binge.
3, 2, 2, 0 — the number of runs the Indians scored in the games from April 22-28.
6, 5, 9, 8 — the number of hits the Indians tallied in each game from April 22-28.
I hope you have your calculators to fact check me because it's time for more math. According to my calculations, the Indians averaged merely 1.75 runs and 6.25 hits per games in the four games that took place prior to the team's current four-game win streak.
As, you can probably expect, the Indians did not fair nearly as well in these games and only emerged victorious in one contest, which is largely based off a stellar pitching performance from Justin Masterson.
But, with that being said, what exactly has been the difference? How exactly can a team flip a switch and go have a complete, 180-degree turnaround in a week's time?
Given the low standards, better offensive production seemed inevitable, but who could have ever expected such a drastic metamorphosis?
It’s impossible to pinpoint a single catalyst for what has happened over these past few games. The reality is that there’s been too many.
Ryan Raburn is certainly a candidate as the right-handed hitting utility man is 11-for-13 with four home runs and nine RBI in his last three games.
Carlos Santana has also been impressive as he’s gone 8-for-14 with a double, a home run and four RBI in his last four games. Of course, it’s important to not overlook the surging Asdrubal Cabrera either, whose slump seems to be a thing of the past as the switch-hitting infielder has hit in 10 straight games and has gone 6-for-16 with a double, triple and seven RBI in the Tribe’s four-game win streak.
Then there’s Mark Reynolds. The Indians’ slugging designated hitter has gone 7-for-18 during the win streak.
Of course, we also cannot overlook Michael Brantley’s contributions either. The left-handed hitting outfielder has been on a tear as of late and has gone 9-for-19 in his last four games.
The roundabout point that is being made is that this Indians’ offense clearly has loads of potential, and there are also a handful of options that the team can turn to.
But for as nice as it’s been, we know it’s inevitable that the Indians will eventually come down to Earth. No team has ever averaged 9.75 runs per game, and the 2013 Indians are not going to be the team to set that record.
Still, think for a minute about what you have witnessed over these past few days. The Indians went 4-0 and outscored their opponents 39-5. It was absolute dominance on behalf of the Tribe.
Now, with that being said, can you remember the last time you’ve seen the Indians go 4-0 and have such a dominant offensive performance over a four-game stretch?
The answer to that question is really not as far away as it may seem.
While it now seems as if it’s been an eternity since names like Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan graced the Indians’ starting lineup, the reality is that is was just last season. Also, bizzarely enough, that Indians team, the same team that had Aaron Cunningham as a fourth outfielder, had an even more impressive offensive stretch. Just take a look for yourself:
From April 13 to April 17, 2012, the Indians went 4-0 and outscored their opponents 41-27 across that span. Players like Travis Hafner, Shelley Duncan, Jason Kipnis and Kotchman all significantly contributed to the team’s offensive explosion across.
Regardless of circumstances, 41 runs in four games is an impressive statistic. While four games is a very small sample size, it's impossible to undermine that type of offensive production.
However, in the long run, the sad reality is that that four-game stretch ended up meaning nothing for the Indians 2012. Yes, the team was able to average more than 10 runs a game for four games, but how did that offense look at the end of the season?
Also, how optimistic can Tribe fans be about the team’s recent stretch when you realize that last year’s team actually scored more runs during a similar four-game winning streak?
It might be much easier to remain optimistic if 2012 was the only recent season where the Indians had an offensive binge that mirrored the team’s current streak. But, as the graphic above indicates, that is simply not the case.
April has been a good month for offense for the Indians in recent years. In 2011, the Indians won four straight games from April 26 to April 29. They outscored their opponents 33-13 during that span.
Some of the team’s offensive heroes in that particular stretch included Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Orlando Cabrera and Hannahan. Hmmm… How is the team’s current four-game winning streak looking now?
Even in 2010 and 2009, years in which the team nearly lost 100 games and was filled with several replacement-level players, the Indians were still able to go on impressive offensive outbursts for at least four games at a time.
In 2010, the Indians went 4-0 from June 9 to June 12 and outscored opponents 33-10. The Tribe was even more impressive a season earlier as the Indians won four straight games from July 24 to July 27 and outscored opponents 39-12.
So, what’s the moral of the story?
The bottom line is that it’s too early to jump to conclusions about the Indians’ current four-game winning streak. The team has looked great offensively, but that does not necessarily mean that this is a great offensive team.
It’s easy to conclude that the Indians have fielded some pretty bad teams in the past few years. However, even those bad teams were capable of playing great offensive baseball for a short period of time. Well, at least for four games that is.
It’s nice to label the Indians’ current offense as one of the best in baseball, but it’s just far too early to come to such conclusions.
It’s also important to not be too pessimistic though. These last four seasons prove that even bad teams can get hot once in awhile, but it’s also important to note some of the key personnel differences that separate this team from years past.
For instance, just use last year for reference. The Indians had players like Kotchman, Hannahan, Duncan and Cunningham taking up roster spots. Not one of those players has a significant history of solid offensive production, so how could a team in which they are prominently featured be destined for anything but offensive futility?
In comparison, those four players have been replaced this season by the likes of Nick Swisher, Mike Aviles, Reynolds and Raburn. All of those four aforementioned players DO have a pervious track record of success, so that could be an indicator that there could actually be something special about this Indians offense.
Of course, there are still more reasons for pessimism. Let’s not forget that the Indians have scored three or less runs in 14 of their 25 games. I’ve heard of going cold offensively, but frozen might be a more applicable adjective for the Indians’ performance in the majority of their games.
So, the bottom line is that it’s important for Indians fans to temper their enthusiasm. It’s possible that this current four-game winning streak could be the start of great things for the Indians offense.
Or, it’s also entirely possible that the streak is just that — an impressive offensive run across four games. We’ve been burned before, and there’s always a chance that we could be burned again.
As the Indians move forward throughout the 2013 season, this four-game stretch could be the milestone that is frequently revisited. Perhaps it’s the turning point — the moment the Indians’ bats awoke and the team cemented itself as a legitimate contender.
Or, perhaps it’s something else — a tease.
At this point, there’s no concrete answer as to what can be made of the Tribe’s recent offensive surge. However, there’s one thing that cannot be denied: the 2013 season just got a lot more interesting…
Steve can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Kipnis' best chance to get on base tonight is to bunt.
At least Chiz and his .095 average against lefties got benched.
Bring back the belt to Cleveland!
I don't think you want to expose Raburn let him keep doing his thing at the bottom of the lineup. Aviles for Chiz because he hits lefties better.
I still think this is a good offensive team that will be able to go on tears like this multiple times. In years past we didn't have guys like Raburn-Aviles and Giambi on the bench as depth.
Most of the people hitting these past 4 games are legit players who didn't just get luck for a 4 game streach. Of course Raburn is playing over his head but hes still a solid player. A guy who can average 15 homers a year for 3 years is a great guy to have on the bench. Giambi is just a pro and Aviles could start with some teams.
Not to mention the fact we did all this without Bourn or Swisher. Are two huge signings this offseason. Once we get them back and if we can get Jason Kipnis going look out.
Huge game tonight. Masterson on the mound looking to bring us to 500 vs a team ahead of us in the central. Lets do it.