The Indians have slumped out of the gate thus far this year, and currently sit percentage points in front of the last place White Sox in the division, with the third-worst record in the American League at 9-15. The Royals were able to take two out of three from the Indians last week in Cleveland, and will try to have a winning record against the Tribe after dropping 10 of 19 to them last year.
The Indians have been disappointing in every facet of the game so far. Their offense, considered to be a high-powered lineup full of good, young players in their prime, is just tenth in the league in runs scored per game at 4.25. The Indians have the second-most strikeouts in the league, and while they have the seventh-most walks, slugger Carlos Santana accounts for over a quarter of those walks.
With Silver Slugger-winning catcher Yan Gomes out, the Indians suffer from three black holes in their lineup at catcher, shortstop, and third base. Roberto Perez and former Royals backstop Brett Hayes have filled in at catcher. Rookie Jose Ramirez has failed to impress at shorstop, accelerating the chances top prospect Francisco Lindor could be promoted (although Lindor has failed to hit much at AAA this season). Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who hit just .218/.277/.315 after the All-Star break last year, carries his struggles into this season.
Ryan Raburn is off to a hot start and could start at designated hitter against left-handers. Veteran Nick Swisher returns from the disabled list today after missing the first month following knee surgery.
The Indians defense has lived up to their terrible reputation this season. They are the second-worst team defensively with -17 defensive runs saved. The Indians have allowed the most stolen bases in the league, throwing out just 6 of 30 (20%) of would-be base-stealers.
Fortunately for the defense, Indians starters are terrific at not allowing hitters to put the ball in play. Indians starters lead the league in strikeouts-per-nine innings by a healthy margin with nearly ten strikeouts for every nine innings pitched. Reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber has yet to win a game this year, and while his defense has let him down, his cutter and curveball have been less effective this season. Carlos Carrasco has been inconsistent this season, especially since being struck in the face by a line drive back in April. The Royals were able to hit Danny Salazar last week in Cleveland, although he was the only pitcher able to hold on for a win. The young right-hander has a 5.45 ERA against the Royals in six starts.
The Indians bullpen is fairly adept at striking hitters out too, with the third best strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio among American League bullpens. Closer Cody Allen has struggled mightily this year, allowing 10 runs in just nine innings of work. The Indians picked up reliever Ryan Webb recently to add some depth, and he has thrown five scoreless innings to begin his Cleveland career.