CLEVELAND: Wouldn’t it be nice if Indians hitters could count on drawing an average of 5.3 walks per game throughout the entire schedule.
They probably would score one or two more runs per game and wear out opposing starters by the fifth inning. Not that the starters would issue all of the walks.
The Tribe recently completed a stretch of 15 games in which rival pitchers walked 79 batters, 20 of which scored. That’s a huge advantage for the Indians. By contrast, over this same span, Tribe pitchers walked 47.
Obviously, pitchers who consistently issue walks are not throwing the ball over the plate often enough. But hitters also have something to do with the rate of walks per game.
Patient hitters who make an earnest effort to swing only at strikes force pitchers to keep the ball on the plate.
“It’s not like we have meetings about this,” manager Terry Francona said. “It varies from game to game. I do think we’re doing a good job swinging at strikes.”
American League statistics bear this out, because the Tribe is tied for third with 298 walks. Maybe it’s a coincidence — but probably not — that the four teams that draw the most walks are either in first or second place in their divisions.
The Oakland Athletics led with 326 walks, the Boston Red Sox were second with 321 and the Indians and Detroit Tigers were tied for third with 298 going into their game Friday night.
So who is more responsible for these walks? Is it careless pitchers or vigilant hitters?
“I think it’s both,” Francona said. “I think we deserve some of the credit. Some pitchers are throwing 95 and the pitch is this far off the plate [Francona holds his thumb and index finger two inches apart], and we’re not swinging.”
Individually, the Tribe has three players among the league’s top 15 in the art of drawing walks.
Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers is No. 1 with 51 walks, but Carlos Santana is second with 49, Jason Kipnis is 10th with 41 and Nick Swisher is tied for 13th with 39. Despite striking out 102 times, Mark Reynolds is 22nd in walks with 36.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.