CLEVELAND: Every team’s manager preaches the value of fundamentals.
What exactly does that mean? Catching and throwing the ball accurately, running the bases intelligently, holding runners to their bases, hitting the cutoff man, being in the proper place to accept a throw and executing at the plate, according to the situation.
How do the Indians measure up? They don’t lead the American League in any category, but they aren’t near the bottom, either. And it would be difficult to make a case that they’ve habitually beaten themselves.
“Fundamentals is something we’ve talked about since Day One,” manager Terry Francona said. “We have the guys here to do it. What I really like is that they do it game after game, day games after night games, without a letdown.
“That day in Philadelphia [day game after night game], I was dragging. And if I’m tried, what are these guys? It was real quiet in the clubhouse before the game, but they went out there and played with energy. I was thrilled about that.”
The Tribe is holding its own in various categories that measure fundamentals.
Among American League clubs, the Indians are tied for eighth-fewest errors with 27. More important, they have allowed 14 unearned runs, tying the Baltimore Orioles for seventh least. The Tribe has yielded only four more unearned runs than the New York Yankees, who rank first with 10.
By comparison, the Houston Astros are worst in the league with 27 with the Toronto Blue Jays (22) next.
One area that has improved significantly is the club’s tendency to allow stolen bases, which is a collaborative effort of pitchers and catchers.
Last season, the Indians were the worst team in the league, giving up 140 steals. Their catchers threw out 21 percent of would-be base stealers to rank fourth from the bottom. Ubaldo Jimenez gave up 32 steals, second in the league, and Justin Masterson allowed 25 to tie for sixth worst.
This year, Jimenez is ninth in the league with six steals and Masterson has given up only two.
In 2013, backup Yan Gomes has been one of the league’s most effective catchers at controlling the running game, throwing out eight of 13 runners for 61.5 percent. On the other hand, Carlos Santana has thrown out only three of 25 runners.
As for executing steals, the Tribe is fourth with 39, succeeding 78 percent of the time. The leaders are the Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals, each with 41 steals.
“I think we just try to pay attention to detail,” center fielder Michael Bourn said. “We look for things we can take advantage of and then take advantage of them. We can win with the longball, but we don’t always have to do it that way.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.