Breaking down the Guardians' early struggles at the plate

April 23rd, 2023

CLEVELAND -- The Guardians’ two doubleheaders this week have not treated them well.

After dropping both games of a twin bill against the Tigers on Tuesday, the Guardians lost each contest of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Marlins. The start of the matinee was delayed by nearly two hours before Cleveland fell, 6-1, to Miami. In the nightcap, the Guardians came up short, losing 3-2.

Cleveland’s pitching wasn’t the sharpest we’ve seen all season, but it’s the bats that have caused the club the biggest headaches. Let’s take a look at three stats that are causing the most problems:

Bats are silenced
The Guardians entered the day having scored in just two of their previous 29 innings at the plate. After Game 1, that became three of their last 38 frames. After Game 2, it was five of their last 47.

Maybe they’re trending in the right direction ever so slowly, but it’s surely not the pace the team needs in order to break out of the skid into which this offense has fallen. So often offenses can run into a hurler who has everything working and can’t seem to find a way to gain any momentum at the plate. But when a stretch starts to last this long, it’s hard to point the finger externally.

“Some of it’s [the pitchers],” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “Some of it is probably us right now.”

The Guardians have now gone five consecutive games plating fewer than three runs. This year, the club has scored four or fewer runs in 14 of its 21 games, owning a 4-10 record in those contests. And now after a decent start to the season, Cleveland’s record fell below .500 for the first time since it started the year 0-1 after an Opening Day loss.

So many one-run games
No one in Major League Baseball has played in more one-run games this year (13) than the Guardians. The problem is, the team has come out on the losing end in more than half of them (seven). And when Cleveland is playing a team that’s all too familiar with these close contests, it makes it even harder to create separation.

The Marlins have now won each of their six one-run games so far in 2023. Since the start of last season, Miami owns the most one-run games in MLB (70). The club plays with a scrappy style that's similar to the Guardians' and has also struggled to plate runs this season, having entered the day with the second-lowest number of runs scored in the Majors (59).

Can’t hit the southpaw
The Guardians' collective lineup is struggling against lefties right now, and it’s the worst time to have this problem, considering they’re facing a team with seven left-handers on its active roster. And on Saturday, Cleveland faced six of them.

“They’re kind of lining them up for us if they can,” Francona said. "And until we do better, they probably will continue to.”

Yes, the team as a whole is struggling, but it’s harder for the offense to find a spark when two sluggers who are expected to be two of the biggest contributors have been shut down.

has gone just 5-for-30 against lefties this year, with an 0-for-6 performance against them on Saturday. And just as he’s been scuffling overall, is the top offender. So far this season, Naylor has been held hitless against southpaws in 17 at-bats, including two in Game 1. The Guardians have tried dropping him to the eighth spot in the order to take some of the pressure off of him, and Francona explained that he wants to continue to stick with Naylor.

“I believe he can hit everybody, not just righties,” Francona said. “He’s fearless at whatever he does. I told him, I think it’s mental. ‘I think you sometimes get yourself out.’ He either tries to do too much, or sometimes he gets a little long and he wants to hit it far.

“There is a balance because you’re trying to win every game you can, but you don’t want to quit on a kid you think is an everyday player. It might not help.”