Sizemore is incredibly easy to strike out

Grady Sizemore has never shied away from the strikeout. In each of his four full seasons he’s struck out at least 130 times. This year has been particularly rough for Sizemore in the strikeout department, however, mainly due to the fact that once he gets two strikes on him, he’s done.

Sizemore has worked his way into a two-strike count 73 times this season, 45 of which have resulted in a strikeout.

The reason for his lack of success with two strikes? He’s a free swinger.

Of the pitches Sizemore has offered at with two strikes this season, he’s whiffed on nearly half (48%) – easily the worst percentage in the majors. That number has risen steadily over the past few seasons – from 35% in 2008 to 38% in 2009 to 40% last season.

To better understand just how bad he’s been, consider this: the major league average is just 21% – less than half of Sizemore’s current rate.

The issue for Sizemore isn’t just that he struggles to make contact, but also that he’s chasing pitches out of the zone. With two strikes Sizemore swings at 45% of the pitches he sees out of the strike zone – well above the MLB average of 36%.

So while Manny Acta tries continues to juggle the lineup to find the best spot for Sizemore, the fact remains that he isn’t going to hit anywhere until he learns to shorten his swing and remain patient with two strikes.

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Santana’s rough year continues

It’s been a tough spring for Carlos Santana, who is barely above the Mendoza line at the season’s quarter-pole.

His .207 batting average ranks among the worst in recent history through 45 games, but is compounded by the fact that he continues to bat cleanup.

The only Indian the last 50 seasons with at least 125 plate appearance in the four-hole through 45 games to post an average lower than Santana was Andre Thornton (.183 in 1986).

Most HR without a 3 HR game

On the latest edition of ESPN’s Baseball Today podcast, Mark Simon mentioned that Rafael Palmeiro holds the record for the most career home runs without ever hitting three in a game. That note sparked my interest so I decided to look up the Indians record holder in the category.

The Tribe’s leader for most homers without a three home run game is Andre Thornton, who hit 214 homers with the Indians. Next up on the list is Grady Sizemore, who has 135 career dingers.

Should Sizemore bat leadoff?

Since Grady Sizemore returned two games ago, this has been the great debate: should he remain the Indians leadoff hitter?

I think this debate really has two very different factors that need to be addressed, so I’ll break this post into two sections.

First, let’s forget about whether or not the Indians have an alternative and simply address the question: is Sizemore a leadoff hitter?

Those who want to drop him in the lineup point to his low batting average – just .268 when batting leadoff since 2007, which ranks 29th out of 39 players with at least 150 games from the leadoff spot. It’s certainly a concerning number, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

During that same time span Sizemore ranks 4th among leadoff hitters with a .374 on-base percentage. And what is the job of your leadoff hitter? To set the table for the run-producers behind him.

The anti-Sizemore crowd will also point to his high strikeout total. Since 2007 he has struck out once ever 5.3 PA – 10th worst among leadoff hitters. But again I will point to his OBP. As long as your leadoff hitter is getting on base at .374 rate, does it really matter how he records outs the rest of the time?

One could argue for the important of his strikeout rate if he were batting 2nd, where his job would be to move up runners, but as a leadoff hitter his job is simply to find his way onto the basepaths. If he occasionally strikes out in the process, so be it.

Now that we’ve established that Sizemore is clearly capable of batting leadoff, and is arguably one of the best in the league at setting the table, the second part of the question is: would Michael Brantley be a better option?

I am a huge supporter of Brantley, but I personally do not believe he is ready to replace Sizemore at the top of the order. He is a capable leadoff hitter, but not better than Grady.

In 96 career games batting leadoff, Brantley has a .274 BA (higher than Sizemore in the same time span) but only a .321 OBP (significantly lower than Sizemore).

That said, Brantley did get off to a brilliant start in 2011. In 13 games as the leadoff hitter this season, Brantley is batting .302 with a .367 OBP – well within the range of an above-average leadoff man.

So what’s the conclusion? As long as the Tribe is winning, they need to stick with Sizemore. He is the proven commodity and the one most likely to maintain a consistent pace throughout the season (assuming he’s healthy). However, if the Tribe takes a nose dive I would be in favor of giving Brantley an opportunity. Why not see what the kid can do, while also seeing what Sizemore can do from the three, four or five-hole? If the Tribe expects to compete in 2012, they’ll need to know what they have to work with.

Peralta Inside the Park Home Run

Thanks to an unlocked bullpen gate, Jhonny Peralta rounded the bases with his first career inside the park home run on Sunday afternoon. He became just the 5th Indian to hit an inside the park homer in Jacobs Field – all five of which have come since 2000.

This is an odd stretch of five inside the park home runs in an 11-year span for the Tribe. Prior to Enrique Wilson‘s in 2000, the Indians hadn’t hit one in their home ballpark since Mel Hall rounded the bases against the A’s in 1988.