Nancy Zinni’s 2011 Indianapolis Indians Recap Part One

Matt Hague made good use of that bat in 2011

The Indianapolis Indians finished the season with a team batting average of .263.  This is remarkably consistent with their team batting averages for the past few years — .262 in 2010, 2008, and 2007, .and 260 in 2009.  While the team was third in the league in total hits (1282) and doubles (277), they were last in the league in homers with just 91.  The Indians led the International League in triples with 45, and that was 13 more than the next-highest team, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

A few Indians’ batters were at or near the top of the International League in various categories.  Matt Hague led the league in game appearances — he missed only 3 games all season, for a total of 141.  Of course, if you play in almost every game, you get up to the plate more than anyone else — 534 at-bats.  He also led the league with hits (165), and was third in doubles (37) and in total bases (244).  Matt Hague and John Bowker finished 6th and 7th in the league respectively with batting averages of .309 and .306.  Gorkys Hernandez tied with Jason Kipnis of Columbus for the lead in triples with 9, and Chase d’Arnaud was not far behind with 6.

Alex Presley led the Indians with a .333 batting average in 87 games, though that was not enough games for him to qualify for the league leaders.  He played in 75 games from the beginning of the season until he was promoted to the Pirates in June, then appeared in another 12 games on a rehab assignment.  Josh Harrison did not qualify either, though he hit .310 in 62 games with the Tribe.  After Hague and Bowker, other high-average Indians:  Dusty Brown – .285;  Gorkys Hernandez – .283; Jason Jaramillo – .276 in 46 games.

Alex Presley hit .333 with the Indians.

Hague led the team with 70 runs scored.  Presley and Bowker were close with 58 and 56 respectively, and Hernandez had 48.

The same four were at the top of the hits totals:  Hague with 165, Bowker with 129, Hernandez with 120, and Presley with 114.  The next highest was Chase d’Arnaud with 76.  They also led the team in doubles — 37 for Hague, 27 for Bowker, 25 for Hernandez, and 18 for Presley.

As noted, the Tribe was not big on home runs.  Bowker led the team with 15, Hague was next with 12, and Presley had 8.  Bowker and Hague were high RBI producers, with 76 and 75 respectively, but then there was a big drop off.  Presley had 41 RBI and Hernandez had 40, then Andy Marte and d’Arnaud tied with 37 each.

The Indians did not show the patience at the plate enough to take many walks — they were second-to-last in the IL.  Hague led the team with 47 walks, Hernandez was next with 35, and Brian Friday had 30.

On the down side, Hernandez also struck out a team-leading 91 times, 18 times more than Bowker, who had 73.  Hague struck out 68 times, and Miles Durham struck out 66 times.

The running game was not as much a part of the Indians’ game plan as it has been in past years.  Alex Presley was 8th in the league with 22 stolen bases, Gorkys Hernandez was 9th with 21, and Chase d’Arnaud was 10th with 20.  The league leader in stolen bases, with 48 (13 more than the next best) was former Indy Indian Rich Thompson (now with Lehigh Valley).

Some individual performances:

Presley was consistent with his hitting all season.  He hit .320 in August (lowest) and .345 in May (highest).  Presley didn’t drop off much when he got to Pittsburgh, either.  His average there is currently .315 in 32 games, which is second only to Derrek Lee, who has a .400 average in just 8 games.

Matt Hague had a medium-warm start to the season, hitting .271 in April.  He caught fire in May, boosting his average to .308 for that month, and continuing with a .402 average in July.  Hague dropped off to .279 and 277 in July and August.

John Bowker was the player who made a huge impact in the Indians’ day-to-day play.  The Tribe had a 9-21 record prior to May 8th when Bowker joined the team.  They went 20- 10 in their next 10 games, and did not lose a series again until the beginning of July, climbing out of the cellar to finish second in the Western Division, 12 games above .500.  Bowker started off his time with the Indians by hitting .318 in May, with 18 RBI.  He dropped to .288 in June, but knocked in 22 runs.  He was back up to .316 in July with 20 RBI, and .302 in August, with 16 RBI.

Josh Harrison started off on fire, hitting .375 in April.  He dropped off to .282 in May, for a .321 average when he was called up for the first time at the end of May.

Gorkys Hernandez started off his season slowly, hitting just .246 in April.  He brought that up to .283 in May, then took off with a .337 and 10 RBI in June.  His average dropped off to .260 in July and .259 in August, but the clutch hitting continued, with 21 RBI over those two months.  By the end of the season, Hernandez was probably the best clutch hitter on the team.

Chase d’Arnaud also started off slowly, hitting .217 in April.  He popped up to .329 in May and .299 in June, before being called up to the Pirates.  His RBI count also rocketed from 7 in April to 12 in May and 14 in June.  Surprisingly, when d’Arnaud came back to Indy for his rehab assignment in August, he hit just .184 with 4 RBI.

Jordy Mercer, the Indians’ Player of the Month for August, also began his time with the Indians slowly.  He was promoted from the AA Altoona Curve at the end of June, and hit just .180 through the end of July.  He found his turbos in August, though, hitting .313 with 9 doubles, 3 homers (in 3 consecutive days), and 15 RBI.

Pedro Alvarez spent only part of the season with the Indians, but the two stints he had made him seem like two completely different hitters.  In July, when he was making a rehab assignment and then stayed on with the team for a short time after his rehab was over, Alvarez blasted a .365 average, with 3 doubles, 3 homers and 13 RBI in 18 games.  He returned for 14 games in August, and was completely flat — .154 with 2 doubles and 2 homers and 6 RBI.  Alvarez struck out quite a lot in both periods — 18 K’s in July and 20 K’s in August.

Miles Durham, who was promoted from Altoona at the end of May, was up and down at the plate.  He hit .297 in June, .177 in July, and .255 in August.  He had 15 RBI in June, but that dropped off to 6 RBI in July, and did not come up in August, when he had just one RBI.

Pedro Ciriaco finished the season with a .231 average, but it’s hard to know what to make of that, when he was bounced up to Pittsburgh and back repeatedly over the season, sometimes spending just a few days with the Pirates before heading back down to Indy.  He hit .145 in 22 games in April, then .246 in 14 games in May.  Over June and July, Ciriaco played in 45 games in Indianapolis and hit .267, and he hit the same .267 in 23 games in August.

Two players whose hitting turned out to be a disappointment:

Andy Marte had been signed to a minor league contract and was expected to be a big hitter for the Indians, as he had been for other International League teams in the past few years.  But Marte struggled at the plate for most of the season, with a .156 average in April, and .238 in May.  He had his best month in June, when he hit .262, bu dropped back to .203 in July and started losing playing time.  In August, Marte hit .069 in 12 games.

Andrew Lambo started off the season with the Indians, hitting .203 in April, when he led the team with 22 strikeouts.  He got up to .211 in May, but fell back to just .100 in 16 games in June.  When a roster spot was needed, Lambo was sent to AA Altoona.  Lambo improved his hitting with the Curve, hitting .267 in July and .314 in August, with 19 RBI in each month.

Click here to continue to Part Two: The Pitchers

Author: Nancy Zinni

Nancy grew up in Rochester, NY, where her father indoctrinated her to the love of baseball as a small child. He taught her to keep score at the age of 5, and she hasn't stopped since. She now lives in the Indianapolis area with her husband and two sons. Nancy has followed the Indians on both the Most Valuable Network and the Bloguin group, before joining Pirates Prospects in 2011. She provides daily game recaps from Indianapolis, plus player analysis from the guys she sees live at the games.

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