OAKLAND -- The Indians went into Spring Training with the goal of reducing the offense's strikeout rate over the past few seasons. Cleveland's coaching staff emphasized different approaches when in a two-strike count in an effort to improve.
One of the early results has been an increased walk total.
"We've done a very good job of keeping traffic on the bases," Indians manager Manny Acta said on Friday at the Coliseum. "You put pressure on the other pitcher by doing that kind of stuff. We try to educate these guys on, when you go to the plate, you go to hit to walk, not walk to hit.
"So far, they've been successful. We haven't had a complaint that they've been too passive or anything like that. It's huge for our game."
Heading into Friday's game against the A's, the Indians ranked first in the American League with 57 walks despite having played the fewest games of any team. The team's on-base percentage of .333 ranked fourth in the AL. Last season, Cleveland was in the middle of the pack, ranking seventh and eighth in the league, respectively, for walks (494) and OBP (.317).
The poster boy for the early-season patience has been Tribe left fielder Shelley Duncan, who entered Friday tied with Toronto's Jose Bautista and Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist with an AL-high 11 free passes. Duncan ranked second in the American League with an average of 4.81 pitches seen per plate appearance.
"It's been huge," Acta said. "That's part of having quality at-bats."
As for the strikeouts, Cleveland headed into Friday's game with 89 strikeouts, which ranked 10th among the 14 American League clubs. Last year, the Indians struck out 1,269 times, which marked the most in a single season in franchise history.
"We concentrated more on cutting down the strikeouts," Acta said of their plan of attack during the spring. "It's a small sample, but we're doing a lot better."