I’ve been a bit hesitant to throw my hat too far into any potential trade situations involving the Indians this year. It’s not that I don’t think they could benefit from some changes; that goes almost without saying. It’s not that I think they won’t make a trade: if I were a betting man, I’d wager they do something to shake the roster up before August. It’s not that I’m a timorous ninny who’s afraid to be wrong. Well, yeah. It’s probably because I’m a timorous ninny who’s afraid to be wrong.
But even more than that, it seems trades are always so complex, especially among the lower tier teams, that handicapping them seems a fool’s errand. There are so many names out there that make some degree of sense. I still think Jeff Francouer would fit well as part of an OF platoon (the nerd baseball writers of America have shunned my from the next D&D meeting for this, by the way). I’ve heard others—Paul Cousineau and Terry Pluto among them—suggest utility player Mike Morse from the Nationals should be the target because he still has a few years of club control. Still others want to sell the farm to get someone like Carlos Beltran* or Matt Kemp or even Ubaldo Jimenez.
*Carlos Beltran, by the way, has a full no-trade clause. Those clauses were basically invented so that aging superstars don’t have to go to small-market teams like Cleveland to finish their careers. I know Buster Olney says that we’re still in on him, but I must say that I’d be beyond shocked if he’d agree to play here.
Most of the suggestions though, seem to point toward one particular trait: a right-handed bat that can slot in somewhere in the middle of the lineup with some ability to play a corner position. He must be right handed. He must have “pop”. I haven’t heard much concern over defense.
The reasons for this are fairly obvious, and not worth getting too in depth on. We do have a dearth of right-handed bats on this team, what with LaPorta and Obie struggling to offer much in the way of…anything.
But I will say this: things aren’t nearly as bad as they would seem on paper. Do you know what our team splits are this year?
As the prosecuting attorney from My Cousin Vinnie would say, “EYE- (claps hands) –DENTICAL!”
Well, not really, but you get the point. We hit for a slightly higher batting average against lefties, but with less power. Nothing too dramatic, at least not in my eyes.
And last year, the splits were similar. Which got me thinking: why are we so much better than we were last year? And guess what I found? A really decent portion of it is our defense. Having Jack Hannahan at third and Grady Sizemore in center and Michael Brantley in left are important, even when they’re not always hitting.
Last season, according to UZR, the Indians were 56 runs below average. In other words, our defense alone cost us about six losses. This season, we’re about average. Check it out for yourself. Our offense is basically the same. Our starting pitching (fielding independent)* is only slightly better. A big portion of our success has come from shoring up the defense.
*Of course the starters’ ERAs are lower this year than last: the question is how much of that is the pitcher’s responsibility and how much defense (and how much just dumb hit-‘em-where-they-ain’t luck). If you want to read something I wrote about trying to separate these, read this, from way back in the day.
Now I’m not advocating that we go trade for Jack Wilson or Alcides Escobar—not at all. But I do at least wonder why no one ever talks about adding an “impact glove” at the deadline. Because these things do exist—we’ve even seen them on display this season.
We just don’t bother to notice all that often.