Setting the Lines for the 2012 Indians

CHris Perez

I like very much when people take firm and decisive stands on things.  For example, “I don’t drink. It’s against my religion.” Or “I’m a vegetarian; it’s the only ethical stance to take.” Or “I believe that Gremlins are real and breeding in the sewers of Montreal.”

I bring this up not because I am one of these principled folks—only that I admire them.  For example, as silly as I know gambling to be from an analytical perspective, every time I end up in Vegas I find myself sitting for hours at a black jack table—even though I know it to be an illogical pursuit that will slowly drain my wallet.  I wish I had the fortitude to take a stand, walk past the degenerates, and enjoy the sunshine.  Turns out, I don’t.  I belong with the degenerates.

So today I thought we’d talk about gambling and the 2012 Indians a bit.  Unfortunately, when I started poking around to see if I could find any interesting lines to write about, I could only find one: the Indians are currently running at 60-1 to win the World Series this year.  I suppose that’s interesting, but not enough for a whole nuther weblog entry on the subject.

That’s why I decided to make my own lines up, and discuss what each one would mean to the 2012 season.  We’ll come back and revisit all these after the season to prove how wrong I was.  Feel free to add any of your own fake lines in the comments.

6.5 – Position players to appear in more than 100 games

That sounds ridiculously low, right?  I mean, we’d only need 7 players to appear in—at any position including DH—at least 100 games.  That shouldn’t be so hard.  Except that last year the Indians had only five such players, and two of them (Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta) might have lost some playing time this offseason.  Couple that with a few more issues the team might run into: (1) potential platoons at both 3B and LF; (2) Grady Sizemore, starting CF; (3) Pronk.  And that’s not even counting those injuries we don’t see coming.  I’ll take the over here, but only because February is cruel and unrelenting, and we need some optimism.

7.00 – Strikeouts per nine innings for Chris Perez

Again, it sounds silly until you look at the numbers.  Through his 2009 season, Chris Perez had never struck out fewer than nine batters per nine innings at any point in his professional career.  In 2010, he saw a slight dip to 8.71, but nothing to worry about, right?  But last season came the cliff, and he fell right off it, all the way down to 5.88.  No closer in the American League had a lower K-rate than Pure Rage in 2011.  And it’s not just the strikeouts: his fastball averaged barely over 93 mph in 2011, down more than 2 mph from his career high.  I’m going under, and praying I’m wrong.

0.5 – Games started for Roberto Hernandez

The elephant in the room.  With Hernandez, the rotation looks fairly set–you could even call it “robust” and I wouldn’t argue with you.  Without him though?  We open the fifth starter spot up to either Slowey (about whom I wrote here), or the troika of Huff, Gomez and McCallister.  I’m not sure if you agree, but I’d rather have Hernandez than any of those guys—even if he is three years older than we thought.  Unfortunately, my gut is telling me that his problem might get worse before it gets better.  If it gets better at all.  I’ll take the under.  (And yes: I miss writing “Fausto” already.)

.360 – Carlos Santana’s On Base Percentage

Lest you place too much emphasis on batting average, let me remind you that Carlos Santana had a great year last year, despite the .239 batting average.  Not only did he appear in more games than any other Indian (155), but he led the team in WAR, wOBA, walk-rate, and home runs (minimum 200 plate appearances).  He was second in slugging percentage (Dunc-A-Dunc) and  OBP (Pronk).  I’m still a big believer, and despite the relatively high line (.330 OBP is about average), I’m still going with the over.

20.5 – Games started by Matt LaPorta

I don’t even know anymore: would it be optimistic or pessimistic to take the over?  Either way, I tend to think we’re going to see a bit more of LaPorta than everybody might be planning for.  Over.

0.5 – Tweets from Raffy Perez (@Raffyperez53)

UNDER.

160.5 – Home Runs

Last season the team ranked 10th in the AL in home runs with 154.  I would think (and hope) that number goes up, and Choo’s return to normalcy along with Kipnis replacing Orlando Cabrera should take care of most of the bump.  On the other hand, do you think we’re getting 25 home runs from Asdrubal again?  Or 11 (!) from Matt LaPorta?  As a reminder, Casey Kotchman had 10 HR last season, despite amassing nearly 200 more plate appearances than LaPorta.  I’m taking the over, but see the note about February Optimism above.

81.5 – Wins

I wrote earlier this off-season that the Indians scored and allowed runs last season like a 75-win team, not the 80-win team that they ended up as.  The hot start last season, coupled with the years of mediocrity since 2007 might have left us thinking more highly of the Indians than an objective observer should .  I think that’s probably still true.  On the other hand, lots of things went wrong last season to contribute to that bad run differential.  Shin-Soo Choo disappeared.  Grady Sizemore did too.  First base was a black hole.  Carlos Santana’s BABiP was unsustainably low.  Mitch Talbot somehow threw 70 innings with a 6.64 ERA.  Orlando Cabrera existed.  That’s a lot of crummy luck for one team to endure, and if we’re even marginally less decimated in 2012, there’s a decent chance for the team to win 85 games.  You didn’t honestly expect anything else from me, did you?  I’ll take the over.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ WFNYRick

    I’m going to take the over on wins Jon, if for no other reason than I think Ubaldo is going to pitch better, and he makes a great 1,2 punch with Masterson. I think a full year of Kipnis helps as well, and our defense should be improved.

  • Brendan

    1,296 – Matt Underwood mentions of the pitch count

    1,296 – @WFNYTD Call outs of Underwood for incessant and needless pitch count mentions

  • Steve

    I really like the first over/under. It is absolutely imperative for the Indians to hit the over if they expect to contend. The Tigers had ten guys break 100 games last year, and Young played in 40 of 42 after they traded for him. The Tigers also had six guys break 120 games to the Indians two. They also gave 10 starts to just six guys, while the Indians had to give that many to eight pitchers. Health was a huge difference between these two teams last year.

  • Slooz

    I would tend to be optimistic as well (I guess I always am) but particularly this year for two reasons: 1) almost all of our position players plus our pitching staff should perform the same or better than last year, except maybe SS and center field (I still like to think Brantley should improve, as he’s young). 2) Antonetti focused a lot on signing depth and providing insurance against the insane run of bad injury luck we had last year.

    Granted, “should be better” never works out like you think, and the 2011 score differential is concerning, but I think that score differential was so tied to lack of depth and injuries that I can be optimistic here in February. And why not be?
    And given that I really don’t expect the Browns to become serious contenders while Lerner and Holmgren are around (I think Heckert’s drafting will get them to improve to a reasonable record, but Holmgren and Shurmur seem so narrow-minded in their “system” that I can’t help but think they’ll never get that extra edge), I really need a team I can get excited for right now, and its gotta be the Tribe. Though the Cavs could look really good in a year, too, which is exciting.

  • Anonymous

    Man, it seems like the last baseball season ended about 10 months ago. I’m ready already.

  • REEPJP

    I don’t know how to set a line on this, but I see a big contributor to our success as being whether the bullpen is as consistent as it was last year.

    Remember after 2007 everyone was pumped for 2008 with basically the same lineup coming back.  Sure Pronk and Grady have never been the same, but I seem to remember the bullpen being absolutely atrocious and one of the reasons we were so bad. 

  • porkchopxpress

    Getting Fausto would really be big.  Not as a 1 or 2 but his value as an innings eater can’t be overlooked.  If he and Lowe could eat up close to 400 innings it takes wear and tear off the pen and allows them to pitch in their most comfortable roles. 
    Side note, I hope to walk into a barbershop someday and see the Coming to America debate on what to call Fausto.  (His mamma named him Roberto, I’ma call him Roberto)

    I think Santana wasn’t all right last year coming off that leg break in ’10.  Even if it was completely healed, rehab had to mess with his offseason prep.  I think he and Choo have nice bounce back years.

    Laporta?  What of Laporta?  He’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a whiff.  I would not bat an eye if he became the 1st player ever to strike out on an intentional walk.  

    And I’m taking the over on that win total as well.  If our entire team doesn’t go on the DL, and the Tigers don’t get career years from the entire pitching staff we make the playoffs. 

  • porkchopxpress

    What’s the over under on number of holes of golf you can watch during Rain Delay golfing before you decide Jerry Maguire on TNT isn’t such a bad option.  I’m setting the line at 1.2

  • Harv 21

    Things that went unexpectedly right last year that balanced the negative stuff:
    – Jack Hannahan’s clutch hits and overall play. A fringe MLB player close to career’s end. Who wasn’t in the majors the previous year.
    – Masterson. The guy this website was begging to be moved to the pen one summer earlier.
    – Astrubal’s  MVP-caliber portion of the season. Yep, we all saw that coming.
    – Hafner’s power return while he was in there. Ditto.
    – Kipnis.

    The positives and negatives tended to balance out last year.

  • Anonymous

    Agree w everything but “this website…” line. First of all, it’s a webLOG. But seriously, go back and read my stuff. Even at his very worst I was not advocating that move.

  • Jeff D

    1) Hannahan is one of those guys that local fans latch onto and like, but in reality isn’t all that good.  His defense is spectacular (and there’s no reason to think that regresses), but he was a weak offensive player.  Getting league average performance out of our 3B this year (Chiz, hopefully?) would be an improvement.  Or worse case, Hannahan plugs along another sub .700 OPS season with great D (which leaves the team in the same boat as they were last year).

    2) Masterson – Agree.  Not enough history here to say what “guy” he is; the 2011 front-end-of-the-rotation starter, or the 2009-2010 “maybe he’d be better as a bullpen guy”

    3) Agree on Cabrera, though I think he’s closer to the 2011 AC (.273/.332/.460) than the 2010 AC (.276/.326/.346)

    4) Hafner’s OPS the last 3 seasons: .826, .824, .811.  I think that what you saw from him in 2011 is what you get, when he’s healthy.

    5) Kipnis – yeah, he won’t hit HR at the same pace this year, but I’ll still bet that 1 year of Kipnis > 1 year of OC.

  • Anonymous

    Delmon Young would have looked good in an Indians uniform…oops.

  • Harv 21

    Jon, didn’t think it was necessarily you. But it was somebody here in a featured plea, with lots of reader amens, a widely held view late in the ’10 season.

  • Steve

    The one who looks good when he runs into a few pitches? Sure, I guess he’s alright. But the majority of the time hes showing off his lack of glove and ability to get on base.

  • Anonymous

    Can we nickname Masterson “Nasty”? 

  • Anonymous

    The Tribe has a pretty solid roster and defense will be better with Kotchman at 1B and I think Supermannahan starts at 3B (Chiz and LaPorta start in C-bus). AC has stellar D and a decent stick and Kipnis looked good on both ends (until he got hurt for the year). Not to mention we’ll have our entire starting OF (all on DL for half of Aug and all of Sept) and Pronk (him, Grady, and Choo in same lineup for only 17 gms last year). Don’t forget Santana behind the dish, solid rotation (except for #5 spot now but we have options), Bullpen Mafia (core still intact, long spots available), and good bench (Marson can start for half of MLB teams, ditto for Donald but he’s our super-utility possible, Duncan creams lefties but that’s pretty much it, and last spot up for grabs but Duncan and Donald aren’t 100% locks).

  • Anonymous

    I’d have to go with the over on Wins also. All that bad luck with injuries couldn’t happen again could it ?