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)
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.