Beau Mills and his bucking bulls: The Indians scoring 19 runs was not the strangest news I saw yesterday. No, not even close. It began with a pair of tweets from @Indians (here and here) sharing pictures of a young bucking bull named Tuve (after Astros infielder Jose Altuve) that happens to be owned by Indians third-base coach Brad Mills and his son Beau, Cleveland’s 1st-round pick in 2007.
I couldn’t believe it. The Mills family just owns a bull, named it after a Houston player and had it in front of Minute Maid Park on Saturday? So I Googled. And found the Plain Dealer‘s Paul Hoynes’ report from Friday night: It was true. Mills, the 26-year-old first baseman who the Indians pitched away to Cincinnati in June 2012, officially has retired from baseball and is raising several young bulls for a living.
According to the report, the family has owned the bulls for several years and now Beau is raising them full-time. After being a huge disappointment for Cleveland — especially considering he was picked at No. 13, one slot before Atlanta’s Jason Heyward — Mills has already moved on to his next calling.
Brad, who actually managed the Astros for 2.5 seasons from 2010-2012, said this to Hoynes: “He came to me and said, ‘Dad, I’d like to do this.’ I told him, ‘As long as you’re going to give me the best effort and get after it. It’s not going to be easy.’ He’s doing a good job at it.”
So yeah, I’m not even really sure what kind of witty thing to say in response. The photoshop picture above of Tuve and Beau Mills from spring training in 2008 cracks me up every time. And in the end, Beau Mills retiring from baseball and “raising bucking bulls” might be the most Beau Mills thing ever. Wow.
About that rotation: So it’s been pretty clear to Indians fans that the starting pitching is off to a rough start, right? There have been only six quality starts in 16 games (including just two in the last 10). The rotation now owns a AL-worst 5.76 ERA on the season. Yet, only two current starters — Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister — currently own ERAs under 6.50.
It’s been ugly and one thing after another. In chronological order during this weekend in Texas, Brett Myers announced his flexor (right forearm) tendinitis after Friday’s game and is going back to Cleveland for an MRI today. Scott Kazmir pitched his first game in two years on Saturday night, and received plenty of run support, but gave up 7 runs (6 earned) in 3.1 innings. And, of course, Ubaldo Jimenez is now up Sunday afternoon after his latest implosion on the mound.
Yikes. Fortunately, some good news has occurred on the mound recently for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers. Instead of throwing Myers-Kazmir-Carrasco (yuck) during their weekend series, the Clippers were able to showcase Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco in back-to-back nights against the Toledo Mud Hens. Their respective lines:
Bauer on Friday — 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 92 pitches/56 strikes, ND
Carrasco on Saturday — 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 78 pitches/52 strikes, ND
Those are two very impressive performances that were not seen when both pitchers were up in Cleveland already this month. For both, it’s the control that is most significant: Bauer walked seven of his 23 batters in his Indians debut, yet now has just four against 51 batters back in Triple-A; Carrasco then threw 66.7% strikes1 for his most dominant pitching performance in nearly two years.
Are changes then pending for the Cleveland Indians rotation? I’m not certain. Carlos Carrasco would have to serve his 8-game suspension when he returns to the active roster. Brett Myers’ health might necessitate some change in the next few days. And obviously, the Indians are giving Ubaldo Jimenez yet another start today. Should things go haywire again — and I guess we have a decent sample size so far — then this could be his last attempt. Stay tuned folks, but at least we saw some encouraging results down in Triple-A the past two days.
Over in Akron: I’ve written plenty and plenty about the Double-A Akron Aeros over the past few months. In fact, looking at their early-season attendance figures was the main thesis behind this week’s version of The Diff. But today instead, I’ll focus just on the baseball side of things — as that’s probably what Indians fans might be most concerned about.
On Saturday, the Aeros also received a positive pitching performance from top-10 organizational prospect Danny Salazar. A member of the 40-man roster, the 23-year-old Salazar had his best outing of the season yesterday. He allowed just two hits and one walk in 5.0 IP of scoreless baseball. The right-hander struck out nine of the 19 batters he faced. Salazar was promoted to Akron last August, so there’s an outside shot he could find his way to Columbus and then Cleveland by September this year.
On the field overall, the Aeros are only 5-11 this season. It’s been a result of some external factors that I’ll cover in a moment related to their roster and their bullpen. But fortunately, at least Salazar’s not the only recognized prospect proving their worth a little bit on the field.
Jesus Aguilar, a 22-year-old 1B, was a consensus top-10 prospect before 2012, but then tapered off a bit after still not displaying his projected long-term power. He might not ever be a full-time starter in the majors, but he’s carving out a much-needed run-producing niche in the Indians organization. Thus far in 2013, he’s batting .268/.364/.357 with two doubles, one home run and 21 (!!) RBI in 15 games. Obviously, the slugging isn’t elite at all, but the RBI total ranks T-No. 1 in affiliated minor league baseball.
A few final positive notes can also be found in the performances of 1B/DH Chun Chen and LHP T.J. House. Chen is also a former top-10 organizational prospect who has tapered off and now happens to be 24 years old, but is batting .308/.438/.558 in 15 games for the Aeros. He’ll need to keep hitting that consistently if he ever makes it to Cleveland, as he now has 236 games in Double-A under his belt. House, a 40-man 23-year-old who was a 16th-round high school draftee in 2008, struck out nine against two hits in six shutout innings on Tuesday. The Indians always will need lefties (and maybe even in the pen), so keep an eye on his continued performance in Akron.
Overall minor league struggles: As I mentioned above, the Double-A Aeros are 5-11 in the early goings of 2013. The Triple-A Clippers are not that much better at 8-8. While it’s admittedly difficult and often misleading to make long-reaching claims about the win-loss records of minor league baseball teams, these marks do confirm some early-season pessimism that I’ll share more about today.
First, let’s look at the Columbus Clippers lineup. Perfectly, nine players have appeared in 10+ games for the team this year. Here are their last names, as sorted by at bats: Fedroff, Carson, Diaz, Hernandez, Hermida, Hunter, McDade, Rohlinger and Perez.
If you’re a diehard Indians fan, then sure, you probably know about Tim Fedroff and Juan Diaz, who both belong on the 40-man roster. After that, or maybe also including 40-man first baseman Mike McDade and former top-prospect Jeremy Hermida, you probably don’t know much about this name-less crew of starters that manager Chris Tremie is slotting into his lineup every day.
And the numbers back it up. In their 16 games, the Clippers are producing at a .217/.289/.310 offensive clip. They’re averaging only 3.4 runs per contest. They rank in the bottom three of the in the 14-team International League in just about every single offensive category, including only seven home runs.
Next, let’s also take a look at the remainder of the Akron Aeros pitching staff, outside of House and Salazar, the two guys I mentioned above. The other three starters in the rotation are Paolo Espino, Toru Murata and Matt Packer. None of those three have been that bad at all, per se, but they’re also not that noteworthy of prospects. As of now, they’re mostly organizational depth guys.
More egregiously, it’s the bullpen that’s been of concern. In 59.2 IP, the group of 12 other Akron pitchers thus far has allowed 60 runs (50 earned), including 81 hits and 35 walks against 61 strikeouts. Add it all up and you have a 7.54 ERA and 1.94 WHIP for your bullpen after 16 games.
All in all, these few statistics just show an overall concern that I’m sure I’m not alone in expressing: The Indians organization not only lacks elite prospects at the upper-echelons of the minors, but they’re also lacking in recognizable talent and depth too. It’s amazing to see the lineup that’s being trotted out every day for the Clippers as well as the constantly bad results provided by the Aeros bullpen.
Again, this only bears a connection to a WFNY Indians post I wrote last November. Maybe Brad Grant and the current Indians front office truly haven’t figured out their drafting woes (both in elite talent and organizational depth), after all.
Winning percentage by offense: Finally, man, that offensive performance Saturday was fun to take in. Jason Giambi (2-for-5, HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB) and Mark Reynolds (2-for-4, HR, 4 RBI, BB) led the crew, which is a funny statement to me in 2013 when talking about the Cleveland Indians, Overall though, 19-run outbursts don’t happen too often at all, so we really should cherish this.
Now, as the Indians look to take an important third game Sunday against the Astros, I wanted to share some additional research that I mentioned first in yesterday’s recap. What started with my quality start research has now blossomed into an outlook on winning percentage by run production. Looking at the 4,536 games played by AL teams from 2011-2012, here are the final results:
0 runs — 0-278 (.000)
1 run — 44-414 (.096)
2 runs — 143-459 (.238)
3 runs — 234-414 (.361)
4 runs — 346-272 (.560)
5 runs — 335-168 (.666)
6 runs — 229-115 (.722)
7 runs — 264-64 (.805)
8 runs — 185-36 (.837)
9 runs — 147-19 (.886)
10+ runs — 292-8 (.973)
It’s neat to have all of this clearly in one place. For one, I’m most surprised that teams that simply score 4 runs win more than half of their games. I suppose that’s then rational because average offensive performances always will defeat sub-average ones, but it’s still fun to see this clearly.
Again, even through yesterday, the Indians have scored three runs or less in 11/16 contests this season. No matter how many runs the team scores in the other games — be in 19 like on Saturday or 13 like on April 7 — those poor offensive games still are going to hurt quite a bit. It’s a clear corollary to relying too much on the sabermetric Pythagorean expectation and a neat table to save for the future.
With that being said, let’s all watch back and see how Ubaldo Jimenez does today in Houston. As Harv 21 pointed out earlier this week, while you might all be reaching for the bourbon if he struggles again, my coping mechanism will likely just be lots and lots more stats at WFNY.
Photos: Tony Dejak/AP and @Indians on Twitter