This was not how the Indians front office wanted their team to begin the second half. Entering the break at 51-44 and riding a four-game winning streak, there were high hopes for the immediate future, especially with Minnesota and Seattle the first two teams on deck.
After back-to-back disheartening 3-2 losses at Target Field, the Tribe might have gotten a desperate wake-up call. In the two games, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall has two (nearly three) errors, the Cleveland bullpen has blown it both times and the Indians offense has hardly had any traction against Twins relievers.
Fortunately, the Detroit Tigers also have lost their first two games in Kansas City to start the break. But it hasn’t been pretty for the optimistic baseball fans in Cleveland.
– Target Field woes: In the first inning of last night’s SportsTimeOhio broadcast, they shared a fascinating statistic about Cleveland’s recent struggles at the new park in Minneapolis. Dating back to July 27, 2012, the Indians are 1-8 in their last night contests on the road against the Twins. They won last year’s first two such games, a two-game sweep on May 14-15, then the streak began.
Cleveland pitching stats: 6.35 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, .283 avg, 17/18 steals
Cleveland hitting stats: .171/.266/.254, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 52 left on base, 3/5 steals
Those are some gruesome stats against one of the worst teams in baseball. Obviously, the Indians were dreadful down the stretch last year and these are their first two games at Target Field in 2013, but the numbers are just brutal. The steals, the men left on base and the extent to which Minnesota has simply dominated the team.
There’s a new Cleveland manager and lots of fresh faces in the visiting dugout this time around, but the results have been the same: Disappointing losses that seem too harsh to believe.
– The left-handed reliever issue: TD just wrote about this topic on Friday, yet this series has again made it painfully obvious that this is a series long-term problem for the Indians.
In game one, there was the controversial decision to have set-up man Joe Smith face All-Star lefty-hitting catcher Joe Mauer in the bottom of the eighth inning. There were two outs and a runner on third. The score was tied at 2-2. Struggling lefty Justin Mourneau was on deck, followed by switch-hitting Ryan Doumit. As the story goes, Mauer delivered the RBI single, Mourneau doubles, Doumit was intentionally walked (!!) and then the inning finally ended.
Last night in game two, manager Terry Francona went with his own lefty to even more disastrous results. Rich Hill came in during the bottom of the sixth to face Mauer, Mourneau and Doumit. He quickly walked the first batter and allowed the second one to single to right, making it a tough first-and-third situation. Then, Chisenhall’s throwing error plated the run and kept the inning going, flipping the switch right after the Tribe offense took a 2-0 lead.
On the year, Cleveland lefty pitchers not named Scott Kazmir have a 5.94 ERA with a horrendous mark of 5.1 BB/9. They are not getting the job done and it has cost the team at least a couple wins already. It’s time to try something else rather than just treading out the same replacement-level veterans.
– Salary cap math for 2014: With the ongoing trade talks surrounding the Indians, a Twitter conversation broke out on Friday related to the future salaries owed by the team. It’s often forgotten and misconstrued how the team purposefully spaced out money.
For the bulk of the players on the Cleveland roster, they’re still under cheap team control with their early years or in arbitration eligibility. The team has yet to actually go to a full-blown arbitration case in ages, so no matter what, we’re dealing with cheap labor, which is the most efficient form of baseball production. All that means for those players unlisted is that they’ll be receiving incremental raises, somewhere in the range of $6-10 million total combined1.
Here’s the first crop of players that are signed to various deals extending to at least 2014. All figures listed are in millions and the resource used for the information below is www.baseball-reference.com.
Thus, while only looking at the players making actual money with planned changes in their salary structure in 2014, here are the changes: Add $18.2 million in raises, lose up to $23.65 million in free agents. So while on the surface it might seem easy to just add in salary to replace Jimenez, Myers, et al, it’s not necessarily practical given the raises due for 2014.
That’s also not considering the caveat above of raises to the young talent as players like Jason Kipnis, Chris Perez and Michael Brantley will get their money eventually. The team also will have to fill in the bench again, with minimally paid players Ryan Raburn, Rich Hill and Jason Giambi not listed either.
My point: Unless something drastic happens with Asdrubal Cabrera or Chris Perez, the Indians don’t appear to be players in the 2014 free agency market. Assuming the Dolans have the same general salary number in mind for next year, the players on roster already will be making up the money lost of the team’s free agents. This also affects the team’s ability to go out and grab a Matt Garza, as their 2014 flexibility isn’t all that great.
– Final points: For as back-and-forth as the Indians bullpen has been in 2013, credit is due to at least this one player. He’s allowed just one run in his last 10.0 innings since June 28. He has eight strikeouts against just three walks in those innings, for a pretty 0.90 ERA. His season ERA is now his lowest since 2010. Who is it? That’d be Chris Perez, who has converted seven straight saves since returning from the DL. He’s certainly not the problem right now.
… The Mark Reynolds catastrophe continues. He’s now batting .173/.268/.238 since May 10 after going 0-for-4 in the last two contests, including a brutal pinch-hit ninth-inning strikeout on Friday night. It’s worth repeating: He’s been the worst player in baseball over this stretch. He was slotted at the No. 8 spot in the order on Saturday, yet who knows how much patience manager Terry Francona has anymore for him. He’s been streaky throughout his career, but this is as bad as it gets.
… Francisco Lindor is 5-for-15 with seven walks and five steals in his first five contests with the Double-A Akron Aeros. He received the promotion last week, despite the fact that the organization balked at the move earlier this month. Just 19 years old, his plate awareness is outstanding as he has seven walks and zero strikeouts in 22 plate appearances against the best pitching he’s even seen. His speed isn’t labeled as being elite, but it’s quite good and with his smarts, he should be able to steal 20-30 bases regularly.
AP Photo/Jim Mone
- This is pending any long-term contract agreements that occur in the next few months, such as those rumored for Jason Kipnis or Michael Brantley. [↩]