April 19, 2014

The Tribe rotation and its (early) noisy signals

Danny SalazarHave you heard that it’s early yet and you shouldn’t make too much of small sample sizes?

Well, it is!  And you shouldn’t!

But not making a big deal out of stuff doesn’t pay the bills around here, so we’re going to do it anyway, suckers.

The Indians rotation has been, for lack of better phraseology, somewhat unique this season.  On the one hand, they’re striking people out like crazy: the Indians are the only AL rotation striking out more than a batter per inning pitched (9.87 K/9). That’s really saying something, considering where this rotation has been over the last several years.  From 2009-2012, the Indians’ starting staff had the second lowest swinging strike rate among starting pitchers in the American League and the worst strikeout rate (K%) in all of baseball over that same period.  The gradual progression of Justin Masterson, the breakout of Corey Kluber, and the arrival of Danny Salazar—not to mention the decision to go with Carrasco over Tomlin—have effectively transformed a group contact pitchers into a group whiff artists.  We can discuss some other time why I think this is a good thing, but for now let’s just agree that at least it’s not a bad thing. [Read more...]

Setting the lines on the 2014 Indians

Michael Bourn

It’s that time of year again! The time when Jon makes up fake gambling lines for the upcoming Indians season and then makes foolish fake prop bets on them.

As a reminder, I make stuff up, then make up more stuff, then after the season we see how I did at making stuff up.  Waste of time? Or INCREDIBLE WASTE OF TIME?  Let’s get to it. [Read more...]

Tigers sign Miguel Cabrera to record-setting contract extension

Someday it will stop snowing, and someday Mike Ilitch will die.

But until then, the Detroit Tigers are going to spend money without regard to their (or anyone else’s) reality.  After failing to extend Max Scherzer last week, the AL Central rival Tigers decided to make two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera the highest paid player in the history of baseball, with an eight year extension through the 2023 season valued at $292 million.

But Jon, you say, eight years would only take Cabrera through the 2021 season! You’re a stupid person at numbering and counting things!

Touche, kind sir or madam.  But this deal is a contract extension that doesn’t even kick in for another two years–until after the 2015 season.  This may remind you of the Ryan Howard debacle of an extension from a few years back.  It reminded me of someone else entirely:

This contract may end up biting Detroit in the rump–in fact, it probably will.  There was little reason to lock up a player at a premium price when there was still two years to determine whether Cabrera’s body would age like a Cabernet or a Cabriolet.

On the other hand, the best team in baseball–who just happens to be a division rival–just locked up it’s best player until I turn 42 years old. It’s pretty hard to feel anything but disgust with that sentence.

Framing the Debate: Moving Carlos Santana off Catcher

Carlos Santana debut

I’ve long been an advocate of the offensively inclined catcher.  This, I tend to think, is not the most radical stance I’ve ever taken. Those who disagree find themselves in the awkward position of saying they’d rather not field a catcher capable of an .850 OPS who can hit 25 home runs a year.  That’s not a particularly winning argument.

[Read more...]

Picture: Grady Sizemore flashback

Maybe you got rich betting against Grady Sizemore’s comeback these last few years. I just got sad.

But a reinvigorated Sizemore is battling for the centerfield vacancy in Boston with Jackie Bradley Jr. Apparently, he’s making an impression on Red Sox skipper (and Cleveland aficionado!) John Farrell:


The Plexiglas Principle and the 2014 Indians

Francisco Lindor

What does 2014 have in store for the Tribe?

Measuring the degree of one’s own homerism is a difficult and never-ending task.  You never quite know whether what you believe about your favorite team is being overly colored by your desire to actually believe it, especially in the midst of never-ending winter.  And yet I feel that, on the whole, I’m a relatively rational and objective person as far as sports fans go—I’m not deluded like those troglodytes who follow those other teams.  I’m a sabermetrician, for goodness sakes!  I CAN ADD THINGS WITH EXCEL!  On the other hand, I’ve talked myself into believing in too many losers to trust my first instinct.  David Huff is quite decidedly not Cliff Lee.  Matt LaPorta will not become Ryan Braun.  All that glitters…

Anyway, there comes a time every spring when we get to calibrate our internal expectations against a somewhat objective barometer: the over-under odds coming out of Las Vegas.  Every year I tell myself not to get over-excited by these things, and every year I end up feeling blindsided by them. [Read more...]

Michael Brantley’s Contract Extension: A Good Man is Hard to Find

Michael Brantley

I am known throughout my office as the guy who doesn’t like Michael Brantley. This despite the fact that I TOTALLY LIKE MICHAEL BRANTLEY.  I was ecstatic when he was included in the CC Sabathia trade, and I followed his rise through the minors as closely as any Indian I can recall.  His ceiling—a plus defender with elite on-base skills and game-changing ability on the bases—is exactly the sort of under-appreciated player I’ve been championing for most of my writing career.  There’s value to be had in a player like Michael Brantley.  And at the risk of sounding too much like my Mom, he seems like awfully nice young man.

So why have I been labelled a doubter?  [Read more...]

My Cleveland Sportsman of 2013: Mickey Callaway

Mickey Callaway, miracle worker (Associated Press)

Mickey Callaway: Not a miracle worker, but pretty darn close
(Associated Press)

Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year is an annual must-read. Given that the national recognition rarely has anything to do with the teams or individuals whom we cover. In turn, WFNY will soon announce its choice for 2013′s Cleveland Sportsman of the Year. Here’s one of the nominations for that honor by an WFNY writer.

[Read more...]

Tribe Makes the Playoffs on a 10-Game Winning Streak — WFNY Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories: No 1

If you thought that 2012 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2013 proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, and appearances in postseasons and courtrooms. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last five years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the ten biggest sports stories to grace our local sports scene over the last 12 months. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. Do enjoy.


(Editor’s note: This list was compiled prior to this weekend’s firing of Browns first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski. For any of WFNY’s thoughts on this understandably huge story, please click here, here or here. We appreciate your understanding.)

In Cleveland, stars don’t align.  They leave town. They fade away.  They become black holes of wasted potential and frustration.  But they don’t align.
[Read more...]

MLB Rumors: Indians possible destination for Joaquin Benoit and Shawn Marcum

As MLB’s Winter Meetings wind down, the Indians have been mentioned as possible landing spots for two free agent pitchers. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Cleveland is one of five teams likely to land reliever Joaquin Benoit, whose closer role in Detroit will likely be subsumed by Joe Nathan in 2014.

Meanwhile, Jasyon Stark of ESPN notes that the Indians are one of three teams showing particular interest in starter Shawn Marcum.

Marcum is coming off a rather severe injury that significantly limited his performance in 2013 with the New York Mets, but could represent the sort of “bounce back” rotation role that Scott Kazmir personified last season.

More if/when/as this develops.

[Related: Francona on Masterson: “He’s not going anywhere”]

MLB News: Tigers, Rangers Swap All-Stars – Fielder for Kinsler

The AL Central Champion Detroit Tigers made waves in the baseball world tonight by sending Prince Fielder and $30 million to the Texas Rangers in exchange for All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler.  Heyman had it first, but the details trickled in from everywhere after that.

Fielder still has seven years and $168 million left on his contract  ($24 million per season through 2020), while Kinsler will make $57 million through the 2017 season.

The move addresses several critical needs for the division-rival Tigers, perhaps foremost among them allowing the defensively challenged MVP Miguel Cabrera to move to first base permanently. Moving Cabrera across the diamond would open third base for uber-prospect Nick Castellanos to vie for Rookie of the Year honors in 2014. Additionally, the move should free up enough cash for Detroit to make a serious run at extending Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to a long-term contract, which would establish Detroit’s rotation as the best in baseball for years to come.

Finally, let’s not leave out the fact that Detroit also added an All-Star second baseman–a position of significant need over the last several years.

It’s hard to look at this move as anything but a net win for the Tigers.  GM Dave Dombrowski managed to address a position of need while extracting maximum value out of a contract that was starting to look like a bit of an overpay.

Goodnight, Sweet Prince.


MLB News: Jimenez rejects offer, Indians likely to receive compensatory pick

As expected, Ubaldo Jimenez did not accept the Indians’ qualifying offer of $14.1 million for the 2014 season.  He had until today at 5 p.m. EST to accept the offer, and he will now become a free agent.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Indians will receive a compensatory pick in the June 2014 draft if Jimenez signs as a free agent with any other club, which is highly likely. Jimenez is viewed as one of the premier starting pitchers on the free agent market, after a stellar second half in 2013.

[Related: The Diff: Indians offseason, 2014 salary and contention windows]

Ubaldo Jimenez voids 2014 option, becomes free agent

According to the Cleveland Indians, the team exercised their $8 million 2014 club option on starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. Having the right to void, Jimenez did such and is now a free agent.

Jimenez’s contract, acquired from the Colorado Rockies in a July 2011 trade, initially outlined the 2014 year as a club option, meaning the Indians could choose to exercise it or not. But upon completion of the deal, the 2014 option became mutual, allowing either side to opt out.  The Indians exercised their portion, but Jimenez and his agent evidently recognized that free agency will likely result in a multi-year contract with far more guaranteed money.

The Indians still have the opportunity to extend a qualifying offer to Jimenez—a one year deal worth roughly $14 million.  Were Jimenez to reject such a deal and leave via free agency (a highly likely scenario), the Indians would receive draft pick compensation in the 2014 Rule 4 draft next summer.

Jimenez’s tenure in Cleveland was largely disappointing, despite excellent 2013 numbers down the stretch in the playoff push.  In parts of three seasons, he went 26-30 with a 4.45 ERA.

[Related: Brian Sabean messed it up for the rest of us]

Revisiting Preseason Predictions for the 2013 Indians

Jason Giambi

Before every baseball season I like to make a bunch of predictions and fake prop bets about the upcoming year, and after each year ends, I like to circle back around and check on how I did.

This is a somewhat excruciating exercise for at least two reasons.  First, I’m not very good at gambling, and these follow-up posts serve as evidence to be used against me anytime my wife and I find ourselves in Vegas and I ask for permission to sit at a table for an hour.  Second, I’m reminded of how silly predictions are at all.  Below, you’re going to read about a bunch of things that I  thought would be keys to the 2013 season.  And somehow, you’re not going to read a whole lot about Yan Gomes and Ryan Raburn, two of the team’s four most valuable players.  That’s the nature of prognostication, I suppose.  Not just that we’ll be wrong about the answers, but that we’ll have been so wrong about the questions.

None of this, by the way, will prevent me from doing this all again, ad infinitum, until the warm earth receives me.  Below are the bets and how we did.

[Read more...]

Preparing Myself for Playoff Baseball

The Snowdens of Yesteryear

The Snowdens of Yesteryear

I’ve joked throughout the year that Cleveland’s luck would be to field a great, fun, competitive baseball team that even went so far as to make the AL Wild Card game, only to come up agonizingly short.  Following a script we’ve all read before, they’d lose the play-in game in some nut-punching fashion, fans would argue about whether or not the team had “REALLY made the playoffs”, in-fighting and finger-pointing would begin, and we’d once again be back where we always seem to get with this baseball team.  A good story, but not good enough.  A smart front office, but not smart enough.  Just not enough, never has been and never will be.

[Read more...]

Indians Clinch 1st AL Wild Card, Win 10th Straight

92 Wins, just like we all predicted.

The Cleveland Indians won their last 10 games of the season to finish the season 92-70 and clinch the first AL Wild Card spot.  They finish one game back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.

The Indians will host either the Tampa Bay Rays or the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night for a one-game play-in chance to face the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.

Ubaldo Jimenez was spectacular, striking out 13 Twins through 6.2 IP. Justin Masterson pitched the last five outs of the game.  Nick Swisher homered in the first.  It was, to be brief, glorious.

October baseball.  Holy cow, you guys. Holy cow.

Indians 7, White Sox 2: On Believing, Not Stopping

steveperry7:07 PM – Last night I joked on Twitter that while I’ve been pining for meaningful September baseball for five solid years, I wasn’t sure I was ready for baseball quite that meaningful.

And yet I spent the entire day waiting for this game to start, nervously turning over the word “playoffs” in my mind. It’s September 25th. The Indians are in control of their post-season destiny with a young ace on the mound, a walk-up infused crowd of 30,000+, and a clubhouse that is dripping with electricity. This is the last home game of the season, and yet I’ve got tickets with my name on them for a week from today. Life is good.

7:32 PM – After a scoreless first inning from both Salazar and Axelrod, Avisail Garcia leads off the second with an absolute bomb to left center field to put the White Sox up 1-0. [Read more...]

Royals 7, Indians 1: On and On it Goes, Chances Everywhere

cleveland-indians-v-kansas-city-20130917-021759-1748:18 PM – It’s been about two weeks since I wrote my post mortem on the Indians 2013 season—about how they always come up short and how I should’ve seen it coming.  Since then, of course, the North Shore Kids have put together a nice stretch of baseball while the two teams ahead of them in the race have fallen on tough times.  As a result, with a win tonight against the Kansas City Royals the Indians will move into sole possession of one of the two AL Wild Card spots (as Tampa Bay and Texas are playing each other, so unless I’m missing something, one of them is going to lose).

Swisher and Santana get to second and third base with two outs, but  Brantley grounds out to first to end the threat.  You hate to see any chances squandered against a pitcher of James Shields’ caliber.  Kazmir’s turn to hold serve, and we’re off.

8:36 PM – The Royals take the early lead on a combination of some bad defense, a tight strike zone, and a couple of hard hit balls.  With that combination, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t worse. [Read more...]

Indians 4, Orioles 3: On the Verge of Losing It

Ubaldo Jimenez8:06 PM – We pick this one up in the bottom of the fourth, because that’s what time my daughter goes to sleep now.  She usually wakes up in the thirteenth inning or so, so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Anyway, the game is scoreless, as both Ubaldo and the Orioles’ starter Chris Tillman have looked sharp so far.

8:12 PM – After Kipnis and Santana draw back-to-back walks to lead off the inning, Michael Brantley drops a sacrifice bunt to move them over.  Normally, I HATE this play.  It’s early in the game and you’ve got the middle of your lineup coming up.  But with the way this offense has been stumbling around these days?  I guess I can live with it.  Still, it seems either remarkably optimistic or incredibly sad to be playing for one run in the fourth inning.  Equal parts optimism and sadness….yep, THAT’S US!!

8:18 PM – And one run is exactly what they get.  Cabrera lifts a sacrifice fly to score Kipnis, but after an intentional walk to Kubel, Gomes goes down swinging to end the inning.

8:25 PM – Ubaldo cruises through the top of the fifth. He’s allowed three hits, struck out four and (most importantly) hasn’t walked a batter. [Read more...]

Among the Ruins: The Indians’ Collapse and Looking Forward

Minnesota Twins v Cleveland IndiansIt’s a cliché largely because it’s so true: baseball is a game of failure. Even the best hitters make outs sixty percent of the time. Pitcher skill is approximated by measuring degrees of incompetence (earned runs allowed). All but one team goes home a loser each year. The game is designed to hurt us, and it’s not letting down Cleveland fans this year.

After losing five of six to the Braves and Tigers, on Monday, the Indians lost again to Baltimore in disheartening fashion. The loss dropped them to 8.5 games out of the Division lead and 3.5 games out of a play-in wild card berth. There are now five teams ahead of them competing for just two wild card spots. Oh, and they lost their best pitcher to what sounds an awful lot like an oblique strain. Baseball Prospectus currently has the Indians’ playoff odds at about 11.6%1, but I have to admit that sounds a tad high. Things are going badly.

For whatever reason though, I’m feeling more hopeful about this team’s long-term prospects than I have those in the past. [Read more...]



  1. Per Baseball Prospectus. []