Jon is in a bit of a writing rut, so he’s asking the WFNY gang to help him get out of it. After circulating some juicy topics around WFNY Headquarters, Craig said he was interested in talking Trevor Bauer, Nick Swisher, Travis Hafner, and what it means to like some players more than others. So we did that. We’ve got some more of these in the hopper and we’ll try to keep the discussion going in the comments as well.
8:29 PM – We join our heroes in Minneapolis, during the top of the second inning after an uneventful first. Much has been made in the booth of the fact that this is the Indians’ first trip back to Target Field since clinching their 2013 playoff spot. That is somewhat hard to believe. I find it much easier to believe that Roberto Perez just grounded into an inning-ending double play by rolling over on an off-speed pitch from a soft-tossing lefty because that’s JUST HOW WE ROLL.
Which is to say, tonight will be a battle of garbage men. The Indians’ starter—one Glenn Anthony (TJ?) House—has a K% of only 15.2%. Were he qualified he would rank in the bottom 10 in the AL among whiff artists. Meanwhile, Minnesota starter Kris Johnson will be making only his fourth career start in the Big Leagues, and has thus far managed to walk more than a batter every other inning with a fastball velocity just a tick over 90mph. So he’ll probably throw a perfect game against us.
The waiting game is over: LeBron James made his announcement to Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins that he’ll be rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2014-2015 NBA season.
The letter is simply wonderful:
Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.
Corey Kluber is among the five finalists to be added to the AL All-Star roster via fan vote, but so far things aren’t looking great, despite Terry Francona’s best efforts.
Terry Francona sat at computer from 10:30am-4pm (with some interruptions) to vote for Corey Kluber for All-Star Game. "I voted my ass off."
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) July 8, 2014
Here’s the national vote:
Kluber has garnered 11.3% of the vote nationally, which only proves that people haven’t read enough about DIPS, FIP, and the wonders BABiP.
Ohio looks to be well-represented among the Klubots, but the national battle appears to be coming down to Chicago’s Chris Sale and Detroit’s Rick Porcello.
To vote now, visit MLB.com. Also, here’s some inspiration before you go-go. Let’s make this happen:
I try to avoid declaring any one person unique, as such declarations imply there are non-unique people—boring and generic caricatures, leading rote and empty lives. This feels like a nasty thing to say, even only as an implication.
But Josh Tomlin is unique and you are leading a rote and empty life.
Let’s begin with some TOMLINY attributes.
7:00 PM – My daughter is not happy that I’ve chosen to live recap the Indians game rather than Wheel of Fortune, but I’m bigger than her and a little richer so I get to decide. I’M A MAN. I’M FORTY! (But not really.)
That said, diapers, baths and bedtime stories are likely to interfere for these first few innings, so consider yourself forewarned in case I start spouting off about a very hungry caterpillar or some icky poo-poos.
The matchup looks not great: TJ House against Jake Peavy. Then again, the Indians are streaking with the best record in baseball at home. That’s why they play the games, etc.
7:31 PM – It sure didn’t look like a good start, but it somehow turned into one.
To start the game, House lets up a leadoff single to Brock Holt—which sounds like a name in need of a reality television show—and follows it up by hitting Xander Bogaerts in the back to put two on with nobody out. That’s right: of the two names I could have paused over, I eschewed “Xander Bogaerts”; this live-recapping is a delicate art.
Somehow Pedroia, Ortiz and Gomes go down in order to end the threat. Back in the saddle again.
And then? Well, then things go well:
- Bourn single
- Asdrubal single, Bourn to third (hit and run)
- Brantley single, Bourn scores, Asdrubal to second
- Kipnis bunt single, bases loaded
- Lonnie Who Loves Baseball single, Asdrubal scores, bases loaded
This is probably an over-simplification, but I generally put pitchers into something like three categories: (1) I trust that guy; (2) that guy is moderately pitchable and occasionally good, though his flaws can scare me; and (3) that guy is utterly unpitchable in any situation that may determine the outcome of the game.
The trick, of course, is to get as many of the first guys as you can, fill in with the second category on the cheap, and if you need one or two of the third group to eat innings in blowouts, well, ok. After all, David Huff needs to eat too! [Read more...]
Yesterday the Browns and WKYC announced that Bernie Kosar would no longer be the color commentator for Browns preseason games on WKYC. Today, Kosar–by way of Mary Hipp at ThinkMediaStudios–responded. They’re none too happy, it would seem.
I’ll let him tell you:
I was informed yesterday by the Cleveland Browns and WKYC that I have been replaced as a 2014 preseason game day color commentator. I believe that this decision stems from my slurred speech impairment, which is a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL. This is very unfortunate, as I believe my football acumen and ability to describe what is happening on the field, has been well received by Cleveland Browns fans. I love to put the personal touch, pride in the Browns, and pride in our Cleveland community into the broadcast. Being able to share these preseason games with my fellow Cleveland Browns fans is truly one of the remaining joys in my life. I would hope that WKYC would reconsider utilizing my in-game talents and overlook my concussion-induced impairment. I want everyone to know that I still bleed Brown and Orange.
– Bernie Kosar
[Related: Whither Bernie Kosar]
As I have discussed in this space before, my estimation of Michael Brantley has not often aligned with those around me. Where I saw a player failing to live up to his on-base pedigree, others saw someone with innate clutchiness.1 Where I saw a player who seemed to lose his base-stealing ability upon meeting better opponents, others saw a gritty gamer whose presence made the team stronger. Where I saw a below average defensive center fielder, others were relieved finally to be rid of Grady Sizemore’s noodle arm.
Because I was so often on the opposite side of what I considered to be cock-eyed optimism, I was deemed a naysayer. This, to me, wasn’t entirely fair. As I’ve written several times, Michael Brantley is fine just the way he is. He is something like an average, everyday baseball player in the best professional baseball league in the world. Players like that are really valuable, and Cleveland should know, after the disgraces that have been roaming left field since Manny Ramirez left town. There’s nothing wrong with average and there’s nothing wrong with Michael Brantley.
- Look, Brantley has been better in what has generally been termed “clutch situations”. For the record, I’ve never argued that he hasn’t been. For his career, Brantley is a .315/.386/.433 hitter with runners in scoring position. The question isn’t whether, heretofore, he has performed well in high leverage situations (even better than RISP, actually: .343/.409/.429). The question is whether that sample of excellent performance is enough to convince us that what has happened in those clutch situations is repeatable, and not the product of randomness. Brantley has had a total of 210 at bats in what Fangraphs deems “high leverage”. That’s basically a third of a season. Is it unreasonable that a career .277/.331/.386 hitter might have two months of numbers better than that? Not to me, but we’ll fight about clutchiness another day. [↩]
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...]
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.
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:
Last year, Miguel Cabrera in his age 30 season was the best hitter in baseball (wRC+).
— Jon (@WFNYJon) March 27, 2014
In 2006, in his age 29 season, Travis Hafner was the best hitter in baseball. But yes, this is a great idea.
— Jon (@WFNYJon) March 27, 2014
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.
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.
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:
Farrell on Sizemore today: Maybe a little flashback to how good he was. He only knows how to play one way, full out. pic.twitter.com/1BUsLGc1ie
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) March 17, 2014
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...]
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...]
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.
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.
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.
Sources: Teams believe reliever Joaquin Benoit's likeliest destinations are Cleveland, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago Cubs or New York Yankees.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 12, 2013
Meanwhile, Jasyon Stark of ESPN notes that the Indians are one of three teams showing particular interest in starter Shawn Marcum.
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 12, 2013
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.
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 for Kinsler trade has been agreed to. http://t.co/9D3YUw36G5
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) November 21, 2013
Source: Detroit will be sending $30 million to Texas in the Prince Fielder deal.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 21, 2013
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.