July 30, 2014

Animated: Carlos Santana’s 5 HR weekend

The Indians lost three of four to the Royals this weekend, which is the bad news.

Carlos Santana is doing this to baseballs though, which is the good news.

Los Weekend

 

That would be five home runs in three games–the first two off fire-baller Yordano Ventura. Santana now leads the team with 20 home runs. Despite an awful first few months of the season, Santana’s combination of patience and power have made him one of the most valuable hitters in baseball since June 1st.

Bauer, Swisher, and a theory on baseball aesthetics

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.

WFNY_roundtable

Craig - I obviously root for anyone wearing an Indians uniform, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Even as a young, impressionable baseball fan, I knew the dangers of standing up for Albert Belle. I cut my teeth as a co-dependent sports fan when I tried to defend Belle’s plastering of Fernando Vina.

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Indians 3, Twins 4: It smelled funny from the start

Photo1

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.

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LeBron James coming home to join the Cleveland Cavaliers

BronHomeThe 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.

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Kluber trailing in All-Star Game Balloting with one day remaining

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.

Here’s the national vote:

AL All Star Voting

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:

Hall_Oates

 

 

The inimitable Josh Tomlin: old dogs, new tricks, and revisited parades

Josh Tomlin

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.
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Indians 5, Red Sox 3: Hot starts, turning corners, and streaking toward .500

Gomes Aviles

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

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The Bullpen Tranche and John Axford’s New Normal

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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...]

Bernie Kosar responds to being replaced, cites concussions for ‘slurred speech’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday 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

Discuss.

[Related: Whither Bernie Kosar]

The Evolution of Michael Brantley

Kipnis and Brantley

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.

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Footnotes:

  1. 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. []

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.

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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.

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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.

Wut

(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.
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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”]