What happened is that while we was rakin’ mad wins all up and down the skizzy-schedule—it’s a skizzy-schedule I RESPECT, AND WANT TO PLAY FOR—what happened is that my homeboyz Marky S and the Funky Bunch (GET IT??) up and decided that we was gonna out-and-out RENAME a section of the ballpark, Bro-diddley!!
On the day Tribe top draft pick Clint Frazier makes his pro debut for the Arizona League Indians, he gets even more good news. Baseball America has named Frazier their 2013 High School Player of the Year. The award’s recent winners include Bryce Harper (2009), Mike Moustakas (2007) and Justin Upton (2005).
Frazier hit .485 with 17 home runs, 45 RBIs and 22 stolen bases for Loganville High (GA) before becoming the fifth overall pick in this month’s Rule 4 Amateur Draft. The Indians secured him on June 15 with a $3.5 million signing bonus.
According to Frazier’s twitter account, he will be batting lead-off in tonight’s game against the Arizona League Brewers.
batting lead off for my first pro game today !! ⚾
— Clint Frazier (@CJF19) June 26, 2013
So yeah. Pretty good day, all around.
8:12 PM – Much like Homer’s epic poetry, I’m making a habit of starting these recaps in medias res. Let us pretend that this is a literary gesture toward gravitas rather than a byproduct of a life that frequently intervenes.
Regardless of the cause, I feel that there is some good fortune involved here—good fortune for me, I mean—as I can just copy and paste snippets from Monday night’s recap. The fortune for the team hasn’t been nearly so hot. For instance, just as they did last night, the Royals have another strong pitching performance going while, just as he did last night, Carlos Santana continues to audition convincingly for a position change.
Ubaldo Jimenez has not been remotely sharp, but two more wild pitches past an inept Santana resulted in a two-run third inning for the Royals. The Indians haven’t been able to put together anything resembling a credible threat against Royals starter Ervin Santana, whose no-hitter against the 2011 Indians already seems to be hanging heavy.
So here we sit, heading to the fifth inning with the Tribe trailing 2-0. Muses of Musial: Sing to me of the slow slide of summer. Sing of the disaffection and dissolution of defeat. Sing of the North Shore, and the misery therein.
8:02 PM – The way Carlos Carrasco has been pitching of late, I figured starting a liveblog recap an hour into the game would put us roughly in the bottom of the first inning. But you know what they say about assumptions in the Bible, don’t you? (It’s against it.)
Anyway, Carrasco is working on a perfect game into the fifth inning, while his counterpart James Shields is looking pretty good himself. This game is approaching its halfway point and we’re scoreless.
8:05 PM – Welp. There goes the perfecto. After retiring the first 13 Royals he faced, Carrasco gives up a hard-hit single to Lorenzo Cain to right. Jinxety-Jinxy-Do.
That said, Carrasco is looking sharp—pitching on both sides of the plate with good separation and command. I mentioned this to Craig on Sunday, but I find it odd how quickly the rotation seemingly has been converted from contact-groundball types to power-strikeout-flyball guys. Corey Kluber, Scott Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco and Zach McAllister are all guys who get it up in there in the mid-90s and induce lots of swings and misses. We’ve come a long way from 2009, when Jeremy Sowers had the single worst swinging-strike rate of any pitcher in Major League baseball. In fact, let’s look a quick chart of the Indians starting pitchers over the last five years. [Read more...]
As surprising as the Indians off-season spending spree was, I still think the club’s basic strategy is unchanged: develop a young core of players internally and dip into free agency when you need it. It just so happened that they needed a lot of help this past off-season, and there was a bit of a perfect storm of available money, available talent, and a protected draft pick.
More often than not though, that sort of approach isn’t going to happen here. Mostly, the team is going to have to sink or swim with players who come up through the system. That’s why, of course, they have to draft well and lead the way in the international amateur market—to make up for what will often be paltry free agency spending.
And while developing good major leaguers is a wonderful thing, it’s also nice to have a front office that has some strategy for keeping them beyond their first six or so seasons (MLB players cannot elect free agency until they’ve served six years). The Indians teams of the 1990s were largely built around GM John Hart’s ability to lock up his young talent beyond those first six years, and it’s become clear that Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro learned their lesson.
The problem over the last several years hasn’t been that the Front Office doesn’t recognize the sound strategy of locking up young, core players to affordable contracts; it’s that there just haven’t been a lot of players worth investing in. After all, do you want a cost-controlled Matt LaPorta for the next five years? How about Lou Marson for a few million? Maybe I could interest you in a late-model David Huff or Jeremy Sowers? [Read more...]
We should have known that strange times were in store on Friday evening when, after being delayed by two hours, the Indians allowed the game to begin before succumbing to a second rain delay just ten minutes later. Perhaps this was the plan of the crafty Tribesmen, thinking that their starter, Corey Kluber, wouldn’t be able to match up against the Rays young ace Matt Moore. Perhaps the Indians thought they had a better shot throwing their bullpen against that of the Rays, who are sporting an ugly 4.25 ERA on the season, good for 13th out of 15 AL teams? Get both starters out early, and steal game one with a strong bullpen effort?
Except the Indians don’t really have a good bullpen this season. [Read more...]
As you’ll certainly note, this is neither a TD-recap nor a live-blog recap, which means we’re treading in dangerous, deep and foreign waters. In an attempt at brevity and concision, allow me the crude crutch of numerically ordering my thoughts on the Indians 7-1 victory over the intrastate Reds last night.
1. Of the game’s 17 half innings, only one deserves any specific mention: in the bottom of the fourth, the Indians did something pretty fascinating. Here’s the inning:
- Asdrubal Cabrera hit by pitch (0 outs)
- Nick Swisher strikes out looking (1 out)
- Carlos Santana singles; Cabrera to second (1 out)
- Mark Reynolds strikes out swinging (2 outs)
- Michael Brantley singles; Cabrera scores (2 outs)
- Yan Gomes singles; Santana scores (2 outs)
- Ryan Raburn doubles; Brantley scores (2 outs)
- Michael Bourn doubles; Gomes and Raburn score (2 outs)
- Jason Kipnis singles; Bourn scores (2 outs)
- Asdrubal Cabrera doubles; Kipnis scores (2 outs)
- Nick Swisher flies out (3 outs)
That’s six consecutive two-out, RBI hits, accounting for all seven Indian runs. I don’t feel like looking up the last time that happened, but it seems likely to me that this is somewhat rare (Editor’s note: It is rare. Very rare). Also notable that Nick Swisher made two of the innings three outs. That guy really sucks, huh?
You probably won’t be surprised when I tell you who the best hitter in the American League has been so far this year. 1
(Oh. You should probably read the last footnote if you care about how we’re defining “best hitter”.)
Anyway, the best hitter in the American League so far this season has been Miguel Cabrera, and if that surprises you then you should come over here so I can hit you in the nose with my ballpeen hammer. For the last decade, Cabrera has enjoyed a sustained and consistent excellence that has only been bested in my lifetime by Albert Pujols’ reign in St. Louis and the late-stage Barry Bonds. 2
- We’re going to define “best hitter” using a stat called Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). Basically, we’re park- and league-adjusting a player’s value, using linear weights. If you like wOBA (and if you don’t you’re a communist), then you should love wRC+. [↩]
- I know and you know that Barry Bonds took great big barrels full of steroids. But let’s go way back in time here. Let’s go all the way back to 1992, back when Barry Bonds looked more like Sammy Davis Jr. rather than Dwayne Johnson. From 1992 to the end of his career, guess how many times Barry Bonds had an OPS below 1.000. Go on, guess.
Once, in 2006, when it was .999. One year out of 16, and it was still excellent. A .999 OPS would currently be good for 10th place in all of baseball—and that’s the worst year of Bond’s 16-year stretch. That guy was freaking amazing. [↩]
7:33 PM – A bit late getting started here, but luckily we haven’t missed much. Through two innings, both Zach McAllister and Tommy Milone are perfect.
7:35 PM – Oh look. Mike Aviles is playing left field tonight. That’s weird.
I remember thinking when they traded for Aviles that it was all but certain that Asdrubal would be traded and that Aviles would become our starting short stop. That obviously would’ve downgraded our infield: even if you think Cabrera isn’t a great fielder it’s pretty evident he’s a much better hitter than Aviles.
But I remember thinking to myself, Hey self: we could really use some starting pitching on this team, and if trading your starting SS with two years left on a contract that isn’t necessarily cheap would give us a real #2 starter or a young SP stud to dream on I’d probably do it. It’s not like our system lacks for impact SS prospects and it’s also not like Asdrubal is likely to stay in Cleveland beyond 2014 and it’s also not like we have any better trade chips right now and it’s also not like some of the bigger payroll teams don’t have gaping holes at SS right now.
Last night Mark Reynolds got hit near the head by a Jarrod Parker pitch in the first inning. It didn’t make him happy, so he did this to a baseball later in the evening:
Reynolds called the home run (and we can assume the subsequent stare down and bat flip) the “coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
There were not many sure things coming out of this off-season. Maybe Michael Bourn would age gracefully or maybe he’d become Juan Pierre. Maybe Justin Masterson would wrangle some control and be a front-end option or maybe he’d fall apart with his ongoing struggles against left handed batters. Maybe Jason Kipnis would take the next step to developing into a power-speed second baseman or maybe he’d languish with a sub-.720 OPS for two straight years, reminding us all of that Josh Barfield jersey we burned last decade.
But one thing we were all sure of: Mark Reynolds would strike out. A LOT.
Among players with more than 1,500 plate appearances, Mark Reynolds led the known universe in strikeout percentage from 2009-2012, managing to K in nearly 33% of his plate appearances. Over that four year span, he struck out 790 times in just over 2400 plate appearances—averaging just a hair under 200 Ks per season. The only other player to strikeout in more than 30% of his appearances was Adam Dunn, who could at least make up for his whiffs with a remarkably patient batting eye (15.2% BB-rate, compared to 12.7% for Reynolds). [Read more...]
Lost in the shuffle of the Indians’ offensive prowess over the last few games is that they’ve been doing it without their table-setter and $48 million man, Michael Bourn.
Bourn suffered a lacerated finger after being unceremoniously trampled on by White Sox reliever nearly three weeks ago. After hitting the DL and eventually having his stitched removed last week, Bourn is evidently still not ready and there is no timetable for his eventual return. According to Jordan Bastian, he has not yet been cleared to take batting practice either.
Bourn (R. index finger) still hasn’t taken live BP & there remains no clear timetable for when he’ll begin Minors rehab.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 1, 2013
Drew Stubbs has been manning CF in Bourn’s stead, and has a .253/.315/..361 line. That’s not great, but so long as the middle of the lineup hits like they have been, no one’s going to notice much.
8:01 PM – I just learned that today is Terry Francona’s birthday. Hours before, I heard that it’s also Jack Nicholson’s birthday. What a small world! I can only imagine the fun those two might have at a birthday party together, what with all of the chewing tobacco and nubile feminine attention. Sounds like a good time. You know what else sounds like a good time? Live blog recap! That’s what.
8:45 PM – Speaking of young ladies, my four month old daughter has occupied the last 44 minutes of this recap, giving me a look of suspicion that I can only interpret as: I know that you have no milk, Dad. And I’m going to hold that against you until I’m thirty-seven.
In the midst of my insufficient parenting/lactating, the Indians managed to scratch across a run in the top of the second on a flare off Lonnie Chisenhall’s bat that scored Jason Giambi from second. The White Sox followed suit in the bottom of the second with a leadoff HR from Conor Gillaspie, who is not, as I assumed, a fictional pub owner from James Joyce’s Dubliners, but a real-live Chicago White Sock with a uniform and everything.
After 2 innings, it’s 1-1 and I’m still getting back in the saddle. [Read more...]
Every year, whether he has a difficult April (like last year) or a fabulous one (like 2011) I find myself poring over his stat line to see if anything remarkable has changed. More often than not, I end up concluding the same thing each year: he’s a good pitcher who—as most non-strikeout pitchers do—relies heavily on the random distribution of his batted balls. The things he can control—like strikeouts, walks, and to some degree home runs—suggest that he’s a completely competent starting pitcher. Not one who you’d necessarily call an “ace”, but not someone who belongs in the bullpen as so many people preached back in his miserable 2010 campaign.
And now that he’s off to another great start (3-0, 0.41 ERA), I figured I’d check again, just to see if anything looks a bit different over these first 22 innings of 2012. [Read more...]
It’s almost here, you guys. One more day. But before each new Indians season starts, I like to indulge my crippling gambling addiction by setting fake lines for the Tribe and then wagering fake money on one side or the other. Last season, I broke about even, but much like the team itself, I think this year will be different. TD will have a more organized set of predictions tomorrow from the whole gang, but for now, let’s make some fake prop bets.
169.5 Team Home Runs – Believe it or not, hitting 170 home runs would likely still result in a below average performance in the American League. Last season, eight of the 14 AL teams hit at least 175 HRs, led by the Yankees with 245. The issue, of course, is that the Indians were woefully under-resourced from a power perspective last season, launching only 136 long balls as a group—with 28 of those coming from players who are no longer on the roster, in Shin-Soo Choo (16) and Travis Hafner (12). After losing those two, is it reasonable to think the Indians will boost their home run total year-over-year by 40? [Read more...]
I’ll get to some actual predictions later this week, but today I thought I’d share with you some stat-lines I’ll be paying extra close attention throughout this year. Think of these as “leading indicators” for how successful each player’s season might be.
Michael Brantley’s On-Base Percentage – Given that he’s been in Cleveland since 2009, it’s pretty easy to forget that Michael Brantley is still fairly young. Younger than Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana and Justin Masterson. In fact, the only position player expected to see any regular playing time who’s younger than Brantley is Lonnie Who Loved Baseball, who can barely grow an awesome handlebar mustache. I guess I just want to point out that any criticisms of Brantley need to be tempered by his obvious though easily forgotten youth.
On the other hand, he’s not twelve. Michael Brantley will turn 26 in May, and it’s time for him to demonstrate the OBP skill that made him such a valuable prospect in the first place. For his minor league career, Brantley had a .388 OBP across nearly 2,500 plate appearances. So far in the Big Leagues, he’s at only .329. For reference, in 2012 .388 would’ve placed Brantley fifth in the AL in OBP, behind Miguel Cabrera; .329, on the other hand, is right around league average. Of course, it’s harder to get on base in the Show than it is in the Minors, but if Brantley isn’t going to hit for power (career SLG% .376) or contribute strong defense at a position of need (adequate defensive LFers grow on trees), then he’s going to have to get better at not making outs. Or he’ll be out of a job. [Read more...]
According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Asdrubal Cabrera injured a muscle in his back in the batting cage this morning and was subsequently scratched from the lineup for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Chicago Cubs. Manager Terry Francona indicated that Cabrera would be out of the lineup both Sunday and Monday, but given that back injuries often linger, there obviously is no guarantee the injury will be healed by then.
Cabrera’s injury evidently threw a wrench into Francona’s plan to debut his Opening Day roster this afternoon against the Cubs. Mike Aviles will replace Cabrera, resulting in the following lineup:
Cabrera Aviles (6)
The Indians currently have at least nine starting pitching candidates for their rotation, depending on how and whom you count. There are the three guys pretty much guaranteed a solid rotation spot out of the gate, in Masterson, Jimenez and Myers. There are the two at the back-end who have considerable chance of being bounced around as the season develops in McAllister and Kazmir. And then there are at least four more guys who could be in the picture this year in some fashion, depending on need and injury, in Carrasco, Bauer, Matzusaka, and Kluber. 1
I’m not sure how exactly this compares to other teams or across other years, but to me, this feels like more starting pitching depth than we’ve had going into any season I can remember. All nine of those guys have started games in the Major Leagues, so it’s not like I’m reaching deep into the depths of the farm system to come up with names. We have quite a few arms to mix and match throughout the year, and that’s never a bad thing. There will be injuries and sub-par performances that will have to be negotiated, and it’s always better to have more options than fewer. [Read more...]
- I’m not counting David Huff or Josh Tomlin for obvious reasons, but I guess in a sense they’re part of this depth too. [↩]
For the last several years the Indians have sported one of the youngest teams in the Major Leagues.1 This youth-movement was more effect than cause; trading off a team’s major league assets in the hopes of rebuilding necessarily results in a young Major League roster. Couple that with an almost ritualistic (and rational—considering their place on the win-curve) aversion to dabbling in the free agency market, and the Indians played with a day-in, day-out roster that wouldn’t be winning any inter-squad beard-growing competitions, if you get my drift.
Perhaps it is in my nature to be carried along by circumstance, but I often found myself heralding younger players throughout this period—defending them from imaginary criticisms lobbed by no one in particular. Younger players are more exciting than those old, broken down free agents, dontcha know? They generate more wins for less money than anyone! And did I mention the prospects? MY GOD THE PROSPECTS!! How lucky we all are to live in this Land O’ Cleve, and witness the youngest and most exciting team around! [Read more...]
- Averaging baseball-reference’s BatAge and PitchAge—an admittedly crude estimate—suggests that since the beginning of the 2008 season, only three teams have been younger: the Oakland A’s, the Kansas City Royals, and the Florida South Beach Marlins of Miami. I’ll put the full table beneath this article for your enjoyment, because, well, I like you, man. [↩]
I’m going to be honest with you: I have my misgivings about advanced defensive metrics—especially those that are publicly available to schmoes like you and me. 1 It’s not that I think the methodology behind these stats is flawed or that the approach itself is a silly one—it’s just that all these metrics seem a bit too reliant on two somewhat flimsy inputs.
First, there is the simple problem of sample size: it is unlikely that a single player will accrue enough defensive opportunities on different sorts of batted balls in a given year to give us a realistic impression of what his actual skills are. It’s been said that you need three years of defensive data—I assume playing almost every day—to make up for this paucity. [Read more...]
- Craig just got back from the Sloan Analytics Conference, and I’m dying to talk to him about it. One item I’m hoping to discuss is the movement toward proprietary, team-housed analytics, especially in regard to defensive valuations in baseball. This is where it’s going, methinks. There was a decade or so where the schmoes were outsmarting the teams, but I’m pretty sure that’s over now. They’ve bought out the geniuses and their IP, and moved it behind closed doors. The “Moneyball Era” was exciting. But let’s face it: it’s over. [↩]