July 30, 2014

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.

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...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Per Baseball Prospectus. []

Searching for perspective on the 2013 Indians

what-if-we-die1For all the bluster in Cleveland about stick-to-it-ive perseverance, we’ve become fairly adept at pre-baking narratives of defeat into our sports fandom. Each year, and in every sport, we eventually get ourselves to the same point: The recognition that the team we are watching is not good enough, and that we should’ve seen it sooner than we did. Sucker-punched yet again by training camp kool-aid and spring training storylines. Repeat this loop of failure long enough and you get a group who is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. We replace hoping for the best with fearing for the worst with plain old awaiting the implosion. To be fair, we usually get it, so at least we look prescient when all’s said and done.

In football, there’s the mid-October mass-realization that—despite the biennial front-office and roster makeover—we are again watching what is essentially a five-win team.1 In the NBA, there’s the initial bargaining of “but this is only the second-third first year after Lebron left” coupled with the notion that “if only that guy who always gets injured didn’t get injured we could be a .500 team!” But eventually the reality sets in that the team is still at least another year and star away from anything resembling competence.2 And in baseball, we’ve been let down by the Indians in one way or another every year since at least the 1994 players strike, though we could certainly go back further if we felt like it. The Indians’ failures—both the nationally televised heart-crushing ones like blowing the World Series or a three-game lead in the ALCS as well as the banality of their recent August swoons—have become a part of us. It’s not if they’ll blow it, but how and when.

[Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. I used to live on West Ninth St. and, week after week, I’d sit on my balcony and watch the fans leave the stadium. Week 1’s, “Hey, they’re not half-bad!” turns into Week 6’s “I was right—they’re all bad!” pretty quickly. Hey, at least everyone was drunk! []
  2. This is to say nothing of the failures leading up to and including The Decision™. []

Indians 6, White Sox 1: You can bring your green hat!!

That's So RaburnI didn’t get to watch the Indians sweep the White Sox on Thursday afternoon.  In fact, I only got to hear a little bit of it between meetings, so rather than give you a traditional blow-by-blow, I thought we’d talk about a few big takeaways as the Indians extend their win streak to eight games and come roaring into August with sole possession of a playoff spot.

Justin Masterson is looking pretty ace-y. I’ve written on more than one occasion that our rotation is somewhat unique in that it has a lot of good pitchers, but no great ones.  Most teams have a descending rotation wherein, perhaps, the second best guy is 10% worse than the ace and so on.  I’ve argued that the Indians effectively have five (or six or seven) starters who are all completely capable, above average pitchers, but none of whom can dominate.  In other words, I’ve argued they are “aceless”.

But I may be changing my mind, because Justin Masterson is slowly reinventing himself this season, and you’d have to be willfully blind not to see it.  [Read more...]

Indians 6, White Sox 5: ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

Carlos Santana - Dejak AP8:08 PM – It’s far too late to consider this a live blog recap per se. I remember the salad days of this Indians team, back when I could count on the starting pitching being so terribly inefficient that I could sit down an hour or so into the game and we’d be in the top of the second. No more—not with this staff and not with Corey Kluber throwing darts. So what’s good news for the rotation is inevitably bad news for my ability to live-blog. I tend to think this is more than worth the tradeoff for most of you.

Whatevs. We pick this one up in the bottom of the fourth, with the Indians up 1-0 over Jose Quintana and the White Sox. Kluber is looking sharp, at only 42 pitches through four scoreless innings.

8:13 PM – Aviles, getting the start at 3B, is on first with one out, and Brantley rips a double to right center. Aviles comes around to score to make it 2-0 good guys.

8:28 PM – Much has been made over the last few days of the July 31st trade deadline, and I suppose that if I’m good for anything, I should drop some #HOTTAKES into this recap.

[Read more...]

The Indians and the 2013 Trade Deadline: Decisions Abound

Asdrubal CabreraThe end of July is fast approaching, which means the Indians and Chris Antonetti are once again embroiled in boatloads of trade speculation.  We’ve gone through years where we were clearly “sellers” (2008 and 2009) and years in which we ostensibly found ourselves “buying” (2011).  There’ve been relative hits and misses along the way, but regardless of the strategy that a given season has dictated, it’s become fairly clear that our front office views the July 31st trade deadline as a prime opportunity to impart its vision and direction on the franchise.

Perhaps more than any team in baseball, ours has been shaped by trades.  Consider this: Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Ubaldo Jimenez, Zach McAllister, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Chris Perez, Joe Smith, Asdrubal Cabera, Mike Aviles, Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs, Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes were all acquired on the trade market. That’s five competent-ish starting pitchers, a closer, a setup man, two above average catchers, an All-Star shortstop, two serviceable everyday corner outfielders and a quality utility guy.  I’m not going to check this, but I’d be surprised if you could find another Big League roster so littered with trade acquisitions. 1 [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Of course, let’s pause to remember why the Indians have had to rely so heavily on the trade market: their drafting and (to a lesser extent) their international scouting have produced sub-par results.  You might suggest that this problem has been solved, and we’re on the right track with Brad Grant’s regime. Forgive my skepticism: in his five or so years at the helm, armed with copious high draft picks, he’s produced exactly one good player (Kipnis) and one legitimate prospect (Lindor).  I understand these things take time, but I’m going to withhold the beatification for another few years if that’s ok with you. []

Trevor Bauer’s Troubles

Trevor BauerYou can forgive me for missing Trevor Bauer’s most recent start.  I left work a little after 5:00 PM on Friday, and by the time I was home Bauer’s day was done and the longest doubleheader in the history of Major League Baseball (sans extra innings) was underway.

Of course, we shouldn’t mistake the brevity of Bauer’s outing for effectiveness.  He pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowed six hits, five runs, two home runs, one walk and one hit batsman while striking out no one.  He faced 10 batters and threw 49 pitches before being removed, nearly 40 minutes after his first pitch.  In a move that seems to me odder with each passing day, Bauer eschewed his windup for the start, choosing to throw only from the stretch.  From postgame interviews, it seems that Francona had not been entirely aware that this was going to happen.  The whole thing was as train-wrecky as things like this get, at least in games the team ends up actually winning.

Bauer came to Cleveland as part of the deal that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds last winter.  It would be fair to say that, for a system as starved for starting pitching prospects as Cleveland’s, Bauer was the biggest part of the deal—no disrespect to Drew Stubbs.  The Indians desperately need him to become a meaningful part of their future rotation, and that last start wasn’t such a great sign. [Read more...]

Indians Add “Brohio” Section to Progressive Field

Seriously BROSEPH! You got NO IDEA how BADICAL this is gonna be! For you.  For ME.  FOR EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE O-H……….

EYE-OHHHHHHHHH!!!!!1111one1!!

Dude, if you can’t tell, I’m stoked like a frickin STOKE MACHINE!!

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!! 

From Fridays henceforth to every Bro, Brian and Bilbo Baggins, we gonna flat-out REFER to section 117 as THE MUTHA-TRUCKING BRO-HIO!!!!

MLB News: Clint Frazier makes pro debut, named BA High School Player of the Year

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.

So yeah.  Pretty good day, all around.

[Related: Indians shoot for the stars with potential-laden Clint Frazier]

Indians 4, Royals 3: Deserve Ain’t Got Nothin’ To Do With It*

HOMER_Santana8:12 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.

[Read more...]

Indians 1, Royals 2: Bullpen and Defense Spoil Carrasco’s Gem

Chuck Crowe/PD8:02 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...]

Michael Brantley and the Wait ‘n See Approach

brantley22As 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...]