August 15, 2014

Lack of offense ruins feeling potential double dip sweep

Zach Walters

See, this is what .500 baseball teams do. Win four. Lose four. Win three, lose a game you shouldn’t lose. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Your Cleveland Indians spent eight hours proving they are what they are yesterday at Progressive Field against one baseball’s worst teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Tribe is like a hack golfer who can hit nice drives, second shots, chips, and putts, but can’t seem to put it all together on the same hole with any sort of consistency. Take the doubleheader for example. They finally put two great starts together coupled with solid bullpen work, yet the offense combined to score three runs in 21 innings as they split two with the NL West’s doormat.

I suppose I am being a little harsh on the team I love the most, considering the bottom of the order now looks like a Columbus Clippers game broke out. Nick Swisher, David Murphy, and Michael Bourn all currently sit on the DL. Asdrubal Cabrera has since been dealt. So we will see the likes of Tyler Holt, Jose Ramirez, Chris Dickerson, and game one hero Zach Walters regularly. It is not such a bad thing for an organization in need of a spark from its upper tier minor league levels. But wasting 11 scoreless frames in game two ruins what should have been a great day to build on. [Read more...]

The precipitous drop: An ode to Vinnie Pestano

Vinne Pestano

A former member of the pen was jettisoned in a move that wasn’t a shocker, but saddened many fans. Vinnie Pestano, the team’s eighth inning stud in 2011-12 was sent to Anaheim for A ball pitcher Michael Clevinger. With the glut of young arms that have passed him while sitting in AAA Columbus and 40-man roster spots so precious, Pestano was staring at a non-tender at the end of the season. Instead, the Indians attempted to get something for the former top set-up man was traded to Southern California and back to his comfort zone as Vinnie spent his college days at Cal State Fullerton.

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Tribe Weekend Recap: Consistently Inconsistent play, King Kluber and the rebirth of Carrasco

Jason Kipnis

Win four straight. Lose four straight. Get everyone thinking that, once again, you are sunk. Lose two more veterans to the disabled list. Go to New York and visit Yankee Stadium, your personal house of horrors, and take the series for the first time since 2008 while throwing 20 straight scoreless innings. Yep, just your ordinary average week with your Cleveland Indians, where inconsistency is the one constant.

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Indians 7, Reds 1: Commander Corey, long balls, lead Wahoos to fourth straight W

Corey KluberI am running out of superlatives to describe the Tribe’s Corey Kluber. So this is what it’s like to have a real ace? The Indians haven’t seen anything like this since Cliff Lee’s 2008 Cy Young season. But even then, I don’t think we truly appreciated what we were watching. Lee was dominating with unbelievable command, but the Indians stumbled out of the gate and never were close to being a playoff team. CC Sabathia (Michael Brantley) and Casey Blake (Carlos Santana) were was sold off in July and another rebuild was about to begin. Kluber on the other hand, is driving the bus for a team suddenly surging, just two and a half games back of Toronto for the second AL Wild Card spot. He was money once again in the Tribe’s 7-1 series opening win against the Cincinnati Reds.

Watching Kluber work never gets old. He is so in control, so composed. Nothing seems to phase him on the mound—not even a Ryan Raburn spiked throw. The high level of dominance continued Monday night against a team that had not seen him yet this season. The Reds are a banged up and struggling bunch, yet they entered last night with the same record as the Indians. By the time the ninth inning rolled around, Reds manager Bryan Price lamented the blown chances his team received, thanks to some early shoddy Indians defense.

“What was disappointing and unacceptable tonight was the fact that we didn’t have our head in the game at all,” said Price. “Especially those first five innings. We had two guys that forgot how many outs there were, we had a pitcher that didn’t cover first base on a ground ball to the right side. We had five baserunners in the first three innings. That’s just not the way we play. We haven’t played that way all year. That lack of fight and lethargy, that’s just unacceptable type of play right there.”

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The Statue that is and maybe shouldn’t be

Jim Thome Statue

You have your opinions on the subject, I have mine. Legendary Tribe first/third baseman Jim Thome was honored with a statue bearing his signature “point the bat” move inside Heritage Park at Progressive Field on Saturday. Jimmy was joined by his wife, two children, and a host of ex-teammates that shared in this special ceremony. Ever the class act and never one to want the spotlight to himself, Thome admitted feeling very uncomfortable with the statue itself.

“I think that was a reflection not on the individual but more on the group,” Thome said. “The front office, the coaches, the manager, the players and the people that come through the door. … I want people to walk by (the statue) in 50 years and say, ‘Those Cleveland Indians teams in the mid-90s were really, really good.’” [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Brooms, Good Guys, and Great Pitching

David Murphy

Do I say the same thing every three weeks or so? Just when you think you are out, this team sucks you right back in. Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians are not the sexiest group, nor are they the most talented. Their starting pitching is essentially Corey Kluber, hoping for the best with two youngsters, then trying to limp past five innings with whomever is currently slotted fourth and fifth. The offense is extremely streaky and lacks power. The defense is the worst in the American League. They just traded their Opening Day starter and their starting shortstop of the past five years, a two-time All-Star. Sounds like a last place doom and gloom scenario doesn’t it?

I for one have been very critical of Francona’s in-game managing. He is far too in love with the bunt, his lineup decisions at times are head-scratching at times, and he overuses his main bullpen arms. All of this goes on without anyone uttering a negative word about him. Why you ask? Well the fact of the matter is that Tito is an absolute freaking wizard inside of that clubhouse. These 25 guys plus would run through a wall for Francona if he asked them to. He preaches playing the game with class and dignity and gives his players the leeway they need. At the end of his time in Boston, the veteran clubhouse began to tune him out and take advantage of his players-first mentality. It was time for him to move on. After a year off, he came to Cleveland as the perfect elixir to the combustible situation with the fan base and its distrust of the front office. [Read more...]

Mariners 6, Indians 5: Comeback thwarted by Shaw’s hanger

Bryan ShawWhen you score five runs, you should win the game. The Indians were on their way to doing so last night, but one of their more reliable and consistent pitchers made two quick mistakes and a comeback victory was snatched away as the Seattle Mariners took the rubber match of the three-game series, 6-5, on the same day the Indians traded their starting shortstop and failed to bring back any starting pitching help.

I stress this last point because after Corey Kluber, the Indians rotation is a mixed bag. Take last night’s starter Zach McAllister for example. The big right-hander has bounced back and forth between Columbus and Cleveland and hasn’t established himself as a guy manager Terry Francona can count on. With Justin Masterson now gone, McAllister, amongst others, will have the chance to get a longer look to see if they fit into the future plans. Unfortunately for Zach, he continues to look like a 4A pitcher.

Heading into last night, McAllister’s spot was already dicey. Then he went out and did himself zero favors. Zach relies heavily and almost exclusively on his fastball. Everyone knows it. And it is not as if he is throwing 97-98 mph—he is more in the 91-92 range. These days he isn’t fooling anyone as even an offensively-starved team like the Mariners can tee off him.

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Adios Cabbie, it was fun … until it wasn’t

11396056-standardBack in 2006, the Indians had the bright idea of a first base platoon of Ben Broussard and the 36-year old right-handed free agent signee Eduardo Perez. All credit to the great Anthony Castrovince, now of MLB.com and formerly at Indians.com, who came up with perhaps the greatest nickname in baseball platoon history: Benuardo.

The Benuardo experience left us all hollow. Perez lasted three months before being sent to Seattle, a team desperate for right-handed pop, for a light-hitting minor league shortstop with great hands. His name was Asdrubal Cabrera. At the time, nobody knew who Asdrubal was and nobody had any idea if he could play or not.

Then came the 2007 season. The Indians caught fire and raced out to a division lead for the first time in six years. They had a major hole at second base with the slumping Josh Barfield just not doing the job. Then GM Mark Shapiro reached down to AAA and called up Cabrera, a natural shortstop and the heir to the position once Jhonny Peralta moved over or moved on. [Read more...]

Indians 2; Mariners 0: Kluber’s “Maddux” bests King Felix in a performance for the ages

Corey Kluber

If only Corey Kluber could start every game for the Indians……

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend the matchup of aces at Progressive Field. Felix Hernandez, currently the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award took the mound for the Seattle Mariners. Kluber, the Indians clear number one, opposed him. If you are a baseball purist and love pitchers duels, this was your night.

I took both of my kids with me to the game. My seven year old son kept score for all nine innings, afterwards, I told him to save that scorecard. As I said to both him and his younger sister, “you may never see a pitching performance like this ever again.” [Read more...]

Tribe looking at Lackey?

DSC_3307.JPGWell it has been quite an eventful day in Wahooland. Earlier today, the Indiansdealt starting pitcher Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals for OF prospect James Ramsey. Meeting with the media just after the deal, both GM Chris Antonetti and Manager Terry Francona denied that this trade signaled a sell off for 2015. In fact, they are looking to add pieces in the next 24 hours.

“Anybody who stands next to me in the dugout knows that’s not going to happen,” said Francona when asked if the White Flag was being waved.

So what does this mean exactly? Well according to several media reports, the Indians are taking a long look at Boston starter John Lackey.

Lackey would make a lot of sense for an Indians team in dire need of a veteran rock for the rotation. he’s been solid this season (11-7, 3.60 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 109 ERA+, and 3.56 FIP). Masterson should have been that guy, but he essentially pitched his way out of town.

What makes the 35-year old Lackey intriguing to the Indians is his team option for 2015 at $500,000. Yes, you read that correctly. The Red Sox put a clause into his original five-year, $82.5 million deal that if he missed an entire season due to injury, it would kick in a $500,000 club option at the back end. He missed all of 2012 after needing Tommy John surgery, thus the amazingly cheap 2015 salary.

Stay tuned, the Indians are most likely not done. Asdrubal Cabrera could be next or they could add another piece as well.

A fond farewell to you, Justin

Justin MastersonThe highs and lows of being a major league player. Justin Masterson was dealing a year ago. He was the leader of an Indians staff that was pitching and timely-hitting their way in October. One thing that people have conveniently forgotten about that run: Masterson wasn’t pitching.

An early September oblique strain kept him out of the rotation the rest of the season. He only returned for the final week of the season as a reliever. The timing was perfect as closer Chris Perez had become unusable. Masterson opened the Indians regular season as a starter and closed out the final game in Minnesota as his team reached the playoffs for the first time since 2007. [Read more...]

Report: Justin Masterson traded to St. Louis

Justin Masterson

Oh how the mighty have fallen. A year ago at this time the Indians would have given anything to extend starting pitcher Justin Masterson to a long term deal. 12 months later, the big right-hander, who has become a mental mess, has reportedly been been dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals. Legendary baseball writer Peter Gammons, now of MLB Network, was the first to break the news.

According to NY Post writer Joel Sherman, the Indians will be getting back AAA outfielder James Ramsey. The 24-year old is a former first round pick in the 2012 draft out of Florida State and was just promoted to the AAA level. For AA Memphis in 67 games this season, Ramsey hit .300/.389/.527 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs.

The Masterson era in Cleveland comes to a disappointing end. Coming off of an All-Star season in 2013, Justin’s game fell off the table. He departs Cleveland after six seasons where he was 48-61 with a 4.23 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 3.76 FIP, and a 92 ERA+

Will have much more of this in a feature as the trade deadline comes to a close.

(Joshua Gunter/ The Plain Dealer)

 

 

Mariners 5, Indians 2: Tribe slide continues, the time to sell may be upon us

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The non-waiver trade deadline is just a day away and the Cleveland Indians are what their record says they are. After Tuesday night’s 5-2 home loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Wahoos are 52-54, two games below .500. Just five games out of the second Wild Card spot, yes, but there are now four teams in front of them; six if you include the Blue Jays and Angels who hold the Wild Cards.

A year ago, the Tribe was in the middle of a eight-game winning streak and 10-games over .500. Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of Jason Giambi’s first of two monster walk-off homers against the Chicago White Sox. Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, and Scott Kazmir were dealing and one-run wins were the norm. Today, Ubaldo and Kazmir are pitching elsewhere—Kazmir being 12-3 with a 2.37 ERA and  WHIP barely over 1.00—and Masterson is such a mess that he was placed on the disabled list to deal with his issues and may not be on this team in two days. The core of the offense is essentially the same, but the results just haven’t been the same, despite what the numbers may say. [Read more...]

Carlos Santana…surprise, surprise….AL Player of the Week

carlos santana celebrationAfter tearing apart the Kansas City Royals this weekend, it was no shocker that Tribe first baseman/DH Carlos Santana has been named American League Player of the Week. Over his last six games, Carlos has had quite the run. How does 14-23, six homers, three doubles, 10 RBIs, eight runs scored sound to you? Pretty good. With his walking abilities in tow, Santana has reached base 20 of his last 29 times.

Not too shabby.

Think about where Santana has come from to get back to this point. It has been a steady rise since his brutal start. Carlos went .157/.318/.292 in April and followed that up with a .169/.343/.325 May. But with the warm weather came a new Santana. His post-DL hot streak essentially hasn’t stopped. His June was .308/.426/.590 with six homers and 15 RBIs, that spawned an even better month of July where ‘Los has been a stud: .314/.416/.651 with eight homers and 18 RBIs. His OPS has been over 1.000 for two months now. Last seasons 20 home run campaign has already been tied with two months remaining.

Carlos is the second Indian in a row to receive the AL Player of the Week honor, joining second baseman Jason Kipnis.

Tribe Weekend Recap: Santana streaking, rotation turning, and opportunities blown

Carlos Santana

The Indians couldn’t have picked a worse week to wet themselves. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: The only consistent thing about this team is their inconsistency. Just when you want to believe after they take three of four in Detroit, they come out and lose two of three to the Minnesota Twins in front of losing three of four in Kansas City to the Royals. You just had a bad feeling about this series when Corey Kluber’s Thursday gem was wasted in a 14-inning loss. Things just spiraled from there with bad losses both Friday (6-4) and Saturday (7-5). They salvaged the series finale with an offensive explosion in Sunday’s 10-3 win, but it seemed like a hollow victory. The weekend in Kansas City was disastrous.

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Royals 2, Indians 1: Kluber near perfect, yet nothing to show for it

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Games like Thursday night are why I love baseball and I why baseball frustrates the heck out of me at the exact same time. I mean what other game can one player completely shut down an entire team for the duration of regulation, only to be on the hook for a loss because of one of the worst and strangest defensive plays you will ever see? The highs were so high last night, and the lows were excruciatingly low—Cleveland-esque, dare I say.

It ended after 12:30 eastern time and went 14 innings. Starters Corey Kluber and Danny Duffy were long gone by then. I tweeted the following in the fourth inning: [Read more...]

Tribe weekend recap: Kipnis…back? King Kluber, The Carrasco effect, and rotation rotation

Jason Kipnis

If your Cleveland Indians were going to get back in the thick of the AL Central and Wild Card races, coming out of the blocks strongly is of the utmost importance. An 11-game, three-city road trip against three divisional foes was on the schedule. Things got started in Detroit with four games in three days. I wouldn’t say this was a make-or-break weekend for the Tribe, but how they played would go a long way into deciding whether the front office would be buyers/holders, or sellers with the trade deadline looking at the end of the month.

Getting swept by the first-place Tigers would be a killer, but a series win could put the Tribe back on the map. We all know their faults, but we also know that when they do put it all together, they are tough to beat. Friday and Saturday, the Tribe looked like a team that has to be taken seriously. The Wahoo Express steamrolled through Detroit, taking three of four to move to within five and a half of the Tigers and two of the second Wild Card spot. They looked primed for a strong second half push.

The train is coming, people. This weekend in Detroit was a great start. So what did we see?

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The Indians at the break: The Bad

Justin Masterson

47-47. .500. The middle. Average. Not great, but not bad. This is what our Cleveland Indians are as we sit here at the All-Star break.

Heading into the season, Terry Francona’s group had to deal with something that was not on the docket a year before; heightened expectations. Coming off of a 92-win, Wild Card season and bringing back essentially the same core group, the Tribe now wore a bulls-eye. They were not going to sneak up on anyone. And they haven’t.

The first half has brought moments of greatness and despair, moments of disappointment and exuberance. Certain guys have broken out, while others have taken huge steps backwards. We’ve seen regression to the mean from a few Indians as well. Hall of Fame Football coach Bill Parcells famously said “you are what you record says you are,” and the Indians are 47-47. All of this has added up to what they are: An average baseball team.

On Tuesday, we looked at “The Good” things the Tribe has done. In part two of our Tribe at the All-Star break series, we will examine what hasn’t exactly gone well for the Red, White, and Blue. [Read more...]

The Indians at the break: The Good

Tribe celebration47-47. .500. The middle. Average. Not great, but not bad. This is what our Cleveland Indians are as we sit here at the All-Star break.

Heading into the season, Terry Francona’s group had to deal with something that was not on the docket a year before; heightened expectations. Coming off of a 92-win, Wild Card season and bringing back essentially the same core group, the Tribe now wore a bulls-eye. They were not going to sneak up on anyone. And they haven’t.

Many expected the front office to build on the playoff experience and add some more veteran talent via the free agent market, but with big raises due to likes of Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Asdrubal Cabrera, the financial wiggle room just wasn’t there. Instead, they tinkered, adding outfielder David Murphy to platoon in right field with Ryan Raburn. Twice deposed closer John Axford was brought on with hopes of a resurrection at the back end of the pen. Big years were expected from that core group of young position players moving towards their prime years. Starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir walked into free agency and found greener pastures in Baltimore and Oakland respectively. The Indians counted on youngsters Danny Salazar and either Carlos Carrasco or Josh Tomlin would replace them.

The first half has brought moments of greatness and despair, moments of disappointment and exuberance. Certain guys have broken out, while others have taken huge steps backwards. We’ve seen regression to the mean from a few Indians as well. Hall of Fame Football coach Bill Parcells famously said “you are what you record says you are,” and the Indians are 47-47. All of this has added up to what they are; an average baseball team. [Read more...]

Indians 3, White Sox 2: Yanimal and Bauer send Tribe into break on a high

Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer is a beast. I know the stats might not say so, but my man is one heck of a pitcher. We may look back at the trade of Shin-Soo Choo for Bauer and reliever Bryan Shaw (among others) in the same vain as Bartolo Colon trade. I know that is crazy talk, but at age 23, you can see Bauer getting better and better each start while Shaw is a rock as the set up man in the pen.

One had a great day on Sunday, the other, not so much. But the two more Indians who came over in a trade together, Catcher Yan Gomes and super utility man Mike Aviles, played a major hand in the Tribe’s 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. [Read more...]