August 26, 2014

Tribe Weekend Recap: Its all about the pitching

Michael Bourn

September is just about here. Time is running short for our Wahoos, but they refuse to give into the fight. (Eric Wedge would be so proud.) With their schedule in Soft Mode, the Tribe had to take advantage of what was in front of them. They started their nine-game stretch with three of the AL’s worst teams by taking two of three from the Minnesota Twins. Up next was a trip home to square off with the Houston Astros. Missing their best pitcher Dallas Keuchel was a bonus. The Indians offense, however, was still missing some key cogs and under performing. Things got worse when starting catcher (and one of the few bats that has actually been steady) Yan Gomes was placed on the seven-day concussion list after getting hit in the side of the head with a foul tip Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis.

Anything less than a series win is a major disappointment at this point, especially when a team like the Astros comes into your home ballpark. Things got off to a horrific start. What went down Friday night in the eighth and ninth innings with the score tied 1-1 was a classic case of 2014 Cleveland Indians baseball. [Read more...]

Like Cam Newton in 2011, its Open (pre) Season on Johnny Manziel

Manziel draft

It is officially open season on Johnny Manziel. Go ahead. Take your shots. Shoot your takes. Everyone else is doing it. He’s a petulant child. He is too entitled. His attitude needs to change. He parties too much and values his personal life more than his honing his craft. We’ve heard it all.

By now you know that the Browns lightning rod of a rookie Quarterback lost the latest QB derby to Brian Hoyer, who will take the reins and lead the team into Pittsburgh on September 6.  ((I still maintain this was their plan all along.)) Hoyer will play those first three games, most likely start 0-3 or 1-2 and then turn things over to JFF after the Week 4 bye—Week 7, against Jacksonville (and both Steelers games in the rear view mirror) at the latest.

Neither guy has been good. Hoyer was the lesser of two evils and the veteran who Head Coach Mike Pettine clearly has an affinity for. Manziel didn’t do enough on the field, didn’t help himself off the field or allegedly in the locker room, and boom: Johnny Football is now Johnny Clipboard. [Read more...]

Twins 4, Indians 1: Bats go silent as sweep chance goes by the board

Corey KluberThis is what is so frustrating about our Indians. Here they are, winners of seven of nine, going for a sweep of the Minnesota Twins with their ace Corey Kluber on the mound and the offense can’t even muster a single scoring chance outside of a solo blast from Zach Walters. Despite the 4-1 loss at Target Field, the Tribe still won another series and that is what is important right now.

You had hoped for better, but for some reason of late, when the offense sees Kluber on the mound, the bats turn into noodles. Over his past three starts while Corey was still in the game, the Wahoo offense has scored four runs. We are so used to Kluber being all but perfect that you feel as though two runs should get it done. Thursday afternoon he was off, which is still better than most other options. Kluber hasn’t walked more more than two batters since June 15 in Boston and hadn’t allowed more than two runs in a start since July 11th. Wednesday afternoon he walked four and gave up three earned runs. He was due for something of a clunker, but really it was just two hits that did him in.  [Read more...]

Indians 5, Twins 0: Handsome in the House

TJ House

Don’t look now, but here they come. The Cleveland Indians, the consistent inconsistents, are in the midst of the soft part of their schedule. After taking two of three from the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, the next nine games on the docket featured three of the AL’s worst teams; Minnesota, Houston, and Chicago. The Twins were first up and the way things got started two nights ago early, this wasn’t going to be the beginning of something big. But since Trevor Bauer gave up five runs in the first inning Tuesday night, the Indians have shutout out the Twinkies. That’s right, 17 straight scoreless frames from your Wahoo pitching staff.

They battled back to take the first game of the series Tuesday as they chipped away at that five run deficit and eventually won 7-5. Last night they led from start to finish as T.J. House and four relievers held Minnesota scoreless on five hits in a 5-0 win. The hot and cold offense has woken up again. The arms are doing their thing. Is it de ja vu all over again for the Indians? Could another late season sizzling streak be in the offing? [Read more...]

Indians 7, Twins 5: Holt and relievers star as Wahoos complete impressive comeback

Tyler Holt

I will be honest: With the way the Indians offense has performed most of the year and with the up and down nature of the team as a whole, I thought the game was over when I turned the TV on. I took my dog for a quick walk after the Indians batted in the first. When I came back inside, the first thing I saw was Oswaldo Arcia’s three-run blast which had capped off a five-run, four-hit start for the Minnesota Twins. I thought to myself, “I could just save myself the time and start my recap now.” But that my friends, is why they play nine innings.

[Read more...]

Indians extend Scott Atchison

Scott AtchisonHe came to camp as a 38-year old non-roster invitee hoping to hang on for one more season in the sun. By May, he was not just a fixture in the pen, but a favorite of manager Terry Francona. Now here we are in August and Scott Atchison, the bullpen’s jack of all trades, has received a contract extension. He will toil in the pen in 2015 with a club option for 2016.

“Old-Man Atch” has enjoyed a renaissance here in Cleveland. He’s made 53 appearances and owns a 2.95 ERA and a sterling WHIP of 0.95, taking over the Matt Albers role from a year ago and making it even more important. In addition, opposing batters have been stifled by his deception to the tune of .218/.251/.342. Atchison had been arbitration eligible for next season and the money he will make is not big deal. According to reports, Scott will make $900,000 in ’15 and the club option for ’16 is at $1 million with a $100,000 buyout. His emergence helped the Indians use bullpen assets Vinnie Pestano and John Axford in trades.

Now I know what you are all thinking. Last year at this time the Indians gave OF Ryan Raburn a two-year, $4.85 million extension. That has turned out to be a complete misjudgment as Raburn has regressed back to the guy who was DFA’d by the Tigers and brought in on a minor league deal. The Atchison situation isn’t in the same ballpark as if is essentially just a one-year deal for less than a million.

(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

Tribe Weekend Recap: Dominant starting pitching, slumbering bats, and Ubaldo being Ubaldo

Carlos Carrasco

This weekend series was once again another example of what this 2014 Cleveland Indians team is all about. The AL East leading Baltimore Orioles came to town with the biggest margin of any division top dog in baseball. Their offense is beastly, with power up and down the lineup. So naturally the story of the weekend was the Indians starting pitching. You know, the group that was Corey Kluber and a bunch of rotating pieces shuffling between Columbus and the bullpen? Well here they were, dominating one of the best offenses in the game and leading the Indians to a series win, one they needed badly to keep pace in the race for the second Wild Card.

It is still tough to see this team making another run like they did last year and it was this weekend that was example number one. There is a reason that the Wahoos haven’t won more than four games in a row this season. You can point to the up and down starting pitching all you want, but the hot and cold offense is the real reason. The much maligned rotation is on a crazy run this last week. Going back to last Saturday in New York, the Tribe starters have pitched 44 innings and has allowed just four earned runs. That’s good for a 1.02 ERA. On top of that is an 0.73 WHIP and an opponents batting average of .168. It was one thing to shut down the 4A lineup that Arizona Diamondbacks. It is quite another to do what Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar did to the Orioles. [Read more...]

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.

[Read more...]

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.

[Read more...]

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.”

[Read more...]

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.

[Read more...]

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

Untitled

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...]