August 16, 2014

WFNY Stats & Info: Cavs frontcourt’s potential without Bynum

andy tristanIt’s no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers were not a good basketball team with since-departed Andrew Bynum on the court. Heck, they obviously haven’t been good overall with their 12-23 record, but it was particular awful with the current free agent.

In Bynum’s 480 minutes, the Cavs had a -11.3 net efficiency rating per 100 possessions. That’d easily be the worst team in the NBA. In the remaining 1,240 minutes this season, the efficiency differential is just -3.0, a mark resembling that of a 30-win team, which might just be enough for the playoffs in the year’s historically bad Eastern Conference.

But that alone wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to dig even further into the specific frontcourt combinations that the Cavaliers have used this season. I then looked at all of the iterations of playing time between Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. The data was parsed with an eye toward the corresponding plus-minus points and net rebounding data. It’s not easy to track possessions in this way, so I averaged them out per 48 minutes of playing time.

My goal: To look only at Cavs lineups with Thompson and/or Varejao on the court, but never with Bynum. These are the options the team will rely upon going forward in the second half. So their past success (or failures) could tell a sign for the future.

cavs frontcourt plus minus

Looking at only the highlighted combinations, they represent 63% of total minutes this season: 1,077 overall. And, to great fortune for the team’s future: They have exactly a zero plus-minus thus far. They’ve been perfectly average. That’s awesome. That should be music to Cavs’ fans ears.

Obviously, this excludes the lineups we’ve seen without Thompson, Varejao or Bynum on the court. Those will still be possible going forward, so their issues aren’t just immediately alleviated. The Cavs have been very bad during those minutes. Still, it’s pleasing to know of the positive results.

On the rebounding side, the combined Thompson/Varejao lineups — representing 39% of minutes — out-rebound opponents by 6.4 boards per 48 minutes. That’s elite and very impressive. It’s perhaps in line with Varejao’s recent eight-game rebounding hot streak. Although the Cavs are an average rebounding team overall, they’ve been below average in every other lineup iteration.

The biggest factor for the future could just be the health of the team’s best players stars, specifically Varejao. He personally has a -3.7 plus-minus per 48 minutes in the last four years in 3,708 minutes despite all of the franchise’s terrible struggles. If he can stay on the court — and Bynum gone — then this Cavs team could truly have a fighting chance with solid new addition Luol Deng.

[More Andrew Bynum thoughts from WFNY's Scott Sargent: The end of an era]

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

WFNY Stats & Info: Assessing Luol Deng’s value in Cleveland

deng bulls2Luol Deng, 28 years old, represents a tremendous upgrade at small forward for the 11-23 Cavs. He’s a back-to-back All-Star scoring the most points in his career this season. He’ll take away minutes from Alonzo Gee et al in the team’s rotation. While the future ramifications of this move are up in the air, here are my four favorite statistic-based notes when it comes to showing Deng’s worth and his value with this team.

1. Cavs SFs have a 9.2 PER this season. Yes, that’s astoundingly correct, per the mathematical minds at 82Games.com. As you may recall, PER is normalized to be an average of 15.0 for all NBA players, not position-adjusted. On the season, Alonzo Gee has a 6.3 mark in 564 minutes and Earl Clark is at 9.7 in 551 minutes. I’m not a huge fan of PER, but at the extremes, I think it tells a pretty decent story: Gee is a near-replacement level player and Clark is a below average starter. Luol Deng has a 15.9 career PER and is at 17.4 this year; more than Gee and Clark combined and clearly a valuable starter in the NBA. He has a far higher usage than either Gee or Clark, inflating his numbers, but is undoubtedly a far better all-around player. [Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Notes on Pau Gasol’s decline

the-lakers-want-to-blow-up-their-roster-and-trade-pau-gasol-to-the-wizards-for-the-3-pickPau Gasol is the latest rumored trade candidate for the Cavaliers, according to Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.com. The 33-year-old is a three-time All-Star but his best days are clearly behind him as shown in advanced statistics.

Although he’s averaging 14.7 points and 9.4 rebounds in 30 minutes per game this season — fairly solid production on the surface — those numbers don’t tell the exact story about his last few seasons. Here are two specific stats that more accurately depict his changing game:

FG% on non-restricted area two-pointers
From 2008-09 to 11-12: 45.1% (2,321 shots; 59% of FGA)
From 2012-13 to 13-14: 38.1% (635 shots; 66% of FGA)

Offensive Rebounding%
From 2008-09 to 10-11: 10.5%
From 2011-12 to 13-14: 8.0%

This season, when he was playing, Gasol was shooting more than ever: his 16.4 FGA/36 is a career high and his 25.5% usage rate is his highest in seven years. On this very poor Lakers roster, he’s being called upon offensively quite a bit. But his offensive style has changed, perhaps as limited by his several foot injuries, and he’s shooting more often and less efficiently from mid-range.

It’s understandable that Gasol’s offensive rebounding percentage dropped when Dwight Howard was around in 2012-13. But a healthy Andrew Bynum also was there previously. And Gasol’s numbers dropped to a new career low (6.2%) this season as he’s playing further away from the basket. His defensive rebounding numbers have slightly improved to make up a difference in his total rebounding rates.

In each of the past two seasons, the 7-foot Spaniard has had an even 16.7 PER. He was never lower than 19.5 in PER in any other season of his career. That’s a very troubling fact when also addressed with his increased usage and similar overall rebounding. There’s possible reason to expect some improvement based on his known frustration this year in Los Angeles. Gasol also would likely provide a boost with his noted passing skills.

While Gasol might not be the same All-Star he was several years ago, he’s still a solid contributor. His shooting zone ratios slightly mirror those of Anderson Varejao, who has refined his game to become a very good mid-range shooter this year at 31 years old. He would likely take away minutes, however, from soon-to-be 24-year-old Tyler Zeller who has impressed of late.

In the end, the biggest benefit with a Gasol-Bynum swap with possibly other moving pieces could just be one last hope at contending for a playoff spot this year and maintaining financial flexibility with an expiring contract. Alone, the Pau Gasol of 2013 or even of 2014 won’t likely be enough to make this Cavs roster that much better.

[Related: Cavs at NBA’s one-third mark: How much patience is left?]

(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

WFNY Stats & Info: C.J. Miles’ extended slump

The Cavs are now 10-19. There are a myriad of reasons why they’ve been a bad team through the season’s first two months. But of late, one of the issues is starting shooting guard C.J. Miles.

Miles, plucked away in free agency from Utah last summer, actually was off to a great start to the year. In the season’s first six games, he averaged 14.3 points in just 20.7 minutes off the bench with an uber-efficient .645 efficiency field goal percentage.

Since then, over the last 19 games (16 as a starter) and including his 10-day absence with a calf injury, he’s been quite the opposite. The damage: 17.5 minutes per game, 6.1 points and a dreadful .402 efficiency field goal percentage. Take a look at the stats below for a more complete breakdown of the shooting zones.

He had a .433 efg in the 2011-12 season, his last with Utah. In his first Cavs season, he shined en route to a .519 efg, a huge jump in efficiency. But was that improvement sustainable? One can note that about 50% of Miles’ shooting attempts are now more profitable three-pointers, a huge increase over his Utah days.

Of late, he’s been pretty bad at his usual above-the-break three-pointers and very bad in the restricted area. He has always seemed to struggle with paint shots not in the restricted area, a zone that sees 40% as the NBA average along with mid-range. Miles is not usually average in either zone.

It’s not certain what Miles’ future might hold. He is what he is, in a sense, that he’s just a 26-year-old scoring guard/forward. Those should usually be replaceable, but his struggles are reflective of the Cavs’ difficulty of finding any suitable small forward over the past four years.

[Related: Cavs at NBA’s one-third mark: How much patience is left?]

WFNY Stats & Info: Four facts for Browns-Jaguars on Sunday

The 4-7 Cleveland Browns host the 2-9 Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. With the Browns still possibly still being in the “playoff hunt” — as ESPN noted last night — the game still carries some importance. Here are some stats to get you prepared.

1. Cleveland quarterbacks and Jacksonville quarters both completed exactly 44.3% of their respective passes in opponent’s territory this season. For the Browns, they’ve completed 82-of-185 tosses, with consistent marks both in the red zone and in between the 49-21-yard-line. For the Jags, they are 77-of-157 overall, but have struggled mightily in the red zone to the tune of just 27.3%.

2. In the past six games, the Browns have allowed 171 points (28.5 per game). That’s the most in a six-game stretch since a similarly poor mid-season run in 2007. Yes, the defense isn’t necessarily all at fault, as they’re the only team in the NFL yet to allow a 275-yard passer or a 90-yard rusher. The offense also is largely responsible because of the stat below.

3. The Browns have committed exactly four turnovers in each of their last two losses. Teams with exactly four turnovers are 809-1,998-49 (.288) entering this week. Generally speaking, that’s not a very sustainable method for football success when you’re handing the ball back to the other team. On the year, seven of the Browns’ 13 interceptions have come on 1st-and-10 plays.

4. The Jaguars’ DVOA — Football Outsiders‘ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average rating — has improved of late to now being only -47.2%. Finally, that’s slightly better than the mark by the winless 2005 Detroit Lions at -48.4%. But they remain by far the worst team in the NFL. Cleveland ranks fifth-worst at -21.3%.

[Related: Cleveland Browns Film Room: What happened to our OLBs?]

WFNY Stats & Info: Eight intriguing Tampa Bay Rays stats

With the Tampa Bay Rays beating Texas 5-2 on Monday, here are eight fascinating facts to contribute to your water cooler conversations leading up to Wednesday night at Progressive Field.

1. Wednesday’s Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb has been one of the most effective pitchers in baseball this season. He missed two months with a head injury, but he’s 5-1 with a 2.41 ERA in nine starts since his return on Aug. 15. That ERA ranks fifth-best in the American League during this span, which includes three straight dominant victories.

2. From July 3 through Sept. 23, All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria only had a .219/.306/.409 line in 314 plate appearances. One of the most consistently dominant players in baseball since his debut in 2008, he’s heating up to the tune of a 12-for-29 stretch with three doubles and three homers in the Rays’ last seven games.

3. One of Tampa Bay’s biggest weaknesses is its bullpen. The team’s relievers combined for a 3.67 ERA in the second half, second-worst for any playoff team (only Detroit was worse at 3.80; Cleveland had a 3.00 ERA.) In terms of ERA, their best reliever has been lefty Alex Torres (1.97 ERA in 58.0 IP), who began the season as a Triple-A starter.

4. The likely American League Rookie of the Year is 22-year-old Rays right fielder Wil Myers. Acquired from Kansas City in the controversial James Shields trade, Myers led the team with .293/.354/.478 line in 373 plate appearances since his June 18 debut. He had 38 homers, 136 RBI and a .910 OPS in 163 Triple-A games.

5. The Rays have ranked as one of the better defensive teams for several years, including in 2013. Longoria, shortstop Yunel Escobar and second baseman Ben Zobrist all had 10+ UZR at those positions. Those three and first baseman James Loney all were at least four runs above average defensively too, per Baseball-Reference.com.

6. After starting the season with a 5-10 record, the Rays were baseball’s best team for a near-three-and-a-half month stretch. They went 59-33 from April 19 through July 30. Of course, that means Tampa Bay then finished the season with a 14-23 fall followed by a 14-5 sprint to make the tiebreaker game against Texas.

7. The average absolute margin of victories in the six Rays-Indians games this season: 7.2. The Indians were 2-4 in those games, being out-scored 23-30. But none of the contests were particularly close: There were four shutouts, with the closest margin being just four. (h/t @WFNYKirk)

8. Tampa Bay and Texas are the only two teams to win 90-plus games in each of the last four seasons. During this span, Tampa Bay has allowed the fewest runs in the AL — just 3.83 runs per contest.

[Related: When a Win is more than a Win]

WFNY Stats & Info: Indians playoff odds before the weekend

It’s officially now a three-team race for the two American League Wild Card spots. With the recent hot streaks by the Rays, Indians and Rangers, all the other would-be contenders have been left in the dust. There are now three games left in the regular season to decide what’s next.

Looking back in the past, here are the days I’ve updated the playoff odds here at WFNY: Sept. 7, Sept. 15, Sept. 16 and Sept. 23. I also featured how the different formulas are composed back in The Diff on Sept. 18. The website Cool Standings, linked below, has some fantastic historical data, too.

Baseball Prospectus: (link)
Rays — 97.8%, 91.7-70.3 final record
Indians — 67.1%, 90.6-71.4 final record
Rangers — 35.2%, 89.7-72.3 final record

FanGraphs: (link)
Rays — 97.2%, 91.8-70.2 final record
Indians — 81.5%, 90.7-71.3 final record
Rangers — 21.3%, 89.6-72.4 final record

Cool Standings (link)
Rays — 94.8%, 91.6-70.4 final record
Indians — 85.8%, 91.0-71.0 final record
Rangers — 19.4%, 89.6-72.4 final record

At first, I was a little surprised to see the Rays having 95-plus percent odds. Then I remembered: Oh, they have a two-game lead over the Rangers and a tie still gets them into post-regular season baseball. The only situation in which Tampa Bay misses out entirely: If they get swept, Texas sweeps and the Indians win at least two, as well. The odds are that, then, are probably close to 5 percent. Makes more sense.

As I’ve shared many times, Baseball Prospectus is the most pessimistic because it continues to rely heavily upon the preseason predictions from the PECOTA system. So the Indians-Twins matchup isn’t as much as a mismatch as this season has indicated on run differential, which is the sole influence in the Cool Standings’ formula. FanGraphs uses a hybrid of both approaches to come up with its odds.

MLB recently re-announced their tiebreaker policy for the American League Wild Card spots. Kirk wrote about the tiebreaker situations a few days back. The Indians formally opted to be “Club A” in the case of a three-way tie for the two spots, meaning they’d host a game in Cleveland on Monday for the right to play in Wednesday’s actual Wild Card game. A possible second tiebreaker game would occur on Tuesday.

[Related: Indians 6 Twins 5: Wahoos win again, but closer problem rears its ugly head]

WFNY Stats & Info: Minnesota Twins series preview

To finish the regular season, your Cleveland Indians (88-70) head off to dreaded Target Field to take on the struggling Minnesota Twins (66-92). To begin the year, the Twins were one of the more surprising teams in the American League; that hasn’t been the case for the last three months.

Overall, the Indians are just 14-19 (.424) at Target Field, which opened as the new home for the Twins in 2010. Obviously that includes last year’s pretty bad record anywhere Cleveland took the field. I wrote more about the team’s struggles in Minnesota after the July 20 game; the Indians have won three of their last four at the stadium since then.

After beginning the year 33-36 (.478), the Twins have regressed mightily. They’re just 33-56 (.371) dating back to June 21, which also was the start of a series against the streaky Tribe. Over these last 89 games, Minnesota has the second-worst record in baseball and the worst offense in the American League (3.48 runs/game).

Among qualified players over this bad stretch, there are only two Minnesota batters with .710+ OPS marks: now-concussed All-Star Joe Mauer (.844) and mediocre starter Brian Dozier (.776). After that, it’s a hodge-podge assortment of up-and-coming youngsters (like Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and Josmil Pinto) and peculiar-fit veterans (led by underperforming near-Indian Josh Willingham).

On the pitching side, you may have heard about the Twins’ odd inability to strike out opposing batters: just 4.90 K/9. For contrast, Cleveland starters have a 8.45 K/9 ratio, second best in baseball. FanGraphs had a phenomenal article about the subject in mid-August. Heck, they’re not just bad at striking out batters; Minnesota’s pitching just ain’t very good.

Tonight’s starter for the Twins is soft-tossing lefty Andrew Albers, a 27-year-old non-prospect Saskatchewan native who two-hit the Indians back on Aug. 12. Since then, Albers is 0-4 in seven starts with a 5.84 ERA. All three of Minnesota’s first three starters in this series have less than 100 career innings pitched. The series finale starter is expected to be veteran Mike Pelfrey, a tall veteran righty with a solid-yet-unspectacular 4.48 career ERA.

[Related: Indians 7, White Sox 2: On Believing, Not Stopping]

WFNY Stats & Info: Jason Giambi’s incredible clutch season

With one swing of the bat, 42-year-old Jason Giambi turned around the Indians fortunes. The super-super veteran clobbered his ninth home run of the season to give the Tribe yet another victory, improving to 87-70 on the season.

For Giambi, it was his 10th career walk-off home run. Incredibly, he only had four such game-ending home runs in the first 15 seasons of his MLB career — spanning from 1995-2009 and 8,135 plate appearances. Over the last four seasons of part-time play, he has six walk-off homers in just 698 plate appearances.

Shockingly, those six regular walk-offs over the last four years are tied with LA Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp for the most in baseball. No one else has five. Four other batters — an eclectic crew of Jay Bruce, Johnny Damon, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo and Ryan Zimmerman — all have four. Another 15 players have three walk-offs.

Overall, 17 of Giambi’s 33 hits in the 2013 season have been for extra bases. Each of his last four homers have come in the eighth inning or later. Yet he has only two doubles since July 3. It’s been an incredibly quirky season for the batter who now is hitting .181/.280/.374 on the season.

His heroics in the clutch, as well as the surprising play of his fellow Goon Squad members, are a huge reason for the Indians’ incredible turnaround this season. Previously, I’ve written about a mock bet involving Giambi homers or Browns wins (ha). I’ve also written about his early season slugging tear and about the team’s incredibly balanced offensive production. For now, let’s just enjoy this miracle of a win.

[Related: MLB News: Jason Giambi hits walk-off home run to propel Indians to 5-4 win]

WFNY Stats & Info: Indians’ playoff odds over 70 percent

With six games left in the season, the Cleveland Indians have reached a new high watermark in their playoff odds. The three major sites — Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and Cool Standings — all agree that the team’s odds are more than 70 percent.

A week ago, after the previous four-game sweep over the Chicago White Sox, the team’s playoff probability was finally creeping up over 50 percent. With another four-game sweep in hand, the odds jumped up even more over the weekend.

Here’s where each site stands right now:

Baseball Prospectus: (link)
Rays — 90.1%, 89.9-72.1 final record
Indians — 72.8%, 89.4-72.6 final record
Rangers — 35.0%, 88.1-73.9 final record
Other wild card contenders — 2.1% (best: KCR 85.6 wins)

FanGraphs: (link)
Rays — 87.4%, 89.9-72.1 final record
Indians — 80.3%, 89.4-72.6 final record
Rangers — 29.9%, 80.0-74.0 final record
Other wild card contenders — 2.4% (best: KCR 85.7 wins)

Cool Standings (link)
Rays — 77.4%, 89.5-72.5 final record
Indians — 87.6%, 89.9-72.1 final record
Rangers — 28.6%, 87.9-74.1 final record
Other wild card contenders — 6.3% (best: KCR 86.5 wins)

Last week in The Diff, I featured how these different projection systems operate and why Cool Standings has been the most favorable for the Indians of late. In a nutshell, it’s because that season uses run differential from 2013 alone; the others incorporate preseason predictions from their complicated mathematical systems.

There’s also a very high probability of some ties, as FanGraphs’ site shows most prominently. Kirk had a good breakdown earlier today of what that could mean for the Indians and where they stand if tied with the Rays or Rangers for one (or more) of the wild card spots.

It should be a pretty fascinating race to the finish. The sites see Cleveland winning between 3.4-3.9 of their final six games against two of the AL’s worst teams — Chicago and Minnesota. Winning five mathematically guarantees at least a tiebreaker; winning four should just about do it as well.

[Related: Tribe Weekend Recap: Sweep of Astros has Tribe on cusp of playoffs]

WFNY Stats & Info: Indians’ historic record vs. .500 or less teams

With last night’s rain-shortened victory that moved the Indians into a wild card spot, they improved their already incredible record against teams with .500 or worse records.

On the season, the Indians are now 48-18 (.727) against such teams. That is by far the best record in baseball — second place is Tampa Bay at 43-20 (.689).

Among the teams that Cleveland has dominated this year, the most noteworthy is the Chicago White Sox (15-2), followed by a number of other 4-1 or 5-2 records against mediocre or worse teams.

Dating back to 1986, here are the best records in this split in MLB:
1 NYY, 1998, 76-22 (.776)
2 CLE, 1995, 74-22 (.771)
3 SEA, 2001, 68-23 (.747)
4 ATL, 1997, 65-23 (.739)
5 ANA, 2002, 67-24 (.736)
5 OAK, 2002, 64-23 (.736)
7 BOS, 2008, 51-19 (.729)
8 LAD, 1988, 48-18 (.727)
8 CLE, 2013, 48-18 (.727)
10 NYM, 1986, 78-30 (.722)

For Cleveland, it’s their best such record following the 1954 season (89-21, .809), the 1956 season (51-15, .773), the 1995 season (74-22, .771), the 1932 season (48-17, .738) and the 1939 season (48-18, .727).

It’s notable that the Tribe does have a surprisingly low number of games against such teams, although they finish the season with eight more such games. That low number could be a factor of the American League this season, the team’s favorable second and a number of teams beating up on the Houston Astros and the AL Central having three solid teams (including Detroit and Kansas City).

Of course, since the Indians are only 84-70 on the season, that would mean their record against plus-.500 teams isn’t that great. It’s 36-52 (.409), which ranks 21st in baseball.

However, there have been playoff teams — including two World Series champions — in the wild card era with similar-ish records against good teams. So while it might be a factor during the playoffs, it perhaps might not.

[Related: Indians nip Astros 2-1, move into Wild Card lead]

WFNY Stats & Info: Ubaldo Jimenez emerging as Indians ace

Yet again, I can’t help but share how amazing Ubaldo Jimenez has been for the Indians over a nearly five-month span.

First, in early June, I wrote about some of his best starts in a Cleveland uniform. Then, again in a stats headline, I wrote about his incredible continued improvement here in early September. Man, did Jimenez remain hot again last night against the Houston Astros.

And, consider: While the Houston Astros are now 51-102 and MLB’s worst team in nearly 60 years against .500+ squads (tweet), their offense isn’t that bad. Entering Thursday, Houston’s 3.92 runs per game ranked fourth-worst and .685 OPS ranked second-worst in the American League. This season, it’s been their pitching that has been their biggest downfall en route to the league’s worst record.

So Ubaldo Jimenez again deserves a ton of credit. With his latest fine outing he now has six consecutive quality starts, a new Indians personal record. Again, here’s a look at the former Colorado Rockies’ career stats in two splits with Cleveland:

First 46 starts with Indians — 13-23, 5.63 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 59.1% strikes, .269 AVG
Last 26 starts since 4/29/13 — 12-7, 2.65 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 62.0% strikes, .240 AVG

There is no doubt about it: From one of MLB’s worst regular starters from 2011-onward, he is now emerging as the owner of the AL’s second-best ERA over a near five-month span in a baseball season. The strikeouts are among the league’s best too, and thanks to decreasing walks and hits, he’s not letting up many mistakes either. He’s not the over-poweringly dominant starter he once was in the National League, but boy, Jimenez is very close to ace-quality.

As many have shared before, he’s lined up to be Cleveland’s fifth-to-last starter of the regular season. That would line him up perfectly for the team’s first post-season game, whether it be a one-game wild card playoff or a one-game tiebreaker situation. At this point in time, based on how he has pitched, it would seem that’s what the team and front office would actually prefer. How could have one ever guessed that?

[Related: Royals 7 Indians 2: Defense does Tribe in]

WFNY Stats & Info: Greg Little’s early-season struggles

Through two disappointing games, your Cleveland Browns have been among the most pass-happy teams in a pass-happy 2013 NFL.

Overall, the Browns have attempted 90 passes — 86 Brandon Weeden, four Jason Campbell — which ranks seventh-most in football. One of the biggest benefactors of those targets has been third-year receiver Greg Little, ye’ of the yet another recent traffic violation.

Little himself ranks tied for 10th in the NFL with 22 targets, per FFToday.com. Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Julio Jones and surprising names like Julian Edelman and Brian Hartline dominate the top of the list.

Yet despite those 22 targets, Little has caught just 8 passes. That’s a 36.4% rate, placing him in some historical rankings. Here are the 10 worst rates among NFL wide receivers (min. 100 targets) over the last five full seasons:

10. Vincent Jackson, 2012, Tampa Bay, 49.0% (72/147)
9. Justin Blackmon, 2012, Jacksonville, 48.5% (64/132)
8. Donnie Avery, 2012, Indianapolis, 48.4% (60/124)
7. Santonio Holmes, 2008, Pittsburgh, 48.2% (55/114)
6. Jerome Simpson, 2011, Cincinnati, 47.6% (50/105)
5. Brandon Lloyd, 2011, Denver, 46.7% (70/150)
4. Larry Fitzgerald, 2012, Arizona, 45.5% (71/156)
3. Denarius Moore, 2012, Oakland, 44.7% (51/114)
2. Torrey Smith, 2012, Baltimore, 44.5% (49/110)
1. Braylon Edwards, 2008, Cleveland, 39.9% (55/138)

Little’s catch percentage is even worse than Braylon Edwards territory. Obviously, the Browns’ awful 53.3% completion percentage anyway is a factor (thus, 58.8% to non-Greg Little targets). The average completion percentage in the NFL this season is 62.2%.

Only receivers with sub-50% rates thus far in 2013 (min. 15 targets): New England’s Kenbrell Thompkins 28.6% (6/21), Little, Pittsburgh’s Jerricho Cotchery 43.8% (7/16) and Jacksonville’s Cecil Shorts 44.0% (11/25).

There’s some hope for regression here in that hardly any receivers ever have catch rates sub-40% for a full season. But we’ll see if Weeden, Campbell or maybe even Brian Hoyer can make life any easier for Little starting in Week 3.

[Related: Cleveland Browns Game Two: Winners and Losers]

WFNY Stats & Info: Indians’ playoff odds over 50 percent

What a weekend. With four straight wins over the Chicago White Sox and a boatload of help, your Cleveland Indians are suddenly one-half game behind both American League wild card spots.

With a fortunate schedule on deck, that leaves the Indians now as a near-favorite to grab one of the spots. Here are what popular playoff odds websites say about the Tribe’s current chances:

Baseball Prospectus (link) — 54.4%
FanGraphs (link) — 64.9%
ESPN (link) — 68.3%
CoolStandings (link) — 69.9%

As a brief note, FanGraphs and ESPN both use slightly altered methods related to CoolStandings’ season-to-date approach. That means they focus more on what already has happened with run differential thus far in 2013. Baseball Prospectus’ approach is much different. I’ll have more about this for The Diff on Wednesday.

Per CoolStandings, the Indians’ odds jumped over 40% with the four-game series against Chicago. Per Baseball Prospectus via MLB.com, that number was closer to about 35%. Both are still incredibly substantial changes for this late in the season. For both, Cleveland’s playoff odds are as high as they’ve been all year.

The Indians face off against the Kansas City Royals this week in a pivotal three-game road matchup. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays — the two teams tied for the wild card spots right now — play four in St. Petersburg.

[Related: Tribe Weekend Recap: “Its All Happening!”]

WFNY Stats & Info: Indians win 9th straight over White Sox

With last night’s crucial rain-soaked blowout win over the Chicago White Sox, the Cleveland Indians have now won nine in a row against their long-time division rival.

The Indians Twitter account shared earlier today that, per Elias Sports, it is the longest winning streak in franchise history over the White Sox.

That statistic was confirmed by Baseball-Reference’s Play Index. Using that tool, I then set out to find the longest winning streaks against an individual team in Indians franchise history. To be exact, this current nine-game streak over the White Sox is the 29th streak of its kind since 1916.

Here are all of those streaks:

indians win streaks

Cleveland has only had two such nine-game winning streaks against an individual opponent since the 2000 season. Their last one was a 10-game roll over the Kansas City Royals in 2005.

In this most recent stretch, the Indians are out-scoring the White Sox by an average of 8.0-4.0. The offense, obviously, has been the significant reason why, as evidenced by last night’s 14-run outburst. The team is batting .331/.398/.536 in this stretch.

On the season, the Indians are 12-2 (.857) against the South Side Sox with a fortunate five games remaining. Jason Kipnis (1.029 OPS in 45 PA), Ryan Raburn (1.319 OPS in 39 PA) and Yan Gomes (1.281 OPS in 32 PA) have led the charge offensively in these 14 games.

[Related: Indians 14 White Sox 3: Sox Raburned Again]

WFNY Stats & Info: Cleveland Browns’ woeful Week One offense

By now, we’ve read a lot about the Cleveland Browns disappointing offensive performance in Sunday afternoon’s opening 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Yet, the pure volume and disheartening report from the box score statistics tells an even more gruesome story. All the numbers below are via Pro-Football-Reference.com’s Play Index tool.

Overall, the Browns ran 72 plays on Sunday: 59 pass (6 sacks), 13 runs. The breakdown of plays by down is shown below:

First down plays (30): 20 pass, 10 rush.
Second down plays (24): 21 pass, 3 rush.
Third down plays (14): 14 pass.
Fourth down plays (4): 4 pass.

It’s pretty astounding that the Browns passed on 21 out of 24 second-down opportunities in a game where they were almost always down just one score. It’s perhaps because 17 of these 24 second-down plays had 8+ yards to go. Of those 21 pass attempts, two resulted in a sack and 14 resulted in a completion. At least the Browns managed to get 10 first downs on these plays, which is an OK number all things considered.

Brandon Weeden’s net yards per attempt (which factors in sacks and sack yards) in the game was 4.14. Among NFL teams in Week 1 so far, only Jacksonville (2.48) had worse. The NFL average is only 6.48. Last season, Weeden’s net yards per attempt was 5.84 and the NFL average was also a much higher 8.87.

Trent Richardson gained an average of 3.6 yards per carry. Last season, he also averaged exactly 3.6 yards per carry on his 17.8 attempts per game. This was a topic I featured in last week’s edition of The Diff. The average NFL rush play in Week 1 so far has gained only 3.43 yards per attempt. In 2012, that number was 4.26.

The Browns offense has been the fourth-least efficient in football in Week One so far, averaging just 4.0 yards per play from scrimmage. The three teams worse are Pittsburgh (3.7), Tennessee (3.6) and Jacksonville (2.5). The Browns averaged 5.0 yards per play last season and the NFL’s worst team was Arizona at 4.1.

[Related: Cleveland Browns Game One: Winners and Losers]

WFNY Stats & Info: Scott Kazmir’s stellar comeback season

In terms of Scott Kazmir’s history with the Cleveland Indians, I’ve oddly been the lead historian.

Back on Nov. 23, I shared that the Indians were one of several teams seen scouting the 29-year-old. And on Dec. 21, I reported on his new minor league deal with the Tribe. Then, I was there again with the post on April 20 as he was set to make his Indians debut.

Since then, Kazmir, who pitched in 2012 with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters near his hometown of Houston, has been dynamite. Last season, Cleveland had one of the worst starting pitching rotations in recent history. Kazmir’s been the most surprising reason behind this year’s impressive pitching turnaround.

2004 (TB): 8 games, 2-3 record, 5.67 ERA, 33.1 IP, 33 H, 21 BB, 41 K
2005-2008 (TB): 117 starts, 45-34 record, 3.51 ERA, 689.2 IP, 623 H, 311 BB, 742 K
2009 (TB/LAA): 26 starts, 10-9 record, 4.89 ERA, 147.1 IP, 149 H, 60 BB, 117 K
2010 (LAA): 28 starts, 9-15 record, 5.94 ERA, 150.0 IP, 158 H, 79 BB, 93 K
2011 (LAA): 1 start, 0-0 record, 27.00 ERA, 1.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 0 K
2013 (CLE): 25 starts, 8-7 record, 4.17 ERA, 136.0 IP, 136 H, 43 BB, 131 K

What made this left-hander such a dominant up-and-coming young starter was his electric strikeout ability. He led the AL with 239 strikeouts back in 2007 and tallied 9.7 K/9 in an impressive four-year stretch. His stats then wildly declined over the next three years, with a 5.54 ERA and only a 6.3 K/9 ratio, as he fell out of the majors.

Friday night then showed how dominant he still can be. In his first career start against the New York Mets, the team that drafted him as the No. 15 pick way back in 2002, he struck out a season-high 12 in six shutout innings. It was the most strikeouts he had in a game since 2007.

Of the season, Kazmir now has an 8.7 K/9 ratio. He also has an impressive nine starts of six-plus innings with a maximum of one earned run, which trails Justin Masterson”s 12 for the team lead.

As I remarked on Twitter last night, Kazmir is making himself a prime candidate for a large free agent contract this winter. If the voting works out well too, he also could be a favorite for the AL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

[Related: On Scott Kazmir and My Impending Middle Age]

WFNY Stats & Info: Ubaldo Jimenez’s continued improvement

Resurgent Ubaldo Jimenez continued his strong performance of late with another quality start and victory in Tuesday night’s Indians win. He’s been an entirely new pitcher over the last four months, as the stats poignantly describe.

First 46 starts with Indians — 13-23, 5.63 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 59.1% strikes, .269 AVG
Last 23 starts since 4/29/13 —  10-7, 2.97 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 61.4% strikes, .237 AVG

He has 10 quality starts and five shutout quality starts. As one might point out though, Jimenez has only pitched 130.1 innings during this span, a mark that ranks only 63rd in baseball despite his consistent health and the fact he pitched directly on each of these end days. Among these 63 pitchers however, his ERA ranks 12th and his average against ranks 19th, spectacular turnarounds from his previous marks over the past two seasons.

In his best career season, back in 2010, the now-29-year-old went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 33 starts for the Colorado Rockies. He pitched 221.2 innings, struck out 214 batters, allowed an opponent OPS of .610 and finished third in National League Cy Young voting. But it’s notable to point out he had a 4.08 ERA and ever-increasing walk rates from June onward that year after a sensational start to the season.

Back in early June, when Jimenez’s hot pitching first started, I shared some research of the best starts of his Indians career. Overall, his improved play has been a gigantic reason why the Cleveland pitching staff is on the verge of historic records in 2013, as I shared in early August.

Now, the intriguing debate will be over his future in a Cleveland uniform. He has a $8 mutual option for 2014, not strictly a team option as some had previously reported. With the way he’s been pitching, like a risky but low-end No. 2, it might suddenly be valuable for the Indians to consider sticking with him for at least one more season. But will that be the best move for Jimenez? Who knows.

[Related: Indians 4, Orioles 3: On the Verge of Losing It]

WFNY Stats & Info: Rare accomplishments for Indians starters

With the completion of this week’s four-game sweep over the Chicago White Sox, the Tribe starters have continued their incredibly impressive hot streak. Ever since Carlos Carrasco’s last meltdown on July 6, they’ve been consistently dominant. That’s not news, as I wrote about this previously already.

But here are a few more notable facts about what the Indians starters have accomplished of late:

Here are the starting pitcher statistics in 21 games since July 7:
9-2 record, 2.21 ERA, 134.3 IP (6.1/start), 8.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, .198/.268/.291 line.

For the striking contrast, here are the starting pitcher statistics in the season’s first 87 games:
30-34 record, 4.62 ERA, 494.2 IP (5.2/start), 8.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, .262/.335/.427 line.

And again, the starting pitching line that derailed the entire 162-game set in 2012:
48-76 record, 5.25 ERA, 913.2 IP (5.2/start), 6.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, .284/.351/.451 line.

The pitching was slightly improved in the first half of this season across the board, while especially picking up the pace with the strikeouts. But still, their 4.62 ERA ranked in the bottom segment of the AL. Now, the Indians have had as impressive of a pitching streak as has taken place ever in franchise history. The .560 OPS allowed is in stark contrast to the .802 OPS from last season.

Currently, all five long-term Indians starters (Masterson, Kluber, Kazmir, Jimenez and McAllister) have at least 12 starts with ERAs less than 4.20. The last time that happened in franchise history was 1969. Every single other American League team has turned this feat since at least 1976.

The Indians now have four starters (all but McAllister) with at least 100 innings pitched that average at least 8.0 K/9. No other team in American League history has ever had this feat. Both Boston and Detroit have three such pitchers in 2013, but only three times has an AL team finished with exactly three, including the 1964 Indians as led by Sam McDowell.

– Specifically, Justin Masterson had his 11th start of at least 5 innings with one run or less last night. He became just the sixth Indians pitcher to pull off that feat since 1975. The last five: Cliff Lee, 2008; CC Sabathia, 2006; CC Sabathia, 2005; Charles Nagy, 1992; Greg Swindell, 1989.

– Tonight’s starter, Ubaldo Jimenez, had his best start of the season in his last outing, as measured by Game Score (81). He worked eight shutout innings for the second time this year. It was officially his best start as a Cleveland Indian, surpassing his outing on June 1 (80). His last better outing per Game Score (84) was Oct. 2, 2010, with Colorado.

Overall, the Indians have allowed just 58 runs (seven unearned runs) in their last 21 games since July 7. Only eight other MLB teams have had better 21-game pitching stretches thus far in 2013.

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

WFNY Stats & Info: Nick Swisher’s slugging struggles

To many, Nick Swisher’s big signing in the offseason was doomed to be a disappointment. Never much of a star – only one career All-Star game – he reached a four-year, $56 million deal with Cleveland just after turning 32 years old. The pomp and circumstance were exciting, but would he produce?

As an understatement, the new Indians slugger has underachieved in the minds of many fans thus far in 2013. While the Ohio State outfielder/first baseman got off to a hot start – including the walk-off in the year’s first home win – he’s been awfully cold of late.

Per the numbers, take a look at the exact discrepancy of his recent struggles:

Career through 2012: .256/.361/.467 in 1,209 games, 9.4% XBH/PA, 21.3% K/PA
Through May 26th: .280/.378/.510 in 43 games, 11.4% XBH/PA, 20.5% K/PA
Since May 27th: .204/.307/.293 in 44 games, 3.6% XHB/PA, 25.0% K/PA

Swisher has continued to be an effective on-base percentage producer. It certainly might make sense then for manager Terry Francona to try to get him ignited in the No. 2 hole with more at-bats.

But the most jarring aspect of Swisher’s struggles lie with his slugging decline. He has just three doubles and four homers in the span of 192 plate appearances since May 27th. For his career with nearly 7.5-seasons worth of games entering this stretch, he averaged 18 extra-base hits per 192 PAs.

Now displaying a season-long slugging percentage of .398, it’s a new career-worst for the former New York Yankee. Besides his rookie season, his two previous worst slugging years were his bad .410 of 2008 with the White Sox and .446 in his second year with Oakland in 2005.

In his first three tries against Texas’ Yu Darvish last night, Swisher struck out. While his K/PA rates have remained fairly consistent, it’s a wonder if his continued shoulder issues are affecting his power.

Certainly, the revitalization of Swisher – and any improvement from similarly struggling Mark Reynolds – would constitute a solid offensive boost down the stretch for the contending Indians.

[Related: Nick Swisher signing will backfire for Indians per Jim Bowden]