April 23, 2014

Unsolicited Observations: Axford, the Pen, O-Woes, and it’s “Chiz Kid” time

John Axford nails down his seventh save

John Axford has the credentials. He’s a former All-Star and Rolaids Relief Man Award winner. He’s endeared himself to fans by letting the masses choose his entrance music and his mustache is the envy of all facial hair enthusiasts. Most importantly: He’s closing games. For a team whose closer imploded at the end of the 2013 season, that’s the only thing that counts.

Cleveland fans know the front office loves reclamation projects as much as TBS loves airing reruns of the Big Bang Theory. That’s why it’s never a surprise to see a pitcher come to the Indians whose star once shined bright for another team. Last season it was Scott Kazmir; this year, it’s Axford. The season is just 19 games young, but so far the experiment’s been a success. Axford is 7-of-8 in save situations, with a 3.12 ERA.

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On Asdrubal Cabrera, Francisco Lindor and wanting good things too soon

Asdrubal-Cabrera

In life, we often yearn for what we don’t have. “The grass is always greener on the other side” mentality. It happens. We take for granted what is right in front of us. In sports, the same thing often plays out. Fans fall out of favor with certain players, wish for a former star to return, desire another team’s starter or hope for the highly touted prospect to finally arrive.

This is happening right now for the Cleveland Indians, and I just couldn’t take it any longer. It’s not really fair; fans are underrating the player that exists right now. And they’re forgetting just how young a certain prospect happens to be.

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Tribe Weekend Recap: Masterson’s ill-timed stinker, the Carrasco conundrum, Asdrubal’s impatience, and roster decisions

Jason Kipnis

The Cleveland Indians took two of three from the San Diego Padres and headed to Chicago for a four-game set with the team they owned last year, the White Sox. A 17-2 season-series was never going to happen again, especially with the off-season improvements the South Siders have made. We saw a lot of that this weekend with Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu looking like potential thorns in the side of the Indians for years to come.

After losing the first two, the Tribe took a see-saw affair Saturday 12-6 and looked to leave Chicago with a split Sunday. Corey Kluber gave the Indians a solid performance, but was touched up for an eighth inning solo homer to Marcus Semien which broke a 1-1 tie. But this Tribe team doesn’t quit. They came right back to get two off of closer Matt Lindstrom with the key hit by the hot-hitting David Murphy. But you have to get 27 outs to win a game, and the Tribe couldn’t close. [Read more...]

Indians 2, Athletics 0: It took a while, but it was worth the wait

Asdrubal CabreraTo borrow a phrase from the great George Costanza, I stayed up late to watch the Tribe start their season and “yada yada, I am very tired today.” It rained all day in Oakland and getting this game in looked bleak most of the day. But the baseball Gods usually arrive on Opening Day. They did, the sun came out, and the Tribe’s 2014 debut started right on time.

I’m sure many of you were sleeping, and if you weren’t, the Indians offense with runners on base may have put you there. But in the end, it felt like another nail-biter 2013 stretch drive game where the pitching gave them a chance to win and the bats did just enough late to pull out a victory.

The first game of the each season is always going to see two teams trot their best starter out to the mound. The A’s sent 24-year-old stud Sonny Gray out to square off with Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, making his third consecutive Opening Day start. With free agency pending, it could be the last opener Masterson starts in a Tribe uniform. Lets hope not. The way he pitched last night had all the makings of an ace. We’ve seen this kind of dominating performance out of Justin before, but to fire out of the gates like this was very encouraging.

In seven stellar innings, Oakland could muster little against Masterson and his array of pitches. He had it all working last night. You usually know how things are going to go with Justin judging by his first couple of innings. When his command is there, he is extremely tough to beat. [Read more...]

2014 WFNY Tribe Predictions

Nick Swisher

Man that was a long winter…Well it is essentially still going on here in Northeast Ohio, but the sun is shining here today and a smile is on my face. Why? Because it is BASEBALL SEASON! When we last left our Cleveland Indians, they had been shut down in the AL WIld Card game by Alex Cobb and the Tampa Bay Rays. A bitter taste was left in the mouths of the players. Guys like Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Santana have been champing at the bit to get back on the field.

“Unfinished Business” is the tag line for the 2014 Indians. The Wild Card was almost like a tease. They want more. We want more. The national media didn’t seem to give the Indians much of a chance in year one of the Terry Francona era. They shocked everyone by winning 92 games. Fast forward a year and again nobody outside of Cleveland seems to be giving the Tribe much of a chance again. In fact, the Kansas City Royals are the trendy team.

But what does the WFNY crew make of this year’s version of the Wahoo Warriors? I asked seven key questions, they answered…. [Read more...]

Asdrubal on Lindor: “He’s got everything he needs to play right now”

 Francisco Lindor

Francisco Lindor is the future of the Cleveland Indians, but Asdrubal Cabrera, the team’s current shortstop, belives that the kid has all the right tools to be playing in the big leagues right now. In a piece discussing Lindor and his first big-league camp, Stephanie Storm of the Akron Beacon-Journal caught up with Cabrera to discuss the role he’s playing in the top prospect’s growth.

“He’s a really good player, a young kid,” Cabrera said. “He’s got everything he needs to play this game now.”

Asked if Lindor reminded Cabrera of himself as a 20-year old player, Cabrera shook his head.

“No, no,” he said. “He’s really good. I don’t think I was like that. I didn’t have the conditioning he has right now when I was 20 years old. He can play here a long time.”

Even though Lindor is the heir apparent to his position, Cabrera doesn’t mind playing the role of mentor this spring.

Lindor Quote

From MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo

“I had mentors when I was in Seattle, a lot of guys who helped me like Carlos Guillen,” Cabrera said. “I tried to learn from those guys. So if he can learn something from me, I’m happy for him.”

Lindor, the team’s top prospect, has been on the fast track ever since the Indians made the Puerto Rican native the eighth overall pick of the 2011 Draft. He played in the Futures Game as an 18-year-old in 2012 and reached Double-A Akron the following year. It’s beleived he will start out in Akron for 2014, but it should not be too long before he’s playing in Columbus with the Triple-A Clippers.

“He’s an extraordinarily motivated guy,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said earlier this offseason. “He’s a great person with a great work ethic, and I think it’s just natural to want to compete against the best players. I think that’s, in the end, one of the things that will make Francisco such a good Major League player. But there’s also a process to go through developmentally.”

Presenty considered one of the best (if not the best) defender in the minor leagues, the switch-hitting shortstop was thought to be a big-league bat away from being able to make an impact with the Tribe. If his .801 OPS with the Aeros (at age 20, while dealing with considerable back pain) is any indication, the future may not be all that far off.

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Tribe position players face questions as full-squad workouts begin

 Terry Francona, Chris Antonetti

We are getting closer and closer to Opening Day. Last week  the pitchers and catchers arrived in Goodyear to get their work started. Now, the rest of the team has arrived ready to build on last season’s 92-win Wild Card season. The core group is back, with a few additions sprinkled in. The big splash everyone was hoping for was not going to happen. Instead, David Murphy was brought over from Texas to platoon in Right Field with last year’s surprise Ryan Raburn. Everything else will look pretty familiar to you.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t issues surrounding the starting nine and bench bunch. “The Goon Squad” captured the city’s imagination thanks to their personalities and versatility both on the field and in the clubhouse, but new members may emerge. Then you have the third base situation. As we did last week, let us examine the various questions that will need  to be answered, starting with the talk of the winter in Tribe Town…. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Charting top QB draft prospects

While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links every day. We’ve been doing it for about four years or so. Denny Mayo used to be much more amusing with his intros, if you recall. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Phenomenal research here on the top QBs in the 2014 NFL draft class: “Most notable for Bridgewater is the lack of screens incorporated in the offense. Some have said that Bridgewater throws a high quantity of short passes, however the screens a QB normally utilizes have become short throws so that Bridgewater throws 53% of his passes in the 1-10 yard zones.” [Greg Peshek/Roto World]

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How crazy would it be for Indians to consider trading Michael Bourn?

Michael BournThe Indians shocked much of baseball by signing All-Star outfielder Michael Bourn in February to a deal worth up to $60 million over five years.

While the team then surprised en route to 92 wins and an AL Wild Card appearance, Bourn disappointed. After a four-year near-superstar average of 4.8 jWAR (definition here), he posted a measly 2.2 jWAR in 2013 – just barely above legitimate starter levels.

This week, Cleveland added veteran David Murphy to the fold. He’s expected to play the larger half of a platoon in right field with Ryan Raburn. This now presents an even more crowded logjam in the outfield along with Bourn, Michael Brantley, Nick Swisher and arbitration-eligible Drew Stubbs.

All of these players have a ton of versatility, just as Terry Francona likes it. But it’s doubtful all six are on the roster come April. Thus, one potential option that is gaining more traction in the Tribe blogosphere is the concept of trading Michael Bourn. [Read more...]

MLB: What’s the likelihood of Asdrubal Cabrera being traded?

One of the biggest disappointments of the Tribe’s mostly pleasant season was the regression of Asdrubal Cabrera. It would seem that in the last year of his contract and considering declining production that the Indians might be stuck with Asdrubal, but maybe not. Keith Law of ESPN believes that Cabrera could still be moved.

I think he’ll get moved, as he’s a free agent after the season, makes $10 million this year and Cleveland has top prospect Francisco Lindor breathing down his neck. The problem for GM Chris Antonetti is that Cabrera isn’t very good any more…

He’s just 27 years old and I’m sure some teams will look at him as a bounceback candidate, but if he can’t guarantee you a minimum value with his glove, I’d be uncomfortable giving him that much money to play short.

This is Major League Baseball and I’m not entirely positive that $10 million is enough to make Asdrubal Cabrera a bad risk for some GM in some baseball market. I’m pretty sure that market isn’t Cleveland. It’s amazing how much difference a year makes. At one time Asdrubal Cabrera was thought to be a potential franchise cornerstone for the Tribe. That version of Asdrubal seemed to disappear along with the sage “SWING HARD” advice that came from short-time double-play battery mate Orlando Cabrera, who played 91 games for the Tribe in 2011.

[Related: The Diff: Indians offseason, 2014 salary and contention windows]

The Diff: Indians offseason, 2014 salary and contention windows

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. This is my 41st edition of The Diff. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I injected some stats into a Cavs rotation projection. This week, I’m writing about 2014 Indians salary issues.

The Diff

For many, talking about baseball salaries is a tiring and depressing issue. These fans will point to the unfair system that allows teams like New York, Los Angeles and Boston to spend their way into the playoffs each year while teams like Tampa Bay, Oakland and Cleveland wilt away at the bottom. But this idea ignores a clear truth: Teams like the Rays (four straight 90-win seasons) and Athletics (seven playoffs in 14 years) still have managed to win baseball games consistently. Their small-budget success makes one wonder how the Cleveland Indians could be even more efficient in the future. That continues with this current offseason. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Still giddy about Cavs’ opening victory

Cleveland sports fans are waiting. Thus, while we’re all waiting, the WFNY editors thought you might enjoy reading. Because you never know how long we might be waiting. So here are assorted reading goodies for you to enjoy. Send more good links for tomorrow’s edition to tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Great read from the fantastic Opening Night victory: “Cleveland was the most thirsty place on the planet last night. There’s a pain, but also a power to that. It makes you cheer for violence and other things you are normally against. You sit among the thugs, you are them. You are thinking unspeakable thoughts. It’s if a boat has landed full of us on a beachfront. We are exploding with glazed eyes and savage ideation. And the season begins.” [Cleveland Jackson/Stepien Rules] [Read more...]

2013 Indians in Review: Infielders and Catchers

Asdrubal Cabrera

The Indians wild ride has come to an end. The 2013 season was one that nobody expected. A 96 loss team turned into a 92 win club that advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. GM Chris Antonetti and Manager Terry Francona helped changed the culture of the organization and has our baseball team on the rise. There is a buzz in the city about the Indians again. It was a season to remember with so many great moments and the arrival of some new fan favorites.  

Each day this week, we will look back at a different portion of the club and see where we are today, a plan for 2014, and so on. We began with the starting rotation, and then we moved onto the relievers. Today we will look at the infielders and catchers. [Read more...]

Early thoughts on the 2014 Indians: WFNY Roundtable

Following Wednesday’s AL Wild Card loss to Tampa Bay, the WFNY staff was still giddy about the Cleveland Indians’ 2013 season. But, some were already not as optimistic about the picture for 2014. Here’s another look inside the WFNY email thread to see what we were talking about yesterday with regards to the Tribe’s future.

WFNY_roundtable

Jacob: From 1995-2012, 58 MLB teams had .600+ records in 1-run games. Of those 58 teams, 44 regressed the following season: 75.9% of teams. In total, those 58 teams regressed by an average of 5.8 wins/162 games the following season.

Sure, that’s probably just regular regression to the mean for good teams anyway, but still notable. I don’t think winning 1-run games is a skill however, unless you have Mariano Rivera. The Indians went 30-17 (.638) in one-run games this season, second in baseball to the Yankees: 30-16 (.652). Both could be prime candidates for 2014 regression. [Read more...]

Cleveland Indians Wild Card post-game with Martin Rickman – WFNY Podcast – 2013-10-02

WFNY Podcast LogoI was still up wallowing in some Burger King. Martin Rickman was up and about to drive home from Progressive Field. I gave him a call and we talked about the Indians.

Martin Rickman and the champagne bath
How many champagne baths should be allowed?
The Indians season-ending game was sad, but it wasn’t a gut punch
The struggles of Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera
Expecting the playoffs and playing with house money
The Cleveland Indians off-season and making tough choices
The Indians game tonight wasn’t a newspaper across the nose

 

 

Check out this episode

Royals 7 Indians 2: Defense does Tribe in

Ryan RaburnThis one started out poorly, ended poorly, and was played poorly in the middle. Lets just say it was not a banner evening for your Cleveland Indians.

For the second time this week, the Wahoos had a chance to get into the lead for the second Wild Card spot with a win. They started the night a half game behind both Texas and Tampa Bay. The rookie Danny Salazar got the ball from manager Terry Francona, who knew that at some point earlier than he would like, his bullpen would come into play with Salazar still on a strict pitch count.

It didn’t look as if Danny would be long for this game in the first inning. After retiring the first two Royals on groundouts, Eric Hosmer singled. Billy Butler, a thorn in the Tribe’s side all series, followed with a walk, sending Salvador Perez to the plate. The KC catcher who to me looks like Victor Martinez version 2.o, laced a double to the wall in left. Michael Brantley fired into shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera who had Butler dead to rights at home. However, Cabrera’s throw short hopped catcher Yan Gomes who couldn’t make the scoop and tag for what would have been the third out. Another in a long line of bad defensive plays Asdrubal has made this season. It is not a tough throw and Cabrera couldn’t even hit Gomes on the fly. [Read more...]

Indians 5, Royals 3: Wahoo! What a comeback!

Michael BournOf all of the wins this season – now 82 of the to be exact – last night’s come from behind, 5-3 heart-pounder in Kansas City may have been not only the biggest, but it was my personal favorite.

For the first five-plus innings, the offense looked like they had turned back the clock to August. The Royals needed a starter because left-hander Danny Duffy was scratched a night earlier with forearm tightness. GM Dayton Moore and Manager Ned Yost decided to call upon top pitching prospect Yordano Ventura. Consider him the Royals version of Danny Salazar. The kid throws triple digit fastballs accompanied by a nasty breaking pitch, but still, this was his Major League debut. Remember Salazar’s first game? He carried a no hitter into the sixth against the Texas Rangers and looked dominant.

The Indians notoriously have problems with starters they have never seen before. Remember earlier in the year when the Yankees Vidal Nuno beat them? Or what about being shutout on two hits by Twins rookie Andrew Albers in August? Ventura completely baffled the Indians through five innings, holding them scoreless on two hits. With two out in the sixth and Nick Swisher on first base, Carlos Santana singled, extending his hit streak to 12 games. Up next was Michael Brantley, the Tribe’s most clutch performer. Earlier in the game, Brantley had grounded into a double play, but he made good this time around. Dr. Smooth singled to right scoring Swisher and chasing the kid Ventura from the game. Brantley is now hitting .355 with runners in scoring position. Everyone was impressed by Ventura. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: “Its All Happening!”

Almost FamousWhile a way too large percentage of Cleveland sports fans were up in arms over another pathetic, same old, same old performance from the Browns, the team with a real chance to play in the postseason was taking care of business on the South Side of Chicago. I am going to lay it down for you folks. If you haven’t gotten behind this team, I have no idea what you are waiting for. This group is different. The direction of the organization is different. The manager inspires confidence. You have yourselves a team that almost completely turned itself around from a league also-ran to a club with a real chance to play October baseball in Cleveland for the first time since 2007.

The Indians knew what was at stake and they headed to Chicago on a two-game losing streak to meet up with the last place White Sox. The Wahoos are clearly the superior team. Robin Ventura’s Pale Hose are playing out the string. They are a shell of what they were supposed to be. The pitching staff is in shambles. Their everyday lineup at this point is a veritable plethora of prospects and 4A players surrounding the faded Indian killer Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Alexei Ramirez, and Dayan Viciedo. All of this is welcomed by Terry Francona and his team, but there are still games to be played. [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Wild Card’s factor in MLB attendance

While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links every day. We’ve been doing it for about four years or so. Denny Mayo used to be much more amusing with his intros, if you recall. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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This article focuses on Cleveland and other MLB wild card contending teams struggling with attendance: “Baseball’s addition last season of a second wild card playoff spot in each league was supposed to help teams like Cleveland by elevating their chances of contending and increasing the importance of September’s schedule. The Indians currently trail the Tampa Bay Rays for the second American League wild card by a game and a half. Yet the town, like other towns whose teams are in the thick of things, seems to be yawning.” [Tom Van Riper/Forbes] [Read more...]

Royals 6 Indians 3: Tribe loses, but not any ground

Zach McAllisterYou can’t win them all, but it would sure be nice to. As we said before the Tribe entered the final month of the season, littered with teams they should be able to handle, if they just take two out of every three the rest of the way, they should be playing October baseball. Well that theory will surely be tested as the Indians dropped one to the Kansas City Royals last night 6-3.

Make no mistake about it, the Royals are a good team. Look up and down that lineup and it is more impressive than the Tribe’s. Their bullpen by the numbers is the best in the American League and their rotation is solid. However, they still have that “Kansas City Royals” factor attached to them. This has been their best season in a decade. The last time they finished over .500 was 2003 when they went 83-79. After last night’s win in Cleveland, the Royals have made it a four team race for the last Wild Card Spot.

This one started off looking like things would go the Tribe’s way. With two outs in the bottom of the first, three straight singles by Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, and Michael Brantley off of Jeremy Guthrie to put them on top 1-0. Dr. Smooth came through with yet another clutch, two-out RBI. He is now hitting .328 in those spots (19-58) with 23 runs batted in.  But then, they started to strand and erase runners as if it were the month of August. [Read more...]