April 19, 2014

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...]

The Diff: Playoff stats research for the Cleveland Indians

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I recapped some stats from the Indians’ turnaround 2013 regular season. Today, I’m taking stats research questions from my WFNY colleagues with the Wild Card game tonight.

The Diff

Kirk: “How about how often the best team wins it all in baseball? Wild card vs. top division winner success.”

That’s a great question, Kirk. This week, I was planning to write about MLB payrolls, but then realized that was too depressing of a topic. If payrolls don’t matter anyway, then have the low-to-medium-sized payroll Indians struggled for much of the last decade? Either way, my answer to this: The MLB playoffs are an absolute crap-shoot, even despite the incredible payroll imbalance. [Read more...]

The Diff: Reviewing stats on the surprising 2013 Indians

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote on the varying playoff odds formulations. This week, I’m revisiting many of my stats comments about the Tribe in 2013.

The Diff

Today is Sept. 25 and the Cleveland Indians have over 80 percent odds of making the American League playoffs. Yes, that’s likely as one of two Wild Card teams, but all that matters is just making it into the postseason. Dating back to the advent of the Wild Card system in 1994, home teams are only 316-271 (.538) in the playoffs. That means it’s still very much an incredible toss-up in the probable one-game playoff that would take place one week from today, regardless of location. [Read more...]

The Diff: Looking at the Indians’ thriving playoff odds

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote about Chip Kelly’s arrival in the NFL. This week, I’m dissecting MLB playoff odds for the red-hot Indians.

The Diff

It’s no surprise now to Indians fans that the Tribe is on the precipice of being an AL wild card favorite. With the help of the lowly Chicago White Sox and some favorable weekend luck, Cleveland is right in the thick of things. While they remain only one-half game back of the both wild card spots, the more jaw-dropping stat has been related to the team’s mathematical playoff odds. But why do the different sites seem to differ so much? Let’s dive into each one. [Read more...]

The Diff: Analyzing the struggling Cleveland Indians offense

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote a comprehensive article on all of the top Tribe prospects. Now, I’ve dissecting the mediocre Cleveland offense.

The Diff

There might not be a better time than shortly after a sleep-inducing 14-inning game to write about the Cleveland Indians’ struggling offense. After a sensationally (and perhaps, unsustainably) hot start to the season, the Tribe has been much cooler of late. The offense has been a major reason for this decline, as the starting pitching actually has been achieving some historic feats. Today, I’ll be diving deep into the stats of this offensive fall and reflecting back on some previous predictions. [Read more...]

In defense of the under-appreciated Carlos Santana

carlos santana celebrationIn a season that largely has been better than expected, it’s hard to tell that based only on the vitriolic commentary about the Cleveland Indians.

Yes, of late, among the variety of possible scapegoats, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera has been the most prominent and deserving punching bag. The 27-year-old former All-Star has been all over the place this season and is mired in a rough six-week slump.

While now-released Mark Reynolds and closer Chris Perez also have taken turns as the enemies in the fans’ eyes, the criticisms of one player just don’t sit well with me.

This fellow 27-year-old has never been an All-Star, but deservingly could have been one over the past few years. He’s also having his best offensive full-season in the major leagues, as demonstrated by his 29 doubles, 60 walks, career-high batting average and 129 OPS+.

This player is, yes, the defensive albatross of Carlos Santana. And for all his misgivings, he’s still a very valuable player and highly undervalued in Cleveland. [Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Red-hot Indians pitching staff

Despite the win-loss struggles of this past road trip, the Cleveland Indians pitching staff has been on an impressive roll over the past few weeks. In the last 14 games since Carlos Carrasco’s last start on July 6th, they’ve been as good as they’ve ever been in two seasons.

Over those contests, the Indians have held opponents to just 38 runs total (2.7 per game). That’s a new season-best for any 14-game stretch in 2013. Here are the best 14-game pitching stretches of the year:

1st place: 7/7-7/24 — 38 runs (8-6 record)
T-2nd place: 4/24-5/9 — 41 runs (10-4 record)
T-2nd place: 4/22-5/8 — 41 runs (10-4 record)
T-4th place: 4/29-5/13 — 42 runs (12-2 record)
T-4th place: 4/21-5/7 — 42 runs (10-4 record)
6th place: 6/11-6/26 — 44 runs (10-4 record)

Obviously, many other teams have had far better 14-game stretches this season. The Atlanta Braves have the best mark in 2013, per Baseball-Reference.com, in allowing just 26 runs in a streak starting with their second game of the year.

But as a testament to the vast improvement of the 2013 Indians pitching staff, the best 14-game stretch in 2012 allowed 47 runs (3.4 per game).

Now, let’s take a look at the main reasons behind this improvement. Scott Kazmir delivered another outstanding performance on Wednesday. But how about the rest of the starters?

Last 14 games: 2.00 ERA, 6.0 IP/start, 8.9 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, .182/.270/.281 line
First 87 games: 4.62 ERA, 5.2 IP/start, 8.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, .262/.335/.427 line

The starters have clearly been much better all around, going longer into games and being more efficient. They might be walking a tad bit more batters, but they’re limiting anything offensively. So how about the much-maligned bullpen? Is there a difference in their recent performance?

Last 14 games: 3.11 ERA, 2.2 IP/game, 8.4 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, .260/.349/.329 line
First 87 games: 4.13 ERA, 3.0 IP/game, 8.9 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, .235/.321/.399 line

In the ERA column, the bullpen has been better, but they’ve been noticeably worse in terms of average and on-base percentage allowed. The huge decrease in slugging also is interesting. Chris Perez (0.82 ERA since return from DL) has been on fire of late, leading this charge.

The opponents over this 14-game stretch haven’t featured that excellent of offenses: Detroit, Toronto, Kansas City, Minnesota and Seattle. The Indians will have a tough task ahead this weekend against the Texas Rangers. We’ll see if this continues, but logically, the Cleveland pitchers aren’t quite as bad as they once were, or as great as they’ve been recently.

[Related: Indians All-Star Break Review: The Starting Rotation]

WFNY Stats & Info: Danny Salazar’s magical debut

For all those at Thursday afternoon’s Indians game, you witnessed history in the making. Danny Salazar, a 23-year-old right-handed prospect, delivered a standout performance in his MLB debut, among the best in franchise history.

The final line for the Dominican Republic native: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. He had 89 pitches in the contest — as many as he had delivered in his 17 minor league games this season — and carried a no-hitter into his final frame.

Per the Game Score statistic, it was tied for the sixth-best MLB starter debut since 2010, according to Baseball-Reference’s Play Index Tool. Some of the other names on the top-10 debut list are among the best prospects in baseball in the last few years (Wacha, Strasburg, Harvey) along with a fellow Cleveland Indian (Tomlin).

best debuts since 2010

What was more notable, however, was where Salazar’s performance stood out on the list of all-time Cleveland Indians starter debuts. He also ranked sixth in this list, per Game Score, among all Tribe starter debuts dating back to 1916.
best indians debuts

The stat that was being thrown out all around yesterday afternoon on Twitter was this: Salazar’s 7 strikeouts were the most by an Indians starter in a debut since Luis Tiant’s 11 in 1964. Herb Score had 9 in his 1955 debut and Floyd Weaver had 8 in 1962. Then, Salazar ranks fourth.

Per Elias Sports at ESPN, Salazar is also only the fourth pitcher to defeat a reigning Cy Young winner (R.A. Dickey) in their MLB debut.

I’ve written plenty about Salazar already this season, most notably after his promotion to Columbus in early May and then his announced MLB promotion earlier this week. Overall on the season, even though he’s only two years removed from Tommy John surgery, he ranked 8th in the minor leagues with a 33.1% strikeout rate (min. 50 IP).

[Related: Indians 4 Blue Jays 2: Salazar dazzles in Tribe debut]

WFNY Stats & Info: Tough road ahead for Indians

Although the Tribe already has played in back-to-back difficult series against Detroit and Boston, the upcoming schedule doesn’t get any more favorable. Beginning with the start of this four-game road-and-home series against Cincinnati, the Indians have a very tough 19-game map ahead.

Team H/R Opponent Wins Losses Pct # of Games
CLE @ CIN 31 19 0.620 2
CLE CIN 31 19 0.620 2
CLE TBR 25 24 0.510 3
CLE @ NYY 30 19 0.612 3
CLE @ DET 28 20 0.583 3
CLE @ TEX 32 18 0.640 3
CLE WSN 26 24 0.520 3

 

Overall, when factoring in number of games, the strength of schedule for the Indians over this 19-game stretch is .583. On the year, the team already has a combined record of 4-8 against Tampa Bay, New York and Detroit. When factoring away those games from the opponent’s season record, the strength of schedule still sits at .580.

This stretch will help to shape what direction the Tribe goes for the rest of 2013. The team is 27-22 right now. Last season, the team similarly started 26-18 and then collapsed en route to a 68-94 record, the worst such collapse for a team that started with that record.

[Related: The Diff: Historical finishes for 26-18 MLB teams]

On the 2013 Indians starting rotation and narratives

Ubaldo JimenezLast year, in spring training, I remember the WFNY crew was banging our heads against a wall trying to come up with Indians content. There ain’t no shortage of narratives and storylines this year. And that’s fun for everyone. Positives!

But today, I hope to tackle one specific topic from Jon’s “optimism” article earlier this week: the starting rotation. It’s a topic that divides a lot of fans’ and analysts’ opinions regarding the potential of the 2013 Indians. And while I know there could be millions of other arguments, I wanted to do a three-step piece today.

First, I’ll share an debate as to how exactly the Indians were “historically” bad in 2012. Then, I’ll share some intriguing narratives behind three of the starters. And finally, overall about narratives and the upcoming season.

This won’t necessarily be all stats-y, again, but that’s how it will start off for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts and expectations in the comments as well. [Read more...]