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...]

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...]

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...]

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

Jason Kipnis

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

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

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

[Read more...]

Indians 4, Angels 3: The Bauer & Carrasco show

Trevor BauerTrevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco deserve equal billing at the top. What they did last night on a hazy summer evening at Progressive Field can be described in one word: gritty. Two of the four guys who battled for the fifth starter job in Goodyear in March combined to shutdown the dangerous Los Angeles Angels in June to move the Tribe to within two and a half games of first place in the AL Central. The 4-3 win was all about these two power arms.

Lets start with Bauer. The 23-year old started the game with a scoreless frame, striking out two, but the next few innings were a struggle. He was staked to a 2-0 lead thanks to Asdrubal Cabrera’s first inning two-run blast off of Jered Weaver, but the old response runs reared their ugly head. In the top of the second David Freese and Howie Kendrick greeted Bauer with back to back singles. Chris Ianetta’s one out double skipped all the way to the wall past Michael Bourn to tie the game at two. But as he would do all night, Bauer got the biggest outs he needed. He retired John McDonald and Kole Calhoun to end the inning. [Read more...]

Indians 7, Red Sox 4: Breaking out the brooms at 2 AM

Asdrubal Cabrera

$1 hot dogs. Michael Bourn Bobbleheads. Johnny Freaking Manziel (and Justin Gilbert too!). Two hour and 28 minute rain delay. Bunting. Strikeouts. Leads. Preening Papi. Comebacks. Replays. Carlos Freaking Carrasco. More bunting. Edward Freaking Mujica. Walk off homer at 2:02 AM.

What did I miss? The details, my friends….the details.

How about your Cleveland Indians, ladies and gentlemen? Left for dead by so many after being swept by the Oakland A’s to the tune of 30-7 two and a half weeks ago, the Tribe has managed to not just gain their mojo back, but a whopping seven games in the standings. After last night’s 7-4, 12-inning win to sweep the Boston Red Sox, the Indians have raced back to within three and a half games of the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers, who are suddenly reeling, losing four straight and seven of 10. [Read more...]

Indians 11, Tigers 10: The sweep that came via…The Balk-Off?

Asdrubal CabreraJust when you think this team is out…They suck you right back in.

The 2013 Cleveland Indians were dubbed “team streak” at times. Nobody could be colder and then immediately rattle off seven in a row the way they did. Let us not forget that Wahoos had to win 10 straight to close out the season to make the playoffs and actually accomplished the feat. This year’s version is nowhere close, but the last six days have been somethin’ else.

“A few weeks ago, we really didn’t show a whole lot of fight,” David Murphy said. “The type of day that we had, nobody is going to say die. Nobody is going to throw in the towel. Nobody is going to throw away at-bats. Everybody is going to go up there and fight until it’s over.” [Read more...]

Carrasco to bullpen, starter to be added per report

Carrasco 9.22Paul Hoynes reported late Monday/early Tuesday that Tribe starter Carlos Carrasco will not make his next scheduled start. He will be moved to the bullpen and another starter will be added in the future.

Alright, technically he reported a starter will be added “meat future”.

Carrasco has made four starts this season. He has an 0-3 record with a 6.95 ERA. His last outing on Sunday was his best of the season, going six innings and giving up four runs while striking out six.

The most likely candidate to replace him is Trevor Bauer, who pitched very well for the Indians in his spot start earlier this month. At AAA Columbus, Bauer is 3-0 in four starts with a 1.40 ERA.

[Related: Tribe weekend wrap- swept away in San Francisco]

Cut by the Tribe, Aaron Harang is dominating for Atlanta

Aaron HarangRemember Aaron Harang? One of the journeymen starters the Tribe signed to a minor league deal this spring? After being told he would not start the season in the majors with Cleveland, Harang signed with Atlanta, jumping at a chance to round out a big league rotation. Not only has Harang filled out he Braves’ rotation in the early goings this season, the 35 year old right hander has been nothing short of dominant.

In his latest start, Harang struck out 11 and gave up just one run in over six innings of work — just another gem in a string of beautiful starts for the man who was passed over for the Indians’ rotation in favor of the struggling Carlos Carrasco. The six hits given up in Harang’s last start were the most given up in any of his five starts to begin the 2014 season. In just over 31 innings across 5 starts, the veteran has struck out just over a batter an inning and boasts an ERA nearing Blutarski territory of 0.85.

The crown jewel of Harang’s hot start came just over a week ago when the long time Cincinnati Red tossed seven no hit innings before being replaced for the 8th. Harang’s fastball still touches north of 90, which proved to be one of the Braves’ deciding factors in opting for him over Freddy Garcia to be their over the hill veteran of choice. As chronicled by Cory McCartney of Fox Sports, this is the first time since the 2010 season in which Harang has had his fastball working at that velocity, a necessity for the man who led the national league in strikeouts back in 2006 with Cincinnati.

In his time with the Tribe this spring Harang looked good throwing the ball, posting a 2.00 ERA in two starts, and picking up the win in each outing. At the time Harang’s fate with the Indians was sealed, Tribe General Manager Chris Antonetti praised the veteran for how he’d looked so far during the spring.

“Aaron has pitched really well in camp, but as we looked through how we’d configure our rotation, we’ll likely go in a another direction,” said Antonetti. “A lot can change in the next several days, but we had a decision to make on Aaron and we made it.”

Hind sight is 20/20 and small sample sizes in baseball are a big no-no, but it’s still hard to ignore the early season success of Harang. Compound Harang’s success with the dismal start of Carlos Carrasco (7.31 ERA) and Danny Salazar (7.85 ERA) and one can’t help second guess if Antonetti and Francona made the wrong decision.

[Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]

[Related: Bourn, Bullpen, and Bitter Cold: Tribe edge Royals late]

Royals 8, Indians 2: Salazar falls apart early once again

The Indians have a problem. I won’t sit here and sugarcoat it. To me, it is a big problem. Right now 40% of their starting rotation cannot be counted on. It is one thing to not be able to pitch deep into games. It is another when said 40% can’t get out of the fifth inning on a regular basis. It is even worse when one of the two starters is being counted on to be the future of the front end.

Right now Danny Salazar is a mess. A lot of expectation was bestowed on the Tribe’s right-handed phenom after he burst onto the season with 11 starts at the end of 2013. We all know about his high-90′s fastball and the devastating change-up that come from the same arm action. What we didn’t know was how the kid would respond to being anointed the next big thing in the Indians rotation.

After lengthy bullpen work with pitching coach Mickey Callaway and conversations with both Callaway and manager Terry Francona after his last start in Detroit, Salazar was hoping to emerge as the guy we saw come up and be an instant impact a season ago.  Instead, Danny did what Danny has done thus far – look great the first time through an order before losing it.

“The first three innings he was real aggressive,” said Francona. “He stuck some fastballs and off of that he threw some really powerful breaking balls.”

But then came the fourth. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Poor fundamentals, RISP problems, Carrasco watch, and an Easter gift

Michael BrantleyThe weekend at Progressive Field did not go as planned for the home team. The visiting Toronto Blue Jays, with hordes of their fans on hand after making the four-plus-hour trek down from Ontario, took of three from your Cleveland Indians and may have come away with the sweep if not for a managerial blunder and one big hit from one of the few Wahoos who is actually hitting in the clutch. It was more of the the same from the team who has sputtered out of the gate. But as the Tribe’s most outspoken player, Nick Swisher, reminded us “We started last season 5-10. Lets not all jump off the bridge just yet.”

Manager Terry Francona held a team meeting before Sunday’s come from behind 6-4 win to refocus his group. “Nobody likes coming to the ballpark and having to look at your record when it’s not what you want it to be,” he told his team. “That’s just plain and simple. Saying that, I don’t want them dragging in here. It’s a new day. We need to make it be a better day. And then also, not look too far in the future. Just take care of today. If you do that enough, man, it always seems to work out.”

Whether or not it will light a fire under his team is up for debate, but Francona is as good as it gets inside that clubhouse. It was the right move at the right time. The Tribe’s fundamentals have been subpar for three weeks and it has clearly affected them. The good news is that we are 18 games into a 162-game season. Yes, they lost a home series, but the season is a marathon, not a sprint. [Read more...]

Luck and Suck: FanGraphs digs in on two Tribe pitchers

Corey Kluber

Small sample sizes rarely stop the crew over at FanGraphs—if anything, they thrive on them, helping hardcore fans understand why a player hasn’t exactly done what has been expected of him, either for the better or worse. Given the small sample size discussion from our own Jon earlier this week, the latest from FanGraphs falls right in line, discussing the merits (or lackthereof) of the struggles being exhibited by two of Cleveland’s own: Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.

In a post titled “Buy Low on Corey Kluber,” Scott Spratt echoes much of what Steiner said, focusing solely on the stoic one and his 5.50 ERA.

Kluber’s 8.64 strikeouts and 1.62 walks per nine innings are in line with his 8.31 and 2.02 rates from last year when he carried a 3.85 ERA for the season. In fact, Kluber’s 3.31 FIP is almost identical to his 3.30 FIP from 2013. It stands to reason that his ERA will fall in line if he continues to pitch this way.

Kluber is not unusual as a victim of the small-sample madness of the first few weeks of the new season. However, I do think circumstances have conspired to make him particularly vulnerable, and those circumstances have just improved.

To date, only the Minnesota Twins have been worse defensively in the outfield than the Indians based on the combined Defensive Runs Saved totals of the three outfield positions. The Indians have lost eight runs in the outfield, and almost all of it has been the result of Nyjer Morgan and Michael Brantley in center field.

Spratt, in addition to luck and a .411 BABiP, believes that the addition of Michael Bourn alone should allow for the fly-ball happy Kluber to regain his relative success. While it seemed crazy a few days ago, the fact that Morgan has been tagged with a league-worst five runs to this point speaks volumes to his demotion. While the article doesn’t mention the loss of Drew Stubbs as well, it does appear that if Bourn can provide at least baseline levels of defense, the team will be that much more better off—regardless of what he does at the plate.

Regarding Carrasco, things appear to be a bit less luck-based and more, well, Carrasco-based.

It’s easy to point to his 3.51 SIERA, ridiculous .400 BABIP and 53.8% LOB% and claim he’ll enjoy better luck moving forward. Similarly, it’s also simple to call him a head case, perform no analysis whatsoever, and move on. But of course, I’m not going to do either of these things. With a repertoire that seemingly appears fantastic, why isn’t Carrasco the best pitcher in baseball?

The odd thing about the inflated BABIP is that he has a allowed an LD% of just 12.9%. Given that line drives go for hits most frequently of all the batted ball types, it’s a surprise that he has allowed so many hits when the majority of his balls in play are ground balls. [...]

Although Carrasco’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and has touched as high as 96.7 mph this year and 98.1 mph historically, the pitch has been clobbered. He throws both a four-seamer and a two-seamer and both have been absolutely wretched. This year, the four-seamer, which he throws most often, has been hit to the tune of a .381 wOBA. While that’s terrible, that’s nothing compared to what hitters have done to his poor two-seamer.

Batters have quite enjoyed Carrasco’s two-seam fastball. How much you ask? Oh, just a delightful .761 wOBA. That’s not OPS, that’s wOBA. In OPS terms, it’s 1.811, including a .444 ISO and .667 batting average. Yeeesh. When you’re fastballs are that bad and you throw them a combined 60% of the time, no wonder why you’re getting blasted.

Fans have always loved Carrasco’s live arm—players who can get the ball up in the 90s are just fun to watch. That said, it’s intriguing that the best pitch for guy who can nearly hit triple-digits is actually his change-up. Carrasco simply can’t locate his heat. He touches 95 on the regular, but any major league baseball player can hit that when it’s served up over the middle of the plate, as Carlos has been thus far. Whether or not Mickey Callaway can coach Carrasco—and whether or not the pitcher can be coached—will be one huge storyline heading into May, especially with Trevor Bauer tossing yet another gem on Wednesday night1.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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Footnotes:

  1. Six innings, no runs on five hits, striking out nine batters with just one walk. []

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...]

Trevor Bauer could be in line for first start of 2014

bauer acab

With Monday’s game against the San Diego Padres washed out by Mother Nature, Tribe pitching prospect Trevor Bauer could be in line for his first start of 2014 when the two teams lock up in a traditional double-header on Wednesday. Zach McAllister (who wound up with a no-decision last week) is scheduled to start one of the games of the doubleheader, with the Indians expected to promote a pitcher from Columbus to start the other. Bauer, who fresh off of a two-hit gem late last week, would be in line to take the bump.

In his debut for the Clippers, the heady Bauer frequently saw his fastball settle in around 95 miles-per-hour, fanning nine and walking just two in six innings of work. The kid’s struggles are well-documented, but at just 23 years old, things may finally be clicking for the former highly touted prospect.

The Indians could certainly use some clarity at the bottom of the rotation as Carlos Carrasco was anything but solid in his 2014 debut this past weekend. Similarly, Josh Tomlin had a debut to forget, allowing five hits and four earned runs (walking three) in just six innings in a loss to Indianapolis.

Tribe Weekend Recap: Opening day fun, starting pitching concerns, Vinnie’s future, and Wahoo

Jason Kipnis

If I told you the Tribe would lose two of three in Oakland to start the year and then come home to take two of three from Minnesota, I am sure many of you would have taken it. Though the opposite actually happened, the record is still the same: 3-3. The weekend series with the Twins should have turned out differently, but we witnessed lots of sloppy play and even sloppier pitching, particular from the starters. Opening Day was a success on the field once the bad weather passed. Saturday and Sunday, however, left a lot to be desired.

It is easy to jump to early conclusions. That would be irresponsible as an Indians fan. Do not forget that this was just one week; six games to be exact. There are 156 games left to be played. Things will get better, things will get worse, but one thing is for certain: A season is not shaped by April 6.

As we have done for WFNY each of the past four seasons, Monday mornings at 10 a.m. will be a look back at the good and the bad of the Tribe’s weekend series. This particular one had plenty to discuss. [Read more...]

Carlos Carrasco wins the fifth starter job; Josh Tomlin sent to Columbus

Carlos Carrasco

The Horseshoe Casino be on Ontario and Prospect, but they’re rolling the dice two blocks south. In addition to Carlos Santana being named the Cleveland Indians’ Opening Day third baseman, per multiple reports, Carlos Carrasco has won the fifth starter job.

While it may appear that it’s a great week for Carlos’, it could be argued that both men landed in their positions more out of necessity. While Lonnie Chisenhall made the 25-man roster, his role will be more versatile this season, splitting time between third base, designated hitter and sporadic pinch-hitting roles—all predominantly when a right-handed pitcher is on the mound. In Carrasco’s situation, the flame-throwing hot head is out of options while Josh Tomlin (who was optioned to Triple-A Columbus) is not. Rather than Tomlin being handed the fifth starter role (after a solid Spring Training) and crow-barring Carrasco into the bullpen at the expense of a more-worthy arm, the Indians took the business route that will allow for flexibility at a future point if the 26-year-old can’t figure things out.1

Carrasco finished the spring with an ERA north of 5.00 but did manage to strike out 16 (while walking just three) in 15 2/3 innings. He can miss bats with the best of them, but it’s the mental state that has gotten the best of him. Tribe fans should get their first glance at Carrasco when the team hosts the Twins next weekend. Let’s hope it’s a prolonged one.

(Image: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

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Footnotes:

  1. They’re widely expected to carry eight bullpen arms, meaning that both Scott Atchison and Blake Wood will make the final cut. []

Raburn Rocking, Bauer Rocked: Tuesday Tribe Notes

Josh TomlinWe are now two weeks into the game portion of Spring Training, so it is time to take stock of what we have learned thus far. There are plenty of intriguing battles going on. Some players have made statements, while others are still trying to make up ground. I have kept my ear to the ground and as always, I’ve tried to stay on top of all the goings-on in Goodyear. With just 20 days until the opener in Oakland, I file this report….

While Raburn sizzles, Murphy isn’t ready. Of all of the pleasant surprises of the 2013 playoff season, perhaps none was bigger than the renaissance of Ryan Raburn. A big reason that the former Tiger was so good was the genius of manager Terry Francona. Tito played Raburn perfectly; he didn’t overuse him, picking and choosing his spots, yet he knew when to ride him when he was sizzling. Midway through the season, Raburn smartly signed a two-year extension with the Tribe for $4.75 million. Knowing Ryan is at his best in the role he played last season, GM Chris Antonetti signed David Murphy from Texas to a two-year deal. The rightfield platoon was all set. [Read more...]

The Tribe’s future rests with the development of Salazar, Carrasco and Bauer

 Untitled

If you build them, wins will come

I truly despise using the old “in our market” excuse. It is the single worst thing about the game I love the most, Major League Baseball. We all know that the sport is completely unbalanced—the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers can do whatever they want thanks to rich local TV contracts while our Cleveland Indians have to watch every penny. Chris Antonetti’s job is that much harder because he can’t afford to swing and miss on medium-money free agents. On top of that, the drafting and developing of young players is paramount to the success of the organization.

[Read more...]

How badly do the Indians need more starters? – Cleveland Indians Roundtable

WFNY_roundtable

Craig: Maybe I’m blinded by optimism, but I’m not overly concerned with a pitcher. The Indians have Masterson, Salazar, Kluber, McAllister and guys like Tomlin, Carrasco and Bauer to find five guys today. Yes it would be nice to insert a name in that list somewhere, but I’m not feeling desperate just yet. Look at me being a Tribe optimist!

Am I taking those top three for granted and overrating the Tribe’s own guys? How anxious are the rest of you to add starting pitching versus other roster needs?

Scott: Ubaldo Jimenez and Scot Kazmir were worth just a little less than six wins between the two of them. In just 10 starts, Danny Salazar was worth 1.2; Corey Kluber was worth 2.7 in 26 starts. Extrapolating is a dangerous tactic, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that these two could help fill in the gaps that were left by pesky things like innings limits and injuries. [Read more...]

Chris Antonetti talks Indians offseason on Sirius XM

Cleveland Indians general manager Chris Antonetti was on Sirius XM earlier this afternoon to talk about the team’s upcoming offseason.

You can listen for yourself on this SiriusXM link for a 3.5-minute portion of the entire interview. Per Twitter, other topics mentioned: Asdrubal Cabrera’s offseason training regimen, Trevor Bauer’s rocky 2013 and Danny Salazar’s unrestricted 2014.

From the available 3.5-minute comments, here’s a paraphrased transcription.

On Ubaldo Jimenez…
Antonetti said he’s not certain if he’ll be back next year, but the team “would be thrilled if he accepts the qualifying offer.” Gave credit to Jimenez and pitching coach Mickey Callaway for the pitcher’s impressive 2013 season.

On starting pitching depth…
Named off, perhaps surprisingly, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin as options for next season. Said the team feels good about its depth, but would obviously love Jimenez back.

On other offseason needs…
“We’ve lost a lot in our bullpen,” he said, mentioning released Chris Perez plus free agents Joe Smith, Matt Albers and Rich Hill. Expects the team will add a couple of pieces to the bullpen. And the team will be trying to find another “complementary bat.”

On the offense…
“We’re in a fortunate position going into the offseason in that we basically are returning an entire position player team that was fourth in the American League and fifth in baseball in runs scored.” Discussed the offense’s versatility.

On that “complementary bat”…
Antonetti said, in an ideal world, this would be a left-handed hitter. He rattled off outfield, first base, designated hitter and third base, in order, as potential positions of need for this player.

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