April 24, 2014

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...]

Tigers 7, Indians 5: Salazar’s implosion starts Tribe demise

Michael BrantleyWhat was thought to be a pitchers duel turned into something unexpected. The sun splashed afternoon at Comerica Park and Detroit had a much different feel than the frigid night before, but with Justin Verlander and Danny Salazar locking horns, the thought was that the fans in attendance would be in for a quick afternoon. What transpired was three hour and thirty-eight minute affair where neither starter pitched past the fifth.

For the first three innings, things breezed right along with Salazar and Verlander putting up zeroes. The Tribe’s phenom was actually better, setting down the first eight Tigers he faced. Offensively, the Wahoo offense continued where they left off a night earlier, leaving runners on base. A leadoff walk from Michael Bourn was wasted after Nick Swisher struck out and Jason Kipnis grounded into a double play. Two innings later, the Tribe really had Verlander on the hook. David Murphy started things with a walk, but a second double play ball – this one from Yan Gomes – erased that mini-threat. But Lonnie Chisenhall and Bourn both singled in front of a Swisher walk to load the bases. It was Kipnis’s chance to get the Tribe on the board, but he K’d on three pitches. He was clearly upset by an iffy first strike call from umpire Lance Barrett and told him so on his way to the dugout after the third strike. Barrett used an extremely quick hook, tossing Kipnis for the first time in his career. [Read more...]

White Sox 7, Indians 3: Salazar impressive yet disappointing

Danny SalazarWell, that certainly was a weird game now wasn’t it?

On their way to 92 wins and a Wild Card playoff berth a year ago, your Cleveland Indians used the Chicago White Sox as their personal punching bag. The Wahoos beat the White Sox 17 times in 19 games, including the final 14 in a row. During that stretch, they had three walkoff home runs, two by then 41-year old part time DH Jason Giambi. But it is a new year, and the new look White Sox were out to show the Tribe that they weren’t going to be pushovers this year.

The way things started off early, it looked as though more of the same was coming. Along with many other members of the Tribe elite, I openly questioned why Terry Francona has continued to use Asdrubal Cabrera as his leadoff man against left-handed pitching. The Tribe’s shortstop has looked putrid at the plate thus far, making many pine for 2015 when top prospect Francisco Lindor will assuredly take over. Naturally, Cabrera led off the game with a double high off the wall in left. After a Nick Swisher walk, Jason Kipnis continued his torrid hitting in his home city with a single to left. The ball took an awkward hop and bounced off of the hand of left fielder Alejandro De Aza, allowing Cabrera to score. A second run would come home on Ryan Raburn’s sac fly. [Read more...]

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...]

Paternity leave, Danny Salazar, and an update on The League… While We’re Waiting

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While we’re waiting? I really left you waiting this week. Sorry for the delay. [Read more...]

Setting the lines on the 2014 Indians

Michael Bourn

It’s that time of year again! The time when Jon makes up fake gambling lines for the upcoming Indians season and then makes foolish fake prop bets on them.

As a reminder, I make stuff up, then make up more stuff, then after the season we see how I did at making stuff up.  Waste of time? Or INCREDIBLE WASTE OF TIME?  Let’s get to it. [Read more...]

Compare and contrast: Tribe today and 365 days ago

Nick SwisherWe are getting close! I don’t know about you, but I am beyond excited for Indians baseball to begin. The pieces are starting to come together. On Wednesday, the final 25-man roster was revealed. There weren’t many surprises, but there has been some small but important tinkering. When you compare this club to the one which left Goodyear for Cleveland a year ago, you can see that top to bottom, Terry Francona’s bunch looks better.

I thought a good way to view this was to lay it all out for you by groupings.  I love the Indians depth and ability to move guys all over the diamond. The bullpen looks solid. Yet, there are still concerns. But on paper, the 2014 club looks improved from this time last year.  [Read more...]

NCAA tourney, Indians pitching rotation and more with TD – WFNY Podcast – 2014-03-20

WFNY Podcast LogoFirst things first, please go vote for WFNY as a website and the WFNY podcast at Cleveland Scene Magazine’s awards.

Secondly, it’s been a bit, but it’s good to be back. I had no voice for about a week thanks to a surgical procedure, but thankfully the voice came back. With today being the start of the NCAA tourney, I just had to get resident tourney nut TD on to talk about that, plus the Tribe. Here’s some other stuff we talked about.

The first day of the NCAA tourney and Ohio State vs. Dayton

The Indians pitching rotation

The Justin Masterson contract proposal to the Tribe

Cincinnati vs. Harvard

Oregon vs. BYU

Deadspin article about oddsmakers vs. NCAA bracket builders

TD is to Kansas as Kirk Herbstreit is to Ohio State

Check out this episode!

Indians have 2nd-best catchers, FiveThirtyEight and Blake Bortles… While We’re Waiting

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FanGraphs: Indians have 2nd-best catchers, 17th-best first baseman. If you are into baseball stats, you should not only be perusing all of the tools on FanGraphs, but you also should keep an eye on their content. During the 2013 season, their writers had major crushes on both Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar. Now? It appears they’re pretty high on Yan Gomes. [Read more...]

Salazar’s debut, Playoffs?, and True Detective: While We’re Waiting

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Is Kyrie Irving overrated? #CavsRank is still going on, and number eight on the list is Kyrie Irving. Mallory Factor wrote an excellent piece on Kyrie for Cavs: the Blog, and it ignited quite a debate in the comments over there. Well, it wasn’t so much a debate as an outright revolt against the pick, with most of the comments feeling Kyrie in no way deserves to be ranked this high on the list.

On one hand, it does seem crazy that a guy who has yet to finish his 3rd season in the NBA would be considered the eight best player in team history. On the other hand, Kyrie has a list of individual accomplishments that few Cavaliers can match. Rookie of the Year, two time All-Star with one All-Star starter nod, All-Star Game MVP, three point shooting champion, Rising Stars MVP, three-time Rookie of the Month, two-time NBA player of the week. He’s 3rd in franchise history in career points per game, 8th in assists per game, and 2nd in player efficiency rating.

While he is still extremely young and his teams have not had much (any) success, the unfortunate reality is that the Cavaliers as a franchise simply don’t have a wealth of all time great players and Kyrie’s three seasons have been almost as good as anyone’s. The ranking system is a collaboration of a ton of Cavs writers that I really respect and, honestly, eight probably sounds about right to me for Kyrie. [Read more...]

Grantland continues to hype up the 2014 Indians

Nick Swisher

We’re less than a month away from opening day, the sun is shining, the ground is thawing, and the buzz for the Cleveland Indians continues to grow. The excitement for the Wahoos isn’t confined to Cleveland, where the team sold out the home opener in just 15 minutes, but nationally the hype for the Braves of the Cuyahoga is growing as well.

For the fourth time this spring, Grantland’s lead MLB writer Jonah Keri featured the Indians in one of his MLB previews, this time predicting the team wins more than the 80.5 games Las Vegas has set as their over/under.

Cleveland Indians: OVER 80.5 wins

That number looks … off, doesn’t it? The Indians surged to 92 wins last year behind one of the most powerful offenses in the league and a young, effective starting rotation. Very little has changed for the worse. While losing Ubaldo Jimenez’s impressive 2013 numbers will hurt, getting a full season from Official 2013 Grantland Crush Danny Salazar and a breakout campaign from fellow right-handed starter Corey Kluber could mitigate that loss. With none of Cleveland’s five projected starters older than 28, there’s upside across the board here.

If you’re looking for an X factor, though, consider something for which the typical projection systems and even Vegas likely won’t properly account: This season, Carlos Santana will no longer be Cleveland’s primary catcher. Whether you’re examining multiyear or single-year numbers, Santana consistently grades out as one of the worst pitch framers in the game. And while analysts are just beginning to quantify the effects of pitch blocking and other defensive skills for catchers, the industry consensus has long been that Santana is a designated hitter who happens to wear a mask. Assuming the Tribe do the right thing by making Santana the everyday DH while handing primary backstop duties to Yan Gomes, who was one of the best receivers in the league last year according to the above metrics, it wouldn’t be a stretch to project something like a two- or three-win improvement based on that move alone. And that might even be understating it. If Gomes’s defensive skills are allowed to flourish over 120-plus starts, it could help push Cleveland’s young staff to elite status this season.

Combine all that with a balanced lineup that will get even better when top shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor reaches the big leagues — and frees up the Indians to consider trading Asdrubal Cabrera to address whatever weaknesses might arise — and it’s really tough to imagine the Indians finishing below .500 … which is what would have to happen to lose this bet. This is my highest-confidence wager for 2014.

Keri’s optimism for the 2014 Tribe has been on display all spring, starting with mentioning Danny Salazar as a prime candidate for a breakout season.

Danny Salazar, SP, Cleveland Indians: Salazar’s inclusion shouldn’t be a surprise after last week’s offseason edition of The 30, in which I drooled over his filthy fastball-slider-changeup arsenal and the 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate he posted last season in his first 10 major league starts. He’s talented enough to make a Cy Young run, maybe even as soon as this year. And while individual talent is more important than teammate contributions, Carlos Santana’s move from catcher to third base could have a hugely positive impact on Salazar and the rest of Cleveland’s pitchers. Santana is an excellent hitter who could himself see a bump in production now that he’s freed from the rigors of catching, but he was a terrible receiver behind the plate last season. New starter Yan Gomes, conversely, gets high marks for pitch framing and other catching skills.

Hey, who knows: Between that defensive upgrade, the all-around youth on this 28-and-under rotation, and the sheer talent that Salazar, Corey Kluber, and others possess, a staffwide breakout might be imminent.

Keri’s crushing on Salazar took a break for a few days so Jason Kipnis could be given his due in “MLB 32-Day Warning: Jason Kipnis Is Ready to Take the Second-Base Belt“. In the article, Keri makes the case for Kipnis to take his throne as MLB’s best second baseman.

Over the past two years, 13 second basemen have batted 800 total times with a league-average or better OPS+. Among those, Kipnis ranks fourth in WAR, sixth in OPS+, first in stolen bases, and second in walks. He’s also the only player on the list born after 1985. Utley is on his way out, Matt Carpenter is moving to third base, and Cano, Pedroia, Kinsler, and Ben Zobrist are all 30 or older at a position that isn’t kind to aging players.

Kipnis is already a top-flight second baseman. He’s also the only one in that tier whose best days are still to come.

After devoting 700 words to Kipnis, Keri went back to drooling over Salazar, this time in his fantasy baseball preview.

Looking for the steal of the season in your fantasy baseball draft? Stay far away from Salazar.

Why? In fantasy baseball, it’s all about value. And while there can certainly be overlap between real-life value and fantasy value, you don’t want to get stuck paying more when the former corrupts the latter. When a young player starts his career with big results, we slap sky-high projections on him almost immediately. That’s happened with Salazar, a 24-year-old flamethrower with three plus pitches who dazzled in his first stint in the big leagues. Salazar’s made only 10 MLB starts, but if a rival general manager approached Indians GM Chris Antonetti about him, that other GM would be laughed out of the room or asked to sacrifice 19 prospects and his firstborn child. Salazar’s late-2013 emergence means he’s also demanding a similar price in the fantasy realm, and it’s simply too much, too soon.

It’s been a long, frigid Cleveland winter. One that has been filled with front office upheavals, thoughts of tanking, and of course multiple stooges, opening day can’t come soon enough. Until then, enjoy the hype.

(Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

The Top Five Tribe Rotations of the Past 20 Years

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With the 20-year anniversary of Jacobs/Progressive Field almost upon us, we will be taking a look at top-fives in each aspect of the Indians on the field.  We started last week with the bullpens and today we will move to the starting rotations. Coming up with five groups was not an easy task. Let’s be honest here: The Indians have for the most part, been built around their offense and bullpen. That was the John Hart model. Hart’s protégé was Mark Shapiro, who took over the GM reigns during the transition of 2001. Shappy groomed current GM Chris Antonetti, but the landscape has changed over the past six years. When the Indians had their best success, it was because their starting pitching was at its strongest.

And with that….. [Read more...]

Solutions for NBA tanking and Jim Thome wants to play: While We’re Waiting

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By now, you’ve seen the first two renditions of our new version of While We’re Waiting. Andrew got us started on Tuesday. Rick followed up on Wednesday. Now, with my usual bent toward sports analytics and media topics, here’s my first stab at this new format. Hope you enjoy and chime in with your thoughts in the comments.

The 76ers are awful. Like, really, really awful. Is it an “embarrassment”? What needs fixed? Last week, it seemed like the ESPN properties all seemed to gang up on the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving’s free agency status. Yesterday, they all appeared to team up to discuss “tanking” and the currently horrendous Philadelphia 76ers. Last weekend, former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy called the 76ers’ current scheme an “embarrassment” to the league. [Read more...]

The Plexiglas Principle and the 2014 Indians

Francisco Lindor

What does 2014 have in store for the Tribe?

Measuring the degree of one’s own homerism is a difficult and never-ending task.  You never quite know whether what you believe about your favorite team is being overly colored by your desire to actually believe it, especially in the midst of never-ending winter.  And yet I feel that, on the whole, I’m a relatively rational and objective person as far as sports fans go—I’m not deluded like those troglodytes who follow those other teams.  I’m a sabermetrician, for goodness sakes!  I CAN ADD THINGS WITH EXCEL!  On the other hand, I’ve talked myself into believing in too many losers to trust my first instinct.  David Huff is quite decidedly not Cliff Lee.  Matt LaPorta will not become Ryan Braun.  All that glitters…

Anyway, there comes a time every spring when we get to calibrate our internal expectations against a somewhat objective barometer: the over-under odds coming out of Las Vegas.  Every year I tell myself not to get over-excited by these things, and every year I end up feeling blindsided by them. [Read more...]

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

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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...]

Danny Salazar gaining national recognition

The Cleveland Indians are counting on Danny Salazar to be the number two man in the rotation after Justin Masterson. Salazar started 11 games for the Indians last season, including the one game playoff against the Rays. He was 2-4 in those starts with a 3.12 ERA and struck out more than 11 hitters per nine innings.

In his ‘Offseason Stock Report’ Grantland’s Jonah Kerri writes about Salazar. He’s a fan.

It’s tough to remember another season in which so many incredibly talented pitchers will get their first crack at full big-league seasons with so much at stake. I, for one, am hopping on the bandwagon early for #TeamDannySalazar. The 24-year-old righty has three excellent pitches in his holster, with a 96 mph fastball, a nasty slider, and a backbreaking changeup that all generate lots of swings and misses. He missed more and more bats as he climbed the ladder in the minor leagues, and he dominated in his 10-start major league debut last year, fanning more than four batters for every walk.

Moreover, betting on Salazar reflects his raw talent and strong recent track record more than those 10 starts, whereas Jimenez seemed to resurrect his career thanks almost entirely to his second-half performance. With Jimenez in Baltimore and Scott Kazmir in Oakland, the Tribe needs big results from its under-30 arms. Salazar is my pick to outshine his peers, give the Indians another shot at contending, and maybe even tiptoe into some Cy Young discussions.

The Indians have stockpiled veterans for spring training to provide competition for the back end of the rotation. If Salazar suffers through a ‘sophomore slump’ the Indians could have a tough uphill climb in the AL Central.

[Related: Jimenez deal makes more sense for Orioles]

Pitchers and Catchers Report! Wahoo!

danny salazar

Finally. Baseball is here. I know, I know, its not Opening Day, but today is the day that the Cleveland Indians’ pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona to begin their work. Unlike last February, there are expectations attached to this particular Indians team. They are no longer going to be sneaking up on anybody. Once Terry Francona took over, the culture change took immediate effect. We are no longer “hoping” for a winning team, we “expect” one here in Cleveland. And that’s the way it should be.

Francona and his staff are back and will begin building up and evaluating the pitching staff this morning under the bright Arizona sun. It certainly beats being in Cleveland right now. With camp opening up, let us set the scene with the most important part of any baseball team—the pitching staff. [Read more...]

The Diff: What’s up with Justin Masterson’s Indians future?

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 Dion Waiters’ present and future. This week, I’m talking about Justin Masterson’s upcoming contract situation.

The Diff

The ace of the Cleveland Indians is under team control for only one more season. Justin Masterson, the 29-year-old acquired from Boston four years ago, could be the biggest key for the team’s long-term salary issues. In this ever important offseason with the team expected to add another starter to the fold, their attention also is likely on Masterson’s future. Is he worthy of a long-term extension already? What is the expected dollar amount? Let’s dive into the numbers. [Read more...]

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

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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...]

2013 Indians In Review: The Starting Rotation

Corey Kluber

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 will begin with the starting rotation, a group that was a huge surprise in 2013.  [Read more...]