April 24, 2014

The Evolution of Michael Brantley

Kipnis and Brantley

As I have discussed in this space before, my estimation of Michael Brantley has not often aligned with those around me.  Where I saw a player failing to live up to his on-base pedigree, others saw someone with innate clutchiness.1   Where I saw a player who seemed to lose his base-stealing ability upon meeting better opponents, others saw a gritty gamer whose presence made the team stronger.  Where I saw a below average defensive center fielder, others were relieved finally to be rid of Grady Sizemore’s noodle arm.

Because I was so often on the opposite side of what I considered to be cock-eyed optimism, I was deemed a naysayer.  This, to me, wasn’t entirely fair.  As I’ve written several times, Michael Brantley is fine just the way he is.  He is something like an average, everyday baseball player in the best professional baseball league in the world. Players like that are really valuable, and Cleveland should know, after the disgraces that have been roaming left field since Manny Ramirez left town.  There’s nothing wrong with average and there’s nothing wrong with Michael Brantley.

[Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Look, Brantley has been better in what has generally been termed “clutch situations”.  For the record, I’ve never argued that he hasn’t been.  For his career, Brantley is a .315/.386/.433 hitter with runners in scoring position. The question isn’t whether, heretofore, he has performed well in high leverage situations (even better than RISP, actually: .343/.409/.429).  The question is whether that sample of excellent performance is enough to convince us that what has happened in those clutch situations is repeatable, and not the product of randomness.  Brantley has had a total of 210 at bats in what Fangraphs deems “high leverage”.  That’s basically a third of a season.  Is it unreasonable that a career .277/.331/.386 hitter might have two months of numbers better than that?  Not to me, but we’ll fight about clutchiness another day. []

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...]

FanGraphs: Indians have one of “smartest” lineups in baseball

First, they get their own special scissors; now, park benefits!?

The lefty-heavy Cleveland Indians lineup may be a bit frustration to watch through the first 19 games of the season, but the team is being commended for the method behind the madness. The latest comes from a FanGraphs piece titled “Lineup Genius in Cleveland“:

One thing seems certain: Some very smart people are working for Team Cleveland. In addition to their focus on those intangible things we’ve had such a hard time measuring — like manager influence and chemistry — the club has also made some smart decisions about the roster’s composition. [...]

Over the course of a 162-game season, there’s an inherent advantage to fielding a lefty-leaning lineup. Roughly 70% of pitchers are right-handed, so we’re talking about a lot of platoon advantage. Of course, if 70% are right-handed, then 30% are left-handed. That can be a problem, which is where Raburn and the switch-hitters enter the equation.

The FanGraphs piece goes on to discuss the composition of the AL Central specifically, pointing out that the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins both have right-handed heavy pitching staffs. If this wasn’t enough, they take into account the confines of Progressive Field, stating that “The Jake” has a 105 HR park factor for left-handed batters—lefties hit five more home runs in Cleveland than in a neutral park. This contrasts to an 89 HR park factor for righties. Progressive Field reduces righty home runs by 11 percent. Add it all up and a generic left-handed bat is 16 percent more likely to put a ball on the other side of the fence than your average right-handed hitter.

The power of platoons has already been well documented. Just remember all of these other items next time you see all of those south paws in the Tribe’s lineup.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Jesus Aguilar continues to destroy baseballs in Columbus

Jesus Aguilar: Home run hitter, food eater

If you’re one of those Tribe fans who only cares about high-profile prospects, you may want to make an exception for Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar, the Columbus Clippers first baseman blasted his fifth home run of the season on Monday, and is now putting up a red-hot slash line of .386/.453/.737 (1.190 OPS) through 16 games.

The portly Aguilar is listed at 6-feet-3-inches and 250 pounds, though he is likely closer to a an offensive lineman-like three bills. This hasn’t stopped the 23-yaer-old right-hander from anhiliating anything thrown his way.

 Last year, Aguilar batted .275/.349/.427 with 28 doubles, 16 home runs and 105 RBI in 130 games at Double-A Akron. As our own Kirk stated earlier this month, Aguilar could easily fill in at first base if the team would be willing to put Nick Swisher in the outfield against lefties. This, of course, would come at the expense of Ryan Raburn who recently signed a two-year deal to be—well—Aguilar. Though an equal-opportunity masher, against left-handed pitching this season, Aguilar has provided a line of .348/.444/.826 (1.271 OPS) with two doubles, three home runs and five runs batted in. He’s also walked four times as compared to just three strikeouts.1

Aguilar didn’t crack Baseball America’s top 10 list for Top Prospects this season. He doesn’t have the hype or long-term potential of Francisco Lindor; he certainly doesn’t have the tools of someone like Clint Frazier. But for a team that is in dire search of someone who can not only hit left-handed pitching but do so with power, their answer may be just two hours south on Interstate 71.

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Footnotes:

  1. It’s worth pointing out that his 2013 slash line was more favorable against right-handed pitching. []

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.

[Read more...]

Indians 4, Royals 3: Deep blasts, solid pitching and a squirrel help Tribe win

Nick Swisher

Last year it was the Rally Chicken. Is 2014 the year of the Squirrel? Twice during last night’s series opener with the Kansas City Royals, a squirrel interrupted play. Players and members of the Indians ground crew tried to corral the little guy who was eventually ushered off the field. “I was like, `C’mon over here and sit in my glove,” Nick Swisher said. “I thought maybe he’d sit on my shoulder like a parrot. I tell you what, that squirrel is eating, bro. That was a big squirrel.”

The squirrel gave some comic relief to a tense, close game that went back and forth, but was eventually won by the Tribe 4-3. It shouldn’t have been that close.

Let’s start with the positives. The offense, which sputtered most of the weekend, clubbed out 11 hits, but needed two long balls to do the damage. Facing ex-Indian first round pick Jeremy Guthrie, Michael Brantley once again provided the dramatics. He broke a scoreless fourth inning tie with a two-run homer to right. It was his second blast in as many days and his fourth on the year. Dr. Smooth has never been a guy known for his power, but he currently sits tied for third in the AL in homers (4) and is second in RBIs (18). [Read more...]

Indians activate Jason Giambi, send Blake Wood to AAA

Jason GiambiThe Indians started the season with two players on the disabled list that were mainstays of the 2013 Wild Card team; center fielder Michael Bourn and DH Jason Giambi. Manager Terry Francona and GM Chris Antonetti decided to go with an extra bullpen arm early in the season with Nyjer Morgan keeping Bourn’s spot in center warm. Then again, Francona always loves having extra guys in the pen. The question was which way would the roster go once Giambi was ready?

Veteran reliever Scott Atchison has pitched his way into the Matt Albers role thus far and put himself in the safety zone. This left three other options: Relievers C.C. Lee and Blake Wood, and utility man Elliot Johnson.

Johnson’s right-handed bat and versatility has obviously become something that Francona values so he has stuck. Considering the fact that he hasn’t seen the field in 10 days and Mike Aviles can do all the things he can tells me Tito is a fan. That left Lee and Wood. Lee has replaced Vinnie Pestano and is a young guy the brass is high on. In his four appearances since being recalled, Lee has allowed one earned run. Wood drew rave reviews this spring thanks to his high-90′s fastball, but the control issues he has always had have yet to come around. The five earned runs in six and a third along with a 1:1 K to BB ratio most likely sealed his fate.

So Wood was the one who was sent down to AAA Columbus with today’s activation of Giambi. The 43-year old DH will be used in spots the same way he was last year. Francona said last week the team has sorely missed having him around both on and off the field and his presence in the clubhouse will be welcomed. Tito also wasted no time getting his bat in the lineup. Tonight he will be the DH hitting seventh against the Kansas City Royals.

In other lineup news, with Carlos Santana getting a night off, Francona has chosen third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall as his cleanup hitter. Big Lon is one of the few Indians who have actually been swinging the bat well all season (13-29/1.105 OPS).

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(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

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...]

Bourn Identity: What’s going on with the Indians center fielder?

michael bournA massive debate broke out on Twitter at the end of Friday’s disheartening 3-2 Indians defeat. This time around, it wasn’t actually about attendance.

No, it was about Michael Bourn and his eventually failed bunt attempt. After red-hot Lonnie Chisenhall started the bottom of the ninth against the Blue Jays with a double, Bourn attempted to bunt twice and failed each time. On the 0-2 pitch, he struck out with a weak swing.

Was it the right decision to bunt when the Tribe needed just one run to bring the game into extra innings? Should Bourn be bunting at all? And what does this all have to do with WAR and the changing evaluations of baseball?

It’s all wrapped together in the way we think, talk and write about Michael Bourn, a 31-year-old center fielder being paid $13.5 million this season and a guaranteed $27.5 million more through 2016. He’s back in the lineup after starting the year on the DL. What should we expect? What’s next? [Read more...]

Reliving Yesteryear: Cleveland Softball, Ted Stepien, and More Balls off Terminal Tower (Plus, a Quiz!)

photo

Men’s amateur slow-pitch softball exploded in the 1970s. On any day of the week, teams could be found slugging it out on baseball fields all over the country.

Softball had been played in northeast Ohio for fifty years, and was part of the evolution of baseball in Cleveland. Like hardball, it could be played at a highly skilled level. Or, it could be played at a more relaxed pace.

Throughout the middle part of the century, Cleveland’s sandlots had been an important breeding ground of major league ballplayers. In the decades preceding team-sponsored minor league farm systems, teams represented factories, unions and various businesses. By the ‘70s, the sandlot fields had now become meccas for softball. Businesses and local taverns sponsored teams, both within the city limits and throughout the suburbs.

[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. []

Indians 3, Tigers 2: The Zach Attack delivers again

Zach McAllisterWhen looking at the Detroit Tigers compared to our Cleveland Indians, one distinct advantage sticks out for the Kitties – starting pitching.  The Detroit top three — Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez — would all be the Indians number one if they toiled in Cleveland. Rick Porcello and Drew Smily also dwarf Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco as a tandem. Thanks to Tuesday’s postponement due to freezing temperatures, the Tigers were able to skip Smily over the shortened two game set. Sanchez got the first crack at the Tribe last night with Verlander going Thursday afternoon.

Manager Terry Francona stayed with his normal turns, sending out Zach McAllister on a cold night at Comerica Park. The last time we saw Zach, he was dominant in a win against the San Diego Padres and if the Indians were going to win this one, a similar performance would be helpful.

The first inning had the look of a game that could be high scoring. Sanchez, who normally has impeccable command, walked the newly activated Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Jason Kipnis to start the game. A potential big inning was thwarted by Carlos Santana’s sixth double play ground out of the year. A run did score, but Sanchez got himself right off the hook. Carlos is locked in a 2-24 slump.

[Read more...]

MLB’s new catch interpretation is begging to be exploited

I got into an argument over MLB’s new (old?) interpretation of what is a catch when Elliot Johnson “caught” a fly ball, took two steps, came up against the outfield wall and then dropped the ball as he attempted to throw the ball into the infield. It wasn’t ruled an out because the “definition of a catch” apparently includes a transfer, even for an outfielder who has taken multiple steps with the ball secured in his glove. It was a civil conversation with Sirius XM’s Mike Ferrin, but he and I had to agree to disagree on the topic. Then I brought up this question, which I haven’t seen an answer to just yet.

Here’s the rule from the actual rulebook.Catch Rule

I wasn’t smart enough to take the argument to the next logical step, but thankfully Dave Cameron at FanGraphs is. While Cameron agrees while that the rule interpretation makes loads of sense at second base, the issue isn’t quite so clear when it comes to outfielders. The money passage from Cameron says it all.

At this point, it shouldn’t be too hard to spot the problem with using the same definition of a catch in the outfield as it is at second base; the drop at second base has no real impact on the runner’s decision making. The batter is sprinting down the first base line to try and beat out the double play, and probably will rarely even know the ball is dropped on the double play attempt. The runner going into second base is almost always sliding into the bag, and the dropped transfer does not result in the ball rolling far enough away for an advancement to third base. Until the play is over and the runners find out who is safe and who is out, they don’t really care too much about what the fielders are doing.

That is absolutely not true with runners and outfielders, however; the decision of whether to advance or return to base is entirely dependent on whether the outfielder is ruled to have safely caught the ball. Runners are taught to get enough of a lead off the base to maximize their potential advancement in case the ball is not caught while still retaining their ability to return to their previous base if it is. When the ball enters the glove, the runner returns to their prior base in order to avoid a potential double play. Only now, the ball entering the glove is no longer the determining factor of whether or not the catch was made; that is now the ball moving from the glove to the hand.

Enter Elliot Johnson. I never thought I’d have much opportunity to write that prior to the start of the Indians season. But if a catch determination isn’t made until the transfer of the ball to the throwing hand and Elliot Johnson’s two steps before maintaining possession of the ball into the outfield wall aren’t enough, then to quote the Indians, “What if?”

What if Johnson hits the wall and instead of looking to throw starts sprinting toward the infield where the runners are assuming it’s a catch. As he’s running in, he “bobbles” the ball on transfer thus rendering the “catch” not a catch at all. It’s an extreme example, but you kind of open yourself up to it, don’t you? As FanGraphs points out, this opens the game up to the exact thing that the infield fly rule was designed to eliminate.

Indians activate Michael Bourn, send down Nyjer Morgan

Michael BournThe Indians today activated OF Michael Bourn from the 15-Day DL and optioned OF Nyjer Morgan to AAA Columbus.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise because of Morgan’s success early in the season for the Indians. In nine games, Morgan has a .348 batting average and an OPS of .832. He is third on the team in walks with 7 and tied for the team lead in stolen bases.

In the end, it appears the outfield was just too crowded for the Indians and manager Terry Francona. The Indians elected to keep an eighth reliever instead of sending down C.C. Lee or utility man Elliot Johnson.

Morgan, a lefty, does not play against left-handed pitching where Johnson is a switch hitter.

[Related: On the Indians' struggles against left-handed pitching]

South-praw-blem? On the Indians’ early struggles against left-handed pitching

Jose Quintana mowing down the Tribe

An early story-line in the 2014 campaign has been the Indians struggles with left-handed starters. In the last six games alone, the Tribe has seen Eric Stults, Robbie Erlin, John Danks, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana all of the southpaw persuasion. In Detroit, they’ll see Drew Smyly on Wednesday night. With a 12-man hitting arsenal, the Indians currently house five hitters that bat only from the left side, yet they have amassed an OPS of just .623 against lefties. The Tribe has struck out more often against lefties (40 vs. 38) despite having 71 fewer at-bats. Is this an overreaction of some early season hitting scuffles or the exposition of a larger problem? Let’s dig into the numbers a little bit.

[Read more...]

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...]

Thome’s first pitch juuuuuust a bit outside

Former Indian Jim Thome (you know, the guy who is getting a statue this summer) was invited to throw out the first pitch for the Charlotte Knights. The Knights are the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, but were the Indians’ affiliate in 1993 and ’94. Thome and Manny Ramirez were part of that ’93 team that won the International League title.

Thome never pitched in a major or minor league game. Perhaps we now know why.

Video: Lindor’s hot start includes game winner for Akron

Cleveland uber-prospect Francisco Lindor is having a good start to the AA season for Akron, hitting safely in eight of the Rubberducks nine games. He has a double, a triple and a pair of home runs to go with seven RBI.

One of those homers came in the bottom of the 13th inning on Friday night for a walk-off winner.

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...]

Draft Day, Hawk Harrelson, Alex Mack, Super Tall High School Kid and Mansions live at the Grog Shop… While We’re Waiting

WFNYBanner www

I set a Google Calendar reminder so that I wouldn’t forget to do WWW this week. Let’s hope that works from here on out. Now on with the WWW.

*****

I saw Draft Day last night, and here are my initial thoughts. Don’t worry. I will save you any and all spoilers. This isn’t a great achievement in cinema, but sports movies and summer popcorn flicks don’t have to be. This movie would be a full on failure if it was about any other topic but sports. Sports movies always have a special license and leeway because they’re about a topic that many of us are already pre-disposed to enjoy. Even still, Draft Day isn’t a great sports movie. It’s alright. Here in Cleveland because it’s about our team it’s like a B+. In the rest of the country where it’s not about other NFL fans’ teams it’s a C-.

There were a few jokes and light moments that mostly fell flat. Some of the quirky characters that were supposed to provide relief, really didn’t achieve it. I thought Denis Leary was probably the best part and even with my criticisms, every Browns fan should see it and will probably enjoy it. Come on. It’s about the NFL draft. That’s our annual Super Bowl, you know other than that real Super Bowl that other teams seem to compete for on occasion.

*****

Finally, we can talk about the Cleveland Indians and race and it has nothing to do with Chief Wahoo. As Deadspin pointed out in their post with video, White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson had some pretty interesting things to say about the Tribe’s reliever, C.C. Lee after he entered the game last night.

After Lee threw a “nasty slider,” Harrelson called it a “typical Asian motion” before tagging it with, “Deception involved.”

Can you imagine either the Indians’ radio or TV crews saying anything like that? Yes, Tom Hamilton was in the spotlight after a brush back pitch at Nick Swisher by Aroldis Chapman last year, but it’s hard to imagine just the same.

*****

Of course the talk of the day here in Cleveland will be Alex Mack. It might be too much talk for the topic. Andy Baskin has been quite level-headed on the topic on 92.3 the Fan. His sentiments have included that as soon as this reaches its conclusion nobody will talk about it anymore and he’s exactly right. NFL center is one of those positions that nobody knows anything about unless the guy is tossing the ball over his QB’s head all the time or committing penalties. Nearly nobody I know would know whether Alex Mack had a good season or not without the benefit of Pro Football Focus.

On top of all that, we need to remember what we don’t know. The Browns were all set to pay Mack just over $10 million for 2014 with the transition tag. The deal makes Alex Mack the league’s top paid center. That can be misleading though. There are so many different variables at play here. Most notably, the salary cap has grown and is expected to continue to grow. So, while $18 million is always going to be $18 million, it shrinks in impact on the team as the salary cap increases.

We’ll just have to wait and see whether the Browns decide to match the deal or not. Only they know via their longer range projections whether this is a good idea for them. Only they know their own confidence level in replacing Alex Mack if he were to depart. Even the most plugged in Browns fans with extensive cap knowledge can go so far as to say if it’s a “good” idea or not.

I think my preference would still be for the Browns to bring Mack back, but absent that extra layer of intel, that preference isn’t worth a whole lot. My preferences are also based on the fact that I have no idea whether John Greco can play center at a fraction of the price or not. I suspect the Browns have a better feeling for that matter, among others.

*****

It might not seem fair, but it makes for a heck of a YouTube highlight video. I bring you the 7’5″ tall high school player highlight mix tape including sweet croakies to hold on his glasses. He’s everything that State Farm wanted their stupid commercial to be with Chris Paul, except the guy with glasses is awkward and plays basketball.

*****

Last, but certainly not least, I’m really excited to go see Mansions again live next week. This time instead of road-tripping to Pittsburgh I get to see them play live and in the comfortable confines of the Grog Shop. They are opening up for La Dispute, who are also sure to be good. Still, I’m only in that door because of Mansions. Here’s my favorite song from their newest album Doom Loop. It’s a live version.

Have a really nice weekend everyone and stay tuned for a podcast with @sportsyelling that I’ll be recording soon!