July 29, 2014

Indians dropped by Twins fill-in starter Anthony Swarzak

This trippy combo picture froze on my screen as I was looking at pics from yesterday’s game.

(I apologize for the lateness of this recap. I’m filling in for TD today.)

I had to look up Anthony Swarzak’s name three times. Apparently Carlos Santana did too, according to Alex Smith of MLB.com. His game story says that Carlos Santana had no idea who was pitching yesterday 90 minutes before it was scheduled to start. The Indians never seemed to get to know him yesterday either. In five innings, the usual reliever Swarzak only gave up two hits while allowing one run via a Jose Ramirez double that scored David Murphy. The Indians mustered only three more hits across five relievers to fall 3-1 in a daytime game. [Read more...]

NBA expansion, Indians inconsistency and the Dayton Flyers rebrand … While We’re Waiting

WFNYBanner www

Warning: Today’s While We’re Waiting will be a Kevin Love-free zone. Please give me my peace. I need it, badly.

NBA Expansion?! SonicsRising reported yesterday that the NBA is having private discussions over possible expansion to two new franchises, one in Seattle and one in Louisville. With the upcoming TV contract negotiations, it’s not a shocking idea. Seattle wants one back desperately. Louisville’s infrastructure and basketball-loving character make some sense. Keep your eye on this, folks.

Personally, I have a lot of sympathy for Seattle and I’m a big fan of the city of Louisville. I remember when Louisville popped its head into the Sacramento Kings talks to try and take that franchise. This would be good for the NBA. Folks might talk about thinning out the talent pool, but I don’t see rational proof of that most anywhere. The league would work itself out just fine. [Read more...]

Jason Kipnis still bothered by oblique

 

Jason Kipnis

Jason Kipnis was named the American League Player of the week on Monday, but readily admitted that he has not felt the same since straining his oblique muscle back in April.

“I wouldn’t use the word progress, I’d use the word adjustment,” said Kipnis. “As far as the oblique goes, it’s going to be there all year. It’s not going to go away until the offseason. What I can do is find a swing that works for me. I thought we may have found something coming out of Detroit. It was a step in the right direction and we’re going to keep making adjustments day to day and pitch to pitch and see how it goes.”

Kipnis missed about a month after straining his right oblique muscle in late April and he’s still trying to make adjustments to his swing in order to get comfortable. He went 5-for-15 (.333) with two homers and six RBI during a big four-game series against the Tigers, but it appears that a return to last season’s All-Star form at any point in 2014 may be a pipe dream.

On the season, Kipnis is hitting .258 (.706 OPS) with five home runs, 14 doubles and just 30 runs batted in. His isolated power is down almost 60 points year over year, trending at a career-low mark of .110, and his batted ball distance on homers and flies has dropped 20 feet from last year to this one—both numbers unlikely to be aided by his ailing oblique.

“It’s just one of those things that’s going to be there,” Kipnis said.

Second-half Storylines: What are you watching?

Nick Swisher

The Cleveland Indians started things off with a relative bang, taking three of four in Detroit. As we close in on the month of August, the Tribe stands 4.5 games behind the Tigers and will need to piece it all together heading into the fall if postseason play is to happen for the second consecutive year. There are copious amounts of storylines to look at for the second half of the season, but which ones are we watching? Take a walk with us as we plan for the next 10 weeks of baseball.

[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...]

The Indians at the break: The Bad

Justin Masterson

47-47. .500. The middle. Average. Not great, but not bad. This is what our Cleveland Indians are as we sit here at the All-Star break.

Heading into the season, Terry Francona’s group had to deal with something that was not on the docket a year before; heightened expectations. Coming off of a 92-win, Wild Card season and bringing back essentially the same core group, the Tribe now wore a bulls-eye. They were not going to sneak up on anyone. And they haven’t.

The first half has brought moments of greatness and despair, moments of disappointment and exuberance. Certain guys have broken out, while others have taken huge steps backwards. We’ve seen regression to the mean from a few Indians as well. Hall of Fame Football coach Bill Parcells famously said “you are what you record says you are,” and the Indians are 47-47. All of this has added up to what they are: An average baseball team.

On Tuesday, we looked at “The Good” things the Tribe has done. In part two of our Tribe at the All-Star break series, we will examine what hasn’t exactly gone well for the Red, White, and Blue. [Read more...]

Indians 9, Yankees 3: Two games in one, Perez has the most fun

Roberto Perez

I was all set to have this one written. My main topics were going to be how the Indians defense, easily the worst in baseball, just continues to let the team down and cost them runs the offense usually cannot get back. I was also going to go in on the bats who once again turned a below average starter into Cy Freaking Young. Then came the seventh inning, or should I say the start of the game for the Tribe.

The New York Yankees and their legion of annoying bandwagon fans came out one more time to salute shortstop Derek Jeter in Cleveland for the last time. The Tribe cheesed it up by having former teammates Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher present Jeter with a pinstripe guitar with “The Captain, 2″ on it. Then these folks got the pleasure of watching Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall kick the ball around on their way to a 3-0 lead. Noted superstar David Phelps completely stymied the Indians offense, holding them scoreless on five hits through the first six innings. But things started to change thanks to two unlikely sources. [Read more...]

Indians 6, Diamondbacks 1: Kluber shuts down snakes

Corey KluberThe worst bit going in Tribe circles heading into last night was the “what’s wrong with Corey Kluber” question. The answer: absolutely nothing. So he hadn’t won a game in the month of June. So what? By now you should all know how meaningless the win statistic is. Sure, Kluber was absolutely dominant in May, when his team won five of his six starts (2.09 ERA, 60 K’s in 43 IP) and in the Tribe’s only loss, he gave eight innings of one run ball. But it’s not like his June was, say, Masterson-2014-esque.

“I don’t think there’s been much of a difference in the way I’ve pitched [from month to month],” said Kluber. “It’s been a pitch here or there, but it’s about being consistent.”

Kluber had two off starts to start the month, but followed that with back to back two run outings which included a seven inning, six K, one walk performance against the Tigers where he got by solely on guts. Last night in Phoenix, the dominant one returned.

[Read more...]

The weekend that wasn’t: Tigers sweep the Tribe

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It is such a shame. How many times do the Indians draw over 100,000 fans in a weekend? I’ll tell you how many: Zero in the past three seasons. Its the first time this has happened since August of 2011. I don’t know what it is about the Indians and big crowds at Progressive Field, but it seems as though they are allergic to winning in these situations.

I know, I know, that might be overstating it a bit, but again, it is such a shame. How many more chances do you get to capture the live attention of over 100,000 people? I wish that Indians fans weren’t this fickle, but they are what they are and it is what it is. The Tribe HAD to come up with a better performance this weekend that the egg that they laid in a place they have been great all year long.

I’ve say this almost every Opening Day and I said it last season when the Tigers came to town July 4 weekend and smoked the Indians in front of a sell out crowd: When you get this opportunity, one that doesn’t come nearly enough at Progressive Field, you must take advantage of it. Winning at least one of these games would have been good enough. Instead, the Tigers came into Cleveland with thousands of their fans and swept the Tribe in their own house.

[Read more...]

Royals 9, Indians 5: Poor defense returns as Tribe drops opener in KC

Corey KluberDuring the Cleveland Indians’ previous 10 games—where they won nine of them—one usual complaint when quiet: The poor defense. They floundered to start the season, while averaging an error per game and leading the American League in unearned runs. But in the midst of the recent hot streak, the defense tightened up. It reminded me of a football offensive line. You only really hear about them when they aren’t doing their jobs.

Last night in Kansas City, the iron gloves returned in what would be a 9-5 loss.

Tribe ace Corey Kluber was on the mound and even he could not stem the tide for the ill-timed defensive mistakes. With two on and one out in the third, Jarrod Dyson sent a sharp ground ball right at second baseman Jason Kipnis. It was a tailor-made double play ball even with the speedy Dyson running. Kipnis fired a strike to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera who flat out dropped the ball. Not in the transfer—he just dropped it. It was Cabrera’s 11th error on the season.

Asdrubal’s drop caused the flood gates to open. The Indians should have been out of the inning, instead, the bases were loaded. Kluber still had a chance to wiggle out of it and looked like he might. Omar Infante blooped a single to center putting the Royals on top 1-0. He was followed by Eric Hosmer, who sent a one hopper to Carlos Santana at first. If he fields it cleanly, he can start a 3-6-1 double play with ease, or fire home for the second out. Instead, Santana bobbled the ball before recovering and stepping on first for the second out. You can never assume the double play, but this was the another that should have been turned to end the inning. Billy Butler’s two-out single to right scored two more runs and the Royals had a 4-0 lead. [Read more...]

Indians 17, Rangers 7: Chisenhall delivers a performance for the ages

Lonnie ChisenhallLast April, after a third consecutive awful start, I famously called for the Indians to cut the cord on the Ubaldo Jimenez experience. Pretty much from that point forward, Ubaldo turned back into the pitcher the Indians had hoped they traded for at the deadline in 2011. On April 2nd of this year, I wondered aloud if we had seen the end of Lonnie Chisenhall in Cleveland. The reverse jinx king may have struck again!

The Indians have given up too soon on prospects before, only to see them flourish elsewhere (Brandon Phillips and Jeremy Guthrie to a lesser extent). They have also stuck with prospects at times for too long after being burned by the Phillips situation (Matt LaPorta and Andy Marte). In additon, their first round drafting has left a lot to be desired since CC Sabathia was taken in 1998. [Read more...]

Watch Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall grooving to the music

Thank goodness someone grabbed this off of their TV. It was T.J. Zuppe from 92.3 the Fan in Cleveland, and you can hear him laughing as Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall are dancing away on the field last night.

Of course, it’s easy to be in the mood for dancing when you go five for five with three homers.

Kipnis expected to join team in Chicago

kipnisminnyJason Kipnis will join his Indians teammates in Chicago on Tuesday and could be available to play, though manager Terry Francona indicated that he won’t start. Kipnis will likely be in the starting line-up on Wednesday.

Kipnis has been on the DL since May 2nd with a strained oblique. He played in rehab games with the Columbus Clippers over the holiday weekend and homered on Saturday.

Kipnis is from Chicago and hits very well at US Cellular Field. In 23 career games in Chicago, Kipnis is hitting .400 with 5 home runs and 21 runs batted in. His numbers there are better than anywhere except Cleveland where he has obviously played more games. This season he has five hits in four games at US Cellular.

The Indians could use a spark in the lineup, having scored just a pair of runs in each of their last two games, and without the services of Nick Swisher and possibly Carlos Santana.

[Related: Another error a direct cause of Wahoo loss]

The Ground in Cleveland

Jason Kipnis

Frustrating and underperforming at the plate, are the Cleveland Indians the unluckiest team in the majors thus far?

In 2013, the Cleveland Indians exceeded expectations, winning 92 games and earning their first playoff birth since 2007 thanks in large part to a pitching staff that performed far better than anticipated.

In 2014, thus far, the Cleveland Indians have disappointed some, already 5.5 games back of the Tigers with the fourth-lowest winning percentage in the American League. This has been thanks, in large part, to an under-performing lineup.

[Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Injuries change dynamic, a starter revival, freeing Lonnie, and three outs shy of a sweep

Justin Masterson

A weekend that should have been spectacular turned out to be just good with a bitter aftertaste. Home from a brutal west coast swing, the Tribe was back on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Following back-to-back wins to open a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox, the Indians led 3-1 heading into the ninth inning Sunday afternoon as closer John Axford came on to face the White Sox 2-3-4 hitters.

They say walks will kill you and in this instance, the old adage came to fruition. With a two-run lead, Axford should have fed the ball to the slumping Gordon Beckham. Instead, he walked him on four pitches. Hard-hitting first baseman Jose Abreu had already homered twice in the series, but the Tribe’s closer came back with a big strikeout. Unfortunately, Axford did what he just cannot do: He walked the tying run, strikeout machine Adam Dunn. This brought Dayan Viciedo to the plate, one of the hottest hitters in the American League. You know what happened next.

[Read more...]

One month in…Things must improve

Jason Kipnis

In what has been the first month of the season, we have watched our Cleveland Indians kick the ball around the field, hit sub-Mendoza line with runners in scoring position, fail to pitch deep into games, and lose six in a row in California. Other than that, they were great!

Baseball is a six-month trek. It’s a marathon season, not a sprint. How many times have we seen teams struggle out of the gate, only to catch fire mid-summer and get right back into the mix for a division title? I’m not saying this version of the Indians can do that, but they are certainly capable. The core of this team is, for the most part, the same group that won 92 games a season ago. But judging by the first month on the field, you probably couldn’t tell. [Read more...]

Indians lose again as Kipnis leaves with injury

This road trip just can’t end soon enough for the Tribe. They’ve lost (and lost) on the field and yesterday’s game even included the unwanted bonus of Jason Kipnis going out with an abdominal strain. The irrational, cynical part of me says, “Well, they lost five in a row with him, so what does it matter?” That’s really just mean and probably stupid too, but I’d be lying if I didn’t start to get angry when the Tribe appears to be this listless. Kipnis’ injury might not be all that serious as Terry Francona said after the game, the team hopes it’s more like cramping than anything else. In the end, the Tribe dropped their second game against the Angels 6-4 last night, and they have one more on this road trip before they get to turn the calendar to May. [Read more...]

Kipnis leaves game with right abdominal strain

Jason KipnisIndians second baseman Jason Kipnis left Tuesday night’s game in the middle of the fourth inning with a reported abdominal strain.

Kipnis grounded into a double play after Lonnie Chisenhall singled to lead off the inning. Kipnis appeared to hurt himself on the swing or leaving the batter’s box, as he certainly did not run like he was trying to beat out a double play. He immediately sought out the training staff while grabbing his side and left the bench area.

Kipnis was replaced by Mike Aviles.

If Kipnis is a candidate for the DL, Jose Ramirez is the likely candidate to replace him. Ramirez is hitting .319 for Columbus with 4 home runs, 17 RBI and 8 stolen bases.

[Related: Santana bombs, but Swisher's boot buries Tribe]

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...]

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...]