April 23, 2014

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...]

Starting pitching excels in double dip split with Padres

Trevor BauerWhomever in the MLB scheduling department that decided having the San Diego Padres come to Cleveland for their one appearance in early April is a genius. Now seriously, who thought this was a good idea? Naturally bad weather postponed Monday night’s game, causing a traditional doubleheader to be played on Wednesday, which was supposed to be the Padres getaway day. It is the second time the Tribe has played a doubleheader this season, which is just a week and a half old.

The Indians sent Zach McAllister to the hill for game one. The last time we saw Zach, his command was a mess. He only could muster four innings, giving up three runs on six hits and four walks. After the first time through the rotation, I will admit McAllister was the guy I worried about the most. For the Indians to reach their goal of returning to the postseason, McAllister has to be very good.

Yesterday afternoon, he wasn’t just good….he was GREAT. [Read more...]

WFNY Roundtable: The Kipnis Contract

WFNY_roundtable
The Cleveland Indians announced that they have signed All-Star 2nd Baseman Jason Kipnis to a 6-year $52.5 million contract extension. While on the surface it looks like a good deal for the Indians, Jacob had some questions about it, which led to the inevitable WFNY Roundtable. Enjoy!

[Read more...]

Indians sign Jason Kipnis to six-year contract extension

Jason KipnisEven more great news the day of the Home Opener…..

While they may have swung and missed on their attempts to lock up ace pitcher Justin Masterson, the Indians struck gold this morning with the announcement that All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis has agreed to a six-year, $52.5 million contract extension that will keep him in Cleveland through at least 2019. There is a club option for 2020 as well.

It hasn’t exactly been a secret that the Indians have struggled with some of their top draft picks over the last decade plus, but they hit a home run with Kipnis, their second round pick out of Arizona State in 2009. They turned the center fielder into a second baseman and watched him grow in front of their very eyes. He hit at every level and has become one of the key members of the Indians quest to stay amongst the playoff contenders year in and year out.

The Kipnis contract is similar to the six year, $52 million deal given to Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason. Carpenter has played all over the diamond in St. Louis and was coming off of his best season as a pro. He has settled in at third this season. Kipnis will roam second base in Cleveland for the foreseeable future.

The beauty of this deal is that the Indians bought two years of Kipnis’s potential free agency in addition to a club option, while Jason has gotten himself financial security. A win-win for both side.

The details of the deal, as reported by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, are as follows:

  • $1 million signing bonus
  • 2014 (age 27): $2 million
  • 2015 (28): $4 million
  • 2016 (29): $6 million
  • 2017 (30): $9 million
  • 2018 (31): $13.5 million
  • 2019 (32): $14.5 million
  • 2020 (33): $16.5 million option ($2.5 million buyout)

In the meantime, the Indians now have their core group of Kipnis, Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley (also recently extended), Yan Gomes (also recently extended), Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepcynski, John Axford, Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, and Danny Salazar all under team control through 2016.

The old John Hart model has reappeared and it seems to be working for both the players and the team. Kudos to GM Chris Antonetti and the rest of the front office for getting this done.

—–

 (Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

2014 WFNY Tribe Predictions

Nick Swisher

Man that was a long winter…Well it is essentially still going on here in Northeast Ohio, but the sun is shining here today and a smile is on my face. Why? Because it is BASEBALL SEASON! When we last left our Cleveland Indians, they had been shut down in the AL WIld Card game by Alex Cobb and the Tampa Bay Rays. A bitter taste was left in the mouths of the players. Guys like Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Santana have been champing at the bit to get back on the field.

“Unfinished Business” is the tag line for the 2014 Indians. The Wild Card was almost like a tease. They want more. We want more. The national media didn’t seem to give the Indians much of a chance in year one of the Terry Francona era. They shocked everyone by winning 92 games. Fast forward a year and again nobody outside of Cleveland seems to be giving the Tribe much of a chance again. In fact, the Kansas City Royals are the trendy team.

But what does the WFNY crew make of this year’s version of the Wahoo Warriors? I asked seven key questions, they answered…. [Read more...]

GIFs: Three Tribe homers from Saturday

The Tribe lost 9-8 against the San Diego Padres on Saturday in one of the final warmups before the season begins. In the loss Jason Kipnis hit a bomb and Matt Carson did twice accounting for two runs and five RBI.

First, here’s Kipnis’ shot.

Here’s Matt Carson’s first homer.

Here’s Matt Carson’s second homer.

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...]

Indians, Kipnis set Opening Day as deadline for contract extension talks

Nick Swisher

While much of the focus has been on Justin Masterson and his impending free agency, All-Star second basemand Jason Kipnis has set Opening Day as the deadline for the Indians to come to the table with a reasonable contract extension that would conceivably lock him up beyond his impending arbitration years.

“Our goal is always to have contract matters resolved before the start of the season to allow everyone’s focus to remain on the field,” general manager Chris Antonetti said.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman used Matt Carpenter’s recent six-year, $52 million extension as a barometer for what Kipnis is likely to get, but many are also pointing to the deal recently signed by defensive WAR hero and Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons where Atlanta offered seven years for $58 million.

The Tribe was unable to agree to a contract extension with ace pitcher Justin Masterson, with Masterson asking for roughly $17 million per year over two or three years; the Indians offered significantly less than that, reportedly closer to $14 million. Unlike Masterson, Kipnis has been well above average over the last few seasons, providing five-tool talent that has been absent since the days of peak Grady Sizemore. No financial details regarding the Kipnis talks have come out yet, but the second baseman is coming off of a spectacular season where he hit 17 home runs, drove in 84 runs and a .284 batting averge. He was integral in the team’s run to the postseason and ultimately finished 11th in AL MVP voting.

The Indians front office has long discussed locking up their core players, most recently when signing outfielder Michael Brantley to a contract extension. As has been reported ad nauseum, Kipnis is under club control for several more seasons so there isn’t much in the way of a true deadline. Avoiding arbitration with a player of his age and talent level, however, would be very wise.

#PayTheMan

(Image: Thomas Ondrey/The Plain Dealer)

Picture: Jason Kipnis drilled by Jeremy Guthrie, shows off wound

Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis was hit by a pitch by Jeremy Guthrie in Cleveland’s 12-6 win over the Royals in Arizona today.

Perhaps hit isn’t a strong enough word.

Kipnis took the fastball in the back, and following the game showed off the mark via his twitter account.

Um, ouch.

Kipnis doubled and drove in a run pushing his spring training average up to .375.

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 Diff: Looking at extension examples for the Indians and Jason Kipnis

The Diff is your weekly WaitingForNextYear look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles over the last 12 months, click this link.

The Diff

This week has generally been an exciting one for Cleveland Indians fans. Beloved (yet probably overrated) outfielder Michael Brantley was signed to a long-term contract. The deal covered the Branley’s remaining arbitration seasons and guaranteed at least one free agency year. Many are thrilled about the team’s commitment to a fan favorite. With that deal out of the way, it’s now time to discuss the next young Indians position player extension candidate: 2013 American League All-Star Jason Kipnis. This deal might not be so easy to negotiate. [Read more...]

The Tribe Walk-offs – WFNY Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories: No. 8

If you thought that 2012 was one crazy year in the world of Cleveland Sports, 2013 proved that there is rarely a dull moment. There were good times and bad, hirings and firings, wins and losses, and appearances in postseasons and courtrooms. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last five years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories to grace our local sports scene over the last 12 months. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. Do enjoy.

photo (2)

Man, it was a crazy exciting year down at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. There weren’t nearly enough fans flocking to see this team, but the ones that did – especially on Friday nights – were treated to some masterful theatre. The calling card of those mid and late 90′s Indians teams that captured our city was the walkoff wins. The 2012 Wahoos did their best to match that drama seemingly almost once or twice a homestand.

11 times this special group sent the faithful home with a walkoff winner that they wouldn’t forget. 11 times. [Read more...]

Indians’ Kipnis, Santana garner AL MVP recognition

Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis and catcher Carlos Santana each earned American League Most Valuable Player recognition, coming in 11th and 16th, respectively.

Kipnis totaled 31 points in the voting, bringing home one fifth-place vote (Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rodgers), one sixth-place vote, three eighth- and ninth-place votes, and five 10th-place votes. The 24-year old set career-high marks in batting average (.284), on-base percentage (.366), and slugging percentage (.452). He was second on the team in OPS (.818), amassed a team-leading 30 stolen bases, drove in 84 runs, and made his first appearance as an All-Star. Per Baseball-Reference, Kipnis was worth 5.9 wins.

Santana received one eight-place vote (Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher). He led the Indians in OPS (.832), was second in home runs (20) and runs batted in (74), and led the team in walks by a wide margin (93). Baseball-Reference lists Santana as having the second-best WAR on the team, worth 4.4 wins.

Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera won the award for the second consecutive season. Both Cleveland voters (Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon-Journal’s Sheldon Ocker) gave Kipnis 10th-place votes.

[Related: 2013 Cleveland Indians Power Rankings]

While We’re Waiting… Browns can’t trade Josh Gordon

Cleveland sports fans are waiting. Thus, while we’re all waiting, the WFNY editors thought you might enjoy reading. Because you never know how long we might be waiting. So here are assorted reading goodies for you to enjoy. Send more good links for tomorrow’s edition to tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Video analysis on why Josh Gordon is untradeable: “While Gordon is one step away from being suspended for an entire season under the NFL’s substance abuse policy, he is also one step away from being an elite receiver in the league. The Browns should accept nothing less than a first-round or high second-round draft pick for Gordon. He is that good.” [Will Burge/Bleacher Report] [Read more...]

2013 Indians in Review: Infielders and Catchers

Asdrubal Cabrera

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 began with the starting rotation, and then we moved onto the relievers. Today we will look at the infielders and catchers. [Read more...]

All of the Indians tweets after the AL Wild Card loss

Sometimes, sports are tough. A perfect example would be Wednesday’s gut-wrenching 4-0 loss by the Cleveland Indians at home in a one-game do-or-die playoff game. As we wind down the team’s incredible run to a 92-70 record, I felt it was appropriate to recap some of the team’s best tweets over the past few days since that loss. Hope you enjoy and that this makes you even more pumped for 2014.

The Tribe’s pitching coach got it all started shortly after the game ended with this quick post. [Read more...]

162+: Indians win 9th straight, one win away from Wild Card

carloshomerThe Cleveland Indians are guaranteed to play more than 162 games in the 2013 season. On the heels of a brilliant outing from Scott Kazmir and some of their classic two-out magic, the Indians clinched at least one game beyond today as even with a loss today they would at worst be playing baseball on Monday. After their ninth straight win, however, it’s time to make it a perfect ten to end the regular season. Doing so will clinch the Wild Card game being at Progressive Field on Wednesday night.

You have to start with Scott Kazmir, who turned in just a phenomenal performance. Kazmir got into some trouble in multiple innings, but the strikeout was his best friend. Kazmir put two runners on in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, yet he allowed only a single run to score in the fourth. In the third and fourth, Kazmir got fly balls to end the threats (Michael Brantley got a huge jump on the one to end the threat in the left-center gap in the fourth), and in the fifth, it was a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em double play courtesy of Yan Gomes firing it down to third and erasing Brian Dozier. Kazmir struck out 11 in his six innings of work, including striking out the side in his final inning of work. One would have to think that should the Indians get into a series that Kazmir would be awarded a start ahead of Zach McAllister, provided that Justin Masterson would stay in the bullpen. Kazmir’s had swing and miss stuff most of the year, but it’s that ability to avoid the big inning and work out of trouble that he needs to have to be the guy he’s been for most of the season. In his last two starts, it appears that knack is back. [Read more...]

Cleveland Indians’ rookies dress in costume for flight to Minnesota

A harmless little hazing tradition continued on the Indians’ flight to Minnesota to face the Twins in the final series of the regular season. Several of the Indians’ rookies had to dress in costume for the plane ride.

http://instagram.com/p/etYbuxqxkd/#

http://instagram.com/p/evFbJVqxl7/#

Well done veterans. Of course, they could have had those costumes lying around from the Harlem Shake video.

[Related: Indians win again, but closer problem rears its head]

Indians 2, Astros 1: MATT CARSON MANIA!!!!

Matt CarsonIf this one was any indication of the nail-biting nature of the stretch run just to get to October, it is going to be a long 10 days for Tribe fans. But here is hoping that the payoff will be as good as it was last night.

The Indians welcomed in the Houston Astros, baseball’s worst team. You know things are bad when former Tribe flame out #1 pick Trevor Crowe is not only their centerfielder, but was in the lineup hitting third. I fancy myself as someone who knows baseball as well as anyone, and even I had never heard of half of the players manager Bo Porter was trotting out there. Seeing what I saw last night, there is no excuse for the Indians not to sweep this sad sack group.

It looked early as if the Indians would make this one easy on us. Nick Swisher got things started with a one out double and scored on Jason Kipnis’s RBI single – a good sign considering Jason’s struggles of late. Things would stop right there after Houston lefty Dallas Keuchel got Carlos Santana to fly out followed by a Yan Gomes K. [Read more...]