April 17, 2014

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 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...]

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...]

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...]

Morgan Makes Indians Opening Day Roster, Bourn to the DL

Nyjer MorganOver the past decade, the Indians have signed a handful of low priced free agents in the offseason, taking flyers and hoping that one or two of them will work out. Last year GM Chris Antonetti hit on both Ryan Raburn and Scott Kazmir. This winter, the likes of Jeff Francouer, David Aardsma, Scott Atchison, and Elliot Johnson were amongst the players brought in. Johnson’s versatility and strong Spring has him snagging a spot in this season’s ‘Goon Squad.” Now you have another vet who will start the season with the big club.

Welcome to Cleveland, Tony Plush.

Nyjer Morgan, the former Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Washington center fielder has been told that he has made the club, according to Tribe beat reporters T.J.Zuppe, Jordan Bastian, and Paul Hoynes. Morgan has impressed manager Terry Francona with his hustle and willingness to fit as a role player. His three-run triple on Saturday keyed a win over the Rockies. Morgan is just 7-32 (.219) this Spring, but he is a natural center fielder. This is the key aspect of why Morgan has made the club.

The team’s regular in the middle, Michael Bourn, is nursing a hamstring injury which has hampered him over the past 10 days or so. The Morgan news tells me one thing – Bourn will not be ready next Monday night in Oakland.  In fact the Indians have just announced that Bourn will start the season on the Disabled List retroactively. The good news is that he will be eligible to return April 5th. If healthy, Bourn would miss just four games.

In other roster moves, Lonnie Chisenhall has been informed he will make the club, while pitchers Trevor Bauer and C.C. Lee have been sent to Columbus. 1B/DH Bryan LaHair, INF David Cooper, and Catcher Luke Carlin have all been reassigned. Starting pitcher Aaron Harang asked for and was granted his release after being told he will not be the team’s fifth starter.

(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

Michael Bourn out at least a week with hamstring soreness

Cleveland Indian Michael Bourn was pulled from Sunday’s game in Arizona with “mild tightness” in his left hamstring.

He was re-evaluated on Monday by the Tribe’s medical staff and is optimistic that he will still be ready to go when the Indians open the season on March 31st.

Bourn felt the tightness running from first to third on a single by Nick Swisher in the first inning. He would score and remain in the game through his at-bat in the second, but was replaced by Tyler Naquin for the home half of the inning.

According to Bourn, the injury is not related to the one he suffered in last year’s playoff game that required off-season surgery.

[Related: Animated- Santana homers and Masterson strikes out 8]

Tribe position players face questions as full-squad workouts begin

 Terry Francona, Chris Antonetti

We are getting closer and closer to Opening Day. Last week  the pitchers and catchers arrived in Goodyear to get their work started. Now, the rest of the team has arrived ready to build on last season’s 92-win Wild Card season. The core group is back, with a few additions sprinkled in. The big splash everyone was hoping for was not going to happen. Instead, David Murphy was brought over from Texas to platoon in Right Field with last year’s surprise Ryan Raburn. Everything else will look pretty familiar to you.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t issues surrounding the starting nine and bench bunch. “The Goon Squad” captured the city’s imagination thanks to their personalities and versatility both on the field and in the clubhouse, but new members may emerge. Then you have the third base situation. As we did last week, let us examine the various questions that will need  to be answered, starting with the talk of the winter in Tribe Town…. [Read more...]

MLB Trade News: Indians trade Drew Stubbs to Rockies for Josh Outman

UPDATE: The Indians are getting pitcher Josh Outman from the Rockies.

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According to Ken Rosenthal on Twitter the Cleveland Indians have sent outfielder Drew Stubbs to the Colorado Rockies. It is not yet known what the Indians got in return.

For the Indians, this cures what could have been a logjam in the outfield. The Indians have Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, Ryan Raburn, Nick Swisher and added David Murphy.

When that Murphy deal was rumored, Jacob said the following about the Indians’ outfield situation.

It’s a bit of a surprising deal for the Tribe, who already have over $30 million committed to outfielders Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Ryan Raburn for 2014. Incumbent right fielder Drew Stubbs is a potential non-tender candidate, as he’s expected to garner about $3.8 million in arbitration, per MLBTradeRumors.

Murphy has averaged 130 games for the Texas Rangers over the last six seasons. During this time, he’s averaged a .272/.335/.436 line with 1.7 WAR per year. He’s been primarily a left fielder and had by far his worst season in 2013, batting just .220/.282/.374 in 142 contests. He earned $5.775 million in his final arbitration season this past year. A lefty hitter, he seems to be a good fit in a time-share with fellow veteran Raburn in right.

We will obviously update this when we find out what the Indians got in return.

[Related: Pluto: David Murphy’s BABIP incredibly low]

The requisite Jacoby Ellsbury and Michael Bourn contract comparison

bourn ellsbury

The Internet was buzzing yesterday with news of the latest baseball mega-deal: Centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to a seven-year $153 million deal with the New York Yankees.

The numbers are staggering. The contract is among the largest of all time. Ellsbury, who just completed his age-30 season, bears some resemblance to a speedy outfielder that the Indians signed last offseason: Michael Bourn. Yet the two contracts couldn’t be any more different. [Read more...]

Pluto: David Murphy’s BABIP incredibly low

The Indians made their first major move of the offseason earlier this week when they signed outfielder David Murphy to a two-year deal with an option for a third. The left-handed Murphy will likely platoon in right field with returnee Ryan Raburn. Murphy played a full-time role in Texas last season, but he regressed from his relative consistent and proven track record, so why was that? Well, in his Sunday morning contribution, The Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto explains that BABIP (a favorite of sabermetric junkies like our own Jon and Jacob) has a big role in that.

“So they have guaranteed $12 million to a guy who batted .220. Why? The answer is BABIP, one of the new stats.

BABIP stands for Batting Average Ball In Play. In other words, what is a player’s batting average when he hits a fair ball? In 2012, Murphy’s BABIP was .333 (He batted .304). In 2011 it was .299 (he batted .275). In 2010 it was .324 (He batted .291).

What’s the point? The BABIP is supposed to measure luck. If a guy had a BABIP of .330 and his average is .318 — he had a lot of balls drop in for hits.

The Tribe believes part of Murphy’s problems in 2013 was rotten luck. His BABIP was .227 (He batted .220). His .227 BABIP ranked 167th out of 170 regular players in the American League.

The average range for BABIP is .290-.310, according to fangraphs.com. On the Tribe, the top BABIP’s: Jason Kipnis (.345), Yan Gomes (.342), Michael Bourn (.338), Drew Stubbs (.319). Players with speed (such as Bourn and Stubbs) tend to have higher BABIPs because they have more infield hits. “

It’s interesting to see how some luck (perhaps with Yan Gomes being that far above average) coupled with the ability to find holes when contact is actually made (Kipnis, Bourn, and even Stubbs) is displayed with this metric. Hopefully, Murphy’s BABIP regresses more toward the mean, and the Indians get a .270-.280ish hitter with a little pop.

Related: How crazy would it be for Indians to consider trading Michael Bourn?

How crazy would it be for Indians to consider trading Michael Bourn?

Michael BournThe Indians shocked much of baseball by signing All-Star outfielder Michael Bourn in February to a deal worth up to $60 million over five years.

While the team then surprised en route to 92 wins and an AL Wild Card appearance, Bourn disappointed. After a four-year near-superstar average of 4.8 jWAR (definition here), he posted a measly 2.2 jWAR in 2013 – just barely above legitimate starter levels.

This week, Cleveland added veteran David Murphy to the fold. He’s expected to play the larger half of a platoon in right field with Ryan Raburn. This now presents an even more crowded logjam in the outfield along with Bourn, Michael Brantley, Nick Swisher and arbitration-eligible Drew Stubbs.

All of these players have a ton of versatility, just as Terry Francona likes it. But it’s doubtful all six are on the roster come April. Thus, one potential option that is gaining more traction in the Tribe blogosphere is the concept of trading Michael Bourn. [Read more...]

2013 Indians in Review: Outfielders and DH

Michael BrantleyThe 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. Next we looked at the infielders and catchers. In the final installment, the outfield and DH spots are examined. [Read more...]

Scott Raab on the Tribe playoffs, Chief Wahoo, Hoyer injury, Mike Brown – WFNY Podcast – 2013-10-07

WFNY Podcast LogoHere is the email I sent to Scott prior to our podcast this week.

Indians year in review. The team was maddening. They finished great. They actually made the playoffs. They got shut out in the playoffs.

Do you need a short-hand “good” or “bad” rating for the season? I’m curious if your son had a take on whether it was a good or bad season and how that conversation went. I still just talk “at” my three year old about sports so I told him that they made the playoffs and that it was a good year. Maybe next year they can have an even better one. I imagine the 14-year-old sports fan opinion is a bit more nuanced.

Speaking of nuance, the Browns won to make it three wins in a row, but the biggest reason (other than the defense) for making it three in a row tears his ACL. I worked really hard to enjoy the win, but in the end, the feeling of gloom rose to the top. I never imagined it would happen when he was named starter, but I looked forward to watching Brian Hoyer play.

I did a podcast with Sam Allard and Brian Windhorst last week and we talked about how the Mike Brown story should probably be much bigger in Cleveland. Because Brown was here once and people mark his exit as the same time frame as “The Decision,” Mike Brown has largely been labeled a failure. Windhorst told me that he doesn’t necessarily think that’s fair and that Mike Brown’s resume should have made his hiring in Cleveland a bigger deal. [Read more...]

Early thoughts on the 2014 Indians: WFNY Roundtable

Following Wednesday’s AL Wild Card loss to Tampa Bay, the WFNY staff was still giddy about the Cleveland Indians’ 2013 season. But, some were already not as optimistic about the picture for 2014. Here’s another look inside the WFNY email thread to see what we were talking about yesterday with regards to the Tribe’s future.

WFNY_roundtable

Jacob: From 1995-2012, 58 MLB teams had .600+ records in 1-run games. Of those 58 teams, 44 regressed the following season: 75.9% of teams. In total, those 58 teams regressed by an average of 5.8 wins/162 games the following season.

Sure, that’s probably just regular regression to the mean for good teams anyway, but still notable. I don’t think winning 1-run games is a skill however, unless you have Mariano Rivera. The Indians went 30-17 (.638) in one-run games this season, second in baseball to the Yankees: 30-16 (.652). Both could be prime candidates for 2014 regression. [Read more...]

Despite the loss, this was a game Cleveland needed

Tribe Pano Smaller

Last night’s Wild Card playoff was a game this city desperately needed. No, one game is most assuredly not “enough.” No, I’m not satisfied that the Indians peed down their leg with runners on base last night.1 All the same, last night was a game that this city needed and it was a game that the team needed. As I said yesterday, this city has been doing a lot of bickering and in-fighting over the years since LeBron James left town and took all of Cleveland’s playoff hopes with him. What was left was a lot of self-loathing, bitterness and negativity.2 It’s been wearing on this city’s fans and filtering to the players too. With those things in mind, I’m elated with the fact that Cleveland got at least one playoff game so the city could explode positively for a night.

It was absolutely electric, except that’s something everyone says. It was more than electric. The pride, excitement, and nearly palpable effort by Clevelanders last night to will their team to victory was everything we all remember as kids growing up with the 90′s Tribe. It was another taste for those of us in this age bracket, but it was even more important for so many people who hadn’t seen it before or were too young to remember. But that’s just the fans. It was also imperative for Cleveland Indians players to see it. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. I’ll leave the real recap work to the experts. []
  2. Some justified and some probably a bit over-the-top. []

Cleveland Indians Wild Card post-game with Martin Rickman – WFNY Podcast – 2013-10-02

WFNY Podcast LogoI was still up wallowing in some Burger King. Martin Rickman was up and about to drive home from Progressive Field. I gave him a call and we talked about the Indians.

Martin Rickman and the champagne bath
How many champagne baths should be allowed?
The Indians season-ending game was sad, but it wasn’t a gut punch
The struggles of Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera
Expecting the playoffs and playing with house money
The Cleveland Indians off-season and making tough choices
The Indians game tonight wasn’t a newspaper across the nose

 

 

Check out this episode

The Diff: Playoff stats research for the Cleveland Indians

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 recapped some stats from the Indians’ turnaround 2013 regular season. Today, I’m taking stats research questions from my WFNY colleagues with the Wild Card game tonight.

The Diff

Kirk: “How about how often the best team wins it all in baseball? Wild card vs. top division winner success.”

That’s a great question, Kirk. This week, I was planning to write about MLB payrolls, but then realized that was too depressing of a topic. If payrolls don’t matter anyway, then have the low-to-medium-sized payroll Indians struggled for much of the last decade? Either way, my answer to this: The MLB playoffs are an absolute crap-shoot, even despite the incredible payroll imbalance. [Read more...]