August 15, 2014

Indians Notes: Bourn to be activated on Friday, Swisher getting second opinion

photo4

The Indians take on the Arizona Diamondbacks today in a traditional doubleheader starting at 4 pm. The team is currently on a two game win streak after beating the New York Yankees two out of three games this past weekend. The Tribe could get a boost on Friday when they are expected to activate Michael Bourn off the D.L. He was placed on the 15-day D.L. on July 6 after injuring his hamstring. Manager Terry Francona said before the doubleheader today that Bourn will start on Friday and Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles and sit on Sunday. This move could give the team an offensive boost for the stretch run.

On a less positive note, Nick Swisher will get a second opinion on his injured right knee. He will travel to Los Angeles on Tuesday to meet with Dodgers’ team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache. The Indians should know more after this examination on the status of Swisher for the rest of the year. It will be interesting to see how the team handles Swisher’s status for the rest of the regular season.

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

Indians acquire outfielder Chris Dickerson from Pirates

chrisdickersonThe Indians added necessary outfield depth this afternoon in trading for outfielder Chris Dickerson from the Pittsburgh Pirates for future considerations. The Indians will either give up cash or a player-to-be-named-later.

Dickerson, 32, has 314 games of major league experience with a healthy .262/.339/.406 batting line. He has played for four different MLB teams, the Reds, Brewers, Yankees and Orioles.

This season for Triple-A Indianapolis he was batting .309/.407/.479. In his 65 games, he has 15 doubles, seven homers and 12 steals. The Indianapolis Star’s Mark Ambrogi recently profiled the International League All-Star representative.

The move was helpful for the Indians who also announced some injury updates today. Michael Bourn’s MRI revealed a “mild to moderate hamstring strain” and he’ll be out at least 3-4 weeks. Bourn was placed on the DL on Friday, initially for Columbus outfielder Tyler Holt.

In addition, Nyjer Morgan rehab was stalled and he’s getting a second opinion on his injured right knee. Morgan was initially placed on the disabled list on May 15, then transferred to the 60-day list.

Dickerson is just another replacement bat to provide short-term depth and assistance. He had been frustrated about not getting an opportunity at the big league level with Pittsburgh. A left-handed bat, he’s sure to get occasional at-bats for Cleveland in a backup role.

Of course, the Indians and Pirates are common trade partners. Pittsburgh’s GM Neal Huntington worked in the Cleveland system worked for a decade before his hire in 2007. The teams swapped Jeanmar Gomez and outfielder Quincy Latimore back in January 2013.

Update: To make room on the 25-man roster, the Indians designated catcher George Kottaras for assignment.

Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

Dr. Smooth: All Star; #VoteKluber, and gauging the trade values of Masterson and Cabrera

Corey KluberThese are interesting times for our Wahoos. While most of you were on LeBron and Dan Gilbert Plane Watch or worrying about Johnny Manziel’s July 4th in Las Vegas, your local nine was taking two of three from the Kansas City Royals down at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Big crowds came out Friday and Saturday as the Tribe split the first two. They recovered nicely to take Sunday’s rubber match 4-1.

The team is kind of in limbo right now. Where are they? Who are they? Is this a contender or a team that should start selling off veteran pieces? 2013 proved you shouldn’t count a Terry Francona managed team out, but the defensive issues and the sluggish bats make you think this isn’t “the year.”

Nevertheless, there is a lot of baseball to be played and the Indians just won a big series against a team they are chasing in Kansas City. There was plenty more going on not just on the field, but off of it as well this weekend. So as we do every Monday morning, let us dive into the weekend that was in Wahooland. [Read more...]

Bourn to DL, Tyler Holt called up

Bourn Hit 4/23/2014The Indians won in impressive fashion last night 7-3 over the Kansas City Royals, but it came at a cost. Michael Bourn left the game in the eighth inning after scoring and having his hamstring apparently tighten up on him. Sure enough, we heard the news today that Bourn will be headed to the disabled list for the second time this season.

To take his spot on the active roster, the Indians have called up outfielder Tyler Holt from Columbus. Holt, a 25-year-old 10th round selection by the Indians in the 2010 draft, has split this season between Akron and Columbus, batting .300 with a .805 OPS, 2 homers, 26 RBI, and has 21 steals in 24 attempts. Holt is an above average defender, capable of playing all three positions, and has played center exclusively in Columbus for the past month or so.

Bourn has had an up and down season, batting .267 (.695 OPS) on the campaign, hitting 3 homers, driving in 21, and stealing successfully on 7 of 10 attempts. His on-base percentage is right at the league average, but his strikeout (22.3%) and walk (6.5%) ratios leave much to be desired as they are even worse than his career marks of 20.7% and 8.4%.

In his absence, Michael Brantley will primarily patrol center field, as he is in today’s lineup. Left field will be a rotation of Mike Aviles (starting today), Ryan Raburn, and Brantley when Holt starts.

As TD pointed out a short while ago, the trip to the DL could be less games than regularly anticipated. With the All-Star break upcoming, Bourn could come off the DL on July 21st and miss just 12 games.

(Photo: Chuck Crow/Plain Dealer)

Related: The Indians’ Mr. Clutch, Pat Tabler : Reliving Yesteryear

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...]

Michael Brantley named American League Player of the Week

Kipnis and Brantley

Michael Brantley should be your favorite Cleveland Indians. That was one of my favorite tweets to send out a year ago, and now it seems like a really obvious thing to say when it didn’t feel so obvious back then. He’s been named the American League POW for June 9-15.

Michael led all Major League hitters in batting average, runs scored and on-base percentage (.625), and was tops in the A.L. in hits, total bases (23) and times on base (20). Additionally, he was second in the Junior Circuit in slugging percentage (.885) and was tied for third in extra-base hits (5).

Brantley, one of 22 current second-generation Major Leaguers, is batting .322 (85-for-264) this season with 17 doubles, 11 homers, 45 RBI and 49 runs scored in 68 games. Defensively, Michael’s eight outfield assists trail only Yoenis Cespedes of Oakland for the A.L. lead.

Earlier this year, Jon discussed the evolution of Michael Brantley from his stance that looked to temper some of the “cock-eyed optimism” to the thought that Brantley might just become what all his biggest fans hoped he could ever be. It’s worth another read, but here’s a snippet.

Perhaps the most fascinating nugget here is the relationship between slugging percentage and on-base percentage. When Brantley was included as the PTBNL in the CC Sabathia trade, we were told that he was a speedy on-base guy. Someone like…well…someone like Michael Bourn (used to be): Not much pop in his bat, but the eye, legs, and glove to make him a valuable player. To this point in his career, Brantley has largely played in that mold, albeit slightly underwhelmingly so. His career OBP coming into 2014 sat a tick above average at .330 while his slugging percentage (a rough gauge of his ability to hit for power) was an anemic .382. Because he’d been touted as an on-base machine, I always figured the improvements would come on that side of the equation. But if what we’re seeing so far this year is any indication, Michael may be grooming himself as a power hitter.

One thing’s for sure. The Cleveland Indians aren’t likely regretting the four-year extension they signed Brantley to in February of 2014 for $25 million.

(Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

Royals 4, Indians 1: Bats go silent as Ventura bests Bauer

Mike AvilesWhen the Indians look back on their first two and a half months of the 2014 season, they are going to lament the amount of games that they both failed to come through in ample opportunities at the plate and made defensive blunders that cost them runs.

Wednesday afternoon’s loss in Kansas City was the latest example. A night prior, Asdrubal Cabrera’s dropped throw on a double play ball and Carlos Santana’s bobble of a second double play grounder in the same inning opened the flood gates to a four run KC inning. Wednesday afternoon, the little things killed them again. [Read more...]

Indians 5, Red Sox 3: Hot starts, turning corners, and streaking toward .500

Gomes Aviles

7:00 PM – My daughter is not happy that I’ve chosen to live recap the Indians game rather than Wheel of Fortune, but I’m bigger than her and a little richer so I get to decide. I’M A MAN. I’M FORTY! (But not really.)

That said, diapers, baths and bedtime stories are likely to interfere for these first few innings, so consider yourself forewarned in case I start spouting off about a very hungry caterpillar or some icky poo-poos.

The matchup looks not great: TJ House against Jake Peavy. Then again, the Indians are streaking with the best record in baseball at home.  That’s why they play the games, etc.

7:31 PM – It sure didn’t look like a good start, but it somehow turned into one.

To start the game, House lets up a leadoff single to Brock Holt—which sounds like a name in need of a reality television show—and follows it up by hitting Xander Bogaerts in the back to put two on with nobody out. That’s right: of the two names I could have paused over, I eschewed “Xander Bogaerts”; this live-recapping is a delicate art.

Somehow Pedroia, Ortiz and Gomes go down in order to end the threat.  Back in the saddle again.

And then? Well, then things go well:

  • Bourn single
  • Asdrubal single, Bourn to third (hit and run)
  • Brantley single, Bourn scores, Asdrubal to second
  • Kipnis bunt single, bases loaded
  • Lonnie Who Loves Baseball single, Asdrubal scores, bases loaded

[Read more...]

Indians 3, Red Sox 2: Tribe climbs out of last place with Masterson’s great start

Asdrubal Cabrera, David OrtizTeam Streak Midwest outdueled Team Streak East on Monday night in Cleveland.

The Indians won their fourth straight in a fast-paced 3-2 game against the Boston Red Sox, and in process, climbed out of the cellar of the AL Central. The loss snapped Boston’s seven-game winning streak.

Justin Masterson recaptured his 2013 form with seven shutout innings, battling the Boston lineup after a laborious start to the game. The three Cleveland runs all came early against red-hot starter John Lackey and proved to be barely enough, despite an eighth-inning scare.

Overall, this was another one of those fun wins that should remind fans of last year. This series is an intriguing test to see if the Indians might be for real … and if they can perhaps climb back to .500. [Read more...]

Indians come through at home with sweep of Rockies

Bourn walk off

When Michael Bourn drilled a letter-high fastball over the fence in right center, the Indians completed another three game sweep with a home plate celebration. It was the fourth walk-off win for the Indians this season, and Bourn’s first ever walk-off home run.

After getting swept by the White Sox in Chicago, the Indians returned home with the worst road record in the American League at 9-19. Only Miami (8-17) has a slightly worse road winning percentage in all of baseball.

When Miachael Bourn’s ball landed in the seats, the Tribe had an 18-11 home record, which is tops in the American League.

The Rockies came to Cleveland scuffling a bit, losing five of their last seven but were still three games over .500. Their line-up has been outstanding, but the Tribe pitchers had them guessing and whiffing all series long.

In fact, the Indians struck out 38 Colorado batters during the three game series. That’s a big number. The big hitter in that Colorado line-up is Troy Tulowitzki. He has 14 home runs and a .350 average to lead the National League. Indians’ pitchers fanned him 5 times and allowed just a single against the Rockies’ top slugger. [Read more...]

Unsolicited observations: Cleaning up Santana’s swoon, Jesus is here, Bourn problems and more

Carlos Santana - Dejak AP

These observations may be unsolicited, but it probably doesn’t take much to get an opinion from Tribe fans on the play of Carlos Santana. The Indians’ unexpected third baseman managed to get his OPS back over .600. In the stat world, we call that trending upward! One can hope, anyway.

Watching Santana at the plate has been frustrating on all fronts. That’s why it was refreshing to see him unleash a two-run homer against Toronto Wednesday night. Santana has now collected five hits in his last four games, enough to bring his average to .154 with five homers and 13 RBIs. He’s a switch hitter who’s not getting it done from either side of the plate (.149 as a lefty, and .163 from the right side). He’s also making weak contact, as pointed out in this WFNY feature. [Read more...]

Indians 15, Blue Jays 4 : It’s alive…ALIVE!

Carlos Santana

Every once and a while, the scuffling Cleveland Indians offense awakens with a big game as they did two Friday’s ago when the battered the White Sox around in a 12-5 win at Progressive Field. Then they came crashing back to earth with five runs in the next three games. But on that night, it was a badly needed and welcomed sight. Last night in Toronto gave off that same kind of vibe.

The bats rose to the occasion with season highs in runs (15) and hits (22) — five each from David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall —  in the blowout win inside of Rogers Center. You know what is crazy? The 15-4 final shouldn’t even have been that close. [Read more...]

Indians 9, Twins 4: Asdrubal explodes as Tribe takes third straight

Asdrubal Cabrera

See, this is why Terry Francona is the manager and I just sit here and write about the Indians.

For weeks I have watched Asdrubal Cabrera flounder at the plate, looking seemingly worse and worse each day. Then the next day, his name is right there in the lineup card. Riding in the middle of a 4-21 slump while playing sloppy defense, I begged and pleaded for Asdrubal to get a day off. And there he was again, right in the six hole on Thursday afternoon.  [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...]

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...]

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...]