April 24, 2014

Tribe defense has been historically bad thus far

swisher_2014-04-05

Sure, the Cleveland Indians aren’t exactly tearing the cover off of the ball on a nightly basis, but they aren’t exactly catching it either. FanGraphs, who has been very kind to the Tribe thus far through 2014, penned another entry that wasn’t all too glowing. The topic du jour: Defense, or severe lack thereof.

As run stopping has grown just as important as run producing, the Cleveland Indians are struggling mightily with the latter. FanGraphs, who breaks defensive opportunities into percentiles of likelihood to be made, shows that the Tribe is not just struggling with the unlikely plays, they’re blowing their opportunities to make the routine ones as well.

If you look at the 90%-100% ones, you’ll notice that 12 teams have converted 98 percent or more of those plays. 17 more have turned at least 96.0 percent of “the easy ones” into outs. And all alone at 94.4 percent, and dead last in DRS, are the Cleveland Indians. [...]

You can already see how it’s hurting the Cleveland pitching staff. They have the second–best strikeout rate in baseball, and the third-lowest homer rate. They’re not immune to blame — they’re walking way too many — but they’re being saddled with a .331 BABIP that is not only the highest in baseball, but would be tied for the second-highest in the last century with a 96-loss 2007 Tampa Bay team that primarily had B.J. Upton and Brendan Harris as double play partners, behind only a 1930 Phillies team that lost 102 games and played in one of the most offense-friendly seasons ever.

Oof. The struggles have not been limited to just one area of the team. We already discussed Nyjer Morgan’s early issues with regard to stopping runs. David Murphy has been tagged with three runs himself despite being a part of a platoon. Nick Swisher has been tagged with three runs, large in part to his two gaffes in a win over the San Diego Padres. Jason Kipnis has dropped easy pop-ups, failing to convert on three “easy” plays. Yan Gomes has been tossing baseballs all over creation. Michael Brantley’s errorless streak has ended. I could go on…

As Mike Petriello writes, with the AL Central slated to be a dogfight once again, the Indians can’t afford to be helping out their opponents. The way their defense has played so far, they’re making it much harder on themselves than it needs to be.

Tigers 7, Indians 5: Salazar’s implosion starts Tribe demise

Michael BrantleyWhat was thought to be a pitchers duel turned into something unexpected. The sun splashed afternoon at Comerica Park and Detroit had a much different feel than the frigid night before, but with Justin Verlander and Danny Salazar locking horns, the thought was that the fans in attendance would be in for a quick afternoon. What transpired was three hour and thirty-eight minute affair where neither starter pitched past the fifth.

For the first three innings, things breezed right along with Salazar and Verlander putting up zeroes. The Tribe’s phenom was actually better, setting down the first eight Tigers he faced. Offensively, the Wahoo offense continued where they left off a night earlier, leaving runners on base. A leadoff walk from Michael Bourn was wasted after Nick Swisher struck out and Jason Kipnis grounded into a double play. Two innings later, the Tribe really had Verlander on the hook. David Murphy started things with a walk, but a second double play ball – this one from Yan Gomes – erased that mini-threat. But Lonnie Chisenhall and Bourn both singled in front of a Swisher walk to load the bases. It was Kipnis’s chance to get the Tribe on the board, but he K’d on three pitches. He was clearly upset by an iffy first strike call from umpire Lance Barrett and told him so on his way to the dugout after the third strike. Barrett used an extremely quick hook, tossing Kipnis for the first time in his career. [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...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Opening day fun, starting pitching concerns, Vinnie’s future, and Wahoo

Jason Kipnis

If I told you the Tribe would lose two of three in Oakland to start the year and then come home to take two of three from Minnesota, I am sure many of you would have taken it. Though the opposite actually happened, the record is still the same: 3-3. The weekend series with the Twins should have turned out differently, but we witnessed lots of sloppy play and even sloppier pitching, particular from the starters. Opening Day was a success on the field once the bad weather passed. Saturday and Sunday, however, left a lot to be desired.

It is easy to jump to early conclusions. That would be irresponsible as an Indians fan. Do not forget that this was just one week; six games to be exact. There are 156 games left to be played. Things will get better, things will get worse, but one thing is for certain: A season is not shaped by April 6.

As we have done for WFNY each of the past four seasons, Monday mornings at 10 a.m. will be a look back at the good and the bad of the Tribe’s weekend series. This particular one had plenty to discuss. [Read more...]

Rocky start, “Smooth” ending: Tribe splits doubleheader in Oakland

Mike AvilesThere is nothing worse than fans freaking out over one game. But the first of the two in Oakland yesterday was one of those of those examples. I’m going to say this once – it’s ONE GAME.

Scott Kazmir, whom the Indians let walk after resurrecting his career in Cleveland last season, spent his afternoon completely dominating his old club. It was similar to some of the performances we saw from the 30-year old in 2013. He was in complete control, pounding the strike zone all game long. Only twice did Kazmir even get to a three-ball count. Scott worked fast and the Wahoo offense never touched him.

Kazmir, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal with Oakland, departed with one out in the eighth, allowing just three hits without walking a single batter. He struck out five and looked to be worth every penny. [Read more...]

Indians 2, Athletics 0: It took a while, but it was worth the wait

Asdrubal CabreraTo borrow a phrase from the great George Costanza, I stayed up late to watch the Tribe start their season and “yada yada, I am very tired today.” It rained all day in Oakland and getting this game in looked bleak most of the day. But the baseball Gods usually arrive on Opening Day. They did, the sun came out, and the Tribe’s 2014 debut started right on time.

I’m sure many of you were sleeping, and if you weren’t, the Indians offense with runners on base may have put you there. But in the end, it felt like another nail-biter 2013 stretch drive game where the pitching gave them a chance to win and the bats did just enough late to pull out a victory.

The first game of the each season is always going to see two teams trot their best starter out to the mound. The A’s sent 24-year-old stud Sonny Gray out to square off with Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, making his third consecutive Opening Day start. With free agency pending, it could be the last opener Masterson starts in a Tribe uniform. Lets hope not. The way he pitched last night had all the makings of an ace. We’ve seen this kind of dominating performance out of Justin before, but to fire out of the gates like this was very encouraging.

In seven stellar innings, Oakland could muster little against Masterson and his array of pitches. He had it all working last night. You usually know how things are going to go with Justin judging by his first couple of innings. When his command is there, he is extremely tough to beat. [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...]

Video: Nick Swisher and Mike Polk Jr. are Bro-tastic roommates

Mike Polk hits another home run with this video from spring training. Love the posters of horses next to Swisher.

 

Nick Swisher and Kenny Lofton are both right in MLB playoff debate

Nick Swisher Kenny Lofton Rocky 3

The good news is that the Cleveland Indians are coming off a season in which they made the playoffs! The bad news is that one of the most popular Indians of the past 20 years not only looked to invalidate that in the press this off-season, but might have alienated himself from these new Cleveland Indians in the process. Anthony Castrovince uncovered the tale of playoffs, current Indians leader Nick Swisher and the archetype Cleveland Indians center fielder, Kenny Lofton and it reads a bit ugly for someone like me who always wants everyone to get along. The thought of Swisher and Lofton being at odds when the Indians seem set on potentially doing something good in this new Terry Francona era makes me sad. It’s especially sad to me when I think they’re both right in their own way. [Read more...]

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...]

Nick Swisher is getting his own TV special

In a press release that was disseminated early Monday morning, SportsTime Ohio (which is apparently still called SportsTime Ohio) will be airing a program that documents the life of the jubilant Cleveland Indians first baseman and outfielder, Nick Swisher. Titled “Nick Swisher: Revealed,” it is being touted as an “up close and personal” look at the always-smiling switch-hitter.

From the release:

Swisher shares stories of his Grandmother and reflects on how she influenced him. We also visit the Parkersburg, West Virginia home of his father, Steve Swisher, to discuss how being the former ballplayer’s son and traveling around minor league ballparks impacted his life. Additionally, find out how Swisher’s love for Indians fans and his “Swishalicious” attitude has inspired the “Brohio” movement and what it means to him.

While I can’t speak much to Brohio or being “Swishalicious,” I can say that, having been around Swisher in the Tribe’s locker room, a 30-minute feature will not do Swisher—a guy who is sound bite after sound bite—nearly enough justice. In the very least, however, the Indians finally have a player who is not only a household name, but is worth promoting outside of the confines of the chalk-lined diamond.

The first airing of “Revealed” will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, January 24. There will be roughly two dozen replays that will air between then and February 15.

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.

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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...]

MLB News: Indians’ Carlos Santana brought up idea of third base tryout

Catcher Carlos Santana brought up the idea of trying out as a third baseman to the Indians this offseason, reports The Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto in his latest Sunday notebook.

Yan Gomes already has been named Cleveland’s everyday catcher for 2014. Pluto writes that Nick Swisher, who made 101 out of his 144 starts at first base in 2013 but played mostly right field for the New York Yankees, will remain as the team’s primary first baseman.

It was reported last weekend that Santana would be taking groundballs at third base this offseason to give competition to incumbent Lonnie Chisenhall. The 25-year-old has struggled in 203 career MLB games, batting just .244/.284/.411, which has the Indians looking for another right-handed bat to potentially add at third base.

Here’s what Pluto wrote about Santana wanted to try out at third:

The Indians were aware that Santana played a little third early in his minor league career. But they didn’t know if the 5-foot-11, 210-pounder could handle the position. The fact that Santana wants to try it has the Tribe far more excited than the front office wants to say publicly.

In 2013, the 27-year-old Santana made 81 starts at catcher, 47 at designated hitter and 24 at first base. As a DH or at first, his impressive hitting value is limited. He ranks as one of the best hitting catchers of all time with a .254/.367/.446 line. But his defense was a major issue, especially in comparison to the up-and-coming Gomes.

The Indians have versatile infielder Mike Aviles at their disposal as another back-up option, but little else on the farm. Cord Phelps was recently claimed by the Baltimore Orioles.

[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...]

Survey Says? Digging deeper into the Cleveland Indians fan survey

Indians SurveyLost in the kerfuffle of the Cleveland Indians allegedly polling season ticket holders about their opinion on Chief Wahoo was the fact that said inquiry was literally one of roughly three dozen questions pertaining fans and how they relate to various aspects of the team. Drowned out by all of the noise and nostalgia surrounding the polarizing mascot was the fact that the team was conducting an exit interview of sorts, gauging fan thoughts on items like concessions, ticket prices, and most importantly, the roster of players who wear Cleveland on the fronts of their uniforms.

We have long discussed how attached fans are to the current roster. Gone are the days of having the same group of guys fill the Indians lineup card season after season; Kenny Lofton isn’t walking through that door, as much as he would probably like to. And while the stark reality of another 455 straight sell-outs continues to loom as an impossibility, the team wants to know how much they—despite still rocking their faded navy blue t-shirts with “BAERGA” on the back—assimilate with guys like Swisher and Kipnis and Bourn and Brantley. They want to know how important it is for the owner to be more out in the open, discussing the team’s direction and their plans for the future. They want to know, in addition to price adjustments at the concession counter and box office, what it would take to get that season-ticket base back up—how can they get you to invest in this team’s future?

[Read more...]

Revisiting Preseason Predictions for the 2013 Indians

Jason Giambi

Before every baseball season I like to make a bunch of predictions and fake prop bets about the upcoming year, and after each year ends, I like to circle back around and check on how I did.

This is a somewhat excruciating exercise for at least two reasons.  First, I’m not very good at gambling, and these follow-up posts serve as evidence to be used against me anytime my wife and I find ourselves in Vegas and I ask for permission to sit at a table for an hour.  Second, I’m reminded of how silly predictions are at all.  Below, you’re going to read about a bunch of things that I  thought would be keys to the 2013 season.  And somehow, you’re not going to read a whole lot about Yan Gomes and Ryan Raburn, two of the team’s four most valuable players.  That’s the nature of prognostication, I suppose.  Not just that we’ll be wrong about the answers, but that we’ll have been so wrong about the questions.

None of this, by the way, will prevent me from doing this all again, ad infinitum, until the warm earth receives me.  Below are the bets and how we did.

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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...]

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...]

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...]