July 28, 2014

The Diff: Reviewing Indians pitching moves this offseason

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. On Friday, I wrote about the Cavs’ terrible offense (except for when they play the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, apparently). Today, I’m writing about the many offseason transactions involving pitchers for the the Cleveland Indians.

The Diff

Entering this offseason, it appeared the Indians were in a lot of trouble with their pitching. In 2012, they were terrible, abysmal and among the worst in baseball. In 2013, everything seemingly went well. Players were healthy and reclamation projects turned into stars. Yet, the Tribe only ranked slightly better than average among AL teams with a 3.82 ERA. But then, they were set to lose players to free agency responsible for 38% of their starts and 45% of their relief appearances. Everyone knew the Indians would be busy and would need to spend money. But would they make a splash to replace the lost production? Thus far, they haven’t. [Read more...]

Terry Francona has renewed my patience with the Cleveland Indians

Terry Francona, Chris AntonettiI find myself in a peculiar position this baseball off-season. As opposed to other years, I find myself feeling very patient with the Cleveland Indians. Consider that this has been most of the Indians news-cycle so far this winter.

The Indians lose Joe Smith to the L.A. Angels? Alright. The Indians lose Scott Kazmir to a two-year deal in Oakland? O.K. Winter meetings come and go without anything but some anecdotes about Chris Perez personal P.R. meetings with teams? Fine by me. The Indians have been really quiet, and this year, that’s just fine by me. It’s a new credibility for the Indians bolstered by a playoff appearance and most importantly their second-year manager Terry Francona.

The Indians have made some moves, of course. This week they signed John Axford to a deal that seemed pretty palatable to most fans I interact with. Maybe the brain-washing that Jon has been executing with regard to major league closers is finally starting to work. Now everyone say this with me in a brain-dead monotone! “The Cleveland Indians shouldn’t spend valuable resources on a luxury position like closer, because it’s a really inefficient way to add wins to your club.” See? It’s just rolling off the tongue now. Jon continues to tell me that this is reserved for the teams that don’t fret over $10 million.  [Read more...]

Indians take a flier on injury-prone starter Shaun Marcum

shaun marcum mets brewersShaun Marcum alone is not a game-changer. But with relatively little possible cost and minimal team risk, the Cleveland Indians just added a bit more upside to their 2014 roster.

Yesterday, the 32-year-old former Milwaukee Brewer and Toronto Blue Jay reached agreement with the Tribe to compete for the open No. 5 rotation spot. Marcum has struggled to stay on the mound for years, but if he can stay healthy, he could beat out some of the other competitors in spring training.

With the move, suddenly, the Indians now have become the posterboys of the offseason minor-league deal. Scott Kazmir’s storybook 2013 season is the ultimate best-case example of a former-ace-turned-reclamation-project. Again, there’s no knowing whether Shaun Marcum could be the next such comeback player. But as a fan, but you’d hate for it to be with a different team and there’s no way to truly find out unless your squad is the one making these low-risk moves.

[Read more...]

MLB News: Indians sign Shaun Marcum to minor league deal

Free agent starter Shaun Marcum has agreed to a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians, reports FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi on Monday afternoon.

The Marcum signing comes on the heels of the Tribe signing another former Milwaukee Brewer in closer John Axford on Sunday.

Marcum, who turned 32 on Saturday, has been injury-prone throughout his career. He has made only 36 starts over the past two seasons. In 2013, he was dreadful for the New York Mets, finishing 1-10 with a 5.29 ERA after signing a $4 million contract.

When actually pitching, he had been fairly effective previously throughout his career. From 2008 through 2012 (he missed all of 2009 because of Tommy John surgery), he posted a 3.57 ERA. His 7.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 ratios were quite solid, and have remained steady.

The signing appears to be a great buy-low idea for the Indians. They’ve had a relatively quiet offseason, only spending significant money on Axford and outfielder David Murphy, but minor league deals can be zero-risk lottery tickets. Cleveland learned that this past year with Scott Kazmir, who recently signed a two-year $22 million deal with Oakland.

Notably, the Indians need to replace 61 starts from Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez, who also is expected to leave in free agency. GM Chris Antonetti is banking on health and bounceback seasons from Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin to fill the No. 5 starter gap. A flier on a guy like Marcum just is another potential option for that role.

[Related: John Axford – A Calculated Risk]

The Indians’ offseason hunt for a veteran starting pitcher

The Scott Kazmir signing was nice and all, but it’s not going to be it for the Cleveland Indians in the starting pitching market. All offseason, the Tribe’s front office has expressed its desire to sign one more free agent starter: a veteran that could provide some more depth to the rotation.

Entering 2013, the starters for the Tribe are Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, then likely Zach McAllister and Trevor Bauer. As I broke down last week following the Bauer-Shin Soo Choo trade, there are no other immediate options in Columbus or elsewhere. Indians fans would simply see the usual revolving door at No. 5 should no other pitcher join the fold: a la Jeanmar Gomez, Carlos Carrasco, et al.

So what’s left on the market for the Indians? Reportedly, Cleveland was on the short list of suitors for RHP Edwin Jackson, who signed a 4-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs earlier this week. But with the New Year approaching, the list is shrinking quickly. [Read more...]

Trevor Bauer, and the Indians’ starting pitching outlook

Trevor Bauer is a game-changer. Yes, the new Cleveland wunderkind is only 21 (he turns 22 in January) and has just 4 (bad) games of MLB experience under his belt, but his sheer presence drastically changes the starting pitching algorithm for the Cleveland Indians going forward.

Obviously, there’s a certain amount of risk associated with Bauer. I’d be amiss if I didn’t address that. According to all the reports out there, he’s eccentric, stubborn, abnormally intelligent, a bad rapper, practically revolutionary and thus, seemingly was at odds with Arizona’s upper management, which is why the No. 3 overall pick in 2011 was on the trade block at all. He could not become the star many expect him to be. That’s possible, and you always have to address that fact when dealing with a very limited MLB sample size.

But, undoubtedly, the UCLA product has more upside and MLB-readiness by far than any other starter in the entire Indians system. He could immediately slot into the starting rotation from day one — but it’s not exactly certain if that will be the case. Either way, with the Indians owning his rights through 2018 (at least), and the fact he’s dominated AA/AAA batters, he’s the bright future of the Indians pitching outlook for many years to come. [Read more...]