August 26, 2014

Now and Later: Sorting out the Indians’ options at the plate

Zach Walters

Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Ryan Raburn, and Jason Giambi—four players who were all significant contributors on a 92-win playoff team last year that featured just twelve hitters1. This season, all four have spent time on the disabled list, and three of them have missed significant action2. So just how are the Cleveland Indians still standing and in the AL Wild Card race? Much like the core of their team, it’s in large part to unlikely contributors.

With the trades of Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera, coupled with the significant injuries to Swisher and David Murphy, the Indians have to see what they have not only to hang in the race this summer but to set their roster up for 2015. Throughout different stretches of the season, the Tribe has had winning hits or hot weeks from the likes of Nyjer Morgan, Justin Sellers, Chris Dickerson, Zach Walters, Jose Ramirez, George Kottaras, Roberto Perez, and Tyler Holt. Only Morgan was on the Opening Day roster, and none of these guys were in anything but contingency plans for 2014, if that. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that the upper levels of the organization were completely devoid of serviceable position player talent.
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Footnotes:

  1. Swisher, Bourn, Raburn and Giambi combined for a 7.6 WAR, 74 doubles, 53 homers, 199 RBI, 24 steals, and 433 games just to name a few stats []
  2. The same stats? -2.9 WAR, 38 doubles, 16 homers, 90 RBI, 8 steals, and 252 games []

Indians 7, Twins 5: Holt and relievers star as Wahoos complete impressive comeback

Tyler Holt

I will be honest: With the way the Indians offense has performed most of the year and with the up and down nature of the team as a whole, I thought the game was over when I turned the TV on. I took my dog for a quick walk after the Indians batted in the first. When I came back inside, the first thing I saw was Oswaldo Arcia’s three-run blast which had capped off a five-run, four-hit start for the Minnesota Twins. I thought to myself, “I could just save myself the time and start my recap now.” But that my friends, is why they play nine innings.

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Tribe Weekend Recap: Dominant starting pitching, slumbering bats, and Ubaldo being Ubaldo

Carlos Carrasco

This weekend series was once again another example of what this 2014 Cleveland Indians team is all about. The AL East leading Baltimore Orioles came to town with the biggest margin of any division top dog in baseball. Their offense is beastly, with power up and down the lineup. So naturally the story of the weekend was the Indians starting pitching. You know, the group that was Corey Kluber and a bunch of rotating pieces shuffling between Columbus and the bullpen? Well here they were, dominating one of the best offenses in the game and leading the Indians to a series win, one they needed badly to keep pace in the race for the second Wild Card.

It is still tough to see this team making another run like they did last year and it was this weekend that was example number one. There is a reason that the Wahoos haven’t won more than four games in a row this season. You can point to the up and down starting pitching all you want, but the hot and cold offense is the real reason. The much maligned rotation is on a crazy run this last week. Going back to last Saturday in New York, the Tribe starters have pitched 44 innings and has allowed just four earned runs. That’s good for a 1.02 ERA. On top of that is an 0.73 WHIP and an opponents batting average of .168. It was one thing to shut down the 4A lineup that Arizona Diamondbacks. It is quite another to do what Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar did to the Orioles. [Read more...]

Reds 9, Indians 2: Cueto is Cueto and Tomlin is Tomlin

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Baseball has a long, grueling and agitating season. Life might be especially annoying as a baseball fan of a .500 team.

When you’re a bad team, almost every game is bad. It’s like being a Cubs fan. When things are good, yes the expectations are high, but again, you’re winning. The ‘90s were so much fun. But the 2014 Cleveland Indians are the epitome of what can make baseball a frustrating sport.

Just after a four-game winning streak filled with drama and excitement, they fell back down to earth with a 9-2 loss on Tuesday to the Cincinnati Reds. It was the second game of this four-game Ohio Cup series. The two teams square off for the final two in Cincinnati starting tonight.

Johnny Cueto, one of the game’s best, silenced the Tribe’s bats and Josh Tomlin had a very disappointing kind of Josh Tomlin game. It’s an understandable loss. But at the same time, still maddeningly frustrating. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Brooms, Good Guys, and Great Pitching

David Murphy

Do I say the same thing every three weeks or so? Just when you think you are out, this team sucks you right back in. Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians are not the sexiest group, nor are they the most talented. Their starting pitching is essentially Corey Kluber, hoping for the best with two youngsters, then trying to limp past five innings with whomever is currently slotted fourth and fifth. The offense is extremely streaky and lacks power. The defense is the worst in the American League. They just traded their Opening Day starter and their starting shortstop of the past five years, a two-time All-Star. Sounds like a last place doom and gloom scenario doesn’t it?

I for one have been very critical of Francona’s in-game managing. He is far too in love with the bunt, his lineup decisions at times are head-scratching at times, and he overuses his main bullpen arms. All of this goes on without anyone uttering a negative word about him. Why you ask? Well the fact of the matter is that Tito is an absolute freaking wizard inside of that clubhouse. These 25 guys plus would run through a wall for Francona if he asked them to. He preaches playing the game with class and dignity and gives his players the leeway they need. At the end of his time in Boston, the veteran clubhouse began to tune him out and take advantage of his players-first mentality. It was time for him to move on. After a year off, he came to Cleveland as the perfect elixir to the combustible situation with the fan base and its distrust of the front office. [Read more...]

Mariners 5, Indians 2: Tribe slide continues, the time to sell may be upon us

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The non-waiver trade deadline is just a day away and the Cleveland Indians are what their record says they are. After Tuesday night’s 5-2 home loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Wahoos are 52-54, two games below .500. Just five games out of the second Wild Card spot, yes, but there are now four teams in front of them; six if you include the Blue Jays and Angels who hold the Wild Cards.

A year ago, the Tribe was in the middle of a eight-game winning streak and 10-games over .500. Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of Jason Giambi’s first of two monster walk-off homers against the Chicago White Sox. Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, and Scott Kazmir were dealing and one-run wins were the norm. Today, Ubaldo and Kazmir are pitching elsewhere—Kazmir being 12-3 with a 2.37 ERA and  WHIP barely over 1.00—and Masterson is such a mess that he was placed on the disabled list to deal with his issues and may not be on this team in two days. The core of the offense is essentially the same, but the results just haven’t been the same, despite what the numbers may say. [Read more...]

LeBron James, WWE Wrestling and Tribe playoffs with @SPORTSYELLING – WFNY Podcast – 2014-07-24

WFNY Podcast LogoI like to have @SPORTSYELLING on the podcast and she’s gracious enough to make the time. Today we had another fun conversation about the following.

  • Being dragged into watching WWE wrestling with her husband
  • Dangerous tweets
  • The impact of the LeBron James signing on a hardcore Tribe fan
  • The Indians chances of making a run at the playoffs
  • Winning streaks and whether or not you can ever see them coming
  • Is there blame to go around for the Indians record so far and if so to whom?
  • The LeBron James kids book that Craig bought stinks

Check out this episode!

Tribe weekend recap: Kipnis…back? King Kluber, The Carrasco effect, and rotation rotation

Jason Kipnis

If your Cleveland Indians were going to get back in the thick of the AL Central and Wild Card races, coming out of the blocks strongly is of the utmost importance. An 11-game, three-city road trip against three divisional foes was on the schedule. Things got started in Detroit with four games in three days. I wouldn’t say this was a make-or-break weekend for the Tribe, but how they played would go a long way into deciding whether the front office would be buyers/holders, or sellers with the trade deadline looking at the end of the month.

Getting swept by the first-place Tigers would be a killer, but a series win could put the Tribe back on the map. We all know their faults, but we also know that when they do put it all together, they are tough to beat. Friday and Saturday, the Tribe looked like a team that has to be taken seriously. The Wahoo Express steamrolled through Detroit, taking three of four to move to within five and a half of the Tigers and two of the second Wild Card spot. They looked primed for a strong second half push.

The train is coming, people. This weekend in Detroit was a great start. So what did we see?

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The Indians at the break: The Bad

Justin Masterson

47-47. .500. The middle. Average. Not great, but not bad. This is what our Cleveland Indians are as we sit here at the All-Star break.

Heading into the season, Terry Francona’s group had to deal with something that was not on the docket a year before; heightened expectations. Coming off of a 92-win, Wild Card season and bringing back essentially the same core group, the Tribe now wore a bulls-eye. They were not going to sneak up on anyone. And they haven’t.

The first half has brought moments of greatness and despair, moments of disappointment and exuberance. Certain guys have broken out, while others have taken huge steps backwards. We’ve seen regression to the mean from a few Indians as well. Hall of Fame Football coach Bill Parcells famously said “you are what you record says you are,” and the Indians are 47-47. All of this has added up to what they are: An average baseball team.

On Tuesday, we looked at “The Good” things the Tribe has done. In part two of our Tribe at the All-Star break series, we will examine what hasn’t exactly gone well for the Red, White, and Blue. [Read more...]

The Indians at the break: The Good

Tribe celebration47-47. .500. The middle. Average. Not great, but not bad. This is what our Cleveland Indians are as we sit here at the All-Star break.

Heading into the season, Terry Francona’s group had to deal with something that was not on the docket a year before; heightened expectations. Coming off of a 92-win, Wild Card season and bringing back essentially the same core group, the Tribe now wore a bulls-eye. They were not going to sneak up on anyone. And they haven’t.

Many expected the front office to build on the playoff experience and add some more veteran talent via the free agent market, but with big raises due to likes of Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Asdrubal Cabrera, the financial wiggle room just wasn’t there. Instead, they tinkered, adding outfielder David Murphy to platoon in right field with Ryan Raburn. Twice deposed closer John Axford was brought on with hopes of a resurrection at the back end of the pen. Big years were expected from that core group of young position players moving towards their prime years. Starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir walked into free agency and found greener pastures in Baltimore and Oakland respectively. The Indians counted on youngsters Danny Salazar and either Carlos Carrasco or Josh Tomlin would replace them.

The first half has brought moments of greatness and despair, moments of disappointment and exuberance. Certain guys have broken out, while others have taken huge steps backwards. We’ve seen regression to the mean from a few Indians as well. Hall of Fame Football coach Bill Parcells famously said “you are what you record says you are,” and the Indians are 47-47. All of this has added up to what they are; an average baseball team. [Read more...]

Indians 3, White Sox 2: Yanimal and Bauer send Tribe into break on a high

Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer is a beast. I know the stats might not say so, but my man is one heck of a pitcher. We may look back at the trade of Shin-Soo Choo for Bauer and reliever Bryan Shaw (among others) in the same vain as Bartolo Colon trade. I know that is crazy talk, but at age 23, you can see Bauer getting better and better each start while Shaw is a rock as the set up man in the pen.

One had a great day on Sunday, the other, not so much. But the two more Indians who came over in a trade together, Catcher Yan Gomes and super utility man Mike Aviles, played a major hand in the Tribe’s 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. [Read more...]

Yankees 5, Indians 4: Homers and blown chances cost Tribe a W

Jacoby Ellsbury

When you jump out ahead with three first inning runs in your home park, you are supposed to win. When your bullpen delivers seven straight scoreless innings, you are supposed to win. When you load the bases on three straight one out walks in the 10th inning, you are supposed to win. Well, that’s why you play out the full game….

The Indians had several opportunities to put away the New York Yankees Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, but could never seal the deal. The Bronx Bombers could do nothing once Josh Tomlin was lifted after seven innings, but then again neither could the Tribe. Something was going to eventually have to give. It did, but unfortunately it was the Wahoos that blinked first. [Read more...]

Indians 5, Dodgers 4: Tribe doesn’t “fear the beard,” takes series in L.A.

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No matter how much I watch this Indians team, I will never be able to figure them out.

I was in the building Monday night when the Wahoos were one-hit by Dan Haren. That was a night after Seattle’s Felix Hernandez one-hit gem. The offense went from ice cold to smokin’ hot last night as they exploded for 10 runs while beating up LA’s Josh Beckett. This outburst came after a 3-66 team skid! So Wednesday afternoon in the rubber match with the Dodgers, you had to think that had probably had blown their wad the night before. We’ve seen this too many times this season. The offense shakes out of their doldrums for a 10 or 12 spot, and then revert back to normal. It sure looked like we were headed in that direction against LA lefty Hyun-Jin Riu.

The only two runs the bats could muster came in the fourth when Ryan Raburn blasted his second homer of the season, this of the two-run variety. He exited the game after seven innings, scattering seven hits while striking out eight. Ryu didn’t walk a single Indian. The Dodgers nursed a 3-2 lead as Ryu had outdueled Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer. The former UCLA star fought his way through five and two thirds, and only had one bad inning; the fifth. [Read more...]

The weekend that wasn’t: Tigers sweep the Tribe

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It is such a shame. How many times do the Indians draw over 100,000 fans in a weekend? I’ll tell you how many: Zero in the past three seasons. Its the first time this has happened since August of 2011. I don’t know what it is about the Indians and big crowds at Progressive Field, but it seems as though they are allergic to winning in these situations.

I know, I know, that might be overstating it a bit, but again, it is such a shame. How many more chances do you get to capture the live attention of over 100,000 people? I wish that Indians fans weren’t this fickle, but they are what they are and it is what it is. The Tribe HAD to come up with a better performance this weekend that the egg that they laid in a place they have been great all year long.

I’ve say this almost every Opening Day and I said it last season when the Tigers came to town July 4 weekend and smoked the Indians in front of a sell out crowd: When you get this opportunity, one that doesn’t come nearly enough at Progressive Field, you must take advantage of it. Winning at least one of these games would have been good enough. Instead, the Tigers came into Cleveland with thousands of their fans and swept the Tribe in their own house.

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Tribe Weekend Recap: Bullpen saviors, struggling offense, Swish’s return, and the bunt

Nick SwisherLast year, the Indians were “Team Streak.” This year, the PD’s Paul Hoynes has dubbed them “Team Clank” thanks to their tendency to commit errors at the worst times. I think they are a combination of both. We have seen the full arsenal of good and bad over the past two weeks. An on fire offensive juggernaut for a few days follows up with a group that can’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag. We’ve seen great starting pitching and then eight consecutive games without the starter going six innings. The one constant has been the steady back end of the bullpen.

The 10 game, three city road trip started out great, looked like a mess mid-stream, and then finished strong. Coming out of Texas, Kansas City, and Boston 5-5 is good enough for me. That is about as tough of a trip as you could ask for. When you consider the final eight games of the trip where the starting pitcher failed to go six innings, it looks even more impressive. [Read more...]

Red Sox 5, Indians 2: Papi & Lester stymie Wahoos for third straight loss

MIchael Brantley

This wasn’t another one that got away, but the Indians once again shot themselves in the foot defensively which directly affected the 5-2 loss in Boston on Thursday night. During their 9-1 hot streak, the gloves weren’t a hot topic of conversation, despite the fact that they led the league in errors and unearned runs. But during this three-game losing skid, they have committed four errors and botched several other key plays that could have changed the games.

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Terry Francona heading to the 2014 All-Star Game

Terry Francona

The Tribe’s outlook on the All-Star reserve front just got a little better. On Wednesday, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell appointed Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona to serve on his staff for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game which is set to be held in Minnesota in a little over one month. Francona has twice served as the American League All-Star manager, and Farrell was his pitching coach for the 2008 version which was held at Yankee Stadium.

The Indians currently trail many of their peers at their respective positions, but continue to have several players worthy of consideration for an All-Star nod, including outfielder Michael Brantley. The Tribe left fielder is among the top 15 in AL outfield voting and is among the top five in batting average (.307), on-base percentage (.377), and wOBA (.385). He is also second in the AL in outfield assists (6).

In addition to Francona, Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire and a bevy of Red Sox coaches—first base coach Arnie Beyeler, third base coach Brian Butterfield, hitting coach Greg Colbrunn, bullpen coach Dana LeVangie, bench coach Torey Lovullo, pitching coach Juan Nieves and assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez–will join the duo in Minnesota.

(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfel)

Unsolicited Observations: Help was there to be had for these Cleveland Indians

Jesus Aguilar

Jesus Aguilar is decidedly not Nelson Cruz

The Indians are setting the tone for a lousy summer. Just when it appears the team is getting hot, the bottom falls out. Get swept at home by Oakland? No worries, this year’s club answers by sweeping Detroit and beating Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer (no decision) in the process. Now a series sweep at the hands of the White Sox has many wondering—again—if the current campaign can be saved.

One-third of the season is in the books and the Tribe (24-30) is struggling. Offense, defense, hitting, throwing, catching. There’s problems everywhere. It’s easy to look back in the rear-view mirror, but I can’t help but wonder if there was a way this team could’ve improved during the offseason.

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White Sox 3, Indians 2: Lack of “O,” poor “D,” ruin House’s “A” performance

TJ House

I have seen this game way too many times before. The Cleveland Indians get great starting pitching from an unlikely source, can’t get anything going with the bats, make an ill-timed error, and lose a winnable game. It is getting to become a real tired act.

Poor T.J. House pitched as well as anyone could have possibly hoped for. Coming up from Columbus to replace the injured and ineffective Zach McAllister, the left-hander was borderline dominant. Heading into the seventh, House was working on a three-hit shutout. There was a lot to like from the Southpaw. He was mixing and matching his breaking stuff with his fastball. The command was impeccable. The White Sox had little answer for him.

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White Sox 6, Indians 2: Another costly error direct cause of Wahoo loss

MIchael BrantleyThe Indians may have turned a corner with their play in a home sweep of the Detroit Tigers. They followed that up with a split of the series in Baltimore, which you will take all day. Next up was the Chicago White Sox, who the Tribe has already seen several times this year. Though they have played some of their better baseball of late, one thing has not changed; their horrific defense.

No matter the day you can count one three things in life right now: Death, Taxes, and bad Tribe defense costing them at least one run. They have lost three of their last four after the 6-2 Memorial Day defeat on the South Side of Chicago. In those three losses, three errors (one in each game), directly accounted for six unearned runs. This isn’t a recent trend either, it is a season long reality. The Indians are the worst defensive team in the league. There are no two ways around it.

Monday afternoon was just another prime example. [Read more...]