July 29, 2014

MLB: Shin-Soo Choo and his agent eye Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford deals

People in Cleveland loved Shin-Soo Choo, yet had very little issue with him being traded to the Cincinnati Reds during last off-season. Most of the reason that Indians fans were alright with the deal is due to Choo’s free agency which is happening right now.

According to Jon Heyman, Choo’s expectations for his next contract are all of what Scott Boras can dream up and then some in terms of dollar signs.

That person didn’t specify which rumors he was referring to, but word is out Choo and agent Scott Boras have previous deals for Jayson Werth ($126 million, seven years) and Carl Crawford ($142 million, seven years) in mind while gauging teams’ interest in Choo and Ellsbury.

Whether or not those gaudy numbers ever come to pass remains to be seen, but Craig Calcaterra of HardballTalk astutely points out that “we live in a world where Hunter Pence just got $90 million.”

You will remember that by the time the dust settled on the Choo trade, the Indians got Drew Stubbs, Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw in exchange for Choo, Jason Donald, $3.5 million, Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson.

As you watch the ping pong balls flutter about on Shin-Soo Choo’s lottery ticket chances, keep in mind that we also live in a world where Drew Stubbs has some trade value, so the Indians might not be close to done reaping rewards from that deal. And no, I’m not even counting Trevor Bauer’s rap career.

I’ll be sitting hoping that Choo doesn’t score anywhere near Werth money not because I have any ill will for Shin-Soo Choo, but because I hope to point at Jon and tell him just how wrong he was.

[Related: MLB Rumors: Stubbs Draws Trade Interest]

Does the Indians bullpen have a southpaw problem?

Nick HagadoneOver the last three years, the Indians have constructed their bullpen in a certain way. You have the back-end, three-headed monster in Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez turning leads into wins. The names around them have changed, but the group as a whole has been solid since these three have steadied the ship.

The key to a good bullpen is having balance and several options.  At least one of those pitchers is always a lefty matchup guy – a LOOGY (lefty one out guy) as many inside the game call it. The last two and a half seasons, the Indians key lefty was Tony Sipp, who came through the Indians system as a 45th round draft pick in 2004. Sipp definitely had his moments here and for the most part was solid. In four years in Cleveland, Sipp made 248 appearances and posted a 3.68 ERA.

It seemed as though Nick Hagadone was poised to take the late inning lefty role from Sipp last year, as he shot out of the gate looking dominant. Throught his first 14 appearances in 2012, Hagadone posted an ERA of 1.93 with 14 K’s in 14 innings. But then the wheels completely fell off of his wagon and he was demoted in early July. His ERA had ballooned to 6.39. Hagadone punched a wall after his last outing where he was tagged for two runs in two-thirds of an inning and broke his hand. That was the last we saw of him in 2012 The only Hagadone news was his grievance against the Indians for not paying him his Major League Salary while he was hurt, despite the fact that he was going to be demoted anyways. [Read more...]

Antonetti pulls off a coup for Choo

To quote the great Nick Gilbert…. “What’s Not To Love?”

I have killed Chris Antonetti time and time again for his head scratching roster decisions, but none of those will be mentioned in this piece. I am here to stand up, clap, and give the much maligned Tribe GM his proper due.

Throughout this offseason, the Indians have been in the center of activity in baseball’s hot stove league. They have a powerful and well respected new manager in Terry Francona, and a roster with a young core group of players, four of whom were prime trading chips. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Indians needed a makeover.

But would they actually have the stones to go through with it? And if so, how would they go about it?

It started with the trade for Mike Aviles. It seemed like a small move, but it was one that would start the facelift. On Sunday, the Indians decided they no longer wanted to wait on Kevin Youkilis and instead signed free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds for half of the cost (one year, $6 million) of Youk (who signed a one year, $12 million deal tonight with the Yankees).  But as I said on Monday, there was no chance Antonetti was done. [Read more...]

New York Takes Two of Three at Yankee Stadium Midwest…Errrrrr….Progressive Field

It felt like they were on the road, but the Indians actually were the home team as they welcomed the New York Yankees to Yankee Stadium Midwest……errrrrrr…..Progressive Field over the weekend. Yes, the Bronx Bombers won the series, but hey, the Indians actually won a game! The nine-game winning streak came to end Saturday night thanks to stellar pitching from Justin Masterson, but overall, the weekend was just more of the same from our Wahoos. Not enough clutch hitting with average starting pitching for the most part. That and a lot of Yankee fans. So lets take a look back at the weekend that was in Wahooland. [Read more...]

Indians Bullpen Moves: Cody Allen Up, Scott Barnes Down

The Indians announced another swap in the bullpen this afternoon, with young righty Cody Allen coming up from AAA Columbus to replace lefty Scott Barnes:

Allen, 23, hits in the mid-90s with his fastball and also has a good slider. He also was drafted by the Indians in the 16th round in 2010, but failed to sign. After starting in High-A Carolina in April, he has shot up through the system and emerged as one of the organization’s top prospects.

Barnes, 24, was acquired in the Ryan Garko trade with the San Francisco Giants in 2009. He had an 8.10 ERA in 7 bullpen appearances for the Tribe, allowing 12 hits and seven walks against 10 strikeouts in 10.0 IP. He was just recently converted to the ‘pen in May with Columbus, and went 7-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) last year for the Clips before tearing his ACL in July.

This now means that Tony Sipp is the lone lefty pitcher for Cleveland. Meanwhile, rehabbing lefty reliever Rafael Perez (lat strain) pitched a scoreless inning for Columbus on Wednesday and could be back in Cleveland by next week.

[Related: WFNY Wednesday Wahoos: Indians Minor League Weekly Review 7/18]

Indians All-Star Break Review: The Bullpen

As we do each summer at WFNY when the Cleveland Indians hit the All-Star break, we take a look back at the four facets of the team on the field – the starting rotation, the bullpen, the infield, and the outfield. There’s been been a lot to talk about with this club. Their 44-41 record is good enough for second in the American League Central, but the team has shown some serious flaws. GM Chris Antonetti continues to tell us that the Indians have not played their best baseball yet. I hope he is right. Additions will need to be made and in-house improvements will be a must if the Tribe plans on playing October baseball.

Yesterday, we looked at the starting rotation. Today we will examine the guys who follow those starters; the bullpen.

This was thought to be the strength of the team coming into the 2012 season. Last year’s crew, The Bullpen Mafia, was essentially the same seven guys the entire season. As the club broke camp, the last two guys – Frank Herrmann and Chad Durbin – were replaced by waiver wire claim Jairo Ascencio and veteran free agent Dan Wheeler. They didn’t seem to matter much as they would be pitching in the mop up roles. Neither made it through May and both were designated for assignment. Wheeler didn’t deserve to make the club in the first place as he was below average during the Spring and then played the roll of gas can while with the Tribe. [Read more...]

Ubaldo Steps Up Again, Tribe Tops Rays

Despite nobody but the 20,000+ in attendance seeing it live, Ubaldo Jimenez’s hot streak of the past two months did continue, as he went up against another solid team and shut them down for six innings. With one major mistake on the day, Ubaldo helped lead the Tribe to a 7-3 victory to take game three of a four game swing heading into the All-Star break.

The turning point for Jimenez in this period has been his command of the strike zone. In 97 pitches, 60 of them found the strike zone and he walked just one batter. Other than losing a pair of fastballs in the fourth to Ben Zobrist for a double and then Luke Scott for a two-run homer, Jimenez seemed to have command of all his pitches and got half of his eight strikeouts via the changeup.

It’s no secret that I’ve been one of the most vocal critics of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade executed last July by Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti. I remain concerned that Drew Pomeranz will in time turn into a top-flight left-handed force in Colorado or someone else’s starting rotation for years to come. However, it would be foolish for me not to at least eat a bit of crow regarding the way that Ubaldo Jimenez has pitched in the past 7 starts. If this is the Ubaldo that we primarily have for the next year and a half and the Tribe can parlay that into a playoff appearance or two, my concerns are foolish and I am entirely wrong in my objections to this trade. I hope I’m wrong, because this version of Ubaldo Jimenez is quite tolerable and, dare I say it, enjoyable to watch. When Jimenez isn’t his own worst enemy with falling behind in counts and walking people, he’s quite difficult for opposing hitters to square up and hit. [Read more...]

Indians’ Struggles By The Numbers

Taking a page from Rick’s book today, I’m here with some illustrious stats about the Cleveland Indians. These aren’t the prettiest, so you might want to spare your kids from seeing these.

-51 – Indians’ run differential this season, sixth-worst in MLB. The team with the sixth-worst record is Houston at 32-43 (.427).

12-3 (.800) – CLE’s record in one-run games, the best percentage-wise in MLB. Baltimore is second-best at 13-6 (.684). This might explain how the team is shockingly still at .500 on the season. For comparison’s sake, no team has finished with a win percentage better than .636 in one-run games over the past three seasons.

10-9 (.526) – Indians’ record in two-run games, tied for 12th-best percentage-wise in MLB. San Francisco is best at 11-5 (.688). While this isn’t sensational, it’s still above average. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Wrapup: The Offense is Alive

At this time Thursday, Indians fans all over Cleveland were very concerned about the state of the offense. It was clear that the Tribe front office was feeling the same way as they went out and signed 38-year old Johnny Damon. We were all thinking doom and gloom. Yet here we are on Monday morning, feeling completely different and much better about our Wahoos.

Baseball is an amazing game. A team that couldn’t catch a break or come up with the big hit to save their lives over the first five games, suddenly caught fire and turned into a run-scoring juggernaut. The three-game sweep in Kansas City started with a seven-run first inning on Friday and ended with the Tribe hitting back to back eighth inning homers Sunday. Maybe all they needed was the threat of the Damon signing to wake up. Whatever it did, it worked. The Indians are back to .500 at 4-4 and the vibes in Wahooland are positive. [Read more...]

Assessing the Indians Offseason Options: A Look at our Trade Chips

There arises a certain degree of skepticism among Indians fans when the subject of signing free agents is mentioned.  This feeling is not without cause, nor is it worth going into any great detail searching for an explanation.  We know that whatever free agents we add are likely to be of the complementary nature—a utility player here or a bullpen arm there.  We’ve been conditioned to believe that we play in the shallow end of the pool when it comes to free agency due to circumstances that are, by and large, beyond our control.

On the other hand, there is some reason to believe that the Indians might be willing to add some talent and (yes!) even some payroll this off-season.  For one thing, Chris Antonetti said so himself.  For another, the 2012 season looks like that “contending” year that we’ve been waiting for.  Did it make sense to sign a big name before the 2010 season?  Not really, we were at our nadir as a team.  But now?  One or two pieces could make a big difference to a club that is otherwise ready to start competing.

The problem, of course, is that the free agent pool isn’t looking all that advantageous for us.  [Read more...]

Tribe Talk: Changes Coming in the Pen?

Ah The Bullpen Mafia…..Such a cute and fun-loving group (accept for Mr. Personality Rafael Perez of course). They were the talk of the town while the Indians were in first place for a good two-thirds of the season. This group performed on and off the field, entertaining us all the way through.

As we have seen so many times over the past decade, a bad bullpen can kill a season. It can also be a revolving door of guys who don’t settle into roles. Who can forget the likes of Luis Vizcaino and Matt Herges pitching the 8th in 2009? When they failed, the next batch of scrubs included Greg Aquino and Jose Veres. That’s what one injury to a key setup man (Rafael Betancourt) and a bad year from your top lefty reliever (Perez) can do to you.

The Bullpen Mafia was the opposite. Almost from opening day, these guys knew what they were out there to do and the faces never really changed. Until the rosters were expanded at the beginning of the month, other than the move from Justin Germano to Frank Herrmann on May 20th, the guys have the pen have stayed completely the same. [Read more...]

Twins 2 Indians 1: A Crushing Defeat

I know I am deflated. I can’t imagine how the Indians felt after this killer loss in Minneapolis last night.

Justin Masterson was at his best, while the Tribe lineup was at its worst. Nevertheless, the Wahoos were nursing a 1-0 lead heading into the ninth inning. Chris Perez entered with 16 consecutive saves in tow. A normal Pure Rage outing and the boys would be going for a four-game sweep this afternoon in Minneapolis.

Instead, we were all left scratching our heads as to what had just happened. [Read more...]

Indians At the Break: The Bullpen

The Indians head into the All-Star break a surprising 47-42 and a half game out of first place in the AL Central. Many experts think they have done it with smoke and mirrors. I believe they have gotten this far thanks to Actaball- a combination of great pitching, solid defense, and timely hitting. Regardless of how they have gotten to this point, during the break from the action, WFNY will take a look at the four cogs of this roster, how they evolved during the first half, and where they look to be going forward through the rest of the season. On Monday we assessed the outfield and DH positions. Tuesday it was the infield and catching positions. Yesterday we gazed at the starting rotation. In the last of our four part series, we will go in-depth with the bullpen. [Read more...]

Diamondbacks 6 Indians 4: Arizona Takes Down The Mafia

It was bound to happen at some point. The Tribe relievers, dubbed “The Bullpen Mafia,” have been as close to perfect as you can get this season. The blown games have come few and far between for this group. No matter the situation, they always seem to get the job done.

During last night’s 6-4 loss in Phoenix, the pen was done in late not once, but twice.

This was a close game throughout thanks to solid starting pitching on both sides from Josh Tomlin and Daniel Hudson. But it wasn’t their pitching that everyone wanted to talk about last night; it was their bats.

Tomlin delivered the first two hits of his career in the third and fifth. After Shelley Duncan’s leadoff double, the Tribe starter was asked to drop down a sacrifice bunt. Instead, he put down a beauty to the third base side for a bunt single. Duncan would end up scoring the first run of the game on Michael Brantley’s double play ball. [Read more...]

Indians 1 Yankees 0: Carrasco Dominant Again

Who is that man wearing #59 on the back of his jersey who has made two consecutive outstanding starts? It couldn’t possibly be Carlos Carrasco, could it? The same guy who three weeks ago looked like he was one more bad start away from a demotion, suddenly is pitching like the guy the Indians brass hoped he could be when he came over two summers ago in the Cliff Lee trade.

With the Indians offense asleep at the wheel again, Manny Acta had to rely on his pitching to save the day. Once again, Carrasco was terrific. Pitching seven innings of scoreless ball, Carlos got stronger as the game went on.

In the first inning, it looked like it was going to be another long night for the Wahoos. The Yankees loaded the bases with nobody out for Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Nick Swisher. Carrasco reared back and retired all three without allowing a run to cross home plate. Quite a feat against those three. [Read more...]

Indians 7, Royals 3: Nick Gilbert’s Good Fortune Extends to KC

While the entire city of Cleveland was basking in the glow of Nick Gilbert’s instant stardom in lovely Secaucus, New Jersey, the Indians were once again doing what they do best – winning.

What a great night to be a Clevelander. The trade of Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Los Angeles Clippers netted a good-soldiered version of Baron Davis and the first-overall draft pick. Simultaneously in the great Midwestern town of Kansas City, Manny Acta’s Wahoos battered another starting pitcher into submission in their 7-3 series sweeping win over the Royals.

Starting early as they did a night before, the Tribe attack went right at KC starter Shawn O’Sullivan. Michael Brantley, who seems right at home in that leadoff spot (yes, I won’t get off that topic. No matter how good Grady is, Brantley is a better choice for the leadoff spot), opened with a double. Playing some Actaball the night after dropping 19 runs, Asdrubal Cabrera bunted Brantley over to third. O’Sullivan then dotted Shin-Soo Choo in the back (it looked like it was on purpose) to set up runners at the corners with one out. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Review: Lose Two of Three, Gain Respect

The Tribe finished up their second West Coast trip of the young season with a three-game set in Anaheim. For some odd reason, its the second time the Indians have played the Angels at The Big A (MLB’s scheduling always makes no sense) and they certainly are glad they won’t have to face them again anytime soon.

Just as they did in the first series, the Tribe lost two of three to the Angels, but the games were all unbelievably close. Sunday’s game was the capper;  a 6-5 loss where the Baltimore Chop was renamed “The Anaheim Chop.”

Though the Indians lost two of three, they finished the trip 3-3 against the two best statistical pitching staffs in the AL.  I said beforehand 3-3 would be a positive trip before it started so I will take it. Sure, I’m greedy, I would have loved 4-2 and was disappointed with yesterday afternoon’s outcome, but at 22-11, the Indians could play .500 ball the rest of the way and still be in great shape for the playoffs. [Read more...]

Cleveland Indians Google Player Popularity Rankings – 4-25-2011

Back in March I decided to analyze the popularity of Cleveland Indians players on the roster based on Google results. That was March 10th and the landscape has changed significantly since the season started and the Indians started pretty hot. There are some outliers like Jayson Nix (who won’t make the next list as he is no longer on the team) who were artificially inflated because of a transaction. Nix was traded for cash to the Blue Jays which led to a lot of hits in Google.  Also, keep in mind in total the list had a 57% increase in hits from then to now.  This is representative of the effect of just being in season officially.  Still, the rankings are interesting.

And… we have a new number one.  Grady Sizemore led the list to start the year, and despite coming back from injury and playing well, he was still overtaken.  Check the list after the jump. [Read more...]

Angels 4 Indians 3: A Durbin Debacle

After receiving text after texts from my boys Billy and Fritzer, in the left field stands in Anaheim that read like a missed opportunity convention, my response as we headed into extra innings was simple. “This one just isn’t meant to be.”

After living right for eight straight games, playing flawless defense and coming up with timely hits, the Indians were on the other end of the stick and it cost them dearly in their 4-3, 12-inning loss to the Angels.

Before we tackle how they lost, lets cut to the end. After Vinnie Pestano, Tony Sipp, and Chris Perez were once again money putting up zeroes and giving the Indians a chance to take a lead in a tie game, Manager Manny Acta had to go to his pen once again in the 12th. This time he went to right-hander Chad Durbin to face righties Torri Hunter, Vernon Wells, and switch-hitter Alberto Callaspo. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Review: Scalding Hot

How many of you had the Indians at 7-2 after nine games?

Can we all just sit back and enjoy this right now? I think we deserve it in this town. I know it’s sooooooo early in the season, but after watching Eric Wedge-managed teams stumble out of the gate year after year, winning seven straight over the first week and a half of the season is such a welcome sight. Its Acta Ball, pure and simple.

This weekend, your Wahoo Warriors were riding high on a four-game win streak and hopped a plane out to the Pacific Northwest to meet up with an old friend for his team’s home opening weekend. They left town as perhaps the hottest team in baseball, while leaving egg on the face of The Grinder himself.

So how exactly did the Indians sweep the Mariners? What has continued to work? Lets take a look. [Read more...]