August 26, 2014

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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The NBA’s marketing machine is fantastic … While We’re Waiting

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“When’s the schedule coming out?” This was a text I received every few days since LeBron’s return to the Cavaliers. For weeks and weeks, many have been on edge. No official announcement came at first – the NBA had been said to want to delay the release to closer to mid-August.

Finally, there was news. The schedule was set to be released at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13 on NBA TV. The NBA’s marketing was brilliant. They had kept the free agency circuit on edge just enough to then kickstart an entirely new news cycle with the schedule reactions on their own network. [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...]

Indians 7, Reds 1: Commander Corey, long balls, lead Wahoos to fourth straight W

Corey KluberI am running out of superlatives to describe the Tribe’s Corey Kluber. So this is what it’s like to have a real ace? The Indians haven’t seen anything like this since Cliff Lee’s 2008 Cy Young season. But even then, I don’t think we truly appreciated what we were watching. Lee was dominating with unbelievable command, but the Indians stumbled out of the gate and never were close to being a playoff team. CC Sabathia (Michael Brantley) and Casey Blake (Carlos Santana) were was sold off in July and another rebuild was about to begin. Kluber on the other hand, is driving the bus for a team suddenly surging, just two and a half games back of Toronto for the second AL Wild Card spot. He was money once again in the Tribe’s 7-1 series opening win against the Cincinnati Reds.

Watching Kluber work never gets old. He is so in control, so composed. Nothing seems to phase him on the mound—not even a Ryan Raburn spiked throw. The high level of dominance continued Monday night against a team that had not seen him yet this season. The Reds are a banged up and struggling bunch, yet they entered last night with the same record as the Indians. By the time the ninth inning rolled around, Reds manager Bryan Price lamented the blown chances his team received, thanks to some early shoddy Indians defense.

“What was disappointing and unacceptable tonight was the fact that we didn’t have our head in the game at all,” said Price. “Especially those first five innings. We had two guys that forgot how many outs there were, we had a pitcher that didn’t cover first base on a ground ball to the right side. We had five baserunners in the first three innings. That’s just not the way we play. We haven’t played that way all year. That lack of fight and lethargy, that’s just unacceptable type of play right there.”

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Indians 2; Mariners 0: Kluber’s “Maddux” bests King Felix in a performance for the ages

Corey Kluber

If only Corey Kluber could start every game for the Indians……

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend the matchup of aces at Progressive Field. Felix Hernandez, currently the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award took the mound for the Seattle Mariners. Kluber, the Indians clear number one, opposed him. If you are a baseball purist and love pitchers duels, this was your night.

I took both of my kids with me to the game. My seven year old son kept score for all nine innings, afterwards, I told him to save that scorecard. As I said to both him and his younger sister, “you may never see a pitching performance like this ever again.” [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...]

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...]

Indians 5, Tigers 4: Dr. Smooth to the rescue….again

Tribe celebration

Dr. Bleeping Smooth, if you need him, folks. Where would this Indians team be without him?  In a season of struggle, Michael Brantley has been the one shining star, literally carrying the offense. On a night where the Indians blew three different leads, it was Brantley who saved them once again with a 10-inning walkoff solo blast off of Detroit reliever Al Albuquerque to end the Tribe’s four-game losing streak.

“For us to come back and beat these guys,” Nick Swisher said, “it’s a huge step in the right direction for us. We’re still in this thing. We’re only 45 games in and we know what we can do. We have a lot of guys, myself included, who aren’t playing as well as [we'd] like to be, but I think tonight was a good starting point to turn things around a little bit.” [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...]

Blue Jays 5, Indians 4: Masterson’s hole too deep for offense to dig out

Carlos Santana

Justin Masterson is a nice guy. By all accounts he is a great teammate and rarely in a bad mood. But you know what I want to see from him? More nastiness. More intensity. More domination. But here is the thing: I expect too much out of Masterson. Justin is what he is—a nice middle-of-the-rotation starter. At his best, he is a No. 2. And therein lies the problem. I want him to be something that he isn’t.

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One month in…Things must improve

Jason Kipnis

In what has been the first month of the season, we have watched our Cleveland Indians kick the ball around the field, hit sub-Mendoza line with runners in scoring position, fail to pitch deep into games, and lose six in a row in California. Other than that, they were great!

Baseball is a six-month trek. It’s a marathon season, not a sprint. How many times have we seen teams struggle out of the gate, only to catch fire mid-summer and get right back into the mix for a division title? I’m not saying this version of the Indians can do that, but they are certainly capable. The core of this team is, for the most part, the same group that won 92 games a season ago. But judging by the first month on the field, you probably couldn’t tell. [Read more...]

Tribe defense has been historically bad thus far

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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.

Indians 3, Tigers 2: The Zach Attack delivers again

Zach McAllisterWhen looking at the Detroit Tigers compared to our Cleveland Indians, one distinct advantage sticks out for the Kitties – starting pitching.  The Detroit top three — Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez — would all be the Indians number one if they toiled in Cleveland. Rick Porcello and Drew Smily also dwarf Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco as a tandem. Thanks to Tuesday’s postponement due to freezing temperatures, the Tigers were able to skip Smily over the shortened two game set. Sanchez got the first crack at the Tribe last night with Verlander going Thursday afternoon.

Manager Terry Francona stayed with his normal turns, sending out Zach McAllister on a cold night at Comerica Park. The last time we saw Zach, he was dominant in a win against the San Diego Padres and if the Indians were going to win this one, a similar performance would be helpful.

The first inning had the look of a game that could be high scoring. Sanchez, who normally has impeccable command, walked the newly activated Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Jason Kipnis to start the game. A potential big inning was thwarted by Carlos Santana’s sixth double play ground out of the year. A run did score, but Sanchez got himself right off the hook. Carlos is locked in a 2-24 slump.

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Is this the end of days for Lonnie Chisenhall?

Lonnie Chisenhall

Last season, I really wanted Lonnie Chisenhall to take the third base job by the throat and strangle it. The Tribe’s former first-round pick—and the supposed future of the hot corner—was given the job last Spring with little looking over his shoulder. Sure, the Indians had brought in Mark Reynolds on a one-year deal, but that was to be a first base/designated hitter option. His days at third were thought to have been behind him. And sure, Mike Aviles was on the roster, but he was to be a jack-of-all-trades. This was Big Lon’s time.

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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...]

Yan Gomes and Miguel Cabrera get paid; Josh Gordon wants Johnny Manziel: While We’re Waiting

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First and foremost: Baseball!

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First and foremost (Part II), if you haven’t cast your votes yet, now is the time to do so. WFNY is nominated for Best Sports Blog and Best Podcast in Cleveland. We do this for free and count on you all to show your support through the ballot box. It’s Opening Day…why not start things off right? Thanks in advance, folks.

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Josh wants Johnny. Not long after discussing quarterback Johnny Manziel on Radio Row at the Super Bowl, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, once again, puts his Pro Bowl vote behind the Texas A&M quarterback for the Browns at No. 4 this May.

“To bring that spark to a team—that play-making ability—would be huge,” Gordon said of Manziel. “I’d love to see what he can do.”

There are some who wonder if Gordon is tipping the Browns’ draft hand, but those are also people who believe players are involved in the front office’s draft discussions. Earlier in the week, when he was on ESPN’s First Take, Gordon predicted a 10-6 record for the Browns in 2014 as led by one Brian Hoyer, so he’s nothing if not diplomatic. What Gordon’s words do signify is that (in addition to not being a scout) he’s a bit tired of catching passes from a different guy every week. The Browns continue to say that they don’t feel the need to draft a quarterback early, but the national pundits aren’t buying it. The question will come down to who’s there at No. 4, who does the team actually want (a lot of Teddy Bridgewater rumblings remain) , and do those stars align.

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Yanimal. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Yan Gomes news come across the wire this weekend as he’s clearly a guy who should be playing for more than the MLB minimum. It’s a team-friendly deal, and I’m all about the team. But I’m also all about said team locking up the only player who received MVP consideration a year ago in Jason Kipnis. This is the second offseason wherein the Indians and Kipnis were reportedly negotiating, and with Opening Day just hours away, it appears that we will head into another season without a long-term deal in place. Kipnis plays a premium position and is widely considered to be a player on the ascent. If another MVP-caliber season is on the horizon, the team is going to be in for a rude awakening once arbitration season rolls around. The Los Angeles Angels avoided such a mess by inking Mike Trout for the foreseeable future. If the Tribe wants to keep their word about locking up their core, they may want to realize the commodity they have and do the same. The benchmarks are already in place.

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Big Money Miguel. By now, you’ve seen plenty of opinions on the deal signed by Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers.  It was just a matter of time before Nate Silver gave his thoughts over at FiveThirtyEight, and given my personal intersection of sports and business, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the economic rationale of why the Tigers’ deal—while disgusting on the cover—may not be as bad as we think. As the value of the average MLB franchise increases at a rate better than that of the S&P 500, and the number of billionaires continues to grow, Silver says that the economic impact of signing Cabrera to such a lucrative deal may simply be akin to holding (and eventually selling) a basket of goods—and Cabrera is a good good. Of course, there’s also the chance that this is all a huge bubble (something our own Craig has been calling for years) and Mike Ilitch could be left holding the bag. He’ll also still be a billionaire.

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And just because: We’ll miss you, Dayton. Hell of a run.

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Report: Indians sign Yan Gomes to long-term contract

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported this evening that the Indians have locked up their surprise young backstop Yan Gomes for the foreseeable future. The deal is a reported six years and worth $23 million. The deal includes two club options that could keep the Yanimal in a Cleveland uniform into his mid-thirties. This contract, per Jon Heyman, marks the largest given to a catcher pre-arbitration, breaking Carlos Santana’s record.

Gomes, 26, was arbitration eligible following the end of the 2015 season and would have been heading to the open market potentially following the 2018 season. This move effectively “buys out” his three arbitration years and his first year of free agency (plus an additional two years if the team so desires), a move that the Indians have used countless times in this era, including with Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, and Michael Brantley (which actually could buy out two of his free agency years if they pick up his $11 million club option).

After playing both corner infield slots, outfield, and catcher for Toronto, searching for a positional home, Toronto was willing to part with Gomes. He was acquired from the Blue Jays along with utility infielder Mike Aviles in exchange for middle reliever turned starter Esmil Rogers, Gomes hit .294/.345/.481 (.826 OPS) with 11 homers and 38 RBI in 88 games behind the plate as he became the Indians full-time catcher in the second half playoff stretch run. Aviles and Gomes formed one-half of the “Goon Squad” along with Ryan Raburn and Jason Giambi that gave the Indians one of the most versatile and talented benches in the bigs, helping them win at the margins and finish the season on a 10-game tear.

Ironically, it was Yan’s play that forced the Indians to move Carlos Santana to a primarily 1B/DH role late in the season to put the best lineup on the field both offensively and defensively. Gomes was an assassin behind the dish, throwing out a phenomenal 41% of base-runners (the league average last season was 26%). This year, with Carlos Santana committing himself to a position change to third base, the door is wide open for Gomes to be the everyday catcher with Santana the only other catcher on the Opening Day roster to spell him.

With talks with starting pitcher Justin Masterson over and the Tribe ace all but certainly heading to free agency, the Indians’ next goal is to sign All-Star Jason Kipnis to a similar (albeit more lucrative) team-friendly deal.

Related: Setting the lines on the 2014 Indians

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...]

Framing the Debate: Moving Carlos Santana off Catcher

Carlos Santana debut

I’ve long been an advocate of the offensively inclined catcher.  This, I tend to think, is not the most radical stance I’ve ever taken. Those who disagree find themselves in the awkward position of saying they’d rather not field a catcher capable of an .850 OPS who can hit 25 home runs a year.  That’s not a particularly winning argument.

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Indians have 2nd-best catchers, FiveThirtyEight and Blake Bortles… While We’re Waiting

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FanGraphs: Indians have 2nd-best catchers, 17th-best first baseman. If you are into baseball stats, you should not only be perusing all of the tools on FanGraphs, but you also should keep an eye on their content. During the 2013 season, their writers had major crushes on both Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar. Now? It appears they’re pretty high on Yan Gomes. [Read more...]