July 28, 2014

Tribe Weekend Recap: Santana streaking, rotation turning, and opportunities blown

Carlos Santana

The Indians couldn’t have picked a worse week to wet themselves. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: The only consistent thing about this team is their inconsistency. Just when you want to believe after they take three of four in Detroit, they come out and lose two of three to the Minnesota Twins in front of losing three of four in Kansas City to the Royals. You just had a bad feeling about this series when Corey Kluber’s Thursday gem was wasted in a 14-inning loss. Things just spiraled from there with bad losses both Friday (6-4) and Saturday (7-5). They salvaged the series finale with an offensive explosion in Sunday’s 10-3 win, but it seemed like a hollow victory. The weekend in Kansas City was disastrous.

[Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Tomlin’s gem, House’s run, and consistently inconsistent play

Josh TOmlinI promised myself I wouldn’t say anything negative about Nick Swisher’s play…….

When I sit down every Sunday to write about the weekend that was with our friends of the feather, the topics seem to be the same: Bad defense, a lack of coming through with the timely big hits, starters not going deep enough into the games, the middle of the order guys not names Michael Brantley not doing their jobs, et cetera. Truth be told, this weekend in Seattle did not provide many great conversation pieces.

Josh Tomlin’s Saturday night gem is the obvious pace to start, but outside of that, it was just more of the same from our Cleveland Indians. The 44-38 Mariners are not a bad team at all, but you are not going to win games when you score seven runs in three games. Seattle took the book ends of this series and left the Indians feeling limp as they hop on a plane for sunny Southern California.

The only true Tribe excitement of the weekend was the performance of The Little Cowboy. It was the finest game an Indians starter has thrown since Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981. Of all people, Tomlin was the one you would least expect. [Read more...]

Indians DFA Josh Outman, activate Zach McAllister

Zach McAllister

Josh Outman, the player acquired for outfielder Drew Stubbs just a few months ago ((For those wondering, Stubbs is hitting .303 (.796 OPS) through 55 games on the season, stealing seven bases having yet to be caught. He’s also quadrupled his WAR (1.2) over all of last season (0.3). That thin air, man.)), has been designated for assignment by the Cleveland Indians. Outman posted a 3.24 ERA with 24 strikeouts over 24 2/3 innings, but the showed very little control, walking 16. He labored through a 40-pitch outing earlier this week, but has still managed to hold left-handed hitters to a .180 average. He was out of minor league options, so the Indians have 10 days to trade him, release him or try to pass him through waivers—a place the left-hander will likely garner some interest.

Zach McAllister will take Outman’s spot on the 25-man roster, activated from the disabled list after sustaining a lower back strain. Sitting at 3-4 with a 5.89 ERA in 10 starts this season, McAllister is expected to take the hill on Thursday when the Indians take on Garrett Richards (with his team-leading 2.87 ERA) and the Los Angeles Angels.

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Indians, LeBron James hatred – WFNY Podcast – 2014-06-10

WFNY Podcast LogoI nabbed TD to talk about the Tribe and we ended up talking about a whole lot more.

TD can’t believe how square Craig is with regard to Johnny Manziel’s partying lifestyle.

TD can’t believe how much residual hatred there is for Cleveland fans and LeBron James.

TD talks what he knows best. The Cleveland Indians, where they are today, Lonnie Chisenhall’s monstrous night with nine RBI and the impending return of the Zach Attack.

Check out this episode!

Indians place Zach McAllister on the DL with back strain

Zack McAllister

From shelled to the shelf. The Cleveland Indians placed starting pitcher Zach McAllister on the 15-day disabled list with what’s being called a lower back strain. McAllister (3-4) won three consecutive starts earlier this season but allowed eight runs in a 1 1/3-inning effort against the Oakland Athletics this past weekend. On Wednesday, against the Detroit Tigers, the righty lasted just two innings, allowing five runs on five hits (two home runs) and two walks.

This move leaves Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin as the Tribe’s rotation. The team could either opt to place Carlos Carrasco back in a starting role, or promote the recently optioned Danny Salazar.

Other shuffling within the Tribe’s 40-man roster include the optioning of young left-hander Kyle Crockett to Triple-A Columbus, the transferring of Nyjer Morgan to the 60-day Disabled List, the recalling of left-handed pitcher TJ House and the purchasing of the contract of right-handed pitcher Mark Lowe, both from Columbus.

House, 24, was recently with the club from May 17-19, making his Major League debut in relief against Oakland.  With Columbus, House has gone 1-2 with a 2.40 ERA in seven starts.  His 2.40 ERA currently ranks ninth in the International League.

 Lowe, 30, has spent the entire season to date with the Clippers, going 1-1 with eight saves and a 3.86 ERA in 16 relief appearances. He is currently fourth in the International League in saves (eight) and he has not allowed an earned run over his last seven games.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Indians 11, Tigers 10: The sweep that came via…The Balk-Off?

Asdrubal CabreraJust when you think this team is out…They suck you right back in.

The 2013 Cleveland Indians were dubbed “team streak” at times. Nobody could be colder and then immediately rattle off seven in a row the way they did. Let us not forget that Wahoos had to win 10 straight to close out the season to make the playoffs and actually accomplished the feat. This year’s version is nowhere close, but the last six days have been somethin’ else.

“A few weeks ago, we really didn’t show a whole lot of fight,” David Murphy said. “The type of day that we had, nobody is going to say die. Nobody is going to throw in the towel. Nobody is going to throw away at-bats. Everybody is going to go up there and fight until it’s over.” [Read more...]

‘Bauer Outage’ could spark subpar Tribe starters

bauer acab

Trevor Bauer finally looks like he’s getting his pro career on track and living up to the expectations that come with being the No. 3 overall draft pick. Ranked as the ninth best prospect by Baseball America after the 2011 season, Bauer sank to 83rd after a disappointing 2013 campaign in which the re-tooling of his windup made many scratch their heads over the acquisition of the former UCLA phenom from the Arizona Diamondbacks two winters earlier.

[Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Can it get much worse?

Nick SwisherI really don’t even know what to say about this team right now. I have been searching for positives from this horrific weekend series where the Oakland Athletics did their best Harlem Globetrotters impression while the Cleveland Indians donned the uniforms of the Washington Generals. They didn’t hit. They committed more errors (7) than runs scored (6). The pitching was for the most part awful. If it is possible to hit rock bottom in the middle of May, the Tribe certainly was attempting it with this series.

Said manager Terry Francona, who has been as off of his game as his players this season: “What we’re doing, right now is not good enough. We’ve got to play better, and we’ve got to have these guys more prepared.”

The A’s swept the Indians with complete and utter ease, outscoring the Wahoos 30-6. By Sunday, Francona was left searching for answers, so he reluctantly did what he didn’t want to do — moved things around in the batting order. It didn’t work.

[Read more...]

Tribe bats, Axford waste McAllister’s great start

John AxfordIf the Cleveland Indians offense doesn’t figure something out soon, this season will be off the rails before it ever gets started. I know we are just 36 games in, but the team has been in a collective slump since the season began. At certain points, neither the starting pitching nor the hitting performed up to snuff. Now, the starters have come around and solid performances are being wasted left and right because the bats remain asleep.

It was after Friday night’s 12-run explosion that team leader Nick Swisher told the media that his team is aware that “a lot of bad things (have been) written about us in the papers.”  The team had just broken a six-game losing streak in which they scored 13 total runs. In their split of the final two games against the White Sox, the offense produced just five runs. Throw in last night’s extra inning shutout by that fabled ace Minnesota ace Kyle Gibson, and the Indians have those five runs in 28 innings. Two of the five came on a dropped popup and a sacrifice fly.

Are we allowed to criticize now Swish?

[Read more...]

Indians lose again as Kipnis leaves with injury

This road trip just can’t end soon enough for the Tribe. They’ve lost (and lost) on the field and yesterday’s game even included the unwanted bonus of Jason Kipnis going out with an abdominal strain. The irrational, cynical part of me says, “Well, they lost five in a row with him, so what does it matter?” That’s really just mean and probably stupid too, but I’d be lying if I didn’t start to get angry when the Tribe appears to be this listless. Kipnis’ injury might not be all that serious as Terry Francona said after the game, the team hopes it’s more like cramping than anything else. In the end, the Tribe dropped their second game against the Angels 6-4 last night, and they have one more on this road trip before they get to turn the calendar to May. [Read more...]

Indians 4, Royals 3: Deep blasts, solid pitching and a squirrel help Tribe win

Nick Swisher

Last year it was the Rally Chicken. Is 2014 the year of the Squirrel? Twice during last night’s series opener with the Kansas City Royals, a squirrel interrupted play. Players and members of the Indians ground crew tried to corral the little guy who was eventually ushered off the field. “I was like, `C’mon over here and sit in my glove,” Nick Swisher said. “I thought maybe he’d sit on my shoulder like a parrot. I tell you what, that squirrel is eating, bro. That was a big squirrel.”

The squirrel gave some comic relief to a tense, close game that went back and forth, but was eventually won by the Tribe 4-3. It shouldn’t have been that close.

Let’s start with the positives. The offense, which sputtered most of the weekend, clubbed out 11 hits, but needed two long balls to do the damage. Facing ex-Indian first round pick Jeremy Guthrie, Michael Brantley once again provided the dramatics. He broke a scoreless fourth inning tie with a two-run homer to right. It was his second blast in as many days and his fourth on the year. Dr. Smooth has never been a guy known for his power, but he currently sits tied for third in the AL in homers (4) and is second in RBIs (18). [Read more...]

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.

[Read more...]

Starting pitching excels in double dip split with Padres

Trevor BauerWhomever in the MLB scheduling department that decided having the San Diego Padres come to Cleveland for their one appearance in early April is a genius. Now seriously, who thought this was a good idea? Naturally bad weather postponed Monday night’s game, causing a traditional doubleheader to be played on Wednesday, which was supposed to be the Padres getaway day. It is the second time the Tribe has played a doubleheader this season, which is just a week and a half old.

The Indians sent Zach McAllister to the hill for game one. The last time we saw Zach, his command was a mess. He only could muster four innings, giving up three runs on six hits and four walks. After the first time through the rotation, I will admit McAllister was the guy I worried about the most. For the Indians to reach their goal of returning to the postseason, McAllister has to be very good.

Yesterday afternoon, he wasn’t just good….he was GREAT. [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...]

Zach McAllister adds a slide piece to his repertoire

Zack McAllister

While Spring Training just kicked off a few days ago, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that many of the Cleveland Indians players took very little (if any) time off since being bounced out of the 2013 Postseason last October. The latest story comes in the way of Mickey Callaway, the team’s miracle-working pitching coach, and Zach McAllister, who has apperently added a few new arrows to his quiver.

From Indians.com’s Jordan Bastian:

Zach McAllister went home over the winter in search of a strikeout pitch. When the Indians right-hander arrived to Spring Training, he brought a new slider with him.

At the suggestion of Cleveland’s coaching staff, McAllister went to work over the offseason on adding a slider to his repertoire. The goal of the pitch, which essentially replaces the inconsistent cutter he featured last season, is to give the Tribe starter a more reliable weapon for hitters to chase.

McAllister is a lock for the Indians’ starting rotation. Along with Corey Kluber and Ubaldo Jiménez, the 26-year-old was one of the feel-good stories of 2013, providing a  3.75 ERA in 134 1/3 innings. Though hampered by a mid-summer finger injury, his first and second halves were almost identical, allowing opposing batters to produce a .325 wOBA.

If there is much in the way of down side to the towering righty is his penchant for fly balls (41.4 percent, with an incredibly lucky HR/FB ratio of 7.5) coupled with a low swinging strike rate (7.1 percent). If the slider is as good as Callway says it is—”It looks really good.”—then there’s a possibility that these two red flags could be lowered. If these two red flags are indeed lowered, the Indians may have themselves one solid middle-of-the-rotation arm for the upcoming season.

Just another one of the many storylines to watch as the Countdown to Opening Day ticks on.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

While We’re Waiting… College Football Trophies, Recruiting, and Tito’s The Man

Cleveland sports fans are waiting. Thus, while we’re all waiting, the WFNY editors thought you might enjoy reading. Because you never know how long we might be waiting. So here are assorted reading goodies for you to enjoy. Send more good links for tomorrow’s edition to tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

WWW_Refrigerator_Indians1

Leading off, college football trophies are one of the more consistent traditions around the nation. Many of the trophies have strange origins, and nearly all of them have an interesting story behind them. Johnny Ginter at Eleven Warriors takes a look at some of them, “My favorite thing about Illibuck is that at one point it was a live turtle. Two years later, it was dead. All of the technological prowess of two of the better public university institutions couldn’t keep a turtle alive for two years. There have been ten wooden Illibucks since then, and the sad thing is that with the rearranging of the Big Ten, Ohio State and Illinois will now only play each other once every four years or so. On the plus side, given the state of the Illinois football program, we’ll get to keep the thing for a loooonnggg while.” [Eleven Warriors]

Will Leitch at Sports on Earth talks about recruiting in the Twitter age, which certainly has its drawbacks and ugly moments, “This is all ridiculous, this sad, lonely courting of teenagers over Twitter for a one-year sleepover at a college campus, but this isn’t just the new reality, it’s just the start. Alexander, Okafor and Jones, have enjoyed every aspect of this whole process, and why wouldn’t they? Forget booster alumni and back-room deals: If Cliff Alexander or any future recruit wants any special treatment, it’s just a direct message away.” [Leitch/Sports on Earth] [Read more...]

2013 Indians In Review: The Starting Rotation

Corey Kluber

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 will begin with the starting rotation, a group that was a huge surprise in 2013.  [Read more...]

Starting rotation an unsolved long-term mystery for Indians

ubaldo twinsWhat a season for Cleveland Indians starters. After posting the American League’s 13th best staff ERA back in 2012, the Tribe turned it around magically this year en route to the playoffs, jumping all the way to the AL’s sixth best ERA.

Not many could have predicted that success, probably not even much-applauded pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Yet, after the team’s season ended abruptly last week, it’s worth noting that the composition of the 2014 rotation is now up in the air.

There are two likely-to-be high-priced free agents, one impending free agent after next year and a collection of still-yet-unproven youngsters and inexperienced veterans. Who will step up? What will the rotation look like? What moves are necessary?

Heading into 2013, it was assumed that the Indians would pick up a starter on the free agent market. They did so in the form of $7 million for Brett Myers, but that proved to be a disaster: Myers actually managed to have a -0.6 WAR in just 21.1 innings pitched.

With the below list, I count five likely starters for the Tribe as they begin the season: Masterson, Jimenez/Kazmir, Salazar, Kluber and McAllister. That would be maintaining the same list as this season, provided they can re-sign one of the two free agents.

But Trevor Bauer has to get consistent MLB duty at some point. What will the long-term status be of Carlos Carrasco or Josh Tomlin? Is there anyone else in the minors? And is it actually plausible for the team to re-sign just one of the two free agents? Let’s go name by name.

 

Justin Masterson
Turns 29 in March
Made $5.69 mil in 2013; likely to be $8-10 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2014 season

The de facto team ace is likely to return to starting duties for 2014. He had success out of the bullpen down the stretch, but that was due to his return from injury. The biggest long-term question mark is whether the Indians will be able to afford him past next year. He’s set to make a nice raise through arbitration.

Ubaldo Jimenez
Turns 30 in January
Made $5.75 mil in 2013; likely to receive $10+ mil offer
Free agent eligibility after 2013 season

Jimenez (finally) pitched like an ace over the last few months of the season. That will only make him more difficult to keep in a Tribe uniform. Some will say Jimenez owes the Indians front office for turning his career around, but unfortunately, that’s not how the open markets operate. Assuming he wants it, he’ll get at least four years and $50 million elsewhere.

Scott Kazmir
Turns 30 in January
Made league min. in 2013; likely to receive $6-8 mil offer
Free agent eligibility after 2013 season

The more affordable free agent option for the Indians would be Kazmir. He was a reclamation project this season, signing a deal just to join for spring training before making 29 starts and striking out 162. He’s not an ace, but a guy most organizations would love to have as a strikeout-prone lefty. My guess: $15 million over two years to stay in Cleveland.

Corey Kluber
Turns 28 in April
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

As we discussed in Friday’s roundtable, the development of these next two starters are key for 2014. Kluber was a big surprise this season, jumping into the rotation and dominating for three months. But an August injury set him back to end the year. Indians have to hope he can recover that success and stay in the rotation.

Zach McAllister
Turns 26 in December
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

Two full seasons, 46 starts, ERA of 3.99. Another impressive yet relatively inexperienced starter, McAllister also wasn’t great down the stretch. He wasn’t the same pitcher after a six-week injury absence in June and July. He seems to be a fairly reliable No. 4 or No. 5 starter, but won’t be a huge difference marker.

Danny Salazar
Turns 24 in January
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

The up-and-coming Salazar supplanted the guy below as the team’s best pitching prospect. He went from Double-A prospect to playoff game starter in one season, just like 1997’s Jaret Wright. Hopefully Salazar’s next few years are brighter however, thanks to the Indians’ watchful eye throughout the season. No questions asked, just let him go full throttle now.

Trevor Bauer
Turns 23 in January
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

Remember this guy? The perhaps too-eccentric-or-maybe-ground-breaking prospect? He had a 5.29 ERA in four Cleveland starts and a disappointing 4.15 ERA in 22 starts for Columbus. The statistics are brutal: 73 walks, 106 strikeouts and 119 hits in 121.1 innings pitched. Those are Triple-A No. 5 starter stats. I’d assume he stays in Columbus to start 2014. He’s not ready yet.

Carlos Carrasco
Turns 27 in March
Made $0.5 mil in 2013; likely to be $1 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2016 season

All the evidence you need: 9.00 ERA in seven starts, 1.32 ERA in eight relief appearances. With the likely departure of Joe Smith out of the pen, Carrasco can slip into a long-term long-relief role and perhaps some sixth-inning duties. That will keep his cost low and perhaps harness his innate strikeout ability.

Josh Tomlin
Turns 29 in October
Made $0.5 mil in 2013; likely to be $1 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2016 season

The Little Cowboy appeared in only one Cleveland game this season as he recovered from August 2012 Tommy John surgery. He’ll have the offseason to fully recover, potentially returning into a bullpen role as well. It’s also possible that he doesn’t return to Cleveland, considering the lack of available innings.

 

Conclusion: So there you go, nine possible starters and a whole lot of questions still yet unanswered. I’m sure there will be more discussions on available free agent starters over the coming months, just like we had last season. Almost all of these players have had long-ish periods of major league success. Now it’s just a matter of money and composition as 2014 preparation begins soon.

As I shared earlier in the week, my optimism isn’t high. Jimenez’s emergence was a key reason for Cleveland clinching a playoff spot; my odds are probably 75-80% that he’s elsewhere next season. Kazmir would be a nice returning candidate, but who knows how much his value is right now. Then, Masterson’s upcoming availability also casts into doubt how much the Indians are willing to break the bank.

In the end, Bauer and Salazar have to develop as future leaders of a rotation. If that can happen, which certainly is a possibility, then the Indians are in much better shape with a back-end led by Kluber and McAllister. But the young guys could need to step up soon.

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfel

Early thoughts on the 2014 Indians: WFNY Roundtable

Following Wednesday’s AL Wild Card loss to Tampa Bay, the WFNY staff was still giddy about the Cleveland Indians’ 2013 season. But, some were already not as optimistic about the picture for 2014. Here’s another look inside the WFNY email thread to see what we were talking about yesterday with regards to the Tribe’s future.

WFNY_roundtable

Jacob: From 1995-2012, 58 MLB teams had .600+ records in 1-run games. Of those 58 teams, 44 regressed the following season: 75.9% of teams. In total, those 58 teams regressed by an average of 5.8 wins/162 games the following season.

Sure, that’s probably just regular regression to the mean for good teams anyway, but still notable. I don’t think winning 1-run games is a skill however, unless you have Mariano Rivera. The Indians went 30-17 (.638) in one-run games this season, second in baseball to the Yankees: 30-16 (.652). Both could be prime candidates for 2014 regression. [Read more...]

The Diff: Reviewing stats on the surprising 2013 Indians

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote on the varying playoff odds formulations. This week, I’m revisiting many of my stats comments about the Tribe in 2013.

The Diff

Today is Sept. 25 and the Cleveland Indians have over 80 percent odds of making the American League playoffs. Yes, that’s likely as one of two Wild Card teams, but all that matters is just making it into the postseason. Dating back to the advent of the Wild Card system in 1994, home teams are only 316-271 (.538) in the playoffs. That means it’s still very much an incredible toss-up in the probable one-game playoff that would take place one week from today, regardless of location. [Read more...]