Saturday, December 10, 2011

Aramis Ramirez & Mark Trumbo

The Indians have an opportunity to balance their lineup without having to mortgage the farm or spend a ridiculous amount of money.

The first move is to trade Lonnie Chisenhall and Rafael Perez to the Angels for Mark Trumbo and prospects. The only true left handed bat in the Angels lineup will be Bobby Abreu along with switch hitters Alberto Callapso and Erik Aybar. Chisenhall would provide another left handed bat to balance the lineup and give manager Mike Scioscia added flexibility by moving Alberto Callaspo to the utility role. Rafael Perez would provide the Angels bullpen with a second lefty to pair with Scott Downs and provide length to the Angles pen.

The Indians would receive a power hitting right handed corner bat who remains under team control for the next five seasons and the Indians would also free up approximately 1.9 million dollars in salary by moving Perez.

As some have mentioned, trading Chisenhall would leave Jason Donald and Jack Hannahan in a platoon role at 3rd base and this doesn't excite to many. (It should be noted that Hannahan OPS .673 vs RHP and Donald .607 so neither is really a good platoon option vs RHP).

The second move would be to sign Aramis Ramirez to a 2-year 18 million dollar contract with some sort of creative vesting option for the 3rd year. The Indians payroll is not maxed out in 2011 and the team would have an additional 2 million freed up by moving Rafael Perez. With Travis Hafner, Derek Lowe, Grady Sizemore, and possibly Fausto Carmona coming off the books following the 2012 season the Indians could afford the risk.

Ramirez would provide the Indians a steady presence at 3rd base and allow Jason Donald to assume a traditional utility role and the lineup takes on a whole new look with Trumbo and Ramirez at the corners.

A lineup of Sizemore (CF), Asdrubal Cabrera (SS), Shin-Soo Choo (RF), Carlos Santana (C), Aramis Ramirez (3b), Travis Hafner (DH), Mark Trumbo (1b), Jason Kipnis (2b), and Michael Brantley (LF) is a lineup that I'd feel good going to battle with.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Indians Winter Meetings Roundup

After making noise in the offseason by trading for Derek Lowe and re-signing Grady Sizemore the Indians offseason slowed to a crawl during the Winter Meetings.

Rays Republic and Did The Tribe Win Last Night Q&A

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cleveland Indians Winter Meetings Roundup Day Three

Another day of watching the Marlins show in Dallas. The Indians have been observers at the meetings thus far which only makes sense since the area of need most identified by the Indians is first base.

The Indians are wise to wait it out and let the first base market settle before trying to fill the void. They should wait to see where Pujos, Fielder, Pena, Lee, and Kotchman sign and if a current first baseman (Gaby Sanchez, Justin Smoak, etc.) emerge as trade candidates. The Indians should see if Derek Lee or Carlos Pena have overpriced themselves and if the music stops and either of them is without a chair the Indians offer one..

Acta on Sizemore

Indians Manager Manny Acta discusses Grady Sizemore.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cleveland Indians Winter Meetings Roundup Day Two

The winter meetings are moving along and although the Indians have yet to strike a deal the game of match the Indians needs to a certain player has been pretty active. Indians GM Chris Antonetti did tease a trade offer at his afternoon press conference.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cleveland Indians Roundup: Winter Meetings Day One

Day one of the winter meetings is winding down and although the Indians haven't made any moves their have been rumors that have been floating around out there connecting the Indians to one player or another.

Take a moment to catch up on the days action:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cleveland Indians Top Plays of the Year: #11 through #15

The Indians had a lot of memorable plays in 2011 on their way to an 80-82 record.  The 80 wins represented an 11 game increase over their 2010 win total despite needing to use the disabled list 22 times, more than every other team besides the Minnesota Twins (see Indians Injury Story Here).  Trying to determine all the great plays that the 2011 Indians were involved in is a very difficult endeavor.  So, borrowing a blogcentric concept utilized by Jason Hanselman (@SandyKazmir on twitter)  over at to look at the great plays by the Tampa Bay Rays I am going to use win probability added (WPA) to showcase the 15 biggest plays of the 2011 Indians season.
Using a statistic called Win Probability Added (WPA) we can look at each player's contributions at the singular at bat level factoring in the inning, the score, the number of outs, and the number of baserunners.  A two-run homer early in the game isn't nearly as important as a walk-off two-run homer simply because the late dinger guarantees the win.  The game is over, the home team wins, everyone rejoice.--Jason Hanselman

Plays #11 through #15 after the jump.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reed Johnson A Good Fit for the Indians

Now that the Indians have re-signed Grady Sizemore to be their center fielder the 2012 starting outfield is set with Micheal Brantley in left, Grady Sizemore in center, and Shin-Soo Choo in right.

Right now that 4th outfielder spot appears to belong to Shelly Duncan but the Indians will be best served by acquiring a right handed hitting outfielder who can hit well against left handed pitching and can play all three outfield positions. A player that fits the Indians needs is free agent outfielder Reed Johnson.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Outside The Box: Franky G back to Cleveland?

When it comes to internet rumors during the Hot Stove league it is best to take each one with a grain of salt. With full disclosure I am writing this trade proposal as a winter conversation starter and not something that I think is probable but rather something that is a little outside the box thinking.

The Cleveland Indians send Travis Hafner and 2.75 million cash (or prospects) to the Seattle Mariners for center fielder Franklin Gutierrez. 

According to Cot's: 

Travis Hafner is due 13 million in 2012 and a 2.75 million dollar buyout in 2013 (or an additional year at 13 million). Hafner does have a limited no trade clause to specific teams. For our purposes let's assume 15.75 million due to Hafner.

Franklin Gutierrez is due 5.5 million in 2012, 7 million in 2013, and a 500K buyout in 2014 (or an additional year at 7.5 million). Gutierrez salary increases to 7.25 with 600 PAs in 2012. For our purposes let's assume 13 million for Gutierrez.

Player Evaluations
We'll look at each player through a 3 year window which is standard for player evaluation and we'll keep it to the basic statistics of average/on-base/slugging OPS, home runs, and stolen bases for Gutierrez.

Franklin Gutierrez has seen a decline in his numbers over each of the past 3 seasons. 
Played 153 games in 2009 and posted a slash line of .283/.339/.425 an OPS of .764 with 18 HR & 16 SB. 
Played 152 games in 2010 and posted a slash line of .245/.303/.363 an OPS of .666 with 12 HR.& 25 SB.
Played  92  games in 2011 and posted a slash line of .224/.261/.273 an PS of .534 with 1 HR.& 13 SB.

Travis Hafner has seen a flattening out of his numbers over the past 3 seasons.
Played   94 games in 2009 and posted a slash line of .272/.355/.470 an OPS of .826 with 16 HR.
Played 118 games in 2010 and posted a slash line of .278/.374/.449 an OPS of .824 with 13 HR.
Played   94 games in 2011 and posted a slash line of .280/.361/.449 an OPS of .811 with 13 HR.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tribe Memorable Play: Sizemore Returns with a Bang

On May 16, 2010 Grady Sizemore was forced to leave a game against the Orioles with a bruised left knee. What followed was microfracture surgery and nearly a year or rehab. Nearly 11 months to the day, against those same Baltimore Orioles, a healthy Grady Sizemore stood in the batters box at Progressive Field in his familiar leadoff position.

His first plate appearance was uneventful as he grounded out to second base. His second at-bat came with the Indians up 1-0 in the bottom of the 3rd inning and Grady thrilled the crowd by blasting his first homer of the season off Baltimore righty Brad Bergesen. He added a double in the bottom of the fifth and ended his day going 2-4 with an RBI. The Indians received a strong performance by Fausto Carmona and went on to win the game 4-2 to improve to 11-4 on the season.

Grady Returns to the Indians May 17, 2011:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Memorable Game #2: Indians Win 4-0 Over Angels for 8th in a Row

For many Indians fans the fact that Mitch Talbot was in the rotation at all was a mystery. During spring training Talbot gave up 24 runs in 23 innings while striking out only 8 and walking 8. In his first start of the year against the Red Sox he only lasted 4.1 innings giving up 2R/2ER on 5 hits whiles striking out 7 and walking 3.

After his start versus the Angels many fans were wondering where had this Talbot been? He went 8+ scoreless innings on 5 hits while striking out 4 and walking 2 while leading the Indians to their 8th victory in a row. Asdrubal Cabrera provided the Indians with an early 1-0 lead by belting his 4th homer on the year in the first inningand Matt Laporta gave the Indians a 4-0 lead with his second homer of the year in the 2nd inning. Talbot surrendered a leadoff double to Bobby Abreu to lead off the ninth and was replaced by Vinnie Pestano who retired all three hitters he faced to secure the victory.

Unfortunately for Talbot and the Indians, this version of Mitch Talbot would not be seen again in 2012. Prior to his next start he was placed on the DL with stiffness in the elbow and returned to the rotation on May 25 and was returned to Columbus after 9 starts where he posted a 1-6 record with a 7.43 ERA. Talbot did return and made one final start in late September against the Twins where he gave up 6 runs in 5.1 innings.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tribe Interested in Shane Victorino?

Rumors are flying that the Indians and Phillies are talking about a deal that would send Shane Victorino to the Indians for positional prospects. The Indians are looking for a CF to replace the departed Grady Sizemore and the Phillies are reportedly looking to move salary in order to make a splash in the free agent market.

Victorino (turns 31 on November 30th) would provide the Indians durability in center field, a top of the order hitter with the ability to swipe a bag, a patient hitter who doesn't strike out often, a switch hitter who performs better from the right side of the plate, and a hitter with extra base hit ability. He also was a gold glove winner in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and adds added veteran experience to a young offense.

The question becomes what are the Phillies are looking for? Are they most interested in a first baseman in exchange or would they want a number of prospects that could be used to acquire a first baseman from another organization? Or are the Phillies looking simply to move the 9.5 million to free up money to sign Michael Cuddyer who could play 1b until Ryan Howard returns?

I'd surmise that if the Indians and Phillies were to work a trade there would be a third team involved or a second deal involving a few of the prospects sent to Philadelphia would happen later this winter. Nothing is impossible in regards to acquiring Victorino and it is a breath of fresh air to hear the Indians being aggressive early in the offseason in addressing one of their most glaring needs heading into 2012.

  • Victorino is coming off his best offensive season of his career as he posted a slash line of .279/.355/.491 an OPS of .846 with a league leading 16 triples, 27 doubles, and 17 home runs. .
  • He stole 19 bases while only being caught 3 times. 
  • He earned a fWAR of 5.9 and a rWAR of 5.1.
  •  He had a K rate of 10.8% and a BB rate of 10.4%.  
  •  He had a wRC+ of 135 and a wOBA of .372. 
  • As a left handed hitter he has posted a slash line of .274/.336/.415 an OPS of .751 versus right handed pitching. 
  • As a right handed bat he has posted a .297/.371/.507 an OPS of .877.  
  • Victorino's numbers in 2011 were not the cause of a high BABIP as his BABIP was a very modest .292.

Memorable Game #1: Indians Sweep Sox 1-0

Fausto Carmona was roughed up (to say the least) by the Chicago White Sox in his first start of the year. He was pounded for 10R/10ER on 11 hits in just 3 innings of work while striking out 5 and walking 1. (Interesting to note, Carmona finished the year with a 5.25 ERA but 0.4 runs less at 4.85 without this game).  After a busy offseason which included signing Carl Crawford away from the Tampa Bay Rays, trading for Adrian Gonzalez, and getting healthy returns from Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Josh Beckett the Red Sox were picked by many to represent the AL in the World Series. The Indians had taken the first two games of the series and were looking for the series sweep on a Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field.

Carmona went 7 dominant shutout innings allowing 2 hits while striking out 4 and walking 2. Jon Lester matched him with 7 shutout innings on 3 hits while striking out 9 and walking 3. 

The Indians only real threat off of Jon Lester came in the 7th inning when after Shelly Duncan led off with a double Austin Kearns (on his own) attempted a sacrifice bunt but popped out to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. In 3,291 career at-bats Kearns had attempted 1 sacrifice bunt! (2006 with Washington!).

Said Indians Manager Manny Acat after the game:
 “Austin did that on his own,” said Acta of the bunt. “He felt uncomfortable against that guy (Lester), and he felt the best way for him to move the runner to third was to bunt. Ideally you’d like him to swing away there, but he didn’t feel like he could move the runner that way, so he bunted. I understand that.”
In a scoreless tie Manny Acta turned to Chad Durbin to open the 8th. He retired Jarrod Saltalamacchia  for the first out before allowing a single to Marco Scutaro and walking Jacoby Ellsbury. Rafael Perez relieved Durbin and retired Carl Crawford on a groundout but runners advanced to 2nd and 3rd with 2-out. Perez ending the Red Sox threat by getting Dustin Pedroia to ground out to first baseman Matt Laporta.

Terry Francona turned to Daniel Bard to work the bottom of the eighth inning and he issued the dreaded lead off walk to light hitting Adam Everett. After Bard threw two balls to Orlando Cabrera Manny Acta gave Adam Everett the steal sign and on the next pitch he stole second base. On the next pitch Cabrera successfully sacrificed Everett to third to bring Asdrubal Cabrera to the plate. With the count in his favor 2-1 Asdrubal laid down a perfect suicide squeeze to push across the Indians lone run of the afternoon.

With a 1-0 lead and the game on the line Manny Acta called on Chris Perez to shut the door. The Red Sox were desperately trying to avoid their first 0-6 start since 1946 and looked to have a rally started after a 2-out walk to David Ortiz who was pinch run for by Darnell MacDonald. J.D. Drew lined a single off the leg of Chris Perez but the ball went to Adam Everett at 3b who saw that Darnell MacDonald had rounded 2b and threw back to Orlando Cabrera at 2b. To make matters worse for MacDonald he slipped on his way back into second and was tagged out for the final out of the game.

Tribe Memorable Play: Santana's Triple Play

April 3, 2011: The Indians needed a strong pitching performance from Justin Masterson in just their third game of the year. The White Sox battered Fausto Carmona for 10 runs in 3 innings and put up 7 runs against Carlos Carrasco in 6.2 innings. Masterson gave the Indians exactly what they needed by going 7 innings giving up 1R/1ER on 7 hits with 0 strikeouts and 2 walks as the beat the White Sox 7-1 for their first victory of the season.

Masterson received quite a boost from his defense in the top of the fourth inning. Masterson walked Carlos Quentin to lead off the inning and A.J. Pierzynski followed with a single to put runners on first and second. Alexei Ramirez attempted a sacrifice bunt which Carlos Santana (playing 1st base) made a diving catch on. Santana threw back to Orlando Cabrera covering first base for the second out and then threw back to Asdrubal Cabrera at second base to complete the triple play.  It was the first Triple Play by the Indians since Asdrubal Cabrera turned an unassisted triple play on May 12. 2008.

Friday, November 4, 2011

2011 Tribe Memorable Play: Varitek's Mental Mistake

When things are going good they're going good. 

April 6, 2011: The Boston Red Sox were 0-4 on the season and were trailing the Indians 3-2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning. Red Sox relief pitcher Dennys Reyes was on the mound in relief of Daisuke Matsuzaka and he hit Travis Buck and Matt Laporta and walked Jack Hannahan to load the bases without retiring a batter. Dan Wheeler was called in to replace Reyes and Michael Brantley sent a line drive to Kevin Youkilis at third base.

Youkilis was unable to catch the ball in the air but since the  runners were frozen at their respective bases he had an easy double play. All Youkilis had to do was step on third and throw home to Varitek and Buck would be caught in a rundown and tagged out. Youkilis did his part by stepping on 3rd base but Jason Varitek thought it was a force out at home or didn't see Youkilis step on the bag and never tagged Travis Buck!

To make matters worse the next batter was Asdrubal Cabrera and he hit a 3-run homer to give the Indians an 7-2 lead. The Indians went on to win the game 8-4 and sent the Red Sox to their fifth straight defeat to begin the year.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Offseason Rosterbation: The Indians 40-Man Roster Edition

There are several key dates for the offseason in major league baseball. Free Agency begins on October 30th and all contract options must be picked up or declined by October 31st. The Indians have two decisions to make on Grady Sizemore and Fausto Carmona and it is expected that the Indians will decline Sizemore's 8.5 million dollar option and pickup Carmona's 7 million dollar option.

The Indians have until November 18th to solidify who they are going to protect from the Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft is a draft for players with 4 or 5 years of service in an organization. Players drafted out of high school or college must be protected after 4 years of service and international free agents after 5 years of service.

Currently, the Indians 40-man roster sits at 38 but there are four players, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, Micheal Brantley, and Shin-Soo Choo on the 60 day disabled list. There is no disabled list in the offseason; therefore, these players will have to be added to the 40 man roster bringing the total number of players on the roster to 42.

The Indians have eight players eligible for arbitration (Justin Masterson, Jack Hannahan, Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Joe Smith, Fausto Carmona, and Rafael Perez) and none of the arbitration eligible players are non-tender candidates. There are three free agents, Chad Durbin, Jim Thome, and Kosuke Fukudome and none of the three are expected to be offered contracts and Grady Sizemore's option is not expected to be picked up which will bring the roster down to 38.

Before we examine who stays and who goes, we need a list of Rule 5 eligible players (if not protected) that the Indians may want to consider protecting. This list was retrieved at and I will be making three subtractions and one addition to the list. I do  not believe Elvis Araujo, Argenis Martinez, or  Oswel Munoz need to be added as they were both signed by the Indians in 2008 as undrafted free agents and have 5 years before they require inclusion on the 40-man and I will be adding Jason Knapp to the list as he was drafted in 2008.

Who Needs to Be Added?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Matt Murton a Good Fit for the Indians

If the Cleveland Indians, as expected, decline the 2012 option on center fielder Grady Sizemore they will be looking for either a replacement center fielder or will move Micheal Brantley to that spot and look for a left fielder. An intriguing name that the Indians should have interest in signing is 30 year old left fielder Matt Murton.

Murton has spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons playing in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers. On October 5, 2010 he collected his 211th hit of the season breaking Ichiro Suzuki's single season hit record set in 1994 (Murton played in 141 games compared to Ichiro's 130).  In 2010, he finished the year by posting a slash line of .349/.395/.499 an OPS of .894 with 17 HR and 91 RBI and he finished 2011 with a slash line of .311/.339/.423 an OPS of .762 with 13 HR and 60 RBI. 

Murton is a rare player who became a journeyman but never failed at the big league level.  In 1058 major league plate appearances he put up a slash line of .286/.352/.436. Was he a victim of a veteran loving GM and Manager in Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella in Chicago? Was he overlooked in Oakland and a victim of a numbers game in Colorado? Murton is an interesting player in that he has remained healthy throughout his career and has performed well both as a starter and a role player at the major league level. The Indians could offer Murton one thing that has seldom been given to him and that is the opportunity to play everyday at the major league level.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Grady Sizemore Contract and/or Free Agency

The Indians have until 3 days after the World Series to pick up the 2012 option on centerfielder Grady Sizemore. Sizemore's troubles staying healthy have been well documented over the past three seasons as he has only played in 210 games while posting a slash line of .234/.314/.413 with 28 HR and 109 RBI in 938 PA.

I do not believe many fans would blame the Indians brass for not wanting to commit 9 million dollars to a player that has had 5 surgeries (two groin, one elbow, and two knee) in the last three years. Hard to believe that the Indians are the side looking to lessen the strain on a contract once believed to be exhibit A on why young players shouldn't give up so much and sign a long term deal.

Many fans are hoping that the Indians are working a deal with Sizemore that would keep him in an Indians uniform for the 2012 season. This would require working a new deal at a lower base salary with incentives (most likely based on PAs) that could eventually be worth more than his current 9 million.   If the Indians don't exercise the 2012 option there will be plenty of teams lining up to take a gamble on him as he is still only 29 years old and packs quite a bit of power in his swing.

When working a contract for 2012, I would take the same course of negotiations with Grady Sizemore that the Boston Red Sox took when signing Adrian Beltre following the 2009 season. Beltre was coming off a very sub-par 2009 season where he hit  .265/.304/.379 with 8 HR and 44 RBI and had only played in 111 games.  He was a free agent who was turning 31 years old and there were a lot of whispers that he may be older than he stated, that he may not be able to stay healthy, and that he may be on the downside of his career.

The Red Sox signed Beltre to a contract that included a 2010 salary of 9 million. The contract included a second year player option of 5 million dollars. If he had 575 PA the Red Sox could buy the 2011 option out for 1 million dollars. If he had 640 PAs or more than the 2011 option increased from 5 million to 10 million and the Red Sox 1 million buyout went into his pocket (if he chose to opt out). Essentially, at a minimum he was going to earn 10 million for 1 year or 14 million for 2 years. From the Red Sox point of view, 2 years at an average salary of 7 million is not much of a risk and with Beltre's history it was certainly a gamble worth taking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Carmona's Back?

Should the Indians exercise the 2012 option of Fausto Carmona?
Fausto Carmona made 6.1 million in 2011 while posting an ugly 7-15 record with a 5.20 ERA in 188.2 innings pitched. The Indians hold three options on Carmona which would pay him 7 million in 2012, 9 million in 2013, and 12 million in 2014 (Cot's Baseball Contracts).  The Indians will decide shortly on whether to pick up the 2012 option which would also void out the 2013 and 2014 options. If the Indians decline the 2012 option they still have Carmona for the 2012 season as he only has 5 years and 125 days of service time, 47 days short of becoming an unrestricted free agent. (A player needs 6 years of service time to become an unrestricted free agent and a year is considered to be 172 days.)

The missing service time came in 2009 when on June 5th after starting the season 2-6 with a 7.42 ERA over his first 12 starts the Indians brass felt he needed to rebuild his body, his mind, and his mechanics so they sent him to the Player Development Complex in Goodyear, Arizona. He worked his way from Goodyear, to Lake County, Akron, and Columbus and finally made his return to the Indians on July 30th. The 54 days spent away from the major league club is why Carmona is only arbitration eligible heading into the 2012 season.

The Indians could decline the 2012 option and offer Carmona arbitration for the 2012 season. By current collective bargaining rules the Indians may not offer less than 80% of the player's salary and performance bonuses the previous year; therefore, the Indians could decline the option and enter an arbitration figure of 4.9 million. Carmona's agent most likely would ask for between 5.5 and 7 million. The Indians, who haven't been to an arbitration hearing in over 20 years (1991 Jerry Brown lost and Greg Swindell won), most likely would settle on some kind of middle ground contract in the neighborhood of 5-6 million.

The question the Indians need to answer is whether or not its worth it to void out the 2013 and 2014 options to save around a million dollars? Does Carmona have more trade value this winter with 3 years of team control versus only 1 year? If Carmona pitches effectively in 2012 could he be the difference between another year of .500 baseball or more? If he pitches well and the Indians aren't in contention for the AL Central title or the Wild Card is he more valuable with 1/2 a year of service or 2.5 years of service? 

The next question is based on performance to date is it possible for Carmona to turn things around and pitch well enough to be worthy of his 2012 option and beyond? In my opinion, the best move for the Indians is to pick up the 2012 option and see what the market holds for Carmona this winter. After all, if Carmona was to perform poorly in 2012 it would only cost the Indians an extra million or so.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Inured Indians: What Impact Did Injuries Have on the 2011 Season?

The overall effect that injuries have on a baseball team is hard to measure because some injuries lead to addition by subtraction, some injuries lead to the door being opened for a young player to finally get an opportunity to get constant playing time, but often times injuries take their toll on a clubs ability to consistently compete. The club may not be able to find that comfort zone that comes from knowing who's pitching, who's catching, and who's hitting where in the lineup.

What impact did injuries have on the 2011 team? In the case of the 2011 Indians, it is much more than probable that the injuries played a big role on the teams in ability to gain traction over the final 115 games or so. Every time that the Tribe seemed to be getting a key player back from injury another injury struck the team.

The Indians visited Anaheim and won their eight straight game after a beautiful outing by Mitch Talbot. Talbot pitches 8 shutout innings on 5 hits while striking out 4 and walking two. The energy and hope created by Talbot's great start were quickly dashed when it was revealed that Talbot was to be placed on the disabled list on April 17th (returned May 25th). Jeanmar Gomez took his spot in the rotation.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

One Explanation for the Hafner Perception

Some of the best baseball arguments often center around an individuals performance relative to previous seasons. For instance, a fan may simply look at a batting average and suggest a player has either vastly improved or is playing much worse while another fan may say the players batting average is just a reflection of increased or decreased BABIP (see Casey Kotchman in Tampa Bay and Austin Jackson in Detroit).

Tony Lastoria of & tackled this perception question about Indians DH Travis Hafner in an article titled Is Hafner Really That Different This Year?  In his article Lastoria tackles the perception of many fans that Travis Hafner, is back to being a productive and feared hitter in the lineup. Many fans also believe that Hafner was not very good the previous two seasons and looked as if his career was fading.

Lastoria concludes that based on Hafner's statistical body of work (shown below and excluding 2008 injury shortened season) that Hafner is really not much different at all this season and that he has leveled out and become a consistent above average hitter. Lastoria feels that Hafner is still one of the best designated hitter options around and that the Indians need Hafner's veteran, power bat in the lineup.

So, why is there, as Lastoria points out, a perception that Hafner is a productive a feared hitter in the lineup? One explanation may be that Hafner is performing very well in 2011 with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP). 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Choo Getting Close to Returning & Playoffs

Good news may be right around the corner for the Cleveland Indians as Shin Soo-Choo is beginning his rehab assignment with Low-A Lake County on Monday night. According to Tony Lastoria at Choo will play rightfield but it is not known if he will play the whole game:

Tony Lastoria: If he does not have any setbacks and shows he is ready, there is a decent chance he could be activated this weekend, though the target date still looks to be August 16th when the Indians start a series in Chicago against the White Sox.
Hopefully, Choo will make amends to the community for a poor choice made earlier this year and return to his 2009-2010 form and lead the Indians to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Prior to the season Choo had some very interesting comments surrounding the 2011 Indians, comments that were mocked by many.  He had this to say to Cleveland Indians Beat Writer Paul Hoynes:

"Playoffs," said Choo. "That's it. Nothing else. . . .That's my goal." "Oh, yeah," said Choo. "We have a good offense, good pitching, too. Most people say we'll be in last place this season. But in baseball you never know. No one thought San Francisco would win the World Series last year."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jason Kipnis & Remembering the 2007 Change at Second Base

The 2011 Indians will look to Jason Kipnis to provide the same spark as Asdrubal Cabrera provided in 2007. 

The 2007 Indians offense needed a boost and second baseman Josh Barfield had posted a disappointing slash line of .244/.273/.318 (.590 OPS) covering 414 plate appearances.  The Indians made the change on August 8th, 2007 by replacing starting second baseman Josh Barfield with a 21 year old infield prospect named Asdrubal Cabrera.  A bold move for the Indians franchise as Cabrera had played most of the season in AA Akron where he posted a .310/.383/.454 slash line in 425 games before being promoted to AAA Buffalo where he appeared in only 9 games (40 PA) prior to his callup.
After the callup, Asdrubal Cabrera finished 2007 with a slash line of .283/.354/.421 (.755 OPS) covering 186 PA.  More importantly, the Indians went 31-14 in games that Cabrera appeared (28-12 in starts) and the Indians held off Detroit and went on to win the AL Central crown.
In 2011 the Indians find themselves in need of an offensive spark and  once again have a need at second base where veteran Orlando Cabrera has posted a slash line of .244/.275/.323 (OPS of .598) covering 335 PA. The Indians will look to 24 year old second base prospect Jason Kipnis to provide the boost that Asdrubal Cabrera provided in 2007. Through 91 games (398 PA) in AAA Columbus, Kipnis posted a slash line of .279/.361/.481 with 12 HR and 55 RBI.
Can Kipnis match Asdrubal's production and value from 07. Asdrubal Cabrera played nearly every game as he was a switch hitter and Kipnis playing time, according to manager Manny Acta, will be determined on a game by game basis dependent on matchup. For additional information on the path that Jason Kipnis took from University of Kentucky to the majors, check out the Jason Kipnis Future Star or Superstar article.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Indians and Carlos Pena

When NFL draft day is lurking, the smart advice is to ignore what clubs are saying and pay attention to what they aren't saying.  Using this strategy with the Indians relative to the 2011 trade deadline means that a right handed hitting outfielder and a starting pitcher may not be the target but a first baseman and back end reliever may be.

Carlos Pena - Cleveland Indians?

To some, this may not make a lot of sense as the Indians have Matt LaPorta and Carlos Santana at first base and a bevy of relievers (Chen Lee, Zach Putnam, Nick Hagadone, and Josh Judy available in AAA Columbus) but there is one player out there that may be available and would provide the Cleveland Indians much benefit at a low cost and that player is Carlos Pena.

Carlos Pena would provide the Cleveland Indians with a middle of the order power bat, leadership in the clubhouse, and gold glove caliber defense at first base.  Each one of these skills is desperately needed on a young Indians club entering a pennant race in the AL Central.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Choo & Santana Off to Slow Starts

Entering Saturdays game in Minnesota against the Twins, the Indians are in first place in the AL Central with with a 13-6 record.  They rank first in the American League in runs scored with 99, first in batting average at .269, first in on-base percentage at .341, and fourth in slugging percentage at .418.  They've managed to  accomplish this with  #3 hitter Shin-Soo Choo and  #4 hitter Carlos Santana struggling to find themselves at the plate.  

Carlos Santana is in his first full season in the majors and has hit in the cleanup spot in every game he's played.  Unfortunately for the Indians, he has not responded favorably posting a slash line of .215/.325/.338 with 2 HR, 10 RBI, and has struck out 13 times while drawing 11 walks.  Manager Manny Acta has said that fans should get used to seeing Santana in the cleanup spot because he is going to be there all year. Good news for the Tribe and Santana is that it appears that he may be coming out of his slump.  He is currently on a five game hitting streak and he has driven in a run in each game.  Additionally, 3 of his 5 hits have gone for extra bases.

Like Carlos Santana, Shin-Soo Choo is off to a slow start.  Choo is currently posting a slash line of .203/.265/.311 with 2HR, 10RBI, and has struck out 21 times while drawing only 7 walks.  Is this something to be alarmed by?  Has Choo had a history of starting slow?  For whatever reason, Shin-Soo Choo is off to an uncharacteristically slow start.  Although the Indians are finding early success, they will need Santana and Choo to contribute in the middle of the order to keep the good times rolling.  


The Indians Lineup vs Lefites

Manny Acta will have decisions to make each time the Indians face a left handed starting pitcher.  Acta has 4 everyday starters who are left handed in Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, and Michael Brantley.  Below are the Indians splits versus left handed pitching for each player on the roster:

Today the Indians take on Brian Duensing of the Minnesota Twins.  In his career he has held left handed batters to a .195/.250/.248 and right handers have hit him at a .278/.338/.416.  The Indians have right handed bats in Adam Everett, Austin Kearns, Shelly Duncan, and Lou Marson on the bench today.  Did Acta make the right call with his lineup or is he simply working off of "gut instinct" and going with the hot hand?  Below are Duensing career numbers vs the Indians:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Grady to Return To Leadoff Hitter?

Sizemore or Brantley....Brantley or Sizemore.....Both?

The purpose of a batting order is to produce runs by getting your best players the most plate appearances and protect the big bats in the lineups.  The Indians have a decision to make soon on whether to bat Grady Sizemore in the leadoff position or drop him in the order and keep Micheal Brantley in the leadoff spot.  Brantley has done an adequate job through the early part of the 2011 season many fans feel it would be a mistake to disrupt the lineup by inserting Grady into the leadoff while dropping Brantley.  

I believe that Manny Acta will insert  Grady Sizemore into the leadoff spot in the lineup against right handed pitching when he returns but Grady will either receive a day off or drop to 6th or 7th in the lineup against lefties.  For his career Sizemore has a slash line against RHP of .292/.382/.521 while only a .230/.320/.380 against LHP.  Brantley in his young career is much more evenly split.  Against RHP Brantley has a slash line of .269/.323/.335 and .278/.322/.361 against LHP.  Additionally, a player loses approximately 18 PA for every position in the lineup that he drops and I believe Manny Acta would rather give the extra at-bats to Grady Sizemore than to Micheal Brantley.  Finally, Brantley and Orlando Cabrera could form a nice wrap around at the bottom of the lineup providing plenty of opportunities for Sizemore to show off his power and drive the runners in.  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sal "The Barber" Maglie & The Cleveland Indians

Sal Maglie won 119 games in his big league career and spent the majority of his career with the New Yrok Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.  He also spent parts of seasons with the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, and  had a very brief stint with the Cleveland Indians in between his time between the NY Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.  Maglie seemed to find himself involved in some of the most memorable games in major league history none bigger than the opposing pitcher in Don Larsen's perfect game.  Much of the detail for this story was from the book PERFECT by Lew Paper, a book I give high praise to.

October 3, 1951 - Worked the first eight innings of the playoff game between the NY Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Left the game after 8 innings trailing 4-1 and watched from the clubhouse as Bobby Thompson hit the "shot heard round the world" sending the NY Giants to the World Series. 

September 29, 1954 Was the game one starter for the NY Giants against the 111 win Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series.   He was replaced after 7 innings with the game tied at 2 with two men on base and Vic Wertz due up.  He watched from the dugout as Vic Wertz drove a ball deep into the right field at the Polo Grounds and Will Mays make "the catch"..  

October 8, 1956 Was the starting pitcher for the NY Giants in Game Five versus the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series.  He took the loss and watched from the dugout as Don Larsen struck out  Dale Mitchell to complete the only perfect game in post-season history.

If you are like me and like stories of guys that overachieve and take interesting routes to success, then Maglie is your type of player.  He was a very popular basketball player in the Niagra Falls area but his true love was baseball and ge turned down a scholarship in basketball to Niagra University in order to draw a paycheck to help his family and spent weekends playing semi-pro baseball.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Reminder to Tribe Fans Why Josh Beckett is a Punk.

The Indians don't have to look to far back for inspiration to battle Josh Beckett this week.  One day after the Indians lost Carlos Santana to a knee injury, Beckett looked to use thug tactics to inspire his teammantes to a final push for the pennant.  I guess using Indian hitters as targtet practice wasn't much of an inspiration as the Red Sox watched the post-seaon from the same perspective as the Indians.  Let's hope this version of Tribe hitters send Beckett to the bench early.

Could my being a Cleveland Indians fan be a leading indicator for my disdain of Josh Beckett?  Lifetime against Cleveland Beckett is only 3-4 with a 5.56 ERA, so that's probably not it.  O.K. I may be masking some bitterness behind those stats, Beckett was the 2007 ALCS MVP by going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA, 18K and 1BB against the Tribe (ALCS GAME 1 RECAP VIDEO HERE).   But how can I justify  being angry at someone who backs up their attitude with dominating performance (PAINFUL GAME 7 WRAP UP VIDEO HERE).  Disliking Beckett solely for that reason would show me to be a sniveling pompous arrogant horses ass like Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe and that is a fate I wish on no man.  My problem with Josh Beckett goes directly to his actions on the mound on one particular evening where he earned the moniker "punk" beyond all reasonable doubt. 

Are there better terms other than punk to describe Josh Beckett?  I did a cursory search on and my handy Merriam Webster Dictionary and found several that may fit the bill: goon, hoodlum, thug, poser, bully, and strong-armer.  I chose the less abrasive word punk but I really wanted to go with the word that sums up Josh Beckett best and that is "Bitch".  I'm certain Kenny Lofton would have some better words to describe Beckett.  Check out the Facebook Group that I stumbled upon while preparing my thoughts: Kenny Lofton can and will beat Josh Beckett's ass

Honorary Punk 2010: Victor Martinez:

"We really didn't try to hit anybody. If you don't pitch [inside] in this game, you're not going to pitch for long," Martinez said. "That was just a two-seamer that just ran in to Duncan and we didn't really try to hit him. And Choo, not either."

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Indians and the Unfriendly Month of April

One of the most used phrases uttered by broadcasters around opening day is that baseball is a marathon not a sprint.  Getting off to a good start was not a benchmark of the Eric Wedge managed teams and that slow-start tradition seemed to continue in Manny Acta's first year as manager.  Getting off to a good start in 2011 would be a nice jolt of positive energy for an organization attempting to bring fans back into the fold after three very disappointing seasons both from a on the field performance standpoint and a public relations perspective.  The Indians 2011 schedule in the month of April includes 14 home games and 13 road games.  The Indians do not face any of last seasons playoff teams and have 7 games against the K.C. Royals.  Can Indians get off to a better start than they did in 2010?  

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day, The American Pastime, and Field of Dreams

Nothing captures the spectrum of emotions like opening day.   To explain to a non-baseball fan the importance of  baseball is a difficult task, but James Earl Jones aptly describe its power in Field of Dreams.  After a long off-season of discussing the ins and outs of baseball, let's take a moment to reflect on pure baseball.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come. 

Full Text After the Video

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Manny Acta and Manager Metrics

Over the winter, I've used this blog to examine the Cleveland Indians including individual players, components of the offense, baserunning, defense, and pitching.  As we are now only one day away from Opening Day I wanted to present some information on the manager Manny Acta and share some of the metrics that Bill James tracks in his annual Bill James Handbook which are used to define a managers style more than to suggest a manager as "good" or "bad".  That will always be a subject of debate among fans.  

In baseball a manager often given too much credit for the success of his teams victories and takes on the brunt of the blame when his team loses.  Managing a winner is often about being in the right place at the right time, as much as it is about strategy.  Unfortunately, from a managerial perspective, Manny Acta has been in the wrong place at the wrong time twice in his managerial career.  In 2007, he took over a struggling Washington Nationals team that finished the 2006 season at 71-91, led them an improved 79-83 record in 2007, a disastrous 2008 record of 59-102, and was fired after a 26-61 start to the 2009 season.  Prior to the 2010 season, Acta interviewed with several clubs and received offers from both the Houston Astros and the Cleveland Indians.   In his first season as manager, Acta led the Indians to a record of 69-93 which dropped Acta's lifetime winning percentage to .385 ( 277-345).  

How much of the success or failure has been solely the responsibility of Manny Acta and how much is it the responsibility of the General Managers in Washington and Cleveland?  As of now, I believe its safe to say that Manny Acta has had insufficient talent at either city to effectively judge him as a manager. With that said, let's look into some of the statistics compiled by Bill James and how the numbers relate to managing style.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Are the 2011 Indians Improved Over 2010?

There are many components of  a winning baseball team.  The best teams will have a balanced blend between starting pitching, bullpen, and offense.  The 2010 Indians had one of the worst offenses and starting rotations in the AL and although the bullpen was a strong suit for the team in the second half of the season, it was less than average over the first half.  With 2/3 of the components being near the bottom of the league and the lone bright spot only being productive for the second half of the season, it should not be surprising that the team lost 90+ games.  Looking at each area of the team by the numbers:

The Offense
  • Held to 2 runs or less 57 times (4-53)
  • 12th in the AL in Runs Scored with 636
  • 12th in the AL with a batting average of .248
  • 10th in the AL with an OBP at .322
  • 13th in AL with a SLG% at .378
  • 13th in the AL with an OPS at .700
  • 7th in the AL with a net gain of +20 for baserunning (Improving the Indians Offense & Kenny Lofton)
  • 11th in the league in Manufactured Runs with 141
The Starting Rotation
  • 11th in the AL in wins with 51
  • 3rd most losses in the AL with 71
  • 11th in the AL with an ERA of 4.53
  • Lowest K/9 rate in the AL of 5.55
  • Highest BB/9 rater in the AL of 3.43
  • 13th in the AL with a WAR of 8.6
  • Batters had the 2nd highest average against in the AL at .274
For a pitching staff that needed all the help they could get, the Indians defense certainly appeared to be more of a hinderance than a crutch. 

The Defense
  • The Indians defense led the league in allowing manufactured runs with 205
  • The Indians defense had the 2nd worst UZR/150 in the AL at -6.4
    • First baseman ranked 2nd last in the AL with a UZR/150 of -4.2
    • Second baseman ranked 3rd worst in the AL with a UZR/150 of -6.2
    • Shortstops were the worst in the AL with a UZR/150 of -6.7
    • Third baseman ranked 4th worst in the AL with a UZR/150 of -6.7
    • Centerfielders were the worst in the AL with a UZR/150 of -24.3
The Bullpen
The 2010 Indians bullpen was the one area that seemed to get stronger as the year moved on.  During the first half of the year the bullpen posted a record of 7-15 with an ERA of 4.69, a K/9 rate of 6.6, a BB/9 rate of 4.7, and a WHiP of 1.59.  Additionally, the opposition put up a first half slash line against the Tribe bullpen of .276/.367/.436 an OPS of .803.  In the second half of the season, the bullpen posted a record or 11-7 with an ERA of 2.95, a K/9 rate of 7.6, a BB/9 rate of 3.1, and a WHiP of 1.16.  The opposition was limited to a slash line of .224/.297/.350.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Who is Jack Hannahan?

Barring a surprise trade (or the New York Yankees allow Eric Chavez to opt-out of his contract), 31-year old infielder Jack Hannahan will find himself as the starting third baseman for the Clevleand Indians.  There are few reasons to get excited and many  more to be disappointed.  As Jon at WFNY wrote about Hannahan: "He’s demonstrated the mediocrity you’d expect from a player who’s played with five different organizations in the past four years."

But, there is more to the Jack Hannahan's sotry than just struggling through his professional baseball career.  According to Jack Hannahan (in depth stories here & here) he had his first drink when he was in 8th grade and liked it, a lot.  
"I'd go out and I'd drink, I'd end up blacking out. Next thing I know, I'd wind up somewhere I wouldn't want to be. I wouldn't know how I got there, or what drugs I took while I was there. It led to many visits to jail. Many visits to detox. I'm just thankful I didn't kill anyone or kill myself."
Jack Hannahan may struggle to hit at the major league level but he's deealt with much more in overcoming the sturggles with drug and alcohol abuse.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rosterbating the Indians Opening Day Roster

Rosterbating the Cleveland Indians Opening Day Roster involves looking at the 40-man roster.  The last bullpen spot, the backup catcher, utility infielder, and the 5th outfielder spots remain up for grabs.  The Indians will have to make some roster moves to possibly add  Travis Buck, Jack Hannahan, Adam Everett, or Paul Phillips.   Keep in mind while figuring the opening day roster out that another move will be have to be made when Grady Sizemore returns, possibly as early as the first west coast trip in April.

At least one roster move will have to be made to accommodate Travis Buck and a second roster move may be made based on the injury status of Jason Donald.  If Donald is unable to go on opening day, the added player may be Jack Hannahan or Adam Everett. If  Donald is able to go on opening day the roster move may be adding Paul Phillips to the roster and sending Lou Marson to Columbus or keeping Marson on the roster and adding Adam Everett as the utility infielder. Or the Indians could still add Adam Everett and Paul Phillips and send Luis Valbuena and Lou Marson to Columbus.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chisenhall Decisions & Options

On March 15, 2010, to the chagrin of many Indians fans, 2008 first round pick and future third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall was reassigned to their minor league camp.  Chishenhall was having a tremendous spring training, hitting .478, 11 hits in 28 at-bats with 5 extra base hits.  Many fans feel that Chisenhall could easily continue to develop at the major league level and point to many that have skipped AAA as evidence.  Some believe that Chisenhall could use some more  at AAA to refine his skill set.  Others vehemently despise the move because it is viewed as strictly a fiscally motivated move to keep Chisenhall's arbitration clock from starting. 

 Indians GM Chris Antonetti told the Akron Beacon Journal that:
''Lonnie has had a very good camp, but he has some development to do. He needs to be a little more consistent against left-handed pitchers and do a better job of knowing the strike zone. Defensively, he is still learning the nuances of third base after being a shortstop.''
Some who argue that Chisenhall needed more time to develop after only posting a .801 OPS in AA were reminded that he had a shoulder injury in May and got off to a slow start and really posted some great numbers to finish with the .801 OPS.  Below is the month by month look at Lonnie Chisenhall's season which reveals that Chisenhall got off to a nice start in April and did in fact tank in May (most likely due to the shoulder injury hampering his swing).  June and July were decent months, August was a monster month, and September (only 6 games) was a normal month.  


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grady Sizemore: The Forgotten Superstar


UPDATE: Thanks to Jordan Bastian:

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Grady Sizemore could make his Spring Training game debut as early as this coming weekend. But the Indians are still not sure how long it might take before the center fielder will be able to handle a full workload.
"With Grady," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said, "we'll have to see how well he progresses, how well his body responds, and how quickly he's able to build up to that volume.
"I don't think it will be very long until he can go play one nine-inning game. It's a question of how long will it take for him to play five or six consecutive nine-inning games."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Improving the Indians Offense & Results

As discussed in the Improving the Indians Offense & Kenny Lofton post which focused on baserunning and the Improving the Indians Offense and Plate Discipline, the 2010 Indians offense was bad.  The team was held to 2 runs or less 57 times posting a 4-53 record,  had an additional 53 games with either 4 or 5 runs scored and posted a losing record of 21-32, and in the  55 games where they scored 5 or more runs and  posted a record of 44-11.   The team offense  ranked 12th in the league in runs scored with 636 (3.99 R/G), 12th in batting average at .248, 10th in OBP at .322, 13th in SLG% at .378, and 13th in OPS at .700.

Two of the more popular prediction model systems for MLB are the CAIRO projection system presented at Replacement Level Yankees Weblog and Baseball Prospectus Pecota System.  The CAIRO projection system has the Indians winning 71 games and the PECOTA system has the Indians winning 74 games.  Can the Indians do better than that in 2011?  If we start by assuming the pitching staff does not improve on its 2010 performance and allows the opposition to score 752 runs but the Indians improve the offense from 636 runs to a marginal 700 runs scored (as projected by PECOTA), the Indians could see a much improved record of 75-87 based on the Bill James Win Expectancy theory discussed in Improving the Indians Offense and Kenny Lofton.   

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Indians Offense & Walks

The 2010 Indians were 6th in the American League in drawing walks with 545.  To answer this question, I've taken the Indians record in games where they drew 0 to 7+ walks and compared the frequency of these events as well as their corresponding win percentage in these games to the AL League Average.  The table indicates that the Indians overall had less games than league average drawing 1,2, or 3 walks and a greater than league average in frequency of drawing 0, 4, 5, 6, or 7 or more walks in a game.   The Indians win percentage exceeded the league average only for games where the team drew 6 walks.

As shown in the tables below, drawing walks is a big part of winning baseball games.  Having a healthy Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana back in the lineup should help increase the Indians walk total in 2011, help increase the frequency of games where the Indians draw 4 or more walks, and hopefully provide the power to provide the payoff for the walks into runs.   If the Indians can continue their trend of having their winning percentage increase when they draw 4 or more walks a game, the Indians should be able to increase their win total in 2011. 

Win %
AL Win %
AL Freq
±AL Win%
±AL Freq