Editors Note: I started writing this at the beginning of the baseball season. I wanted to publish it on opening day as I have in the past. Well……… here we are in the middle of May. Saturday Night Live could probably make a skit about me and procrastinating. I was almost done with the positional players when the season started, so I finished that up and I’m publishing what I had completed. I will try and post a couple more times and I hope you enjoy my thoughts on this team at the beginning of the season.
A few months ago Saturday Night Live had their 40th anniversary special. I eagerly anticipated watching the show that has entertained me for 40 years. I don’t watch it regularly, but I enjoy seeing the highlights on the Today show. Some people complain that it is not as good as it used to be. I have always claimed that every year, including the original cast, there
are slow; dull; boring sketches. It only takes one or two sketches to make the show great and memorable. After watching the anniversary special I was kind of let down. I was expecting so much more from the show that meant so much to our nation’s laugh track. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the show. I just was expecting more. I feel as though the Tribe is like Saturday Night Live. I generally always have such high expectations for the Indians, but in the end I am let down and slightly disappointed. This year some prognosticators have picked the Tribe to go as far as the World Series and win! Anything less and I am sure there will be plenty of people moaning and groaning on how ownership didn’t spend enough, while they emphatically cheer on the inept Cleveland Browns. I expect the Cleveland Indians will probably not meet the high expectations placed upon them this year and I will be to some extent dissatisfied as I was with the anniversary special. Still I’m sure I will be entertained even though every game may not be great or a win. Hopefully there will be a few moments that will make for a memorable summer. Here are my thoughts on where they stand heading into this season.
Some have claimed this to be one of the best young pitching staffs in the majors. The starters’ performance the second half of last year being the main reasoning for these claims. Corey Kluber had an incredible season. I didn’t predict a Cy Young year, but I saw this coming. Kluber was the league leader is strikeouts even in well known hitter’s leagues throughout his minor league career. I have a hard time seeing Kluber duplicating last season. But like Michael Brantley, Kluber is Mr. Consistent and I don’t see a big drop off from him. Carlos Carrasco finally found a spot in the rotation and actually pitched as well as Kluber the last few months. Trevor Bauer seems to be on the verge of solidifying his spot in the rotation, if he can control his first inning problems and not walk batters. The final two spots in the starting rotation are up in the air with T.J. House and Zac McAllister in those spots for the time being. Both looked solid at times last year and I fully expect one of them to hold down one of the spots in the rotation. The Tribe had plenty of pitchers to take the place of one if not both if they failed. The signing of Glavin Floyd to a 4 million dollar contract was considered low risk, but he is now done for the year. Shortly after Floyd’s injury Josh Tomlin was sent to the doctor’s office. A team strength in starting pitching became a concern after those two injuries. Floyd’s money could have been money well spent on a right handed bat which I will discuss later, and although I like Tomlin he has not been exceptionally “good” the last couple years. Still the team is not shorthanded in the starting pitching department despite the 2 injuries during spring training. They still have Danny Salazar who has the potential to become a dominate pitcher, along with a pitcher I believe will make an impact at some time on this staff in Shawn Marcum. Marcum at one time was a fairly decent starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers. He ran into some health problems that sidelined him for most of last two years. I believe he would have made the opening day lineup but I have heard that his arm is still not up to full strength yet. I fully anticipate that Marcum will not only be in this rotation at some point this year, but contributing. The Indians have two spots that could be question marks and 4 pitchers to fill those spots. I expect that at least one of the starters penciled in on opening day (House or McAllister) will be capable of holding a spot in the rotation down, and if one falters for Salazar or Marcum to claim the final spot. That still would leave one extra starting pitcher in case of another injury. The majority of teams in MLB would love to have House, McAllister, Salazar, or Marcum as their 5th starter. Enter Matt Foley. The starting pitching just needs to realize how good they are and do what they do. The starting pitching should keep this team in most games, if not it could be a long season in a van down by the river.
Pathological Liar Tommy Flanagan – Position Players
Last year the team’s defense single handily kept the Tribe from the post season, but the offense also often disappeared. Defensively the Tribe had one of their worst seasons on record and they were statistically the worst defensive team in major league baseball last year. The Indians led baseball in errors, and were last in fielding percentage. They were last in many defensive metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating UZR, dWar, and almost every other defensive rating system. Improvements in the defense alone could be enough to propel the Indians into postseason contention. Yes the defense improved last year with Santana moving to first and Ramirez taking over shortstop, but there were more problems than just that. Kipnis needs to pick it up in the field, especially if he is going to be so dismal at the plate (He will be better at the plate this year, trust me). Kipnis’ range is lacking and he just never seems to come up with ball when he dives. The same could be said for Chisenhall at third. If he is not going to hit for average or power, he better shore up the defense at third. My biggest pet peeve is Michael Bourn in centerfield. He came from Atlanta as a gold glove centerfielder. I have not witnessed a gold glove caliber player in Michael Bourn yet. In fact I don’t see Bourn as anything more than an average defender. It has been mentioned that Nick Swisher may play outfield some this year. If the Tribe thinks he is a viable option in the field they need to overhaul the entire scouting and coaching staffs. After watching Swisher in the outfield last year I wondered if he had ever put on a glove before. I had better not ever see him there again. Other than Gomes behind the plate, Brantley in right field, Ramirez at short, and Santana at first the Indians need to improve immensely in the field.
I have been saying for years how the Indians need to go and get at least one additional bat for the lineup and preferably that bat should be right handed. The Indians were 7th last year in the American League in runs scored, and 7th in OPS (Which is On Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage). The runs scored put the Indians in the middle of the American League in that category. The problem is that 36 more runs would have tied them with the Orioles for 6th place, but 36 less runs would have put them in 13th place. There was a large gap between the 7th place Indians and the 6th place Orioles, let alone first place (The Angels scored over 100 runs more than the Indians). The Indians were just as close to being next to last in the American League in runs scored than being in 6th place. The Tribe was next to last in OPS and by a fairly large margin vs. left handed pitching. Teams know that if you throw a lefty at Cleveland, the offense struggles to hit for power.
What did the Indians do to correct these deficiencies? They stayed the course, only adding the left handed hitting Brandon Moss. The Indians said they were going to put more emphasis on defense, and game situations in spring training. (Yes and I’m going to put more emphasis on not procrastinating. I may not do it as much but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have a problem with it.) They think that they have the players on the roster to compete and that a lefty dominate lineup can succeed. “Yea that’s the ticket” as Tommy Flanagan the Pathological Liar would say. More
practice doesn’t make a defense that much improved at this level, and haven’t we been in need of a right handed power hitter since before the Matt LaPorta trade in 2008. I do believe that the addition of Moss will help the offense. This offense needs a power hitter and I believe it will be better with that homerun threat. 2 years ago when power hitter Mark Reynolds was hot for the first 2 months, the offense thrived during his scorching start to the season. Kipnis had an awful season last year. This guy has done nothing but produce throughout his career. One bad year can’t damper my expectations for one of my favorite players. Brantley didn’t get the name Dr. Smooth for nothing. I don’t expect him to improve but I don’t see any reason he can’t put up similar numbers to last year at the plate. One of the great things about Brantley is how consistent he is. There have been rumblings that Murphy could be traded to relieve the glut of outfielders the Indians have. I hope this doesn’t happen as I have doubts about Nick Swisher at the plate. Chisenhall and Bourn are players who also concern me with the bat. Chisenhall had a great first half and even worse second half. If he trends anywhere near last year’s dismal second half the Indians will need to contemplate a switch. Bourn has never had that great of batting average and speed has always been a huge part of his game. Bourn has definitely lost a step as his stolen base totals have decreased along with his success rate. If his speed is not there then Bourns’ value will be diminished. One player I would like to see be given a chance to compete is Jesus Aguilar. He is right handed with power and done nothing but drive in runs in the minors. I don’t want to compare him, but I am still bringing up this name, David Ortiz. Ortiz was dropped by the Minnesota Twins in 2002. He was promptly picked up by the Boston Red Sox managed by Terry Francona, and immediately became a superstar at age 27. Aguilar is 24 and coming into his prime years, and as I mentioned he has done nothing but put up huge RBI totals in his minor league career. Ortiz is so dangerous due to his lightning quick bat speed and power. I have read that the one knock on Aguilar is that some scouts believe his bat speed is a little slow. Never less I still would like to see him get an everyday shot in this lineup for awhile. I would give him a place in this lineup over Swisher if that tells you anything. What would this team look like with an Ortiz batting in it? We would be World Series champs every year. Yeah that’s the ticket!
Yeah they have a few in the minors still and what they do have on the major league team Francona will use like a male prostitute. The Indians will get there moneys worth out of them. I could comment on the numerous different arms in the bullpen, but that could take me another month to finish. I’ve got house chores I have been procrastinating about.