The Indians ended April with a Thud. Losing every game on a west coast trip is never a good way to inspire the fan base. Good thing April is over and we are into May. Let’s look at the Tribe one month into the season.
The Indians ended April 11-17 and on a 6 game losing streak. Not what you expect from a team with high expectations of making the playoffs. Is it time to panic? Not really. It is only one month. Last year they were 11-13 in April. They followed up April by going 18-12 in May. Last year the Indians had two 8 game losing streaks, and on June 10th they were 3 games under .500. This was a streaky team last year and I could easily see them rattling off 6 or 7 wins in a row. The team was at .500 before the 6 game west coast trip. So the record after one month is not a huge concern, but they leave themselves little room to continue their disappearing act at the plate, and in the field.
The Starting Rotation:
The starters began the year a little shaky, but have become the strength of this club. Masterson did not earn a win in the month of April, but he pitched well enough that he should have in three of his six April starts. Is Masterson a #1 starter? Maybe not, but he is definitely a #2. Would the Indians just pay this guy! Masterson’s agent reportedly proposed multiple offers to the Indians with a contract of around 17 million per year for 3 to 4 years. Usually the Tribe balks at contracts for pitchers because they are to long. The Tribe does not want to risk a lengthy contract on pitchers who are all susceptible to injury. Masterson is offering a shorter term contract which should make the Indians front office thrilled. I am just not sure what the Indians are expecting to pay for a starting pitcher who can anchor a staff. 12 million a year gets you an Ubaldo Jimenez type pitcher. Ubaldo has been atrocious in 5 of his 6 starts. He has a 5.19 Era in his first 6 starts and has walked 18 in 34 innings. That looks similar to the Ubaldo who pitched in Cleveland before last July. Are you feeling a little nervous about that signing now Baltimore? 3 years at 17 million per year seems fair to me, so the Indians need to stop with the excuses and sign Masterson. Otherwise we will be watching another warm body in the rotation next year. Yea you could gamble on a veteran coming off a poor year and get another Scott Kazmir, or you could get another Brett Myers. If the Indians are expecting to compete for a playoff spot they can’t afford to gamble on their starting pitching, especially when they would be replacing a front of the rotation starter.
Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister have been solid and consistent on the mound to start the year. I have followed Corey Kluber through the minors to the big league club since the trade with San Diego/ St. Louis for Jake Westbrook. Kluber was considered one of the Padre’s top pitching prospects. He had one off year and was traded. He has consistently been tops in the minor leagues in strike outs and walked very few. This year he has 48 K’s and 12 BB in 45 innings which is following his career norms. He projected as a #2 or #3 starter and that is holding true. Kluber has a 3.6 ERA even though he has pitched 5 games against some of the top offenses in all of baseball. Kluber has pitched two games against the #2 offense and one game against the #3, #4, #5 offenses in MLB. Kluber has always been one of my favorites, and he looks to be a solid #2 or #3 starter.
McAllister has been just as good, if not better than Kluber. He has a 3.16 ERA and like Kluber he doesn’t give a lot of hitter’s free passes. McAllister fits in nicely and has done a good job in the 3 hole.
The 4 and 5 spots have been a problem for the Indians. I am not to worried about Danny Salazar as he seems to be righting the ship after a rough start early on in the season. Even though he has not looked as sharp or seemed to have command of all of his pitches, he still looks like a major league pitcher. His demeanor on the mound just says successful pitcher to me, and I think in the long run he will succeed. Carlos Carrasco is another story. As I write this he has been relieved of his starting duties and placed in the bullpen. Carrasco is just another version of Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona. Carrasco is a pitcher with a great arm, who will consistently put runners on base and make me want to start watching MTV with my wife instead of baseball. Thankfully I will no longer be up to date on the “16 And Pregnant” episodes, as Josh Tomlin has taken Carrasco’s spot in the rotation. Tomlin has pitched great in Columbus to start the year. He was called up to Cleveland this week and in his first start he looked very impressive. Tomlin walks very few batters. Isn’t it strange how not walking people usually correlates to winning. I mentioned in my last post that Tomlin would be back and it took less than a month. Unless there is an injury I believe you have seen the last of Carlos Carrasco starting for the Indians. The Indians still have insurance in Trevor Bauer who has been pitching even better than Tomlin. This is in Columbus also which is a big time hitter’s park. So if there is an injury, Salazar regresses, or Tomlin can’t hold down the 5th spot (I am sure he will – you don’t get the nickname “The Little Cowboy” for no reason), Bauer seems to be ready to step in.
The bullpen so far seems stable. Vinnie Pestano was sent down early in the month after giving up hits to almost every batter he faced. He had a WHIP of 3.38. That means for every inning he pitched he put 3.38 batters on base. I think Hendrix’s WHIP in his first year of youth baseball where the players will pitch will be lower. A WHIP of 1.75 or higher is usually pretty atrocious. Pestano’s velocity has been down last year and the start of this year, and just a couple MPH has made him very hittable. The rest of the bullpen has been very good. The bullpen has stranded 50 of the 60 inherited base runners through May 7th. This puts them at the top of the league in keeping inherited runners from scoring. John Axford has not let one inherited runner score. Then again he has put them on himself and let them cross home plate a few times. Axford is the one part of the bullpen that I am not to sure about. He does have 9 saves out of 11 chances is which is not to bad in one month. Unfortunately he likes to walk batters and he is not unhittable. (I think there is something to this walking batters and a pitchers success rate) He has issued 11 walk and 11 hits in 14 innings. Axford has a 1.57 WHIP which is getting up there near that atrocious level. The Tribe could probably survive an Axford collapse by moving Cody Allen into the closer role and rearranging the bullpen. But ultimately this probably wouldn’t be ideal considering the teams other problems.
In my last post I stated how my main concern about this team was its offense. Well they haven’t changed my opinion much. The Tribe is next to last in the American League in runs scored, and 26th in MLB with a .231 team average. There are only 4 teams all in the National League (where the pitcher bats!) with worse averages. (Side note – The San Diego Padres have a .215 team average….Uh maybe I should stop complaining about the Tribe offense) Other than Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, David Murphey, Nyjer Morgan, Mike Aveiles, and Lonnie Chisenhall (3 of whom are part time players), the rest need to vastly improve at the plate. Jason Kipnis who is currently on the DL has a .234 average, while Michael Bourn is batting around his career average of .266. Unfortunately Bourn has done little else as he has played in only 15 games. He has 2 stolen bases but he has been caught 3 times, and he only has scored 6 runs all year. I didn’t think so at the end of spring training, but Nyjer Morgan needs to be on this team. Morgan is batting .294 with 3 stolen bases in 3 attempts, and 5 runs scored in half the at bats Bourn has had. Not to mention he is playing better defense.
The rest of the lineup would bring the San Diego Padres team average down:
Asdrubal Cabrera .215
Nick Swisher .202
Ryan Rayburn .167
Carlos Santana .139
And Mr. Blutarsky (Jason Giambi) .000
It will be almost Memorial Day before Giambi plays again. He has not reached first base since spring training, other than a hit by pitch. That includes games with the Indians and the Akron Rubber Ducks. He actually didn’t even get a hit in spring training. He reached base twice by walk. His last hit in a game was last year! The Tribe’s offense needs a jump and the Indians need to bite the bullet soon with Giambi. Jesus Aguilar is in AAA Columbus. Last year he set the Akron record with 105 RBIs in 130 games. He is off to a fast start in Columbus this year batting .319 with 7 HRs and 17 RBIs in 31 games. The Tribe is not good enough to waste a roster spot on a player who is not helping. Sooner or later Giambi is going to need to produce or the Tribe needs to make a change.
It is good to see Chisenhall producing and Brantley is Mr. Consistent. I believe the rest of the lineup will improve, but I do think this team needs one more bat. Preferably a right handed bat.
Where the hell do I start? This is the one area that has derailed the Tribe more than any other. The starting pitching has had a few bad games, the closer has let a few slip away, and the offense has been absent for most of the year. But it is the defense that has ultimately cost the Indians the most. This does not just a couple of players, but the entire team.
Yan Gomes- The poster boy for the Tribe’s bad defense. He has 9 errors already and leads the league with 4 PB (past balls). Last year for the entire year he had 3 errors and 4 PB. Yan you’re not going to get the last 2 years of that contract you just signed if you continue to play like that.
Michael Bourn – Who in the hell voted this guy a gold glove centerfielder in the national league? I have yet to see a gold glove defender, including last year. This year I wouldn’t put him in the top half of American League centerfielders. He only has one error but the number of bad routes I have seen, along with missed diving/sliding catches, and running into the other outfielders tells me he is not a premier defender.
Asdrubal Cabrera – has 5 errors and has not looked that great in the field. He had better start hitting because the Tribe has Fransico Lindor in Akron who is considered a gold glove defender, and I am sure he can hit .215 if not better.
Nick Swisher – 4 Errors and he could have been charged with more. I have watched a few games where Swisher has not given much effort on coming off the bag at first. I really expect more from Swisher.
The Tribe has plenty of time to turn the season around and get on the plus side of the win/loss column. They need the bats to come around but they really need the defense to step up.
Ok this is a Tribe blog but the NFL draft is tonight so a couple of things. One -Johnny Manziel reminds me of Doug Flutie. Flutie’s chance in the NFL came late in his career because everyone thought he was to short. Flutie was a great QB and I loved watching him. Manziel may be fun to watch also, but it is his off the field activities that tell me not to draft him. There was risk with Flutie and his size, but there was no risk with how Flutie carried himself off the field. The Browns are could be kicking themselves if they don’t draft Manziel and he turns out to be great. I just wouldn’t take the chance and would stick with the safer choice. Watkins, Mack, Robinson, and especially Clowney if they could get him.
Second – I really hope my Buccaneers or the Browns draft my man from Kent State, Dri Archer. The guy may not make it in the NFL if he isn’t durable enough, but man is he fun to watch. Who knows it could be Manziel to Archer soon.
I am trying to find what works for me in this blog. I would like to write just a little more often, but keep the content much shorter. This is a very difficult assignment for me. I have a very hard time putting my ideas down and it can take days for me to finalize my post. I have always struggled with writing, and I never considered myself very good. I appreciate all the comments on the site and those who have told me in person they enjoy the blog. That encourages me to try harder so thank you. So with that said I am going to try and post a weekly recap. Hopefully I can find a rhythm that works for me. Hopefully the Tribe can get back into rhythm soon.
The Tribe locked up Ryan Raburn for two more years with a club option for a third year at a very reasonable salary of roughly 2.5 million. The Indians bench has been one of the strengths this year, and should be for a couple more years hopefully. After trading for Mike Aviles this winter the Indians signed him to a contract extension through 2015, while catcher Yan Gomes is making the league minimum through 2015. The Tribe’s bench gives Francona a lot of options when it comes to roster management during a game. Gomes has been looking superior defensively to Carlos Santana behind the pate, and Rayburn and Aviles can play almost any position if asked. If fact Rayburn pitched in the 9th inning of Thursday nights fiasco against his former team the Detroit Tigers. The bullpen was decimated from the previous nights 14 inning loss and Raburn took one for the team by going out to pitch in a lost cause. Actually he posted a perfect inning and struck out Detroit’s Matt Tuiasosopo.
Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Rayburn owns you!
The Tribe went 2 – 5 for the week. They started out the week playing the lowly Miami Marlins. After getting beat down 10 – 0 on Friday the Tribe won the next two to take the series from Miami. The Indians then came home to start a four game series against the 1st place Detroit Tigers. BIG SERIES…. Big Let Down. I could of put this in the Ugly column but lets not panic. Yea the Tigers have a good team. Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Tori Hunter, Victor Martinez, not to mention a CY Young pitching staff. They own the Indians this year. They do have problems with the rest of the league. I am not saying that the Indians will win this division, but I don’t see why they can’t stay close to Detroit. The Tigers are not good defensively and if they don’t hit extra base hits they move base to base. They are the slowest team I believe I ever saw. Fans use to think Travis Hafner was slow, but he really wasn’t that bad. Victor Martinez on the other hand couldn’t out run my friend JJ. And for those of you who know JJ that’s slow. Prince Fielder makes Miguel Cabrera look small and Cabrera is a fat ass! The point being the Tigers are not perfect and they do lose quite regularly to everyone but the Indians. If you take away the games between the two teams the Tigers record would be 55 – 42 while the Tribe would be 59 – 40. They play 3 more games against each other in Detroit, so the Indians could theoretically make up ground over Labor Day weekend, and there is 7 weeks of baseball left. That is one game a week. Don’t forget that on June 11th the Tribe was 5 1/2 games behind Detroit, but by June 30th was in 1st place. I don’t think the Tribe wins the division, possible but not probable. I do think if they keep chasing Detroit ultimately they will be in good position to win a wild card spot. I don’t see this group of players quitting on Francona.
I was talking to my friend John at Thursday nights game. He thought the Tribe should get into a fight with Detroit. The way that Detroit has pushed us around lately I am starting to think that’s not a bad idea. The Indians might want to get physical with the Tigers just to let them know they are not intimidated by them. I don’t see Francona going there, but by that last game in Detroit if the scenario hasn’t changed… I would throw down.
Corey Kluber has been one of the biggest surprises this year for the Tribe. Kluber came out in the first game against Detroit and pitched 7 1/3 innings of shut out baseball. He should of won that game if not for a melt down by Chris Perez in the ninth. I am glad Perez is not talking to the media. What do you want to hear him say after that mess. Just shut up and go do your job, I don’t need to hear any excuses. Any way Kluber was fantastic. He comes to the game the next day complaining his middle finger hurts. Now he is on the DL for 6 to 8 weeks. For a team that needs things to go their way this was a major blow. Danny Salazar has looked impressive so far but it still can’t be good when you lose one of your best pitchers. Last night Scott Kazmir left the game early and I am not sure why. I was hoping the Tribe would sign Kazmir next to a new contract. Hopefully this is only a minor setback and nothing serious, because the Indians are not in a position to lose starting pitchers in a playoff race.
Ok first thing first. I’m writing a blog and you haven’t heard from me since opening day. What can I say, the game went 16 innings and we lost. It takes a while to get over a game like that. Really I have been very busy with school, studying for my Praxis 2 test, the boy …………….. I ran out of gas. I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT I SWEAR TO GOD!
OK I’ve been lazy. I don’t plan on blogging once every three months but who knows with me, I might. At least I am not one of those people who send you daily post. You rarely have to read my crap. A big THANKS to those of you who do, and I especially enjoy everyone who responds to my post. I will try and post more but don’t expect much, or you may be let down again. So as Joliet Jake says to Elwood as he drops Carrie Fisher and walks off, “Let’s go!”
Remember those great spaghetti westerns from the 1960’s starring Clint Eastwood, A Fist Full of Dollars, A Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
The Tribe is starting to remind me of them. These movies were filmed on shoe string budgets. They filmed them in inexpensive locales such as Spain, and the actors they used were cheap. The cast consisted of new actors such as Eastwood who had few film roles to his credit before A Fist Full of Dollars. Sometimes the actors they cast into roles were well past their glory days. These movies tried to emulate Hollywood’s big productions on a much smaller budget. I truly enjoyed them, but they could be hard for some to watch. Same can be said for the Tribe. The Indians are hoping some young players who have never gone through a full season will carry them, and they have added some bit players who are at the end of their line to help. The team budget is what it is. Although the Indians have a much smaller payroll than the Yankee’s and even other teams in our division, they are still competing. I enjoy watching this year’s version of the Indians, but sometimes they just look low budget. So let’s review this season’s Cleveland Indians. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.
There is a lot of good that can be said of Tribe, but none more than Jason Kipnis. This guy is a tough ballplayer. I told you before that he was one of my favorites and he is going to take this city over. We are all Kipnises!
Shin-Soo Choo after a slow start came on after being moved to the lead off position. This move was out of necessity at the time, but Choo has taken it and not looked back. On May 14 Choo was batting .236 with one homerun and 13 RBI’s. That is the day Acta moved him to the leadoff spot. Now for the season Choo is hitting .299 with 10 Hrs, and 34 RBI’s. Choo has definitely been good, and the move by Acta GREAT.
Asdrubal Cabrera picked up right where he left off; showing last year was no fluke. Although he turns in that sports center play every once in a while, his defense could be better. Cabrera and Kipnis do make a nice double play combination which is a must with this pitching staff.
The bullpen mafia of Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez: The rest of the bullpen has had its ups and downs, but this trio has been pretty much lights out. Pestano is fun to watch as he comes flying out of the bullpen and usually strikes out at least one batter if not more.
Michael Brantley has had a hit in every game since May it seems like. Actually he has had a hit in every game but three since May 20th. He is batting .288 with 44 RBI’s and 10 stolen bases while being moved all over the lineup. Maybe Bradley is not a superstar, but he is definitely an everyday player.
Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez: Both have had their problems this season, but both have looked like #1 starters for more than a few outings in a row. I could probably throw Derek Lowe into this group even though he has not been impressive lately, but he is pitching a lot of innings and doing what was expected. Zach McCallister in his few starts has looked impressive and very consistent. As the starting pitching goes so goes this team.
Lou Marson and Casey Kotchman are two of my favorites. Marson after a horrendous start where he had four hits at the end of May. He is now batting .293. Marson is a great defensive catcher who was said to have a great bat. Maybe he is finally starting to show it. Kotchman takes a lot of heat for his low batting average, but he is hitting .241 with 10 HR’s and 34 RBI’s. His glove at first is insane and a joy to watch. I haven’t seen a first baseman this good defensively in a Tribe uniform before. For all of the praise Hannahan gets at third Kotchman deserves some love also.
Travis Hafner. I like Hafner and always remember how much he was feared in the 2007 season. I am beginning to tire waiting for that player to return. This offense clicks so much better when he is in the lineup even though his numbers are dipping this year. The Tribe really needs Hafner to stay healthy and be in the lineup. They could really use his bat, but even if he doesn’t have the best year he makes others around him better.
Johnny Damon began to hit as June progressed. It certainly took long enough and his overall stats are not pretty. If the Tribe is going to hang on for this playoff run then Damon needs to play like the Damon of old. And another thing: Michael Brantley HATES Johnny Damon. If you go to a game watch Damon play catch with Brantley between innings. Damon throws the ball all over the place and Brantley is running around retrieving balls. It is like I was playing catch with Brantley. In fact when Damon is in the field that is what I envision I would look like playing left field in the majors. Really. He circles and stumbles around trying to catch fly balls hit to him. His throws will bounce numerous times to the cutoff man who is standing in the outfield. I invented a new drinking game. Take a drink for every time the ball bounces when Damon throws it in. Plan on getting drunk. Here is a hilarious example of Damon’s outfield adventures on YouTube that also stars Manny Ramirez.
The back-end of the starting rotation: Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez had a rough first half, Gomez so bad that he was sent to back to triple A. The Tribe doesn’t have the offense to have guys in the rotation with 5 + ERAs. Especially when your top two starters can throw a clunker at any time and your #3 starter is working towards a 5 ERA.
Any time the other team starts a lefty: The Tribe lineup is left handed dominate, and they struggle against left handed pitching. They bat .225 against lefties and .276 against righties. Their record is 35 -25 versus righties and 9 – 16 versus lefties. Other teams are calling up any left handed pitcher they have to face the Indians. Don’t expect to see a right handed pitcher come playoff time.
The bullpen: The backend of the bullpen has had its problems. Dan Wheeler (back to triple A), Jairo Asencio (released), Rafael Perez (DL since April), Tony Sipp, and a few others. The Tribe is looking for some stability from the last guys out of bullpen. Nick Hagadone and Scott Barnes have showed promise but are new to the majors. Sipp is a home run waiting to happen anytime he enters the game.
Carlos Santana: Santana continues to walk, but the Indians need so much more from one of their core players. It would be nice to see Carlos get hot in the second half and carry this team. At the very least he needs to live up to his potential for this team to compete for the postseason.
Grady Sizemore: Ugh!
Lonnie Chisenhall: He was starting to look like a major league option and a bat this team could use. Then he gets hit by a pitch and is out for most of the season.
Nick Hagadone: One of the really good bullpen guys the Tribe had in the minors. Hagadone comes up and looks great. He has a bad spell for a couple weeks, nothing most rookies don’t face. It gets ugly when he decides to punch a wall with his pitching hand. Season over. Rule number one for pitchers don’t walk anyone. Rule number two don’t punch anything with your pitching hand.
Left field: I already mentioned Damon but anytime a lefty pitches and someone replaces him it is not pretty. Aaron Cunningham and The White Zombie (Shelley Duncan) make me cringe whenever they are in the lineup. The Tribe’s splits versus left handed pitchers and their troubles with no right handed bat/left fielder have to be their biggest problem.
The Tribe has been in first or within a couple games most of the first half of the season, so they are making the summer fun. Let’s hope Santana, Damon and Hafner kick it up a notch, the starting pitching doesn’t crumble, and the rest of the gang continue producing. No matter what happens I will still be watching. The Tribe is Joliet Jake and I’m Carrie Fisher when it comes to baseball. It doesn’t take much for me to fall back into their arms. Enjoy the ride and I will talk to you again hopefully before the snow flies. But don’t count on it.