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A Eulogy For the 2015 Indians

What can you say about the 2015 Cleveland Indians? They had their moments, sure, but to compare the end result to where we figured they would be in late September before the whole party began in April, leaves an almost unexplainable discrepancy.

When the front office pulled off the coup of landing Terry Francona, straight out of the ESPN broadcast booth in 2013, it was supposed to be different. When they pulled out all of the stops for Nick Swisher, and then signed Michael Bourn, under the RADAR, it promised to be a new day in Cleveland.

All three had grossly underperformed in Cleveland, and two of them didn’t last three full seasons. The third, Francona, was brought aboard by someone who opted not to stick around to watch it all crumble. It crumbled in Boston, but they had a couple of shiny trophies on the mantle to remind them of the good times. Progressive Field has only a painted grey flag with the numbers “2013” to show for all of they hype that came with the 2012-2013 off-season.

The 2015 season didn’t mean the arrival of too many new faces; the headliner of the group was Brandon Moss, but the former Oakland Athletic was damaged goods, and the Indians’ brass was all about the reclamation projects (see: Kazmir, Scott). Gavin Floyd and Jeff Manship decided to come along for the ride, joining the pitching staff. They didn’t figure to need a lot of new faces, as the familiar faces were supposed to carry this squad to a title, said the experts at Sports Illustrated.

After all, they had the reigning Cy Young winner, in Corey Kluber1no longer Hans set to take the ball on Opening Day, and pick up where he left off in 2014. Carlos Carrasco showed the accountants enough in the second half of the prior season, that the club decided to extend him 5 years. Trevor Bauer was expected to turn the corner this season, Danny Salazar was expected to bounce back from a sophomore slump of sorts, and Gavin Floyd was the big veteran the team needed to eat up innings at the back of the rotation every fifth day.

It turned out to be the rookie Cody Anderson, and not Floyd, due to completely foreseeable injury, that owned the 5th spot, after Bruce Chen and Shawn Marcum reminded everyone why they were available to anyone willing to give them a shot. Bauer had his glimpses, but finds himself in a battle with Josh Tomlin for a 2016 rotation spot, after Tomlin showed flashes of brilliance, but no consistency in 2015.

Those who did start on the bump, on a semi-regular basis, all flirted with no-hitters. Trevor Bauer was first, but it was early in the season, so he combined with the bullpen for about 8 innings in Tampa, before Nick Hagadone blew the no-no and the shutout. Kluber went 5 or 6 on multiple occasions. Cody Anderson went 5, to kick off a remarkable streak of games in Tampa for the rotation. It was during that stretch that Carlos Carrasco came closest to finishing the job, surrendering a hit with 2 outs in the 9th. Carrasco was on a nice run last Friday against the Royals’ taxi-squad, the night after they clinched their first division title since 1985. Unless it happens in the next four games, Len Barker’s 1981 perfecto against Toronto will remain the last no-hitter of any sort from Tribe pitching.

In a time when the city has moved on to the Browns and getting Johnny Manziel on the field, you could put the celebrity quarterback in the same bucket with the group that plays 81 games a year in the building a few blocks south of First Energy Stadium. You might love the snapshots, but have to understand there’s nothing sustainable, just yet.

Carlos Santana is a first basemen; his days of catching or playing third base have gone the way of the dodo. That might be more of a Yan Gomes thing than a Santana thing, but the effect was felt when Gomes’ season was put on hold in early April, and we entered the black hole of the Roberto Perez/Brett Hayes platoon offensively. The thing offensive about that duo is that fans took offense to the lineup card, but Yan couldn’t go between suffering an injury on April 11th and returning to the lineup in late May.

Arguably, Yan never got things going with the bat all, after a 1-for-4 outing on Opening Day. It was June 6th before he broke the Mendoza line, and his water mark in the batting average category was .237, after a 3-for-4 day in a home loss to the Yankees in August.

At that point, who even cared? They were 7 games under .500, 14.5 games behind the Royals, and in the middle of spending a full month in the American League Central Division cellar. These are symptoms of a team whose clean-up hitter was batting .229, and I’m not talking about Ryan Raburn here.

Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley had some lofty expectations set on them, and despite some really badly-timed slumps, they’ve given everyone everything they can honestly expect at the plate, when you’re looking at the big picture. The problem is, that can’t do it alone, and the players who manned the left side of the infield on Opening Day in Houston weren’t cutting in the field or at the plate. Eventually, the club understood the formula for insanity, doing the same shit and expecting different results, wasn’t going to work, with Jose Ramirez at shortstop and Lonnie Chisenhall at third base, though Chisenhall was reborn as an outfielder, a la Alex Gordon, in the minor leagues.  There’s a definite “to be continued” happening there, so stay tuned.

Alas, we get the relatively unknown Giovanny Urshela up from the minor leagues to play third base, and not too far behind, but way too late for many die-hard Tribe fans, Francisco Lindor to play short. People who couldn’t pick the latter out of a lineup admired and pined for the services of Lindor in Cleveland. Going against the grain of everything not named LeBron James in Cleveland, Lindor has lived up to the hype, and should be named American League Rookie of the Year. In resetting a season that largely makes me frown, it’s all smiles when it comes to the 8th overall pick from the 2011 draft.

Lindor passes the eyeball test, even when he swings and misses. At shortstop, he turns into outs and fielder’s choices into double plays. While I liked Julio Franco, Omar Vizquel, and various stages of the Asdrubal Cabrera Experience, it’s fair to say this young man is one of a kind. He has fun, he takes instruction, and oh by the way, the numbers on the stat sheet are sexy as hell too. They’re not good for a rookie, they’re good for a baseball player. It’s all there in black and white.

The bullpen did some things, like suffer through CC Lee, Scott Atchison, and Anthony Swarzak outings. Zach McAllister and Bryan Shaw didn’t look too bad on paper, but you always cringed when Tito called to the bullpen for their services. Cody Allen was able to stay the course for what he’s been over the course of his still young career, and he will continue to be the starter until he veers obscenely off course (see: Perez, Chris). Manship and Austin Adams seemed to be better with each appearance. We also saw some nice things from Floyd and Shawn Armstrong, but in very small sample sizes.

They sent Marc Rzepcynski packing at the deadline, when Brandon Moss and David Murphy were already gone. Due to their ability to clear waivers, Swisher and Bourn were moved after the traditional July 31 deadline. The moves brought back AAA slugger Abraham Almonte and the albatross contract of Chris Johnson in return; it’s very likely that neither are long-term options, but nice placeholders until the farm system develops recent draft picks a little more.

It was clear after a 7-14 April that this team was not World Series-worthy and the ceiling was reset from 94 wins to 83, and they will be very lucky to even reach that plateau. We’ll miss them anyway.

Rest in Peace, 2015 Cleveland Indians2…or play golf, fish, and have fun with your family.  I’m just offering some parting words on the ball club.  These players should enjoy their lives..

References
1 no longer Hans
2 …or play golf, fish, and have fun with your family.  I’m just offering some parting words on the ball club.  These players should enjoy their lives.

Fun Stats about the Cleveland Indian's Batters

Catcher:

Roberto Perez: Our backup catcher has had some issues replacing being the everyday catcher after Yan Gomes was injured. One of the things he has thrived with is drawing walks. Roberto Perez walks in 18.3% of his at bats which would rank 3rd in majors if he was qualified. He has also been above average defensively and has proven to be serviceable starter at catcher despite his poor batting average.

1st base:

Carlos Santana: Santana has been a stalwart of our lineup for years now, and is known as a decent hitter with one of the best eyes in the game. This year is no different as he has the second best walk rate in the MLB walking nearly 1 out 5 at-bats. One stat that concerns me though is that he pulls the ball more than 50% of the time he makes contact.

Second Base:

Jason Kipnis: We all know that Jason Kipnis is killing it this year. He has been making solid contact with just about everything this year as only 9.7% of the balls he hits in play can be considered softly hit balls. If he continues this pace (on pace for almost 10 wins over replacement) he should be a candidate for the AL’s MVP.

Shortstop:

Jose Ramirez: Ramirez has really struggled in this season as an everyday shortstop. Right now he is second worst in wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) with only 46. According to Fangraphs a 100 score in wRC+ is considered average while a 60 is considered awful. Plus his defense has been shaky at best. I’m not saying #FreeLindor is the best option, but I’m pretty sure Ramirez isn’t.

3rd Base:

Lonnie Chisenhall: The only thing that is keeping Lonnie Chisenhall in the positive is his defense. Offensively he’s been really bad. He’s been having trouble getting solid contact with the ball as he’s made medium or hard contact on only 72.7% of the time he’s put the ball in play which is second worst in the majors.

Outfield

Michael Brantley: Michael Brantley leads the league with a 1.77 walk to strikeout ratio. (Second place Nori Aoki has 1.5 and a distant third place Carlos Santana has 1.29.) Brantley also has the second highest contact rate in the entire majors only behind the contact hitter Ben Revere. Look for Michael Brantley to keep up this pace and perhaps improve on some numbers.

Michael Bourn: Michael Bourn so far this year has brought nothing to the table that a replacement player wouldn’t bring. Below average both at bat and on the field. The sad thing is that it could get worse. Michael Bourn has a .322 batting average on balls in play, which will only decrease along with his batting average as the season goes on.

Ryan Raburn: Raburn has been splendid in his platoon with David Murphy.  Against lefties this year he has batted .338/.403/.618 and leads the league with the most weighted runs created against lefties. He’s been hitting the ball hard 48.4% of the time, which would be 2nd in the league if he was qualified.

David Murphy: While he hasn’t been as good as Raburn in this platoon combo he certainly has shown his value at the plate with nice slash stats against righties going  .330/.364/.466. Sadly his defense has been rather poor.

DH/ Utility

Brandon Moss: Our top free agent pick-up this year has proven to be a valuable piece to the Indians lineup. Unfortunately he has struggled in clutch situations so far (-.53 clutch score 25th worst in the majors).

Nick Swisher: This is more strange than anything. When Swisher makes contact exactly 20% of the time its soft contact exatly 50% of the time its medium contact and 30% of time its hard contact.

Mike Aviles: Mike Aviles has done surprisingly well against righties in limited opportunities. His .333/.355/.500 could get him more at bats especially with Ramirez struggling.

For part two on Indian’s pitchers  click here

Tribe Time Now Episode 15: The Power of the Stache?

Was the power of John Axford’s mustache powering the Indians bullpen last year? Is its absence this year explanation for the bullpens lackluster performance thus far? Hayden Grove and I discuss that and more on episode 15 of the Tribe Time Now podcast:

 

Topics:

  • Kipnis and batting philosophy
  • D-day/throwing in the towel: when will it happen
  • Team building philosophy: How and why were the Indians built the way they were
  • The bullpen: what is wrong this year?
  • Marlins head coaching situation: it’s effects and what would happen in Cleveland

Don’t forget to join us Saturday, June 20th at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up. Information can be found here.

Kluber Enters Record Books… Again; Top Third of the Lineup Dragging the Team Behind Them

The dichotomy of the top third of the order and middle third of the order: A study of the last 7 days

Since the early days of last week, Santana has solidified himself as the number two hitter in Terry Francona’s “new and improved” lineup. Jason Kipnis has been hitting leadoff since the beginning of the Toronto series and Michael Brantley has been in the three hole since the beginning of the season.

In the past seven days, the top of the lineup has been very productive. In 62 ABs, the tenacious three have 20 hits (.318), three 2Bs, one 3Bs, two HRs, and 11 RBIs. The three have also drawn seven walks in the same span against six strike outs.

In big picture terms: The first three hitters in the Indians lineup are getting on base at a very good clip (.378) and hitting the ball very well.

Let’s look at the middle of the lineup in comparison

The middle of the lineup in the past seven days has generally consisted of a rotating group of four players:

  1. Brandon Moss,
  2. Nick Swisher,
  3. Lonnie Chisenhall and,
  4. David Murphy

Now, David Murphy has only had 8 PAs in the past seven days and his role has been somewhat diminished. I will include his numbers post-facto regardless so as to not bias the data.

Anyway: The middle of the lineup.

In the past seven days, the middle three players* has been moderately productive. In 56 Abs, the three middle hitters have only 14 hits (.247) with three 2Bs, one 3B, 2 HR, and eight RBIs. In the same breath, the middle lineup has walked only three times and struck out twice as many times (6).

The middle lineup is getting on base nearly 10% less than their top-of-the-lineup counterparts in addition to hitting 7% less (with regard to batting average) than those same counterparts.

Here are the middle-of-of-the-lineup hitters numbers with RISP (which almost exclusively were either Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, or Michael Brantley) in the past seven days:

  1. Brandon Moss: 1/8
  2. Nick Swisher: 0/6
  3. Lonnie Chisenhall: 3/5
  4. David Murphy: 2/4

For those of you who don’t enjoy math, the latter four “mashers” are a paltry 6/23 with RISP (.261). We’re going to give Nick Swisher a break considering he just broke into the lineup within the last seven days coming back from his start on the DL.

When it comes to the likes of Brandon Moss though, that .125 average with RISP is EGREGIOUSLY FOUL. The front office brought him in to do one thing: Drive in runs.

Thus far, he isn’t doing that. He is being given plenty of opportunities to do so. If Kip, ‘Los and Dr. Smooth get on base anymore, they’ll (well, mostly Kip) will be on pace for a couple of the greatest months in MLB history.

When you have disparity between sets of hitters like the Indians do now, you’re not going to see gobs of runs being scored; just a run here and there. When lineups are experiencing normally distributed hitting with RISP rather than the severely left (left being the front of the lineup) skewed version we’re currently witnessing, good things happen.

For those of you who want to argue about the circular nature of batting orders as it pertains to a “normal distribution”, leave it in the comments. I’ll go in depth there a little more if you have serious issues.

 

Jason Kipnis: April showers bring May flowers…well, hits anyway:

Can we just talk about Jason Kipnis right now?

That dude is on fire. I’d really like him to sit down with Brandon Moss and teach him his secret ways. In the month of May, Jason Kipnis is hitting .488/.551/.814 and, over the course of the season, hitting right-handed pitching really well.

Halfway through May, he’s already eclipsed the amount of walks he had over the entire month of April (and end of March; 6:5). This would indicate more patience from Kip at the plate (i.e.: he’s working counts deeper).  At the same time, he’s only struck out four times through nearly half of May. In the month of April, he struck out 13 times. If he can continue to maintain his patience at the plate, I see his strikeout rate remaining low.

To put the cherry on the top of the sundae that has been Jason Kipnis’ 2015 May, he has six 2B halfway through May. In March/April, he only had one. I don’t expect him to hit a ton of homeruns; he’s not a power guy. I expect him to hit for average and hit to all parts of the field well. His numbers through the first half of May tell me that he’s figuring things out and getting into a groove.

Like I said, hopefully Brandon Moss can sit down with Kip and ask him about the ways of the force.

 

These cleats were made for walkin’

I wanted to quickly touch on Carlos Santana’s walk rate through one and a half months of the season. He’s only second to Bryce Harper (30) in walks with 29 and only has 22 strikeouts (that’s a 1.32 BB/K ratio). Harper’s BB/K ratio is 0.77).

It should also be noted that Harper has 10 more ABs than Santana.

Harper is raking right now (similar to Kipnis) and has like…. 15 HRs in his last 5 games (obviously exaggerating, but he’s still blasting HRs like no other).

With Santana’s placement as the number two man in the lineup, those walks are going to be all the more important. They’ll mean that much more if the guys behind him can drive him in. Letting Santana rot on 1st or 2nd base isn’t going to help this team win and I know that he would do anything to help his teammates bring him around and in.

 

Corey Kluber: Doin’ the Cards dirrrrrty on Wednesday

Finally, can we talk about the bad man, Corey Kluber?

On Wednesday, the big dog went 8.0 innings, allowed only one hit and collected 18 strikeouts.

Yeah, you read that right: E-I-G-H-T-E-E-N strikeouts.

Whiffs.

Six golden sombreros.

His WHIP on Wednesday was 0.13. He’s just filthy.

Oh, by the way: He did this all on 113 pitches and dropped his ERA by nearly 80 points (5.04 to 4.27). Interestingly enough too, his GB/FB ration was 1:5. In his more recent starts, his strikeout totals have been lower and his GB/FB ratio has been 1.00+ (abnormal for him). Corey Kluber’s success lies in leveraging his fastball down in the zone and working his off speed stuff (cutter/slider) in on the hands of lefties and trailing away from righties. When he lets his fastball rise up into the zone (like Danny Salazar) and doesn’t have get movement from his off speed stuff, it allows hitters to put bat-on-ball and put it in play; often in the air.

I didn’t have to watch the game on Wednesday to know that, but I can guarantee he had everything working tonight as I just described.

In other news:

In my first softball action of the year, I went 2/5 with 2 RBIs. In the field, I played 3B for the first time in a while and had 3 putouts and 1 error. If I’m going to channel my inner Lonnie Chisenhall, I get at minimum one error per game right?

Keep it real Tribe fans. I’ll catch you on the flip side

Go Tribe!

Indians drop series to Motor City Kitties; Bats continue to under perform in the clutch

Tribe drops series to Tigers in wake of Brandon Moss sighting; Bats stay silent in clutch moments

I reached the pinnacle of my “happy” Indians feelings at approximately 9 PM Friday night.

Granted, I was two Manhattans in at that point, but the fact still stands: Friday night was great.

In classic Indians fashion though, my happiness waned as the night carried on and the following two days were filled with disappointment and losses.

Brandon Moss

I was impressed with his performance Friday, sure. In fact I even thought for a second that we were finally going to usher in the Brandon Moss era that we were expecting back in December.

Deep down, I had a sinking feeling that the Moss we glimpsed would be fleeting. He would fall flat on the pages of the Saturday paper and fade to black in the game that same day.

He didn’t disappoint either. He went 0 – 4 and tacked another strikeout to the year’s tally. He helped to manage expectations yesterday by going 2 – 3 with 2 RBIs and, again, only one strikeout.

As I’ve stated on the Tribe Time Now podcast, it’s way too early in the season to be pigeon-holing people. I stand by that statement.

And yet, Brandon Moss is beginning to frighten me. It’s not an issue of his old hip injury, so please, don’t think I’m one to cop out to that excuse. More than anything, I’m just concerned this he is too up and down. What I mean by that is: What happens when Brandon Moss falls into a really awful slump? What happens when Moss becomes an offensive trench in the lineup?

Imagine Michael Bourn right now. That’s the kind of trench that I’m talking about. The Mariana Trench of all trenches.

Michael Bourn

Michael Bourn is in such a rut right now that his performance (or lack thereof) prompted Tito to move his “speedy” veteran to the 9 spot.

The N-I-N-E spot.

The $48 million dollar man is making it very hard me as a Tribe fan right now, but the move to the bottom of the lineup is somewhat* softening the blow.

On a brighter note, Carlos Santana continues to impress.

In the weekend series against Detroit, Santana padded his slash line (.250/.384/.433) and hit well (3 for 5) with RISP.

In addition, Ryan Raburn (of all people) continues to kill left-handed pitching. He’s hitting .381/.391/.762 with an OPS of 1.153. That is ridiculous. At the beginning of the year, I was calling for Raburn’s head (and I’m still weary. He has to come down to earth eventually). If I see him in the outfield more than once every…6-7 games, I am going to be one very unhappy camper. After last year’s…debacle, he has no reason to be out there. I would rather see him in the DH role (permanently) against LHP.

Starting Pitching

Danny Salazar pitched a gem on Friday night and had ample run support such that, if he made a mistake (i.e.: pitching in general to Miguel Cabrera), it would not have made the game even remotely close.

I don’t know if many people realize this, but Trevor Bauer was supposed to start Saturday against the Tigers but, due to a freak stomach bug, he was unable to do so and T.J. House had to make a spot start instead. As you would expect, House didn’t last long and was chased early on in the campaign (3.0 IP). The bullpen was, once again, able to come in and provide 5 innings of 1 run baseball; ample opportunity for the Indians to at least tie the game up. Unfortunately, the Indians could only muster 8 hits hit a paltry 2 – 9 with RISP.

Finally, on Sunday, Carlos Carrasco appeared to be coming back down to earth as he allowed 5 runs on 9 hits over 4.1 IP. He was replaced with Old Man Atchison who gave up an additional 2 runs on 2 hits before alphabet soup (Rzepchzynski) and Cody Allen (2.0 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 earned combined) came on to finish out the game. Similar to Saturday, the Indians hit .250 with RISP and could not make up the runs needed to make it a competitive contest late in the game.

The key to Indians season thus far has been the lack of run support and lack of hits with runners in scoring position. If the starting pitching and middle relievers hand Tito a 2-3 run performance and the Indians can’t muster more than 1-2 runs/game – that’s not a pitching problem, it’s a hitting problem.

Just imagine where we’d be if the Indians bats were hitting slightly above league average – certainly not in the cellar of the AL Central.

Upcoming Series: Kansas City

Beginning tonight (6:10 EST first pitch), the Indians take on the reigning AL Champion Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field for a three game AL Central showdown. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar will be manning the bump and hopefully the friendly confines will allow the Indians to get a series win. The Royals send Vargas, Guthrie, and Ventura to the bump in response and look to beat up on the Indians and regain the top spot in the AL Central.
The keys to the series for the Indians are (and continue to be) hitting .500+ with RISP, getting quality starts from their starters, and minimizing mistakes (both errors and near-errors) defensively.

Another interesting statistic: The Indians are last in the majors in steals allowed (20 over 17 games or 1.18/game). One steal a game; no big deal right?

Wrong.

A majority of those steals are baserunners moving from first to second (scoring position). Instead of a single moving the runner to third, that runner is scoring. The Indians have to be better at holding runners on first and throwing runners out at second in the process of stealing. This statistic no doubt is a byproduct of Yan Gomes not being behind the dish.

The phrase “You don’t run on Yan” didn’t just appear out of thin appear.

The Royals (Ned Yost in particular) will be sure to exploit this weakness with his faster players and you can guarantee that it may be the difference in tighter games during the series.

On Friday, look for my article concerning the outcomes of the Kansas City series in addition to a preview of the 4 game weekend home stand against the Blue jays. Also be sure to take a listen to the Tribe Time Now Podcast, this week featuring Mike Brandyberry from Did The Tribe Win Last Night and Craig Brown from Royals Authority (7 PM EST Thursday April 30th).

Hit ‘em hard, hit ‘em long – hell, just hit ‘em! Go Tribe!

Tribe Time Now #11: R-E-L-A-X. RELAX.

In this week’s episode of Tribe Time Now, Hayden (Indians Baseball Insider) and Ryan (MTAF: Cleveland) explore the reactionary culture of #IndiansTwitter, the concept of defensive sabermetrics, what an error really is, and much, much more!

 

Tribe Time Now #11: R-E-L-A-X. RELAX.

Topics:

a. Today’s game

b. Lineup, Raburn, reactions

c. Lindor, Holt, Wolters, potential call ups: when, where and why

d. Schedule, off days and errors

e. Starting pitchers

f.  Bullpen issues/concerns

g. What’s going on at IBI, next week’s guest, the big dog is coming

 

 

You can subscribe to the Tribe Time Now podcast (and all other Tribe Time Now features) by following this link!

Where, oh where, is the run production?

I had an article written before this weekend’s series with the twins.

In it, I talked about how the team was experiencing some early season bumps & bruises and bad luck.

In it, I spoke about how many quality teams experience weird stretches in April.

But then this weekend happened and I just don’t know if I believe that anymore.

Many of the diehards on Twitter would call me an “early jumper” by jumping off the wagon so soon, but I’m not seeing this team make the necessary changes to become better. The defense is just as bad, if not slightly worse than last year. All of the hope that I had for T.J. House is quickly evaporating. His last two outings have been paltry at best. There was only two bright spots this weekend and bright spot is pushing it for one of these two individuals:

Brandon Moss & Danny Salazar

I guess bright spot isn’t necessarily the correct term for Moss. Shimmer in Tito’s eye would be better. Brandon Moss has 28 plate appearances this season. In those 28 plate appearances, he has struck out 14 times.

Fourteen times or 50% of the time for those who are more mathematically inclined.

The glimmer in this particular series was his ability to hit the long ball. He did that in the 6th inning of Friday night’s game to left-center field. Other than that, he managed to add 6 SO to his total and make me think the “power” and “prestige” we saw in spring training was nothing more than an Arizona mirage.

For Danny Salazar, his line of 6.0 IP, 10Ks, 2 BBs, and 2 ER was impressive, especially for a guy that lost his starting role in the rotation before the season began. If he can continue to provide a quality start and double digit (or near double digit) strikeouts in every start, consider me a happy camper.

The big problem for the Indians right now is scoring runs.

Ranked 22nd in average with RISP and 26th in RPG, the Tribe is finding it difficult to get the few runners getting on base around the horn to the promise land. I blame this on a few factors:

  1. Patience at the plate
  2. Swinging at bad pitches
  3. Spring training timing

Patience at the plate

I don’t have metrics to back this up; it’s more of a feeling that I have after watching several games. It seems that lineup, specifically the top portion of the lineup, is very eager to swing the bat, at anything. I can’t pin point what it is, maybe first pitch strikes are just too appealing or maybe they’re getting the green light early. Whatever it is, I think it would be best to be a little more patient to feel out the starting pitcher, work his pitch count up, and wait for the best possible pitch within the zone.

In relation to the latter item, I’ve noticed across the board, the Indians are swinging at junk pitches. I can understand swinging at 12-6 curve after misreading it out of the pitchers hand. I can even understand swinging at a slider that has sick tail movement on it. What I can’t understand is when our guys swing at sliders that are starting off at the knees and dipping into the other batters box. The pitchers that we’ve faced haven’t been Cy Youngs. We’ve faced generally below-average pitchers and we’ve made them look really good by expanding the zone. By being more patient at the plate (see point 1), we’re going to force pitchers to throw in the zone more often giving us more pitches to hit.

These two points play well into one another; they’re not mutually exclusive.

Spring Training Timing

This all could be moot if the Indians are still on spring training timing. I’ve said it before and I’ll reiterate it here again: When I asked Trevor Bauer when players go full tilt and his reply was “with about one-week left in ST”, it made sense why April was often very weird month. I can guarantee at least a few players are still trying to get into the groove of full-tilt, full-time major league pitching. I’m not talking about velocity. I’m talking about off-speed pitches, secondary pitches, etc. Sure, pitchers were experimenting with different pitches in spring training, but in no way were they throwing fully-developed secondary pitches like a Corey Kluber slider.

I think in time (1-2) weeks, everyone should be up to speed. Everybody takes a different amount of time to get going, some guys more than others.

Hopefully the series this week against the White Sox and Tigers will yield better results, although, if the lack of run production continues, it could be a very long week for Cleveland Indians fans everywhere.

Have a good week all and go Tribe!

Tribe Time Now #7: Waiting Till This Year

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On this episode of the Tribe Time Now podcast, Ryan and Stephanie Liscio of itspronouncedlajaway.com tackle a number of interesting subjects including:

– Stephanie’s trip to AZ for Spring Training

– The status of Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar

– Lonnie Chisenhall and the iffy-ness that is the 2015 Cleveland Indians Defense

– The health and appearance of Brandon Moss

Michael Bourn’s resurgence (?)

– 1 Good Minute on Nick Swisher

The SI cover jinx

Ryan’s One Big Thing

Sands’ Bomb, the play of Michael Martinez, and if they belong in the 25-man roster

1st and 2nd round of cuts/demotions to AAA and AA

– “The Corner”, #TribeLive, Ballpark amenities, etc.

– Upcoming items on itspronouncedlajaway.com

– Co-owner Susan Petrone’s new book titled “Throw Like a Woman” and an upcoming speaking appearence by Stephanie Liscio

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Tribe Time Now Episode 3: Sacrificing Seating for Ballpark Amenities

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Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) of Burning River Baseball joins Ryan Thompson (@RThompAK13) from More Than a Fan: Cleveland to give a Spring Training report. Ryan and Joe talk about the perceived strength of the A.L. Central following up on last week’s episode. Player profiles of Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco and finally Progressive Field construction and all the e-mail’s Joe deletes without reading.

2015 Cleveland Indians Spring Training Preview

As we enter the final 10 days before pitchers and catchers report, the 2015 Cleveland Indians lineup and depth chart all but appears set.

While the Indians didn’t make as many moves as their AL Central opponents this off season, they didn’t lose a lot of talent along the way. None of the major minor league pieces the Indians brought into the off season were traded and the additions of Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd help to bolster problem areas from 2014.

The depth chart (according to Indians.com) looks like this:

 

Cleveland-Depth-Chart.0

 

Outfield

There have been no upgrades to any position except for right field in the past offseason via the addition of Brandon Moss. Michael Brantley will once again patrol the friendly LF corner and the oft-injured Michael Bourn will man CF.

Michael Bourn continues to be a point of contention amongst Indians fans this off season. Bourn is in the fatter end of his 4 year/$48 million deal in which he will be paid $13.5 million. Considering the drop off in production from his 2012 all-star campaign and his injury-riddled 2013 season, I’m not the only one hoping that the Indians find a way to move his contract out to pasture.

There isn’t much that needs to be said about Michael Brantley. Earning 3rd place in the 2014 MVP voting behind Victor Martinez (DET) and Mike Trout (LAA), Brantley’s production should maintain If not increase this season barring any time off from injury. Defensively, Brantley had a decent year among his fellow AL outfielders. His errors/defensive chance was a slim 1/284 (0.4%) and was tied for 2nd with 12 assists.

Right field is the area in which Terry Francona is hoping to squeeze a little more defensive efficiency in the 2015 campaign. As mentioned previously, Brandon Moss is a welcome upgrade to David Murphy in RF. In addition to his defensive speed and arm strength, he brought decent power numbers with him from Oakland. The past two seasons, Moss has posted 20+ HRs and 80+ RBIs. He was also an all-star in 2014. In terms of training camp buzz, RF is the area that I will probably be paying the most attention to.

 

Infield

The infield remains almost completely unchanged as Lonnie Chisenhall (3B), Jose Ramirez (SS), Jason Kipnis (2B), Carlos Santana (1B), and Yan Gomes (C) maintain their roles from 2014.

Sure, Yan Gomes’ numbers weren’t anywhere near his 2013 campaign, but I think fans often don’t pay attention to defensive stats for catchers. Sure we could look at errors or put-outs, but those are amateur statistics. I’m much more interested in pitch framing (the art of turning balls into strikes). Yan Gomes is the best in the bigs. The best. Check out this short article from Jason Lukehart (@jasonlukehart) at letsgotribe.com. Gomes was 1st in: fWAR (4.0), bWAR (3.9), and WARP (3.1). He posted several other links to more advanced stats that further my point and I’ll let you go down those rabbit holes at your own risk.

At 1B, the move of Carlos Santana from catcher was the best move of any AL manager in the last few seasons. Carlos Santana can still play catcher, sure, but is there a need for him to do so? Considering Roberto Perez’ decent year behind the dish on Gomes’ off days, Santana should be (and will be) in two places in 2015: 1B and DH. He will switch on and off with Nick Swisher (hopefully less than 40% of the time…). Interestingly enough, Brandon Moss will get some time at 1B too, but I suspect that will be if (and only if) Tito wants to play the pitching matchup game between RF, 1B and DH. What I love about Carlos Santana is that, regardless of if he’s in a slump, you can always count on him to walk consistently. Last year, he has 113 walks. One-hundred and thirteen. The first thing that people notice is that Santana’s BA dropped off nearly 30 points between ’13 and ’14. What they fail to mention in addition to that fact is that Santana’s OBP stayed nearly the same. This tells us something important:

  1. Carlos Santana is getting on base at a similar rate even though he isn’t hitting at the same clip from previous seasons.

With hitters like Brandon Moss now being inserted into the lineup, I am pretty certain that we’re going to see Santana get on base and score rather than being stranded as he has been in the past few seasons.

Jason Kipnis was the archetypal tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 2014. Defensively, I feel that he had a pretty decent year with a fielding % of .989 and only 6 errors in 534 defensive chances. His range is the one aspect of his game that I love more than anything else. Additionally, he has above-average arm strength ranging away from 1B which isn’t something every second basemen can hang their hats on. Saying Kip had a down year defensively would be an understatement. Actually, it’s probably the understatement of the year. Kipnis’ BA fell by 40 points, his SLG % fell by more than 100 points, and his RBIs were cut in half from his ’13 campaign total of 84. While Kipnis did struggle with the injury bug early in the season, he just couldn’t get out of the funk long enough to get something going. I don’t think he will struggle nearly as much as he did in ’14, but time will tell as we move into ’15.

Jose Ramirez is the newest addition to the starting infield for the Indians and I think we can all agree: he’s a welcome upgrade over Asdrubal Cabrera. That sounds like it’s coming from a bad place regarding Asdrubal, but it’s really not. I like Asdrubal and I thought that he had a few great years in Cleveland, but he just couldn’t keep it up. He reminded me of a puppy getting used to its power as it grows (i.e.: he never refined his defensive play like the Derek Jeters of the world). His bat was always there (albeit his SO numbers were a little higher than I’d like for SS). Ramirez is going to bring the youth and defensive refinement (*developing defensive refinement) that the left side of the infield so desperately needed in 2014. With only 56 games at SS in ’14, I think we need a full 162 of Jose before we can begin to discuss the merits of elevating Lindor to the majors or continuing his slow and steady development in the minors. As for right now, his defensive efficiency is decent with room for improvement and I think he has an opportunity to really grow into the 1,2, or 3 hole role on Tito’s lineup card.

Finally, Lonnie Chisenhall maintains his role in the hot corner in 2015. Lonnie Chisenhall got me way too excited when he was on his hot streak. And then… he just fizzled out. I’m fairly certain it was because ’14 was his first full season. Lonnie had never played in more than 100 games in his major league career before 2014. In addition to being the everyday 3B, he had more than 200 PA than in 2013. I honestly think he just got tired and a little banged up. Defensively, 3B is the position that I am concerned about more than any other in 2015. Lonnie had 18 errors in 260 chances in 2015 (.931 Fielding %). He actually saved -14 runs in 2014 and that, along with Cabby’s defensive mishaps, is the #1 reason the Indians didn’t make the playoffs in 2014. Hopefully, Jose Ramirez and Lonnie can figure it out and shore up the defense on the left side of the infield as we enter 2015.

Spring training will at least open a window into how the off season has treated some of our struggling hitters (Swisher, Bourn, and Kipnis) in addition to those who had above-average years (Brantley and Gomes). Next week, I’ll be looking in depth at the 2015 Indians rotation and bullpen.

As always, look to mtafcleveland.net for Indians-related breaking news and notes and follow me @rthompak13 for up-to-the-minute opinions on the Indians, Major League Baseball, and the intersection of sports, politics, and pop culture.

Roll Tribe!