Tag Archives: CC Sabathia

The Tribe is Alive!

The Tribe is alive. I can’t believe it either.

The Cleveland Indians are just 4 games back of the second wildcard spot entering the final month of the season.

A month ago, I, and many others, were counting the Tribe as out. The bats were dead, the starting pitching wasn’t keeping the game in check and the bullpen was suspect. Add to that the lack of moves by the front office at the deadline and our suspicions weren’t unfounded.

This season was over, in every sense of the word.

And then, slowly but surely the Tribe won a few games.

Then the won a few series and then, they got a sweep.

The bats have been working lately, the starting pitching has been keeping opposing hitters at bay, and the bullpen, when they’ve been needed, have delivered.

The defensive play has been the hidden lynch pin to the Indians streak of success as of late. Who would have known that the addition of Abraham Almonte (seriously?) in centerfield and the return of Lonnie Chisenhall in RF along with the play of Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela on the left side of the infield.

After the current series with the Blue Jays, the Indians have games within and only within the AL Central. Those games include 6 against the Tigers (3/3 Home/Away), 6 against the White Sox (3/3 Home/Away), 7 against the Royals (4/3 Home/Away), and 6 against the Twins (3/3 Home/Away). They are going to need to win approximately 80% (20) games to cement themselves in the wildcard playoff for the American League. There is no chance anyone in the American League Central will catch the Royals. Currently, they are 13 games ahead of the second place team, the Minnesota Twins and 16 games ahead of the Indians.

The next month of baseball could be very interesting. Undoubtedly, memories of 2013 have begun to whimsically drift into the back of my head as I reminisce about one of the greatest months of baseball in recent memory.

While the next month will be interesting, the big Indians-related news of the week occurred late Sunday night

Shapiro back, back, back and gone to Toronto

Reports surfaced last week of an impending offer of the Presidency/CEO duties of the Toronto Blue Jays to current Indians President Mark Shapiro. The collective interwebs and social media were aflame with ifs, ands, and buts about the whole thing before it went quiet for a few days.

Then on Sunday, the hammer was dropped. Multiple well-known and respect sports journalists reported that Mark Shapiro would accept the offer from the Blue Jays effective at the end of the 2015 season. Soon after, the team confirmed it and a press conference was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

At the presser, Mark said he was excited about the opportunity for growth in Toronto and addressed (barely) issues he faced here in Cleveland. When asked about attendance, he side-stepped the issue and moved on to other topics of interest.

Direct reports to Shapiro will now report to Paul Dolan and Dolan also stated he will not look outside the organization for a successor for Mark. It would appear that the next era of the Cleveland Indians Presidency will take effect from within the organization and speculation has begun about who that individual will be.

When looking back over Shapiro’s impressive 24 year career in Cleveland, one can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

When John Hart left the organization in 2001 and Shapiro ascended the GM throne, he was left with a very bad situation: a fan base used to winning and winning a lot, a minor league system devoid of any serviceable talent ready for the majors, and owners who didn’t want to spend much money on talent.

With that, Mark began the process of shaping the Indians from the ground up into the team he envisioned. Unfortunately for him, his drafts were awful. In the early to mid-portions of the first decade of the 2000s, you would be hard-pressed to name one decent major leaguer that came up through the Indians farm system (and no, Matt LaPorta isn’t decent. At all). Where Mark really shined was in his ability to leverage current team assets towards futures of other teams’ farm assets.

Case and point: the Bartolo Colòn trade of 2002:

In 2002, the Cleveland Indians were out of contention and Shapiro pulled the trigger on a deal that sent staff ace Bartolo Colòn to the Montreal Expos for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips.

I don’t need to tell you about the contributions and accolades that group of players have garnered over the course of their MLB careers to prove to you how fantastic that trade was.

When Shapiro stepped aside for Chris Antonetti to assume the role of GM, he took over as team president and was able to turn his attention things outside of personnel and baseball operations. His role in the new construction at the ballpark which debuted this season and his work in making Progressive field more fan and family friendly have been enormous. I love what has been done to Progressive field and I feel way more connected to the team and the game when I’m at the stadium than when I was younger.

Mark Shapiro has been around the Indians organization for longer than I’ve been alive. He has been there with us during the highs (1994-2001), the lows (2002-2006), and the playoff runs and appearances (1995-1999; 2001; 2007, and 2013). He has felt the heartache we’ve all experienced at one point or another. He’s felt the exhilarating highs of Tom Hamilton’s walk off calls in the lazy summer evenings and the lows of a Matt Underwood curse before an opposing player does something great.

Sure he’s a part of the organization, but he is also one of us. He did the very best he could with the resources he had, and I for one, can’t blame him for anything. He’s going to a great organization north of the border with deep pockets and a handful of great hitters. I wish him nothing but the best, and hopefully, he’ll come back around Cleveland from time to time to check in on us.

Cleveland Indians: Making a Case for Michael Brantley as AL MVP

On July 7th of 2008 the Cleveland Indians traded Cy Young award winner CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers for (then) top prospect Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson and a player to be named later. On October 8th of the same year the Brewers sent their 24th ranked minor league prospect to the Indians to complete the trade as the player to be named later. Tonight, that player has a chance to win the AL MVP award. His name is Michael Brantley.

Despite two other strong candidates in the American League MVP race there is a clear front runner, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Trout is a two-time MVP runner up (both times losing to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera) and is considered by some to be the best player in baseball right now. It’s hard to argue against that. Trout won AL Rookie of the Year in 2012, is a three-time All-Star and Silver Slugger (2012-14), and this year won both the AL Outstanding Player award and AL Hank Aaron Award. This season Trout played in 157 games. He posted a .287 batting average, a .377 on base percentage and a .561 slugging percentage. He hit 36 home runs drove in 111 runs (best in the AL) and scored 115 runs (best in baseball) all on 173 hits. He also drew 83 walks, stole 16 bases (caught twice) and hits .305 with runners in scoring position. Defensively, he is a very good outfielder. Patrolling centerfield, Trout had a .992 fielding percentage this season. He committed 3 errors, has 4 assists, 383 total putouts and helped turn one double play. He also led every player in 2014 in WAR (wins above replacement) at 7.87. That alone might be enough to clinch the AL MVP award as Trout is clearly the favorite to win it.

But he has two serious contenders, both of which Cleveland Indians fans are familiar with.

First there is Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers. Originally signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1996 as an amateur free agent, Victor spent eight seasons with the Indians before being traded away to the Boston Red Sox in a move that even brought Victor to tears. I think it’s safe to say he’s gotten over that pain. This year for the Tigers, Victor played in 151 games and posted a .335 batting average, .409 on base percentage and a .565 slugging percentage. He collected 188 hits, scored 87 runs and hit 32 home runs to go with 103 RBI. He drew 70 walks and only struck out 42 times. He also hits well in the clutch, batting .326 with runners in scoring position and .316 w/RISP and two outs. Despite all this there are two cases to be made against Victor. He doesn’t really play defense as he is the Tigers DH. This season Martinez only played 301.1 innings of defense, most of them coming at first base (37 total games, 35 games started; 35 games at first base, 2 games at catcher). He posted a .983 fielding percentage, had 274 putouts, 18 assists, was involved with 24 double plays but he also made 5 errors (3 at first base and 2 at catcher). While there are no definitive guidelines for an MVP candidate, there are some rules that voters must (or should) follow. Rule number one states that the voter must consider “actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense”. Victor Martinez hits a baseball very well, but only played 300 innings of defense in 2014. Also, an argument can be made that he isn’t even the best player on his team (although this season he probably was). Victor also finished 34th in WAR at 5.32.

Finally we come to the player to be named later, Michael Brantley. He didn’t put up the gaudy power numbers that both Trout and Martinez did this year (something that might hurt him, although he did hit 45 doubles which is 6 more than Trout and 12 more than Martinez), but don’t fool yourself into thinking he isn’t a serious candidate to challenge Trout for the award. In 156 games played, Brantley posted a .327 batting average, a .385 on base percentage and a .506 slugging percentage. He had 200 hits (second most in all of baseball this year) scored 94 runs, hit 20 home runs and had 97 RBI. Brantley also stole 23 bases (caught just once), walked 52 times while only striking out 56 times. He hit a blistering .376 w/RISP (higher than Trout) and .306 w/RISP and two outs. Defensively Brantley was very good, posting a .996 fielding percentage (higher than Trout’s). In 1304.1 innings of work in the outfield (splitting time in both center and left field) he made 271 putouts, had 12 assists (more than Trout), was part of 2 double plays and only had 1 error. He was also 6th in WAR at 6.97. Michael Brantley literally did everything last season, and he did it very well.

Brantley, Martinez and Trout all have MVP type numbers.
Brantley, Martinez and Trout all have MVP type numbers.

Despite all of this, Trout remains the favorite to win the AL MVP. But is there any way Brantley can separate himself? While Brantley has the better batting average (by 40 points) and the better on base percentage (by just 8 points), he also does two things much better than Trout: he doesn’t strike out as much and hits better in certain clutch situations. Mike Trout struck out an AL leading 183 times in 2014. Obviously he did other things well (like pretty much everything else) but it’s at least something to consider. Trout also only hit .200 w/RISP and two outs, a full 106 points lower than Brantley. Defensively, Brantley committed fewer errors (albeit in fewer chances) and had three times the assists. Brantley also didn’t have somebody like Albert Pujols in the lineup protecting him (although Carlos Santana did come on as the year progressed). Looking at monthly stats Brantley only hit below .300 twice, once in April (.255) and once in August (.286). Every other month Brantley hit over .300, but never below .320. He hit .416 in September with his team in the playoff hunt. Mike Trout only hit above .300 for a full month during April and June. Otherwise he was never above .274 for a monthly batting average.

Is all of this enough to beat out Mike Trout for AL MVP? Probably not. Trout is a two time MVP runner up and with the “decline” of Miguel Cabrera it seems natural that it’s his time. His overall numbers absolutely make him a favorite to win the award but, should Brantley win, it shouldn’t be considered that much of an upset.

Grading My 2013 MLB Predictions

On April 1st, I published a post on this very site titled, “2013 MLB Predictions”. In that post, I prognosticated just about everything about the 2013 baseball season.

Well, I’m a man of integrity and I’d like to go back and see just how wrong (or right) I was about each of my predictions, grading each category.

Original Power Rankings

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Los Angeles Angels
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. Cincinnati Reds
  6. Los Angeles Dodgers
  7. San Francisco Giants
  8. Toronto Blue Jays
  9. Texas Rangers
  10. Tampa Bay Rays
  11. Philadelphia Phillies
  12. St. Louis Cardinals
  13. Boston Red Sox
  14. Cleveland Indians
  15. Baltimore Orioles
  16. Oakland Athletics
  17. Kansas City Royals
  18. Pittsburgh Pirates
  19. Chicago White Sox
  20. San Diego Padres
  21. New York Mets
  22. New York Yankees
  23. Arizona Diamondbacks
  24. Seattle Mariners
  25. Milwaukee Brewers
  26. Colorado Rockies
  27. Minnesota Twins
  28. Chicago Cubs
  29. Houston Astros
  30. Miami Marlins

Final Power Rankings (Based on Record) 

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. Oakland Athletics
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates
  6. Detroit Tigers
  7. Cleveland Indians
  8. Los Angeles Dodgers
  9. Texas Rangers
  10. Tampa Bay Rays
  11. Cincinnati Reds
  12. Washington Nationals
  13. Kansas City Royals
  14. Baltimore Orioles
  15. New York Yankees
  16. Arizona Diamondbacks
  17. Los Angeles Angels
  18. San Diego Padres
  19. San Francisco Giants
  20. Toronto Blue Jays
  21. Colorado Rockies
  22. Milwaukee Brewers
  23. New York Mets
  24. Philadelphia Phillies
  25. Seattle Mariners
  26. Chicago Cubs
  27. Minnesota Twins
  28. Chicago White Sox
  29. Miami Marlins
  30. Houston Astros

Well, as you can see,  I only predicted potentially four teams right. Depending on the winner of the Rays and Rangers game, that could change for the worst and I could be left with just two correct predictions in terms of  my original Power Rankings.

For now though, I’ll give myself a 4/30, which is a big fat F regardless.

Grade: 4/30

Then I went to the divisional standings and the hilarity ensues…

AL EAST

Prediction

  1. Toronto Blue Jays 93-69
  2. Tampa Bay Rays 90-72
  3. Boston Red Sox 88-74
  4. Baltimore Orioles 81-81
  5. New York Yankees 75-87

Actual

  1. Boston Red Sox 97-65
  2. Tampa Bay Rays 91-71
  3. Baltimore Orioles 85-77
  4. New York Yankees 85-77
  5. Toronto Blue Jays 74-88

Clearly my love for the Blue Jays was misguided, as they started off slow and could never pick it up. Boston put it together and had an incredible 2013 season, while the Orioles and Yankees stood side by side and flew past my original thoughts. Tampa won just one more game than I thought they would, so I’ll count that as a point.

Overall Grade: 1/5

 

AL CENTRAL

Predicted

  1. Detroit Tigers 98-64
  2. Cleveland Indians 86-76
  3. Kansas City Royals 80-82
  4. Chicago White Sox 75-87
  5. Minnesota Twins 69-93

Actual

  1. Detroit Tigers 93-69
  2. Cleveland Indians 92-70
  3. Kansas City Royals 86-76
  4. Minnesota Twins 66-96
  5. Chicago White Sox 63-99

While the order of my predictions for the AL Central were mostly correct, I gave just about every team outside of the Indians and Royals far too much credit.

I gave Detroit 98 wins, they finished with 93. I gave Chicago 75 wins, they finished with 63. I gave Minnesota 69 wins, they finished with 63.

Meanwhile, the Indians defied my expectations, along with the expectations of just about every other baseball fan in America, and finished the year on a 10-game win-streak, garnering a Wild Card berth and home field advantage for the Wild Card game.

Never in my life have I been so happy to be wrong!

Kansas City did a little better than I was expecting, but overall, I knew they’d be in that 80 win range.

I’ll take three points here.

Grade: 3/5

 

AL WEST

Predicted

  1. Los Angeles Angels 98-64
  2. Texas Rangers 90-72
  3. Oakland Athletics 85-77
  4. Seattle Mariners 75-87
  5. Houston Astros 70-92

Actual 

  1. Oakland Athletics 96-66
  2. Texas Rangers 91-71
  3. Los Angeles Angels 78-84
  4. Seattle Mariners 71-91
  5. Houston Astros 51-111

The Angels were a team that plenty of people were excited about, myself included. This season was a disastrous one and may leave the entire franchise in shambles with no direction. That being said, it doesn’t change the fact that I thought they were the AL’s best team and failed to understand their massive holes.

I also overestimated the Mariners and Astros, while underestimating the Athletics.

Just like Tampa, I had the Rangers pretty spot on.

I had them mostly in the right order, outside of LA and Oakland, so I’ll give myself another 66.67%.

Grade: 3/5

 

NL EAST

Predicted

  1. Atlanta Braves 100-62
  2. Washington Nationals 98-64
  3. Philadelphia Phillies 81-81
  4. New York Mets 75-87
  5. Miami Marlins 60-102

Actual

  1. Atlanta Braves 96-66
  2. Washington Nationals 86-76
  3. New York Mets 74-88
  4. Philadelphia Phillies 73-89
  5. Miami Marlins 62-100

Atlanta is still my World Series pick and did nothing to deter baseball fans everywhere to think that can’t be the case. They did falter a bit at the end, but that could thanks to Jason Heyward’s gruesome jaw injury that cost him most of the final month of the season.

Clearly, Washington was not as good as advertised and the Phillies followed suit. The lowly Mets finished a game worse than I expected while the Marlins finished two better than I thought. I’ll credit those last two games to Detroit’s backups in the last series of the season.

I would give myself a 3/5, but I was just a game away from perfectly predicting the Mets season although I thought they would finish in fourth place.

Grade: 4/5

NL CENTRAL

Predicted

  1. Cincinnati Reds 95-67
  2. St Louis Cardinals 89-73
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates 81-81
  4. Milwaukee Brewers 71-91
  5. Chicago Cubs 65-97

Actual

  1. St. Louis Cardinals 97-65
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates 94-68
  3. Cincinnati Reds 90-72
  4. Milwaukee Brewers 74-88
  5. Chicago Cubs 66-96

Again, I vastly underestimated a couple of teams, but somehow I don’t feel alone.

The Pirates finally burst through the proverbial barrier that kept them away from the playoffs for the past two seasons, while the Cardinals finished tied for the best record in baseball.

Don’t ask me how St. Louis does it, but they continually play better than their roster indicates they should.

The Reds certainly underperformed this season, thanks to a late season collapse, but still made the postseason and gave themselves a chance to make a deep postseason run.

I hit Milwaukee and Chicago pretty much spot on, my only saving grace in the NL Central Division.

Grade: 2/5

 

NL WEST

Predicted

  1. San Francisco Giants 93-69
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers 90-72
  3. San Diego Padres 77-85
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks 75-87
  5. Colorado Rockies 66-96

Actual

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks 81-81
  3. San Diego Padres 76-86
  4. San Francisco Giants 76-86
  5. Colorado Rockies 74-88

The NL West was one of the weirder divisions in baseball this seasons, but it ended up close to what I expected it to be. Of course, the massive exception was the San Francisco Giants and their unexpected drop-off thanks to a lack of pitching.

While the Dodgers started the year horribly, Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez gave them a much needed boost on their way to a relatively early NL West title.

Arizona started hot and looked like they were going to compete for the division, but ultimately the Dodgers payroll was too much to compete with.

Overall, the mixture of correct record predictions and incorrect spots lands me yet another 3/5.

Grade: 3/5

 

Then comes the playoff teams…

 

Predicted AL East Champions: Toronto Blue Jays

Predicted AL Central Champions: Detroit Tigers

Predicted AL West Champions: Los Angeles Angels

Predicted AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays

Predicted AL Wild Card: Texas Rangers

 

Actual AL East Champions: Boston Red Sox

Actual AL Central Champions: Detroit Tigers

Actual AL West Champions: Oakland Athletics

Actual AL Wild Card: Cleveland Indians

Actual AL Wild Card: Texas Rangers/Tampa Bay Rays

The Red Sox and Athletics, coupled with the Indians, ruined my playoff picture.

Again, I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.

Grade: 2/5

 

Predicted NL East Champions: Atlanta Braves

Predicted NL Central Champions: Cincinnati Reds

Predicted NL West Champions: San Francisco Giants

Predicted NL Wild Card: Washington Nationals

Predicted NL Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Actual NL East Champions: Atlanta Braves

Actual NL Central Champions: St. Louis Cardinals

Actual NL West Champions: Los Angeles Dodgers

Actual NL Wild Card: Pittsburgh Pirates

Actual NL Wild Card: Cincinnati Reds

The Braves are my only saving grace, as all of the other teams defied me in some way or another.

Grade: 1/5

We then move onto my predictions for individual players in each league…

 

NL Breakout Star: Freddie Freeman 1B Atlanta Braves

Freeman was an NL All-Star this year and beat the rookie phenom Yasiel Puig to become one. That being said, Freeman did have a breakout year, hitting .319 with 23 home runs and 109 RBIs while leading the Braves to an NL East Championship.

While it’s debatable that Yasiel Puig was the breakout star, Freddie did beat him in the All-Star Final Vote, so I’m going to declare my prognostication of Freeman’s breakout season a victory.

Grade: 5/5

AL Breakout Star: Carlos Santana C/1B Cleveland Indians

Carlos Santana, unlike Freeman, took a step back in 2013 rather than the massive step forward I expected from him. Santana finished the season hitting .268 with 20 home runs and 74 RBIs, which was not worthy of an All-Star selection or the breakout player status.

While I still believe Carlos Santana is an incredible talent and has through-the-roof potential, he did not “breakout” in 2013.

Grade: 0/5

AL Disappointment: Josh Hamilton OF Los Angeles Angels

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.

Josh Hamilton was one of the main reasons for the Angels collapse in 2013, as he finished nowhere near his league-leading totals of his Texas years.

After a 2012 in which Hamilton hit .285 with 43 HR and 128 RBI, Hamilton hit just .250 this season with 21 home runs and just 79 RBI.

There was something different about Hamilton at the end of last season and I guess I picked up on it right away.

Grade: 5/5

NL Disappointment: David Wright 3B New York Mets

This was a very close call. Seriously.

David Wright was once a Major League star, but now seems to have adhered to the mediocrity that surrounds him daily in Citi Field. Wright’s numbers, however, were not all that different from last season.

Wright finished 2012 with a .306 average, 21 HR and 93 RBI, and finished this season with a .307 average, 18 HR and 58 RBI. While the RBI total is absolutely glaring, nothing else is.

My saving grace, however, is that I said that Wright would be a victim of his teammates. As the 58 RBIs show, Wright was just that.

Grade: 2.5/5 

AL Breakout Pitcher: Matt Moore P Tampa Bay Rays

Ding, ding, ding! Another winner.

Moore was brilliant from the very beginning and was only hampered by a midseason injury that kept him the best numbers in baseball.

After finishing 11-11 last season, Moore finished 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA and was among the most effective pitchers in the Major Leagues when healthy.

Expect more of that from him going forward.

Grade: 5/5

NL Breakout Pitcher: Kris Medlen P Atlanta Braves

Ding, ding, ding! Yet again, I win.

Despite his 15-12 record, Medlen finished with a 3.11 ERA and allowed just 68 runs in 197 innings pitched.

Medlen was the victim of a lack of run support and further supports why the “win” statistic is such a flawed one.

Grade: 5/5

AL Pitching Disappointment: C.C. Sabathia P New York Yankees

Do you sense a trend here? I do!

Sabathia was a catalyst for the Yankees sub-par season, as he left the rotation without a true ace.

In 32 appearances, Sabathia finished with a 14-13 record on the season with a 4.78 ERA. Last season, Sabathia finished at 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA.

As the numbers show, Sabathia was certainly a disappointment and may never be the dominant Cy Young Award Winner that he used to be again.

Grade: 5/5 

NL Pitching Disappointment: Zach Greinke P Los Angeles Dodgers

Just like that, the trend is broken. As was Greinke’s jaw.

After the infamous brawl that broke Greinke’s chewer, he came back and was the pitcher that the Dodgers expected him to be.

At 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA, Greinke had a better season than he did in 2012 and made sure the Dodgers pitching staff was the best in baseball.

Grade: 0/5

After a rather successful run of individual player predictions, we get into the predictions that I just randomly threw out there for fun….

Predicted Average attendance at Marlins Park: 9,324.

Actual Average attendance at Marlins Park: 19,584

Grade: 0/2

Predicted Stolen Bases from Michael Bourn: 34

Actual Stolen Bases from Michael Bourn: 23

Grade: 0/2

Predicted Number of No-Hitters: 3

Actual Number of No-Hitters: 3

Grade: 2/2

Predicted Number of Perfect Games: 2

Actual Number of Perfect Games: 0

Grade: 0/2

Predicted Longest Losing Streaks of the Marlins and Astros Combined: 49.

Actual Longest Losing Streaks of the Marlins and Astros Combined: 24

Grade: 0/2

Predicted Number of times Indians get shutout: 7

Actual Number of times Indians got shutout: 9

Grade: 0/2

Biggest Name Traded at the Trade Deadline: Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau

Biggest Name Traded at the Trade Deadline: Justin Morneau

Grade: 1/2

Predicted Managers Fired: Eric Wedge, Ron Gardenhire, and Mike Redmond.

Actual Mangers Fired: Dale Sveum 

Grade: 0/2

Predicted Number of Home Runs Hit by the Atlanta Braves Outfield: 88

Actual Number of Home Runs Hit by the Atlanta Braves Outfield: 50

Grade: 0/2

Predicted Number of Jason Giambi Home Runs: 5

Actual Number of Jason Giambi Home Runs: 9

Grade: 0/2

Predicted Number of Playoff Games Played in Cities in the AL Central not named Detroit: 0

Actual Number of Playoff Games Played in Cities in the AL Central not named Detroit: At least 1!!!

Grade: 0/2

After all of that, my final grade is:

53.5/132= 40.5% 

A big fat F.

Although I was tough on myself, a few things really did me in, namely the Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angles, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.

I was way off on those squads and in the end they ended up being some of the most surprising and disappointing teams in all of baseball.

Overall, however, I would say that despite my grade, I did an ok job. That’s the true beauty of baseball, you never know exactly what’s going to happen.

While that was it for my regular season predictions, a couple of my postseason predictions still stand.

I’ll get to those when it’s said and done. Hopefully, again, the Indians make me happy to be proven wrong!

MLB Gets Ryan Dempster Suspension Right but it Won't Deter Others

by Ryan Isley

Well, what do you know – Major League Baseball may have gotten one right when it comes to discipline. Their five-game suspension of Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster is the correct call. As Damien wrote on Tuesday, Major League Baseball has to protect their players, Rodriguez included.

On Sunday night, Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez in the top of the second inning, sending a message that he (and his teammates like John Lackey) were not happy that Rodriguez is allowed to continue playing while appealing his 211-game suspension that Major League Baseball handed down on August 12.

I applauded Dempster for his decision to hit Rodriguez and I wasn’t the only one, as was evidenced by my Twitter timeline right after it happened. I would also guess that there were players around baseball who secretly were cheering for Dempster after he hit Rodriguez, and I would even venture to say that some players in the Yankees dugout weren’t even that upset with Dempster going after Rodriguez as well. But the way he did it left Major League Baseball no choice but to hand down a suspension.

Dempster threw the first pitch way inside, narrowly missing Rodriguez. His second and third pitch were both just a little inside off the plate, nowhere near really hitting the Yankees third baseman. But his fourth pitch – on a 3-0 count – hit Rodriguez squarely in his elbow before hitting his back.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi lost his mind on home plate umpire Brian O’Nora before being ejected. Dempster was somehow never ejected and both teams were issued a warning. The warning only meant that the Yankees could not retaliate without the threat of having their pitcher – C.C Sabathia was the starter – ejected.

By taking four pitches to hit Rodriguez, it was obvious that Dempster had intended to do so, no matter what the pitcher and Red Sox manager John Farrell might say. And that is why Major League Baseball had no choice but to levy some sort of discipline. Had Dempster been able to connect on that first pitch or if the second and third pitch were outside before hitting Rodriguez with the fourth, he may have been able to get away without any suspension.

Major League Baseball had to step in and make sure that pitchers are not going to be allowed to just throw at Rodriguez as much as they want without any penalty. As much as most of us would not have a problem with it, Major League Baseball does still have to watch for the safety of their players.

The five-game suspension is the right length because that is all anyone would have gotten for deliberately throwing at anyone, so Major League Baseball cannot extend the suspension and make it look like they are protecting Rodriguez more than they would any player. But it is also not so long that pitchers will be afraid to pitch inside to Rodriguez seeing as how it looks like he will be able to play out the rest of the season. It also allows Rodriguez to know that Major League Baseball isn’t going to turn a blind eye at pitchers going after him, despite the fact that he is appealing a suspension that they handed down.

But even with Dempster being suspended, it does not mean that pitchers cannot throw at Rodriguez. It just means that they will need to be less obvious when doing so. Instead of hitting him in the first at-bat, wait until his second time up and hit him with a 1-1 pitch. Major League Baseball will not suspend every pitcher that hits Rodriguez, but will have to suspend any pitcher that does it on purpose without making an effort to conceal the intent.

So if I was Rodriguez, I would look for low and away. But he better watch out for the one in his ear.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan@morethanafan.net

My Two Cents on Michael Brantley, Bobbleheads and a Life Lost Too Soon

by Ryan Isley

This is going to be a little bit of a different approach to the My Two Cents piece this week. At the beginning, anyway.

You may have noticed that last week I took an unexpected week off from writing for More Than A Fan, including the weekly My Two Cents on Friday. I actually had planned to write my piece about Cliff Lee that ran this Wednesday for last Thursday, but something happened as I was starting to work on it. Some of you may have seen the following tweet from me on Wednesday last week but I really did not give an explanation as to what was happening.

Valerie Tweet

There was a reason I was vague until now. I was trying to be respectful of the family that this pertained to as to not give any information before they were able to so themselves. I can now explain that tweet and why I didn’t write last week.

A friend – and neighbor – of mine passed away unexpected and suddenly last Wednesday morning. Valerie (Haynes) Smith was just 24 years old and was nearly 33 weeks pregnant. She was en route to Texas to live with her husband Donte Smith, who is in the United States Air Force. Valerie and her unborn son were just one day from finally being reunited with Donte.

Valerie (along with her older sisters Anne and Erica) and I grew up across the street from each other and knew each other our entire lives. Our neighborhood was always a close one, as the families in our part of the neighborhood always looked after one another and were more like family than neighbors. As I watched car after car pull up to the Haynes house and person after person walk into the house with the same look on their faces, my heart was breaking for this family with which I have known for all of my 32 years. After first talking to Erica, then their mom Beth and then to Anne, I just could not even try to sit down and write about sports – my heart and mind were just not into it.

To be honest, my mind is still not 100% into writing as I sit here at my computer. All I keep thinking about is her family and her husband and why life isn’t fair. I had just seen Valerie the week before she left for Texas and she had that proverbial glow of oncoming motherhood. She looked amazing and had that smile on her face everyone who knew her had come to know. She was healthy and looking forward to finally joining Donte. She will be missed by many, including this neighbor.

To the Haynes family and the Smith family, I pass along my condolences and prayers.

Thank you to my readers for allowing me to get that out there. Other than the posts I have written that were about my mom, I probably wrote and deleted more times writing that section than during any other piece I have written for More Than A Fan, just trying to get the right words.

As I said, there are some things that just make sports seem so trivial. The other side of that is sports can become a distraction when needed.

On that side of the coin, there are two topics in the world of sports I wanted to address this week.

On to My Two Cents:

On Michael Brantley:

I know that I shouldn’t feed the trolls, but…

This past Sunday marked the five-year anniversary of the trade in which the Indians sent C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson and player to be named later (Michael Brantley).

Well of course this anniversary couldn’t go by without someone named Ben Maller (I know – I had to look up who the hell he is too) making comments about it on Twitter and trying to troll Cleveland fans.

Ben Maller 1

While we are all willing to agree that LaPorta didn’t live up to the hype that was built around him – despite multiple opportunities – to say that none of the players that the Indians obtained have succeeded is wrong. Brantley has become a valuable part of an Indians team that is now just 2.5 games out of first place in the American League Central Division as he has hit .287 with seven home runs, 47 RBIs and 44 runs scored in 88 games played.

Of course when Indians fans reminded Maller of this fact, he had the expected response.

Ben Maller 2

Once again, Maller not letting facts stand in the way of a weak trolling opportunity (I am sensing a pattern here).

The facts are pretty simple – the Indians were never going to re-sign C.C. Sabathia (who was in the last year of his contract) so the Indians had to do what they could to get a return for the left-handed pitcher. In fact, the Brewers had to know there was little to no chance they would be able to sign Sabathia when the season ended either, so they were taking their chance at winning it all in 2008. The Brewers went on to lose in the wild card round of the playoffs and Sabathia signed in the offseason with the New York Yankees (to nobody’s surprise).

When all was said and done, the Brewers got 18 starts from Sabathia, including one postseason start where he lasted just 3.2 innings. The Indians got Brantley, who is now in his third full season in the Majors with the Indians and has played in 450 games with Cleveland. If Brantley gives the Indians six to eight solid seasons (or more), it would be hard to say that the Indians didn’t get the better part of the deal between the two teams that were actually involved.

But far be it for me to bring logic and facts to the table when all someone wants to do is troll. Even if that troll is someone most people don’t even know.

On Bobbleheads:

This week’s final topic is more on a lighter note…

When the 2013 Cleveland Indians schedule came out, the first game I circled was July 8th against the Detroit Tigers. It had nothing to do with playing the Tigers, however. It was Omar Vizquel bobblehead night at Progressive Field. Vizquel – along with Charles Nagy – was my favorite Indians player on those teams in the mid-to-late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The Indians could have been playing an intrasquad game and I still would have got tickets to get my hands on a Vizquel bobblehead.

And while I was excited to get my bobblehead, it still amazes me how not a single bobblehead I own resembles the person they are supposed to represent. The Vizquel one is no different, as he even mentioned to media in Cleveland. Many media members tweeted that Vizquel said this was the fifth bobble head of him and none look like him.

I have a collection of probably about 40 bobbleheads and every one looks very little like their namesake. This includes Indians players (Vizquel, Cliff Lee, Einar Diaz, Victor Martinez, etc.), other MLB players (Kerry Wood, Ryne Sandberg and Cal Ripken, Jr. to name a few), LeBron James and Tiger Woods. It also includes Ohio State bobbleheads such as Jim Tressel, Chris Spielman and Mike Doss and minor league baseball bobbleheads like Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury.

I guess the question is why can’t companies make these bobbleheads look more like the player? It just seems that if you are going to make the effort to honor a player with a bobblehead, you would do your best to at least get it right. While some are close to resembling the player, there are some that are way off, including the Vizquel one that was given away Monday night.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan@morethanafan.net

Cleveland Indians Trying to Bring Back 2007 Glory

It’s come to this, fellow Cleveland Indians fans; we’re getting hyped up in February for a team trying to return to its latest glory year. Maybe I would be less skeptical if that year were a World Series Championship, or the last year of an extended run of playoff appearances, but 2007 was the lone Tribe playoff appearance smack dab in the middle of 10 years of torture that falls somewhere between “We had a solid season and got unlucky” and “Jeez, just call the rookie up already, we’re not going to win his age in games.”

Don’t get me wrong, that 2007 team was a dream to watch. It wasn’t as fun as those mid-90s teams, but I refuse to get caught up in THAT conversation again. That 1995 was 18 years ago, and I have a strict rule that anytime a person born in a sports year is old enough to stare at without being labeled a creeper, it’s time to hang up the I wishes and what ifs.

So, that 2007 team led by Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore is the only successful year that adheres to my rule. Just in case you’re not a Baseball-Reference freak like someone I know (me), let’s review that Indians squad.

C ~ Victor Martinez
1B ~ Ryan Garko
2B ~ Josh Barfield
SS ~ Jhonny Peralta
3B ~ Casey Blake
LF ~ Jason Michaels
CF ~ Grady Sizemore
RF ~ Trot Nixon
DH ~ Travis Hafner
SP ~ Cliff Lee
SP ~ CC Sabathia
SP ~ Roberto Hernandez
SP ~ Jake Westbrook
SP ~ Paul Byrd
RP ~ Rafael Betancourt
RP ~ Rafael Perez
RP ~ Joe Borowski

 

It’s been a long time since the 2007 season (specifically, five years. The parenthesis are because I had to get out my calculator), so I really haven’t looked at the entirety of that roster in quite some time. Out of our starting nine, Martinez and Peralta ended up legitimate stars. (I would have lost money on Jhonny. He’s somehow considered a star  even though he’s only had one exciting season since 2008). The rest of that team was pretty rag-tag. No offense to Sizemore or Hafner intended, but there hasn’t been enough healthy evidence since then to prove that they were anything other than guys who caught lightning in a bottle for a couple of seasons, but couldn’t sustain that success.

So, that’s two guys out of nine that have solidly contributed to successful seasons before 2007 and after. The rest? Well…

We all love Casey Blake, but remember that he averaged 24 plate appearances during his first six years of getting cups of coffee in the Bigs with Toronto, Minnesota and Baltimore. His first full season wasn’t until 2003 with the Indians, when he was 29. He was mostly mediocre, but had a couple solid seasons with the Tribe, then went on to average .257 with the Los Angeles Dodgers until he retired after 2011.

As for Barfield, Michaels, Nixon and Garko, the most memorable thing that comes to my mind was finding different ways to incorporate barf and trots into bad digestive system jokes during losses.

Now, Lee, Sabathia, Hernandez (remember when Fausto was Fausto and he was good?), Westbrook and Byrd? Then Raffy Left and Raffy Right setting up Borowski to tally 45 saves? Now THAT was fun to watch.

But all that fun only amounted to an American League Championship Series loss to the Boston Red Sox. Sure, 96 wins and a series win against the hated New York Yankees, but deep down, I’m not happy unless there’s a ring on it.

The (so far) 2013 Cleveland Indians? Let’s have a looksy, shall we?

C ~ Carlos Santana
1B ~ Mark Reynolds
2B ~ Jason Kipnis
SS ~ Asdrubal Cabrera
3B ~ Lonnie Chisenhall
LF ~ Michael Brantley
CF ~ Drew Stubbs
RF ~ Nick Swisher
DH ~ Mystery Men
SP ~ Justin Masterson
SP ~ Ubaldo Jimenez
SP ~ Brett Myers
SP ~ Zach McAllister
SP ~ Carlos Carrasco
RP ~ Joe Smith
RP ~ Vinnie Pestano
RP ~ Chris Perez

 

In order to win 90+ games, a team really needs a star or two. That 2007 team had the ghosts of Grady and Pronk to get fans to the ballpark and V-Mart to produce the runs that let that unbelievably good pitching staff do its work. I can’t find that guy on the 2013 Indians.

I want the star to be Asdrubal Cabrera, and I think there’s a chance, but aside from a solid career batting average, Cabrera has been pretty mediocre. It bugs me to face the facts on Asdrubal, but I need my star to be better than a six-year peak of 25 HR and 92 RBI. Toss in the fact that he looked like Miguel Cabrera when he got to Spring Training last season and played like he was being bothered for most of the season, and I’m not very keen on dropping the pressure of having to be the guy on him.

Can it be one of the young guys I love? Kipnis, Brantley or Chisenhall? I hope so, but it’ll probably have to be all three of them if it’s going to be one of them. Kipnis has pop and speed, but Brantley is the guy who doesn’t strike out and has potential to hit .300. And I’ve been crushing on Chisenhall since before I wrote for More Than a Fan, but the kid has to show me something before I start stalking him.

Could it be Nick Swisher? Sure. I mean, Swisher actually could be the guy. But, no matter how much I’ll be rooting for him, he’s 32 and probably isn’t going to spend the next four years improving. That leaves Carlos Santana, Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs or whoever gets signed to an incentive laden contract to DH. Sigh… let’s just move on.

I don’t think we found a guy to be the guy. But even if you think we have a guy and that I’m being too hard on the current squad, I really don’t think one is enough. No matter how many times I drop rag-tag on that 2007 lineup, they had two things the current Indians just don’t (seem to) have; the innate ability to make something happen in clutch situations and a pitching staff that I’d put against any team in the league.

The 2013 Indians returning starter with the most 2012 wins is Justin Masterson. He won 11 games last season. Jimenez won nine games, McAllister won six. (It’s pretty bad news when I have to spell out the numbers instead of using the digits) That’s the top three returning starters on the Opening Day rotation with 26 total wins. In case you were wondering, the top three returning starters in 2007 – Westbrook, Lee and Sabathia – combined to win 41 games in 2006. That’s… umm… quite a difference.

I know that this all sounds pretty depressing, but it’s not. It’s just that this team isn’t quite good enough for the playoffs right now unless that Santana gets more consistent, that group of young guys all break out together and Ubaldo figures out a way to throw more than one strike in a row.

There’s potential in Cleveland, especially given how the team is stacked with guys under 27-years old, but crying 90+ wins and the playoffs in 2013 is premature enough that there’s probably an embarrassing medication you can take to calm down a bit.

Don’t worry, it happens to all fans.

(No it doesn’t)

Much Ado About Aces?

We’re nearly one month into the season and all knees have been jerked and bridges have been closed down due to jumpers.

In all seriousness, I’ve noticed a lot of panic about some of the league’s ace pitchers and their velocity, and as a productive member of society, I’d like to do my part in talking down a few people from the ledge.

We’ll start with the obvious – Tim Lincecum. In four starts, Lincecum has relinquished 26 hits, 17 earned runs, two home runs and nine walks. Lincecum’s fastball has seemed to be the prime issue thus far as his reported velocity has tanked at an “alarming rate.” According to a FanGraphs’ chart, the difference in Lincecum’s velocity from 2011 to 2012 is two miles per hour. In April of 2011, his average fastball Continue reading Much Ado About Aces?

Ubaldo's First Start Invokes Memories of Trades Past

By Ryan Isley

Newly-acquired Ubaldo Jimenez makes his first start for the Indians tonight after being sent to Cleveland last weekend for Alex White, Matt McBride, Joe Gardner and Drew Pomeranz (PTBNL).

Some (myself included) thought the Indians gave up too much for Jimenez. Sure, he is a proven commodity (somewhat) and the players the Indians gave up were just prospects. The thing that was hard to swallow was that the Indians were giving up their two best pitching prospects in the organization in White and Pomeranz.

Then as people (and by people, I mean me) were shouting that the Indians overpaid and would rue the day that they gave up White and Pomeranz, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! sports wrote this piece on the number of pitching prospects that actually pan out.

That got me thinking. So with Jimenez making his first start as a member of the Indians rotation, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the last two trades the Indians made when it came to a top of the line starting pitcher to see what the pitching prospects involved in those two deals are up to these days. Of course in those two cases, the Indians were the ones getting the prospects.

You all know the two trades – C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers and Cliff Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies.

While we all know that the Indians received Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley from Milwaukee in the Sabathia deal, the two forgotten pieces in the trade are the pitching prospects. Along with LaPorta and Brantley, the Indians acquired Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson.

Jackson was with the Indians organization for two seasons, compiling a 9-12 record with a 5.79 ERA in his time between Triple-A stops in Buffalo and Columbus and his time in the Majors with Cleveland. Jackson was granted free agency following the 2009 season and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was 2-3 with a 5.64 ERA for Triple-A Las Vegas last season and is now 9-4 with a 5.86 ERA for Triple-A Round Rock this season, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

Rob Bryson is in his fourth season in the Indians organization, where he has pitched no higher than Double-A Akron. The reliever has a 7-4 record and an ERA of 3.28 in 62 combined minor league appearances. Shortly after the trade, Bryson underwent surgery for a tear in his labrum and rotator cuff that forced him to miss the remainder of 2008 and almost the entire 2009 season. Since returning, he has a record of 8-3 with a 2.26 ERA between Single-A affiliates Lake County and Kinston and Double-A Akron.

At the trading deadline of 2009, the Indians sent Lee (who by the way was once a prospect himself when dealt from Montreal to Cleveland in the Bartolo Colon deal) and Ben Francisco to Philadelphia for catcher Lou Marson, infielder Jason Donald and pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp.

Knapp has made 13 starts in his two seasons in the Indians organization since being acquired, not having pitched above Class-A. He is 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA, striking out 59 and walking 20. Knapp was on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis when the trade was made and then made just four appearances after he came back before having season-ending shoulder surgery. Knapp was once again shut down this June with shoulder surgery after not having pitched this season.

Carrasco has probably had the most success (at least the most exposure) for the Indians of any of the four pitchers in the two deals, making 33 starts in the Major Leagues (including Wednesday night at Boston) with a 10-15 record and a 4.88 ERA.

Carrasco earned his time in the Majors by compiling a 15-7 record and 3.67 ERA in his 25 games in the minor leagues. Carrasco, still just 24 years old, has shown flashes of being a good pitcher at times and may still turn out to be a successful starter.

Meanwhile, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA for Milwaukee down the stretch in the 2008 regular season, even pitching on three days’ rest at times. He helped the Brewers to the playoffs where he was beaten in his only start. Sabathia turned that run into a huge contract from the New York Yankees (7 years/$161 million), where he has gone 56-20 with a 3.07 ERA in his three regular seasons, including a 16-5 record and 2.55 ERA so far this season.

Sabathia has fared better in the postseason for the Yankees than he ever did for the Indians or Brewers, as he is 5-1 with a 3.12 ERA in his eight starts. Sabathia also has a World Series ring that he earned as part of the Yankees championship team in 2009.

Lee has a regular season record of 30-20 with a 3.14 ERA and a postseason record of 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA since the trade. Lee was also traded from Philadelphia to Seattle in a three-team deal that netted the Phillies Roy Halladay and then was traded to the Rangers last season at the trade deadline. Lee signed back in Philadelphia as a free agent this past offseason.

After looking at those two deals and seeing how the prospects that the Indians received are faring, it makes it easier to see why the front office would be willing to part with two prospects if they thought they were getting a true ace in return.

That being said, I still do not have to agree with it or like it.

I just hope Jimenez proves the Indians right and proves me wrong.

Follow Ryan on Twitter at @isley23 and like More Than A Fan on facebook.

It Was One Crazy Night of Baseball

I normally save all of this for the MTAF Grand Slam of Baseball News that I do on Mondays but with all of the crazy baseball last night, I just couldn’t leave it until then. 

We Can’t Even Blame the Republicans for This Blown Call

After a game that went 19 innings, lasted 6 hours and 39 minutes and sent 15 pitchers to the mound, the Atlanta Braves win over the Pittsburgh Pirates was finally decided by a blown call by the plate umpire. Even the women of The View were furious this morning.

Hey I work from home….I watch TV while I work.  Let my choice of shows GO.

Continue reading It Was One Crazy Night of Baseball

MTAF Morning News – Wednesday, July 6th

By Ryan Isley

Indians Fall To Yankees

Just one night after an emotional come from behind win over the New York Yankees, the Indians gave all of that momentum back in one inning on Tuesday night at Progressive Field.

With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Carrasco induced what should have been an inning-ending double play ball from Francisco Cervelli that would have kept the game scoreless. Instead, second baseman Cord Phelps threw it in the dirt to first base and Carlos Santana was unable to make the scoop, allowing the Yankees to take a 1-0 lead as Nick Swisher crossed the plate. As poor of a throw as it was by Phelps, it was a play that Santana probably should have had.

Continue reading MTAF Morning News – Wednesday, July 6th