Tag Archives: Corey Kluber

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.

Tribe Time Now Weekend Update #11: The Will to Win

In this episode of Tribe Time Now Weekend Update…

 

In order to get an outside perspective on the Indians offensive struggles, Joe (@BRBBlog) enlisted Cincinnati Reds super fan and founder of The Will to Win Sports, Will Hart (@TWTWSports) for the Weekend Update. The truth may hurt, but it needed to be said. Among the various topics covered in this very special episode were the Indians leader in TWTW (The Will to Win), why Carlos Santana doesn’t have it, what TWTW really means, why Omar Infante deserves to start in the All-Star game and why Corey Kluber is a loser. Finally, we get down to brass tacks about which is better, WAR or GRIT, a win or a loss and Applebees or Chilis.

Topics:

  • No Runs
  • Blame Carlos
  • TWTW
  • All-Stars
  • Kluber is a Loser
  • WAR

Links:

Don’t forget to join us Saturday, July 11th at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up. Information can be found here.

Fun Stats about the Indian's Pitchers

This is the second part of a series looking at the most interesting, meaningful and sometimes meaningless stats of Indians players. This time we look at our amazing pitching staff. For last week’s piece click here.

Corey Kluber: Kluber leads the majors in: WAR, strikeouts, strikes, strikeout to walk ratio, linear wights for his curveball (means he has the best curveball in the business), swing rate on pitches out of zone, swing and miss percentage, and is tied for the AL lead in losses. Plus he hasn’t been that lucky this year, his Batting average against on balls in play is really high and should go down.

Carlos Carrasco: Carlos Carrasco has a 4.35 ERA. This is mostly due to bad luck and poor fielding because his independent measures like FIP and xFIP are in the 2.8 range.

Trevor Bauer: Trevor Bauer is an interesting case. He is the only qualified starting pitcher on the Indians with a BABIP under .300 (.262). Hitters are only batting .208 against him which leads the Indians staff and is 14th in the nation. Hitters are also having trouble getting good contact against him. 25.9% of the contact hitters make against him have been soft contact which is second best behind Dallas Kuechel. The only issue is that he walks a lot of people.

Danny Salazar: Leads the majors in strikeouts per nine innings. Change-up has vastly improved and he now has the 4th best change-up in the league according to Fangraph’s linear weights model.

Relievers:

Cody Allen: Has been a good closer so far for us this year. His only problem is that when he puts a runner on, (which happens to often because of our poor defense) they score 35% of the time which is way too much for a closer his quality.

Zach McAllister: ZMac has been getting his fair share of criticism so far this year, but he truth is that he has been one of best relievers this year, posting a strong 2.93 ERA. Oh and that whole Zach McAllister only throws fastballs claims that I see on twitter whenever he pitches, is false. ZMac only throws his fastball 70.2% of the time which is 32nd among qualified relievers.

Nick Hagadone: Lefties are going .220/.279/.359 this year against Hagadone. Those numbers are exactly what you need from a lefty killer.

Bryan Shaw: Shaw has done well avoiding hard contact. Only 17% hitter’s contact against Shaw were hard contact. But three of the balls that were hard contact went over the fence for home runs.

Scott Atchison: Grandpa Atch has allowed more home runs this year than walks.

Mark Rzepczynski: 46.8 of the runners that are on base when Zep is up go on to score. This rate is very high for a reliever so hopefully that will improve.

 

 

 

Double Update: Tribe Time Now Extra Innings #3 and Weekend Update #8

To save time, space, and effort – we’ve got TWO Tribe Time Now podcast updates below:

Tribe Time Now Extra Innings #3: Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt

Topics:

  • AL Central overview
  • The Minnesota Twins (?)
  • The Houston Astros (?)
  • Looking ahead to June: Probable wins and tough matchups
  • Continuing the Conversation of Replacing JRam and Bourn
  • The real cost of Johnny Cueto to the Indians

And,

Tribe Time Now Weekend Update #8: Not Every Prospect Can Be The Next Andy Marte

Topics:

  • Week in review
  • What to do with Ramirez/Lindor
  • Should the Indians DFA Michael Bourn? Part II
  • How to evaluate prospects

Links:

 

Don’t forget to join the Tribe Time Now crew and Affiliate Hosts Saturday, July 11th at 5 PM at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up.

Information on the Tweet-Up can be found here.

 

Additionally:

Please consider attending a special presentation on “Integrating Cleveland Baseball: Media Activism, the Integration of the Indians, and the Demise of the Negro League Buckeyes” by author and It’s Pronounced “Lajaway” co-owner/editor, Stephanie Liscio on June 17th at 7 PM at the Maltz Museum in Cleveland, OH.

Admission is $12 ($6 if you’re a SABR member/member of the museum) and gets you into Stephanie’s talk AND to the Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming America exhibit which is only at the museum for the summer.

Information and pre-registration information can be found here.

Tribe Time Now Episode #16: Peaks & Valleys

In this episode of the Tribe Time Now Podcast…

Mike “Miggy” Brandyberry of Did The Tribe Win Last Night? joins Ryan Thompson MTAF Cleveland. Miggy and Ryan discuss Carlos Santana’s baby girl, the division as it stands now, conclusions from the TEX series, a preview of the SEA series, the curious case of Michael Bourn, and CF replacement options!

 

Topics:

  • Divisional Overview
  • Texas Series: Conclusions and thoughts
  • Michael Bourn: Too little too late?
  • Trade targets in center field
  • Seattle Series

Links:

Don’t forget to join us Saturday, July 11th 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!

Bats begin to heat up as Indians split series with Toronto; Starting pitching still not going the distance

As the top of the Indians lineup begins to heat up, Indians respond with runs to split series with Blue Jays; Starting pitching falling short and putting tired bullpen in awkward position

The Indians ended the weekend on a good note, splitting the series with Toronto by beating the Blue Jays 10-7 in comeback fashion.

After finding themselves in a 6-1 hole and an offensive explosion (including a grand slam) by the Royals, the Indians responded with an offensive explosion of their own, bringing the score back to even at 6-6. After that, the Indians were able to tack on another two runs and finally ended the game beating the Royals 10-7.

What was even more impressive? The top 4 batters in the lineup went 10-14 which included 3 doubles and a homerun.

Michael Brantley continues to shred the ball increasing his overall slash line to .352/.410/.507 while Jason Kipnis continues to impress in his new role as leadoff hitter.

Let’s look a little more in-depth at Jason Kipnis over the last 7-10 days:

According to baseball-reference.com, Jason Kipnis is hitting .375/.500/.792 over his over the last 7 days with 3 HRs, 7 RBIs and 1 2B. He has walked 5 times and only struck out twice. In that time span, he holds an OPS of 1.292.

In the month of May in particular (3 of 4 games against Toronto), Kipnis is hitting .667/.733/1.250 with an OPS of nearly 2.000

That’s right, nearly 2.000.

For the season as a whole, Kipnis is not only hitting well when in a hitters count (defined as 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2), but he is also hitting decent with two strikes (.280/.333/.480). His two-strike hitting slash line is nearly identical to his slash line with RISP and with two outs and runners in scoring position, Kipnis is hitting .286/.444/.286 (9 PAs/7 Abs).

Another interesting note: This year, Kipnis has equal the amount of hits (7) to right field (pull) and left field (opposite field) and is actually hitting better to the opposite field (.412/.389/.588 to the opposite field vs .318/.318.455 to pull).

But enough about Jason Kipnis; let’s talk quickly about Ryan Raburn:

Ryan Raburn (of all people) is annihilating left-handed pitching, hitting .441/.459/.706 so far this season. He is the ultimate option as a pinch hitter against left-handed pitchers right now among all hitters in the MLB. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m super happy that Raburn is riding the Indian’s bench right now. He added a double and two more RBIs in today’s appearance for David Murphy.

The Indians starting pitching has been chased early in many of the contests that I was able to watch this week.

In Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays, Trevor Bauer was chased after just four and a third. The bullpen (surprisingly) allowed just one run over the remaining four and two thirds. They tacked on seven strikeouts while only allowing one walk. While it took 90 pitches (51 strikes) for Trevor Bauer to get through slightly more than four innings, it only took 62 pitches (40 strikes) for the bullpen in the remaining four and two-thirds. The bullpen was extremely efficient with Mark Rzepczynski and Scott Atchison tossing less than 10 pitches a piece in their appearances.

In Saturday’s loss, Corey Kluber lasted only 5.0 innings. On Friday, Carlos Carrasco lasted 6.0 innings and on Thursday, T.J House lasted just three innings.

For a bullpen that is already struggling due to, what would appear to be being overworked/tired this season and last, it is imperative for the Indian’s starting pitching to get past at least the sixth inning in more than 80% of May games.

In the same vein, the Indian’s starting pitching requires at least some form of run support. The move and subsequent awakening of Jason Kipnis in the leadoff spot and the emergence of Michael Brantley seems to be signaling a thawing trend for the Indian’s cold bats.

Carlos Santana walking his way to top marks in OBP

Carlos Santana continues to impress in that, when he isn’t getting the pitches to hit that he is comfortable with, he has the patience and frame of mind to hold off and work walks. He is getting on base regardless of what opposing pitching is throwing at him. This strategy worked for him well last year (he led the majors in walks) and as the bats continue to thaw, I guarantee that he will take more bases and score more, regardless of how he happened to get on base.

If just three or four players in the Indians lineup could adopt Santana’s method of patience at the plate, we could see a fundamental turnaround of this team in as little as three or four games.

Will this adaptation happen? No, not in a million years.  We can dream though.

To come this week

We also have to deal with Nick Swisher entering the everyday lineup again sometime later in the week which I am just overjoyed about. Nick Swisher is exactly what this team needs right now.

Forget Michael Bourn’s abhorrent record thus far at the dish – Nick Swisher could possibly sink lower.

Then we would have two players anchoring the lineup to the cellar of the AL Central.

The plan is to look at Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and Carlos Santana under a microscope over the course of this week to analyze just what might be happening as we enter the month of May. With games in the open pastures of Kauffman Stadium, I look for the top of the Indians lineup to hit the ball long and in the gaps. Hopefully these hits translate to some Ws, but of course, it is incumbent on the starting pitching to keep the game close and the bullpen to shut the door.

Have a good week Tribe fans and be sure to check out my conversation with Indians Baseball Insider Owner and Editor-in-Chief, Tony Lastoria at 9:30 PM Wednesday, May 6th on the Tribe Time Now Podcast:

tribetimenow.com/live or radio.mtaf.tv

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!