Tag Archives: Cy Young

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!

Cleveland Indians Notes: Spring Training Schedule Charles Brewer

 

It’s good to be back.

I had to take some time off from writing for MTAF Cleveland, but my schedule has finally normalized and I am back for the long haul. I don’t have too much to talk about, but I thought I would hit on a few recent items that crossed my  Twitter feed over the past week.

While Indians beat writers and fans haven’t had much to talk about, our friends in Boston have a lot to write about now that the Red Sox have signed former San Francisco Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval and former Los Angeles Dodgers SS/3B Hanley Ramirez. It’s clear that Boston is all in and willing to spend to get another championship with the talent on-tap.

The Indians’ spring training schedule was released just a few days ago and you can find it at this link.

Some interesting opportunities looking at the schedule:

  • The game on March 7th at home versus the Dodgers may give fans the ability to see N.L. Cy Young and N.L. MVP Clayton Kershaw live.
  • I’m somewhat shocked there is only one split squad game. Regardless, those games will be played on Friday, Match 3rd at home versus Arizona and at the Chicago Cubs.
  • With only one off day (Wednesday, March 18th), the Tribe should be able to ramp up for regular season play fairly quickly.
  • We get to see reigning American League Champions and divisional foe, the Kansas City Royals, three times during spring training. We also get to see reigning National League Champions and 2014 World Series Champions, The San Francisco Giants once (Wednesday, April 1st).

In addition to the release of the Indians’ 2015 spring training schedule, a small roster move was made with regard to the Rule 5 draft: Scott Barnes was designated for assignment to make room for RHP Charles Brewer (@CharlesBrewerAZ). Brewer was acquired for cash considerations from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Brewer is a tall, lanky right hander who played his college ball at UCLA before being selected in the 12th round of the 2009 MLB. He made his MLB debut on 6/10/2013 and pitched in four games for the Diamondbacks, primarily in short relief at the end of ballgames.

Personally, I see Brewer as a project (a rough Trevor Bauer). I would call for him to begin in Columbus and see how he does. If he shows great promise getting back from his injuries in addition to the necessary velocity and control to compete against MLB hitters, bring him up. Having a solid right-hander in the pen can’t hurt, especially at the rate Tito goes through relievers.

Special kudos…

…To RHP Corey Kluber on his American League Cy Young win in addition to Silver Slugger wins by LF Michael Brantley and C Yan Gomes. The entire Indians organization worked hard this past season, but those three really dug deep and achieved greatness. We, as fans, are very lucky to have those three individuals locked up for significant amounts of time and hopefully the Indians organization can continue to surround them with the talent necessary to win a World Series championship.

Have an opinion you’d like heard or explored?

I look forward to covering the Indians for you, the fans, as senior correspondent for MTAF: Cleveland. If you have any topics you’d like to see me explore or opinions you would like heard: comment on my article or tweet me @RThompAK13!

Josh's Five Thoughts; MLB Awards Edition

Here’s the quick and dirty from the MLB awards season, presented to spur some conversation. Join me @MTAFSports or More Than a Fan on facebook.  All of these things are indisputably true.

***

1) Major League Baseball announced awards?

I hate to be a Negative Ned to start this thing out, but I really think baseball gets it wrong by announcing their most prestigious awards after the season is over and baseball is on the sports periphery. The NBA is getting into gear, college football is heading into season affirming games, and the NFL has turned the corner and is already filling TVs with playoff seeding graphics. There is SO MUCH going on in sports right now, that I can honestly say if it weren’t for the press release media email that announced my hometown Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley as Silver Sluggers, I wouldn’t even know that awards season had begun.

* Update: I just learned Mike Trout was voted the AL MVP. The ESPN scrawl during the Grantland Basketball Hour hooked me up.

* Update #2: Charles Barkley is ripping Derrick Rose for being soft, so I got distracted while searching for the MLB logo.

2) Silver Slugger Awards have lost their shine.

Gold Gloves still matter. Cy Youngs are a sign of dominance. MVPs need a ladder to get to their pedestals.

No one ever talks about Silver Slugger Awards around the water cooler. I’m not sure why, really. I think winning a Silver Slugger Award is a big deal. Since 1980, the best offensive producer at each position wins a Silver Slugger. That makes nine awards per league, per season. That’s 18 of the best offensive weapons out of the roughly 250 everyday starters in baseball. I’d say the top 7% deserves more recognition than what they got.

3) Mike Trout is one Hell of an MVP. 

Sure, Clayton Kershaw dominated NL hitters – and voters – on his way to the Cy Young/MVP sweep in 2014, but Mike Trout ran away with the AL MVP award faster than Bill Simmons is going to run away from ESPN when his contract is up.

Artist’s rendering of Cranky Old Guy at Work

Mike Trout was so dominant that, during a conversation with the Cranky Old Guy at Work Thursday, I reported to him that Mike Trout was the AL MVP. Eight hours before MLB announced that Trout had won the MVP, I just thought that I had missed the announcement and went with the guy who I was sure had won. Again, is that lack of fanfare good for baseball?

4) The Cleveland Indians homer in me is pretty happy today. 

As I already mentioned, Gomes and Brantley were AL Silver Sluggers, Corey Kluber took home the AL Cy Young, and Michael Brantley road a great season to a third place finish in AL MVP voting.

Sure, the Indians didn’t win diddly squat in 2014, and there’s a good chance the fan base is going to be super pissed about the club’s (lack of) offseason moves, but there’s some legitimate talent on this team and I can’t wait to see them open the 2015 season.

5) Speaking of Corey Kluber…

If you want to seem smarter than the guy who makes snarky jokes about sports at the company coffee maker every morning, read up on why Kluber isn’t going to be traded to a big budget team like CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee were.

“But the Indians are cheap and stupid!” your coworker will say. He might very well be right about the Indians, but Kluber’s contract situation isn’t remotely close to Sabathia’s or Lee’s.

And, at the risk of getting judged for using “speaking of” again, speaking of Corey Kluber and trades, trying to keep up with the trades that brought Kluber to the Indians is fun thing to do.

Tell me what I missed at @RailbirdJ or Josh@morethanafan.net! Mark May is stupid!

 

Reflecting On 2013 Tigers And Theorizing Where To Go From Here

It’s been over for nearly two weeks.

dt.common.streams.StreamServerThe Detroit Tigers’ latest assault on that elusive fifth World Series title fell short last Sunday, as Shane Victorino’s Game 6 grand slam (which is still airborne) catapulted the Boston Red Sox into the World Series (which they are expected to win within the next two days). The Tigers became the first team to reach the ALCS in three consecutive seasons since the New York Yankees made four in a row between 1998 and 2001. The Yankees won the World Series in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and were one win from another championship in 2001. The Tigers have won the pennant once out of these three appearances and won exactly zero games in the ensuing World Series. Pretty stark contrast.

Going so far as to call the 2013 season a “failure” appears at first glance to be a bit harsh, but consider that the organization’s brain trust has stated time and time again (especially over the past two seasons) that the goal of the Detroit Tigers is to win the World Series. They were very active at the trade deadline this season and last. They spent MORE THAN $500 MILLION DOLLARS to tie up three players: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander. The Tigers have had three good teams over the past three seasons, but they all had the same fatal flaw: a failure to score in the postseason. The Tigers averaged only 3.2 runs per game in the 2013 postseason, and have averaged 3.4 runs per game over the past three Octobers. The 2013 edition was extra-special because of their abysmal bullpen; the bullpen that cost Max Scherzer two wins in the ALCS and blew three wins for Detroit overall. The team appeared to be constructed well enough, yet there’s no championship. And when the franchise credo is “World Series or bust” and the franchise doesn’t win the World Series, then yeah, there’s a mildly compelling argument that 2013 was a failure, despite the third consecutive division title, despite the likely Cy Young Award for Scherzer, and despite the very strong possibility of another MVP award for Cabrera.

The Tigers’ latest postseason power outage cost them their manager, as Jim Leyland elected to step down after eight seasons on the job. As much vitriolic crap as Leyland frequently got from scores of angry Detroit fans, there’s no denying the impact he had on the club. When he arrived in 2006, the Tigers were irrelevant. They lost 119 games in 2003, their last winning season was 1993, and their last playoff appearance was in 1987. Since 2006, the Tigers have recorded the following: six winning seasons, four playoff appearances (three times as division champion), and two pennants. What that means: Jim Leyland is the second-best manager in Tigers history, right behind Sparky Anderson.

Now, regarding this team’s future. The way this writer sees it, there are two feasible routes the Tigers can go (no, neither of them involve hiring Dusty Baker and spending $250 million on Robinson Cano):

1) hire a younger manager from outside the organization (Brad Ausmus, Torey Lovullo, Tim Wallach), trade potential 2014 free agent Scherzer, and begin to utilize younger/unproven players on the major league roster (whether it be from the Scherzer trade or to fill voids left by the departures of free agents Joaquin Benoit, Omar Infante, and Jhonny Peralta). At the end of 2014, let Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez walk as free agents, and *consider* moving 2015 free agent Cabrera (unless he takes a discount), In other words, lay the miguel-cabrera-icon2foundation for a rebuild.

2) hire from within (Tommy Brookens, Jeff Jones, Lloyd McClendon), keep the band together (perhaps add an impact free agent because #MikeIlitchPizzaMoney), and give it another go in 2014. Extend Cabrera and/or Scherzer to keep a semblance of a championship window open for the next few years.

The rumors of the Tigers shopping Scherzer won’t go away, and with three guys making $20 million per year already on the payroll, general manager Dave Dombrowski may have to consider how to cut costs and get maximum value back for some of his assets. The Tigers’ farm system is one of the worst in baseball now, and it must be replenished eventually. Going route #1 would be disappointing to many fans, but no one really knows how much more 84 year-old owner Mike Ilitch can or will spend to rope in a title. And the current “win now” approach hasn’t paid all the dividends it was expected to.

MLB: Detroit Tigers-Prince Fielder Press Conference

Route #2 would appease hungry fans and likely keep the Tigers in that upper echelon in MLB. However, the farm system would still be in tatters and the Tigers would be paying at least $20 million per season to FOUR players for the next several years. Close to half the payroll would be tied up in two pitchers and two hitters, and at least three will be getting paid well into their late-30’s, unless a Marlins-esque salary dump occurs. This payroll constriction will be a problem in the years to come if the Tigers develop any top-flight prospects in the next year or so, or if secondary guys on the roster need a raise.

The Tigers are definitely a team to watch this offseason because of all the questions they have to answer. They’ve blown two golden opportunities to win a World Series for Mr. Ilitch and a rabid fanbase over the last two Octobers, and 2013 could very well prove to be the swan song for this era of Tigers baseball. Only time will tell.

Mariano Rivera Is Not the Greatest

I suppose that when Mariano Rivera announced that he was going to retire at season’s end, I should have expected a certain amount of indulgence by the media to express how truly wonderful Mariano Rivera is as a player and in particular how great a reliever he is.

Before we get to deep here, I’d like to go on the record as saying I have no bones to pick with Rivera.  He is one of the Yankees of the modern era that I have always admired, he has done his job very well for a long time, and he has been gracious in defeat.  I can’t commend him enough for coming back for one last season, fulfilling his promise to not end his career on an injury.  I hope he saves another 40 games this year, and I hope they’re the only 40 games that the Yankees win, too.  As far as members of the Evil Empire go, he’s probably the guy that I dislike the least and admire the most.

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