Tag Archives: Detroit Tigers

The American League Wildcard and the Trouble with Schedules

It appears that the Indians’ favorable schedule down the stretch is keeping the glimmer of playoff baseball alive in September.

I can’t believe it. You can’t believe it either. As I wrote last week, the Cleveland Indians are still relevant as it pertains to the 2015 playoffs. At the beginning of August, most writers and fans alike had capped this season as a disappointment and were looking ahead to 2016. Slowly but surely, the Indians strung some wins together and figured things out.

Currently, the Indians are just 4.5 games out of the second wildcard spot currently held by the Texas Rangers. In front of them are the Los Angeles Angels (3.0 GB) and the Minnesota Twins (1.0 GB).

Let’s take a look at each of the current contenders and their remaining schedules in the months of September/October:

Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota twins are currently locked in a series with the Chicago White Sox, having won game one of the three game set last night, 6-2. After their remaining two games in Chicago, the Twinkies travel home to Target Field for a 10 game homestand featuring visits by the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, and, after an off day on 9/21, the Indians. They then travel to Detroit for a three game set, followed by a four game set at Cleveland to finish out the month of September. Their final series of the season comes against the Kansas City Royals at home at Target Field.

Clearly, of the remaining games, the most important series comes against the Los Angeles Angels next week. Considering it’s a four game series, it could make or break the Twins’ wild card hopes in addition to sinking other squads’ hopes. In a perfect world, you hope that the teams split the two game series and gain no ground either way. The Indians have a favorable weekend series against the White Sox at the same time as the Twins v Angels series, so a sweep there could really place the Indians in a position to own the 2nd wildcard spot conversation entering the final two weeks of the season.

Another problem the Twins face down the stretch is the perceived strength of their schedule. They only face 4 teams after their weekend series against Chicago: Cleveland, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Kansas City. Of those four teams, one is going to be a division winner (KC), two are currently competing with the Twins for the second wildcard spot (CLE and LAA), and one is down and out this year, but still can pack a wallop (DET).

While the Minnesota Twins have been a nice story this season (see: Houston Astros), the strength of their schedule down the stretch may overarchingly doom them.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Los Angeles Angels are currently in the middle of a three game home set against the Houston Astros and won their game last night 3-2. After finishing with the Astros, the Angels travel for 10 straight games against the Mariners (3), Twins (4), and Astros (3). After a day off, the Angels open a 6 game home stand against the Mariners and Athletics, before traveling to Texas for a 4 game showdown with the Rangers.

Of the teams remaining in the wildcard race as it stands right now, the Angels probably have the hardest schedule of them all. The AL West has been the surprise division (in my opinion) this year in terms of divisional excellence. The thought entering the season was that the Angels and Mariners would clash for the division crown while using the injury plagued Rangers, downtrodden Astros, and talent-less Athletics as target practice in between. In reality, Seattle has been an overwhelming disappointment considering their talent level. In addition, the Angels have played well below expectations and nobody really knows what team their going to get when playing them. The Rangers, even with all of their injuries entering the season, have found ways to win games and keep themselves relevant while the Houston Astros shocked the world and took the division by the horns while never looking back. The Athletics are the only team that have really played to expectations before the season started.

Instead of just one team to worry about down the stretch (Mariners), the Angels have to play three decent baseball teams within their own division. While this makes for interesting storylines as a writer, Angels fans are undoubtedly worried about the strength of schedule they face over the course of the upcoming weeks and what that means to their playoff hopes. Unfortunately, Mike Trout can’t play every position.

Texas Rangers

Like the Angels, the Rangers play many games remaining on their schedule in their own division. The Rangers have it slightly easier in that they see the Athletics twice (6 games) and have a random series at the end of the month against Detroit. Other than that, the Rangers play the division leading Astros twice (6 games), the Mariners once (3 games), and finish their season at Los Angeles (4 games).

If you read the second paragraph under the Angels tab, it applies here as well. The only difference being the strength of schedule the Rangers face. It is slightly less difficult than the Angels with two series against the Athletics and one series against the Tigers.

Cleveland Indians

Of the AL wildcard teams mentioned in this article, the Indians overwhelmingly have the easiest schedule down the stretch. Cleveland plays 3 at home against Detroit followed by a four game set against the Royals and a three game set against the White Sox – All at home. After an off day, they travel to Minnesota for 3 games and then to Kansas City for 3 games. They then travel home for the final home series of the season against the Twins (3 games) and Boston Red Sox (4 games).

Easy, I think, is a relative term in baseball. The Indians have some challenges when it comes to their remaining schedule. The difference, I think, is the strength of the challenge as compared to other challenges faced by the latter wildcard contenders. Yes, the Indians face the Royals seven times down the stretch. Yes, the Indians face the Twins six times down the stretch. Those 13 games will be tough, of that I have no doubt.

But are we really afraid of going 0-13 against those two teams? Of course not.

Are we afraid of dropping all but one game in the series against the Royals and Twins? Of course not.

When I look at teams like the Angels and Rangers, I actually believe that they could walk into each others’ ballparks or Seattle’s or Houston’s and get blanked three straight games.

That’s how good I think the West is this year.

The Indians just have to play their style of baseball, get a few hits, and play no- to minimal-error baseball. They do that, and they have a chance to travel to New York for a one game wild card playoff against the vaunted Yankees. I believe that this team is in the right place, when it comes to their hitting, pitching, and defense, to make a push.

I’m not overly optimistic about our chances. I think, as a Cleveland sports fan, I packed away optimism, along with the ideals of “hope” and “dreams”, in a box long ago.

I do think the Indians have a golden opportunity to do something special and I hope they can muster together enough to make a wildcard appearance happen.

I guess, as the leaves change, we will see if the Indians fortunes change as well.

*Note: Teams directly behind the Indians in the standings were not included in this article due to its potential length if they were added and the shear number of teams still vying for a spot. As teams either move in front of the Indians or separate themselves from the pack, this article will be updated to reflect their chances and remaining schedules.

Tribe Time Now #19: Down the Carlos Santana Rabbit Hole

In this episode of the Tribe Time Now podcast…

 

Mike Brandyberry (@didtribewin) of Did the Tribe Win Last Night? joins Jim Pete (@jimpeteehc) of Everybody Hates Cleveland. In this episode, Mike and Jim talk about where the Indians currently stand in the landscape of baseball, ponder what in the hell is going on with the Tigers, take a look at the inside moves the Tribe has made of late and whether there are any more they can make, and discuss potential trades at the deadline.

Topics:

  • The Indians are in “pretention”
  • Why do the Tigers always kick our teeth in?
  • Did the Indians move too slowly in bringing up Urshela, Lindor & Anderson?
  • Do the Indians have the guts to dump Bourn and/or Swisher?
  • Can the Indians do anything at the deadline?
  • The Carlos Santana puzzle piece, does he fit with the Indians, will they trade him?

Links:

Tribe Time Now Not-So-After-Dark #2: iLube

In this episode of the Tribe Time Now After Dark Podcast…

Tribe Time Now After Dark #2 with Stephanie Liscio: iLube

Stephanie Liscio of It’s Pronounced “Lajaway” joins MTAF: Cleveland Indians Columnist and Tribe Time Now Host Ryan Thompson for another edition of the Tribe Time Now Podcast.

Topics:

  •  Francisco Lindor’s lack of a call up at the beginning of the week
  • Giovanny Urshela’s promotion and Lonnie/JRam’s demotions
  • The Indians appearance at the Apple Developer’s Conference
  • The Indians 2015 MLB Draft (Picks 1-7)
  • Stephanie’s appearance and talk at the Maltz  Museum THIS WEEK.
  • And much much more

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon Moss

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Bourn

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

The N-I-N-E spot.

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

On a brighter note, Carlos Santana continues to impress.

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

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

Starting Pitching

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Series: Kansas City

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tribe Time Now #11: R-E-L-A-X. RELAX.

Topics:

a. Today’s game

b. Lineup, Raburn, reactions

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

d. Schedule, off days and errors

e. Starting pitchers

f.  Bullpen issues/concerns

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

 

 

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

Where, oh where, is the run production?

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon Moss & Danny Salazar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patience at the plate

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

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

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

Spring Training Timing

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

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

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

Have a good week all and go Tribe!

Tribe Time Now #10: Expansion by Inclusion

After extensive conversation and debate, the Indians get an A- on the off season upgrades and we conclude that, overall, the Indians expanded their fan base by increasing Progressive Field’s inclusivity.

Last night, I was joined by Stephanie Liscio (@stephanieliscio) of itspronouncedlajaway.com and we discussed a number of topics already present in this young 2015 season; the most prominent of those being the stadium renovations at Progressive field.

In addition we discussed the following:

  1. Wednesday’s game: CLE:4 CHW:2
  2. WP: Bauer | SV: Allen | LP: Danks
    • Lonnie, Sands, Bourn collect two hits a piece
    • Great bullpen outing
  3. Jerry Sands: Where does he fit on the roster?
  4. Roberto Perez: More than meets the eye
  5. Stadium renovations: Thoughts and analysis
    • The corner, mezzanine
    • Bullpens
    • Upper deck
    • CSU turbine
    • Gate C
    • Kids club house
  6. Detroit: Transitioning to collect a lot of hits over the long ball?
  7. Injury round-up: Yan, Dr. Smooth and Carlos Carrasco

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast: TribeTimeNow.com/subscribe

Tune in Next week and Go Tribe!

Tribe Bullet Points: I Went to a Game

Welcome to Tribe Bullet Points. It’s the largely incomplete and mostly un-researched account of the Cleveland Indians. Follow me on twitter at @RailbirdJ and complain about my writing to @MTAFCleveland

Full disclosure: I got free tickets to the Indians game Sunday. Rest assured this is NOT because I’m some highfalutin1This is actually one word. It’s in the dictionary and everything. Of course, so is selfie. so… reporter or media mogul. It’s because I have a new family and I’m on somewhere north of 33,987 Cleveland related email lists. Honestly, I probably got the email because I’m friends with the matriarch of #IndiansTwitter’s First Family, @PrincessWikki

  • The Family Deck and Kids Club are amazing. There are tons of cool interactive things for kids to do, the food is close, the bathrooms are close, and the whole are genuinely feels like a family place. Really well done.
  • I took my six and a half month old daughter to her first game Sunday, and I can tell you that it’s the least actual baseball I’ve watched at the ballpark in my life. But I was still part of the game. My daughter learned loud cheers were something to giggle about, to get excited when John Adams bangs his drum, and to expect to be held over my head during Hang On Sloopy. This was the best game, ever.

LISTEN: Tribe Time Now – Weekend Update #1: Yan Gone – iTunes, TuneIn, RSS 

  • The Corner and the corresponding standing room only sections are also great.  They look good, there are good views of the field, and they’re a way to generate some buzz and revenue during games that may not be well-attended2I’m not doing it, guys. I’m not going to make an attendance joke.
  • The Right Field District, the new bullpens, and yes, even all that open concrete area, is also a winner in my book. I know it’s not baseball purist worthy, but there is a distinct group of people who enjoy being downtown at games for reasons other than sitting in their seats to watch the action. These areas allow those fans to feel good about spending their money on tickets.
  • The right field terraces are ugly. The idea behind them is solid; the team needed a way to cut back on capacity while still using all that area up there in the upper deck. Terraces work perfectly. The cosmetic execution of the idea was bad. I know less about architecture than I know how to make money with a website, so, for all I know, there could be real reasons why the terraces look like they look. Without having those reasons, I can’t help but feel like those terraces make the park look cheap. Which is a real shame, because their visibility really overshadows the great things done in the rest of the park.
  • On to the game, the series ending loss to the Tigers left me feeling strangely encouraged. All three games in the series were mostly competitive, but the Indians put together seven straight innings of outplaying the Tigers in Sunday’s loss. I realize that sounds like Indians homer drivel, but watching the game Sunday felt different than watching Friday and Saturday.
  • Both teams getting a warning after T.J. House plunked Victor Martinez was stupid. House is a notorious junk-baller, and if a guy like that can’t push the envelope inside to a lineup like Detroit’s, there’s absolutely no chance for him to be effective.

  • EFF Miguel Carbrera. I would never actually wish injury on any athlete. But, seriously, I can’t live like this anymore.

  • I overreacted with this. The Indians are a good baseball team. The injury to Yan Gomes is worrisome, and I HATE LOSING TO THE TIGERS, but the Tribe will bounce back against the rest of the AL Central. The bats came alive against the Tigers, and with that sort of support, the top of the rotation should be able to pitch with loose and with the lead. I’m still excited about Indians baseball in 2015, even if I stop getting free tickets because I wrote about it here.

Reference:

I didn’t use any stats today, but if I did, they would be from Baseball-Reference.com. I love Baseball-Reference, and you should, too.

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1. This is actually one word. It’s in the dictionary and everything. Of course, so is selfie. so…
2. I’m not doing it, guys. I’m not going to make an attendance joke.