Tag Archives: Jose Ramirez

More Than A Friday: I’ll Be Nice, Let’s Be Better

Thursday was a difficult day, a day highlighted by senseless loss of life. It was so difficult, in fact, that I considered blowing off the column this week, but that would be taking the tragedies of the day and making it about me. That’s simply not my style. Before I left the office, I learned of the C-130 (aka Sky Pig) that went down in Jalalabad, killing twelve people, but the 12 lives taken there weren’t the focus of conversation on Thursday, nor will it be in the coming weeks.

Look, we’re all fed up, if not fatigued by the stories of mass shootings. The incident in Roseburg, Oregon seems to be just another notch in the bedpost for someone’s agenda, and as much as we, most of us anyway, want to be sensitive to the families of the victims, we all have an angle. Most of us aren’t shy about discussing it. Blame the epidemic that is mental illness or blame the weapons used to obliterate the innocent, if you must, but my thesis here remains the same. Let’s treat each other better, and continue to strive to be worthy of all things we’re blessed with in this life.

I’m not sure what I was planning to publish for Friday, as I attempt to transition to sports in a not so subtle manner, but I’m definitely pivoting towards being nice this morning. I’ll be nicer about Jose Ramirez and how he should have been treated by the Minnesota Twins after violating age-old baseball code, and I’ll even be kind about two of my least favorite teams in all of sport being showcased in the NFL’s prime time event last night.

The Elite Quaterback1The misspelling is intentional.  If you get the joke, great.  If not, please just move on. and The Dog Killer

For very different reasons, I abhor the the football chapters in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, known affectionately by everyone involved with the National Football League as the Steelers and the Ravens. However, when they’re on the same field of play and we have to hear about how wonderful this rivalry is, I despise the sum a lot more than the combined value of its parts.

Generally, I am reminded that I’ve held on to grudges for too long as a Browns fan, and I reluctantly knowledge that to be true. Generally, I also don’t care about the accuracy of any of that; my irrational feeling is my prerogative as a fan. On this day, a day that senseless stole the lives of so many, I was going to put all of that to the side and be nice.

With Ben Roethlisberger out 4-6 weeks, or 2-3 weeks if you consult Dr. Bill Cowher, the Steelers turned to backup quarterback Mike Vick2He doesn’t want to be Michael.  He probably doesn’t want us to remember why he was sent to Leavenworth either.. Now, if I wasn’t being nice, I’d bring (allegedly) sexually assaulted women and tortured canines to the conversation, but I’m being nice. So, before the game, I thought, “Get well, Ben” and “Good luck, Mike”.

These are fellows with families and mothers who love them unconditionally. I would filter those mean things I might want to say about them, if I knew I were in the presence of those families, so I know I’m capable of doing so. On the other sideline, you have the franchise that once existed as the Cleveland Browns. Very few people affiliated with the events that took place in 1996 would be involved in Thursday evening’s match up, so again, I’ll be nice.

Pittsburgh, in addition to missing the services of their quarterback, is also missing their projected starting center, so at 2-1 on the season, they’re thinking about damage control. Vick is there because Bruce Gradkowski isn’t healthy and Landry Jones isn’t good. They were going to run the ball and keep it simple for the ex-con taking snaps from the backup center. They were fortunate enough to start this run with a taxi-squad at home against a winless Baltimore team.

While we argued how valid some of the 3-0 starts were on this week’s Suits and Laterals Podcast, on the flipside of that coin, you could also question the lack of substance behind the Ravens’ 0-3 start. Denver was understandable, Oakland wasn’t, and the letdown against the Bengals was what it was. I’m sure they’re not proud of how they look in the standings, but John Harbaugh isn’t going to lead a squad that gives up that easily.

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The games between these two are usually close, and it usually means quality, but Pittsburgh’s 10-7 halftime lead didn’t represent that in any way. The Steelers defense isn’t very good, but the Ravens offense couldn’t quite exploit that. I’ll admit that Joe Flacco can be everything the Ravens want from their quarterback, but that doesn’t mean he’s that guy all of the time, and he most definitely was not even close to that in the first half. The Steelers, on the hand, were basically in line with the low expectations you’d have had with Vick.

The Steelers had this game in hand; all they needed to do was close. And, they’re the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s what they tend to do when they play from ahead. Vick notwithstanding, they have Antonio Brown to pick up the slack, and Le’Veon Bell isn’t a bad second option, especially when you want to shorten the game by keeping the clock moving.

Vick to Brown occurred a few times, but it was never effective or efficient. It was Bell that got the touches, the yards, and the Fantasy Football points, but he didn’t get the ball in the end. If I recall correctly, the Steelers had five opportunities to finish off their division rivals and failed to do so. Now, even though I was trying to be nice, there was a little bit of anxious giddiness to me when I considered an 0-4 start for the Ravens. And, when the Steelers failed to use Bell in short yardage on 3rd and 4th down, it bothered me as a football fan. After Josh Scobee missed a second field goal, each promised to make life difficult for Flacco and company on Thursday, I was stuck in nice-mode and forgot how much joy I usually take in Pittsburgh failure.

Even before Ravens kicker Justin Tucker hit from 42 yards in the final seconds of regulation, I felt that Pittsburgh deserved to lose a game, though they controlled everything about it for so long. When Tucker hit from 52, after a questionable 4th down call by Mike Tomlin, who refused to go to Bell on 4th and 1 (or trust Josh Scobee3Scobee, the Steelers’ third kicker since the start of the pre-season, missed two kicks in the game’s final three minutes of regulation.to kick a 50-yard field goal), I felt justice had been served.

I wasn’t content that a team I’ve spent my entire life disliking lost. I just felt Football Team A was punished for screwing the pooch, a fine example of the universe evening itself out.

Everyone Loves Showboating, Everyone Except Me

The Indians and Twins played 18 innings of baseball on Wednesday, with both teams running out of time to grab a playoff spot. In dropping the matinee 7-1, Cleveland gave Houston a chance to effectively end the Indians season, regardless of what happened in Game 2 of the double-header at Progressive Field. In the eighth inning of a game the Twins trailed 7-1, the Minnesota skipper opted to walk Jason Kipnis to get to Jose Ramirez.

Ramirez responded by pulling a Ricky Nolasco pitch over the right-field wall for a 3-run jack, a ball that sailed all of 331 feet into the Cleveland night. After hitting his sixth home run of the year, the Indians utility infielder admired it for longer than he should have, and then he flipped his bat towards the visitors’ dugout. I know that things change, and that few understand the etiquette involved here, but you really can’t do that.

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This isn’t a participation trophy thing; it’s more about respect for the game, and when you get over on a pitcher for one of those 4-base hit, your feat and the scoreboard have done all the talking that needs to take place. I never saw Bob Gibson pitch and couldn’t quote any of his stats to you, but I know that he was notorious for not tolerating that shit. I mean, you could do it, but at a cost, as Gibson would put the next pitch he threw you into your rib cage. That was the fee for patting yourself on the back, and everyone seemed to be on the same page with that. And hey, I’m actually down with that arrangement.

These days, everyone seems to want to make excuses for the grand-standing. Now, athletes allegedly come from different cultures and don’t understand unwritten rules. I, on the other hand, like that some things are kept off the books, and don’t need everything to be so literal. I’m all about hashing shit out like men, and I don’t say that like some fake tough guy. Short of the whole “snitches get stitches” thing, I like the idea of settling things face-to-face without calling the police over every stinkin’ neighborly dispute, and in baseball, I like when the game polices itself.

Since the home run and subsequent bat flip occurred late in Wednesday night’s contest, Paul Molitor and the Twins could only verbalize their dissatisfaction with Ramirez. To their credit, Terry Francona offered no justification and basically apologized on his player’s behalf. Among the baseball people involved, the only ones who have opinions that matter, the Twins gripe had weight to it. No, Ramirez didn’t kill a guy, as whiners and defenders of bat flips so annoyingly pointed out, but he was in the wrong with it. He even offered an apology.

His manager even put him in a place to take his medicine, batting him lead-off in the final meeting between the two teams on Thursday. I saw this one going down one way, and it went like this. If the Twins opted to get their pound of flesh from Ramirez, it had to happen on the first pitch, it couldn’t be at the batter’s head, and you don’t get a Mulligan if you miss. As Tribe color man Rick Manning predicted, the Twins put a priority on winning a ballgame over the fireworks that come with the unwritten rules. Fair enough, they’re in a playoff race and don’t need to lose a starter in the first inning of a game over something silly.

It’s my belief that the umpires respect that code, and no ejection would have taken place. I’m not sure that Jeff Kellogg’s crew would act that way, but it’s my personal opinion that they should have and probably would have. Where I disagree with Manning, is with the suggestion that the Twins get theirs down the road. Nope. There’s a statute of limitations on the mitigating circumstance of “he threw the first punch”, and it expired when Tyler Duffey went down and away with his first pitch to Ramirez.

It was okay to do nothing in that situation on the field. I’m not sure many will disagree, regardless of how they feel about bat flips. So, let’s bring this thing full-circle, and remember that doing nothing is the wrong way to react to Thursday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College.

That includes bitching about nothing being done. There’s a group in Washington that can do something to initiate change. We all have the ability to vote for or against at least one of them. Next month or next year, before you blindly cast a vote for or against any of them because of a letter by their name4Letters like (R) or (D)., take the time to understand what they plan to do, and if you don’t know, ask them. This is our country, as in yours and mine, make sure your represented…if you care, that is.

References
1 The misspelling is intentional.  If you get the joke, great.  If not, please just move on.
2 He doesn’t want to be Michael.  He probably doesn’t want us to remember why he was sent to Leavenworth either.
3 Scobee, the Steelers’ third kicker since the start of the pre-season, missed two kicks in the game’s final three minutes of regulation.
4 Letters like (R) or (D).

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 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.

Fun Stats about the Cleveland Indian's Batters

Catcher:

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

1st base:

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

Second Base:

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

Shortstop:

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

3rd Base:

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

Outfield

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

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

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

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

DH/ Utility

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

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

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

For part two on Indian’s pitchers  click here

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 Weekend Update Ep. 6: Winning Out the Season

In this week’s episode of Tribe Time Now: Weekend Update…

Host Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) of Burning River Baseball welcomes in Jim Berdysz (@JBirdman27) of Indians Baseball Insider discuss the most recent week in Indians baseball focusing on the Rangers series and the increased offense. In addition, they make a plea to stop being so mean to Lonnie Chisenhall, Jose Ramirez and David Murphy. After the past comes the future and it looks to be a good one with Yan Gomes, Mike Aviles and Shaun Marcum all scheduled to come back this week. They discuss the ramifications of that as well in addition to who is the most likely to be cut.

 

Topics:

  • Recap & Winning Every Game for the Rest of the year
  • Zach Walters’ woes & the Return of Mike Aviles & Yan Gomes
  • Stop Being mean to Lonnie Chisenhall
  • Stop Being Mean to Jose Ramirez & Why Lindor Should be Up Now
  • Who To Cut & Why David Murphy Isn’t A Good Option
  • The Return of Shaun Marcum & What to Expect

 

Links

 

Tribe Time Now online, all the time:

2015 Cleveland Indians Spring Training Preview

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

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

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

 

Cleveland-Depth-Chart.0

 

Outfield

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

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

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

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

 

Infield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roll Tribe!

Indians execute trade for Moss, trade AA second baseman Wendle

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Earlier today, the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland A’s completed a trade in which the Indians received OF/1B/DH Brandon Moss for Double A 2B prospect Joey Wendle.

Moss, who is 31, recently had hip surgery, but should be ready by the time the tribe opens the season in early April. He has been in the league since 2007 and has received playing time with the Phillies, Red Sox, Pirates and Athletics. His first full year of playing time came in 2009 with the Pirates where he hit .236/.304/.364, collected 20 doubles, smacked 7 homeruns and collected 41 RBIs.

Wendle, a sixth-round pick by the Indians in the first year player draft in 2012, has spent all of his time in Cleveland’s farm system since being picked. Wendle won the Lou Boudreau award in 2013 which recognizes the organization’s top minor league hitter. In 261 games in the Tribe’s farm system, Wendle hit .292 and collected 28 homeruns, 68 doubles, 155 RBIs.

The Indians will have to make room for their recent acquisition and have designated 28-year-old pitcher Bryan Price.

Inevitably, this trade was going to happen, it was just a matter of when.

The Moss trade had been making its way around the rumor mill for the last week, but we had to wait for the actual deal to be announced. It ended being exactly what we thought: 1 for 1, Wendle for Moss. There were talks that Billy Beane was trying to get one more piece in the deal (Jose Ramirez), but that quickly fell through. My assumption is Moss’ hip injury plagued the potential for a 2 for 1 deal.

Moss looks promising if his hip injury and subsequent surgery don’t linger.

Looking at the numbers, Moss is clearly the value power hitter that we could afford. He’s in his prime (with regard to hitting) and he came pretty cheap compared with some of the right-handed power hitters that were free agents (think: Nelson Cruz; 5 years/$95 million). In his most recent season, he hit .234/.334/.438 with 23 doubles, 25 homeruns and 81 RBIs. He also had 67 walks. One thing that scares me is his SO/BB ratio. In the past three seasons (2012-14) with the A’s, Moss has SO/BB ratios of .29/.36/.44 respectively. At least it’s going up. Additionally, according to ESPN.com, Brandon Moss saw the 18th most pitches per plate appearance (4.07), coming in just above MVP candidate Victor Martinez (4.06) and just below Shin-Soo Choo (4.08). For a guy who is going to inevitably be in the middle of the lineup, I would like to see that ratio between .80-1.10 as we progress through this year. More so, I’d like to see him sit back on a few more pitches, increase that P/PA ratio, and draw some more walks.

Moss’ WAR in the past three seasons (2012-14) was 2.1, 2.2 and 2.6 respectively. Compare that to David Murphy’s over that same time span (3.7 (TEX), 0.6 (TEX) and 0.2 (CLE)) and, offensively, the picture becomes a little more clear.

With regard to defense, I’m not as up-to-date as I should be on advanced defensive statistics, but don’t worry – I’ll have it down pat by spring training!

I like the trade and I think it signals the front office thinks we can win now.

The trade make sense for the tribe, a club on the precipice of breaking through and becoming an elite contender in the American League. Moss brings power to the middle of the lineup that desperately needs an injection of power after last year’s dismal performances by Jason Kipnis, Nick Swisher, David Murphy and Ryan Raburn. David Murphy should recognize this trade as the precursor to his exit as a part of the Indian’s organization. I see the Indians including him in a trade as we move into spring training if there are any teams in need of a utility player who has the potential to knock in some runs and get some extra-base hits.

Losing Wendle is rough considering how well he was progressing in the minors. With Jason Kipnis manning second base, Franciso Lindor waiting in the wings and Jose Ramirez ready to plug in where needed, it was one of the few times trading young talent for a proven hitter was worth it.

Moss has the ability to play both corner OF spots as well as 1B and some DH. He’ll be a welcome addition to the Goon Squad and will hopefully see significant playing time in Right field.

What else is in store for the Indians at the beginning of the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings?

As we head into the beginning of the 2014 Winter Meetings, expect many og the high dollar FA pitchers to find news homes. I don’t think we’ll be seeing the Indians making any moves, but If something comes up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the FO perform due diligence just to see if it could help us win now. Certainly, Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Corey Kluber, and Yan Gomes aren’t going anywhere. I’m nearly certain that our core of young pitchers (Carrasco, Bauer and Salazar) are on lock too, but I have them as less certain than the former.

2014 Cleveland Indians: Failure or Success?

As the MLB Playoffs continue the Cleveland Indians find themselves on the outside looking in. The 2014 campaign for the Indians mirrored that of the 2013 season in that it was an up and down roller coaster ride. With the goal in 2014 for these Indians being the playoffs I suppose it’s fair to say that this season was a disappointment, at least in that regard. But was the 2014 season really a complete and utter failure? The answer is no, and for multiple reasons.

First off, the Indians finished the season with a winning record, 85-77. While that is a step back from last year’s 92 win regular season it’s unfair to consider that bad. It isn’t. The 2014 Indians had a winning record. Were they maddening to watch at times this year? Absolutely, but fans of the Kansas City Royals would undoubtedly say the same thing of their team – and they made the playoffs this year (or postseason or Wild Card play in game, whatever you choose to call it). I’d also bet that fans of the Los Angeles Angels, owners of the best record in the league this year (98-64), were at times frustrated. Over the course of a 162 game season there will be frustrating moments. Frustrating moments don’t equate to a bad season. A losing record does. The Indians didn’t have that, it just wasn’t good enough.

KluberThe Cleveland Indians season could, and to a large degree should, be considered successful for several personal accomplishments that positively impacted the team overall in a big way. For starters, this team has both a Cy Young candidate and an AL MVP candidate on their roster. By all accounts, Corey Kluber should be the American League Cy Young award winner this year. He has a 2.44 ERA, 18-9 record, was second in all of baseball in strikeouts and had the second highest WAR among MLB pitchers (first in the American League). Now while I could also make the case that Kluber could also be the AL MVP as well (his 7.39 WAR is not only second highest among MLB pitchers, it’s the fourth highest overall in the league), Michael Brantley has made a strong case for that honor as well. His 6.97 WAR is sixth best in baseball and his .327 batting average is the third highest in the league. Also, consider this. In March (one game) and April Brantley had a .255 batting average, his lowest monthly average of the season. His batting average for the remainder of the season (May-September) was .341. He set career highs in nearly every statistical category, including home runs (20), hits (200), RBI (97), runs scored (94), stolen bases (23) and batting average. Defensively, Brantley played in 153 games (1304.1 innings) and only had one error to go along with 12 outfield assists (tied for fourth highest among outfielders in 2014).

Michael Brantley

These are the most obvious individual achievements that made the 2014 Indians a relatively successful season. There are others. For as bad a start as he had (and as low as his batting average is), Carlos Santana’s 27 home runs tied him for 17th this year in baseball. Considering both offensive and defensive performances, Yan Gomes was one of the best catchers in baseball this year. While he didn’t lead the league (among catchers) in any one statistical category, he is near the top in things like batting average, home runs, slugging percentage and caught stealing percentage. The Indians bullpen had the seventh best ERA in baseball (3.12) despite having pitched the fifth most innings (513.1). The bullpen was also seventh in the league in strikeouts (504). As a staff, Tribe pitchers finished with 1,450 strikeouts which set a record for most strikeouts in a single season.

While there were no playoffs this season for the Indians, 2014 looks like it may be a stepping stone to some long term success for this team. The 2013 and 2014 seasons are the first time the franchise has had consecutive winning seasons since the 2000 and 2001 seasons. We also got a glimpse at some rookies, who to a degree helped contribute to the successful 2014 season. Tyler Holt, Zach Walters, Jose Ramirez, Roberto Perez, Kyle Crockett and T.J. House all showed that there is some young talent coming not named Francisco Lindor. This is also a team that isn’t going to lose star players to free agency. Assuming he doesn’t retire Jason Giambi is the only unrestricted free agent. Mike Aviles has a $3.5 club option and a $250,000 buyout. Those are the only two potential free agent casualties. Everyone else (barring a trade) will be returning next season.

Looking at it strictly from a playoff standpoint, yes the 2014 season for the Indians was a failure and a disappointment. They finished in third place, 5 games back of the Detroit Tigers (AL Central Division winners) and 3 games out of the AL Wild Card spot. However, considering that the Indians managed to have a winning season, aren’t losing any major pieces on that team to free agency, have two players that are MVP candidates, one that should win the Cy Young and a handful of young talent to help with the future it’s extremely hard to consider the 2014 season miserable and disappointing. For the first time in a long while for the Indians success is here now and the future is bright.

Is baseball season over in Cleveland?

So I’m sitting at my desk, enjoying an amazing cup of Victory Monday Coffee after the Browns beat the Saints and it’s time to write my article about the Tribe… and I’m dreading it.  What happened this weekend? What happened to our playoff hopes? What happened to the magic???

 

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The Detroit Tigers, our arch-enemy, have been seemingly sliding off into the abyss but then when WE play them they decide to bring their mojo out of storage and sweep us? That’s a dream crusher right there. And we have fans that travel to the Motor City and start chants about Bankruptcy, because, well, we’ve got that going for us.

 

So the question is, as baseball fans, what do we do next? For those only interested in a team that is making a playoff run, I guess your season is over. But for those who actually enjoy the game of baseball, who love the sights and sounds and smells of the ball park, you’ve got some time left to enjoy this summer.

 

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Because even when the Indians lose these days, they make it a game. It’s fun to watch, the pitching has been pretty darn good and the guys are still making some amazing plays.  So yeah, today celebrate a Browns Victory but don’t forget to tune in to the Tribe this week as they are on the road in Houston.
Respectfully Submitted,

Cleveland Kate