Tag Archives: Lonnie Chisenhall

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..

   [ + ]

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.

The Tribe is Alive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shapiro back, back, back and gone to Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case and point: the Bartolo Colòn trade of 2002:

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Tribe Time Now Weekend Update #9: José Ramirez isn't very good

On this episode of the Tribe Time Now Weekend Update…

Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) and Mike Melaragno (@melaragno_22) repBurning River Baseball on the Weekend Update, talking about the Indians lackluster offense and tremendous pitching. After discussing the struggles of Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall, we get to break the news that one of the two has been demoted to AAA. In addition, we cover Justin Verlander’s start against the Clippers and who the Indians might take with their first round draft pick (update: It was Brady Aiken)

Topics:

  •  Two runs per game
  • Possible replacements for Chisenhall
  • Justin Verlander’s AAA Start
  • Breaking New: Ramirez Demotion
  • Potential draft picks

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

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:

Tribe Time Now #7: Waiting Till This Year

Download | Subscribe: RSS (audio) | iTunes

On this episode of the Tribe Time Now podcast, Ryan and Stephanie Liscio of itspronouncedlajaway.com tackle a number of interesting subjects including:

– Stephanie’s trip to AZ for Spring Training

– The status of Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar

– Lonnie Chisenhall and the iffy-ness that is the 2015 Cleveland Indians Defense

– The health and appearance of Brandon Moss

Michael Bourn’s resurgence (?)

– 1 Good Minute on Nick Swisher

The SI cover jinx

Ryan’s One Big Thing

Sands’ Bomb, the play of Michael Martinez, and if they belong in the 25-man roster

1st and 2nd round of cuts/demotions to AAA and AA

– “The Corner”, #TribeLive, Ballpark amenities, etc.

– Upcoming items on itspronouncedlajaway.com

– Co-owner Susan Petrone’s new book titled “Throw Like a Woman” and an upcoming speaking appearence by Stephanie Liscio

Make sure to subscribe to the Tribe Time Now Podcast at tribetimenow.com/subscribe or search “Tribe Time Now” in the iTunes Podcenter

As always, e-mail us with questions, comments, and concerns at [email protected] or tweet us @_TribeTimeNow

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!

Cleveland Indians Weekly: A Lot of talk, not a lot of movement

 

It’s been a pretty big week for player movement in the MLB thus far

The deal involving the Oakland A’s and Toronto Blue Jays was the centerpiece of this week’s marketplace.

In exchange for 3B Josh Donaldson, the A’s received 2B/3B Brett Lawrie and three minor-leaguers (High-A Pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman & teenage shortstop Franklin Barreto).

In my opinion, this signals that the A’s are entering a period of rebuilding even though Billy Beane hasn’t overtly made that decision known to the general public. Donaldson has a WAR north of 7.4 the past two seasons and is one of the best players in the game today. In a world where he has to compete with the likes of Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera, his true influence is left nearly unnoticed.

From the Blue Jays side of the equation, there are a few things that are clear:

1. They think they have what it takes to compete AND win the A.L. East in 2015

2. The power moves by the Boston Red Sox (signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) signaled a “Power” arms race in the N.L. and the other four teams had a very short time to decide if they wanted to jump in. Clearly New York is nowhere near the point where it can hope to compete  in 2015. Their superstar hung up his cleats for good, it’s rotation is unproven and its infield is decimated from just a few years ago. The Orioles are seeing some of their rising stars hit free agency and take the opportunity to test the market (See: Nick Markakis), but they retain many of the pieces that helped them win the division by 10+ games in 2014. Finally, the Rays have lost skipper Joe Maddon to Chicago and unless everything comes together in 2015, I just don’t see them even competing through the All-Star break.

Some minor rumblings…

There were some other smaller moves around the league and the Indians have been linked to the likes of free agent and former SEA 1B/DH Kendrys Morales and NYY 3B Chase Headley. Whether anything happens with those players, it’s too early to know. Considering we already have Carlos Santana, I guess I don’t see the point in being linked to Morales unless the thinking is that he and Carlos would split 1B/DH duties. As for Headley, we’ve basically moved away from that deal, but it’s interesting that were looking at a 3B when we have Lonnie Chisenhall. While some people think Chisenhall had this crazy good season, he honestly didn’t. He came out smoking into June and then just deflated. His slash line at the end of the season was .280/.343/.427. Above average, but nothing to write extensively about, in my opinion. If that slugging percentage goes up by oh, I don’t know, 50-60 points and his SO/W ration comes down from 3, then we can talk.

In the same breath, we can also say that FA and former Tribe ace Justin Masterson is garnering interest from every team in the AL Central in addition to a handful of other teams in the AL and NL East & NL Central. Again, WAY to early to tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team pull the trigger on him around the time of the winter meetings or a little before.

The real talk…

Has been around what to do with Nick Swisher. Nick’s contract has about $30 million left on it and, after last year, many are speculating that the Indians front office is shopping his contract around to see what they can get for him. I’ve never been a “fan” of Swisher per se. Last year was definitely a blip on the radar. Swisher has never played as badly (or as few games) as he did last season. The front office must see it as the beginning of his post-prime regression. I would give him one more year. If he had played a full season, I guarantee his numbers would have rebounded somewhat.

If the Indians are looking to unload a contract…

They should look at Michael Bourn. Bourn is in the middle of his 4 year/$48 Million contract and he still has upside that may be appealing to some teams. If the front office could package Bourn and a few prospects (that are not off the table (See: Lindor, Frazier, Naquin, etc) for PHI P Cole Hamels, that could be a smart move. Hamels is owed $90 million through ’18, but he is going to be cheaper than many of the current FA P on the market. The problem with this deal is: The Phillies are an old team. When I say old, I mean OLD. The Phillies want one thing and one thing only: Young talent. We have young talent. We have a lot of it. But the Phillies are going to want our best and brightest, especially after Cole Hamels finished 6th in the NL Cy Young race and delivered a a 3.07 FIP, 3.37 SO/W and 5.0 WAR. I’m thinking they’ll request Lindor and/or Naquin and our front office will laugh all of the way out of their offices and make a joke about old age, dinosaurs, etc (at least I would).

You may have heard…

That the Indians and Red Sox are poking around the idea of a trade involving Yoenis Cespedes for a few of our major-league tested young pitchers (Bauer and Salazar). Don’t believe it for a second. Carrasco, Bauer and Salazar are propped up for Big seasons this year, and the front office is not going to damage what could be the best young rotation in the majors for a 1 year rental on a guy who regressed on a really bad Red Sox team. Mark my words: Cespedes will be dealt by the All-Star Break this year (or earlier). He’s goign to be dealt to a dumb team on the cusp of playoff-relevancy with a lot of young talent to unload. I’m thinking Brewers.

Interested in meeting AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber?

Or MVP finalist Michael Brantley? Check out Tribefest, held January 24th and 25th at Progressive Field. I’ve included the link here. Last year, the area got hammered with bad winter weather and I was unfortunately unable to go, but from what I heard from my friends on Twitter, it was the greatest thing next to opening day. I highly recommend going if you’d like a chance to take a picture with one of your favorite players or get an autograph. Tickets are on sale now and are going quick!

As the weeks progress, I’ll be sure to cover any deals or signings by the Indians. Because this is the downtime for the MLB, I’m going to be doing in-depth profiles of the players who I believe will get the starting nod on Opening Day 2015. I’d like to include snippets of conversations with fans, so, if you have an opinion about starters in 2015, make sure you leave a comment and let’s talk!

I love ya Cleveland. Roll Tribe!

Cleveland Indians Midseason Review Part Two: The Bad and The Ugly

The All-Star break is nearly over and the Cleveland Indians are getting ready to start playing baseball again. For the Tribe the first half of the season was a rollercoaster culminating in a 47-47 record, landing them in 3rd place in the AL Central behind the Kansas City Royals (48-46) and the Detroit Tigers (53-38). The first half ended on a positive note for the Indians, as they took 2 out of 3 games against the Chicago White Sox and have won 8 out of 12 in the month of July. Nick Swisher (hitting .289 in July) and Carlos Santana (hitting .276 since the end of May) are finally starting to hit the ball better while All-Star Michael Brantley continues to be the team’s best player. Corey Kluber (9-6, 3.01 ERA) has also emerged as the team’s best starter. Despite this, the Indians still find themselves 7.5 games out of first place. At this time last year Cleveland had a 51-44 record and was only 1.5 games behind Detroit for first place in the Central. Clearly there is still some work to be done for the 2014 Indians. Picking up from yesterday, here is part two of the Cleveland Indians midseason review, this time focusing on the bad and the ugly. For part one (the good) click here.

The Bad

Masterson has been a disappointment for the Indians this season
Masterson has been a disappointment for the Indians this season

While the Indians offense at times has been maddening, they are currently ranked 7th in the league in runs scored with 417 and also have the 11th best team batting average at .255. So how does a team that scores runs at a fairly good clip (average of 4.4 runs per game) find themselves with a .500 record and in 3rd place? Poor starting pitching. Aside from Kluber the Indians starting rotation has been a mess. As a whole Tribe starters in the first half of the season (Kluber, Masterson, Bauer, Tomlin, McAllister, House, Salazar, and Carrasco) have an ERA of 4.49 while the opposition is batting .273 off them. Justin Masterson, who earlier this year was reportedly asking for a contract extension in the neighborhood of $17 million per year, is 4-6 in 19 starts with a 5.51 ERA. He’s averaging just over 5 innings per start, is second in the American League in walks (56) and leads the AL in batters hit by a pitch (11). Trevor Bauer (3-4, 3.84 ERA) and Josh Tomlin (4-6, 4.26 ERA) have been decent, pitching like end of the rotation starters, but all in all the Indians starters are a big reason why this team is in the hole that they are in. As a team the Indians have a -8 run differential (417 runs scored vs. 425 runs allowed). The 425 runs allowed doesn’t fall squarely on the shoulders of the starters, however as a group they have allowed 307 runs (275 earned runs) to score this year. Injuries have played a factor into this equation (McAllister and Masterson specifically) but all in all the Indians starters, outside of Kluber, haven’t been all that great.

To continue with the pitching theme, John Axford has been a disappointment this year. Brought in to fill the closer role, Axford was stripped of those duties during the month of May. Statistically Axford hasn’t been all that bad this year. In 41 appearances (37 innings pitched) he is 2-3 with a 3.41 ERA. His K/9 ratio is 10.7 and the opposition is only hitting .221 off of him. Axford’s problem seems to be similar to that of former Tribe closer’s Chris Perez, he lost his mental toughness. The Ax Man saved 8 out of 9 games through the end of April, however ninth inning dramatics and a few blown saves forced manager Terry Francona to make the switch to closer by committee with Cody Allen being the committee chairman. Not a good look for Axford, who is getting paid $4.5 million to save games (or in this case not save games) for the Indians this year.

The Ugly

s19tribee.jpgDefensively, the Indians are a train wreck. As a team they are first in the league in errors (76) and, unsurprisingly, have the worst fielding percentage of any team in the league (.979). Cleveland is on pace to commit 130 errors this season, this would be the most errors by a team since the 2011 Chicago Cubs (134). Indians pitchers have also thrown 42 wild pitches (6th most) and there have been 7 passed balls (tied for 5th most). Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera leads the Indians with 14 errors, which is good enough for third most errors in the league this year. Challenging Cabrera for the team lead is Lonnie Chisenhall with 13 errors and Yan Gomes with 11 (although the majority of his came very early in the season and he has been relatively error free since early May). Nick Swisher has also committed 9 errors. The third base and shortstop position combined has committed 36 of the team’s errors this season – offenders here include Cabrera, Chisenhall, Carlos Santana and Mike Aviles.

For the majority of the season two of the Indians heavily relied upon hitters have failed to produce much of anything. While it’s true that both Santana and Swisher are (possibly) turning things around, both were mostly bad for the Indians for most, if not all, of the first half. Santana is hitting .207 on the year. While he does have 14 home runs he was only batting .159 through the month of May. His one redeeming quality was a good on base percentage during this stretch. Currently Santana has an OBP of .349 (top 50 in the league) but a hitter with his potential hitting cleanup in the batting order needs to do more than draw walks. Nick Swisher has been a colossal letdown this year for the Indians. Injuries may be playing a small factor (suffered a hyper extended knee earlier this year) but Swisher has been pretty terrible in just about anything baseball related aside from giving high fives. This year Swisher is batting .208 with 8 home runs and 36 RBI with only a .288 on base percentage. July has treated Swisher better, hitting .289 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI (45 at bats), but in order to salvage his season he is going to have to do more than hit well in 12 games.

The Indians as a team have also played poorly on the road. This year they are 18-28 away from Progressive Field. Offensively they have been outscored 201-210 and pitchers have an ERA of 4.22 on the road (compared to 3.76 at home). While the Indians have played well so far in July they are about to go on an eleven game road trip (against Detroit, Minnesota and Kansas City) to kick off the second half of the season. If this team wants to make a playoff run in the second half they’ll need to play better on the road and it must start immediately with this road trip. Already 7.5 games back and with all 11 of the upcoming games being against teams in the division the Indians could really help (or harm) their chances.

In Conclusion

By all accounts this team has underperformed. The rotation has been awful, key players have struggled mightily offensively and defensively they are the worst team in the league. Overall they play like a team that constantly looks like they are about to turn a corner but never do. If that doesn’t change than the 2014 season will go down as a bust for the Cleveland Indians.