This is the second part of a series looking at the most interesting, meaningful and sometimes meaningless stats of Indians players. This time we look at our amazing pitching staff. For last week’s piece click here.
Corey Kluber: Kluber leads the majors in: WAR, strikeouts, strikes, strikeout to walk ratio, linear wights for his curveball (means he has the best curveball in the business), swing rate on pitches out of zone, swing and miss percentage, and is tied for the AL lead in losses. Plus he hasn’t been that lucky this year, his Batting average against on balls in play is really high and should go down.
Carlos Carrasco: Carlos Carrasco has a 4.35 ERA. This is mostly due to bad luck and poor fielding because his independent measures like FIP and xFIP are in the 2.8 range.
Trevor Bauer: Trevor Bauer is an interesting case. He is the only qualified starting pitcher on the Indians with a BABIP under .300 (.262). Hitters are only batting .208 against him which leads the Indians staff and is 14th in the nation. Hitters are also having trouble getting good contact against him. 25.9% of the contact hitters make against him have been soft contact which is second best behind Dallas Kuechel. The only issue is that he walks a lot of people.
Danny Salazar: Leads the majors in strikeouts per nine innings. Change-up has vastly improved and he now has the 4th best change-up in the league according to Fangraph’s linear weights model.
Cody Allen: Has been a good closer so far for us this year. His only problem is that when he puts a runner on, (which happens to often because of our poor defense) they score 35% of the time which is way too much for a closer his quality.
Zach McAllister: ZMac has been getting his fair share of criticism so far this year, but he truth is that he has been one of best relievers this year, posting a strong 2.93 ERA. Oh and that whole Zach McAllister only throws fastballs claims that I see on twitter whenever he pitches, is false. ZMac only throws his fastball 70.2% of the time which is 32nd among qualified relievers.
Nick Hagadone: Lefties are going .220/.279/.359 this year against Hagadone. Those numbers are exactly what you need from a lefty killer.
Bryan Shaw: Shaw has done well avoiding hard contact. Only 17% hitter’s contact against Shaw were hard contact. But three of the balls that were hard contact went over the fence for home runs.
Scott Atchison: Grandpa Atch has allowed more home runs this year than walks.
Mark Rzepczynski: 46.8 of the runners that are on base when Zep is up go on to score. This rate is very high for a reliever so hopefully that will improve.
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!
First off, I want to wish all of you readers out there a Happy Thanksgiving!
For the first time in several years, Cleveland sports fans can actually be thankful for their teams. That got us thinking at MTAF: Cleveland — What would different members of the professional organizations be thankful for as they sat around the table sharing Thanksgiving dinner?
As a fan of the Cleveland Indians, I attempted to delve into the mindsets of several different members of the organization, trying to ascertain what they would be giving thanks for.
Chris Antonetti & Mark Shapiro
My first thought with regard to what Chris and Mark would be thankful for would be getting Terry Francona to come on board and coach the Tribe. But then I sat back and looked at the larger picture. If I was Chris or Mark, I would be thankful for how well the trades they’ve made over the past ten years have worked out. Just look at how a handful of the following trades worked out (in terms of production) for the Indians:
And those are just a few of the trades that have been made. Think about this: In a three team deal involving the Cardinals and the Padres, we gave up veteran pitcher Jake Westbrook and received 2014 AL Cy Young Winner Corey Kluber. Had Matt LaPorta worked out better, the Sabathia deal (which included 2014 MVP finalist and Silver Slugger award winner Michael Brantley) would have been seen as more genius than the Colon deal.
As Mark and Chris pass the gravy boat, they’re going to be giving thanks that so many of their trades worked out so well.
As Terry Francona rides his scooter to the store to pick up cranberry sauce, I imagine he too will think about what he’s thankful for. I would venture a guess that he’s thankful for several things:
1. His health
2. Mickey Callaway
Tito has probably never worried about his health (see: Urban Meyer). I’m not old by any stretch (I’m 23). I’ve found out that older men are thankful for their health, regardless of how healthy they actually are. Next, Tito should be counting his lucky starts that he has Mickey Callaway sitting on his bench coaching up his pitchers. Think about 2013. Mickey Callaway turned around a struggling Ubaldo Jimenez into quite possibly the best pitcher of the second half in the American League. I feel that if Tito had started Ubaldo in the place of rookie Danny Salazar, the Indians may have gone on to be World Series champions. Then we look back at 2014 and (channeling my innermost LeBron here) not one, not two, but THREE examples of what Mickey Callaway can do. First, Corey Kluber. Mickey has said that he really didn’t have to do much with Klubes this past season. As much as I’d like to believe that, there’s a reason he’s the pitching coach. Mickey worked with Corey to develop his secondary pitches and propel him into the upper echelons of pitching talent in the MLB. Next, there is Trevor Bauer. Bauer’s problem in 2013 was consistency and immaturity. Unfortunately for Trevor, he is young and often impatient. He need time to develop under more mature, accomplished pitchers. He got that with Justin Masterson and Corey Kluber. This year, while he had his troubles, Bauer was much more consistent and flashed some of the greatness that made the front office go out and get him. Finally, we have Carlos Carrasco. Known affectionately as “Cookie” among die-hard Tribe fans, Cookie experienced many of the same issues that Bauer faced — inconsistency and maturity. Remember his ejection and subsequent suspension in 2011 against Kansas City? How about his ejection for plunking Kevin Youkilis in 2013? That wasn’t a wild arm. Tito and Mickey worked with Carrasco and put him in the bullpen in 2014 and boy, did he deliver. Carrasco was electric out of the pen and proved to be the long-reliever we needed, especially when one of our starters couldn’t make it out of the 4th or 5th inning. How many times can you remember Carrasco putting in three to four quality innings, saving our bullpen arms for the home stretch?
Finally, The Indians are thankful for YOU, the fans.
When you go to a game or buy a jersey, you help finance the continued journey toward that elusive World Series title. When you get on Twitter or Facebook and talk about the Indians, you help them make a branding impact on new fans or fans who just don’t know it yet. When you write odes to Tom Hamilton or romanticize what the Tribe means to you on a t-shirt, you help the Indians build an regional identity. In a city like Cleveland, our professional sports teams need their fans as much as we need our teams. In some ways, we define one another. The Indians wouldn’t have much meaning without us and we wouldn’t have much meaning without them. So when the front office, the coaching staff and the players sit around their respective tables to share food and make memories, they will probably reflect, even if it’s only for a moment, on what it means to put on the Tribe uniform day in and day out for the best fans in the major leagues.
As for me, I’m thankful for football, a lot of food and a day off to enjoy it all with my family and friends.
The whole reboot phenomenon has become all the rage. I really don’t know if I’m in or out. The concept on the whole just has too many variables; are we bringing something good back to life, and are we improving the original or just watering it down? Are we re-creating something that looked good on paper, and then fizzled out on its execution? Or, are we just taking a giant pile of crap, throwing it at the wall, and hoping it turns into Godiva chocolate before it hits the ground?
I really don’t stick around long enough to find out, with the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot being an exception among few others, and I haven’t exactly motivated myself enough to see the second installment. Ditto for Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot, and I’m still waiting for a day rainy enough to take in The Dark Knight Rises. I wouldn’t even waste my time with something like 90210, Dallas, or the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. It all comes across like a Saved by the Bell spinoff, and even a fine thespian like Bob Golic couldn’t make that work.
Speaking of Golic, if we’re making this about Cleveland sports, and trust me, we are, isn’t his time with the Browns an era we’d like to reboot? I understand that the Browns themselves are just one giant failed reboot as an expansion franchise, but wouldn’t it be nice to, given where we’re at today, have a run like the local teams gave us from 1986-2001? I’m not asking for carbon copies; you can spare me the heartbreak, but I sure wouldn’t mind a little bit of relevance.
I know that there’s a time-frame for the Cavs, which is really all some of the younger fans have, that falls outside of that window. That entire era, which included five consecutive trips to the post-season, was very recent, ended badly, and basically hinged on one individual. You’re going to hear, and probably already have heard, enough about him and that reboot. It’s as if they are going to put all of their eggs in one basket, and then hand that basket to Jesus, once again. If it’s me, I’d just as soon not root for the Washington Generals to beat the Globetrotters on Saturday after watching them lose on Friday.
It’s about more than bringing back pieces from the original, which you almost have to do in order to hook the original viewers, but the program has to be a little bit different. Even if characters are reprising their original characters, they have to fill a different role. In a recent Grantland article, it was suggested that NBC reboot L.A. Law with Blair Underwood’s character having a more senior role this time around. That’s the type of thing I’m going for here; it’s a time of Marty’s Browns, the blue and orange Cavs, and the early days of Jacobs Field.
I think that it’s important to reach into the right era for the entertainment value. I’m still watching The Wonder Years, and realizing the nostalgia doesn’t come with simply going back 20 years, but going back to the late 60’s and early 70’s that gives it a lot of its appeal. Period pieces about the 80s just don’t carry that “it” factor, for me it’s as simple as That 70s Show surviving while Freaks and Geeks failed. The Wedding Singer would be an exception.
I don’t think you could make The Wonder Years work at a middle school in 1994 though the eye of a 2014 viewer, in the same mindset that we would not embrace a 17 year-old McFly-type’s hijinks going back to 1984 from the present-time. That’s why I’m not trying to reboot the 40s or the 60s here, even in spite of the Browns and Indians success; the more I thought about it, the less it worked.
Two Eighties Throwbacks
Room For 19?
For a sports fan, the beginning is a different time, depending on age, personal interest, and what our parents exposed us to. My pops grew up in Northeast Ohio, but took a liking to the Rams in childhood before warming up to the Browns before I was in the picture. He had the Fearsome Foursome, and they were the L.A. team, so I imagine the television exposure was quite significant for them, even in the 60s. He and I never really got into the motivation behind it, but I would dismiss anything involving the Rams’ Cleveland roots, and simply offer the explanation that kids have reasons for doing things that defy the logic we’ve come to understand as adults.
To me, it never mattered; by the mid-80s, we were in the same boat, watching the Browns because they were the team in town. It was a little easier for me not to stray off the beaten path in my formative years because the Browns were fun to watch, and it was just flat-out fun to be a fan. I don’t question why Cleveland remains a Browns town, despite how ass-backwards things have been since 1995. I remember the joy, the bond I shared with my friends and family over our football team, and how time basically stopped in our part of the world while the Browns broke our hearts.
The beginning for me was the beginning of Bernie Kosar’s time in Cleveland. I wasn’t ga-ga over the guy, even as a child, but it’s mostly because I didn’t know enough to appreciate him. At that point, Boardman might as well have been on the moon; I knew nothing of his time at Miami, Hail Flutie, how he manipulated the Supplemental Draft process to come home, or why he wore number 20 if he was playing quarterback in college. All I know is that Gary Danielson got hurt, Kosar came in the game, and I spent the next 10 years of my youth watching the Browns.
I don’t know that I every appreciated his value until it had diminished to the point where they were better off without him as a player than with him. This was something that was really difficult for me to comprehend as it was happening, maybe because of my age, but I think when you compound the emotions of an adolescent and compound them with just how spoiled kids my age were with the perennial success of the Browns from 1985-1990, it becomes a little more clear. Bernie’s best days were behind him, and we now know that it’s for the greater good to keep obstacles out of Bill Belichick’s way.
I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I am saddened by Bernie, for certain things, in the present tense. The slurred speech, which very well could be related to Kosar’s affinity for the sauce, as well as I what I always believed it to solely be, a lot of shots to the noggin, seems to define the 50 year-old former player more than anything else. There’s the divorce and the financial problems he’s had, which are actually none of our business as fans, but it’s a road you have to down to justify why this guy doesn’t have a more integral role in football today.
Then, you have to look at the positive side of Bernie Kosar, all of the aspects that allow us to deny that he’s a broken man, or that he even deserves to be perceived as one. First off, I want to speak to what an obviously compassionate man he is. If you’ve read Terry Pluto’s Things I’ve Learned from Watching the Browns, even just excerpts from it, you know that the fans always meant as much to him as he’s meant to them. Not to bully the present day athlete, but where do we see that these days?
Of course, it goes beyond the fans. If you take Bill Belichick and Art Modell, names you figure to be fairly high on Bernie’s poo-poo list, and weigh the fact that he holds no grudges, that he understands business, and is able to let go of the anguish that even the fans can’t release, maybe it makes us stop and think. Personally, I’ve long since put any desire to bellyache about Belichick behind me, but it’s a little more difficult to absolve Modell. Bernie has me thinking that maybe I should.
Maybe that doesn’t mean a thing to you. Maybe it’s wins, losses, X’s, and O’s, the bottom-line kind of stuff you want to hear about. Bernie knew his X’s and O’s, he could read defenses and see the field; he just got his ass handed to him a lot and he was often too proud, which led to his demise in partnership with Belichick. He was too proud to be given advice from anyone other than Lindy Infante, and he was too proud to comprehend pain well enough to succumb to it. Not speaking to tolerance and its varying level, but pain is the body’s way of telling the brain you’re not well; playing through pain made Kosar gritty and touch, which earned him the idol status he earned with Cleveland’s blue collar community, but it earned him a fast track to the dreaded “diminishing skills” phrase.
It’s still my opinion that there’s a place for Kosar on the football side of things. Maybe he’s a little bit toxic, coming off the DUI last year, which the fed the national narrative that his critical comments of a Browns post-season opponent were alcohol-fueled. Maybe I’m fooling myself into believing there’s more left upstairs with the once-bright young man, whose biography I mostly learned from a parody of The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie”. Maybe, he can’t possibly be anything more than a figure-head, a man whose purpose could be replicated with a giant bronze statue of his likeness. But, maybe there’s something to his harsh analysis on the pre-season telecasts. Maybe his ability to build a solid Arena Football team from the scraps of a poor, displaced Vegas franchise says something. Maybe he’s not all the way broken—football-wise.
Could he be a better Team President than Joe Banner? Should he have a loud voice on personnel decisions? What about a coaching role; if not the head coach, maybe the offensive coordinator? No, no, no, no, no, and no. I realize I’ve probably answered more questions than were asked, but I want to get the point across; I don’t necessarily trust Bernard Joseph Kosar enough to hand him the keys to the future in any capacity.
I do think it might be irresponsible to outright disqualify Bernie from doing anything but wearing a Burger King crown and telling him he’s special. I wouldn’t mind him whispering into Ray Farmer’s ear if he sees something in a prospect. While I’m not trying to infer that Brian Hoyer has a promising future on the Lakefront, who better to advise him about the day-to-day life of a local celebrity in his own hometown than the guy who used to wear #19? We don’t know who else is going to be in camp, but say it’s Johnny Manziel just for hypothetical purposes, there are few men that I’d like to mentor him on seeing the defense. Imagine Bernie is his day with Johnny’s mobility.
It’s just something for Mike Pettine to think about.
He’s Not Your Buddy, Pal
Speaking of the new boss in Berea, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to delve into what he might bring to the table. While some may joke that Mike Pettine’s top qualification was that fact that he said yes, to working with Joe Banner and to accepting a job in a place where literally no one has succeeded in franchise history, the guy obviously knows a thing or two about leading a defense. It’s yet to be proven whether he can lead an NFL team on the whole, and any speculation on that, based on his time as an NFL assistant or a high school head coach, doesn’t add up to much more than guessing from where I sit.
Rather than taking the approach that he’s going to lead his own defense, a la Pat Shurmur assuming offensive play-calling duties, he brought Jim O’Neil from Buffalo along with a few other assistants from Doug Marrone’s 2013 coaching staff. It means they’re going to be teaching Pettine’s philosopy, which you have to figure is similar to those of Rex Ryan, which in turn mimics his father’s in some way. Rex Ryan’s father is, of course, Buddy Ryan, the man who made Mike Ditka a legend in Chicago.
Let’s start with the downside of the comparison to anyone with the Ryan surname; none of them have won much as head coaches in the National Football League. Overall, James David aka “Buddy” went 0-3 in his tenure as a head coach with the Eagles and did poorly in his GM/Head Coach role in Arizona before retiring. His son Rex is 4-2 in the post-season, but has never reached a Super Bowl with the Jets, and after losing the conference championship in his first two seasons as head coach, he’s now missed the post-season altogether for three straight years. Rex’s twin brother Rob has never been an NFL head coach, but like his brother and their father before them, has been part of Super Bowl winning defense as an assistant.
Rob served as defensive coordinator under Eric Mangini in Cleveland, putting together some pretty remarkable game plans to best Drew Brees and Tom Brady in 2010. They did something that seemed incredible, something my father and I referred to as the “stand around and do nothing” defense, but it worked. The Browns won those games for a number of reasons, but a lot of it had to with defensive scheme. They kicked their asses.
Ass-kicking schemes have almost become a calling card for the Ryan family, and that scheme goes back to the old man’s days with the Bears around the time of my birth. Though Buddy coached the Jets in Super Bowl III as an assistant and worked with formidable Vikings defensive line during the heyday of the Purple People Eaters, it wasn’t until George Halas brought him to the Bears that he created the 46 defense.
Around the time, we were clamoring over Kosar in Cleveland, and started to believe in a team that won the AFC Central Division at 8-8, Ryan’s Bears that were actually Mike Ditka’s Bears flirted with perfection. By the 1985 season, the 46 defense was, in a word, perfect. Perfection expired in the 13th week of the season with a loss to the Dolphins, but they were perfect enough in the playoffs and won Super XX over the Patriots, going away.
“You’ve got a winner”
After winning the Super Bowl with his defense, it was time for Ryan and those Bears, led by Mike Singletary in the ever important middle linebacker position of the 46 defense, which was named for strong safety Doug Plank’s jersey number. He took the head coaching gig in Philadelphia, promising Eagles fans that they had a winner. Though he didn’t do an awful job with the Eagles, developing a lot of talent, while stirring up plenty of controversy, his time in the city of brotherly love ended after five seasons. He’d tell the folks in Tempe those same words when he took the same job there in 1994. What they had was a 12-20 coach who botched a few drafts, not exactly a winner.
As told today, the story of the Coaches Ryan seems a bit somber, but none of this should be a condemnation of Mike Pettine or the 46 defense. Hell, I’m intrigued. While I have to qualify this by saying that it requires a lot of talented personnel and some perfect fits for the system, the idea of playing this aggressive on the defensive side of the ball should excite Browns fans of all ages, but especially those who cut their teeth on football with the old Dawg Pound.
It starts with a middle linebacker. A lot of people are going to tell you, the 46 won Super Bowls with Mike Singletary and Ray Lewis, but is it the system that’s making the player or vice versa. The Browns don’t have Singletary or Lewis; Pettine didn’t have those guys in New York or Buffalo either, but Kiko Alonso seemed to do an adequate job in his first season with the Bills. It’s a shame that Jim O’Neil couldn’t stuff the rookie from Oregon in the trunk of his car when packing for Cleveland, but such is life.
The Browns don’t have that elite player at middle linebacker. They didn’t even have enough personnel at the inside linebacker position to play the 3-4, but D’Qwell Jackson is a capable player if he’s willing to take the paycut to stick around. I love Jackson, and I’m happy to have been wrong about his shelf life expiring a few years ago, but he isn’t the guy to feature in this or any other defense. This is a need they should be looking to fill in the draft. Maybe a blue-chip guy like CJ Moseley or Christian Jones is a necessary play for Pettine’s system, but I really like Khairi Fortt from Cal by way of Penn State.
The role of the safeties plays a large part in whether the scheme will succeed or fail. Since you’re relying on your strong safety to basically be a weakside linebacker, he has to be a run-stopper, but he has to have more coverage abilities than you’d expect from your average “Will” linebacker. TJ Ward, if he comes back to the Browns despite being eligible for free agency, actually seems like a good fit. The Free Safety has to play center field. He’s the only guy that plays deep; Tashaun Gipson may or may not be that guy. I really don’t care to be that ambivalent, but Gipson has his issues, even if I don’t believe he’s a poor in the secondary as some “experts” have evaluated him to be. If they’re looking to replace Ward in this role, I like the draft for answers. If they want to upgrade Gipson, there are free agents to be hand; Jarious Byrd, who played on Pettine’s defense this past year is the best out there, but he will come with the highest price tag. Stevie Brown, who excellent in 2012, might be a good reclamation project coming off injury.
Keep in mind; you’re hanging the cornerbacks out to dry if your front 8 can’t get to the quarterback. I don’t mind Joe Haden being on an island, but the prospect of Buster Skrine or Leon McFadden on the other side makes me cringe. I suppose it’s important to note you aren’t going to play 46 against all personnel packages or on every down in any event, but whoever plays opposite Haden figures to get a lot of targets, so he better be ready to play.
Can you get to the quarterback? Again, the idea is to hurry the quarterback into poor decisions and poor throws if you can’t knock him down, but you want to knock him down. I read somewhere that one of Buddy’s defenses in Houston took out 9 quarterbacks in a season. It’s nothing personal, Ben, Joe, and Andy, but I’d like the Browns to get to you, not that I’m rooting for injury or anything. We haven’t seen it with Dick Jauron or Ray Horton calling the defense, and Haslam has broken the bank to put the personnel in place to do so. I thought we saw it with Rob Ryan, and I sure hope Pettine and O’Neil can make Haslam’s dollars make sense, especially in the case of Paul Krueger and Desmond Bryant. I don’t know if it’s silly to see promise with Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo with new guidance.
Fat and ugly is the only way to go up front, with three run-stoppers in the middle of the line of scrimmage to discourage the option of running the football. I don’t know that there’s a true nose guard on this team, but we’ll see if Phil Taylor is up to the task. It’s silly to doubt he has the tools, so it comes down to coaching. Ahytba Rubin has played the position in the past as well. As far as the rest of the line is concerned, I know the old staff liked Brian Sanford and Armonty Bryant. Both of them are pretty far down the depth chart, so if they get the production out of 2012 picks John Hughes and Billy Winn, the depth might be there for a strong front to stop the run without any personnel changes.
It’s like the 3-4 in a lot of ways, disguise and surprise, which doesn’t mean the front office can put this personnel on the practice field and wash their hands of the results, but this is where Pettine earns that paycheck. The entire thing is a disguise, which means the guys making decisions on the other side of the ball are left to guess. Occasionally, they will guess right, but it’s definitely better to have them guessing right sometimes than knowing what will work all of the time.
We’ve heard for years, the biggest problem is talent. It still reigns true, but now it’s more talent in the collared shirts than the mesh ones. Pettine has his work cut out for him, but if there’s any reason to feel good about these off-season changes, it’s the potential for the defense.
One Man for the Job, At the Right Price
Sometimes I feel as though any idea that would go over well with the fans should be presented by three 10 year-old girls on YouTube. I don’t know how to react to the notion of sweater vests or Kenny Guiton in Berea; I’m even skeptical about the idea of Carlos Hyde in Cleveland, even though there’s logic beyond the idea of I-71 familiarity with him. I don’t think Kenny Lofton or Jim Thome should replace Terry Francona as the Indians skipper, but I do have a thought that’s probably less out there than any of those fan-born ideas.
Mark Price coaches basketball, and he has the experience to justify a spot in Cleveland. Face it, the Cavaliers have no real identity to the past or present. Well, there’s actually plenty of past. There’s the coach that they parted ways with in the past. There’s the prospect of bringing the best player in the game back to town, after things ended so ugly in the past. And of course, there’s all of the people that have passed on season ticket renewals at the Q. So, that’s a different type of “past”, but so what?
I’m not clear on what he does in the front office, but the team does employ Zydrunas Ilgauskas in some capacity. On the basketball side of things, I believe he is the only former player involved with the organization. Campy Russell and Austin Carr do media work, but how much would the team suffer without either of them?
There’s nothing to connect the original wine and gold to the blue and orange to the black and light blue to the latest incarnation of wine and gold. Their most famous personality, when it comes to life after basketball, is a NASCAR analyst. I’m not even sure what Larry Nance does these days, but I was thrilled to see that in addition to being a standout player at Wyoming, his son Larry Jr. is a Cavs fan to this day. Maybe he can do what the Browns never gave this generation’s Clay Matthews the chance to do, give the locals some nostalgia and show the ones that were too young to see it the first time around a reason to cheer for a great name.
With no offense intended for Skippy from Family Ties, there’s only one Mark Price. He’s the greatest free throw shooter of all time. Like Kosar, I believe he sees the floor and he’s worked with Rajon Rondo and Stepen Curry on their shot. He’s worked for George Karl and he has a huge undertaking with the Charlotte team at the moment.
This is the bottom line; there will soon be a vacancy on the bench in Cleveland. There’s going to be a new general manager, and a city wondering what the use is in having a basketball team if it can’t compete. I’m not saying it’s a great idea, but it’s a thought. Why not take a flier on Mark Price as a head coach.
Once upon a time, they chose Randy Wittman. More recently than that, they thought Mike Brown was worth another shot. I really thought the Browns had cornered the market on retreads. It doesn’t get more re-tready than a second tango with Mike Brown.
Six Ways to Do It Again
How do we re-create 90s? The answer is that you can’t; the mere suggestion will have every Tom, Dick, and Harry come out of the woodwork to remind you that the way everything came together was really nothing more than a perfect storm of coincidence and deep pockets. But hell, if we can throwback to Buddy Ryan and the 1985 Bears or find a way to bring Mark Price back into the fold, why not reboot the John Hart build?
What A Catch(er)
Terry Francona admitted that losing Carlos Santana to the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic for a significant portion of Spring Training would be a tough cross to bear. The newly acquired Yan Gomes wanted to also join his countrymen and represent Brazil in the WBC, but was convinced to stick with the day job in Goodyear; it was a decision that ultimately paid off when Lou Marson suffered an injury on the Tribe’s season opening road trip. Gomes hit the ball very well in the thin desert air, earning himself a long look from the brass, despite how locked in the incumbents behind the plate seemed to be. Make no mistake about it though; this was more of a saving grace because of Santana’s deficiencies as a receiver than it was about Marson’s light stick on offense. Bottom line, a pitcher’s ERA goes up with Santana behind the plate and Santana extends his career by not having to be the regular catcher; more on this later.
What’s promising about Gomes stat-line in 2013 is how it compares to his bench coach and catching advisor, Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1994, when Alomar was 4 years younger than Gomes was last season. In the interest of full disclosure, when Alomar was 24, he played in 132 games and won the American League Rookie of the Year, but I felt comparing an 88 game season to an 80 game season was appropriate.
In today’s day of advanced statistics, we’re not supposed to care as much about batting average, but hits per at-bat still matter to me, and ’13 Gomes was 2 hits better than ’94 Alomar in exactly 1 more at-bat. If you want to look at OPS (On-base Percentage + Slugging Percentage), a metric that gives you credit for total bases per plate appearance, Alomar had the slight edge at .837 to .826, impressive on both count. They were similar in Runs Scored as well, and you win games by scoring more runs.
Looks Like a LOOGY
I have to admit that I just enjoy the acronym more than the call-to-the-pen, commercial, one batter-faced, call-to-the-pen, commercial nature of the Left-handed One Out GuY (LOOGY), but they end up being a critical part of your pitching staff. They seem even more important when the one out they get is the third out of the inning and you’re spared the extra commercial break, but such is life.
Once you get past the fact that both throw the ball left-handed, maybe the comparisons between Paul Assenmacher of 1995 and Mark Rzepczynski of 2013 should probably stop. When you consider age and clutch-level of appearances, it really all seems more like apples-to-dumptrucks than apples-to-apples. However, there’s no denying you need this guy in your bullpen. If the man they call Scrabble, despite the fact you won’t find two Zs in any standard Scrabble set, can keep opposing hitters hitting .139 while boasting a 0.89 ERA, the woes of last year’s left-handed relief help may soon be forgotten.
29 year-old Jim Poole may have been the better comparison on the ’95 staff, but his ERA was up around 4, while the elder Assenmacher was solid on the ERA side at 2.82, but Poole kept opposing batting average a full 100 points lower than his 34 year-old counterpart, who was also in his first year with the Tribe. Rzepczynski turns 29 at the end of August.
The Third (Base) Act
So, this is interesting, if not bizarre. I actually thought trying Carlos Santana at third base was a good idea after the 2011 season, when it became obvious that pitchers struggled with him as a battery-mate. He’s extremely athletic with a strong arm, and I thought it would be a shame to waste his athleticism at first base, even if his offensive numbers fit the mold to play there. For the record, I don’t like the idea of a 27 year-old designated hitter either; that’s revisiting the waste of resources topic in my mind. I understand this is temporary, and he’ll be moving to first base as soon as the Indians find a real solution at third base. That solution doesn’t exist in their farm system at the moment.
That’s really the entire fatal flaw of trying to re-create the rosters that John Hart gave Mike Hargrove 20 years ago; I really can’t believe it’s been 20 years either. Two decades ago, home-grown talent Jim Thome was given the opportunity to develop in the bottom third of the order. After four seasons on the Major League roster, Thome had yet to play 100 games, which does include the strike-shortened 1994, whereas potential 2014 third baseman (take that with a grain of salt, this experiment could be over by St. Patrick’s Day) has already played three seasons north of 140 games logged.
Santana isn’t going to hit 60 home runs in his career, and likely not even 40 in a single-season, but I would say third base is a part time stop for him. Like Thome, who put up similar offensive numbers in 1994 to what Carlos did in the clean-up spot last season, you have to figure he is 4 years or less from being a full-time first basemen. Granted, Thome was a little younger in 1994, but if Santana at 28 can approach what Thome did in 1995 as a third baseman, I look forward to the 25 bombs, the .300 average, and the near-quadruple-digit OPS.
Keep Eating Kipnis
So, I feel bad about what makes me laugh sometimes. When athletes eat themselves out of the game, isn’t funny, it’s sad, but it all goes back to a memorable quote from a forgettable movie, when Albert Brooks tells Brendan Fraser’s phenom character to remember that Fernando Valenzuela came into the league as a pitcher and left as a truck. So, I’m sitting at an Arizona State football game last November, and I turn around and see this guy that’s a dead ringer for Jason Kipnis, who is an Arizona State alum, chowing down on popcorn. “Dead ringer” isn’t the right description, because this obviously wasn’t the first box of popcorn this kid has consumed, because he is what Kipnis would look like if he was about 90-110 pounds overweight.
That had me thinking, Carlos Baerga was slim once upon a time. Baerga is listed at 5’11”, 165 on baseball-reference, versus Kipnis, listed at the same height, but weighing in at 190. This is where you don’t care for the precedent, as Baerga’s career took a considerable nose dive when he turned 27, whereas Kipnis turns 27 this April and is still considered a rising star. Kipnis probably strikes out too much to be a .300 hitter for a long stretch, like Baerga, who had the opportunity to protect Albert Belle early in his career, but he takes a lot more walks than Carlos ever did, and that makes him a more valuable player going forward.
Baerga played in his last All-Star game at 26. Kipnis played in his first at the same age. I’d say this is more apples-to-dumptrucks, confirming the theory that comparing that Perfect Storm era to this one is silly.
Masterson For President?
How do you reboot the 1995 pitching staff, which somehow led the American League in ERA? Where are your aging veterans on the back 9 of their careers? The 36 year-old with a championship pedigree, who still has a few innings left in the tank, like Orel Hershiser isn’t out on the open market, let alone available for the Indians to pluck out of Free Agency. I’d say it’s a reach to say that Corey “Hans” Kluber is that homegrown veteran, but he’s the closest thing this current staff has to a Charles Nagy, even though Kluber was acquired by trade a few years ago. Danny Salazar might be the next Chad Ogea or Bartolo Colon, but we don’t know where he falls on that scale right now; Jaret Wright once wowed us for a partial season as well. And, where does Trevor Bauer fit in?
Justin Masterson is going to be the Opening Day starter, but a 41 year-old Dennis Martinez he is not. Just for the sake of comparison, I compared the Nicaraguan-born Martinez with Jamaican-born Masterson at 28, and the numbers are similar. Here’s another fact that means nothing; Masterson was an All-Star at 28, a feat that El Presidente didn’t achieve until the age of 36 with the Expos. It was the first of three appearances for Quebec’s team, and his bid in 1995 with the Tribe made for four total trips to the Mid-Summer Classic.
Get Your 50/50
Albert Belle hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in 1995, that’s something that no one else has ever done. There is no Albert Belle in this organization, just as there no Eddie Murrays, Orel Hershisers, or Jose Mesas.
Just for fun, I took a look at Albert Belle’s worst full season (1992) with the Indians and compared it to Nick Swisher’s best of his career (2010). The results are laughable.
Speaking of 50/50, do you remember those raffles at the high school basketball games, where you bought tickets and split the jackpot with the charity of choice? Just to put this out there, if you miss those days of helping out, I just want to turn your attention to the website tix4cause, which is a ticket broker that donates a portion of every ticket sold to a charity of your choice. I don’t want to come across like shill, I just wanted to put it out there.
That’s all I have this week. Enjoy the time you have to kill between now and next weekend.
The Cleveland Indians officially activated shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from the Bereavement List on Monday April, 23rd. Cabrera is hitting .282 (11-39) with 3 doubles, 2 home runs, 3 RBI and 8 runs scored in 8 games this season, making him arguably the Indians best player so far. Activating Asdrubal is such an obvious thing that mentioning it in a column would be nothing but a way to fill space if the Indians wouldn’t have chosen to option lefty reliever Nick Hagadone to the AAA Columbus Clippers in order to make room on the 25 man roster.
Class A Advanced is a full season league jammed in between Class A and Class AA. Which makes no sense to me, because Kinston is clearly not close to being between Eastlake and Akron, OH, but I don’t decide these things.Â Really, though, Advanced A (or High-A) is just like Single A, but is usually a promotion for the players, as opposed to being placed here.