Tag Archives: Nick Swisher

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

In this episode of the Tribe Time Now podcast…

 

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

Topics:

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

Links:

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 Episode 15: The Power of the Stache?

Was the power of John Axford’s mustache powering the Indians bullpen last year? Is its absence this year explanation for the bullpens lackluster performance thus far? Hayden Grove and I discuss that and more on episode 15 of the Tribe Time Now podcast:

 

Topics:

  • Kipnis and batting philosophy
  • D-day/throwing in the towel: when will it happen
  • Team building philosophy: How and why were the Indians built the way they were
  • The bullpen: what is wrong this year?
  • Marlins head coaching situation: it’s effects and what would happen in Cleveland

Don’t forget to join us Saturday, June 20th at Hoopples Riverbed Cafe for our first tweet up. Information can be found here.

Kluber Enters Record Books… Again; Top Third of the Lineup Dragging the Team Behind Them

The dichotomy of the top third of the order and middle third of the order: A study of the last 7 days

Since the early days of last week, Santana has solidified himself as the number two hitter in Terry Francona’s “new and improved” lineup. Jason Kipnis has been hitting leadoff since the beginning of the Toronto series and Michael Brantley has been in the three hole since the beginning of the season.

In the past seven days, the top of the lineup has been very productive. In 62 ABs, the tenacious three have 20 hits (.318), three 2Bs, one 3Bs, two HRs, and 11 RBIs. The three have also drawn seven walks in the same span against six strike outs.

In big picture terms: The first three hitters in the Indians lineup are getting on base at a very good clip (.378) and hitting the ball very well.

Let’s look at the middle of the lineup in comparison

The middle of the lineup in the past seven days has generally consisted of a rotating group of four players:

  1. Brandon Moss,
  2. Nick Swisher,
  3. Lonnie Chisenhall and,
  4. David Murphy

Now, David Murphy has only had 8 PAs in the past seven days and his role has been somewhat diminished. I will include his numbers post-facto regardless so as to not bias the data.

Anyway: The middle of the lineup.

In the past seven days, the middle three players* has been moderately productive. In 56 Abs, the three middle hitters have only 14 hits (.247) with three 2Bs, one 3B, 2 HR, and eight RBIs. In the same breath, the middle lineup has walked only three times and struck out twice as many times (6).

The middle lineup is getting on base nearly 10% less than their top-of-the-lineup counterparts in addition to hitting 7% less (with regard to batting average) than those same counterparts.

Here are the middle-of-of-the-lineup hitters numbers with RISP (which almost exclusively were either Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, or Michael Brantley) in the past seven days:

  1. Brandon Moss: 1/8
  2. Nick Swisher: 0/6
  3. Lonnie Chisenhall: 3/5
  4. David Murphy: 2/4

For those of you who don’t enjoy math, the latter four “mashers” are a paltry 6/23 with RISP (.261). We’re going to give Nick Swisher a break considering he just broke into the lineup within the last seven days coming back from his start on the DL.

When it comes to the likes of Brandon Moss though, that .125 average with RISP is EGREGIOUSLY FOUL. The front office brought him in to do one thing: Drive in runs.

Thus far, he isn’t doing that. He is being given plenty of opportunities to do so. If Kip, ‘Los and Dr. Smooth get on base anymore, they’ll (well, mostly Kip) will be on pace for a couple of the greatest months in MLB history.

When you have disparity between sets of hitters like the Indians do now, you’re not going to see gobs of runs being scored; just a run here and there. When lineups are experiencing normally distributed hitting with RISP rather than the severely left (left being the front of the lineup) skewed version we’re currently witnessing, good things happen.

For those of you who want to argue about the circular nature of batting orders as it pertains to a “normal distribution”, leave it in the comments. I’ll go in depth there a little more if you have serious issues.

 

Jason Kipnis: April showers bring May flowers…well, hits anyway:

Can we just talk about Jason Kipnis right now?

That dude is on fire. I’d really like him to sit down with Brandon Moss and teach him his secret ways. In the month of May, Jason Kipnis is hitting .488/.551/.814 and, over the course of the season, hitting right-handed pitching really well.

Halfway through May, he’s already eclipsed the amount of walks he had over the entire month of April (and end of March; 6:5). This would indicate more patience from Kip at the plate (i.e.: he’s working counts deeper).  At the same time, he’s only struck out four times through nearly half of May. In the month of April, he struck out 13 times. If he can continue to maintain his patience at the plate, I see his strikeout rate remaining low.

To put the cherry on the top of the sundae that has been Jason Kipnis’ 2015 May, he has six 2B halfway through May. In March/April, he only had one. I don’t expect him to hit a ton of homeruns; he’s not a power guy. I expect him to hit for average and hit to all parts of the field well. His numbers through the first half of May tell me that he’s figuring things out and getting into a groove.

Like I said, hopefully Brandon Moss can sit down with Kip and ask him about the ways of the force.

 

These cleats were made for walkin’

I wanted to quickly touch on Carlos Santana’s walk rate through one and a half months of the season. He’s only second to Bryce Harper (30) in walks with 29 and only has 22 strikeouts (that’s a 1.32 BB/K ratio). Harper’s BB/K ratio is 0.77).

It should also be noted that Harper has 10 more ABs than Santana.

Harper is raking right now (similar to Kipnis) and has like…. 15 HRs in his last 5 games (obviously exaggerating, but he’s still blasting HRs like no other).

With Santana’s placement as the number two man in the lineup, those walks are going to be all the more important. They’ll mean that much more if the guys behind him can drive him in. Letting Santana rot on 1st or 2nd base isn’t going to help this team win and I know that he would do anything to help his teammates bring him around and in.

 

Corey Kluber: Doin’ the Cards dirrrrrty on Wednesday

Finally, can we talk about the bad man, Corey Kluber?

On Wednesday, the big dog went 8.0 innings, allowed only one hit and collected 18 strikeouts.

Yeah, you read that right: E-I-G-H-T-E-E-N strikeouts.

Whiffs.

Six golden sombreros.

His WHIP on Wednesday was 0.13. He’s just filthy.

Oh, by the way: He did this all on 113 pitches and dropped his ERA by nearly 80 points (5.04 to 4.27). Interestingly enough too, his GB/FB ration was 1:5. In his more recent starts, his strikeout totals have been lower and his GB/FB ratio has been 1.00+ (abnormal for him). Corey Kluber’s success lies in leveraging his fastball down in the zone and working his off speed stuff (cutter/slider) in on the hands of lefties and trailing away from righties. When he lets his fastball rise up into the zone (like Danny Salazar) and doesn’t have get movement from his off speed stuff, it allows hitters to put bat-on-ball and put it in play; often in the air.

I didn’t have to watch the game on Wednesday to know that, but I can guarantee he had everything working tonight as I just described.

In other news:

In my first softball action of the year, I went 2/5 with 2 RBIs. In the field, I played 3B for the first time in a while and had 3 putouts and 1 error. If I’m going to channel my inner Lonnie Chisenhall, I get at minimum one error per game right?

Keep it real Tribe fans. I’ll catch you on the flip side

Go Tribe!

Bats begin to heat up as Indians split series with Toronto; Starting pitching still not going the distance

As the top of the Indians lineup begins to heat up, Indians respond with runs to split series with Blue Jays; Starting pitching falling short and putting tired bullpen in awkward position

The Indians ended the weekend on a good note, splitting the series with Toronto by beating the Blue Jays 10-7 in comeback fashion.

After finding themselves in a 6-1 hole and an offensive explosion (including a grand slam) by the Royals, the Indians responded with an offensive explosion of their own, bringing the score back to even at 6-6. After that, the Indians were able to tack on another two runs and finally ended the game beating the Royals 10-7.

What was even more impressive? The top 4 batters in the lineup went 10-14 which included 3 doubles and a homerun.

Michael Brantley continues to shred the ball increasing his overall slash line to .352/.410/.507 while Jason Kipnis continues to impress in his new role as leadoff hitter.

Let’s look a little more in-depth at Jason Kipnis over the last 7-10 days:

According to baseball-reference.com, Jason Kipnis is hitting .375/.500/.792 over his over the last 7 days with 3 HRs, 7 RBIs and 1 2B. He has walked 5 times and only struck out twice. In that time span, he holds an OPS of 1.292.

In the month of May in particular (3 of 4 games against Toronto), Kipnis is hitting .667/.733/1.250 with an OPS of nearly 2.000

That’s right, nearly 2.000.

For the season as a whole, Kipnis is not only hitting well when in a hitters count (defined as 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2), but he is also hitting decent with two strikes (.280/.333/.480). His two-strike hitting slash line is nearly identical to his slash line with RISP and with two outs and runners in scoring position, Kipnis is hitting .286/.444/.286 (9 PAs/7 Abs).

Another interesting note: This year, Kipnis has equal the amount of hits (7) to right field (pull) and left field (opposite field) and is actually hitting better to the opposite field (.412/.389/.588 to the opposite field vs .318/.318.455 to pull).

But enough about Jason Kipnis; let’s talk quickly about Ryan Raburn:

Ryan Raburn (of all people) is annihilating left-handed pitching, hitting .441/.459/.706 so far this season. He is the ultimate option as a pinch hitter against left-handed pitchers right now among all hitters in the MLB. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m super happy that Raburn is riding the Indian’s bench right now. He added a double and two more RBIs in today’s appearance for David Murphy.

The Indians starting pitching has been chased early in many of the contests that I was able to watch this week.

In Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays, Trevor Bauer was chased after just four and a third. The bullpen (surprisingly) allowed just one run over the remaining four and two thirds. They tacked on seven strikeouts while only allowing one walk. While it took 90 pitches (51 strikes) for Trevor Bauer to get through slightly more than four innings, it only took 62 pitches (40 strikes) for the bullpen in the remaining four and two-thirds. The bullpen was extremely efficient with Mark Rzepczynski and Scott Atchison tossing less than 10 pitches a piece in their appearances.

In Saturday’s loss, Corey Kluber lasted only 5.0 innings. On Friday, Carlos Carrasco lasted 6.0 innings and on Thursday, T.J House lasted just three innings.

For a bullpen that is already struggling due to, what would appear to be being overworked/tired this season and last, it is imperative for the Indian’s starting pitching to get past at least the sixth inning in more than 80% of May games.

In the same vein, the Indian’s starting pitching requires at least some form of run support. The move and subsequent awakening of Jason Kipnis in the leadoff spot and the emergence of Michael Brantley seems to be signaling a thawing trend for the Indian’s cold bats.

Carlos Santana walking his way to top marks in OBP

Carlos Santana continues to impress in that, when he isn’t getting the pitches to hit that he is comfortable with, he has the patience and frame of mind to hold off and work walks. He is getting on base regardless of what opposing pitching is throwing at him. This strategy worked for him well last year (he led the majors in walks) and as the bats continue to thaw, I guarantee that he will take more bases and score more, regardless of how he happened to get on base.

If just three or four players in the Indians lineup could adopt Santana’s method of patience at the plate, we could see a fundamental turnaround of this team in as little as three or four games.

Will this adaptation happen? No, not in a million years.  We can dream though.

To come this week

We also have to deal with Nick Swisher entering the everyday lineup again sometime later in the week which I am just overjoyed about. Nick Swisher is exactly what this team needs right now.

Forget Michael Bourn’s abhorrent record thus far at the dish – Nick Swisher could possibly sink lower.

Then we would have two players anchoring the lineup to the cellar of the AL Central.

The plan is to look at Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and Carlos Santana under a microscope over the course of this week to analyze just what might be happening as we enter the month of May. With games in the open pastures of Kauffman Stadium, I look for the top of the Indians lineup to hit the ball long and in the gaps. Hopefully these hits translate to some Ws, but of course, it is incumbent on the starting pitching to keep the game close and the bullpen to shut the door.

Have a good week Tribe fans and be sure to check out my conversation with Indians Baseball Insider Owner and Editor-in-Chief, Tony Lastoria at 9:30 PM Wednesday, May 6th on the Tribe Time Now Podcast:

tribetimenow.com/live or radio.mtaf.tv

Tribe Time Now #7: Waiting Till This Year

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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 feedback@tribetimenow.com or tweet us @_TribeTimeNow

Cleveland Indians News & Notes: 28 Days Until Pitchers & Catchers Report

With less than a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, this tribe fan is skeptical of the 2015 Cleveland Indians due a lack of moves made over the off-season

Color me skeptical

Unfortunately, the 23 years of disappointment that I’ve endured as a Cleveland sports fans tells me not much more than the same as last year from the 2015 Cleveland Indians. I don’t say that as a debbie-downer. If the Tribe plays above potential (see: 2013) in 2015, I will be more than happy to write about how wrong I was at the end of the season. Like I said: if my experience as  a Cleveland fan tells me anything, it’s this: The Cleveland Indians Front Office did not make enough moves to compete in 2015.

The Washington Nationals made moves to get better.

The Detroit Tigers made moves to get better.

The Seattle Mariners made moves to get better.

The Chicago White Sox made moves to get better.

And those are just a few of the teams that significantly improved their rosters in the off-season.

The Indians’  biggest signing has been acquiring 1B/RF Brandon Moss from the Oakland A’s for minor league 2B Joey Wendle. I wrote back when the move was made about how it will benefit the Tribe in the long-run due to Nick Swisher’s diminishing returns and the smoldering dumpster fire that is RF for the Tribe. As much as I like David Murphy, he is not the long-term solution in right field. Moss will at least allow for Tito to squeeze a few more hits/runs/etc out of his everyday lineup.

Then there is the idea that Gavin Floyd is just going to magically step into the #4 starter role

Again: Really? That’s the best we could do (I wrote recently how Antonetti’s signing of Floyd was an attempt to reincarnate Scotty Kazmir from the ’13 campaign). I’d take ’09 Floyd over ’14 Floyd any day of the week (just look at the numbers). To say that he is the #4 starter is ballsy, particularly on the part of Chris Antonetti. What about T.J. House? He had a solid 2014 campaign and he isn’t even in the rotation. Sure, Salazar, Bauer and Carrasco have much higher upsides than T.J. House, but all three of them have proven inconsistent at times. House was no Kluber, but at least he provided some consistency in the back-end of the rotation.

Floyd is going to have to really prove it to me in spring training that he belongs as the #4 man in our rotation.

There is an upside to all of this though

As ESPN and FanGraphs noted in their ESPN Insider story (full text available here), the Indians’ starting rotation (on the surface) can be described in two words: young and inexperienced (save Kluber of course).

But then people began to dig a little deeper and discovered that the Indians don’t have just 1 very descent starter — they have 4. Bauer, Carrasco, and Salazar all took positive steps forward in their development as top-tier starters while Corey Kluber just went out and won the AL Cy Young. IF the Indians can get 150+ consistent, quality innings from Bauer, Carrasco, and Salazar, not only will the Indians win the AL Central, they will cruise into the ALDS with the best, if not one of the best rotations in baseball.

So: If Floyd doesn’t work out, at least we’ll have a plethora of able starters ready to jump up into his place.

Signings, arbitration, etc.

Over the course of the last week, the Indians avoided arbitration with several players including: Carlos Carrasco, Lonnie Chisenhall, Mark Rzepczynski, Brandon Moss, and a few others.

I’m really happy we got that mess out of the way in a timely fashion this year. I’m all for players fighting for their worth, but last year’s arbitration “issues” leaked in spring training and it just left a bad taste in my mouth going into opening day.

In addition to avoiding arbitration with the latter players, the Indians signed former Twins pitcher Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak’s best year was in 2013 where he went 3-2 in 48 appearances with a 2.91 ERA over 96 innings. Looking at next level stats: Swarzak had a 3.28 FIP and 1.156 WHIP. He regressed somewhat in 2014 posting an identical record over 50 games with an ERA of 4.60 over 10 less innings.

Swarzak provides a solid relief arm in the bullpen which Terry Francona so eagerly goes to in the middle innings. If Swarzak makes the big league club out of spring training, he’ll make a cool $900k with an opportunity for an additional $350k in incentives.

Finally, 1st round draft pick Justus Sheffield was arrested in Tullahoma, TN on charges of aggravated burgalary and underage drinking after allegedly braking into a residence in Tullahoma around 4:30 AM on Monday, January 12th. The Indians released a statement that stated they were “aware of the report” involving Sheffield and “will not comment further until the legal process is completed”. Sheffield was released after posting bail ($5,500). He is scheduled to appear in Coffee County Court on February 5th.

In Memory of Hank Peters

Sadly, on January 4th, Former Indians GM and President (’87-’91) died from complications with a recent stroke in Boca Raton, FL. He was 90.

I feel that it’s fair to credit Hank with the foundation of what was the most amazing decade of Indians baseball ever. Before his 2nd tenure with the Tribe, Peters served as GM of the Baltimore Orioles for 12 years where he won a world series (’83) in the midst of ten consecutive winning seasons.

Next week: A preview of the 2015 depth chart

Tune in next week for a detailed preview of the 2015 Indians depth chart in addition to guesses at the final starting rotation, record at the All-Star Break, Post-season birth %, etc.

Should be fun; Go Tribe!

 

Indians execute trade for Moss, trade AA second baseman Wendle

indiansAs_logos

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.

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!

The Cleveland Indians Are Finding Success in July

In case you haven’t noticed, or have just been too frustrated to care, the Cleveland Indians are doing all they can to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves in the first few months of the season. At the end of June, the Indians found themselves in a rough spot. They were 40-43 and in third place in the AL Central, 7.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers and 5.5 games back in the AL Wild Card race. Since then the Tribe has gone 11-6 (now 51-49 overall) and are sitting in second place in the Central, 5.5 games back of Detroit and 2 games back in the AL Wild Card race. More impressive, the Indians are 6-2 on the road in July (including 4-2 on their current road trip). While that’s clearly only a small sample size, it’s still encouraging for a team that had a .378 winning percentage this season on the road through the month of June. Whether this is just a flash in the pan or a turning of the tide for the Indians will remain to be seen. Here are some of the July heroes for the Indians, some expected and some unexpected.

The phrase “heroes for the Indians” cannot be brought up without mentioning Michael Brantley. Through the month of June, Brantley was batting .314 for the Indians. This includes a .341 batting average in June and a .345 average in May. Somehow, he keeps getting better. So far in July, Brantley is batting .365 with 3 home runs, 10 RBI and 13 runs scored. There is no question Brantley is the MVP of the 2014 Indians and should be in the discussion for AL MVP.

Brantley isn’t the only one who is hitting the ball well for the Tribe of late. Jason Kipnis has also been swinging a hot bat. After a rough start to the season (partly due to injury) the Tribe second baseman is hitting .280 in July with 2 home runs, 8 RBI, 14 runs scored and 7 stolen bases. His current batting average of .254 would be the lowest of his career, however if Kipnis keeps hitting the ball well .254 will be a distant memory.

While Brantley and Kipnis may seem like obvious heroes for an Indians turnaround, this team has been getting help from more unexpected places – like Nick Swisher. For the month of July, Swisher is batting .290. This is not a typo. Nick Swisher is batting .290 for the month of July. He’s hit 3 home runs, has 15 RBI and has scored 10 runs. Over the last 28 days (22 games for Swisher) he is hitting .266. While he isn’t playing like a $15 million per year player (did anyone really ever expect him to?) this upward trend from him is a good sign for the Indians lineup. It’s worth pointing out that July was Swisher’s best month last season as far as batting averages go, as he hit .284. Hopefully this time Swisher can continue hitting well not just in July but into August and September (and possibly…October?).

Chris Dickerson
Chris Dickerson has been an unexpected surprise for the Indians.

Rounding out the offensive surprises for the month of July is the trio of Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana and Chris Dickerson. Gomes, who has been reliable all season for the Indians, is batting .333 for the month of July. Since the All-Star break he’s gone 9-17 (.529) with a home run and three RBI. While Santana has actually cooled a bit in July compared to June (.308 in June vs. .250 in July) he seems to have put the dreadful start behind him. His season long batting average will likely suffer but his production will be welcomed. He also seems to have found a home at first base. In 38 games as a first baseman Santana is batting .309. While he will never be considered a star defensive player, Santana is also error free in his 38 games at first base this year and has actually showed off a nice glove. Lastly, ever since arriving in Cleveland from Pittsburgh in a trade, journeyman Chris Dickerson has provided a huge, unexpected spark for the Indians. In his 11 games (8 starts) in the month of July, Dickerson is batting .375 with 2 home runs, 6 RBI and 8 runs scored.

While the starting pitching has continued to be generally unreliable (unless you’re talking about Corey Kluber), the bullpen collectively has gotten even better. Through the month of June, Tribe relievers combined had an ERA of 3.32. Not too bad, especially when you consider how many innings these relievers are forced to pitch. So far for July the bullpen has a collective ERA of 1.77 through 61 innings pitched and has a K/9 ratio of 10, up from 8.9 on the season. John Axford is putting together his best month of the season (albeit in a limited role). Axford has appeared in 7 games in July (7 innings pitched) and has only allowed one earned run while striking out nine. The opposition is hitting just .083 off of Axford in July (27 batters faced). While he has been the Tribe’s most reliable reliever all year, Cody Allen seems to be pitching on another level in July. In 10 games (9.1 innings pitched) he has not allowed a run to score while the opposition is only hitting .206 off of him (37 batters faced).

Looking ahead, the Indians can continue to help their cause in the Central division. After the series finale today in Minnesota the Indians travel to Kansas City to take on the Royals for four games. Winning this upcoming series would help put some distance between Kansas City, who is currently in third place in the Central and only 1.5 games back of the Indians. For the team overall, the last missing piece continues to be the starting rotation. Indians starters currently have a 4.33 ERA for the month of July. Hopefully Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister have worked out whatever issues (“injuries”) they’ve had earlier in the year and can be positive contributors to the starting rotation. If that happens, the Cleveland Indians could find themselves in position to make another October run.