Tag Archives: Progressive Field

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon Moss

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Bourn

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

The N-I-N-E spot.

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

On a brighter note, Carlos Santana continues to impress.

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

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

Starting Pitching

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Series: Kansas City

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

Tribe Time Now #10: Expansion by Inclusion

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

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

In addition we discussed the following:

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

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

Tune in Next week and Go Tribe!

Tribe Bullet Points: I Went to a Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference:

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

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

Tribe Time Now Episode 3: Sacrificing Seating for Ballpark Amenities

Download | Subscribe: RSS (audio) | iTunes

Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) of Burning River Baseball joins Ryan Thompson (@RThompAK13) from More Than a Fan: Cleveland to give a Spring Training report. Ryan and Joe talk about the perceived strength of the A.L. Central following up on last week’s episode. Player profiles of Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco and finally Progressive Field construction and all the e-mail’s Joe deletes without reading.

It’s Tribe Time Now!

Before we delve into the Indians starting rotation for 2015, a shameless plug:

…For the new MTAF: Cleveland podcast: Tribe Time Now hosted by yours truly! This week, we broke open the show with Joe Coblitz from burningriverbaseball.com. We discussed a number of topics surrounding the Indians, Major League Baseball, expanding the strike zone, etc. Be sure to click the link below and subscribe (coming to iTunes Podcenter soon!):

You can follow us on Twitter @_TribeTimeNever

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Will Reigning AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber be able to maintain his dominant 2013 form and lead the young Tribe rotation to the promised land?

The premise sounds very Hollywood — that much is true. Like the 2013 season, the Indians come into spring training with high hopes for their rotation. Corey Kluber returns as the staff ace after a stellar year in which he over-powered nearly every opponent he faced. Filling in the 2,3 and 4 slots are Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Gavin Floyd. The final spot appears to be up for grabs between Right-handed flame thrower Danny Salazar and southpaw T.J. House.

Their are three spots that are locked up for sure: Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer. The final two spots are fluid and very dependent several factors that will present themselves as spring training progresses.

The first kink that will need worked out is Gavin Floyd

I wrote late last year about the Floyd signing and my weariness of it. Clearly, the Indians are hoping that Floyd can reinvent himself like Scott Kazmir in 2013. Unfortunately, lightning never strikes the same place twice. I just don’t see Floyd panning out.

Floyd’s best years are clearly behind him. His 2008 campaign was his best and only year that he eclipsed the 200 inning mark. Since that season, he has pitched 187, 193, 168, 24, and 54 innings in ’09-’14 respectively. In 2014, things were looking up for Floyd. Through 9 starts, he held a 2-2 record, had a 3.5 SO/W ratio, and a FIP of 3.8 (considered average). In a game in which he was pitching masterfully against the Nationals, Floyd was forced to exit the game after feeling something pop in his previously-injured elbow in which he underwent Tommy John Surgery. He would miss the rest of the season with the injury before he was signed by the Indians in the off-season.

The fact that Floyd came back from TJS in 2013 and began what appeared to be a promising 2014 campaign gives me hope for this season. Having said that, two major elbow surgeries in two seasons makes me on edge. There’s only so much the body can take and two consecutive surgeries on a very active of major league elbow.

Honestly, if the Indians could get 120 solid innings, a 3.40 ERA, a +3 SO/W ratio, and an average FIP stat, I would be extremely pleased.

The next question that needs to be answered is what do the Indians do with T.J. House and Danny Salazar

Anyone that has a decent memory and pays even the slightest bit of attention to baseball will tell you that Danny Salazar is special. Salazar has always reminded me of Verlander in his prime. For kicks, check out these two GIFs of the two pitchers throwing a fastball. The similarities between their mechanics is uncanny (click on each GIF to watch):

Justin_Verlander_Ultimate_2012_Highlights DET_CLE_Salazar_strikes_out_10_over_7_2_3_innings

Salazar’s leg kick and arm angle are eerily similar to Verlander’s. If Verlander’s success is any indication, let’s hope that Salazar figures it out this season and puts all the pieces together.

Salazar is your prototypical right-handed blazer who easily throws the ball in the mid-upper nineties consistently. What I love more than anything about his stuff is the discrepancy between his fastball and breaking ball. The split second the hitter has to decipher the rotation of the ball and the speed with which it is travelling towards him gives Salazar an edge not many others enjoy.

Oh, and his breaking ball is straight nasty. There’s that too:

CLE_CWS_Salazar_whiffs_10_in_just_3_2_3_innings

T.J. House debuted for the Indians in 2014 and had a perfectly normal season. He went 5-3 over 19 starts with a 3.35 ERA and 3.69 FIP. Additionally, his SO/W ratio was 3.64 and he pitched 102 innings (approximately 5 1/3 innings/start). Personally, I think that House, for those who are risk averse, is appealing because his first year is indicative of someone who can provide consistent, albeit not dominant, starts.

For those who fancy themselves as risk takers, Salazar is the clear option considering his high upside and unique skill set/pitch repertoire.

If House ends up in AAA Columbus to begin the year and eventually has to come up for a spot start or to fill the eventual hole that Floyd will leave, that would work for me. Right now, taking a chance on Salazar just makes sense. He has all the tools to be a very successful right-handed pitcher alongside Corey Kluber.

Indians news and notes: Week of February 11th

According to Jon Heyman:

For about a week now, various reports have surfaced linking the Indians to several different relief pitchers such as Barry Zito. It was reported last night and confirmed today that the Indians had indeed signed Bruce Chen to a one year/$1 million minor league with $1 million in performance-based incentives.

I have to agree with my colleague Joe Coblitz in that the Chen signing just doesn’t make any sense. His career numbers are nothing indicative of need-to-have talent. Chen’s ERA has been up and down all over his career and, as Joe puts it:

        “Chen’s up and down career provides and excellent reason to ignore conventional statistics and go straight to the FIP. Of those 16 years, Chen finished eight with an ERA above 5.00 and six below 4.00, but all but three of those seasons were within one run of his career average 4.91 FIP. Two of those three seasons (all of which were more than a run above 4.91) came when he pitched 45 games across 2006 and 2007 before missing all of 2008 with injury.”

There just doesn’t seem to be a place in which Chen fits. The Indians have a plethora of starters with several individuals that would spot start or jump Chen if the need would ever arise. Additionally, Chen is going to have to work is way in to an already above-average bullpen. I agree with Joe in that giving innings to Chen is an absolute waste of younger, higher upside talent in individuals like Nick Hagadone, Kyle Crockett, Scott Downs, or Nick Maronde.

Construction update: The New Bar has it’s Name!

I received an email today (as I’m sure many of you have asking about a few names for the bar that is being constructed along with the stacked bullpens, etc. Personally, option #2 is clearly the best and I can’t wait to enjoy a cold beer at The Corner of Carnegie and Ontario while I channel my inner Hammy.

Next week: Dissecting the Indians Bullpen

 Next week, I’d like to discuss the Indian’s bullpen in-depth. Normally  I would want to cover the entire pitching staff in one article, but I know attention spans are often short.

Please be sure to check out our new podcast and subscribe!

Go Tribe!

Cleveland Indians News and Notes

Happy New Year Tribe Fans!

Unfortunately, it’s been a little quiet at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Thus, my material to write about has been a bit…lacking.

But that has changed today!

Indians hire Bere as Bullpen Coach

Earlier this morning, the Indians announced that they have hired Jason Bere as their new bullpen coach. Bere replaced Kevin Cash after he took the helm of the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this offseason. Bere pitched with the Indians in 2000 and 2003 and has been a special assistant for baseball operations evaluating and instructing pitchers in the Indian’s organization over the past nine years. The search was almost entirely completed in-house, and Manager Terry Francona had high praise for Bere, specifically concerning his ability to communicate and teach young players.

Even though Bere will be the Tribe’s bullpen coach, he will be very instrumental in guiding young pitchers Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar along with pitching coach Mickey Callaway.

Interesting side note via foxsports.com: Jason Bere started and won the final game at Cleveland Stadium on 10/3/1993

Progressive Field named “Most Family-Friendly in MLB”

In a recent set of rankings, ABC Travel Guides for Kids Magazine listed Cleveland as the #1 destination for kids in 2015. The publication noted that Progressive Field may be the most family friendly ballpark in the MLB. In addition to available kid-friendly concessions and concession policies, the Indians have continued to make an investment in creating a family-friendly atmosphere via promotions, attractions and family ticket pricing packages.

Read more about Progressive Field’s “Most Family-Friendly” rating here.

The Indians added the Kid’s Clubhouse in 2012 as a part of the renovations to the RF portion of the ballpark. Currently under construction are additions to the CF portion of the ballpark bordering the Indian’s Hall of Fame and bullpen. These renovations will cut seating in the upper-deck in right-center field so that the aforementioned Kid’s Clubhouse can be expanded. In addition, several new concession options will be made available that showcase different Cleveland food scenes such as Tremont and Ohio City. The bullpens will also be moved and stacked such that fans sitting in center field will be able to see the players warming up a way not possible before at Progressive field.

The renovations should be completed before the beginning of the 2015 season and there are plans to erect a statue of Larry Doby, the first African-American ballplayer in the American League.

The funding for the 2014-15 renovation project, in addition to expanding the fan experience at Progressive Field, is completely privately funded and does not utilize any taxpayer money meant for infrastructure improvements such as heating, concrete, and sewers.

You can read more about the renovations here or watch a short 3-minute video here.

I’m hopeful that these new renovations, while cutting capacity by approximately 1/7th, will increase the fan experience for all who attend in the coming years. These renovations are a part of a 4-5 year master plan that will see continued off-season renovations to areas such as: The Lower Bowl and Club/Suites. In addition, sound system improvements are slated for sometime in the next 3-5 years.

Coming soon: A discussion of the 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees

Have a good one Tribe Fans!

The Tribe is Creepin' On Ah Come Up

Some call it comeuppance and some call it getting a pound of flesh. In baseball, more so than most other things in the world, things have a way of evening themselves out; of course, the timing isn’t always the way we’d like to think it should be. Now think about the Cleveland Indians since Terry Francona has assumed the helm, and remember that they needed every one of those 92 wins in 2013. Technically, two more wins would have given them a Central Division title, though we know Detroit collected their $200 and stopped on “Go” last September. In that same breath, two fewer victories, whether you subtract a game or two from that four-game sweep over Oakland last May or any of those games with Chicago in September they had no business winning, would have put the Tribe in a mad dash for tee times as the Major League Baseball post-season commenced last October.

Glancing at the calendar, I see it’s June and we can hardly call this season new at this point, but what goes around, comes around for the Cleveland Indians. After enjoying a 17-2 season series against the White Sox, a comedy of righteous moments that literally took words out of White Sox play-by-play personality Ken “Hawk” Harrelson’s mouth on several occasions. Now, taking 17 of 19 from anyone other than Houston involves a good share of favorable bounces, like the divine intervention that gave them the double-header sweep at “New Comiskey” on June 28th last year. In Game 1, we were all disappointed to see Trevor Bauer fail to get three outs in the first inning of a start, putting the Tribe in a 5-0 hole before batting in the top of the second inning; response runs were there for the taking, however, and after evening things up in the next frame, the Tribe would cruise to 19-8 victory. The night-cap was all White Sox and this twinbill was destined for a split until the away team put up 4 runs on 4 hits in the top of the ninth off Chicago closer Addison Reed for a 9-8 win. Downing the south-siders was just how it went in 2013; Jason Giambi had two walk-off bombs against Chicago in a year that he did little else on the stat sheet.

Thus far, it’s been a different story when it comes to Robin Ventura’s squad and the Braves of the Cuyahoga. While I personally don’t care for those that dismiss teams that are strong in the 1-run games as teams that should regress back to the mean, you have to admit four walk-off wins in nine home games opens the door for the credit to go to Lady Luck, but you can counter that by pointing out the back end bullpen is a big part of the game. The Indians know it all too well, having dropped two in walk-off fashion on the South Side already this season, and a third at home, where John Axford yielded three runs in the ninth, instead of locking down a 3-1 victory. Through 10 games, the upstart White Sox have taken 7 of 10 from the Indians, and sit in second place in the division, one half game above the Tribe, who trail division-leading Detroit by just 3 games. Better the standings look like this in early June, rather than early October.

Speaking of October, the Oakland Athletics have found themselves on the dance-floor in each of the last two seasons, and appear to be on their way back this season. I know it’s simple, but success comes in winning more games than you lose, and the A’s did that, turning out Win-Loss records of .500 or better against all but three of their opponents a year ago; they dropped 11 of 19 against Seattle, despite outscoring them by 5 runs on the season, and went 2-5 against the Orioles and the Indians. They were swept in Cleveland last May, on the strength of some solid starting pitching (the Cleveland starter got the win in each game), but also with the benefit of the doubt; an Adam Rosales ninth inning double that obviously cleared the threshold for home run somehow could not be upgraded with the aid of replay and Rosales was eventually stranded on third base when Chris Perez saved a 4-3 win for the Tribe. Oakland did bounce back in August, taking 2 of 3 from the slumping Indians at the Coliseum on the East Bay, but could only salvage 2 wins in 7 tries.

You might say Bob Melvin’s squad went out and got their pound of flesh, when it came avenging their dismal showing against the Tribe in 2013, being in the clubhouse with a 4-2 season-series win over the Tribe. It looked like it might be more of the same after the Indians took 2 of 3 in the season-opening series, with former Indians southpaw Scott Kazmir salvaging the only victory the A’s could manage to get on the west coast, but they responded to last season’s 4-game sweep at Progressive Field by taking all three games at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. In the six games, Oakland outscored the Indians 40 to 15. Through 60 games in 2014, the A’s have outscored their opponents by 120 runs and sit 14 games over .500. The Indians, on the other hand, are in the red on run differential to-date, despite breaking even in the win column.

On the bright side, there is a flip side to this coin. Some might say this exposed the Indians for what they really were a season ago, a team that could beat up on the bums and didn’t belong in the same ballpark with the real contenders, but they stunk against the other playoff qualifiers in 2013. In seven games with the eventual World Champs, Francona’s former team took six. They were 2-4 against Tampa Bay and 4-15 against Detroit, who ended up just one game better than the Indians in the Central Division standings, a fact that needs to be qualified (again), since Jim Leyland shut the team down for a meaningless series in Miami to end the regular season. Being taken behind the woodshed by the contenders, thus exposing the Tribe as “pretenders”, provided some balance in the grand scheme, essentially canceling out their mastery of the American League bottom-feeders.

We probably didn’t think about it too much, as it was happening with the Red Sox, given the Red Sox were so emotionally charged when they came to Cleveland in April, on literally the day of the Boston Marathon tragedy. The one they call Tito would only get one win in seven tries against the organization he once to led to their first title in 86 years, when his lineup torched Ryan Dempster, Clayton Mortensen, and Alex Wilson for 12 runs in a 12-3 win at Fenway. As far as bouncing back is concerned, the sample size is a little small and we really have no idea what to make of the 2014 Red Sox, but they just completed a 3-game series sweep of Big Papi and company, which has to be a huge weight off the shoulders of Francona, whether he admits it or not.  Let’s also consider how many good things happened, as it pertained to confidence going forward in the series that ended with Asdrubal Cabrera’s walk-off home run to secure the sweep on Wednesday night (Thursday morning, to be technical).

asdrubalwalkoff

Then, you have Detroit, the team that knocks the Indians off their pedestal anytime they’ve gotten a little momentum in recent years. I’m sure most of us have not forgotten how quickly the 2011 came out of the gates, starting 30-15, an amazing run that included 3-game sweep of the Tigers, two of those wins coming in the form of walk-offs. Well, the next time the two teams met in June, the Tigers took two of three, knocking the Indians down to 36-31 and into second place in the division. In August of that year, the Tribe took a series at home, putting them within 3 games of Detroit’s divsion lead, but the Tigers won the last 10 matchups that year, and thoughts of the post-season were laughable by season’s end.

A year later, in 2012, it was a lot more of the same. Hell, the stat sheet shows the Tribe took the season series 10-8, but it comes down to the team from the Motor City killing their spirits. They were still outscored by 15 runs over the course of 18 games. They won 7 of the first 9, including a 5-3 win on July 26th that had some fools believing there was still life in this club. Of course, you can’t solely blame the Tigers for the 11 game losing streak that followed that inspiring win, though they were responsible for losses 7, 8, and 9. They’d pull out a couple more, and even scored one last walk-off win against Jose Valverde (aka Papa Grande) in September, you know, for old time’s sake. But much like [SPOILER ALERT] Tessio in Part I, the Indians and Manny Acta were already dead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d30Y0n1nDH4

Well, that wasn’t a depressing walk down memory lane or anything! Let’s bring it back to the present-day, and though we have learned to taper our emotions after early-season success, the clubhouse had to have been buzzing at the comeuppance that came with sweeping the Tigers at home last month, and the balk-off could really be seen as the exclamation point. Again, we look at our calendar and we know that it’s early, that this 4-to-1 advantage the Tribe currently holds over the Tigers could easily be 5-14 by season’s end, a la last year, but things feel different this year for some reason. Perhaps we’ve already seen the woes this team inevitably experiences every year since Dick Jacobs family name was taken off the ballpark’s marquee.

They didn’t get to 30-30 by starting 30-15, but from 24-30 (their low-water mark). They’ve shown they can beat Detroit and they can beat Boston, and it’s too early to think about whether or not they can beat San Francisco; they’re 0-3 this season and 0-6 in their last six tries, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Of course, if they don’t cross that bridge, they are only 2-4 against the team that shares the bay, so there are multiple pounds of flesh to be had in Northern California, come October, I suppose.

That’s a concern for another time, of course, but the Indians were left for dead just a few weeks back and now, to quote everyone second favorite Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony album, they are creepin’ on a come up. So, to all you busters out there, beware!

The Shame of Not Attending

Though, some might say that I’ve tangled myself up in the Cleveland sports scene so much that I might as well just live there, there are issues, civic issues, where I’d just as soon abstain from comment.  The thing is, I don’t and shouldn’t really have a say on these matters, and I might go as far as to admit that I’m part of the problem.  I’ve done my best to bite my toungue; again, this is partially my fault and I know nobody wants to hear anyone talk about it, but damn, what’s up with all of the empty seats at Progressive Field?

First of all, let me do my best to acknowledge and really own my portion of the blame.  I’m not there, like many before and after myself, because I left Cleveland to explore better career opportunities.  Because there are so many that were curious to see if the grass is greener, and I’d bet, given the recent economic flow, the exodus from Cleveland is essentially out of control in the present tense.  We’re not all fans, not all hard core fans anyways, but those families of four, the ones that buy four tickets in the upper level twice a year, add up.  Of course, they don’t add up enough to say that they’re really the difference between laughable attendance and the capacity crowds the Indians enjoyed hosting night-after-night for their first five or six years in the ballpark.

The problem lies in the reason why so many of us have left; the jobs aren’t there because the employers have also left town.  It means fewer people making money, yes, but it also eats away at a segment of the real targeted demographic when it comes to ticket sales, and that’s the corporations that once bought hundreds, if not thousands of seats before the year.  Those sales made it easier to ride the storm when the team wasn’t doing so well, balancing out the fair-weather fans that only want to be there on Opening Day, when the Yankees or Red Sox are in town, or if the team can clinch a playoff spot or division title.  Those corporations are around any longer, making that $25,000 sale harder to come by.

Then, there’s the excuses.  School is  in session; I mean, that’s a factor, but they have schools Boston, Kansas City, and San Francisco too.  As I recall, schools existed in Northeast Ohio in the 90s for good chunks of that 455 consecutive sellout streak at Jacobs Field, so on to the next one.  The team isn’t doing well; sure, the Tribe isn’t off to one of their more fascinating starts, here in 2014, but I seem to remember a playoff game at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario less than a year ago.  I seem to remember 92 wins and a brilliant run to end the 2013 season.  It also hasn’t escaped my mind that we saw plenty of empty seats early in 2008, when their 2007 nemesis, the Boston Red Sox came to town.  It was cold; again, I’m trying to remember the tropical environment that existed on the shores of Lake Erie in the Aprils and Octobers of that once-elusive sellout streak.

You might want to tell me how you didn’t have high definition broadcasts back then, and it’s a fair point.  I believe that, along with new competing interests, motivates you less to shell out the money for tickets, parking, and concessions.  It’s a problem that exists everywhere, not just in Cleveland and not just for Major League Baseball, but there’s no question that baseball takes the hardest hit and it’s a lot more obvious in Cleveland, where the fans are supposed to care more, where they are as a starved for success as any city on the globe.  Not that any of them necessarily seek out the approval of anyone on the national scene, but the scarce crowds make the “most passionate fans” argument a difficult sell.

Maybe we’re beating a dead horse with this.  Check that, we are and have definitely been beating a dead horse; I understand why people are sick of hearing about it.  There is nothing we can do about it, but it’s such an important thing in the grand scheme. When sales are down, business is bad; that’s something we might not see in sports because the metrics that measure success are printed in the sports section every day.  The standings tell us who is winning and who is losing, but that’s just operations and it doesn’t reflect if the business is doing well.  It comes down to one of two things in the case of the Indians and Progressive Field, either the product can’t be sold or the people selling it are doing unsatisfactory work.

It ends up being a combination of both, if you ask me.  With the amount of people that I see make excuses on the internet, be it Facebook, Twitter, or various comments sections on articles about the team, some that make no mention of attendance number, I believe there are fewer people that want to watch baseball.  They tend to gripe about ticket costs, dynamic pricing, and how cheap the Dolans are.  Short of the team trading for Miguel Cabrera and Clayton Kershaw, those are the types that probably wouldn’t head downtown if they were given free tickets.  That being said, I am someone who has attended games in 13 other ballparks, and I find ticket prices to be high.

Those seats in the right field mezzanine are not $40 seats, though I’ll pay for them when I’m in town. I only know that because I did buy those tickets.  Granted, I bought them at the box office, about three hours before the game, so I paid that “day of” premium, and I want to acknowledge that I think it’s fair to give those willing to buy a little in advance a discount for committing to that game.  Now, I’m fairly spontaneous about my social life, and I know what it’s like to decide to catch a game at the last minute.  I know it’s going to cost me, and I end up paying that procrastination tax.

I also don’t know that the staff does the promotional schedule right.  Bobbleheads and jerseys are fun, but I don’t care to get to the ballpark at 4:30 for a 7:05 game, and why do these on Saturday nights?  It’s worth mentioning that most of the promotional schedules play like that, but you’re going to get a lot of families on those nights anyways.  I’d prefer to see these things happen on a Wednesday night with the Astros in town, or any other game where the trends show that they’re lucky to have five-figure attendance.  Those record-low crowds were supposed to be a thing of the past when the team moved away from the relic on the lake that they used to call home.

The silver lining in all of this is, while there is nothing I can do from Arizona (except attend a game or two when I’m in town) and little anyone in Cleveland can do, unless they can convince 5,000 of their closest friend to commit to some type of season-ticket or mini-plan package, there’s really not a lot that can come from the putrid number of paying customers we see pretty much every night.  There’s no relegation or contraction possibility, and there’s nowhere to move this team.  I’ve heard if the Browns can be re-located, it can happen to anyone, but we aren’t talking about apples-to-apples if we’re comparing the NFL in 1995 with MLB in 2014.

Prior to the Expos move from Montreal to our nation’s capitol a decade ago, re-location hadn’t happened since before I was born 36 years ago; in fact, it’s been over 40 years since any prior teams moved, with the Seattle Pilots becoming the Milwaukee Brewers and the Washington Senators becoming the Texas Rangers.  Why isn’t baseball shifting it’s teams from struggling markets to great potential baseball markets?  It’s because there are no other markets that could support the game as well as the cities who don’t support it well now.

So, we have an issue that’s partially about economics and partially about the consumer’s convenience, but the consequences of standing pat aren’t really all that drastic.  Don’t get me wrong, making payroll becomes increasingly more difficult when the sales aren’t there, but there are other wells for the Dolans to go to for cash to keep them and this baseball team afloat.  It might mean playing at the level of the Houston Astros while we’re waiting for the team to do a better job developing talent that they cannot buy and people won’t like it, but what can they expect?  Cleveland doesn’t want to be that city that loses another team, but that doesn’t really seem to be a viable threat in the present tense.  The only alternative is losing, and we’ve become accustomed to that, with few minor exceptions, since 1948.

Really, all we have is that shame of the empty seats, so maybe losing is the best course, since losing teams don’t warrant the attention.  We’re all really sick of talking about the attendance, but if the team is irreleavant, and it will be with a $40 million dollar payroll, there won’t be much talk of it at all.  There’s nothing we can do about it, and in turn, there’s nothing “they” really have to do about it.

It’s just a shame, and that’s all it is.

My Thoughts: The Indians' Opening Day Starting Lineup

With 10 days left until Opening Day in Oakland, what are Tito’s plans for the Tribe’s starting lineup?

 

If my math is right (and 9/10 times, it’s not), we are exactly 10 days from opening day. March 31st takes the Tribe to the west coast where they will take on the Oakland A’s in their first three-game set. It has been a successful spring training thus far for the Indians. They are in first place in the Cactus League and are tied for the third highest run differential at +29 (When combining both the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues, the Indians are tied for the sixth highest run differential). For the most part, we can safely assume who will fill a majority of the roster spots and have a distinct sense of 3/5 of the starting rotation. I’m sure Terry Francona is going to have some decisions to make as we head into the final week of spring baseball, but that’s why he’s Tito – he will make the right decision 99% of the time.

 

Looking forward to an opening day lineup, I have some ideas about what it’s going to look like, but it’s dependent on who the A’s put on the bump. If you’ve been following that situation at all, you know the Indians have it made in the shade with regard to their rotation in comparison to the A’s (see article here).

It would appear that the young right-hander, Sonny Gray, will be taking the mound against the Tribe on March 31st. Gray went 4-3 with a 2.67 ERA (1.11 WHIP) while striking out 67 and walking 20 (3.35 K/BB) over 10 starts. With 10 starts under his belt, we can’t attribute too much to the young Gray, but it’s interesting to note that his xFIP was 2.92 in 2013. xFIP is a great metric that helps to explain how a pitcher will do in the future. According to Fangraphs, Gray’s 2.92 is excellent and the Indians need to respect him as they transition to regular season baseball in a few days.

 

Gray’s metrics are small in sample size and we’ll get to know more about what kind of pitcher he is to become over the course of the 2014 season. Having said that, the Tribe will need to be prepared for a pitcher that looks to be an integral part of the A’s rotation for the coming years.

 

So all of this begs the question: What’s the starting lineup going to look like on March 31st?

Here are my thoughts on that:

 

  Player                        Bats/Throws

1.    CF Michael Bourn                (L/R)

2.    2B Jason Kipnis                    (L/R)

3.    SS Asdrúbal Cabrera          (S/R)

4.    LF Michael Brantley           (L/L)

5.    1B Nick Swisher                    (S/L)

6.    DH Carlos Santana              (S/R)

7.    3B Lonnie Chisenhall          (L/R)

8.    RF David Murphy                (L/L)

9.    C  Yan Gomes                        (R/R)

 

In terms of a “match-up” lineup, I don’t really think you can beat this one. Sonny Gray, being the right-hander that he is, is at a disadvantage against the majority left-handed lineup of the Indians. In addition, it just so happens that this is, in my opinion, the premier lineup for the Indians day-in and day-out. I have Asdrúbal third because, let’s face it – the guy’s spring training numbers have been solid, if not impressive for someone who has been on the trading block for… a while. In reality, as long as Asdrúbal produces from the three-spot, he will continue to hit from the three-spot. Michael Brantley is in the four-spot based on his consistent hitting and ability to hit for some power. I had Swisher in that position the whole time I was writing this piece, but then decided against my better judgment and switched them. I placed Yan Gomes at the bottom of the lineup for a few reasons. First, I have a thing for tradition. I don’t know many lineups where a catcher hit higher than 7th, so I’m a sucker for keeping Yan low. Second, I think the nine-spot is a transition spot in the lineup more than it is the “last-spot”. Generally, bottom of the lineup guys don’t hit as well as the guys who are 1 – 4 or 5. When the bottom of the lineup guys put it together however, having someone like Gomes hitting ninth puts the Tribe in a much better position than say Murphy or Chisenhall.

I would love to hear some dissent from readers. In the comments below, throw out your starting lineup and we can go back and forth to see where things lead.

 

I know you all are as excited as I am that baseball is almost here. In two weeks, we’ll be back at the Prog! Pray for good weather guys! Go Tribe!