Tag Archives: Ryan Raburn

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.

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 #12: Don't Judge a Defense by its Fielding Percentage

In this edition of the Tribe Time Now Podcast, Ryan (MTAF: Cleveland) is joined by Mike Brandyberry (didthetribewinlastnight.com) and Craig Brown (royalsauthority.com) to discuss the Indians, the Royals, Defense, and Yordano Ventura.

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Subscribe to the podcast here and make sure to check out the new Tribe Time Now website!

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 #11: R-E-L-A-X. RELAX.

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!

 

Tribe Time Now #11: R-E-L-A-X. RELAX.

Topics:

a. Today’s game

b. Lineup, Raburn, reactions

c. Lindor, Holt, Wolters, potential call ups: when, where and why

d. Schedule, off days and errors

e. Starting pitchers

f.  Bullpen issues/concerns

g. What’s going on at IBI, next week’s guest, the big dog is coming

 

 

You can subscribe to the Tribe Time Now podcast (and all other Tribe Time Now features) by following this link!

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!

Balk-ing Home with Hammy

Well, the secret is out, but knowing that the Tom Hamilton walk-off call, be it a home run call or anything a little Hollywood, is almost an unparalleled experience, especially if you’re a Tribe fan. Being off the reservation, or should I just say “out-of-market”, keeping up with the Tribe involves a financial decision each spring.

hamilton-tribe-booth-2009-ccjpg-b1fa14f41cbea61c

 

For years, I’ve shelled out the extra cash for DirecTV to add the MLB Extra Innings package to my already outrageous monthly invoice, but I made the leap to the more feature-rich MLB.tv Premium a few years back. With other sports offering broadband and mobile packages, in conjunction with the cable/satellite add-on, Major League Baseball was once again behind the times, or so I thought. Extra Innings only served its purpose when I was home, whereas the online service offered some flexibility on the go. One of those services made available was the radio call of all the games, with your choice of the home or away announcer and the Spanish crew, when applicable.

It doesn’t matter if I’m at the office, stuck in commuter traffic, or 1500 miles from home; if the Tribe is playing, I can listen to Tom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus on the audio call. The exception to that, of course, is when I’m 35,000 feet above the ground, when I’m without broadband or mobile data service, as I was yesterday, en route to Chicago. To take soften the blow of Chi-town’s swamp-like humidity, I put the headphones on, and let the Voice of the Cleveland Indians take me home, in more ways than one, with an all-important, if not extremely unlikely, series sweep of the Detroit Tigers hanging in the balance.

To reset my perspective, the At Bat app, the one that drives MLB.tv and the bonus audio feeds, sends me an alert that the game is tied at 7 after Detroit added two in the fifth. I paused; seven runs thru 5 for the Braves of the Cuyahoga, but I thought Scherzer was on the bump for the Tigers! That was encouraging for this enigma of an offense that Terry Francona has marched out there, this far in 2014, but it doesn’t matter if you score 20, if you lose 21-20. By the time I was back on the grid, with “Hammy” and “Rosey” in my ear, it sounded as though a bad day from Scherzer wasn’t going to sink the Tigers, who now led 9-7, but David Murphy had no concerns about their backs being against the wall with one on and one out in the ninth.

“A swing and a long drive, deep right center…this ball is…”

GONE! I’ve got no video to go on, hence nothing analytical to add, just the raw emotion of a Missouri native-turned-Cleveland fan at heart in Tom Hamilton. The Detroit closer’s name was Joe, but you could call him Blown Save Nathan after that shot. Out in the visitor’s bullpen, I can only imagine Al Albuquerque thinking, ‘I know this feeling,’ having served up a game-winning bomb to Michael Brantley in the first game of this series.

The celebration didn’t last long, as theme for 2014 continued with the Indians pitching staff surrendering a response run; this potential back-breaking smash came off the bat of Alex Avila after a solid two and two-thirds of solid relief work from usual starter Josh Tomlin. Alex Avila! Must it always be the nobodies, like JD Martinez, Don Kelly, and Avila that punish Indians pitching? Well, in this case, maybe it did, considering Miguel Cabrera got the “Bye Felicia”, as Keith Olbermann would (and actually did) say, in the sixth. However, they still had the sizzling hot Victor Martinez and seemingly, regardless of early 3 games to 1 advantage Cleveland technically has on the Tigers in 2014, the Indians number.

Anyway, Tomlin managed to freeze Danny Worth on strike three to end the 13th, but with Mike Aviles, Michael Bourn, and Asdrubal Cabrera due up, the Indians had work to do in the home-half of the frame. Down in the count against Phil Coke, Aviles hit one towards the hole at short that Worth could quite squeeze in the glove, and stood on first, representing the tying-run. Bourn, who according to Hamilton, is not the best sacrifice bunter the game has ever seen, laid one down the third base line so poetically that a radio listener may have ascertained scholars would talk about and praise for years. He was thrown out at first, and as my late-night viewing of Olbermann would reveal, he probably shouldn’t have been. Whatever, no need for Hammy to torch a guy with bad hammies in this situation.

Asdrubal Cabrera would be next, and Coke put the 2-1 pitch into his knee cap; the words from the WTAM call left me to wonder if Cabrera would be able to finish the season, let alone the game. Only Yan Games remained on the bench, not exactly your ideal pinch-runner, so after a few minutes, the Indians shortstop limped to first as the potential game-winning run. That meant one out and a runner in scoring position for Ben Maller’s favorite player to be named later against the Detroit southpaw. Left-on-right, left-on-left, it doesn’t matter for Michael Brantley, who delivered with a ground ball to the left side, which Aviles legged out from second to tie the game at 10 apiece.

No sooner than Gene Lamont, assuming the skipper role from Brad Asumus, who got the heave-ho in the Cabrera aftermath, summoned Monday’s goat Alburquerque from the ‘pen, did Terry Francona call Justin Sellers back to the dugout. Now, it was time for Yan Gomes to step into the right-handed batters box against the right-hander. Albuquerque tried two sliders, which went wide with no chase from Gomes, and then stopped the charade and put the Tribe’s usual starting catcher on first to load them up from former-Tiger Ryan Raburn.

It all came down to this at-bat, Raburn stepped in, and the strangest thing happened next. Alburquerque flinched!

“And a balk! Ballgame! How about that! WE NOW HAVE SEEN EVERYTHING! A walk-off balk! Unbelievable, Cabrera scores the winner on a walk-off balk!”

I am not sure it’s possible to transcribe any part of Hamilton’s note-worthy calls without the over-use of exclamation points. Happy to spend my Wednesday afternoon with you, Tom. Happy to be an Indians fan, like everyone back in Cleveland. Happy to have the option to listen to radio call from Chicago.

AP TIGERS INDIANS BASEBALL S BBA USA OH

11-10, Tribe wins! What a game, even the limited parts I caught; I sincerely hope it springboards us into “What a season!” mode. All in all, I’m quite content with the balk-off.  A win is a win.

Cleveland Indians 2014 Season Preview

With the Cleveland Indians 2014 season right around the corner (their first game is 3/31 in Oakland) the Opening Day roster is starting has taken shape. These Indians will look to build upon a successful 2013 campaign that they feel was cut short after losing their one game Wild Card playoff game to Tampa Bay. The catchphrase this season seems to be “Unfinished Business”, but will the Indians be able to follow through on this claim? There are several factors that will determine whether this team will be 2014 playoff contenders or just a letdown (see the 2008 Cleveland Indians). With all that in mind, here is the Cleveland Indians 2014 season preview.

 

 

Pitching

Can Masterson repeat last year’s success?

The success or failure of the team will likely start and end with pitching, specifically the starting rotation. This is a rotation that lost Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez to free agency and, for all the success of last season, is a rotation littered with question marks. Starting at the top, Indians ace Justin Masterson is in the last year of his contract and despite his (reported) willingness to take a pay cut to stick around, extension talks have stalled. Masterson has said this won’t affect his concentration for the 2014 season but that remains to be determined. He posted career bests last season in wins (14), shutouts (3), strikeouts (195) and WHIP (1.20) while notching a 3.45 ERA in 193 innings pitched. Masty did all of this while receiving an average of only 3.52 runs per game, 15th lowest among qualified starters last season.

 

 

The concern for the rotation is less with Masterson and more with everyone else. Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco make up the Indians starting rotation after Masterson. Combined, they have all pitched fewer innings in their careers (782.1) than Masterson (1013). This inexperience is a major concern. Last season McAllister and Kluber were borderline starters to start the season. Salazar’s name was hardly brought up and Carrasco was looked to be brought along throughout the course of the 2013 season. Now all four are going to be relied upon heavily to guide the Indians towards the playoffs. While this isn’t an impossible task (McAllister, Kluber and Salazar did have some success last season) an increased role and more innings does not always translate positively. As was the case last season, the starting rotation will have to overachieve for this team to have success.

 

 

For Carrasco, this might be his last chance as he is out of options and has failed to live up to expectations since being acquired in the Cliff Lee trade.

 

 

Carrasco edged out Josh Tomlin to win the last starting job available in the rotation. Tomlin will begin the season in Triple-A, which might be for the best as he continues to shake the rust off after missing all but one game of the 2013 season (Tommy John surgery). Trevor Bauer will also join Tomlin in Triple-A as he continues to try and figure out how to get his skills to translate to the big league level. Veteran Shaun Marcum will open the season on the disabled list at the Triple-A level, but should his rehab go successfully don’t be surprised to see him in an Indians uniform, especially if Carrasco (or another member of the rotation) struggles. The 2013 season was a disaster for Marcum, but he has a career ERA of 3.88 with respectable K/9 and BB/9 ratios (7.3 and 2.7 respectively). He could act as the veteran presence in the rotation and, if healthy, could be a solid end of the rotation pitcher. Should Carrasco struggle early (or throw at somebody else’s head) and Marcum is healthy, expect to see the veteran in the rotation before the All-Star break.

 

 

The Tribe bullpen consists of some familiar faces with a couple new names sprinkled in. Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Marc Rzepczynski and Vinnie Pestano will all be a part of the Tribe ‘pen. They will be joined by Blake Wood, Scott Atchison, Josh Outman and new closer John Axford. Last season Indians relievers did a respectable job, finishing the season with a 3.62 ERA (19th) while the opposition had a batting average of only .239 (9th best). Still there is room for improvement as Tribe relievers gave up 221 walks (4th most) in 516.2 innings pitched. Terry Francona and (Tribe Pitching Coach) Mickey Callaway will be hopeful that Axford can lock down the closer role, Pestano can bounce back from a disastrous 2013 and that Allen and Rzepczynski can continue to be reliable middle relievers. As with the starting rotation, the Tribe bullpen has talent, but that talent has question marks.

 

 

Offense

Despite hitting only .255 as a team last year, the Cleveland Indians had a very productive offense. They finished in the top ten in runs scored (745), doubles (290), home runs (171), on base percentage (.327) and slugging percentage (.410). The Indians are actually in a position to put up similar numbers this season as they didn’t really lose anybody to free agency from their lineup. Despite not signing another marquee bat (unless David Murphy gets you excited) the Indians will likely have the same or similar lineup we saw late last season. Jason Kipnis will look to build upon an All-Star season last year. As I wrote about previously, Michael Bourn (once healthy) and Nick Swisher will look to improve upon last season’s numbers. With expanded roles in the offense, Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes hope to provide similar production. Despite all of this, one key stat will continue to be paramount for this offense.

 

 

In addition to the previously mentioned top ten numbers the offense posted in 2013, they were in the top ten in both hitting with runners in scoring position and hitting with runners in scoring position and two outs. The Tribe offense finished 9th and 6th in these categories respectively. The Indians don’t have a .300 hitter in their lineup, the closest thing to that coming in the form of Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley. Knowing this, the Indians will have to rely upon timely hitting. Last year 564 of the team’s 745 runs came with runners in scoring position, 231 of those coming with runners in scoring position and two outs. They hit 43 home runs and 80 doubles w/RISP; being able to repeat that success will be as important as the starting rotation overachieving.

 

 

What will 2014 bring for Chisenhall?

Quality depth was also key for the Tribe offense. The “Goon Squad” played a large part in the success of the team. New squad members this season in the form of Nyjer Morgan, David Murphy and Elliot Johnson will hopefully give Terry Francona a similar spark off the bench. Keep an eye on Lonnie Chisenhall as well. Chisenhall made the opening day 25 man roster, but not as the starting third baseman. That job now belongs to Carlos Santana. Francona made it clear that this is not a platoon situation, although it’s expected that Chisenhall will see some time at third base. As it stands now, the DH spot looks to be somewhat of a platoon situation. Now that Lonnie won’t have to focus on defense as much, keep an eye out for him to possibly become the teams regular DH. Chisenhall made it this far with his reputation of being a good hitter. While that hasn’t translated all that well in the big leagues so far, perhaps just focusing on hitting could be the key to unlocking his talents. In 52 at bats this spring, Lonnie is hitting .308 with 2 home runs, 2 triples, 8 runs batted in and 8 runs scored. If those numbers can translate to the regular season Francona will have no choice but to put his bat in the lineup regularly. With Santana having defensive success at third base (so far), that spot could be DH for Lonnie.

 

 

Predictions

Despite some questions with the pitching staff, this team has the ability to duplicate their success from last season. The Detroit Tigers could take a step back this season with the trade of Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander showing he is in fact mortal. The Kansas City Royals actually lived up to their expectations (for a change) last season but are far from a runaway favorite. The Indians should be able to compete within their division as well as for one of the two AL Wild Card spots (hush hush Kenny Lofton). Predicting another 90+ win season for a team that lacks a true power hitter and has questions in the rotation is difficult. Look for the Indians to finish in the 84-87 win range and compete for a post season spot.
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It's Been a Good Year in Goodyear

 Spring training isn’t always an indicator of regular season success, but the Indians look good and people are beginning to notice

 

Happy π Day Cleveland!

 

In honor of the greatest number of all time: Kick back, relax, and enjoy a piece of pie while you read about the fantastic spring training the Indians are having this year!

 

Yesterday, the Cleveland Indians left no doubt that they are an offensive force to be reckoned with heading into the meat of the spring training season. The Indians were able to overcome what appeared to be an offensive slug-fest and beat the Royals by a score of 12-6 in Goodyear. The bottom of the 8th inning really what tipped the scale in the Tribe’s favor as they scored five runs, including home runs from Elliot Johnson and 2013 Honorary Goon Squad member, Matty Carson.

 

It seemed liked everything that could have went wrong for the Royals in the bottom of the 8th, unfortunately for them, did go wrong. In addition to the solo-shot to Johnson, the Royals reliever gave up several singles and a few walks before getting what appeared to be inning-ending ground ball to first. The KC first baseman threw to get the runner at second and the KC shortstop fired the ball back to the first. Unfortunately for Kansas City, the throw was a bit errant and David Murphy was almost knocked on his rear end after the first basemen decked him in the chin. Murphy was awarded second which afforded the continuation of the inning for the Tribe. After the Matty Carson home run and another error by the KC third baseman, the Indians headed into the top of the 9th comfortably in front 12-6. Preston Guilmet put together a beautiful 1-2-3 inning and the Tribe walked into the locker room winners of 12 of their first 14 spring training games.

 

With Justin Masterson being  named the opening day starter at Oakland on March 31st and Corey Kluber subsequently named the #2 starter, the Indians announced that Zach McCallister will head into the season as the #3 starter. This leaves the final two spots open for contention between Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Harang, Josh Tomlin, and Danny Salazar.

 

I don’t see Salazar getting shut out of a spot unless he gets hurt in a bad way — like Jason Giambi fractured rib bad. His stuff is too nasty to leave out of the rotation. Dichotomously, I feel like Bauer has, once again, worked his way into AAA with his bogey-like play in spring training. Take a look at his stats thus far:

 

Michigan Kansas State

85th
383.1
yds/gm
Total
71st
401.3
yds/gm

101st
131.0
yds/gm
Rushing
54th
180.5
yds/gm

46th
252.1
yds/gm
Passing
75th
220.8
yds/gm

33.8
PPG
33.4

 

This is spring ball. If those stats don’t scare you going into the regular season, then you need to reassess your perceived view of what “good pitching looks like.

 

For the fifth starter, I wouldn’t mind seeing Carlos Carrasco take on the role as long as he continues to throw hard and control his temper. Carrasco has pitched the same amount of innings as Bauer and given up half the hits. His K/BB ratio is 9.0, almost 4.5 times more than Bauer. He has given up only three runs and only one of those has been an earned run. Finally,  opponents are hitting a paltry .243 against him thus far and his WHIP is 1.00 (Bauer’s is 2.43).

 

So yeah. Carrasco is the clear fifth starter in terms of spring training production. I don’t think anyone can argue that statistically with me, but please, if you think otherwise, I’d love to see it in the comments.

 

With regard to the offense thus far, I think this is better than anyone, even Tito, thought it would go. This team doesn’t have to worry about chemistry like they did last year. They came in to camp last year having to get over the hump of figuring one how they were going to click. The Harlem Shake video definitely helped and I think it really set the tone for the season and the future with Tito at the helm.

 

In their limited appearances, Justin Sellers and Ryan Raburn have been outstanding, hitting .636 and .600 respectively. They’ve collectively driven in six runs and slapped around hits while garnering 6 RBIs.

 

Another person that is showing that he wants his starting is none other than the Chisenator himself – Lonnie Chisenhall. Lonnie is hitting .308 with 6 hits, 1 HR and 3 RBIs in 26 PAs. Carlos Santana unfortunately is only hitting .160 with 4 hits, 1 HR, and 4 RBIs in his 25 PAs. One thing to note: the sample size has yet to reach n=30 (statistical significance/normalized curve), so I wouldn’t read too much into these numbers, they should be good indicators of future production as we get the next 5-10 games under our belts.

 

Really quickly: Michael Brantley has been out of this world to put it lightly. Ever since he signed his contract, you can just feel the extra bounce in his step and his .524 BA, 11 hits, 1 BB, and 0 SO show that more than anything. He is excited, focused, and ready to have All-Star caliber year in LF for the Tribe.

 

Looking at another outfielder, Michael Bourn is only hitting .182 in 22 PAs and has 8 strikeouts. I like to look at strikeout numbers in spring training because it gives me an idea of how hitters are familiarizing themselves with the ball at major league speeds after a (potentially) long winter off. The higher the strikeout totals, the more fear I have that production will be off. I should also note that I tend to give a break to bulkier, middle of the lineup guys like your corner infielders and corner outfielders. They tend to be a little bigger with a little more power that the middle infielders and center fielders who hit for average.

 

People: Michael Bourn is our center fielder. Lonnie Chisenhall should not have fewer strikeouts than him. Hell, Carlos Santana shouldn’t have fewer strikeouts than him. That should be the case from the first spring training game all the way to game 7 of the World Series. I hope he’s able to shorten his swing and see the off-speed stuff better as we move toward game #1 on March 31st. Michael Bourn getting on base, whether by hit or walk, is paramount to the success/production from the upper and middle portions of the lineup.

 

Finally, I was really surprised to see Francisco Lindor sent down the other day after the Indians played the Cubs. I honestly thought he had an outside shot of making the club as a “just-in-case” guy. Overall, it was probably a good decision due to the production from Asdrubal Cabrera thus far. Cabrera is hitting .400 in 20 PAs to go along with 4 doubles in his eight hits. Additionally, he has walked six times, struck out a third of the times that he has walked and driven in 3 RBIs. Asdrubal will continue to top the depth chart in my opinion unless something catastrophic should happen to him such as injury or a trade (Also knocking on wood as I type that because, these days, lady luck has not been on my side).

 

One of the best parts of spring training is seeing who is going to step up and who is going to blend in with the wall. More importantly, we get to experience the game of baseball as a collective group of fans again. Whether it’s on the radio, the TV, the internet, or the newspaper the next day, All of us Tribe fans are in a spring training of our own. We have to get back into the swing of dilly-dallying at work so we can watch the free game cast on mlb.com. We have to train ourselves to stay up late for those dreaded early spring road trips to the West coast. Most important of all, we get to take off our mittens, stow away the winter stocking caps, and don the old Indians ball cap. We get to tuck our puffy winter jackets into the closet until next November (or sooner!) and get out the cracked Indians wind breaker. We are fortunate enough that our wives (or husbands!) didn’t throw away our ratty Omar Visquel jersey we’ve spilt countless beers/ketchup/mustard on at every opening day for the last 20 years.

 

It’s almost time Cleveland. Think about it – as you’re reading this, we will be sitting in the friendly confines of Progressive Field, together again, in three weeks. The first pitch of the Indians’ season is only 17 days away. As we move through the middle part of spring training, enjoy the extra hour of sunlight and the creeping warmth of Spring.

 

Above all else: Get ready for Opening Day guys. It’s going to be one hell of a good time and I can’t wait to share it with you.