Tag Archives: Scott Kazmir

Indians Sign RHP Gavin Floyd, Look to Clone Scott Kazmir

Approximately 15-20 minutes after my weekly column posted to More Than a Fan: Cleveland yesterday afternoon, The Cleveland Indians announced that they had signed RHP Gavin Floyd to a 1 year/$4 million deal with the ability to reach $6 million if Floyd reaches certain performance incentives.

Gavin’s career spans roughly 11 years with stints in Philadelphia, Chicago (White Sox) and Atlanta.

He has 196 starts under his belt, a career ERA of 4.40 with a 72-72 record (.500) and a career FIP (a statistic that strips away the role defense and luck play to more accurately shoe pitcher performance over a given period of time) of  4.36 (which unfortunately ranks between “Poor” and “Awful” according to fangraphs.com).

Floyd’s best season over the course of his career was his 2008 campaign.

In 2008, Floyd posted a 17-8 record while accumulating a 3.84 ERA (his best mark in the seasons in which he had more than 10 starts). He posted above average K/9 & BB/9 ratios (6.3 & 3.1 respectively. His WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched) of 1.26 was a 2nd best in his career. Unfortunately, his FIP was 4.77 during that same season, which is a pretty awful number.

Most recently, in 2014, Floyd went 2-2 in 9 starts before packing it in due to injury. In that time, he racked up a 2.65 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. His 7.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9; considered great and excellent per fangraphs.com.

I like the signing, but I have to admit, I needed a day to come around with it.

After writing about how the Indians stood pat while their AL Central foes added serious talent, I felt as if the front office visited the island misfit toys to see how they could stay relevant on a budget. When I found out Floyd was coming off elbow surgery, I became even more upset.

But then something changed.

I listened to the highlights of the press conference regarding Floyd led by Chris Antonetti and, according to him, Floyd’s fastball velocity is actually higher than what it was in 2014 before his season-ending elbow injury (See an analysis MLB.com’s Matt Waymire  & Jeff Nelson here).

I was also surprised that Floyd immediately has a spot in the 2015 rotation.

Scott Kazmir had to work and prove himself to get into the bottom of the 2013 rotation. Granted, Kaz was came in from playing in a semi-professional league. Floyd pitched in the majors last year and has pitched in the majors for the last 11 years. I guess I felt that some of our younger guys who have put in the time deserved a shot at the rotation before just giving it to a veteran journeyman.

Either way, the Indians have improved the roster with Floyd’s signing. Hopefully, Floyd can channel his inner Scott Kazmir and have a great season for great value. If he does, we need to seriously never distrust the front office ever again. They obviously have an eye for talent (young and old).

I guess we’ll see when pitchers and catchers report (under 65 days if my calculations are correct)!

Go Tribe!

Revamped Pitching Staff has Athletics Poised for Pennant Run

The Major League Baseball season has reached it’s first quarter, and one of the bigger surprises of the season, is the play of the Oakland Athletics. As of Sunday, the A’s are chugging along with a record of 28-16, good enough for the second best record in all of MLB.

Why this is fantastic start such a surprise considering the A’s have reached the playoffs each of the last two seasons? While the standings tell you the A’s finished last season with a 96-66 record, (which was good enough to win the American League West Division), the standings fail to mention the vast difference in the composition of the A’s pitching staff.

The 2013 A’s staff was led by All Star pitcher Bartolo Colon,14 game winner AJ Griffin, along with Jarrod Parker, and Tom Millone whom finished with 12 wins apiece. Of those 4 pitchers, the only remaining member of the current rotation is Millone. Colon left the team in the off season to sign with the New York Mets as a free agent, while Griffin and Parker tore ligaments in their elbows that required the dreaded Tommy John Surgery, therefore ending their seasons. Along with the changes in the starting rotation, the A’s bullpen also was in for a big change, as the A’s lost All Star Closer Grant Balfour in free agency to the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2013 Balfour was once of the best closers in all of baseball saving thirty-eight games out of forty-one opportunities.

In order to offset the losses in the starting rotation and bullpen, the A’s went to work exploring every possible avenue to fill the vacancies. Their first move was to acquire closer Jim Johnson from the Baltimore Orioles. In 2013, Johnson recorded a league high 50 saves for the Orioles, and had accrued over 100 saves in the past two seasons combined. The A’s also added relievers Luke Gregerson from the San Diego Padres and Fernando Abad from the Washington Nationals to solidify their pen.

Johnson Had back to back 50 Save seasons with the Orioles
Johnson had back to back 50 save seasons with the Orioles

After filling their bullpen voids, the A’s went to work on the rotation by signing free agent pitcher Scott Kazmir from the Cleveland Indians. Kazmir, who had been out of Major League Baseball for over 2 seasons, resurrected his once promising career in Cleveland under the tutelage of pitching coach Mickey Callaway, and regained the form that made him one of the most dominating left handed starting pitchers in baseball. The A’s also made an under the radar trade acquiring left handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz from the Colorado Rockies. Pomeranz, was a former first round selection of the Indians who had been very inconsistent since being traded to the Rockies in 2011 in the Ubaldo Jimenez blockbuster trade. The last two additions to the A’s rotation were already with the team in the person of young phenom Sonny Gray and journeyman pitcher Jesse Chavez. Gray joined the A’s late in 2013 and helped pitch them into the post-season while Chavez spent 2013 in the A’s bullpen.

Sonny_Gray_August_20,_2013
Sonny Gray leads the revamped A’s rotation

With the exception of Jim Johnson, all of these moves have panned out very well for the A’s. Gray, Kazmir, and Chavez are near the top of the pitching leaderboards in wins, batting average against, and earned run average. Meanwhile Pomeranz, who has been dominant in the bullpen, recently made the transition to the starting rotation and has yet to give up a run in his two starts.

Johnson on the other hand, started off the season poorly, losing two games and blowing a save in the first week. Since then, He was removed as the closer and has been trying to work his way back into the good graces of manager Bob Melvin. Despite Johnson’s struggles, and the uncertainty of the closer situation, the rest of the A’s bullpen has been phenomenal. Newcomers Abad and Gregerson, have joined forces with existing stalwarts Dan Otero and the Bearded wonder that is Sean Doolittle, to create one of the most dynamic bullpens in all of baseball.

Sean  Doolittle Fired up after recording an out
Sean Doolittle is fired up after getting out of a jam

Despite the vast changes in the pitching staff, the A’s seem poised to make noise come October. Will the pitching staff hold up and continue their early season splendor? Or will the opposing hitters make the necessary adjustments?  Either way, the A’s may finally have the necessary talent to advance past their Division Series nemesis, and make a long October run towards glory.

Five Storylines for the 2014 Cleveland Indians

With Spring Training underway, the Cleveland Indians are gearing up for a strong follow up season to the surprising 92 win 2013 campaign. While this off season lacked the major free agent acquisitions of last season, manager Terry Francona is still able to field the same core group of players that played a major part in their success last year. There is some concern that with the lack of a major roster addition the 2014 squad’s output will resemble the 2008 Indians, however the pieces remain in place for the Tribe to continued success. Here are five storylines for the 2014 Cleveland Indians season.

 

 

1. Improvements from Swisher and Bourn

While the Indians didn’t sign a big name free agent (David Murphy anyone?) there are still plenty of things to be excited about on the roster as far as the players acquired last season, specifically Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. With a free agent pool that was not impressive, the Indians instead are relying on Swisher and Bourn to rebound from underachieving seasons instead of taking on another large contract.

 

 

If you just go by the numbers, Swisher was slightly down but close to right on par with his career averages. Last year for the Tribe, Swisher hit .246 with 22 home runs, 63 RBI, 27 doubles and 74 runs scored. Compared to his numbers in four years with the Yankees Swisher disappointed, however more was asked of him as he was hitting higher in the lineup for the Tribe. While it’s unfair to expect Swisher to his upwards of .275 with 30 home runs, an increase in production isn’t unfathomable, especially considering his on base percentage was down nearly 20 points from his career average (.358 OBP career vs. .341 in 2013). Swisher’s overall power numbers also declined as he only had a .423 slugging percentage compared to a career average of .462. His lack of RBI production was partly due to the instability around him, but look for Swisher to improve after having a season to adjust to a new ball club and an off season to rest an injured shoulder that hampered him for the majority of the season.

 

 

The Indians will also be expecting an increase in production from leadoff hitter Michael Bourn. Bourn only appeared in 130 games last season, the lowest number for him since 2007 with Philadelphia. Hopefully Bourn put the injury bug behind him, but it’s his production down the stretch that the Indians are really hoping improves. The speedster boasted a batting average of .304 through the month of June when his hitting took a nose dive. Bourn never hit better than .247 following the month of June and in the months of July, August, September and October Bourn only hit .236. Bourn’s on base percentage dipped lower as the season progressed as well, never reaching above .300 for the last couple months of the season.

 

 

He also failed to excite once he got on base.

 

 

Known for his speed, Bourn only managed to steal 23 bases for the Indians in 2013. Compare that to the 42 stolen bases in 2012 and 61 in 2011 and the disappointment is obvious. While this might partly be due to playing his first season in the American League and partly due to injuries, these numbers – the steals especially – will have to improve for Bourn.

 

 

2. The Carlos Santana Project

The Cleveland Indians have lacked a solid third baseman since Casey Blake, and Blake won’t ever be confused Mike Schmidt. With Lonnie Chisenhall failing to take a strong hold of the position, the Indians are hoping to successfully move Carlos Santana over to third. Santana has spent the majority of his career at catcher but does have minor league experience playing third base, although the majority of that was very early in his career. Despite that, Santana has committed to a position change and despite what one would think the reviews haven’t been all that bad. While he may have looked a bit uncomfortable at first, reports from the Dominican winter ball leagues were generally positive and optimistic. Santana also spent time with fellow Dominican Republic native and former third baseman Fernando Tatis working on his game at the hot corner. Expecting Santana to be a gold glove third baseman would be naïve, and with Chisenhall and Mike Aviles on the roster the experiment could end up being short lived, but if Santana can prove to be a serviceable glove at third base the Indians might have found a way to maximize Santana as he would be able to see more playing time at third base than he would’ve at catcher. The Indians would potentially get more offensive output at third base in one year than they’ve had in several years combined should Santana become the regular third baseman.

 

 

3. The Goon Squad Graduates

The Indians roster depth last season played a huge role in their overall success. Dubbed the “Goon Squad” and made up of Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn, Yan Gomes and Jason Giambi, this group played a big role in the Indians post season push. Now these goons look to have an expanded role on the club.

 

 

Whether or not Santana becomes the everyday third baseman it seems fairly certain that he will not be the teams regular catcher, that role now belongs to Yan Gomes. Gomes played sparingly early in the 2013 season but saw more opportunities as the year went one, opportunities he capitalized on. Gomes showed some pop last year, hitting 11 home runs and 18 doubles in 293 at bats. Gomes also played extremely well defensively behind the plate and showed good chemistry with the pitching staff. If Gomes is able to build on his production from last season the catcher position will remain an asset on offense while becoming stronger on defense.

 

 

While the success Gomes had last year was a nice surprise, Ryan Raburn’s season was equally as surprising and impressive. Like Gomes, Raburn made the most of his opportunities and he was rewarded with a contract extension during the 2013 season. With the departure of Drew Stubbs, Raburn will likely see more time in the outfield. Whether the expanded role will result in an increase in production remains to be seen, and expecting him to duplicate an impressive .543 slugging percentage is probably unrealistic, but Raburn does have the talent to be at least a platoon player in the outfield.

 

 

4. The Starting Rotation

While the aforementioned Goon Squad played a big role in the team’s success last season, it was the starting pitching that played the biggest role in the Tribe’s 92 wins. Loaded with question marks last year, guys like Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister elevated their games while Ubaldo Jimenez finally became the pitcher the Indians traded for and was arguably the best pitcher in the American League in the second half of the season.

 

 

This year the Indians will need the same type of overachieving production. Jimenez is now a member of the Baltimore Orioles and Kazmir is with the Oakland Athletics. That means once again the likes of Kluber, Salazar and McAllister will have to elevate their games. Carlos Carrasco will have to realize his potential and more than likely somebody else will have to emerge much like Kazmir did last season. While prospect Trevor Bauer has the talent to emerge for the Tribe, don’t sleep on Shaun Marcum. The 32 year old right hander has proven to be a reliable starting pitcher during his career. If you take away a poor season for the New York Mets (1-10 with a 5.29 ERA in 78.1 innings pitched), his career numbers are pretty solid (57-36 with a 3.91 ERA before arriving in New York). While he will never be a top of the rotation type of guy, Marcum is a very real possibility (assuming he is fully recovered from surgery and makes the team) as the Indians number four or five starter as the year progresses, especially if Carrasco continues to struggle in the big leagues. Marcum signed a minor league deal with the Indians with an invite to Spring Training.

 

 

5. The Ax Man

The Indians bullpen will have a new look to it this season, anchored by new closer John Axford. I’ll take a risk in saying Axford has big shoes to fill, considered how former Tribe closer Chris Perez’s time ended in Cleveland, but Perez as a whole was more good than bad and his departure left a definite hole in the bullpen. Axford is similar to Perez in that they both enjoyed dominate seasons recently and both have struggled to duplicate the production.

 

 

Axford has the ability to be a solid closer for this team, the key to that equation is whether or not Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway can get through to Axford. For a better explanation than what I can provide of what needs to be done to fix Axford, click here, but if he is able to get back on the right track Axford would be a huge asset for the Tribe.

 

 

Despite winning 92 games last year, there are plenty of questions regarding the 2014 squad. Whether or not Swisher and Bourn can produce at a higher level and who will emerge as a reliable starting pitcher are the two biggest concerns surrounding this team. The Indians managed to lock up a Wild Card spot last season last season with similar concerns, so if those concerns can turn into assets similar success can be had.

Is Nyjer Morgan the 2014 Scott Kazmir for the Cleveland Indians?

“It’s ya boy Tony Plush!”

On Tuesday, January 14th, “Tony Plush” (AKA: Nyjer Morgan) signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians worth approximately $1 million according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. For Morgan to reach $1 million, he would not only have to break camp on the Tribes’ 40 man roster, but he would also have to reach certain incentives agreed upon in the contract with the Indians.

Morgan has been somewhat of a journeyman during his tenure in the majors. During his seven year career, he has played for three major league squads (PIT, WSN and MIL) while completing stints in the minors with each organization albeit his Triple-A stint in Milwaukee was only two games. Most recently, he played for the Yokohama DeNA Baystars (Japan) and slashed .294/.361/.434 over 108 games in 2013. He hit 11 HRs and drove in 50 RBIs (both career highs), but stole only three bases. The NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) league’s season is approximately 140 games in length, and is similar to that of its American counterpart. It’s fair to compare numbers across leagues, however, scouts and baseball professionals have described the NPB as “AAAA” (more competitive than Triple-A, but less competitive than the MLB).

I have looked everywhere for Morgan’s WAR during his 2013 season with the Baystars, but alas, it’s nowhere to be found, and is a little more complicated to calculate than I expected (i.e. Fangraphs’ formula is: fWAR = wRAA + UZR + position + ((20/600)/PA) and I am not learning how to calculate that right now). His numbers were comparable to those that he posted in the 2011 season with the Brewers, in which he posted a .304/.357/.421 slash line. In addition, he stole 13 bases and had career highs in doubles and HRs (20 and 4 respectively).

Morgan lost something from his 2010 form and he was unable to find it in 2012 (hence his move to the NPB in 2013). Maybe his swing was getting long or his ego was catching up with him. His speed was definitely missing and his ability to create runs through “small-ball” hitting, walks, and steals has dwindled. Regardless, the Indians saw something in him to the degree of signing him to a contract with the possibility of playing in the majors again.

I’m personally a little wary because, let’s face it, the guy is 33 and is well past the “prime” of his career. His role on teams in the past was to get on base and create runs. I just don’t think that he can do that like he used to. Recreating Kenny Lofton is just not going to happen. Michael Bourne presents a better pallette of stats to do that than Morgan, and he still pales in comparison.

Let’s not be so quick to judge though. For those unfamiliar with the story, allow me to tell you the tale of Scott Kazmir leading up to his great 2013 season. I’m sure most of you already know, but let’s dig a little deeper. Kaz (as I and others had come to affectionately know him over the 2013 season) was pitching in the independent league for the Sugar Land Skeeters (TX) (yes, that’s a real team). He posted a .333 win percentage (three wins and six losses), a 5.34 ERA and an abysmal 1.55 SO/BB ratio. Cleveland saw something in the once touted Tampa Bay pitching prospect and all-star and signed him to a deal similar to that of Nyjer Morgan.

In 2013, Kaz made one of the most incredible comebacks that I have ever witnessed as a baseball fan. He posted a 10-9 W-L record and a 4.04 ERA. He pitched 158.0 innings and had a SO/BB ratio of 3.45 (that’s right up there with Yu Darvish FYI). Other than his two all-star seasons (2006 & 2008), Kazmir posted the lowest WHIP of his career with a mark of 1.32. Finally, he posted a WAR of 1.1 in 2013, his highest WAR since his 2008 all-star season (3.8). To be frank, the guy was the starter we needed when we needed someone to come in, throw a quality start, and give us a chance to win ballgames.

[socialpoll id=”2186500″]

Morgan is in the same situation as Kazmir was in 2013. He has an opportunity to prove to the league and himself that he still has something in the tank. The Indians make out well in the deal economically — if he outperforms expectations, they are on the hook for approximately $1 million. If he doesn’t pan out (See: Brett Myers), he sticks it out in Triple-A Columbus. Kaz was in the same situation and was able to go out and prove he still had the capability to pitch at the major league level–and pitch well. Morgan would be a great player to have on the bench in key situations (pinch running) or in right field when the eventual starter needs a day off.

I think it should also be noted that Morgan’s alter-egos would pair nicely with Nick Swisher for some hilarious clubhouse antics. Can you imagine him being a part of the Indians’ Harlem Shake video from last year? This signing is low risk, high reward for the Indians and that type of situation worked out well in 2013. Hopefully, we’ll be saying the same thing in at the end of this season about Nyjer Morgan’s contributions to the 2014 squad.

Personally, I hope her can “tickle” a few singles to the opposite field at Progressive Field:

http://youtu.be/MbBqmTHQKWI

 

If Choo, Cano Sign in the AL Central

Yesterday, I saw multiple reports that shook my inner Indians fan to its core.

First Buster Olney said this…

Then reports surfaced that Robinson Cano was on his way to Kansas City to sign with the Royals.

Gulp…

If you’re an Indians fan, this all hurts tremendously.

First of all, the Tigers, should they sign Shin-Soo Choo, might just be the best team in baseball. Take a gander at this lineup, should Shin Soo make his way to the Motor City.

Shin-Soo Choo
Ian Kinsler
Torii Hunter
Miguel Cabrera
Victor Martinez
Torii Hunter
Nick Castellanos
Alex Avila
Jose Iglesias

That lineup at its face value could easily take on any in the league. Meanwhile, Detroit houses baseball’s best pitching staff.

Justin Verlander
Max Scherzer
Anibal Sanchez
Doug Fister
Drew Smyly

The worst part of it all is that Dave Dombrowski seems to be on a World Series mission and will use all of the cash in the world to get there.

In other words, they’re not done yet. Not even close.

While the Tigers will certainly have the upper hand on the Indians seemingly regardless of the situation, the Tribe could at least compete with a Choo-less Tigers lineup. Once you put the former Indians star at the top of that order, who knows just how far the talent gap will grow.

All the while, Omar Vizquel has taken the job of first base coach in Detroit.

First Victor. Then Omar. Now Choo?

Detroit is slowly but surely destroying the Indians and their fan-base former player by former player.

Meanwhile, another AL Central team seems be on a mission and ready to spend some cash.

Rumors yesterday are showing that Robinson Cano may just be the newest member of the Kanas City Royals, in what would be an earth shattering development. Should that splash happen, the Royals could easily move into the second rung of the AL Central ladder and could become a legitimate World Series contender.

David Lough
Alex Gordon
Robinson Cano
Eric Hosmer
Billy Butler
Mike Moustakas
Lorenzo Cain
Salvador Perez
Alcides Escobar

Add in the top end of their pitching staff and they might be one of the most under-the-radar teams in all of baseball.

James Shields
Jeremy Guthrie
Ervin Santana
Wade Davis
Bruce Chen

First, the Tigers go out and get much better by moving Miguel Cabrera to first base, adding Ian Kinsler to the mix and potentially adding Shin-Soo Choo. Then, the Royals get the most highly sought after free agent in all of baseball.

Of course these are both hypothetical, but reported, circumstances, but in any case, can the Indians catch a break?
Sure, the Indians did get better on Wednesday by signing David Murphy to take over the everyday right field duties, but the Indians can’t compete with the suddenly big market teams in Detroit and Kansas City, should these deals go down.

The worst part is, there’s really nothing they can do about it.

The Indians don’t have the money to put a bid in on Robinson Cano. They can’t make a deal to bring back Choo. They just simply can’t make these splashes as, apparently, Detroit and Kansas City can.

This is all to say, Indians fans, that maybe last year, despite its heartbreak towards the end, was as good as its going to get. Maybe the magic that Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher and Ubaldo Jimenez brought to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario last season was as good as its going to get for a while.

The Tigers and Royals may be on the verge of taking over the American League and leaving the lowly Indians, White Sox and Twins in the dust.

Despite all of the good that Terry Francona, Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro have done for the Indians and for the city of Cleveland, it may all be for naught. The Indians, for the forseeable future, may be trapped in the dark, vast dungeon of the American League Central Division.

Is there anything they can do to get out, should Choo and Cano sign within this division?

Yes, but it would be very, very unlikely.

First of all could get out of the dungeon by getting lucky again and again as they did last season with Scott Kazmir, Ryan Raburn, Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles. If Antonetti continues to pull off moves such as those, the Indians can compete.

Even then, however, things will still be difficult.

They would still have to spend money to solidify their rotation, which is decent but needs a little help. They would also need prospects like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Jesus Aguilar to be all that we expected and more.

Again, its not impossible, just very, very unlikely.

Other than that, just hope that these two rumors were nothing but. Hope that Choo and Cano sign with the Yankees, as that organization is a continual mess.

If you’re an Indians fan, however, just accept that should Cano and Choo sign in the Central, the new era of Indians excellence may come to a tragic and screeching halt.

All of the hope and optimism could be over with a few simple swoops of a fateful pen. Enjoy it, Tribe fans, because very soon, the fun could be over.

Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Preview

The Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers begin a weekend series at Comerica Park this evening, and while the series is important to both clubs, it is crucial for Cleveland.  The Tigers hold a 6.5 game lead over the Indians in the Central and are coming off a poor series against the A’s; they were a strike away from being swept in four straight on Thursday.  The Indians, meanwhile, were just swept in Atlanta, scoring only three runs in three games and going 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position.  Complicating things further for Cleveland is the fact that they are 3-13 against Detroit in 2013, and the last time these two met, the Tigers completed their first four-game sweep in Cleveland since 1988.  Here are the pitching matchups and what to look for this weekend:

Friday

Zach McAllister (7-7, 3.51 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (10-7 4.49).  For me, the Friday matchup is the most favorable one for Cleveland.  Porcello is coming off a solid seven-inning start in Flushing, New York last Sunday. Although he’s very hittable (the league’s hitting .277 against him) and enigmatic.  As for McAllister, if he can locate his fastball (which was a major issue in his last turn against the Tigers on August 8), he’ll likely succeed.  Since failing to get out of the third inning against Detroit on August 8, McAllister is 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA.

Saturday

Scott Kazmir (7-6, 4.25 ERA) vs. Anibal Sanchez (11-7, 2.61).  This matchup sees two of the game’s best stories going head-to-head.  Kazmir was out of baseball last season after a disastrous stint with the Angels, and despite a subpar August, the former AL strikeout king has brought at least a modicum of stability to the Indians rotation.  Sanchez, on the other hand, is having a career year; according to some metrics, he’s having a better season than teammate Max Scherzer, who of course is 19-1 and favored to win the Cy Young Award in the American League.  Sanchez has a 2.43 FIP (fielding independent pitching, a statistic that in some circles is viewed as more accurate than ERA); that mark is fourth in baseball, better than Felix Hernandez (2.61), Max Scherzer (2.62), Jose Fernandez (2.66), and Yu Darvish (3.05).  This matchup should be a tougher one for the Tribe.

Sunday

Danny Salazar (1-2, 3.67 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (12-10, 3.73).  The finale of this series is the most fascinating one on paper (at least to me).  Terry Francona will send out young flamethrower Danny Salazar, who dazzled through most of his last start against the Tigers, working into the eight inning and recording 10 strikeouts.  His three starts since then have been less successful; he’s failed to get out of the sixth in each of them.  But all eyes will be on Justin Verlander on Sunday.  The former MVP clinched his first double-digit loss season since 2008 on Tuesday, the latest twist in his strange 2013 season.  While Verlander’s not the same pitcher we’ve gotten used to seeing (his command has suffered noticeably this season, and it’s the biggest reason why he’s been volatile at times), keep in mind that he hardly “sucks”; he’s a superstar pitcher having an average year.  While he carved up Cleveland in his last start against them on August 6, it’s difficult to tell just how good Verlander will be on Sunday because of the consistency issues.  I’ll write more on Verlander next week.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy this weekend’s games.  You can follow me on Twitter @tweetsream.

A Jumble of Thoughts On the Tribe

Year-of-the-Tribe

Today is the day we’ve all been waiting a long time for. Today, the Indians suit up against the Cincinnati Reds in the first Spring Training game and real-ish baseball game of the 2013 season. The Indians have had the best offseason in at least twelve seasons and have thrown fans, including myself, into a Tribe frenzy. Currently sporting my authentic Nick Swisher threads, I am so excited about the 2013 Tribe I can hardly stand it.

I just kind’ve wanted to jumble a bunch of thoughts about the Tribe into a post, so here goes nothing:

“LINEUP”

I did a post a while back on the Tribe’s lineup and what it would look like come Opening Day. I was very wrong, but it wasn’t my fault. With the additions of Jason Giambi and Michael Bourn, the Indians lineup will look very different than I originally thought it would. Here’s what the lineup is projected to look like (in a somewhat organized manner in terms of batting order):

CF Michael Bourn

SS Asdrubal Cabrera

2B Jason Kipnis

1B Nick Swisher

C Carlos Santana

DH Mark Reynolds

LF Michael Brantley

3B Lonnie Chisenhall

RF Drew Stubbs

That seems to be a very solid group of hitters. As for what I said about Santana playing 1B, that clearly will no longer be the case. Santana is going to be the every day catcher, and will force Lou Marson into many less plate appearances. While I said Santana needed to move over to 1B, he now needs to focus on becoming a more defensive catcher. I am just hoping his bat will not be affected by the every day catching duties.

I also have a pretty revolutionary idea that is, in fact, not very revolutionary at all. I love the idea of Mark Reynolds playing third base and putting Giambi at the DH hole. This is obviously contingent upon whether or not Chisenhall puts up solid offensive numbers and whether or not Giambi sticks to the wall he’s being thrown upon. I like Chisenhall, but I don’t think he’s going to be all that productive with his low spot in the lineup.

Then there’s the issue of the order in the lineup. The Indians have a good problem on their hands: they have a lot of good hitters. This causes a problem as to where to put all of the offensive power the Indians hold. There are a few options, and I am sure Terry Francona will be mixing it up for quite a long time. There is no reason to fret about the lineup until maybe a quarter of the way through the regular season. Until that point, it will simply be a guessing game.

“TRIBE TOWN”

The Indians announced this morning that their new campaign would be “Cleveland Is A Tribe Town”. After the whole “What If?” debacle, the Indians and their PR firm have certainly come up with a great slogan. The Indians are the talk of the town right now, or at least they should be (that’s for you crazy Browns people), and the Indians have taken advantage of their great offseason through a new marketing direction.

I feel as if the magic of the 1990’s could be well on it’s way back, and it all starts with this new mantra. To me, Cleveland has always been a Tribe town. I wasn’t alive when the Browns were good, and the Cavaliers are the newest of the bunch, so the Indians always seemed like the team that was meant to represent Cleveland; its fans, its tradition, and its loyalty.

Since the new regime took over the team, however, the Indians haven’t generated as much buzz as they should. Shapiro, up until this point, hadn’t done much of anything for the Indians and the Dolans weren’t willing to give up any cash. Well, now that both of these habitual happenings have been overthrown, the Indians are very much relevant again, and the new slogan is well worth it’s salt.

“The Rotation”

The biggest question mark for the Tribe is their rotation. I think that three spots are pretty much taken, but the final two are up for grabs. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Brett Myers are going to have to pitch well for the Indians to win. It’s a fact. No matter how good the offense is, the three “for sure” starters are going to have to get it done. When it comes to the other two, I’m hoping that the Indians caught lightning in a bottle.

Scott Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Zach McCallister, and Trevor Bauer could all be viable options for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation. That is what Spring Training is going to be for, to see whether or not a few of these guys will take the reigns on a potential rotation spot. I, personally, am hoping to see Kazmir and Matsuzaka return to form while Carrasco, McCallister, and Bauer continue to develop. Eventually, I think Bauer is going to be a potentially All Star caliber starter, but until them, I think it’s best that his head and his arm get to the same place.

As for my prediction for the rotation, it goes as follows:

  1. Justin Masterson
  2. Ubaldo Jimenez
  3. Brett Myers
  4. Daisuke Matsuzaka
  5. Zach McCallister

I wish that both Daisuke and Kazmir could make a spot on this rotation, but I just don’t see it happening. When you’re trying to “revamp” a players career, it often turns out for the worst rather than for the better. I think they’ll be able to do it with Daisuke, but I think that Kazmir might be too far gone to bring back in at this point. It would be absolutely amazing to see both Kazmir and Matsuzaka pitching well in this rotation though. If that’s the case, I believe we could be looking at a potential World Series contender.

With all of the excitement, this is the chance for the Indians to take hold as the team of this town. Cleveland hasn’t had a winner since LeBron left town, and this is seemingly the first chance to reverse that trend. The Cavs are going to take a while to develop, the Browns are on the right track, but the Indians have an opportunity to win as we speak. Let’s hope they make the most of it and make Cleveland a “Tribe Town” once again.

Go Tribe!

Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove

I Was Wrong About the Indians Front Office

I would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, first and foremost! I hope you spend some quality time with your loved ones during this most special time of year!

I would also like to wish you a Merry Swishmas as we all know what happened yesterday!

I have yet to tweet about the Nick Swisher addition because I have no words to describe my elation at his arrival. I actually jumped around my house and hollered like a small child receiving a new bike or a creepy crawlers bug set. It truly was the best Christmas present I could have received, outside of spending time with loved ones. It was one of the more exciting moments of my Indians fanhood. (By the way, do you know how sad that sounds? The fact that signing Nick Swisher is one of the best moments of my sports fandom is absolutely pathetic.) Nevertheless, it was a Merry Swishmas indeed.

I have ripped apart the Indians front office since the trade deadline last season. I have called Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti cowardly, directionless, and gutless. I have called them heartless, stupid, and lacking. I have called them names that I don’t wish to repeat in this piece. I have ripped them apart time after time, and I had sworn to never have faith in this front office again. They lost my faith and lost my trust a long while ago.

Well, I have to admit, I may be the gutless, heartless, directionless, and cowardly one. I wrote off this front office long ago, and it was something I should not have done.

For Shapiro and Antonetti, it was time to put up or shut up. It was time to get things done or get out of town. Believe me, I was chasing them with a pitchfork and a torch. I wanted them gone faster than they could leave. It’s times like these when I feel like the true idiot of this town.

Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti now deserve our support more than ever. The phone was ringing off of the hook and they answered each and every call. First, they made an amazing move getting rid of Choo and adding the pitching talent the Indians so desperately need. Of course, with Boras at the helm, Choo was not coming back to Cleveland. The Tribe definitely got the right price for Shin-Soo and then some. While Drew Stubbs is definitely not a hitter, he’s a good outielder, far better than Shelley Duncan or Ezequiel Carrera for that matter. They then picked up Trevor Bauer, who will certainly be a project but can also be a very high risk, high reward pick up. In all of this they got rid of Jason Donald, who could seemingly never stay in the big leagues, and kept Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez, who are both very valuable whether in a Tribe uniform or as a part of a trade.

They then nabbed Mark Reynolds to fill the giant hole at first base. Last season, Shapiro and Antonetti made an incredibly dumb move bringing Casey Kotchman to the Indians. While they were running out of options, they brought in a guy who was coming off of a flukey season and provided nothing offensively. Honestly, I would’ve rather seen Matt LaPorta try to finally reach his potential rather than see a middle-aged, over the hump Kotchman man first base each and every game. While Reynolds does strike out a ton, that’s what sluggers do. When Reynolds connects, the ball travels, something you can’t say for Kotchman and/or LaPorta. He’s a much better “experiment” than Kotchman ever was.

The Front Office then impressed me with a low risk, high reward signing in Scott Kazmir. I remember the days when Kazmir was a Cy Young candidate, and he was absolutely dominant. While he has fallen off of the wagon, Kazmir, at 28 years old, can still put it together. This has happened before, where a pitcher goes through an incredibly tough stretch but then puts it all back together. While it may not happen, the signing is well worth the risk.

Finally, Shapiro and Antonetti got their man and they guy I wanted all along in Nick Swisher. Undoubtedly the biggest free agent signing in Cleveland Indians history, Shapiro and Antonetti won back a lot of hearts by signing Swisher, including mine. Swisher is literally everything you can ask for. He has the nostalgic pull as he was born in Columbus, he is a graduate of Ohio State, and is in some ways a “home town” player. He puts up numbers on the baseball field, averaging 28 home runs, 90 RBI, and an .828 ops throughout his career. He will put fans in the seats and will be the face of the franchise, both things that the Indians were lacking. Finally, he fits a need. The Indians needed a power-hitting, right-handed outfielder desperately, and Swisher, (although he is a switch hitter), fits the bill.

Shapiro and Antonetti knew that if they wanted to keep their jobs and turn this ship around, they needed Nick Swisher to join the Tribe. They pulled out all the stops, including the checkbook, and, for once, did everything they could and sealed the deal. It took a while, and put Indians fans through a great deal of anxious moments, but in the end the agony of waiting was well worth it. Nick Swisher is now a Cleveland Indian, and the Indians are finally going to have an exciting team, regardless of win total, to watch every night.

I would like to formally apologize for my statements regarding Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti. I am sorry for my ill-will towards the both of them. They have shown me and the rest of the Cleveland Indians fan base that they are ready to put a winning product on the field, regardless of the cost. They have shown me that they are capable of doing such, and they have shown me that the past is in the past, but the present is at hand. If the Indians are competing for a World Series soon, as they did in the 1990’s, we can say it is all thanks to the front office. They decided that enough was enough. They put their noses to the grindstone and finally worked hard to get the Indians in a good place, both for now and the future. I’m sure this isn’t the end of their endeavors either. I’m sure we’ll see a move or two before Spring Training starts. That’s something I never would have said before this offseason.

Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Antonetti, you may have surpassed Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers as the most exciting team in Cleveland. This offseason you have proven yourselves to be the two bright, diligent, and capable young men that you truly are, not those half-assing cowards of the past. I, on behalf of the fans of the Cleveland Indians, cannot thank you enough for giving this team, and this city, some real hope. Finally, thanks to the both of you, the Indians will be back again! Merry Swishmas!

Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove