Tag Archives: tony lastoria

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

Indians sign Kluber and Carrasco long-term; Buck 20 year trend in the process

In the last week, the Indians front office has bucked a trend dating back to the great teams of the 1990s

On Sunday, the Cleveland Indians announced they had signed 2014 AL Cy Young recipient and staff ace, Corey Kluber, to a 5 year $38.5 million deal and two additional club option years worth $13.5 million and $14 million respectively. The deal also includes escalators based on where Kluber finishes in the AL Cy Young race between 2015-18. Over those years, it could increase Kluber’s deal to nearly $77 million.

Kluber said that he “wanted to be here” and “that was the driving force behind it for me”.

Then, on Tuesday, the Indians announced the contract extension of SP Carlos Carrasco. His deal spans 4 years and is worth approximately $22 million. It also includes club options for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Carrasco said “They never gave up on me. They always gave me the opportunity. That’s what they did last year. They gave me a big opportunity and I didn’t waste it. I took it and I think everything has worked out.”

There are two things here that are relevant and important to the story at hand:

  1. Both pitchers want to be here. They see the value in being a pitcher in this organization
  2. The Indians front office signed both pitchers to long term extensions; something they do not have a history of doing. Ever.

Both pitchers want to be here

I think the most interesting part of this collection of signings is the players involved see value in being a part of the team. The brand that the front office, Tito, and the coaching staff is building is one that appeals to players. That’s huge when teams are competing for free agents and money becomes a non-factor. The next question an agent may ask of the teams in contention are the culture in the locker room, living quality of the city in question, etc. Cleveland is on an uptick and the culture on the team is one that is contagious; players and people want to be around it.

The Indians front office signed both pitchers to long term extensions

The Indians are notorious for not signing starting pitchers to long term extensions. They’re so notorious that I even addressed the issue in an article during spring training last year – Well Masty, It was nice knowing you – and made the point several points that fly in direct conflict with what has happened over the past week. It’s funny because I ended the article with the line “Our players are assets. We must always remember that. Enjoy the time your favorites are here because you can always count on contracts staying short in Cleveland.”

It would appear that this year, my summation does not apply.

This following chart from Tony Lastoria’s (of Indians Baseball Insider) article last year around the same time (@TonyIBI) shows just how out of character these signings are with respect to history:

TABLE 1

PLAYER CONTRACT
Charles Nagy 4 years, $24 million
Jake Westbrook 3 years, $33 million
Chuck Finley 3 years, $27 million
C.C. Sabathia 3 years, $24.75 million
Paul Byrd 3 years, $21 million
Jack McDowell 2 years, $9.5 million
Dennis Martinez 2 years, $9 million
Dwight Gooden 2 years, $5.5  million
Orel Hershiser 2 years, $3 million

 

Clearly, Corey Kluber’s deal in particular surpasses anything (in terms of time) that has been agreed upon in the past 20+ years.

 

The core of the Indians is locked in and the time to compete is now

With players like Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco locked up for the long term, the Indians’ front office clearly believes they can compete and compete for years to come. With players like Lindor, Frazier and others in the minors continuing their respective developments, the Indians will continue to compete after some of the deals with current deals being to expire.

It’s an exciting time to be an Indians fan. Not just because of the short term potential of this year, but also the potential to compete over the long haul.

Go Tribe & remember to tune in to the Tribe Time Now podcast every week at tribetimenow.com/subscribe for the latest Tribe news and opinions from your favorite sports writers, bloggers, and opinionists.