Tag Archives: Victor Martinez

Tribe Time Now Roundtable: The Indians Regressed the Least in AL Central

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After a lengthy discussion, the first Tribe Time Now podcast roundtable agreed: The Indians regressed the least among the AL Central this off season

Last night (2/18), I was joined by:

And we discussed a plethora of topics regarding the Indians including:

  1. Bruce Chen
  2. Dayan Viciedo
  3. Indian’s pre-season rankings
  4. The back end of the rotation
  5. Gavin Floyd
  6. The starting line up

Be sure to follow the incredible guests we featured on the first roundtable on twitter and check out their Indians-related content on their respective websites.

As always, follow me on twitter (@rthompak13) and the Tribe Time Now podcast (@_TribeTimeNow) for show related musings, podcast links, etc.

If you have any feedback, questions for the next show, or comments in general: email us at feedback@tribetimenow.com!

Go Tribe!

Indians Stand Pat While AL Central Foes Acquire Talent

The winter meetings came and went. The Indians traded minor league 2B prospect Joey Wendle to the Oakland A’s for LH power bat Brandon Moss.

But that’s it.

The rest of the winter meetings blew ball in a whirlwind as every other AL Central foe made acquisitions to increase their respective chances of taking home the 2015 AL Central crown. To say that the AL Central will be the toughest division in baseball this year may be an understatement.

Let’s go through each team’s acquisitions quickly:

Cleveland

Detroit

Minnesota

Chicago

Kansas City

Brandon Moss

Yoenis Cespedes Ervin Santana Jeff Samardzija Jandel Gustave

Brett Hayes

Alfredo Simon David Robertson Yohan Pino

Adam Moore

Alex Wilson Dan Jennings

Alex Rios

Destin Hood Gabe Speier Rob Brantly

Kendrys Morales

Jerry Sands Melky Cabrera
*Indicates best acquisition

 

I believe that’s everyone.

It’s apparent that Minnesota did the least so far out of the five teams in the Central. Every other team cut the deals necessary to make themselves a contender in 2015. The White Sox have made the most drastic changes to their lineup going into 2015. The additions of Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson immediately turn around a staff that was in the bottom five in the league for nearly every major pitching statistic. The 1-2 punch of Sale and Samardzija is going to be rough for teams that catch Chicago at the beginning of their rotation. Adding Melky Cabrera give the White Sox a solid 1-4 hitter who, last year, hit .301/.351/.458 with 35 2B, 16 HR and 73 RBIs (If Melky could have come cheaply, I was secretly hoping the Indians would make a run at him to bolster the outfield, but alas, it was not to be).

For Detroit, the additions of Yoenis Cespedes and Alfredo Simon are just icing on the cake for a lineup that is already loaded with juicy talent.

Think of it this way: The 3-4-5 combination of J.D. Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez was pretty scary in 2014. Now add Yoenis Cespedes to that mix.

That’s not even fair. That reminds me of the ’27 Yankees lineup that featured Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri. They are going to smash homeruns and rack up a ton of extra-base hits. Pitchers will go into the Tigers’ den with low ERAs and come out limping.

The worst part: They’re in our division.

2014 AL Pennant winners, the Kansas City Royals, didn’t make nearly as much noise as our friends from the state up north, but they were able to sign Luke Hochevar to a new deal and as recently as the writing of this article, signed Alex Rios to an $11 million deal. The Royals, like the Indians, focus on building through their farm system rather than through large trades and FA signings. It showed during the winter meetings. The Royals added Kendrys Morales to fill Billy Butler’s vacancy and the Rios signing fills the hole left by the departure of Norichika Aoki to FA.

So at long last, we come to our wahoo warriors; our protectors of the Cuyahoga: The Cleveland Indians.

The Indians were one of the first teams to take the dive during winter meetings with their deal for Brandon Moss. In my article last week, I delved into what the Moss addition means for the Tribe moving forward. To summarize: Moss is a great LH power hitter that will help bolster the middle of the lineup and create runs if the top of the lineup can get on base.

After that deal though, the front office shut it down. I’m sure there were deals out there that just didn’t get made. I know for a fact the Indians were on the short list to sign FA pitcher Brett Anderson. The issue is, and always has been, money. Brett Anderson got $10 million from the Dodgers. Ervin Santana got 4 years/$48 million. Justin Masterson got $9 million with $500 incentives for innings pitched from the Red Sox. The Indians just don’t have that kind of money to throw around, especially considering how over-valued the latter players are. I don’t know what world Brett Anderson is worth $10 million, but it certainly shouldn’t be this one. Same goes for Ervin Santana. The Dodgers and Red Sox are both in the top 10 in salary spending year in and year out. They can afford to overpay a low-risk/high-reward pitcher and eat the cost if he blows up in their face. The Indians, and other small-market teams cannot say the same.

That brings up another slew of issues that I’ll save for another article.

To counter the lack of moves made during winter meetings, the Indians signed C Brett Hayes, C Adam Moore, 1B/OF Destin Hood and OF Jerry Sands to minor league contracts with spring training invites yesterday (12/15). All four players have varied stints of major league experience, but the most intriguing contract (for me anyway) is Jerry Sands. Sands was well-regarded by the Dodgers during his time there. He plays great defense and is a right handed power bat (THANK GOD). The problem is his lack of major league experience. He only has 97 major league plate appearances against left handed pitching, he has a slash line of .289/.340/.511 and, according to fangraphs.com, a wOBA of .483 (ridiculously good). This is the first time that I’ve calculated wOBA (an offensive statistic that tells a deeper story than say just batting average or just slugging percentage). If he can shine in Triple-A Columbus this season, I don’t see what he couldn’t see some playing time around the All-Star break if Michael Bourn is struggling to stay healthy.

There’s still plenty of time to add talent, but the pool is considerably smaller than it was just a week ago. The Indians are going to need to spend money if they want to compete, especially in an AL Central that has bulked up considerably. With less than 70 days until pitchers and catchers report, the next 2-3 weeks are going to be very telling of what the front office is planning over the course of the rest of the off season.

That’s all for this week.

Go Tribe!

Cleveland Indians Thanksgiving

 

First off, I want to wish all of you readers out there a Happy Thanksgiving!

For the first time in several years, Cleveland sports fans can actually be thankful for their teams. That got us thinking at MTAF: Cleveland — What would different members of the professional organizations be thankful for as they sat around the table sharing Thanksgiving dinner?

As a fan of the Cleveland Indians, I attempted to delve into the mindsets of several different members of the organization, trying to ascertain what they would be giving thanks for.

Chris Antonetti & Mark Shapiro

My first thought with regard to what Chris and Mark would be thankful for would be getting Terry Francona to come on board and coach the Tribe. But then I sat back and looked at the larger picture. If I was Chris or Mark, I would be thankful for how well the trades they’ve made over the past ten years have worked out. Just look at how a handful of the following trades worked out (in terms of production) for the Indians:

Year CLE Sends CLE Receives
2002 Ryan Drese & Einar Diaz Travis Hafner
2008 Casey Blake Carlos Santana
2009 Victor Martinez Justin Masterson & Nick Hagadone
2006 Ben Broussard Shin-Soo Choo
2006 Eduardo Perez Asdrubal Cabrera
2002 Bartolo Colon Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips & Cliff Lee

And those are just a few of the trades that have been made. Think about this: In a three team deal involving the Cardinals and the Padres, we gave up veteran pitcher Jake Westbrook and received 2014 AL Cy Young Winner Corey Kluber. Had Matt LaPorta worked out better, the Sabathia deal (which included 2014 MVP finalist and Silver Slugger award winner Michael Brantley) would have been seen as more genius than the Colon deal.

As Mark and Chris pass the gravy boat, they’re going to be giving thanks that so many of their trades worked out so well.

Terry Francona

As Terry Francona rides his scooter to the store to pick up cranberry sauce, I imagine he too will think about what he’s thankful for. I would venture a guess that he’s thankful for several things:

1. His health

2. Mickey Callaway

Tito has probably never worried about his health (see: Urban Meyer). I’m not old by any stretch (I’m 23). I’ve found out that older men are thankful for their health, regardless of how healthy they actually are. Next, Tito should be counting his lucky starts that he has Mickey Callaway sitting on his bench coaching up his pitchers. Think about 2013. Mickey Callaway turned around a struggling Ubaldo Jimenez into quite possibly the best pitcher of the second half in the American League. I feel that if Tito had started Ubaldo in the place of rookie Danny Salazar, the Indians may have gone on to be World Series champions. Then we look back at 2014 and (channeling my innermost LeBron here) not one, not two, but THREE examples of what Mickey Callaway can do. First, Corey Kluber. Mickey has said that he really didn’t have to do much with Klubes this past season. As much as I’d like to believe that, there’s a reason he’s the pitching coach. Mickey worked with Corey to develop his secondary pitches and propel him into the upper echelons of pitching talent in the MLB. Next, there is Trevor Bauer. Bauer’s problem in 2013 was consistency and immaturity. Unfortunately for Trevor, he is young and often impatient. He need time to develop under more mature, accomplished pitchers. He got that with Justin Masterson and Corey Kluber. This year, while he had his troubles, Bauer was much more consistent and flashed some of the greatness that made the front office go out and get him. Finally, we have Carlos Carrasco. Known affectionately as “Cookie” among die-hard Tribe fans, Cookie experienced many of the same issues that Bauer faced — inconsistency and maturity. Remember his ejection and subsequent suspension in 2011 against Kansas City? How about his ejection for plunking Kevin Youkilis in 2013? That wasn’t a wild arm. Tito and Mickey worked with Carrasco and put him in the bullpen in 2014 and boy, did he deliver. Carrasco was electric out of the pen and proved to be the long-reliever we needed, especially when one of our starters couldn’t make it out of the 4th or 5th inning. How many times can you remember Carrasco putting in three to four quality innings, saving our bullpen arms for the home stretch?

Finally, The Indians are thankful for YOU, the fans.

When you go to a game or buy a jersey, you help finance the continued journey toward that elusive World Series title. When you get on Twitter or Facebook and talk about the Indians, you help them make a branding impact on new fans or fans who just don’t know it yet. When you write odes to Tom Hamilton or romanticize what the Tribe means to you on a t-shirt, you help the Indians build an regional identity. In a city like Cleveland, our professional sports teams need their fans as much as we need our teams. In some ways, we define one another. The Indians wouldn’t have much meaning without us and we wouldn’t have much meaning without them. So when the front office, the coaching staff and the players sit around their respective tables to share food and make memories, they will probably reflect, even if it’s only for a moment, on what it means to put on the Tribe uniform day in and day out for the best fans in the major leagues.

As for me, I’m thankful for football, a lot of food and a day off to enjoy it all with my family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving fans. Enjoy your turkey.

Despite Solid Numbers, Michael Brantley Loses AL MVP Race to Mike Trout

The Cleveland Indians were unable to sweep the two major MLB post season awards as Michael Brantley did not garner enough first place votes to win the AL MVP. Instead, the two-time AL MVP runner up and this years favorite to win, Mike Trout, was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player.

While it’s next to impossible to say Trout didn’t deserve the award Brantley did have superior numbers to him in several categories, namely batting average, on base percentage, stolen bases, strikeouts, fielding percentage and errors committed. Even with all of that considered Trout is worthy of the MVP title. He led all MLB players this season in WAR (wins above replacement) at 7.87. He was first in all of baseball in runs scored, first in the AL in RBI and his 36 home runs tied him for fourth best in the league.

Trout also beat out the 35 year old Victor Martinez, who had a great year for the Detroit Tigers as their DH. Martinez hit .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBI.

While Trout seems to get better each year, so does Michael Brantley. He posted personal career highs in nearly every statistical category this year including hits, home runs, RBI, runs scored, stolen bases and batting average. 2014 was a successful season for Brantley, and his future is bright.

Cleveland Indians: Making a Case for Michael Brantley as AL MVP

On July 7th of 2008 the Cleveland Indians traded Cy Young award winner CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers for (then) top prospect Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson and a player to be named later. On October 8th of the same year the Brewers sent their 24th ranked minor league prospect to the Indians to complete the trade as the player to be named later. Tonight, that player has a chance to win the AL MVP award. His name is Michael Brantley.

Despite two other strong candidates in the American League MVP race there is a clear front runner, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Trout is a two-time MVP runner up (both times losing to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera) and is considered by some to be the best player in baseball right now. It’s hard to argue against that. Trout won AL Rookie of the Year in 2012, is a three-time All-Star and Silver Slugger (2012-14), and this year won both the AL Outstanding Player award and AL Hank Aaron Award. This season Trout played in 157 games. He posted a .287 batting average, a .377 on base percentage and a .561 slugging percentage. He hit 36 home runs drove in 111 runs (best in the AL) and scored 115 runs (best in baseball) all on 173 hits. He also drew 83 walks, stole 16 bases (caught twice) and hits .305 with runners in scoring position. Defensively, he is a very good outfielder. Patrolling centerfield, Trout had a .992 fielding percentage this season. He committed 3 errors, has 4 assists, 383 total putouts and helped turn one double play. He also led every player in 2014 in WAR (wins above replacement) at 7.87. That alone might be enough to clinch the AL MVP award as Trout is clearly the favorite to win it.

But he has two serious contenders, both of which Cleveland Indians fans are familiar with.

First there is Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers. Originally signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1996 as an amateur free agent, Victor spent eight seasons with the Indians before being traded away to the Boston Red Sox in a move that even brought Victor to tears. I think it’s safe to say he’s gotten over that pain. This year for the Tigers, Victor played in 151 games and posted a .335 batting average, .409 on base percentage and a .565 slugging percentage. He collected 188 hits, scored 87 runs and hit 32 home runs to go with 103 RBI. He drew 70 walks and only struck out 42 times. He also hits well in the clutch, batting .326 with runners in scoring position and .316 w/RISP and two outs. Despite all this there are two cases to be made against Victor. He doesn’t really play defense as he is the Tigers DH. This season Martinez only played 301.1 innings of defense, most of them coming at first base (37 total games, 35 games started; 35 games at first base, 2 games at catcher). He posted a .983 fielding percentage, had 274 putouts, 18 assists, was involved with 24 double plays but he also made 5 errors (3 at first base and 2 at catcher). While there are no definitive guidelines for an MVP candidate, there are some rules that voters must (or should) follow. Rule number one states that the voter must consider “actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense”. Victor Martinez hits a baseball very well, but only played 300 innings of defense in 2014. Also, an argument can be made that he isn’t even the best player on his team (although this season he probably was). Victor also finished 34th in WAR at 5.32.

Finally we come to the player to be named later, Michael Brantley. He didn’t put up the gaudy power numbers that both Trout and Martinez did this year (something that might hurt him, although he did hit 45 doubles which is 6 more than Trout and 12 more than Martinez), but don’t fool yourself into thinking he isn’t a serious candidate to challenge Trout for the award. In 156 games played, Brantley posted a .327 batting average, a .385 on base percentage and a .506 slugging percentage. He had 200 hits (second most in all of baseball this year) scored 94 runs, hit 20 home runs and had 97 RBI. Brantley also stole 23 bases (caught just once), walked 52 times while only striking out 56 times. He hit a blistering .376 w/RISP (higher than Trout) and .306 w/RISP and two outs. Defensively Brantley was very good, posting a .996 fielding percentage (higher than Trout’s). In 1304.1 innings of work in the outfield (splitting time in both center and left field) he made 271 putouts, had 12 assists (more than Trout), was part of 2 double plays and only had 1 error. He was also 6th in WAR at 6.97. Michael Brantley literally did everything last season, and he did it very well.

Brantley, Martinez and Trout all have MVP type numbers.
Brantley, Martinez and Trout all have MVP type numbers.

Despite all of this, Trout remains the favorite to win the AL MVP. But is there any way Brantley can separate himself? While Brantley has the better batting average (by 40 points) and the better on base percentage (by just 8 points), he also does two things much better than Trout: he doesn’t strike out as much and hits better in certain clutch situations. Mike Trout struck out an AL leading 183 times in 2014. Obviously he did other things well (like pretty much everything else) but it’s at least something to consider. Trout also only hit .200 w/RISP and two outs, a full 106 points lower than Brantley. Defensively, Brantley committed fewer errors (albeit in fewer chances) and had three times the assists. Brantley also didn’t have somebody like Albert Pujols in the lineup protecting him (although Carlos Santana did come on as the year progressed). Looking at monthly stats Brantley only hit below .300 twice, once in April (.255) and once in August (.286). Every other month Brantley hit over .300, but never below .320. He hit .416 in September with his team in the playoff hunt. Mike Trout only hit above .300 for a full month during April and June. Otherwise he was never above .274 for a monthly batting average.

Is all of this enough to beat out Mike Trout for AL MVP? Probably not. Trout is a two time MVP runner up and with the “decline” of Miguel Cabrera it seems natural that it’s his time. His overall numbers absolutely make him a favorite to win the award but, should Brantley win, it shouldn’t be considered that much of an upset.

Cleveland Indians: Corey Kluber vs. Felix Hernandez for AL Cy Young

Major League Baseball is in the midst of handing out their regular season awards and several Cleveland Indians are either award recipients or potential recipients. The two big announcements come today (11/12) and tomorrow (11/13) with the Cy Young and MVP, respectively. The Indians have a horse in each race in Corey Kluber (AL Cy Young) and Michael Brantley (AL MVP). Before looking ahead, here is a look at some of the other major award winners.

Rookie of the Year

American League – Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

National League – Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

Manager of the Year

American League – Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

National League – Matt Williams, Washington Nationals

Unsurprisingly, no Cleveland Indian won a Gold Glove or Defensive Player of the Year award, although a case could’ve been made for Michael Brantley (.996 fielding percentage with only 1 error, 2 double plays, 12 assists and 271 putouts in 1304.1 innings of work in the outfield). Speaking of Brantley, he and Yan Gomes were given American League Silver Slugger Awards, which honors the games top hitters and is decided by votes compiled from MLB coaches and managers. Brantley finished the year batting .327 and had an OBP of .385. He hit 20 home runs, had 97 RBI, scored 94 runs and had an even 200 hits. Gomes hit .278 with a .313 OBP while hitting 21 home runs to go along with 74 RBI and 61 runs scored on 135 hits.

Looking ahead, tonight we will find out who will win the Cy Young award. In the National League Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto as well as Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals will more than likely finish as runners up to Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, who was undoubtedly the best pitcher in baseball for the entire 2014 season. Over in the American League Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox), Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners) and Corey Kluber are in a much tighter race, with many feeling it’s between Hernandez and Kluber. To completely rule Sale (12-4, 2.17 ERA, 174 IP) out of the race isn’t fair, but both Kluber and Hernandez have the fuller body of work (mostly due to an injury Sale suffered to start the year). However, assuming the experts are correct, this race is between Kluber and “King Felix”. While it shouldn’t factor in, Hernandez has the more impressive resume with five All-Star appearances, twice the American League ERA leader (including this season) and one Cy Young already (2010). But don’t dismiss Kluber, who can be considered an AL All-Star snub, was tied for most wins among AL pitchers this season and finished near the top in most statistical categories. If you look at this race by the numbers it’s very tight, and a slight edge might go to Hernandez depending on what you place your values on. Kluber was 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. In 235.2 innings of work he struck out 269 batters, walked just 51, allowed 64 earned runs (74 total runs), and a K/9 ratio of 10.27 while the opposition had a batting average of just .233 against him. He also had three complete games and one shutout. Hernandez numbers read as follows: a 15-6 record with a 2.14 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. In 236 innings he struck out 248 batters, walked 46 while giving up 56 earned runs (68 total runs allowed) with a K/9 ratio of 9.46. The opposition hit an even .200 against him, however he never had a complete game or a shutout. He also gave up two more home runs than Kluber (16 vs. 14). A voter putting more emphasis on wins and losses will likely vote for Kluber, whereas a voter placing more emphasis on numbers like ERA will likely be inclined to vote for Hernandez. The two aces were also almost identical in team run support, with Hernandez getting an average of 4.29 runs per start and Kluber getting an average of 4.35 runs per start. If you want to look at Sabermetrics their numbers are still similar, with Kluber edging out Hernandez in WAR (wins above replacement) 7.39 to 6.75.

Both Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber were dominant in 2014.
Both Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber were dominant in 2014.

So is there anything that can definitively set somebody apart in this race? Perhaps, yes.

The Cleveland Indians defense during the 2014 season was horrendous. They finished with a .981 fielding percentage while committing 116 errors. Both of these numbers were the worst in baseball last year. Conversely, the Seattle Mariners had a .986 fielding percentage (3rd) and committed just 82 errors (2nd). It isn’t unfathomable to think that with even an average defense behind him, Kluber may have had another win or two and more than likely would’ve had a lower ERA. Put a top of the league defense (or at least a defense that committed as few errors as Seattle did) behind Kluber and his ERA, WHIP, and opposition batting average probably much closer resembles that of Felix Hernandez. If you subscribed to Sabermetrics stats then maybe Kluber (with a higher WAR than Hernandez) may have even had better numbers than Felix with Seattle’s defense. That’s all, of course, speculation. What isn’t speculation is this. Kluber was slightly more dominate later in the season (August, September and October) when both teams were in playoff contention. During this time Kluber was 7-3 with a 2.10 ERA in 77.1 innings of work while Hernandez was 4-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 70.2 innings.

Despite the defensive factors, there isn’t really a clear winner in this race. As much as Corey Kluber deserves to be the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, so does Felix Hernandez. Personally, my vote would go to Kluber. While he does have a slightly higher ERA he has a better K/9 ratio and more strikeouts overall, more wins (which, admittedly, aren’t all due to a starting pitcher) and a higher WAR.

Come back tomorrow as we discuss the AL MVP race between Mike Trout, Victor Martinez and Michael Brantley.

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.

Reflecting On 2013 Tigers And Theorizing Where To Go From Here

It’s been over for nearly two weeks.

dt.common.streams.StreamServerThe Detroit Tigers’ latest assault on that elusive fifth World Series title fell short last Sunday, as Shane Victorino’s Game 6 grand slam (which is still airborne) catapulted the Boston Red Sox into the World Series (which they are expected to win within the next two days). The Tigers became the first team to reach the ALCS in three consecutive seasons since the New York Yankees made four in a row between 1998 and 2001. The Yankees won the World Series in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and were one win from another championship in 2001. The Tigers have won the pennant once out of these three appearances and won exactly zero games in the ensuing World Series. Pretty stark contrast.

Going so far as to call the 2013 season a “failure” appears at first glance to be a bit harsh, but consider that the organization’s brain trust has stated time and time again (especially over the past two seasons) that the goal of the Detroit Tigers is to win the World Series. They were very active at the trade deadline this season and last. They spent MORE THAN $500 MILLION DOLLARS to tie up three players: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander. The Tigers have had three good teams over the past three seasons, but they all had the same fatal flaw: a failure to score in the postseason. The Tigers averaged only 3.2 runs per game in the 2013 postseason, and have averaged 3.4 runs per game over the past three Octobers. The 2013 edition was extra-special because of their abysmal bullpen; the bullpen that cost Max Scherzer two wins in the ALCS and blew three wins for Detroit overall. The team appeared to be constructed well enough, yet there’s no championship. And when the franchise credo is “World Series or bust” and the franchise doesn’t win the World Series, then yeah, there’s a mildly compelling argument that 2013 was a failure, despite the third consecutive division title, despite the likely Cy Young Award for Scherzer, and despite the very strong possibility of another MVP award for Cabrera.

The Tigers’ latest postseason power outage cost them their manager, as Jim Leyland elected to step down after eight seasons on the job. As much vitriolic crap as Leyland frequently got from scores of angry Detroit fans, there’s no denying the impact he had on the club. When he arrived in 2006, the Tigers were irrelevant. They lost 119 games in 2003, their last winning season was 1993, and their last playoff appearance was in 1987. Since 2006, the Tigers have recorded the following: six winning seasons, four playoff appearances (three times as division champion), and two pennants. What that means: Jim Leyland is the second-best manager in Tigers history, right behind Sparky Anderson.

Now, regarding this team’s future. The way this writer sees it, there are two feasible routes the Tigers can go (no, neither of them involve hiring Dusty Baker and spending $250 million on Robinson Cano):

1) hire a younger manager from outside the organization (Brad Ausmus, Torey Lovullo, Tim Wallach), trade potential 2014 free agent Scherzer, and begin to utilize younger/unproven players on the major league roster (whether it be from the Scherzer trade or to fill voids left by the departures of free agents Joaquin Benoit, Omar Infante, and Jhonny Peralta). At the end of 2014, let Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez walk as free agents, and *consider* moving 2015 free agent Cabrera (unless he takes a discount), In other words, lay the miguel-cabrera-icon2foundation for a rebuild.

2) hire from within (Tommy Brookens, Jeff Jones, Lloyd McClendon), keep the band together (perhaps add an impact free agent because #MikeIlitchPizzaMoney), and give it another go in 2014. Extend Cabrera and/or Scherzer to keep a semblance of a championship window open for the next few years.

The rumors of the Tigers shopping Scherzer won’t go away, and with three guys making $20 million per year already on the payroll, general manager Dave Dombrowski may have to consider how to cut costs and get maximum value back for some of his assets. The Tigers’ farm system is one of the worst in baseball now, and it must be replenished eventually. Going route #1 would be disappointing to many fans, but no one really knows how much more 84 year-old owner Mike Ilitch can or will spend to rope in a title. And the current “win now” approach hasn’t paid all the dividends it was expected to.

MLB: Detroit Tigers-Prince Fielder Press Conference

Route #2 would appease hungry fans and likely keep the Tigers in that upper echelon in MLB. However, the farm system would still be in tatters and the Tigers would be paying at least $20 million per season to FOUR players for the next several years. Close to half the payroll would be tied up in two pitchers and two hitters, and at least three will be getting paid well into their late-30’s, unless a Marlins-esque salary dump occurs. This payroll constriction will be a problem in the years to come if the Tigers develop any top-flight prospects in the next year or so, or if secondary guys on the roster need a raise.

The Tigers are definitely a team to watch this offseason because of all the questions they have to answer. They’ve blown two golden opportunities to win a World Series for Mr. Ilitch and a rabid fanbase over the last two Octobers, and 2013 could very well prove to be the swan song for this era of Tigers baseball. Only time will tell.

Cleveland Indians Trying to Bring Back 2007 Glory

It’s come to this, fellow Cleveland Indians fans; we’re getting hyped up in February for a team trying to return to its latest glory year. Maybe I would be less skeptical if that year were a World Series Championship, or the last year of an extended run of playoff appearances, but 2007 was the lone Tribe playoff appearance smack dab in the middle of 10 years of torture that falls somewhere between “We had a solid season and got unlucky” and “Jeez, just call the rookie up already, we’re not going to win his age in games.”

Don’t get me wrong, that 2007 team was a dream to watch. It wasn’t as fun as those mid-90s teams, but I refuse to get caught up in THAT conversation again. That 1995 was 18 years ago, and I have a strict rule that anytime a person born in a sports year is old enough to stare at without being labeled a creeper, it’s time to hang up the I wishes and what ifs.

So, that 2007 team led by Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore is the only successful year that adheres to my rule. Just in case you’re not a Baseball-Reference freak like someone I know (me), let’s review that Indians squad.

C ~ Victor Martinez
1B ~ Ryan Garko
2B ~ Josh Barfield
SS ~ Jhonny Peralta
3B ~ Casey Blake
LF ~ Jason Michaels
CF ~ Grady Sizemore
RF ~ Trot Nixon
DH ~ Travis Hafner
SP ~ Cliff Lee
SP ~ CC Sabathia
SP ~ Roberto Hernandez
SP ~ Jake Westbrook
SP ~ Paul Byrd
RP ~ Rafael Betancourt
RP ~ Rafael Perez
RP ~ Joe Borowski

 

It’s been a long time since the 2007 season (specifically, five years. The parenthesis are because I had to get out my calculator), so I really haven’t looked at the entirety of that roster in quite some time. Out of our starting nine, Martinez and Peralta ended up legitimate stars. (I would have lost money on Jhonny. He’s somehow considered a star  even though he’s only had one exciting season since 2008). The rest of that team was pretty rag-tag. No offense to Sizemore or Hafner intended, but there hasn’t been enough healthy evidence since then to prove that they were anything other than guys who caught lightning in a bottle for a couple of seasons, but couldn’t sustain that success.

So, that’s two guys out of nine that have solidly contributed to successful seasons before 2007 and after. The rest? Well…

We all love Casey Blake, but remember that he averaged 24 plate appearances during his first six years of getting cups of coffee in the Bigs with Toronto, Minnesota and Baltimore. His first full season wasn’t until 2003 with the Indians, when he was 29. He was mostly mediocre, but had a couple solid seasons with the Tribe, then went on to average .257 with the Los Angeles Dodgers until he retired after 2011.

As for Barfield, Michaels, Nixon and Garko, the most memorable thing that comes to my mind was finding different ways to incorporate barf and trots into bad digestive system jokes during losses.

Now, Lee, Sabathia, Hernandez (remember when Fausto was Fausto and he was good?), Westbrook and Byrd? Then Raffy Left and Raffy Right setting up Borowski to tally 45 saves? Now THAT was fun to watch.

But all that fun only amounted to an American League Championship Series loss to the Boston Red Sox. Sure, 96 wins and a series win against the hated New York Yankees, but deep down, I’m not happy unless there’s a ring on it.

The (so far) 2013 Cleveland Indians? Let’s have a looksy, shall we?

C ~ Carlos Santana
1B ~ Mark Reynolds
2B ~ Jason Kipnis
SS ~ Asdrubal Cabrera
3B ~ Lonnie Chisenhall
LF ~ Michael Brantley
CF ~ Drew Stubbs
RF ~ Nick Swisher
DH ~ Mystery Men
SP ~ Justin Masterson
SP ~ Ubaldo Jimenez
SP ~ Brett Myers
SP ~ Zach McAllister
SP ~ Carlos Carrasco
RP ~ Joe Smith
RP ~ Vinnie Pestano
RP ~ Chris Perez

 

In order to win 90+ games, a team really needs a star or two. That 2007 team had the ghosts of Grady and Pronk to get fans to the ballpark and V-Mart to produce the runs that let that unbelievably good pitching staff do its work. I can’t find that guy on the 2013 Indians.

I want the star to be Asdrubal Cabrera, and I think there’s a chance, but aside from a solid career batting average, Cabrera has been pretty mediocre. It bugs me to face the facts on Asdrubal, but I need my star to be better than a six-year peak of 25 HR and 92 RBI. Toss in the fact that he looked like Miguel Cabrera when he got to Spring Training last season and played like he was being bothered for most of the season, and I’m not very keen on dropping the pressure of having to be the guy on him.

Can it be one of the young guys I love? Kipnis, Brantley or Chisenhall? I hope so, but it’ll probably have to be all three of them if it’s going to be one of them. Kipnis has pop and speed, but Brantley is the guy who doesn’t strike out and has potential to hit .300. And I’ve been crushing on Chisenhall since before I wrote for More Than a Fan, but the kid has to show me something before I start stalking him.

Could it be Nick Swisher? Sure. I mean, Swisher actually could be the guy. But, no matter how much I’ll be rooting for him, he’s 32 and probably isn’t going to spend the next four years improving. That leaves Carlos Santana, Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs or whoever gets signed to an incentive laden contract to DH. Sigh… let’s just move on.

I don’t think we found a guy to be the guy. But even if you think we have a guy and that I’m being too hard on the current squad, I really don’t think one is enough. No matter how many times I drop rag-tag on that 2007 lineup, they had two things the current Indians just don’t (seem to) have; the innate ability to make something happen in clutch situations and a pitching staff that I’d put against any team in the league.

The 2013 Indians returning starter with the most 2012 wins is Justin Masterson. He won 11 games last season. Jimenez won nine games, McAllister won six. (It’s pretty bad news when I have to spell out the numbers instead of using the digits) That’s the top three returning starters on the Opening Day rotation with 26 total wins. In case you were wondering, the top three returning starters in 2007 – Westbrook, Lee and Sabathia – combined to win 41 games in 2006. That’s… umm… quite a difference.

I know that this all sounds pretty depressing, but it’s not. It’s just that this team isn’t quite good enough for the playoffs right now unless that Santana gets more consistent, that group of young guys all break out together and Ubaldo figures out a way to throw more than one strike in a row.

There’s potential in Cleveland, especially given how the team is stacked with guys under 27-years old, but crying 90+ wins and the playoffs in 2013 is premature enough that there’s probably an embarrassing medication you can take to calm down a bit.

Don’t worry, it happens to all fans.

(No it doesn’t)

MTAF Daily – Tigers Kill Indians Season, Ianello Needs a Chill Pill and PGA Watchable Without Tiger

By Ryan Isley

You Will be Missed, Indians Season:

The 2012 Cleveland Indians season was put on life support Monday afternoon when ex-Indian Victor Martinez hit a three-run blast in a 4-2 Tigers win over the Tribe. Then on Tuesday evening, Martinez and another former Indian, Jhonny Peralta, were on hand to help pull the plug in a 10-1 Tigers victory.

Wednesday afternoon, Justin Verlander will be on hand to deliver the eulogy.

The series started with promise for the Indians, as they had just won 7 of their last 10 games and were 6.5 games back of the Tigers with Detroit in town for three games. In all reality, the Indians probably needed to win all three to have a chance in the division as they embark on a tough 10-game road trip after the Tigers leave town. Instead, they have done the exact opposite.

Continue reading MTAF Daily – Tigers Kill Indians Season, Ianello Needs a Chill Pill and PGA Watchable Without Tiger