Trade Day

Monty Hall

The Tribe beat me to the punch by making a trade before I could post.  That’s what happens when you wait till the trade deadline day to post, oh well.

The Indians traded Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals for AA outfielder James Ramsey.  First about Masterson.  I wrote in my earlier blogs that the Indians should jump at the chance to sign Masterson to a new deal.  Masterson was reportedly looking for a 2-3 year deal around 17 million per year.  The Cincinnati Reds signed Homer Bailey to a 6 year $105 million contract earlier this spring.  Bailey has similiar career numbers as Masterson and the pay scale was going to be similar for Justin.  I was in favor of giving Masterson this deal.  For one starting pitching does not come cheap.  For $10 million per year you get a hope and prayer free agent.  Last year the Tribe gave free agent Brett Myers an $8 million dollar contract.  Myers was not even a starting pitcher the year before and Myers delivered an 8.02 ERA for that gamble.  Thank you very little.  The Tribe signed Grady Sizemore to a $5 million dollar contract his last season here, and he didn’t play in one game.  At least he didn’t enter any games and make them completely unwinnable as Myers did.  If you up the pay to say around $12.5 million per year you get a pitcher who comes with his own gun.  This is what Baltimore had to pay Ubaldo Jimenez.

Al Bundy watching Ubaldo pitch

Oriole fans watching Ubaldo pitch

 

Jimenez is 3-8 on the year with a 4.52 ERA.  Here is the best part.  Ubaldo leads the league in walks.  Not so unimaginable you say.  He has missed almost a month of the season with an injury to his ankle in the parking lot, and he still leads the league in walks!  Enjoy that for 3 more years Oriole fan.

So as you see unless you spend some significant money on starting pitching you probably are going to be playing with fire.  You could have signed Scott Kazmir as I had hoped for 11 million per year.  Kazmis is currently 12-3 with a 2.37 ERA.  The cost of signing other pitchers was the one reason for my wanting to sign Masterson, but also the length of the contract.  Masterson was asking for a fairly sizeable contract per year, but he was willing to take a 2-3 year contract.  Most pitchers will take no less than 4 years to sign and will push for 6 to 7 years.  The Tribe will always be leary of offering any free agent that length of contract, exspecially pitching.  I thought it would be a contract that the Tribe could live with for 2-3 years considering the cost of marginal pitching.  The Indians didn’t bite and in hindsite it looks like the right move.  Masterson has had a horrible season, and for the Indians to pull anything out in a trade looks to be win for the Indians.

In my 20 years being at Tribe games I have never tried to hard to meet the players.  I did meet Masterson a couple of times and he seemed like the most genuine person.  He was always smiling and had such a positive attitude.  I couldn’t help but think he would be your best friend. I remember when Jack Hannahan was on the team and his wife was having their first child.  Masterson got the team togeather and chartered a private jet to make sure Hannahan made it back from Boston to be there in time.  It spoke volumes of who Masteron is as a person.  So even is he is not on the team I will always root for Masty.

The player the Tribe recieved from St. Louis, James Ramsey.  The reports I have read say he is decent prospect.  He batted .300 with 13 HRs in AA Texas League.  He probably could fill in as 4th outfielder or possible replace David Murphy.  The St. Louis Cardinal have an abbundance of outfield prospects which held Ramsey up from being in AAA.  The Texas League is notorious for being a picthers league so for Ramsey to be batting .300 with 13 HRs may be a good sign.  The Tribe is sending him to AAA Columbus and we may see him by the end of the year.  Hopefully the Indians have found a diamond in the rough.  The Indians traded Jake Westbrook to St. Louis and ended up with Corey Kluber.

 

Ok what do I expect the Tribe to do at the deadline:

I went to the game Tuesday night with the family.  On the way home the radio host was aking should the Indians be buyers or sellers this week.  I looked at my wife and said they should be sellers …… and buyers.  I didn’t see any harm in getting rid of Masterson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and John Axford.  None of these players are helping the Tribe reach there goal of making the playoffs and can be replaced.  In fact replacing them may even improve the team at some positions.  Each player has some value and as we saw even Masterson can return a viable major league prospect.  I assume Cabrera may return about  the same if not more.   There are a few teams looking for middle infield help and Cabrera would probably be the biggest name available.  I’am sure he will go to another team and flourish as did Jhnny Peralta.  I would still take Asdrubal over Peralta to this day.  Asdrubal has been highly disappointing the last couple years but he is not worthless.  If I was another team I wouldn’t touch John Axford with a 10 foot pole, but I still think there might be some team who would take him.  I’m not asking for much.  I look at it as addition by subtraction.  These moves would not be to surprising.  Any other plays shipped away would.  I don’t see the Indians going into full sell mode with the playoff berth so close.  The Tribe does have some relievers that have value and could be replaced.  I still think the Indians have the belief they can make the playoffs this year, and are not looking to move players other than those not helping.

 

For the last 2 plus years my main concern has been the Tribe’s bats.  The Indians may be in the top half of the league in runs scored, but their offense is to sporadic to be considered great.  This line up cries out for a great right handed power bat.  Band-Aid players such as David Murphy, Mark Reynolds and others are not getting the job done.  The Indians need to get a bonafide right handed hitter into this lineup.  Swisher will never be a superstar, but I don’t think he will hit .200 all year either.  He is not going to hit his career average of .265 this year, but there is no reason not to believe he can’t hit that for the rest of the year.  He shouldn’t see the field again though as he has been atrocious at 1st base.  Santana failed miserably at 3rd base, but has looked stellar at first amazingly.  The defense may be settling in.  Gomes after a shaky start has looked awesome.  Santana has looked almost like a gold glove at first, while Kipnis is average defensively.  Kipnis doesn’t seem to come up with balls on the ground but he is not a liability in the field either.  Fransico Lindor will be taking over short next year and he is supposedly a glod glove shortstop.  So other than Chisenhall at 3rd the infield looks good defensively.  Brantley is a stud in left field and Bourn has won gold gloves in center.  I have not witnessed Bourn being a gold glove centerfielder, but he has been so I don’t see why he can’t be a plus defender there now.  Dickerson has filled in great as fourth outfielder and has a great arm.  Ultimately I think the defensive lapse will settle down.  Some miscues came from players who normally have been good defensively, while others came from players being moved positions.  The players who commited the most errors will either not be here next year or be DHing next year other than Chisenhall.

The problem with adding a bat at the trade deadline is that the Indians have very little flexability at this moment.  With Santana maning 1st base that puts Swisher at the DH position.  I doubt the Indians would be willing to sit Swisher and his contract.  As I mentioned I don’t see Swisher hitting .200 all year either, and I’am sure the Tribe is counting on that changing.  Right field is another spot that could be upgraded but then again David Murphy has a 2 year contract.  I don’t think the Indians would be willing to eat the rest of this year and next to sit Murphy.  So the Indians really have no place to put another bat even though their lineup screams for one.  Ultimately I don’t see the Tribe bringing in any major upgrades.  If they did here are some names I have heard mentioned that may be available.

Who should the Indians be looking to buy?

Matt Kemp: L.A. Dodgers – No way the Tribe pays this guys salary (108 million for the next 6 years 18 per year) even though it’s a bat that would look great in right field.

Andre Either: L.A. Dodgers – Again to high of salary for the Tribe but would be a big upgrade in right even if he is left handed.

Carlos Gonzalez: Rockies – Another lefty but a career .295 hitter wtih some pop having a down year.

Josh Willingham: Twins – May be on the wrong side of 30 and having his second consecutive off year.  But he would be in the Indians budget at 7 million per year and is right handed with pop.

Marlon Byrd: Phillies – Affordable contract for a right handed hitter with pop.  The Phillies would probably ask for a major prospect for a 2 month rental and I don’t think the Tribe wants to rent players.

Billy Butler: Royals – The Royals offense has not performed very well this year and Butler has been one of the culprits.  If the Royals have become unhappy with Butler and if they were willing to trade him I would jump on it.  Other than Lindor who do you want K.C.

Alex Rios: Rangers – He may be out of the Indians price range, but would he would be a great fit in right for the Tribe.

This off season:  My wife has said it to me numerous times and he will be a free agent this year.  Would Victor Martinez’s right handed bat look good in the Tribe lineup!

We may say goodbye to Asdrubal and others, but the Indians will try and win with this lineup.  I don’t expect the Indians to bring in anyone of importance by trade.  They may try and bring in another pitcher (Bartlo Colon!), but my thoughts are they should work on bringing in a bat for this year and beyond.

 

 

One Month In – Where Do We Stand

One Month

The Indians ended April with a Thud. Losing every game on a west coast trip is never a good way to inspire the fan base. Good thing April is over and we are into May. Let’s look at the Tribe one month into the season.

The Record:

The Indians ended April 11-17 and on a 6 game losing streak. Not what you expect from a team with high expectations of making the playoffs. Is it time to panic? Not really. It is only one month. Last year they were 11-13 in April. They followed up April by going 18-12 in May. Last year the Indians had two 8 game losing streaks, and on June 10th they were 3 games under .500. This was a streaky team last year and I could easily see them rattling off 6 or 7 wins in a row. The team was at .500 before the 6 game west coast trip. So the record after one month is not a huge concern, but they leave themselves little room to continue their disappearing act at the plate, and in the field.

 

The Starting Rotation:

The starters began the year a little shaky, but have become the strength of this club. Masterson did not earn a win in the month of April, but he pitched well enough that he should have in three of his six April starts. Is Masterson a #1 starter? Maybe not, but he is definitely a #2. Would the Indians just pay this guy! Masterson’s agent reportedly proposed multiple offers to the Indians with a contract of around 17 million per year for 3 to 4 years. Usually the Tribe balks at contracts for pitchers because they are to long. The Tribe does not want to risk a lengthy contract on pitchers who are all susceptible to injury. Masterson is offering a shorter term contract which should make the Indians front office thrilled. I am just not sure what the Indians are expecting to pay for a starting pitcher who can anchor a staff. 12 million a year gets you an Ubaldo Jimenez type pitcher. Ubaldo has been atrocious in 5 of his 6 starts. He has a 5.19 Era in his first 6 starts and has walked 18 in 34 innings. That looks similar to the Ubaldo who pitched in Cleveland before last July. Are you feeling a little nervous about that signing now Baltimore? 3 years at 17 million per year seems fair to me, so the Indians need to stop with the excuses and sign Masterson. Otherwise we will be watching another warm body in the rotation next year. Yea you could gamble on a veteran coming off a poor year and get another Scott Kazmir, or you could get another Brett Myers. If the Indians are expecting to compete for a playoff spot they can’t afford to gamble on their starting pitching, especially when they would be replacing a front of the rotation starter.

Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister have been solid and consistent on the mound to start the year. I have followed Corey Kluber through the minors to the big league club since the trade with San Diego/ St. Louis for Jake Westbrook. Kluber was considered one of the Padre’s top pitching prospects. He had one off year and was traded. He has consistently been tops in the minor leagues in strike outs and walked very few. This year he has 48 K’s and 12 BB in 45 innings which is following his career norms. He projected as a #2 or #3 starter and that is holding true. Kluber has a 3.6 ERA even though he has pitched 5 games against some of the top offenses in all of baseball. Kluber has pitched two games against the #2 offense and one game against the #3, #4, #5 offenses in MLB.  Kluber has always been one of my favorites, and he looks to be a solid #2 or #3 starter.

McAllister has been just as good, if not better than Kluber. He has a 3.16 ERA and like Kluber he doesn’t give a lot of hitter’s free passes. McAllister fits in nicely and has done a good job in the 3 hole.

The 4 and 5 spots have been a problem for the Indians. I am not to worried about Danny Salazar as he seems to be righting the ship after a rough start early on in the season. Even though he has not looked as sharp or seemed to have command of all of his pitches, he still looks like a major league pitcher. His demeanor on the mound just says successful pitcher to me, and I think in the long run he will succeed. Carlos Carrasco is another story. As I write this he has been relieved of his starting duties and placed in the bullpen. Carrasco is just another version of Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona. Carrasco is a pitcher with a great arm, who will consistently put runners on base and make me want to start watching MTV with my wife instead of baseball. Thankfully I will no longer be up to date on the “16 And Pregnant” episodes, as Josh Tomlin has taken Carrasco’s spot in the rotation. Tomlin has pitched great in Columbus to start the year. He was called up to Cleveland this week and in his first start he looked very impressive. Tomlin walks very few batters. Isn’t it strange how not walking people usually correlates to winning. I mentioned in my last post that Tomlin would be back and it took less than a month. Unless there is an injury I believe you have seen the last of Carlos Carrasco starting for the Indians. The Indians still have insurance in Trevor Bauer who has been pitching even better than Tomlin. This is in Columbus also which is a big time hitter’s park. So if there is an injury, Salazar regresses, or Tomlin can’t hold down the 5th spot (I am sure he will – you don’t get the nickname “The Little Cowboy” for no reason), Bauer seems to be ready to step in.

The bullpen so far seems stable. Vinnie Pestano was sent down early in the month after giving up hits to almost every batter he faced. He had a WHIP of 3.38. That means for every inning he pitched he put 3.38 batters on base. I think Hendrix’s WHIP in his first year of youth baseball where the players will pitch will be lower. A WHIP of 1.75 or higher is usually pretty atrocious. Pestano’s velocity has been down last year and the start of this year, and just a couple MPH has made him very hittable. The rest of the bullpen has been very good. The bullpen has stranded 50 of the 60 inherited base runners through May 7th. This puts them at the top of the league in keeping inherited runners from scoring. John Axford has not let one inherited runner score. Then again he has put them on himself and let them cross home plate a few times. Axford is the one part of the bullpen that I am not to sure about. He does have 9 saves out of 11 chances is which is not to bad in one month. Unfortunately he likes to walk batters and he is not unhittable. (I think there is something to this walking batters and a pitchers success rate) He has issued 11 walk and 11 hits in 14 innings. Axford has a 1.57 WHIP which is getting up there near that atrocious level. The Tribe could probably survive an Axford collapse by moving Cody Allen into the closer role and rearranging the bullpen. But ultimately this probably wouldn’t be ideal considering the teams other problems.

 

Batting:

In my last post I stated how my main concern about this team was its offense. Well they haven’t changed my opinion much. The Tribe is next to last in the American League in runs scored, and 26th in MLB with a .231 team average. There are only 4 teams all in the National League (where the pitcher bats!) with worse averages. (Side note – The San Diego Padres have a .215 team average….Uh maybe I should stop complaining about the Tribe offense) Other than Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, David Murphey, Nyjer Morgan, Mike Aveiles, and Lonnie Chisenhall (3 of whom are part time players), the rest need to vastly improve at the plate. Jason Kipnis who is currently on the DL has a .234 average, while Michael Bourn is batting around his career average of .266. Unfortunately Bourn has done little else as he has played in only 15 games. He has 2 stolen bases but he has been caught 3 times, and he only has scored 6 runs all year. I didn’t think so at the end of spring training, but Nyjer Morgan needs to be on this team. Morgan is batting .294 with 3 stolen bases in 3 attempts, and 5 runs scored in half the at bats Bourn has had. Not to mention he is playing better defense.

The rest of the lineup would bring the San Diego Padres team average down:

Asdrubal Cabrera .215
Nick Swisher .202
Ryan Rayburn .167
Carlos Santana .139

Image

Zero Point Zero!

And Mr. Blutarsky (Jason Giambi) .000

It will be almost Memorial Day before Giambi plays again. He has not reached first base since spring training, other than a hit by pitch. That includes games with the Indians and the Akron Rubber Ducks. He actually didn’t even get a hit in spring training. He reached base twice by walk. His last hit in a game was last year! The Tribe’s offense needs a jump and the Indians need to bite the bullet soon with Giambi. Jesus Aguilar is in AAA Columbus. Last year he set the Akron record with 105 RBIs in 130 games. He is off to a fast start in Columbus this year batting .319 with 7 HRs and 17 RBIs in 31 games. The Tribe is not good enough to waste a roster spot on a player who is not helping. Sooner or later Giambi is going to need to produce or the Tribe needs to make a change.

It is good to see Chisenhall producing and Brantley is Mr. Consistent. I believe the rest of the lineup will improve, but I do think this team needs one more bat. Preferably a right handed bat.

Defense:

I actually witnessed this game when Canseco took one off the noggin

Where the hell do I start? This is the one area that has derailed the Tribe more than any other. The starting pitching has had a few bad games, the closer has let a few slip away, and the offense has been absent for most of the year. But it is the defense that has ultimately cost the Indians the most. This does not just a couple of players, but the entire team.

Yan Gomes- The poster boy for the Tribe’s bad defense. He has 9 errors already and leads the league with 4 PB (past balls). Last year for the entire year he had 3 errors and 4 PB. Yan you’re not going to get the last 2 years of that contract you just signed if you continue to play like that.

Michael Bourn – Who in the hell voted this guy a gold glove centerfielder in the national league? I have yet to see a gold glove defender, including last year. This year I wouldn’t put him in the top half of American League centerfielders. He only has one error but the number of bad routes I have seen, along with missed diving/sliding catches, and running into the other outfielders tells me he is not a premier defender.

Asdrubal Cabrera – has 5 errors and has not looked that great in the field. He had better start hitting because the Tribe has Fransico Lindor in Akron who is considered a gold glove defender, and I am sure he can hit .215 if not better.

Nick Swisher – 4 Errors and he could have been charged with more. I have watched a few games where Swisher has not given much effort on coming off the bag at first. I really expect more from Swisher.

The Tribe has plenty of time to turn the season around and get on the plus side of the win/loss column. They need the bats to come around but they really need the defense to step up.

 

Ok this is a Tribe blog but the NFL draft is tonight so a couple of things. One -Johnny Manziel reminds me of Doug Flutie. Flutie’s chance in the NFL came late in his career because everyone thought he was to short. Flutie was a great QB and I loved watching him. Manziel may be fun to watch also, but it is his off the field activities that tell me not to draft him. There was risk with Flutie and his size, but there was no risk with how Flutie carried himself off the field. The Browns are could be kicking themselves if they don’t draft Manziel and he turns out to be great. I just wouldn’t take the chance and would stick with the safer choice. Watkins, Mack, Robinson, and especially Clowney if they could get him.

Second – I really hope my Buccaneers or the Browns draft my man from Kent State, Dri Archer. The guy may not make it in the NFL if he isn’t durable enough, but man is he fun to watch. Who knows it could be Manziel to Archer soon.

Take Care

Opening Day/Late Late Night Thoughts

Who is in charge around here?

Who the hell decided it was a good idea to have an opening day gameCalvin and Hobbes start at 10:00 PM.  The boy can’t stay up to see the first pitch and I will be lucky to make it till the 9th inning.  Probably the same guy who decided it was a good idea to bring the San Diego Padres to Cleveland on April 7th – 10th.  You just know it’s going to rain/snow one of those days, and they will try for 8 hours to get the game in because the Padres will not want to come back to Cleveland.

Lets review my 25 man roster predictions.  Elliot Johnson grabbed one of the extra spots on the bench as expected.  He can play any position except catcher and is fairly good at defending each position I hear.  So the Indians are carrying two utility infielders who also can play the outfield.  The big surprise was Jeff Francour was released and Nyjer Morgan made the team in the outfield.  I thought the one position the Tribe could use help in was DH/Outfield.  Jeff Francour who has had success as a power hitter and has a cannon for an arm looked perfect for the part.  I think the deciding factor may have been Michael Bourn starting the season on the DL with hamstring problems.  I was already worried about Bourn and it looks as though he may be the main reason the one free agent signing I really liked this winter is not on the team.  Strike one Bourn!  On the pitching side the Tribe added an extra arm in the bullpen which is not surprising.  Acta loves extra bullpen arms.  Vetern Scott Atchison who had played for Francona in Boston made the team.  Francona’s last day in Boston he told Atchison he was probably not going to be back but if he ever managed again he would gladly have Atchison on his team.  Well welcome to Cleveland Scott.  That’s why Francona gets the most out of his players.  The other spot I predicted would go to Josh Tomlin.  The Indians sent him back to Columbus which isn’t a big surprise.  Blake Wood took one of the other slots available in the bullpen.  He had a great spring and has a 95mph plus fastball.  The Tribe wanted to keep Tomlin stretched out as a starter and not flipping between starting and the bullpen.  I see the logic and last year every starter was on the DL at least once. So Tomlin will be called back to Cleveland at some point, that is certain.

Money Money Money…….Money

The Tribe announced that they were suspending contract negotiations with Justin Masterson.  A few weeks earlier it was reported that Masterson would be willing to negotiate a shorter contract to stay with the Tribe.  Most pitchers want longer contracts and that is what keeps most teams from bidding on them.  Masterson was looking for a 3 year contract at 17 million per year I hear.  Now this should be a contract the Indians jump on, but they didn’t.  Look if your going to offer Ubaldo Jimenez a 14.1 million per year qualifying offer, you damn well better be willing to give Masterson 17 million for 3 years. There was a rumor that the front office told Masterson that they wouldn’t have the money to sign him unless they made the World Series.  Later in the week when asked about the failed negotiations Masterson said no big deal ” we just have to win the World Series.”  I have met Masterson before and seen him in a few interviews.  He is the most laid back individual with a great sense of humor.  He leads by example and I believe is a leader in the club house.  When Jack Hannahan was on the team and his wife was giving birth to their first child, Masterson got the players to rent a private jet so that Hannahan could be there to witness the birth of their daughter.  If there was one player I want on Cleveland’s roster no matter what it would be Masterson.  Not to mention that 17 million per year is pretty cheap for a top of the rotation starter.  In fact 17 million a year probably buys you a #3 or #4 starter who makes you swear like a sailor.  I don’t know what to say other than “Go win the World Series Cleveland,” or man up Dolans.

The Tribe signed Brazilian Yan Gomes to a six year 23 million dollar contract that could keep him in Cleveland through 2021.  I think that tells you what the Indians think of Gomes plus the fact the Tribe is bound and determined to get Santana to 3rd base.  It is a very team friendly contract with not a lot of risk for the Tribe.  Lets all go get a Brazilian waxing to celebrate.

Waxing

Brazilian Anyone?

 

Speaking of Brazilian waxing, check out this story about the Jason Giambi’s Golden Thong.  A must read!

Golden Thong

Detroit signed Miguel Cabrera to an absurd contract this week.  The big question is why.  He was going to be in Detroit for 2 more years no matter what.  They could have waited till the end of this year and offered him the same contract and he would not have hesitated to sign it.  Miguel Cabrera does not project the image of being in shape.  In fact he lHomer Simpsonooks like Homer Simpson at age 31 and this contract will pay him until he is 41.  Someone in Detroit better have Jenny Craig on speed dial.  He is so slow now on the base paths, wait until 2024 when they use a sun dial to time him from 1st to 2nd.  Cabrera has had bouts with alcoholism in years past also.  I think the bigger problem is the team chemistry in Detroit.  The Tigers a week earlier broke off contract negotiations with Max Scherzer, last years CY Young winner.  I don’t think Detroit is as invincible as some would like you to think.  The have a few holes on the team in left field and now at short stop with the injury to Jose Iglesias.  The moved pitchers from their pen to the starting rotation and the bullpen was their biggest weakness last year.  They gave money to a player signed for two more years after stopping negotiations with Scherzer who will be gone after this year.  I don’t think some people are going to be happy in Detroit.

Predictions:  I am going out and saying the Tribe wins 89 games and makes the playoffs.  They are going to play better against Detroit this year.  I don’t know why other than Francona (Great Manager), Kipnis (always seems to get done what needs to be done), and team chemistry ( I loved hearing that Swisher went after Kenny Lofton).  No matter what they should be competitive making it a fun summer.

I’m going out tomorrow and buying a Thong just in case.

Thong

THE STATE OF THE RESERVATION

Who needs a Groundhog!

Who needs a Groundhog!

For the first time in awhile I saw the top of my Cleveland Indians yard gnome.  He has been buried in snow and sitting in sub zero weather for the last few months.  I had to smile.  I guess that is a sign spring is near.  A sure sign is the Cleveland Indians 1st spring training game.  You can’t take a lot out of the first spring game, but it is stimulating to see warm weather and baseball.  It means the boys of summer are close to returning to Cleveland and warm weather can’t be far behind.

I haven’t posted since those heartbreaking loses last September to the Tigers.  The Tribe had an incredible last 2 weeks to make the post season and grab the north coast’s attention.   Then the Tribe entered the off season and the only real headlines were who had left the team.  Still hopes are high for another run to the postseason.

Let’s look at where we sit at the beginning of spring training in:state of the union

THE STATE OF THE RESERVATION:

As I already mentioned very little seemed to be done in the off season other than let two starting pitchers go and the 8th inning set up guy (Kazmir, Ubaldo, & Smith); releasing our closer (Perez); and trading our starting right fielder (Stubbs).  All to be replaced with players most fans would hardly know.  Yea last year had a little more excitement due to the free agent signings of Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourne.  But in all honesty it was the ho-hum signings/trades from last year that made the biggest contributions (Yan Gomes, Ryan Rayburn, Scott Kazmir, and Mike Aviles).  With both the Browns and the Cavs imploding from the front offices out, I would liked to have seen the Indians be more active this winter.  It was a great chance to excite and solidify the fan base.   A major signing was not in the plans this year, but I still think some of the minor signing could end up being significant.

Pitching:

Last year I said that Scott Kazmir was my pick for the Cy Young award.  He ended up with highest ERA of all the starters but it was a respectable 4.04.  Ubaldo Jimenez was the player who pitched like a Cy Young award winner the second half of the season.  Ubaldo compiled a 6 – 5 record in the second half of the season with a 1.82 ERA.  Max Scherzer who won the Cy Young last year had an 8 – 2 record with a 2.44 ERA in that same time frame.  Ubaldo only walked 25 in those 13 second half starts while striking out 100.  The stats show that he began to control his pitches and thus be in charge of the game.  No matter how well he pitched I never felt comfortable.  I was so relieved to know that Danny Salazar (a ROOKIE) was pitching the playoff game other than Ubaldo who had been pitching like a Cy Young candidate.  The Tribe reportedly never talked to Jimenez about resigning, which I believe speaks loudly about what the Indians think of Ubaldo.  Jimenez is now in Baltimore.  He may have figured out his problems last year and continue to pitch like a #1 starter.  My guess is there is going to be a lot more cursing every 5th day in the Chesapeake Bay area, and my finger nails are going to look a lot better.  Kazmir is the one player I thought the Tribe should have been more aggressive about signing.  They did not put a qualifying offer in of 14.1 million, so they did not get a draft pick for losing Kazmir.  He ultimately signed with Oakland for two years at 22 million.  He may have accepted the Tribe’s offer but I think for a one year deal it was a price the Tribe could have lived with.  Kazmir was the one lefty in the rotation, and the options to replace him are all right handed.  The Indians are going into the 2014 season with a completely right handed starting rotation.  Not as deadly as their past all right handed batting lineup, but not the ideal situation.  Overall I believe the starting pitching will be fine.  Masterson has grown and proven to be a top of the rotation pitcher.  Remember when some wanted to put Masterson in the bullpen?  Kluber and McAllister had great seasons and they came up through the minors projected as middle of the rotation talent.  Kluber especially has shown throughout the minors to be able to get strikeouts when needed.  Danny Salazar looked dominate during the last couple of months of the season.  I can’t remember ever seeing a pitcher look that good just coming up from the minors.   Sabathia struggled his first year and Jaret Wright helped get the Indians into the World Series, but he certainly didn’t pitch like Salazar.  (Anyone else think of an Indians pitcher who looked as impressive as Salazar to start their career)  The fifth spot in the rotation is undecided at the start of spring training.  Candidates are Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Shawn Marcum, Aaron Harang, and Josh Tomlin.  My thoughts are Carrasco fills the spot as he is out of options and cannot be returned to the minors.  If he doesn’t fill the spot then one of the other candidates who pitches the best will.  Carrasco seemed like a different pitcher when he returned last year and pitched out of the bullpen.  Hopefully he can settle in, settle down, and become the dominate pitcher the Indians have been talking about.  If not then I believe Josh Tomlin may get the next try or Marcum if he is healthy.  Tomlin is smartest pitcher on the staff and does the most with the least “stuff”.  Tomlin is pitcher that Francona and other managers love.  He will be on the team as a starter or out of the bullpen.  Marcum is coming off an injury, but he has proven in the past to be a very good pitcher.  Again if healthy I expect him to contribute to the Indians staff this year.  Rarely do five pitchers start a season and the same five end the season.  The Indians have starting depth and I am sure that it will be utilized this year.

Bullpen:

Dog Smoking

Chris Perez’s Dog?

The biggest move was releasing Chris Perez.  Good bye.  It was fun while it lasted, but the last few months were terrifying.  September 26th and the Tribe was leading Minnesota 6 – 1 in the 9th inning, enter Perez.  The guy next to me says he can’t watch Perez anymore and goes to the bathroom until he is done pitching.  15 minutes later the inning is still going but the score is 6 – 5 Tribe as Perez is relieved of his duties.  The gentlemen returns and I too could never watch Chris Perez pitch again for the Tribe.  Luckily he will never get another opportunity.  John Axeford should be able to handle the job.  The Cardinals do a good job of identifying talent and he pitched well for them last year.  Hopefully Axeford shouldn’t make me want to join other fans in the bathroom when he pitches.  Other than losing Joe Smith, whose sidearm action brought a different look for hitters, the bullpen should be good.  Smith has quietly been very reliable for the Indians in the 7th and 8th innings.  Cody Allen should slide into that spot and hopefully Vinny Pestano can return to form this year to fill 7th inning.  The Tribe brought in a few different options at the end of last year who performed well, in Marc Rzepczynski (took me only 2 tries to spell that right) and C.C. Lee.  Rzepczynski should continue to stabilize the pen along with Bryan Shaw and either Carrasco or Tomlin.  The final spot will be won in spring training by Josh Outman, Nick Hagadone, Scott Atchison, or C.C. Lee in that order.Overall most people are worried about the Indians pitching staff.  I think they are fine in this area.  I feel much better about the starting pitching than I did last year at this time, and they have options.  The bullpen should not be horrible and there are alternatives in the minors.

Hitting/Fielding:

The consensus is that if the Indians starting pitching is good the Tribe will be good.  Yes you’re only as good as your starting pitching.  I previously discussed my confidence in the Indians pitching staff.  It is the offense that worries me and I have the most concern.  Last year the Indians were 5th in MLB in runs scored.  That came from a team that had off years from a number of players.  Asdrubal Cabrera suffered through his worst year offensively, while the big free agent signings of Bourn and Swisher did not meet their past production.  The Tribe received little production consistently from 3rd base or from the DH Jason Giambi.  Brantley and Kipnis did have a productive year, but nothing they can’t repeat.  The real surprises on offense came from the part time players, Yan Gomes, and Ryan Raburn.  So why am I so concerned about the offense?  I felt that the Indians offense could be sporadic at times last year.   I am not sure they will get much increase on offense from any position (other than Asdrubal), and they might see a drop off from some of the players who had a great season last year.  Finally I don’t think they addressed over the winter one of their major weaknesses, not having a true power hitter.

Here are the positions I am not worried about:

Left field:  Michael Brantley is called Dr. Smooth.  He will probably never be a superstar, but there is little that he doesn’t do well.  I wouldn’t be shocked if he improved any part of his game this year.  I would be surprised if his game regressed much.  Maybe he doesn’t hit 10 HR’s this year, but I don’t see why he doesn’t hit .280 with 70 RBI’s, and 15 stolen bases.  Francona bats Brantley in any spot in the order, and Brantley is capable of handling it.  Brantley just goes out and does his job and he does it effectively.

Second Base:  Not to toot my own horn, but I have been telling you that Jason Kipnis was coming and y’all was going to like him.  He led the team in RBI’s, runs, and stolen bases.  He was second in batting average, doubles, and third on the team with 17 HR’s.  His style of play makes him a fan favorite and I see him becoming the face of the franchise.  Could he regress from his All-Star year?  Yea, but Kipnis hasn’t done anything but produce at every level.  I don’t see much changing except for Kipnis becoming better well known.

Expecting Good Things But Not Betting The House On It:

Catcher: Yan Gomes had a break out year last season.  He led the team in batting average and posted decent numbers in only 300 AB’s.  I assume he will get more AB’s this year so he should be able to match last year’s numbers if not improve upon them.  If Gomes can bat .290 this year again great, I am just expecting a little regression this year. His defense is the aspect of his game that stands out and I don’t see any drop off.  Although I am not sure if he can throw out 20 of 29 base stealers again.  Tip to opposing base runners, Don’t run on Yan!

Shortstop:  It is a contract year for Asdrubal Cabrera.  I see him having a good if not great year.  Asdrubal has wanted to be in those pressure situations, and until last year he has succeeded in them.  This will probably be Cabrera’s last year in Cleveland.  If the Tribe is out of the playoff race he could be gone by the trade deadline.  Francisco Lindor is coming and there will be no stopping his progress towards the majors.  If you don’t know who Lindor is you haven’t been following my blog (Superstar in waiting).  There are some defensive metrics that say Asdrubal is the worst defensive shortstop in the game.  He is better than Johnny Peralta, I don’t care what computer you use.  I like Asdrubal and hope he has a career year.  Then hopefully he signs another contract with the Tribe and slides over to third next year.  I will settle for a career year in his final season in Cleveland.

Expecting The Usual:

First Base:  I’m putting Nick Swisher at this spot.  In realitContortionisty the Tribe is MLB’s version of a contortionist.   Their roster is probably one of the most flexible in baseball.  1st base, right field, 3rd base, and DH can be manned by numerous players on the roster, and this isn’t your David Dellucci/Jason Michael platoon.  THANK GOD, I still shiver thinking about it.  Swisher will be the DH, and in right field, but I see him playing mostly at first base.  Swisher did not have a bad year in 2013, but he didn’t have a great year either.  I see more of the same for Swisher in 2014.  He is 33 and not surrounded by hall of famers as he was in New York, so I don’t see much improvement.  He did turn it on the last month, and shined during the stretch for the playoffs (7 HR’s in September).

Sweet Memories
Dellucci and Michaels

Centerfield:  Michael Bourn had his worst season as a professional in 2013.  Not that it was horrible, but he did not put up the numbers he had in years past.  His average, steals, and runs were career lows except for his rookie season in Houston.  Why am I not expecting more from Bourn?  Bourn came from the Atlanta Braves and was advertised as a speedster on the base paths and the best centerfielder in the game.  His 23 stolen bases were nearly half his career low while his 12 caught stealing was his career norm.  No big deal maybe he moved to a team where they don’t push the stolen base as much, or he is adjusting to the American League.  What really concerns me is when I watched Michael Bourn last year I did not see the best defensive centerfielder in the game.  Not even close.   Bourn lives on his speed, and when that goes so goes Michael.  Bourn slowed on the base paths and he not did dazzle in the field.  I wonder if he lost a step last year.  He also had surgery on his left hamstring this winter.  Just a feeling and I hope I am wrong, but I think Bourn may have already played his best baseball.

3rd Base: Lonnie Chisenhall is like the Cleveland Browns.  Ok that is a little rough, but I keep expecting better results and I keep getting subpar performances (with the Browns it is plan lousy performances).  So I have given up on the Browns and until they actually win consistently I will expect them to lose (consistently).  The same goes for Lonnie.  Until he proves otherwise I am expecting a subpar performance.  I believe he is capable of putting up more than a .225 average as he did last year.  He has not played a full season in the majors and yet he put up 11 HR’s in only 289 AB’s last year.  If he could match his career minor league batting average of .282 we might be on to something.  The problem is he struggles mightily against lefties. Thus he needs to be in a platoon.  Enter Carlos Santana and Mike Aviles.  I don’t think there is any way in hell Santana takes over 3rd base.  I have seen him behind the plate where umpires hate him.  He doesn’t move his body and block balls, so the umpire takes the hit.   I swear I could see steam come out of umpire’s helmets last year as they stared down Santana after getting hit.  I saw him enough at first that I loved Casey Kotchman and his .229 average.  He can man each position but by no means is he skillful at it.  I assume he could play third but ultimately it wouldn’t be pretty.  Just wait for that first bunt attempt and he throws the ball into the stands.  I imagine Santana is going to man third against lefties due to Chisenhall’s ineffectiveness against them.  I will give Santana credit that I have not heard one complaint from him and he has tried to do whatever is asked of him (catch, 1st, 3rd, or DH)

Regression Coming?

Right field: Ryan Raburn had a career year in only 243 AB’s.  He hit 16 HR’s with 55 RBI’s in what amounts to a half year of at bats.  I assume he will come back to his norm this year which should be around 10 HR’s and 40 RBI’s in 250 AB’s.  He will platoon with David Murphy.  Murphy replaces Drew Stubbs so we should see a better average, and maybe a few more HR’s.  What worries me is Murphy is coming from Texas which is a hitter’s park.  This team is in desperate need of a power hitter and Murphy needs to hit more than a dozen HR’s.  Stubbs could hit a dozen and was the best base runner I have seen in an Indians uniform.  Murphy and Raburn need to combine for 30 plus HR’s and 100 plus RBI’s.   I am just not sure if they do that this year.  I like the signing of Jeff Francour.  I see him somehow making this team and being a big part of it, possibly as the DH.

DH: It has taken me 2 weeks to finish this blog. (That is because they are so damn LONG Randall)  When I started, my thoughts were Giambi would make the team but probably start on the DL as he did last year.  Well it was reported a couple of days ago that Giambi had a cracked rib and would start the year on the DL.  A cracked rib sounds serious to me for a player who solely relies on power.  As I mentioned this team is in desperate need of a power hitter.  I see Francona using a lot of his interchangeable parts to fill the DH role as he did last year.  I believe Santana may end up getting a good portion of these at bats.  Santana may produce at last year’s level, but that is putting a lot of pressure on Gomes to improve upon last years numbers.  Otherwise that is a decrease at the catchers position.  Definitely the DH spot is wide open and may have to be filled at the trade deadline if the Tribe is in contention.

Overall I see Left field, 2nd base, and Shortstop matching last year or improving.  2/3 of last year’s super sub bench of Gomes and Raburn will be playing more of a full time roll thus weakening the bench.  I don’t see much improvement from the other positions, maybe even a slight decline.  The team also needs a true power hitter and possibly has an open spot in the lineup they could fill.  The Indians don’t have players in the minors who are ready at the start of the season to help the offense.  They do have a group of players in AA and AAA, but they are 1 to 2 years away.  The positive is that Francona is leading this team and seems to know exactly how to put his team in a position to succeed.  If anyone can do it Francona can.

Here is my 25 man opening day roster predicitions:

C: Santana and Gomes

Infielders: Swisher, Kipnis, Cabrera, Chisenhall,  Aviles, and Elliot Johnson/ Justin Sellers

Outfielders: Bourn, Brantley, Raburn, Murphy, and Francour

Starting Pitchers: Masterson, Kluber, Salazar, McAllister, and Carrasco

Relief: Axford, Allen, Shaw, Rzepczynski, Pestano, Tomlin, and Outman

If you read all 3000 plus words, wow!  I will try and cut back on future post.  I really enjoy reading comments, and hearing how others enjoy reading my post.  Thanks and pass along the blog to others.

The Weekly The Good, The Bad, & The Good?

The Tribe just finished their west coast road trip and now are facing a critical week.  I think I said last week was critical.  They are all critical when your team is fighting for a playoff spot and the Tribe IS in the hunt.  So lets “Hit it” as Joliet Jake once said.

The Good:

Ubaldo Jimenez !? Really, Ubaldo leading off in The Good column? Ubaldo has a 1.88 ERA over the last month.  Last Saturday in an important game against the Oakland Athletics, Jimenez threw 5.2 innings giving up only one run, on one hit while striking out 8.  Oakland is one of the teams the Indians are chasing for a wild card spot, and this was the only game the Tribe won vs Oakland.  Jimenez now has a lower ERA (4.00) than Kazmir (4.39).

If you watch a game he pitches you will bite all your nails off.  He hasn’t allowed many hits, but he still walks plenty.  Ubaldo is 3rd in  the league with 70 walks even though he has thrown significantly fewer innings.  For comparison, David Price of Tampa Bay has thrown more innings and walked only 19 so far this year!  Ubaldo has started 24 games and walked 70 batters, he averages 5 1/3 innings per start.  I’ll do the math for ya.  That means he walks about 3 batters every game he pitches, or 5 innings.  So with hits included basically there are multiple runners on base every inning.  Hey this is The Good column so enough of the scare tactics from me.  Ubaldo is keeping those runners from scoring, so keep up the good work.  The Tribe may just have to consider picking up that option on Ubaldlo for next year.

I’m hoping to head down to the game tonight for fireworks set to the Blues Brothers, and another start from Ubaldo.  Hopefully he will continue to “Gimme Some Lovin”, but I will take the finger nail clippers just in case.

The Bad:

The Bad is how you felt the next morning if you stayed up and watched Tuesday nights game vs the Los Angeles Angels.  The game ended at 3:30 in the morning after 14 innings.  At one point Tribe broadcaster Rick Manning said that ” only insomniacs” were watching.   I realized then my wife is right, I may have a problem.  I proceeded to watch the post game show that was broadcast live from Cleveland.  It ended at 4 AM.  I was thinking of calling my friend Paul Longfellow who would have been getting up for work.  If not for waking the rest of his family I would have called.

Luckily the Tribe won this game.  The real Bad was they only had 5 hits through the first 13 innings.  The pitching staff was incredible this game and preserved the win despite the offenses’ troubles.

The Ugly:  The Good

There is no Ugly only Good when your team goes on their west coast road trip and finishes above .500.  In fact the Indians went 6 – 3 on the west coast trip and  4 – 2 for the week.

Everyone is talking about the wild card spot, but I keep saying the Indians should focus on Detroit.  They may not catch them, but they will still be in the wild card chase if they don’t.  Detroit had another losing week going 3 – 4.  Detroit left town seven games up on the Tribe two weeks ago.  Last week they were 6 games up, and after this week they are up 5 games.  Detroit plays Oakland four games next week and then start a 3 game home series vs the Tribe.  Hopefully by the start of that series next weekend the Tribe will be within 4 games.  As long as the Indians take care of their part they will be making up ground on Detroit or Oakland this week.  The Tribe has its work cut for them.  They face the Atlanta Braves who own the best record in baseball and the best home field record in the major leagues.  Next weekend they visit the Tigers followed by a visit from another wild card hopeful, the Baltimore Orioles.  A very import next 12 days for the Tribe.  After that stretch the games will hopefully be even more important, because that is what each game becomes for playoff hopefuls.  No rest for those playoff bound!  First things first though.  Ubaldo needs to go out and beat the Twins tonight.

Hit It!

Is It Really The Middle Of August?

It is the Dog Days of Summer, at least that is what they say.  It feels more like October.  The Tribe is on their very difficult West Coast road trip, and have upcoming games against Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels.  12 of their next 18 games comes against first place teams (Atlanta & Detroit) or teams ahead of them in the wild card standings (Oakland & Baltimore).  So the weather outside may not be so hot, but for a team trying to make a playoff push things should be pretty warm.

Here is a look back at the week:

The Good:

Asdrubal Cabrera gets thrown out of a game.  Usually that is not a good thing.  Last Sunday the Tribe was riding a 7 game losing streak and they were about to get swept for the second consecutive series in a row at home.  Down 5 – 0 in the sixth inning with two outs, the Tribe bats came alive.  One of those bats was from Cabrera’s replacement Mike Aviles.  Nick Swisher and Aviles both hit two run homers.  Cabrera, who has looked awful lately at the plate and in the field, did the Tribe a favor by getting sent to the showers early.  By one out in seventh the Indians had the lead and stopped their losing streak.

Yan Gomes continues to push for more playing time.  Francona has been working Gomes into the lineup more often.  Gomes has responded by not only hitting the cover off the ball (.429 average for the week), but he is also great defensively behind the plate.  Gomes has thrown out nearly 50% of would be base stealers.

Go Ahead Make My Day

Go Ahead Make My Day

The Bad:

Thanks for Nothing:

I mentioned last week the Indians only needed to make up one game a week to catch the Tigers.  They made up a 1/2 game this week to sit at 6 1/2 games back.  Not bad.  Unfortunately the Indians only went 3 & 3 this week, the big bad Tigers went 3 & 4.  The Tigers leave Cleveland and have a losing week, but the Tribe can only catch up 1/2 game in the standings.  Indians must take advantage of their chances if they want to make the playoffs.

The Ugly:

Other than Gomes .429, Kipnis .273, Aviles .250, and Brantley .250, the offense was putrid this week.  None of the other nine position players batted over .200.  That happens when one of the games you play a rookie pitcher (Andrew Albers) making his second start ever throws a 2 hitter with no walks.  Uh doesn’t this happen always when Cleveland faces a pitcher for the first time.  Even the great 90’s teams had trouble with rookie pitchers.  Note to self –  Next time Tribe faces pitcher for the first time bet HEAVILY on the other team.  That should put an end to that curse.

Mark Reynolds has been released and replaced by Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera has been especially weak at the plate for the last month (batting only .175).  Asdrubal has not looked good at the plate.  He is consistently down in the count and swings at everything.  Hence his 3 walks and 20 strikeouts over the last 30 days.  Chisenhall has been just as bad as Asdrubal over the last month batting .176 with 1 RBI.  Michael Bourn who has had a decent year only batted .212 in the last 30 days.  If Bourn doesn’t change his pace his decent year will turn out to an average year.  The Indians can ill afford to have numerous players batting under .200 for any length of time.  Especially when two of those players are batting lead off and cleanup.

No Time To Panic People

I am trying to find what works for me in this blog.  I would like to write just a little more often, but keep the content much shorter.  This is a very difficult assignment for me.  I have a very hard time putting my ideas down and it can take days for me to finalize my post.  I have always struggled with writing, and I never considered myself very good.  I appreciate all the comments on the site and those who have told me in person they enjoy the blog.  That encourages me to try harder so thank you.    So with that said I am going to try and post a weekly recap.   Hopefully I can find a rhythm that works for me.  Hopefully the Tribe can get back into rhythm soon.

I liked my idea last year when I recapped the season using the theme of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  So lets run with that.the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly

The Good:                                                                                                                        

Yan Gomes & Ryan Raburn

Yan Gomes & Ryan Raburn

The Tribe locked up Ryan Raburn for two more years with a club option for a third year at a very reasonable salary of roughly 2.5 million.  The Indians bench has been one of the strengths this year, and should be for a couple more years hopefully.   After trading for Mike Aviles this winter the Indians signed him to a contract extension through 2015, while catcher Yan Gomes is making the league minimum through 2015.  The Tribe’s bench gives Francona a lot of options when it comes to roster management during a game.  Gomes has been looking superior defensively to Carlos Santana behind the pate, and Rayburn and Aviles can play almost any position if asked.  If fact Rayburn pitched in the 9th inning of Thursday nights fiasco against his former team the Detroit Tigers.  The bullpen was decimated from the previous nights 14 inning loss and Raburn took one for the team by going out to pitch in a lost cause.  Actually he posted a perfect inning and struck out Detroit’s Matt Tuiasosopo.

Pitchers IP  H  R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
R  Raburn 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 13-8 0.00
raburnk_original

Click picture to see video

Matt Tuiasosopo, Ryan Rayburn owns you!

The Bad:

The Tribe went 2 – 5 for the week.  They started out the week playing the lowly Miami Marlins.  After getting beat down 10 – 0 on Friday the Tribe won the next two to take the series from Miami.  The Indians then came home to start a four game series against the 1st place Detroit Tigers.  BIG SERIES…. Big Let Down.  I could of put this in the Ugly column but lets not panic.  Yea the Tigers have a good team.  Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Tori Hunter, Victor Martinez, not to mention a CY Young pitching staff.  They own the Indians this year.  They do have problems with the rest of the league.  I am not saying that the Indians will win this division, but I don’t see why they can’t stay close to Detroit.  The Tigers are not good defensively and if they don’t hit extra base hits they move base to base.  They are the slowest team I believe I ever saw.  Fans use to think Travis Hafner was slow, but he really wasn’t that bad.  Victor Martinez on the other hand couldn’t out run my friend JJ.  And for those of you who know JJ that’s slow.  Prince Fielder makes Miguel Cabrera look small and Cabrera is a fat ass!  The point being the Tigers are not perfect and they do lose quite regularly to everyone but the Indians.  If you take away the games between the two teams the Tigers record would be 55 – 42 while the Tribe would be 59 – 40.  They play 3 more games against each other in Detroit, so the Indians could theoretically make up ground over Labor Day weekend, and there is 7 weeks of baseball left.  That is one game a week.  Don’t forget that on June 11th the Tribe was 5 1/2 games behind Detroit, but by June 30th was in 1st place.  I don’t think the Tribe wins the division, possible but not probable.  I do think if they keep chasing Detroit ultimately they will be in good position to win a wild card spot.  I don’t see this group of players quitting on Francona.

I was talking to my friend John at Thursday nights game.  He thought the Tribe should get into a fight with Detroit.  The way that Detroit has pushed us around lately I am starting to think that’s not a bad idea.  The Indians might want to get physical with the Tigers just to let them know they are not intimidated by them.  I don’t see Francona going there, but by that last game in Detroit if the scenario hasn’t changed… I would throw down.

Nolan Ryan

The Ugly:

  Corey Kluber has been one of the biggest surprises this year for the Tribe.  Kluber came out in the first game against Detroit and pitched 7 1/3 innings of shut out baseball.  He should of won that game if not for a melt down by Chris Perez in the ninth.  I am glad Perez is not talking to the media.  What do you want to hear him say after that mess.  Just shut up and go do your job, I don’t need to hear any excuses.  Any way Kluber was fantastic.  He comes to the game the next day complaining his middle finger hurts.  Now he is on the DL for 6 to 8 weeks.  For a team that needs things to go their way this was a major blow.  Danny Salazar has looked impressive so far but it still can’t be good when you lose one of your best pitchers.  Last night Scott Kazmir left the game early and I am not sure why.  I was hoping the Tribe would sign Kazmir next to a new contract.  Hopefully this is only a minor setback and nothing serious, because the Indians are not in a position to lose starting pitchers in a playoff race.

Is it “Trade Time Now?” for the Tribe

I’am with the family camping on Edisto beach in South Carolina. I may be on vacation, but I am still following the Tribe. Before I left the callers on the local radio were wanting the Cleveland Indians to trade for starting pitching. I have been telling some of my friends for the last month that I did not think the Tribe was going to make much of a move. As the trading deadline grows closer I don’t see much happening. Here are my thoughts.

Starting Pitching

The majority of callers on sports radio I consider morons who couldn’t run water with out screwing it up. There are a lot of people who just want to put down the owner, Larry Dolan. Most are still pissed that he traded two CY Young award winners in C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Callers continually whine that Dolan never puts money into the team and that he should sell it. I disagree that the Dolans have not put money into the team, they have. They have not spent every year, but when the Tribe has been in the hunt they have. Unfortunately most of the time the players signed did not perform up to the expectations. Chuck Finley, Kerry Wood,Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore twice, along with other players. The Dolans have not gone wild spending money, they are what we might say thrifty. Most callers to the local sports radio have been saying the Tribe needs starting pitching to make the playoffs this year. I don’t see the Indians going in this direction. For one any pitcher who is a top of the rotation guy is probably out of the Tribe’s price range. I really doubt the Tribe goes out and spends 15 -20 million a year which is what most #1 pitchers would command (Cliff Lee who is possibly on the market). If the Indians are not getting a stud pitcher then I don’t really see the point of trading for a pitcher. The starting rotation of Masterson, Kluber, Kazmir, McAllister, and Jimenez have pitched quite well this year ,and especially so of late. One of the starting 5 would be kicked out of the rotation. I don’t see Francona wanting to upset the team chemistry to add another starter unless they were a significant upgrade over one of the current 5.

The Indians are not going to give up top prospect Francisco Lindor. They have a superstar on their hands. He is only 19 but I saw an interview with him last week and he seemed much older. I don’t think the Tribe is keen on trading any high level prospects unless they get a major league ready player who’s contract they can control for a few years. Normally teams don’t trade good young players who they control for years to come. Plus the Tribe has young pitchers in the minors who should be ready to help the club this year and in the upcoming years. (Bauer, Carrasco, Salazar, and Tomlin who will be returning from Tommy John surgery shortly). Ultimately I can’t see any scenario where the Tribe trades for starting pitching. So the callers can moan and groan for a little longer now about the Indians not trying to win and the Dolans being cheap.

Bullpen

The bullpen was believed to be a strength at the start of the season. A few holes have developed as the season has unfolded. Vinnie Pestano who was stellar the last two years as the 8th inning set up man has stumbled. His velocity is down and he has not been reliable in consistently getting outs. Sidearmer Joe Smith has not been himself the last month, but hopefully this is just a rough patch. The Tribe does have others who could step up into the 8th inning role, but this ultimately weakens the bullpen if they are not replaced. Cody Allen being the first choice for 8th inning duty. The most glaring problem has been left handed relief. Nick Hagadone and Rich Hill have not been good so far. Chris Antonetti mentioned earlier this week that the lefty bullpen situation was probably his biggest concern. This is the one trade I do see the Tribe making. I am pretty sure they will bring in a lefty reliever and possibly another bullpen arm. Don’t expect any big names but do expect a new face in the bullpen.

Position Players

There is one more area that I would like to see addressed, but generally gets little mention on the talk radio stations. That is the need for another bat in the lineup. I don’t have the stats in front of me here on the beach. (We are tent camping not staying at a resort. So I’am roughing it – with my iPad) The Tribe is 4th in the league in runs scored which is good. They are 11th in batting average with a .257, and 5th in OPS ( On Base plus Slugging Percentage). Not bad marks for the offense especially with Reynolds and Giambi’s averages. The OPS showing they get on base and hit a good amount of extra base hits. The problem is the fore mentioned Reynolds. He has hit below .200 since mid May. As I mentioned in my last post the Tribe would be hard pressed to play the year with both Reynolds and Giambi hitting .200. Rayburn and Aviles have been getting more at bats lately in Reynolds place which has worked out fine. I don’t think you want the bench (all be it a great bench) of Raburn, Aviles, and Gomes playing every day. The holes in their games will become more apparent. Reynolds is signed to a one year deal. Next year the Tribe could be looking to replace Reynolds. He makes 7 million and they will also have Brett Myers 5 million to spend (Free Agent Flop). If the Tribe was looking towards the future this might be a good time to trade for a position player who can help us now and in the future. The team has lost plenty of games because they can’t score 3 or more runs. They have a great record in one run games, but consistently waste good pitching efforts by having low scoring games. The Tribe is very good at running up pitch counts on opposing teams. When they do this they generally get to see a lot of the opposing pitchers pitches thus getting a better feel for each pitch. They then have big innings against the starter. The 5th inning is the Indians signature inning to score this year. They have scored more runs in the fifth than any other inning. This being the inning when they are facing the starter for the 3rd time in a game. Running up the pitch count also gets the Tribe into the other teams bullpen sooner. Once into the bullpen it is only a matter of time before they face a subpar member of the other teams staff and put a hurting on his ERA. One more good hitter in the lineup could help this team I believe. Not only this year but in the future too.

Again I don’t think Francona wants to mess with the teams chemistry. He will give Reynolds every opportunity to succeed. So ultimately I see the lineup remaining the same with Raburn and Aveiles getting more at bats in the mean time. Reynolds is notorious as a streaky hitter, and Francona knows he is going to turn it around at some point. I have a feeling Reynolds is going to get hot at a time that makes Tribe fans forget his horrible summer. Lets hope!

Surfs Up! Gotta run, Go Tribe!

Stretch Time, Time For A Beer

So here we are at the All-Star break 1 1/2 games out of first and 7 games above .500. I really don’t believe this team is going to collapse like years past. The Tribe is not perfect.  They have their faults, but this team has a drive/desire to win.  The schedule is going to play into their favor and I think a few of the position players can increase their output. Overall they seem to be a close knit team that is having fun. Winning is usually a good recipe for fun, and the Indians have been winning.

It is the so called half way point of the season, and I thought I should evaluate the players so far. I was listening to the radio the other day and the host compared a player to Keystone Light beer. He said he was cheap, but not very good. I got a chuckle out of that and decided I should rate the entire 25 man roster like that. Pull up a case of your favorite and lets get going.

#27 & 26 Genesee Bock – Nick Hagadone & Rich Hill

Image

I remember in college buying a six pack of Genesee Bock beer with my buddy Emery. I can’t think of any reason why we bought it other than we thought the can looked funny. Who in the hell puts Goats and Flowers on a beer can? If the beer was any good they wouldn’t be putting it in a can! I remember that I didn’t like it and I never drank it again. The same can be said for Nick Hagadone and Rich Hill. I don’t like the way they have pitched as the lefties out of the bullpen, and I don’t care to see them pitch anymore like that. O.K. Hagadone is not technically on the roster at the moment, but he has been for the majority of the season. He has pitched so poorly that he is player who gets sent to the minors repeatedly when they need a roster spot to bring someone up. Lefty relief help is the one glaring weakness on this team. Francona has consistently shown faith in both of them, so Hagadone and Hill need to step up.

#25 Old Milwaukee – Ubaldo Jimenez

Image

How Old Milwaukee is made

In high school most of my friends drank Old Milwaukee. When I went to college the same was true. I was not a fan, but when your buying cases of beer and sharing you go along with the majority. I really thought this beer tasted like crap, but it was beer so I kept drinking it.

Ubaldo Jimenez is a pitcher and they keep pitching him. He is not a great pitcher, but he serves a purpose just like Old Milwaukee. To be fair Ubaldo has not been horrible. He actually seems to be pretty good at times. Unfortunately every game by the fifth inning he is approaching 100 pitches or is past it already. The bullpen has had it troubles this year. Ubaldo can take part of the blame, because every time he pitches the bullpen never gets any rest. If this team is going to challenge for the entire year the bullpen needs to improve. The starters going deeper into games will help the bullpen. Ubaldo can not just go out and pitch, he also needs to be good and go deep into games. Who names something “Old” anyway?

Image

Maybe I would have liked it more if this was true!

#24 Busch – Vinnie Pestano

ImageMy friends drank Old Milwaukee, I liked Busch. It was cheep but I liked it. What more can I say. It can’t be that bad, the St. Louis Cardinals stadium is named Busch Stadium. Milwaukee is not named Old Milwaukee Stadium.

Vinnie Pestano is my Busch beer. How can you not like him. He runs from the bullpen to the mound at a full sprint whenever called on to pitch. He accepts blame when he pitches bad and does not shy away from the media. He answers questions honestly and has been dominate the last couple years. Unfortunately this year he stinks. I am not sure if he is healthy, but whenever he comes in get ready for a home run. I like Pestano and I want him to be good, but the truth is right now he is not a top reliever.

#23 King Cobra – Mark Reynolds

ImageKing Cobra’s can mess you up if you drink it, but be careful.

Their slogan is “Don’t let the smooth taste fool you.” Same can be said for Mark Reynolds. Don’t let his awesome home run power fool you. Yea he can mess another team up sometimes, but he can also hit under .200 for two months straight. Better yet he has hit .091 for the month of July. Yikes! Don’t let the 15 homes runs fool you. Four home runs since May 10, He was unstoppable in April/May, but now he looks like he drank some King Cobra. The one position player that I am truly worried about.

#22 PabPBRst Blue Ribbon – Jason Giambi

Pabst Blue Ribbon, the beer that won a blue ribbon at the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893! You won an award in 1893 and your still bragging about it. I go to find out that there is doubt whether they even won an award at this event.  If the last time you won was in 1893 then you had better try something else.

Giambi was great at one time and it wasn’t 124 years ago. He is not the same player he once was. That being said I still think he brings a lot to this team. He has about 1/2 the HR’s and RBI’s of Mark Reynolds in 1/3 of the at bats. He produces when runners are in scoring potion and I think he brings a great veteran presence to the team. His hustle and face slide into first earlier this year motivated this team. They went on a nice winning streak after this event. The problem is you can’t have Giambi and Reynolds both hitting .200 and getting everyday at bats.  They need to start producing or the Tribe needs to move on to something else.

#21  Coors Banquet Beer – Nick Swisher

Coors Banquet

Does Coors come in a soup can?

I am not really sure what Banquet beer means. It is cheap and you can supply a banquet if you need to? I just remember as a kid that when anyone went past the Mississippi river the neighbors would give them money to bring back Coors beer. Just because it wasn’t sold here it was special if you got it. Big time free agents don’t generally come to Cleveland. So when one does it seems special. Unfortunately Swisher is not preforming up to his capabilities. He may just be average and not the masher he was when surrounded by superior talent in New York. While not a failure he should be capable of more than he has showed so far.

#20 Miller High Life – Lonnie Chisenhall

Miller High Life

I was told never to mix my Alcohol. That includes beer and champagne

Miller High Life calls itself the champagne of beers.  Uh O.K.?  It still stinks and I can’t stand that crap.  Any half ass  brewer knows you don’t put beer in clear bottles.

Chisenhall has one of the prettiest swings in baseball.  His swing is the champagne of swings.  To bad his production is more like High Life’s taste.  Alright his production isn’t nearly that bad, but it could better.

#19 – 16 Budweiser – Matt Albers, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, & Joe Smith

Budweiser I drink Budweiser all of the time. It is not my favorite but I can always count on it. It taste the same and I am rarely surprised. Same goes for the majority of the Tribe relievers. They have pitched pretty well so far. The few mistakes they have made seemed to be at the most inopportune times, or the defense has let them down. I am not to worried about them, but like Budweiser we don’t need to use them every day.

#15 Carling’s Black Label – Scott Kazmir

Black Label There was a time when Carling’s Black Label was one of the most popular beers. Just watch the movie Animal House. A reference is made to this fact in the bar scene. I still will have one when I find it.

A few years ago Kazmir was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has not been dominate with the Tribe, but you have to be encouraged with the way he has pitched this year.  After all he was out of baseball for a couple of years. I like Black Label and I like Kazmir. I think he only gets better as the season goes on.

#14 Red Stripe – Chris Perez

Red StripeJamaica’s Red Stripe has to be Brody Baum’s beer of choice. That would be Chris Perez’s dog who gets packages of marijuana sent to their house. Perez has had a couple of bad games, but overall he has been o.k. He did spend a few weeks on the D.L. but seems to be over that. The Tribe needs him to be solid with the rest of the bullpen having some problems. If Perez can’t keep it together this team may be in trouble.

#13 Sam Adams Cherry Wheat – Drew Stubbs

Sam Adams Cherry WheatS.A. Cherry Wheat is one of my favorite beers. We carried it at the bar I worked at, but I was the only one who drank it. The distributor kept dropping it because no other bars would buy it. Drew Stubbs is player I really like. Others don’t enjoy his contributions as much as I do. Stubbs doesn’t have the highest batting average and he does strike out often. I just enjoy the other aspects of his game. He is the fastest player on the team, and his speed changes the game. He is a very good outfielder with a pretty good arm, and when he gets on base watch out. He causes the other team to panic sometimes which leads to big innings. He also has some power to hit a home run. Maybe one day more people will join me in enjoying a Cherry Wheat and watching Drew Stubbs.

#12 Yuengling – Asdrubal Cabrera

YuenglingYuengling is America’s oldest brewery. Asdrubal has been a member of the Tribe longer than any other member of the team. Their are a lot of rumors that the Tribe may trade Cabrera. Fransico Lindor is now at double A Akron and could be in Cleveland by late next year. Lindor looks to be a star. Cabrera has had some difficulties especially in the beginning of the year, but he is definitely one of the players I see stepping it up. I do give Cabrera credit that I have not heard any complaining from him with all of the rumors. I think Cabrera thrives in pressure situations and I can see him becoming a force down the stretch in a close pennant race.

#11 – #9 Fosters – Yan Gomes, Ryan Raburn, & Mike Aviles

FostersFosters comes in the big oil cans and you get a lot of beer. Same could be said for Gomes, Raburn, and Aviles. The Tribe has found three players who give them a lot off of the bench.  Aviles filled in for Cabrera when he was out for a month. He can play multiple positions and has some pop in his bat. The same can be said for Raburn who can man the corner outfield positions. Either one can play everyday if needed. Gomes might not be an everyday player, but he is much better than past  back up catchers.

#8 Michelob – Carlos Santana

Michelob
Michelob comes in those fancy bottles that look all high class. In reality I think it’s just Budweiser in a fancy bottle. I expect a lot more out of it. Carlos Santana is pretty good and critical to this teams offense. I just expect more from him, and his defense can be atrocious sometimes. I am waiting for him to hit .300 and be a home run threat every time he steps to the plate. Teams do pitch around him but I am looking for that MVP type player to show up. Santana is probably just what we see, a really good offense player but not elite.

#7 Blatz – Zach McAllister

BlatzI loved Blatz beer.  I could drop those little oblong bottles and they would just bounce.  But whenever I drank it I was worried about what was going to come out the next day.  McAllister was one of the Tribe’s best pitchers before going on the DL with a finger injury.  He had a better ERA than Masterson.  He has done a spectacular job so far.  I am worried about what going to happen tomorrow with McAllister.  If he can come back and continue pitching like before that will be a big boost to this team.  Hopefully he bounces back from his injury.  If he does lets pray he is not a flash in the pan and the league doesn’t start figuring him out.

#6 Milwaukee’s Best – Michael Bourne

Milwaukees bestMilwaukee’s Best was the beer of choice when playing any drinking game in college.  It was cheap and it got the job done.  When you were drinking the beer super quick it didn’t need to be the best.

Michael Bourne came relatively cheap to the Tribe.  He is doing what he does best and that is use his speed.  He plays a very good center field and when he gets on base he is a threat to score from first.  He might not be the best player on the field, but he is just what the Indians needed.

#5 Bud Light – Cory Kluber

bud lightI don’t drink light beer usually.  If that’s all there is I have no problem drinking it.

This is one player I was not expecting much out of this year.  Kluber has turned into one of this seasons more pleasant surprises.  If not for Kluber and McAllister becoming good starting pitcher, this season could have been disappointing.  I wasn’t buying Kluber this year, but since he is here I will keep drinking it.

#4 Labatts – Michael Brantley
labatt

Labatts is my beer of choice. On a day in day out basis I choose Labbatts over any other beer.  It is not expensive.  I like the taste and I can find it in most stores as long as I don’t cross the Mason -Dixon line. It is everything I want. Michael Brantley is my Labattt. He plays a great left field along with being able to play the other outfield positions. Zero errors so far and he is amoung the league leaders in outfield assist. When the Indians need a hit Brantley is the man. He is batting .370 with runners in scoring position. That is 4th in the American League trailing Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. The two AL MVP candidates this year. I had a bad experience once with Bradley. If I could just get past that he could be one of my favorite players. I have had a few bad experiences with Labatts and that hasn’t stopped our relationship.  So no more hard feelings Michael.

#3 Guinness – Justin Masterson

GuinnessGuinness is different.   It doesn’t come any darker.  It is a meal in it’s self, and has a distinct taste.

Justin Masterson is not your everyday ball player.  He seems like a player you might actually be friends with in life.  He is funny and joking around all of time.  Last year he got money together from the players to fly Jack Hannahan home on a private plane to be there for the birth of his child.  I think he keeps the team loose while also being a leader.  Not to mention he is having an All-Star season.

#2 Fat Tire – Jason Kipnis
Fat Tire Beer

Fat Tire still has not made it to Ohio. It is the one craft beer I truly enjoy. When I get some I hoard it and drink it only on special occasions. It is in my opinion a great beer. I have been telling you for a couple years now about Jason Kipnis. Like Fat Tire the entire nation has not got to enjoy his play. I think he is an incredible ball player. He doesn’t lead the league in any categories but he does everything. He leads the Tribe in average, hits, triples, home runs, and stolen bases. He is only one behind Santana for team lead in doubles. This guy is a tough player and should become the face of the franchise. His teams have won championships wherever he went, I hope that holds true in Cleveland.

#1 Tequilla – Terry Francona

Francona has been the biggest factor in the success of the Cleveland Indians El Toro Tequillathis year. I don’t think the Tribe would be where they are at today without Francona. The team believes they can win, and they play as a team.  They never look ahead playing one game at a time.  Eric Wedge use to preach about taking it one game at a time, but he never seemed to connect his message with the players like Francona has.  Francona has won two world series in Boston so he has a reputation.  Players respect him and they want to play for him.  I am not sure if the Indians would have signed all of the free agents they did this past winter if not for Terry Francona.  He definitely brought a different way of thinking to the Indians and that alone has been the biggest positive so far this season.

Let The Fun Begin

Ok one week down, a .500 road trip vs. the American League East and they beat the two reigning Cy Young winners.  Not to shabby.  You can see they are starting to come together, forming a bond, becoming a team.  Swisher is vocal and high fiving everyone.  When someone hits a home run they form a tunnel in the dugout with their hands held high that the player goes through.

Home Run Tunnel

The Tribe is having some fun together.

Here is a Recap of the Week:

Game 1 vs. Toronto:

Ahh Not Again!

I know it is a long season and Masterson did pitch well after the 3rd inning, but those first three innings were torturous.  It was last season all over again.   1st inning Masterson walks the first batter, gives up a single and then hits a batter.  2nd inning he issues a walk to a batter and then gives up a double.  The 3rd inning Masterson gives up a lead off single which turns into a double on an error, followed by two more walks.  Three innings – 4 walks, 2 singles, 1 double, 1 error, and 1 hit batter.  Uggh!  Luckily Masterson can get hitters to put the ball on the ground and he got two double plays, thus only giving up one run.

What is worse than Masterson’s line?

Masterson settled down and only gave up that one run.  R.A Dickey a knuckle ball pitcher had this line – 6.0 innings pitched with 5 hits, 4 base on balls, 1 wild pitch and 3 passed balls (accredited to the catcher J.P. Arecibia for not catching the ball – happens with a knuckleballer).

 

Just as planned

5th inning:  Michael Bourn singles and is at first.  R.A Dickey tries to throw a fastball by B.A. (Bad Ass) Cabrera.  He promptly knocks it out of the park.  Tribe wins 4 -1.

Game 2 vs. Toronto:

Knew this was coming:

Toronto pitcher Brandon Morrow had 8 strikeouts through the first four innings.   It looked to be a long evening for the Tribe hitters.  They only had three strikeouts for the rest of the game and Mark Reynolds hit his first home run as a member of the Indians in the 11th inning to win the game.

 

I was hoping to see this coming but didn’t expect it:

Jimenez throws six innings giving up only 3 hits and 2 base on balls, while striking out six.

Game 3 vs. Toronto:

For God’s Sake Someone Wake up Tito and Tell Him to Take OUT the Pitcher!

Every year there is at least one player that fans rally around to become their whipping boy.  Jason Michaels and David Dellucci to name just a few.  Brett Myers made his debut in a Tribe uniform and he may have jumped to the head of the list for this year’s hate list.  5.0 innings and seven earned runs, all coming from the 4 home runs he allowed.  Cody Allen promptly relieved Myers and gave up his own home run.  Matt Albers comes in the next inning and walks two and gives up a run without giving up a hit.  All three struggled this spring.  Francona was asked in spring training when he would become worried about Myers struggles.  He said ask him in June.  Someone better ask him on May 1st.

The Tribe was short two players on the roster due to them trying to get Kazmir on the roster (instead he went to the DL) and letting Carrasco serve his suspension.  They could have used the extra arm in the bullpen for this game, they lost 10 -8.  Tribe hitters had 2 home runs and 6 doubles along with 6 more hits.  Good sign that they never let up and kept coming back.  Only a couple of outstanding plays and lucky breaks for Toronto kept the Tribe from winning.

Game 5 vs. Tampa Bay

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching, – ?,?,?

Trevor Bauer made his Tribe debut.  He was called up to replace Kazmir who was placed on the DL.  He only gave up 3 runs in 5.0 innings, not horrible.  Unfortunately he struggled through all five innings.  The first inning he walked the first three batters to load the bases and completes the ineptitude by walking in a run with the next batter.  He only gave up two hits but who is swinging at the ball when you walk 7 in 5.0 innings.  Albers and Allen made appearances again, and again gave up runs.  Move over Myers, Albers and Allen would like to join you on the “who do Cleveland fans dislike list”.

Game 6 vs. Tampa Bay

Cy Who?

For the second time in two games Justin Masterson beats last year’s Cy Young winner.  This time he out pitches David Price.  Masterson pitched a great game giving up only 2 hits in 7.0 innings and striking out 8.  The Tribe offense took care of Price.  The Indians hit 5 home runs and 5 doubles scoring 13 runs.  After getting shutout 2 games in a row the offense made a statement.  Mark Reynolds had two of the home runs and has four in the first 6 games.  Santana went 5 for 5 and is batting .500 on the year.  Bring that offense home, I want to see it!

What would be more fun than beating the Yankee’s who come to Cleveland for the Tribe’s first home stand.  Let’s go Tribe, keep me smiling!

Ask Terri – Kipnis & Pestano

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers