<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Indians Compendium

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Closing Time 

This is probably the final entry of this blog as it is currently constituted. But don't fret; I'm moving to a new location, and the format shouldn't change much at all.

The new location is at SportsBlogs, a group of blogs headlined by Athletics Nation. My blog will be called "Let's Go Tribe," and the URL is www.letsgotribe.com. In other words, if you found my blog (and its convoluted address), you should find this new destination easy to remember.

I appreciate all of you for making this blog what it is today, and look forward to making the new iteration even better. I'm going to continue some of my long-dormant projects at LGT, including my 2002 retrospective, prospect profiles, rating the Top 100 Players in Indians History, and a host of other things. And of course, I will still be posting my thoughts on the day-to-day happenings of the Cleveland Indians. I invite you, the readers, to take a more active role in the new blog by creating diaries, or simply commenting on my posts. I've been very impressed with the quality of comments lately, and hopefully that will continue as well, for I feel reader participation is the lifeblood of my blog; without it, I'm just some idiot writing in cyberspace. I will make every effort to respond to comments or e-mail, so if you have any suggestions for future content, be sure to make them known.

See you on the other side!

-Ryan Richards

New Site
5 comments |


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Getting Back Off the Mat 


The Indians, in a bizarre game, beat Detroit 9-6 last night. The game featured two instances of starting pitchers self-destructing after a run of pretty good pitching. Fortunately for the Indians, Nate Robertson's implosion resulted in nine runs being scored, which was enough to overcome Sabathia's five-run seventh inning. CC had looked pretty good up to that point, only allowing one run on one hit through six innings. The win was encouraging because it came in the wake of probably the most devastating loss of the season.

Some transactions:

Reinstated 1B Travis Hafner from the Disabled List

Optioned OF Jason Dubois to Buffalo (AAA)

So the Indians, instead of trying out Dubois at the very least against left-handers (note how Coco Crisp and Grady Sizemore do against southpaws), the Indians keep Jeff Liefer around, who has the same defensive ability as Dubois, plays the same positions, and who is five years older than Jason. How exactly does Liefer fit in the lineup, except as a replacement to Casey Blake? I don't get this move; yes, Liefer is out of options, but who's going to claim him now when they could have had him for a song when he was with Buffalo? I wrote when the Gerut-Dubois deal was made that the Indians owe it to themselves to see what Dubois can do. And that hasn't really happened yet. Dubois will probably put up some great numbers for the Bisons in the interim, but that wouldn't be anything unexpected.

Placed LHP Arthur Rhodes on the Bereavement List

Recalled RHP Fernando Cabrera from Buffalo (AAA)

Rhodes, who is attending to a sickness in his family, will be gone a minimum of three days, which puts even more of a strain on the Indian bullpen, especially the back-end folks. Bob Wickman was not available last night, and Scott Sauerbeck has been used a lot lately. The Indians could have a used a blowout on Friday, but thanks to the five-run seventh inning, the Indians had to use Bob Howry to save the game. Cabrera hasn't been inserted into any high-leverage situation, but he has the stuff to handle a seventh inning assignment right now. Of course Brian Tallet is still in the bullpen, and yes, he hasn't been used yet; that can be looked at as a good thing, because no starter has been taken out early since CC Sabathia's blow-up in Oakland. But like it or not, the Indians will have to use a relatively inexperienced pitcher sooner or later, and Cabrera is the best young relief arm in the system right now.

MLB Suspended RHP Kevin Millwood for five games, RHP David Riske for four games, and Eric Wedge and Robbie Thompson for one game apiece

What really got me is the guy who started the whole mess, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, only received a fine. Obviously the umpire that night believed that Hasegawa threw at Sizemore intentionally, so why does MLB not believe so? Take for example Cliff Lee's suspension last year: he was thrown out of a game for throwing behind Ken Griffey, Jr, and he was suspended for six games (one start). How are the circumstances different here (besides the fact that Hasegawa actually hit Sizemore)? Is it because Grady Sizemore isn't the superstar Griffey was? To me, this smacks of a double standard. Here's what Millwood had to say about it:

"[Hasegawa's] the one that started the whole mess," Millwood said. "If he doesn't get suspended, then it's pretty much a joke."

Millwood, who will make his next start on Thursday in Kansas City, gleaned a message from the discipline dispensed after Cleveland's 10-5 victory.

"I guess it's OK to throw right in the middle of somebody's back when you're getting your [backside] whooped," Millwood said. "But it's not OK to [stick] up for your teammate."


Amen.

4 comments |


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Boone's Option Picked Up 

Exercised (and restructured) the 2006 Option of 3B Aaron Boone; Added a 2007 Mutual Option

Press Release

I guess you could call this an extension, although Boone probably would have reached the plate appearance threshold where the option would have vested anyway. No dollars have been released, but Mark Shapiro said that Boone gave back a bit for 2006, and the Indians added the mutual option for 2007. Not really an earth-shattering move, but the Indians save some money next season.

If you believe that Boone's level of play is closer to what he's done in June and July than in April and May, then Boone's probably worth the option. If you think he's the player that hit at or under the Mendoza line the first two months of the season, then he isn't. I think the future level of production lies somewhere between the two extremes, probably he's good for a .260/.320/.430 line next year. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA player projection system pegged Boone's 50 percentile forecast at .263/.322/.429. His defense has been pretty good, probably better than I expected it to be.

5 comments |


Scott Elarton, Again 

Boy am I glad when I'm wrong.

Elarton made his second start against the Yankees, and for the second time he pitched as well as you could hope for. His line:

6.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 SO, 0 BB

I'll take it. But to look long-term, is Elarton, who is eligible for free agency after the season, worth bringing back? After all, the Indians do have a couple pitchers that they could plug into the rotation in 2006.

The standard pitching numbers look pretty good. Elarton has given up 120 hits in 117 innings of work, which is pretty decent. He's struck out 68 hitters this year, which translates to 5.0/9IP. One reason why Elarton has been successful has been his low walk totals: he's only walked 30 this season, which is especially important given his penchant for giving up homers (all the runs scored off him tonight were via the long ball). My view is that you're looking at a guy who has marginal stuff, but can survive if he can spot his offspeed pitches. If he can't throw his curve or change for strikes, then he's in trouble. But you could say that for a lot of successful MLB pitches. What I want to know, then, is if this season's numbers are a product of luck, or whether they are indicative of what Scott could do for the next couple of years. To do that, let's look at some of the numbers I used to evaluate Jake Westbrook's 2004 season.

xFIP ERA: 4.70

This statistic normalizes fielding independent pitching to the pitchers' home park, which is especially useful when considering that we're looking at a flyball pitcher. FIP itself is a statistic used to take out all the externalities (mainly fielding) that can affect a pitcher's regular ERA. In this case Elarton's xFIP ERA is a bit higher than his regular ERA, but not by a large amount. So you can say that Elarton's current ERA is pretty good measure of how he's pitching.

LD%: 20.6%

This is expected given how most of Elarton's outs are recorded. I will say that I believe Elarton has been helped very much by the Indian outfielders, specifically in center and left, and that if a an inferior outfielder is playing behind Elarton, some of those line drives may start to fall in for singles and doubles. Just a word of warning.

One other thing that should shed some light on Elarton: a trend analysis. I've broken down Elarton's perforance by month, noting innings, hits, and walks (the strikeouts seem to have remained constant):

April: 19.0 IP, 27 H, 9 BB
May: 29.1 IP, 33 H, 9 BB
June: 31.0 IP, 29 H, 5 BB
July: 37.2 IP, 31 H, 7 BB

Note that Elarton has gotten better during every month. To my untrained eye, he seems to have more control over his pitches, and more hitters are making "weak outs" than before. In summary, everything looks good, and the Indians should entertain bringing Scott back on a one- or two-year deal if they can't retain Kevin Millwood. If they keep Millwood, Elarton is probably redundant. Notice I haven't mentioned the cost; because I underestimated last season what pitchers would be getting on the free agent market, so rather than by suggesting numbers that might look comical four months from now, I'll say Elarton should be retained with "fourth starter money."

Jim Ingraham has figured out why the Indians are trailing the White Sox by umpteen games:

Despite the fact that they are 10th in the American League in hitting, and have lower slugging and on-base percentages than the Indians, the White Sox are running away with American League's Central Division race.

Why?

They play the game the right way. They move base runners, they hit with runners in scoring position, they catch the ball. The Indians do none of that. At least not consistently.


Of course, he failed to mention that the White Sox lead the AL in pitching. And hitting with RISP is not a "fundamental;" it's hitting (and it involves some luck). "Catching the ball" is called fielding; it is not (by my definition) a fundamental. And while the White Sox are second in the league in Defensive Efficiency, the Indians are right behind them.

I've come to believe that "fundamentals" are just a catch phrase sportswriters use to criticize teams that aren't playing "the right way, according to me." If a team like the Indians doesn't bunt all that much, they get criticized because somehow bunting has come to be indicative of a "true team." Nevermind in most cases that giving up an out in order to slightly increase the probability of scoring one run in that inning decreases drastically thel posibility of scoring multiple runs in that inning. ESPN stopped tracking "productive outs" (to my knowledge) this season, and for good reason; there seems to be no correlation between productive outs and scoring runs.

Ingraham, later in the article, admits that a definition of "fundamentals" is very hard to pin down:

Fundamentals are hard to quantify statistically, except for one very obvious statistic: Wins. The teams that win the most tend to be the teams that play the game the right way the most.


Why don't we then concentrate on what we can quantify, then? Baseball does not lack for statistics by which we can evaluate players or teams, which makes relying on a such a subjective concept so silly.



9 comments |


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Transactions 

Reinstated LHP Jason Stanford from the 60-day Disabled List; Optioned him to Akron (AA)

Stanford has made a couple starts (an inning apiece) in Mahoning Valley, but he's a ways away from pitching in the majors. Stanford had Tommy John surgery just about a year ago (7-29-04). He should be in the pitching mix for the Indians next season.

Transferred OF Juan Gonzalez to the 60-day Disabled List (hamstring)

Juan is probably going to miss the rest of the season, barring something miraculous happening.

Optioned IF Brandon Phillips to Buffalo (AAA)

Phillips played sparingly (although you can't blame Wedge, given how well Peralta and Belliard were playing), but the main reason he was up in Cleveland seemed to be Derek Shelton, the team's pitching coach and former minor-league hitting instructor. Phillips is good enough defensively to be on a major-league roster right now, but his swing still has too many holes in it. Getting Phillips to take outside fastballs to right field is probably a major hurdle to clear, from what I've seen.

Recalled IF Ramon Vazquez from Buffalo (AAA)

Because Travis Hafner isn't ready to go yet, the Indians called up a middle infielder, although he probably would have been called up anyway. Vazquez is a left-handed middle infielder, and can hit right-handed pitching (career .715 OPS). I'd expect Belliard and Peralta to get some days off now, especially if Hafner comes back. For now, Jeff Liefer is still with the club, and will probably hit against right-handers until Pronk comes back.
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Monday, August 01, 2005

Rafael Palmeiro... 

has been suspended by MLB for violating its drug policy.

Somehow I think this will get more attention than the Betancourt suspension...
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*Yawn* 

I did find it amusing that Buster Olney and Steve Phillips spent two hours on Sunday breaking down the trades that weren't made. Although I do have to say I enjoyed watching the Sunday night broadcast sans Joe Morgan, although I know it's only a one week reprieve. Jon Miller and Steve Stone would be a great pairing, but I know it'll never happen. For those unfamiliar with Stone, he used to do Cub games for WGN, and now he's doing ESPN broadcasts, usually for daygames. Hopefully he'll get better assignments in the future, for I think he's the best there is among color analysts.

When Matt Lawton is the biggest name dealt near the trading deadline, you know it's been a boring deadline. Interestingly enough, the Cubs dealt Jody Gerut to the Pirates in exchange for Lawton, forming a sort of three-way deal that's taken place over eight months (VORP in parenthesis):

Cleveland Gets:
LHP Arthur Rhodes (14.3)
OF Jason Dubois (4.4)*

Pittsburgh Gets:
Jody Gerut (2.6)*

Chicago Gets:
Matt Lawton (24.5)

*Combined between Cleveland and Chicago

Given that the Indians have Rhodes under contract for 2006, there's good chance they come out on the winning end of this deal. The opportunity cost remains though, as the Indians essentially replaced Lawton with Casey Blake (he of the -3.8 VORP). I guess it would have been funny if the Indians had dealt Dubois to Pittsburgh for Lawton, closing the cycle once and for all.

The Rangers did not deal Alfonso Soriano (much to Adam's chagrin), Manny Ramirez decided once and for all that he was a Boston "gangster," and the Devil Rays decided to sit on Julio Lugo and Danys Baez rather than get something for them. Hal Lebovitz reported that the Royals had demanded Fausto Carmona for Matt Stairs; if this "offer" is representative of the deliberations last week, then there's no wonder why almost nothing got done. I'm a bit disappointed that the Indians couldn't deal one of their relievers for an outfielder, but given what actually got traded, that disappointment is tempered somewhat.

VORP report as of August 1st (AL rank):

C Victor Martinez: 23.2 (4th)
1B Ben Broussard: 7.5 (13th)
2B Ron Belliard: 16.2 (8th)
3B Aaron Boone: -3.1 (24th)
CF Grady Sizemore: 26.7 (3rd)
DH Travis Hafner: 43.9 (2nd)
LF Coco Crisp: 17.6 (6th)
RF Casy Blake: -3.8 (24th)
SS Jhonny Peralta: 32.3 (5th)

As you can see, the Indians have great offensive numbers up the middle, but are getting little production from traditional offensive positions. Victor Martinez has carried the team since Travis Hafner went on the disabled list, and although Boone's numbers still look horrific, he's hit well in both June (.272/.341/.506) and July (.314/.362/.430). Coco Crisp continues to be a pleasant surprise in left, and Jhonny Peralta is 5th only because he's behind a stellar group of shortstops (and because he sat early in the season). You know the drill on the underachievers.

Next up: the Yankees. The Indians offense has to put the hurt on the Yankee starters, because New York's offense will get their six runs a game.
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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Friday Night Fights (Sort of) 

Alright, no punches were thrown in last night's victory, but give it time; there's two games left in the series.

First of all, Hasegawa hit Grady Sizemore on purpose for no real good reason. Yeah, he just gave up a home run to Jason Dubois on the previous pitch, but come on. The umpire absolutely made the correct call in tossing him, given where the pitch was thrown (right behind Sizemore, so Grady would back into the pitch). The next inning, Millwood stuck up for his teammate by plunking Yunieski Betancourt, the first batter of the next inning. The benches cleared, Millwood and manager Eric Wedge were tossed, but nothing else happend. But David Riske set the stage for future histrionics by hitting Ichiro in the ninth inning; of course he was ejected, and acting manager Robbie Thompson was as well. Stay tuned, for the next two games may get interesting.

Of course, there was a lot of good that happened during the course of the game; the Indians pounded (soon to be ex?) Seattle pitcher Aaron Sele for nine runs. Victor Martinez, who seems to be hitting now like he did a year ago, hit another three-run homer to effectively put the game out of reach. He finished a triple short of the cycle. Grady Sizemore lead off the game with homer to deep center, and ended a double short of the cycle. Jason Dubois, who loves fastballs out on the outer half of the plate, scorched a home run to right center. When Travis Hafner comes back, Jason needs to be playing right field; although there are some holes in his swing (like a lot of power hitters), you'll take the strikeouts if you can get some power out of him.

The trading deadline is approaching (Sunday at 4pm), and there's some talk that Mark Shapiro might deal either Bob Wickman or Kevin Millwood for some offensive help. Now I'd deal Wickman before Millwood, but I understand that Kevin at this point has a lot more value. With the proposed three-way deal involving Manny Ramirez held up, I'd look to see if I could get Mike Cameron or Aubrey Huff. Obviously the Devil Rays would want prospects (and are supposedly asking the moon and the stars), but the Mets might be interested in Wickman or some other bullpen arm. The Rangers might be a possible destination as well; Kevin Mench would be a great fit. And the Marlins might move Juan Encarnacion. I don't think there's going to be a lot of classic veteren-for-prospect deals this year because of all the teams that are still in races. However, I think you might see a lot of veteren-for-veteren deals where two clubs might trade strengths for weaknesses.
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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Karma....and Casey Blake 

I guess this is karma coming back on Wickman (and me) because of all those saves he almost blew, but it was an awful time to receive it. Again, there's a lot of season left, but with virtually everyone in the AL still in the race, merely keeping pace with the peloton isn't good enough. What makes the loss even more frustrating is that the Indians collected 14 hits, and had but 4 runs to show for it. Whether it's due to the lack of getting hits at the right time or just plain idiotic baserunning, wasting opportunities just grates on me. But if you look at the stats, Oakland left just as many runners on base (11), and had as many hits (14). That's baseball, I guess.

Let me once and for all enunciate my thoughts on Casey Blake, which dovetails with a bit of my philosophy. Blake is disliked right now not because of who he is, but how he's being used. I think if Blake was a platoon partner for Ben Broussard or played in the outfield once a week and still hit .223/.296/.388, some people would complain, but it wouldn't cause much of a kerfluffle. It's because he's trotted out to right field every day, and his offensive struggles are there in front of you every day that it begins to gnaw at your insides. And I don't care where he's hitting in the order, because it really doesn't matter all too much, but I do care that he's in the lineup to begin with. A parallel is the animosity towards Matt Lawton during his stint with the Indians; it wasn't Matt Lawton per se, it was the fact that the Indians gave him a huge contract after trading for him. Heck, at this point I'd take Lawton's cement-shoed range in right field right now, because he's still a pretty decent hitter. But I guess that's besides the point right now. It wasn't that the Indians should have kept Matt Lawton, it's that they replaced him (essentially) with Casey Blake.

And it goes a bit farther than just saying the Indians made a bad move signing Blake to a two-year deal last winter, because there are instances where a team made the absolute correct decision and the player bombs despite everything. No, the Indians signed Blake to a two-year deal, knowing they'd be moving him to outfield, knowing that even at 2004 levels he'd be an average right fielder, knowing that he was 31 and didn't have much of a track record. The good news is that Blake can play the outfield, and he probably can make out a career as a fourth outfielder/utility man. The bad news is that he's not hitting enough to be a backup catcher right now, and as a result, the Indians have a gigantic hole in the outfield. I'm just glad Grady Sizemore has played as well as he has this season; if not, the outfield would have been Coco Crisp, Jody Gerut (assuming they wouldn't have traded him), and ????.

How do you make the best of this situation? Well, I think you go to Jason Dubois, tell him that he's the right fielder, and see what happens. Or Jeff Liefer. Or Ernie Young. Or Andy Abad. Whoever they decide to pick. Obviously besides possibly Dubois, none of these guys are much of a long-term solution, but they don't need to be. All you want is a .250/.350/.450 line for two months.

I guess my point is that good organizations get the most out of the players they have, and they find the right roles for them. For two years, the Indians did exactly that with Casey Blake, a minor-league free agent who gave them two good years at third base. Then they gave him a two-year deal to play right field, effectively canceling out the great return they received in 2003 and 2004. Hopefully he serves as a warning, so whenever the next Casey Blake appears, they know what to do with him.
15 comments |


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Transactions 

Placed 1B/DH Travis Hafner on the 15-day Disabled List (post-concussion symptoms)

Thanks a lot, Buerhle. Hafner has been hitting on the side, but unfortunately whenever he starts running or exercising, he gets dizzy. So after nine days of hoping the dizzyness would go away, the Indians had to DL him on Tuesday or lose the retroactive option. If the dizzy spells go away, Pronk would be eligible to come back when the Indians return home.

Purchased the Contract of 1B/OF Jeff Liefer and Recalled him to Cleveland

Liefer is one of Buffalo's several good AAAA players. A plus for the Indians is that he can play in the outfield some, so I'm hoping against hope that Casey Blake is out of the lineup at least a couple times on the road trip. Liefer's line in Buffalo: 321 AB, .321/.388/.595, 27 2B, 19 HR. Keep in mind that Liefer is 30, lest you entertain any ideas about him. He'll probably be DFAd when Hafner returns.

Optioned RHP Fernando Cabrera to Buffalo (AAA)

Recalled LHP Brian Tallet from Buffalo (AAA)

This happened because of CC Sabathia's meltdown on Monday; the Indians used both of their longmen, and needed some insurance for Tuesday. It turns out that Jake Westbrook spun a gem; of course, Tallet hasn't had much luck at all as far as getting into games is concerned. His next major-league appearance, whenever that happens, will be his first since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of 2003.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

GM for a Day 

I have to admit I go from thinking the Indians should be sellers to buyers from day to day. But the trade (non-waiver) deadline is upcoming, and Mark Shapiro has a major decision to make. He has to not only make decisions based on the players involved, he has to consider the PR implications as well, like it or not; if the Indians deal Kevin Millwood or Bob Wickman for guys the average Joe doesn't know, then the team will take a PR hit. Of course, the team could be absolutely correct in making that move, but that's the way professional sports seems to be heading. If the Indians land a "name" player for the rest of the season, more fans might start to believe in what the Indians are doing; of course, in doing so, they might have to give up a Brad Snyder or a Jake Dittler in order to do so, which would tick off the die-hards, who would bring up Richie Sexson and Brian Giles. Or they could just stand pat, which would anger a whole other class of fans.

Here's what I would do if I were GM of the Indians for a day:

(1) Deal Bob Wickman if you can shore up an area of weakness. Since there aren't that many true sellers out there, see if you can trade Wickman to another buyer for a player that can fill a need. Baltimore could be a possibility, as would Florida, Texas (if they still think they're in it), or Boston. Since Bob doesn't know if he's going to pitch next year, there's no guarantee that you'd get draft pick compensation, so you might as well deal him now. Wickman for Juan Encarnacion plus a prospect would seem a nice fit, but I'm sure there's other possible deals out there. Bob Howry would probably move up to closer, and David Riske could take his place as primary set-up man. Once Matt Miller comes back, you'd have a bullpen of:

Howry
Rhodes
Riske
Miller
Sauerbeck
Betancourt
Cabrera

(2) Keep Kevin Millwood unless you get blown away. Millwood's been the best pitcher on the staff, and although you figure he's not going to be back, he's going to fetch some compensation via the draft. Keep in mind that Jim Thome's departure to Philadelphia netted the Indians Brad Snyder and Adam Miller, so you can get some pretty good prospects if you draft right. But if a team that loses out on AJ Burnett offers you a great package of players, you jump on it. Possibilities include Texas, both New York teams, Baltimore, and the Cubs. Again, deal Millwood only if someone makes you an offer you can't refuse.

(3) Get Adam Dunn. I don't care if he hits left-handed. I don't care if he strikes out a lot. The guy is one of the best hitters in baseball, and he's 25 years old. And you can have him under your control through 2007. The Reds are paying Ken Griffey, Jr a lot of money, and Dunn is probably going to get $7M+ in arbitration, so I would think he's the outfielder the Reds would deal. He isn't going to come cheap; the Indians would probably have to give up at least two of their better pitching prospects or a major-league pitcher to get him. But if you park him in right field and hit him fifth in the order behind Hafner and Martinez, he consolidates your offense.

(4) Deal Jose Hernandez if you can get a decent return. He can be replaced by either Ryan Garko or Jason Dubois. Again, you deal from your strength in order to shore up an area of weakness.

It is possible for a team to be a buyer and a seller at the same time. In this year's market, it looks like the only way to fix a hole is to do both; there are a lot of teams still in contention, and the teams that are out it don't have much that the Indians would want. I do admit that making the above deals is more difficult than I make it seem, but creativity in deals seems to be one way to make both trading parties happy.

I invite you to play GM for a day: what would you do (within reason) between now and the deadline? Oh, please use the comments on the left (Blogger); I'm phasing out HaloScan over the next two weeks.



19 comments |


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Weekend in Review 

  • It wasn't pretty, but the Indians finally won their first series since the All-Star Break. And again, the pitching has kept the Indians in the Wild Card race. As bad as Cleveland has looked, they are now 2.5 games behind Oakland and Minnesota. The problem going forward is that there are eight teams still within 5 games of the Wild Card lead, so the percentages still aren't good. But just the same, making the playoffs isn't out of the question. They have a key series with Oakland coming up, and next week play the Yankees at home, so the Indians still can control much of their own destiny.


  • Does Kevin Millwood's 4-9 record convince even the most ardent supporters of win-loss records that wins are team statistics and not pitcher statistics? I also laughed a bit when Sanders mentioned increduously that the Mariners' bullpen has the league's second-best ERA, yet has the fewst wins. Reading anything into a reliever's win-loss record is even more suspect than a starters' record. For example, assume that the score is tied in the 9th inning with two outs, and Reliever A walks the hitter. He's pulled from the game; Reliever B enters. He grooves a fastball to the next batter, who hits a home run. Player A gets the loss. How does this loss tell me anything about Reliever A's effectiveness? This is one of my pet peeves, but despite sterling examples to the contrary (see Jeriome Robertson), writers and announcers continue to concentrate on a pitcher's win-loss record as the gold standard for pitching.


  • As of July 24:
    Jhonny Peralta 262 AB, .302/.360/.538, 17 2B, 13 HR
    Omar Vizquel 343 AB, .294/.353/.388, 20 2B, 2 HR

    Just sayin'.


  • Of course, I'm also more than willing to admit when I'm wrong, especially when me being wrong means good things for the Indians. And boy was I wrong about Scott Elarton. Far from being out of the rotation by June, like I predicted, he's been a pretty nice innings-eater for the Indians. Probably the biggest key to his success is that he's lowered his walk totals dramatically, allowing him to stay in games longer. He also seems to spotting both his curve and fastball well; this keeps hitters off his high fastball. And of course you can't discount that Elarton has a good defensive outfield behind him. Will this last? It looks like it will the rest of the season, barring injury. Heck, Elarton has a better VORP (11.3) than CC Sabathia (10.0), although this probably says more about Sabathia than it does Elarton.


  • Something else I find interesting about Jhonny Peralta: he has the most home runs by a Indian shortstop in a season since Woodie Held's 19 in 1962. Held holds the team season record for home runs by a shortstop with 29 (although I think this is incorrect, as Held played 49 games at other positions in 1959, the year he set the mark).

    EDIT: Omar Vizquel has the most home runs in a season since 1962 with 14 in 2002. This article, therefore, is incorrect.

2 comments |


Friday, July 22, 2005

Outside the Top 20 - The Relievers 

After I broke out my midseason updates, I received a couple of emails regarding some relievers that I left off the list, namely Chris Cooper and Edward Mujica. While both pitchers may make the majors and succeed, I don't rank them highly due to the highly volatile nature of relief pitchers. I listed only one true reliever (Fernando Cabrera) among my top 20, and his age, statistics, and closer potential made the decision for me. The other, Tony Sipp, is thought of as a future reliever, but has been starting for much of his professional career. This organizational philsophy (start first, relieve later) is one of the reasons why the following relievers are all in Akron or Buffalo. So, in no particular order, my top reliever prospects:

(1) RHP Fernando Cabrera. See my comments on him here.

(2) LHP Tony Sipp. See my comments on him here.


(3) RHP Andrew Brown
Acquired: Trade, 2004 (Milton Bradley)
Born: 2-17-1981
2005 Stats (AAA): 48.1 IP, 4.28 ERA, 44 H, 62 SO, 15 BB
Trend: Up
ETA: September (or sooner)

The ERA is a little bit misleading, because Brown has been dealing for a couple of months now. Brown is a big dude (6'6" 230), and he throws an "effortless" 93-95 mph fastball. The Indians left him in a starting role after they received him last year, but finally moved him into a full-time relief role in April. After a slow start (presumedly an adjustment period), Brown has settled into his role nicely. He's probably ready if the Indians need any further help in the bullpen, and may make parting with Bob Wickman and/or Bob Howry much easier.

(4) LHP Chris Cooper
Acquired: 2001 Draft (35th Round)
Born: 10-31-1978
2005 Stats (AA): 48.1 IP, 2.05 ERA, 41 H, 50 SO, 17 BB
Trend: Level
ETA: 2006

I don't have access to minor-league splits, but Cooper looks like a prime LOOGY candidate. Chris served as the Aeros' closer before his promotion to Buffalo. The 26-year-old has moved up the organizational ladder slowly, but if Scott Sauerbeck isn't back, Cooper could get a shot in 2006 at being the second lefty in the pen. If he isn't added to the roster, he's prime Rule 5 bait, his age notwithstanding.

(5) LHP Rafael Perez
Acquired: Non-Drafted Free Agent, 1-25-02
Born: 5-15-1982
2005 Stats (A+): 77.2 IP, 3.36 ERA, 54 H, 48 SO, 32 BB
(AA): 27.1 IP, 0.99 ERA, 20 H, 21 SO, 5 BB
Trend: Up
ETA: Late 2006

Speaking of LOOGYs, Perez looks like a perfect candidate if the Indians convert him to relief. His 2004 Baseball America Prospect Handbook entry mentions " a slider [that] is tough on lefthanders," which is a staple of most good left-handed relievers. He was fairly old for his league this year, but upon a promotion to Akron seems to have gotten a bit better. I'd almost guarantee he gets taken in the Rule 5 Draft, so I would think the Indians would aggresively promote him in order to make a good decision on whether to protect him or not. Perez could start or relieve in the majors, but I'd probably lean towards relief right now.

(6) RHP Edward Mujica
Acquired: Non-Drafted Free Agent, 10-22-01
Born: 5-10-1984
2005 Stats (A+): 26.0 IP, 2.08 ERA, 17 H, 32 SO, 2 BB
(AA): 12.1 IP, 1.46 ERA, 10 H, 14 SO, 1 BB
Trend: Way Up
ETA: 2007

When you combined strikeouts with control, you have yourself a nice relief prospect, especially considering how young he is. Mujica was a fairly medicore starter until this season, when he was thrust into Kinston's closer role. He performed above expectations, going a perfect (I think) 14-14 in save opportunities. Now he's in Akron, and peripherals look similar or even better when compared to his Kinston line.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Getting to the Bottom of the Offense 

Let me try to examine why the Indians can't seem to score any runs lately.

(1) Lack of patience. The Indian hitters are allowing starting pitchers for the most part to coast through six or seven innings a night, as I'm sure you've learned listening to RoboAnnouncer. What are the causes of this? I'm sure pressing has something to do with it; because the Indians haven't been scoring many runs, each hitter seems to take it upon himself to make up for everyone else. Besides Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner, I see a lot of players swinging at the first fastball they see. And while that's great if you can hit that first pitch hard somewhere, it isn't so great if you pop it up or ground weakly to second base.

(2) Lack of Travis Hafner. Pronk has been by far the best offensive player in the lineup, and losing him for four games has made a mediocre offense downright anemic. Obviously the team isn't going win without him, but his absence illustrates the lack of other consistent offensive weapons. Right now, the Indians have a lot of just plain mediocre hitters in their lineup, which is fine if you have those two or three consistent run producers, but in the Indians' case there's no one that can carry an offense besides Hafner.

(3) Facing Good Pitching. The White Sox have by far the league's best pitching staff, and moreover the best starting rotation in baseball. But that doesn't totally excuse the lack of production against them last weekend. It's one thing to get shut down by a great pitching performance; it's quite another to just give up outs and hack at the first fastball you see. That's what made the four game series so frustrating; it wasn't just that the Sox shut the Indians down, but that the Indians themselves were willing accomplices.

(4) A Collective Slump. This has happened before with this team, and happens with other teams as well. I can't explain why these things happen, just observe that they do happen.

(5) Some bad luck. The Indians are hitting .258 with RISP; that's worst in the league. Their team BABIP (Batting Average of Balls In Play) is .290; only two teams have lower averages. This bad luck doesn't explain away all the Indians' problems, but it has a place in the discussion.

Just for kicks, here's the July OPSs of the Indians that regularly play:

Grady Sizemore: .479
Coco Crisp: .735
Travis Hafner: 1.277
Victor Martinez: .678 (mostly OBP driven)
Aaron Boone: .767
Jhonny Peralta: 1.007
Ronnie Belliard: .519
Ben Broussard: .575
Casey Blake: .478

I don't like to use three-week stretches to pass judgment on a player, but I think is useful to see where the problems are currently. Casey Blake has no earthly business in right field every day, given his age and career stats, but I've harped on that enough over the past year. Grady Sizemore's slump has really hurt the Indians in that Hafner has been coming up to bat with no one on base, and therefore, no one to drive in but himself. I'm for sticking with Grady in the leadoff spot, but that doesn't mean he should be exonerated of all blame. Ben Broussard is in one of his patented cold streaks. Ronnie Belliard generally fades down the stretch, but not usually this badly.

Jason Dubois probably isn't much of a short-term answer, but I'd feel a lot better about things if at least the Indians took a chance on him playing consistently, for at least you know there's some upside.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Defense for Offense 

Traded OF Jody Gerut to the Chicago Cubs for OF Jason Dubois

Mark Shapiro got his white whale, or at least this version of it. Jason Dubois is a masher, a guy who can hit for power, but doesn't really have a position. He's been playing left field for the Cubs, but he's a poor outfielder. He'll be under the team's control for the next 5+ years, and will be cheap for the next two seasons.

The problem (for me, at least) is figuring out where he's going to play. In the short term, the Indians might take the hit on defense to get Dubois in the lineup, but ultimately he looks more like a first baseman or DH. And you already have one guy (Hafner) who is pretty much a full-time DH, and another guy (Ryan Garko) who looks like a first baseman or DH. The other problem is that guys like Dubois tend to be a "boom or bust" player; if he sticks, the Indians will have themselves a 30+ HR player. Offensive, Dubois has a lot going for him; he can hit for power the other way, which is critical for a major-league power hitter. He's proven himself in the minors (2004 AAA numbers):

386 AB, .316/.389/.630, 31 HR, 26 2B, 97 SO, 41 BB

The problem is figuring out how to get him in the lineup. Hopefully, the Indians will run him out to right (or left) field for the rest of the season and see how he does. If he works out, you figure out where to put him next year. I don't want to see him given the Josh Phelps treatment and banished to the bench, only to see the light of day against left-handers. In his limited major-league at-bats, he seems to hit equally against righies and lefties. Note that he's been the right-handed half of a left field platoon for the Cubs, so he hasn't been receiving regular at-bats. Recently he was shipped back to Iowa, and went 9-18 in his short stint with the AAA Cubs.

As for Gerut, I've made my feelings known recently. The Indians lose a very good defender in the outfield, and he's a nice contact hitter, but with the production problems the team has been having lately, the Indians can't afford an outfielder with a defensive specialty. Now if they turn around and give the everyday job to Casey Blake, another miscast fourth outfielder, then there's something wrong here. Blake should probably be a late-inning replacement for Dubois, or spell Aaron Boone or the other two outfielders against southpaws. But he shouldn't be taking at-bats away from Dubois; the Indians owe it to themselves to find out what Dubois can do given an extended opportunity.

UPDATE: Some other opinions on the trade: BTF's Transaction Oracle, Tribe Report, Cleveland Indians Report, The Transaction Guy, and Cub Reporter

In other news, the Indians won a game in which Cliff Lee went the distance! Hey, it was only a five-inning game, but Lee got credit for the complete game. Cliff, after a shaky first inning, looked really good; he was spotting his curve and change for strikes. The Indians scored six runs, which almost matched their series total against the White Sox.

Reinstated RHP Rafael Betancourt from the Suspended List

Optioned RHP Fausto Carmona to Buffalo (AAA)

Believe it or not, no rookie has made their major-league debut for the Indians this year. And because Fausto didn't get in Sunday's game, he'll have to wait at least ten days in order to make his debut. Incidentally, Carmona pitched a gem for the Bisons tonight (8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 6 SO, 0 BB) but got tagged for the tough-luck loss.



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