Terry Francona has quickly become one of the three to five most popular sports icons in Cleveland today, his easy going, self-deprecating demeanor and his ability to develop/maximize the production of his roster makes him a valuable manager.
As the Indians hired Francona in the fall of 2012, and the off-season progressed it felt as if Terry had begun to change the face of Cleveland baseball. In many ways he has, a wild card berth in his first season, decent but unspectacular baseball in season two. Indeed, with a farm system that appears to be improving a collection of young players having success, it is hard not to be optimistic about the Indians over the next 3-5 years.
In terms of the things which are nearly impossible to quantify, be it development, clubhouse control, or chemistry, Francona is an incredibly sound manager, probably one of the best.
Yet, as an in game manager, Terry Francona often leaves me wanting more. While I have a collection of irritations I will discuss just a few in this piece for the sake of brevity.
This is the daily issue which seems to weigh on me for every moment which I experience when looking at the pregame lineup. The first two common frustrations being who Francona chooses to hit at the top of the order.
My issue is based on the obvious and at this point, widely accepted supposition surrounding the responsibility of the leadoff hitter to get one base. Furthermore, over the course of the season, a team optimally wants its best hitters to get the most at bats because that will allow for the best team wide production.
Yet, Francona insists on two of his worst hitters at getting on base be the first two hitters in the lineup. Thus, two of the least productive hitters on the team will receive the most at bats barring injury or Francona’s coming to his senses.
The other major issue with lineup construction being Francona’s placement of Lonnie Chisenhall, though he has begun to flat-line just a tick offensively, he has still been tremendous, however, he continues to get buried near the bottom including seventh in the order.
On a few occasions during the Brantley injury, Raburn was hitting fifth and Chisenhall was hitting seventh, which is absolutely unacceptable. Therefore, Francona I plead with you, move Bourn out of the leadoff spot, move Chisenhall up.
There are two issues the first involves potential overuse and the second specific pitcher selection. Zeppo, Shaw and Allen all are in the top fifteen in appearances in MLB this season. Frankly, Francona has to start trusting other parts of his bullpen and the roster has to be managed more adequately.
Second, Axford is over-utilized and Carrasco underused. Though Axford’s earned run average looks adequate, it does not paint a complete picture. he is walking 7 per nine, and has struggled with inherited runners. Further, with his struggles, how Francona went to Axford in front of Carrasco in last nights game is unfathomable.
Axford should be sent out in the next week, and Carrasco should be leaned on consistently for the remainder of the season.
As a relief pitcher Carrasco’s line: K/9 8.58, BB/9 1.91, FIP 2.85.
Carrasco has simply been too good not to be leaned on, especially with the excessive usage that Allen, Shaw and Zeppo have seen.