Will the Indians’ defense hold them back in 2015?

The Indians’ defense cost them a playoff berth in 2014.

Whether you watched every game or merely looked at the performance data, this is a conclusion that most fans come to.

This is, of course, a bold claim that cannot be established, though the metric defensive runs saved would cause us to estimate that their defense cost them an estimated seven wins, which allows us to make such a claim.

Defense is a continual frontier. Though we may be better able to estimate defensive skill, defensive value, we accept that at the margins, some flaws are imperceptible. This discussion of the Indians’ defense in 2015 will discuss defensive issues, which are easy to perceive a la the Indians leading MLB in errors with 116 in 2014 or issues which are harder to perceive like the unquantifiable range.

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Cody Allen: Bastian of the Bullpen

080512_Cody_Allen_480_ct13teqd_vhv7ya6eIn baseball, unless one is named Craig Kimbrel or Mariano Rivera, an elite reliever can go unnoticed and under-appreciated as the only relief pitcher outcome noted by fans is that of failure. Much like the offensive line in football, allowing pressures; big league bullpens are noticed most frequently when blowing leads rather than protecting them.

Cody Allen has been the best reliever on one of the best teams in baseball the last two years and not many people outside of the AL Central know his name. This probably doesn’t bother Allen, a quiet anchor whose rise to dominance was speedy but under the radar.

Allen, a 23rd round pick first pitched in the Indians organization in 2011 was contributing to the big league club in late 2012, though relievers such as Allen can move quickly this was truly ascendant.

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Indians Hosting a (T.J.) House Party

T.J. House has spent a large portion of his development shifting expectations, moving from highly touted draftee to underwhelming prospect, to undervalued commodity before tearing the door down in 2014. Rookie-TJ-House

House opened many people’s eyes in 2014, including my own. The Indians enter 2015 with a lot of rotation upside and are likely, barring injury, faced with a tough decision regarding the starting rotation.

The Indians seem forced to choose between House and Danny Salazar, whose abilities I have noted in some detail recently.

This decision is equal parts exciting and equals parts frustrating, exciting in that the Indians enter 2015 with rotation depth that should cause jealousy. Frustrating in that one really strong asset will be toiling in Columbus, waiting for Gavin Floyd or another rotation mate to hit the disabled list.

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Jason Kipnis Prepared to Rebound for the Indians in 2015

kipnisjpg-7a4ff9cf93a56a5a

Photo courtesy of Cleveland.com

Walking to work, across streets with nary a flake of snow, I scoffed at the “Storm of the Century” headlines flashed in my direction, and in order to escape the cold which bit my nose, I began to dream of spring. Of course, I could reminisce about the crack of the bat, the smell of freshly cut grass or the nervousness that exists before every season. All of these things would make for a delightful escape. Spring training offers a romance which is constantly re-awakened, a hope renewed regardless of whether this hope is grounded in reality. However, in 2015, if you are an Indians fan, that hope may be grounded. In almost every direction, there are signs of optimism, glimmers of possibilities. When attempting to analyze this team, you can merely throw a dart at the Indians roster to find young upside, rebound potential or just plain good. Last week I hit on Danny Salazar preparing to leap and Lonnie Chisenhall’s hidden value. Today, I throw a dart at Jason Kipnis. Continue reading

Lonnie Chisenhall: An Undervalued Indian

As a disclaimer, this column was instigated by a few thoughts that John Grimm shared on Twitter, which essentially discussed Indian’s fans tendencies towards recency bias.

Grimm sarcastically cuts to the heart of recency bias and one of the central things that blind us as fans: overvaluing recent performance over a body of work. For Chisenhall, his body of work in 2014 should leave fans excited that he took a step forward rather than clamoring for Giovanny Urshela (This is not a knock on Urshela as I am a big believer in his abilities).

Let’s first take a look at Lonnie Chisenhall‘s line in 2014: .280/.343/.427, 13 home runs and other boring counting statistics. For advanced offensive measures, Chisenhall posted a wRC+ of 121, which was 7th among third baseman in MLB. Apparently a top ten offensive third baseman was not good enough to hold off the dogs calling for the next prospect in the pipeline.

Chisenhall has an incredible burden, that of being a top prospect, and that of a player cursed by expectation. For Chisenhall, the bat has long been the calling card; a prospect the prophets opined had a swing sweeter than the chorus of a thousand angels.  If you watch it now, it is hard to disagree.

lonnie chisenhall 3 run homerUnfortunately, when Chisenhall made the leap to league average,  maturing to competency at 25, people moved the bar. The fact the Chisenhall became an asset was boring because he didn’t become what we dreamed of but outright criticism could no longer be accepted. Continue reading

Danny Salazar: High Floor, Higher Ceiling?

This may be the third consecutive year which I have written this article about Danny Salazar, granted the data in support is usually strong or at least interesting but Salazar is just an incredibly enticing talent who requires consideration. Unfortunately, due to Salazar’s ceiling, it is easy to be distracted from what he has already become: a legitimate Major League starter.

In 162 big league innings, Salazar has posted a 3.89 ERA, which is backed up by a 3.41 FIP and a 3.22 xFIP. This already equates to a really solid starting pitcher; at worst, a fourth starter. Somehow, people have concerns, and they display disappointment by suggesting a back end bullpen role.

The point is this: Danny Salazar‘s floor is a cheap, cost-controlled starter through 2020. The question for Salazar remains: Can he be a top two starter?

In order to examine this, its important to discuss with some depth his arsenal as well as his overarching skills.

Lets talk about Salazar’s fastball with a few visuals mixed in along the way.

First, we can watch him blow it by the best hitter of his generation, Miguel Cabrera.

Courtesy Jeff Sullivan Fangraphs

Courtesy Jeff Sullivan Fangraphs

The average velocity has remained somewhere north of holy crap this guy can chuck. Continue reading

Anthony Swarzak Signed by Indians for Bullpen Depth

While Max Scherzer and James Shields remain on the market, waiting for the big paydays which Boras and other agents promised, it is dollar store time for most of Major League Baseball, especially the Indians.

As it stands, the Indians have an impressively deep roster with a rotation that has 7 and 8 starters who would be the 4 or 5 in many other rotations. Of course, it is a young rotation with some risk, but betting on Salazar, Carrasco, Bauer, and House is a gamble a majority of MLB would love to make. Nevertheless, to avoid getting tied up touching on the overwhelming optimism that Indians fans should embrace, it is time to talk about a spring training invite for a bullpen candidate or more likely, depth. Continue reading

Picking Browns-Falcons, Talking Josh Gordon and Offensive Upside

Josh GordonThis is more conversation than column as Rich and I email back and forth about a collection of things that interest us for the remainder of the season.

Rich: Mr. Hattery! What a week we are in the middle of, Browns-wise. We had the deflating loss to the Texans; The Return of Josh Gordon; and The Departure of Ben Tate. And, oh yeah, they play a game this coming Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. So much to talk about.

So let’s start with that loss on Sunday. I wrote afterwards that to me it was one game where the Browns were flat, and not a reflection on the team itself overall. What was your takeaway?

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Trend Spotting: Should the Indians Trade Nick Swisher?

Nick Swisher has at moments represented the very climax of the revitalization of Indians baseball and in others a highly polarizing, swaggering athlete whose abilities appear to be degrading faster than his mojo. To date Swisher has been paid 26 million dollars by the Cleveland Indians, according to WAR value he has been worth 3.1 million, according to eye value in 2014 I would have preferred to watch Casey Kotchman or Ryan Garko. So far the Indians have sacrificed 23 million in dead money and owe Swisher 3o million more over the next two years.

Of course one can argue that based upon the Indians playoff appearance alone in 2013, Swisher has been worth the investment, outside of what we can measure on the playing field.

The question remains should the Indians move Nick Swisher? The answer is yes. The answer is also no.

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