They’re Shitty

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This Indians season has…not gone exactly to plan. Or at least if this was the plan then AnTitonettpiro are really bad at pranks.

And the worst thing about an under-achieving team (other than, you know, the losing) is that Twitter can’t seem to decide if this team sucks or not.

On one hand – they suck.

On the other hand – there’s a lot of weird numbers that seem to indicate there’s a chance Manny Acta is cackling in his basement lab as he pushes pins into his Chief Wahoo voodoo doll.

Focusing on the offensive side of things – the Tribe has been treating runners in scoring position more like runners in missionary position: they’re getting screwed. Jacob Rosen over at Waiting For Next Year did a great breakout of this earlier in the season, but I wanted to take another look as we head into the break.

Below is a chart showing the last six years overall hitting numbers vs their numbers with runners in scoring position.

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So the Indians’ OPS drops around 0.030 pts with runners in scoring position this year. That stinks. But maybe that’s a normal outlier?

Here’s a look at the overall MLB numbers over that same time frame. Notice that hitting normally improves with runners touching boobs or more. So not only are the Indians not hitting close to their normal averages, they should be hitting even BETTER than those averages.

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So is it bad luck?

Maybe. This is mostly the same roster as the previous season, so it seems odd that these numbers would almost completely flip year over year –

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Or is it lack of the clutch gene? If you ask the Indians for change for a dollar will they give you 3 quarters? Baseball people seem to think that clutch hitting is mostly random and not a real skill. But at the same time, the Indians’ hitting with RISPers has been declining for three years now.
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So what did we learn here?

There’s probably reason to believe the offense will improve. And with the Tribe’s pitching staff, that should be enough to win some games.

But there may also be some flaws in this lineup that need to be fixed. Some of those flaws rhyme with Bichael Mourn. Some are just that guys are slumping.

Today they sit 10 games back of the division and 4.5 of the second Wild Card spot. Hopefully by the end of September we’re having a different conversation.

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View from the Porch: Bold Predictions for the 2015 Cleveland Indians Season

(photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

(photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

As you may have noticed, Jeff Nomina did an excellent job earlier this week compiling staff predictions for the 2015 Cleveland Indians season. If you follow Fangraphs or read any of their things, their staff is releasing a series of bold predictions for the fantasy baseball season this week. It’s just that time of year for the glass half full approach to the season. Safe to say that the glass is certainly half full, or possibly overflowing, for some of the staff here at EHC regarding the Indians.

With that in mind, it’s a good time for me to step up and make some bold predictions for the 2015 Cleveland Indians season. There’s no point in stepping on what Jeff put together, so I won’t be making the same bold predictions that I made regarding the questions he posed like the team’s record or how far they will go in the playoffs. Instead, I’ll focus more on individual players and look at some of the personal accomplishments that they may enjoy in 2015. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Running the Bases on a Lazy Sunday

(photo: Al Ciammaichella)

I’ll start off this week by begging your pardon for the brevity of this week’s Lazy…an over-aggressive work/travel schedule this week plus friends from out of town prevented me from getting any sort of meaningful writing time. But there were some great Tribe-centric articles floating around the interwebs this week that I wanted to be sure to highlight here, so I wanted to get something on to virtual paper even if it’s not the usual 5-6,000 word effort. I promise that next week will more than make up for it, as I have something special in store to help cure your post-St. Patty’s Day hangovers. If not though, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to The DiaTribe, Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, Cleveland, OH to receive your full refund (purchase price minus small convenience and restocking fees, of course). With that bit of housecleaning out of the way, let’s jump right in to all (ok, most) of the news that’s fit to link…

 
Francisco Lindor is a guy who I’ve spent plenty of time talking about for the last few years, so I’m not going to spend a lot of space on him this week. But I did want to highlight an article from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that focused on Lindor, because Crasnick is normally a guy who covers the MLB beat. It’s a little unusual to see him write an article focusing solely on a prospect. Crasnick (a closet Indians fan) includes a pretty telling quote from veteran infielder Mike Aviles:

Continue reading

The greatest Indians third baseman, Al Rosen, dead at 91

1One of the All-Time Indians’ greats is gone.

Al Rosen, perhaps the greatest Tribe third baseman of all-time, passed away Friday night at the age of 91. While his career was relatively short, his impact on the game goes far beyond just his 1953 MVP award for the Indians, and his 1987 Executive of the Year award with the San Francisco Giants.

Rosen encompassed the game of baseball throughout his life, and with Bob Feller, was a true ambassador of the game of baseball.

In honor of Rosen, here’s a piece I originally wrote in January of 2013 documenting the best third basemen throughout the history of the Indians’ organization. Obviously, cream rises to the top, and so did Rosen. Here are my rankings of the best Indians’ third baseman, and my ode to Al Rosen. Continue reading

The View from the Porch: The Chisenhall Conundrum

ChisenhallA lot of the Indians content here at EHC has largely been in support of the team and its players. This is a dangerous line to walk in the Cleveland media world and, yes, I consider us part of that because we have an audience (thank you!) and some guys that really understand the sports landscape in the city. The reason it’s dangerous is because supporters are labeled as apologists or shills for the team. Those that criticize are welcomed with the “one of us” mentality.

As I suggested during a conversation on Twitter with some of my EHC colleagues and other respected Cleveland sports blogosphere residents, this happens because it’s far easier to criticize than to acknowledge. Fans that are still hellbent on voicing their anger over the CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee deals seem content to forget that Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco came out of those trades. Fans that feel the need to consistently belabor the “Dolanz are cheep” argument conveniently ignore that the Indians have locked up in-house players to contract extensions and also went out and spent on free agents like Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. Those that blame Chris Antonetti or Mark Shapiro for the team’s lack of success willfully ignore the moves that worked out handsomely. Yan Gomes, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Santana came from Esmil Rogers, Jake Westbrook, and Casey Blake. Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw came from one season of Shin-Soo Choo. Marc Rzepczynski came from Juan Herrera, a light-hitting infielder that has not played above Single-A. They’ll also ignore that the Indians have a playoff appearance and 177 wins over the last two seasons, which is hardly a lack of success.

Those that complain about the draft tend to forget that TJ House was a 16th-round pick. Cody Allen was a 23th-round pick. Kyle Crockett was a fourth-round pick less than two years ago. Tyler Holt was a 10th-round pick. Roberto Perez was a 33rd-round pick. Jason Kipnis was a second-round pick who changed positions and made it to the Majors in two seasons while on the fast track to the bigs. Continue reading

A Formula For Success: Constructing Cleveland’s Bullpen

Of the top 10 bullpens in Major League Baseball last year, Cleveland’s pen had the most innings pitched.

There were 39 pitchers who made at least 70 appearances last year. Cleveland had four, including 80 appearance man Bryan Shaw. Terry Francona used Shaw, Cody Allen, and Scott Atchison for 70 innings each, give or take a few here or there.

When Francona was managing the Red Sox from 2004 to 2011, he utilized his bullpen less than every team in baseball outside of the Angels and White Sox, at least in terms of innings pitched. But he had one of the most effective bullpens, proving that less usage equals greater success. But he did that because he had the pieces in place.

You could go on with a list of names from some of the most important pieces like Jonathan Papelbon to someone like former Indian Dan Wheeler. But it isn’t the names, so much as it is the roles those names fill and how the roles lead to results. Continue reading

A Healthy Rotation Can Win The Central Division

1Going into the 2015 season the Cleveland Indians have a starting rotation that has been talked about as one of the best in all of Major League Baseball. Riding the momentum they built during the second half of 2014 has not only made them a trendy pick but a smart pick as well. This is a young group of starters that is either in their prime or coming into their prime. Things definitely look promising going forward.

In recent days there has been a few reported hiccups in this rotations armor. First Gavin Floyd is heading to the MRI table for his sore elbow. Josh Tomlin was scratched from his start and has already had an ultrasound on his “cranky elbow”. While both of these items may only be precautionary in the early days of spring, it does make you think about the depth of the rotation as a whole.

The meat of the rotation seems to be okay right now with the five best starters Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, T.J. House and Danny Salazar all have gotten through the early part of Spring Training unscathed to this point. The potential issues that losing Floyd or Tomlin for significant time are causes for concern. That would leave Zach McAllister, Shaun Marcum and Bruce Chen as the “Calvary”. While I am intrigued by Marcum and his bounce back potential to a useful backend starter leaning on this group for any period of time is not ideal to the success of the 2015 season. Continue reading

A Dream of Spring on a Lazy Sunday

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Were proud to have the Diatribe’s Al Ciammaichella with his weekly installment of ‘A Lazy Sunday.’ Today, Al discusses a variety of spring topics, including his prospect rankings, Francisco Lindor, the Indians place in Major League Baseball, Brantley’s potential in 2015, upticks from three starters, worries for another starter, and close look at the player that the season could hinge on: Brandon Moss. On a sidenote, we here at EHC are proud to have Al on our team. There’s nothing I love more than to grab a cup of coffee, and read a Lazy Sunday. Now you can do it right here at EHC. Tune in over the coming weeks to find more content from Al, as #EHC begins to spread its wings.

Make sure you check out Al’s site, The Diatribe!

You can also check out all of Al’s work, right here at #EHC!

All photos used in this piece are attributed to Al Ciammaichella.

Real baseball is here! Well, spring training baseball is here, and with the rest of the country stuck in the throes of winter, spring training baseball looks pretty good right now. The sample sizes are small, the pitchers aren’t stretched out, and the stats are meaningless. But Yan Gomes is throwing runners out (and hitting home runs), Bradley Zimmer is legging out triples, and Trevor Bauer is back tinkering with his delivery. It’s baseball! Indians baseball! In the sunshine! I can’t stop using exclamation points! We’re less than a month away from the games that count, as the Indians open the season in Houston on April 6.  Then, just a few days later, the home opener on April 10, which is the first in a three-game series against the reigning AL Central Champion Detroit Tigers. It’s certainly not a must-win series or any nonsense like that, not in early April. But it sure would feel good to come roaring (pun) out of the gates and take three from the Motor City Kitties, announcing our presence with authority and making sure the Tigers know that their reign at the top of the division is crumbling beneath them like the marble columns of the Roman Empire. And if one of those games involves hanging a ten-spot on Kate Upton’s boyfriend and chasing him out of the game in the 3rd inning, so much the better. If you’re not excited for the prospect of real, actual baseball that counts in the standings, there’s something wrong with you. Continue reading

5 Breakout Candidates for the 2015 Tribe

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Jason Kipnis
2014: .240 / .310 / .330 / 6 HR
STEAMER: .253 / .328 / .382 / 13 HR
ZIPS: .256 / .330 / .388 / 13 HR

Kipnis entered the 2014 season as not only a major part of a promising young core, but also one of the most recognizable faces of the franchise. A breakout player in 2013, his 2014 campaign saw a massive decline in production on the field. Off-the-field, Kipnis was dealing not only with injuries, but also the departure of his best wingman in Vinnie Pestano and the pressure of Kevin Love’s arrival on the Cleveland Playboy Scene. Kipnis needs to regain his 2013 form if he hopes to continue his quest of trolling for phone numbers from drunken coeds on West 6th. He realizes “I had a really sweet 2013” won’t cut it with most ladies in Cleveland’s party scene and early returns of “I know Michael Brantley” haven’t resulted in the numbers he’d like.

Trevor Bauer
2014: 5-8 4.18 ERA 1.38 WHIP
STEAMER: 10-11 4.45 ERA 1.38 WHIP
ZIPS: 8-9 4.29 ERA 1.40 WHIP

Bauer, the 3rd overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been an enigmatic character in his short time with the Indians. Sporting top-shelf stuff, his approach and ability to be coached have been questioned throughout his professional career. Off-the-field incidents include recording rap tracks and personally building a drone most recently seen flying over the Indians practice facility in Goodyear, ARI. Bauer’s somewhat peculiar personality has also been a controversial topic on Twitter; with many fans lashing out at him for both performance and attitude. Having proven himself as belonging in the big-leagues, Bauer will spend the 2015 season attempting to make the leap to top-of-the-rotation starter. Team officials are quietly expecting big things, as Bauer spent the offseason building not only his drone, but also a machine designed to collect fan hate and turn it into consumable energy. Bauer hopes this new Tweet-fueled rage-ahol will provide an extra 200-300% on his fastball. The true test will be pitching coach Mickey Calloway’s ability to harness to additional energy for good as opposed to evil. Expect Bauer to make headlines a few more times in Spring Training as he collects enough hatred to sustain through a long season.

Carlos Carrasco
2014: 8-7 2.55 ERA .985 WHIP
STEAMER: 11-9 3.53 ERA 1.20 WHIP
ZIPS: 6-6 3.71 ERA 1.24 WHIP

Carrasco’s season may be less a breakout for him as an individual as much as his impact on those around him. Coming to the Indians as part of the Cliff Lee trade, Carrasco showed his potential in 2011 with a 3.54 ERA over his first 15 starts. Elbow trouble derailed his season and eventually led to Tommy John surgery. Carrasco struggled to recover his prior success before moving to the bullpen in 2014 and posting a 2.30 ERA over 43 innings. He sustained that success in a move back to the rotation posting a 1.30 ERA over ten starts in the second half. Beyond his pitching prowess, Carrasco provides the “enforcer” the Indians have lacked since the right-handed scary monster Shelley Duncan left following the 2012 season. Carrasco’s 97 mile-per-hour fastball with head-seeking action provides plenty of intimidation as opposing teams will be forced to make tough decisions such as “Do I want to try to get a hit, or do I want to die tonight.” In a tough AL Central race, these are the types of advantages that can swing the entire division.

Lonnie Chisenhall
2014: .280 / .343 / .427 / 13 HR
STEAMER: .263 / .317 / .429 / 15 HR
ZIPS: .271 / .325 / .429 / 14 HR

Chisenhall had a monster first-half in 2014 before tailing off down the stretch. A top prospect throughout his time in the Indians’ minor league system, the team hopes 2015 is the year Chisenahll is able to make the leap to being a more consistent offense-focused 3B. Entering his age 26 season and having tasted success in the front-half of 2014, Chisenhall cites his biggest motivation for 2015 being “known for something other than the name Lonnie. It’s awful. My 7th grade girlfriend broke up with me over this name. Please call me Chiz or literally anything else instead.” Various members of the Indians’ front office have given Chisenhall 2015 goals of a .260 batting average, 15 homeruns, and “Lonnie” making the top 300 list of new baby names in Cleveland.

Nick Swisher
2014: .208 / .278 / .331 / 8 HR
STEAMER: .233 / .319 / .382 / 13 HR
ZIPS: .229 / .316 / .386 / 14 HR

With the recent news that Swisher isn’t deceased, expectations for his 2015 season have ticked up slightly. After signing a large contract with the Indians prior to the 2013 season, Swisher saw a decline in his overall numbers but still helped propel the Indians to the Wild Card play-in game by hitting seven homeruns in September and October. The following season, Swisher battled injuries and a prolonged slump before finally having season-ending surgery on both knees. Having been a model of consistency in his career – both in terms of health (145+ games played in 8 consecutive seasons prior to 2014) and performance (only two seasons below .800 OPS in prior eight seasons to 2014) – Swisher is a prime candidate for a bounce-back season. The Indians hope that a return to form will help fans shift their criticisms and heckling to members of other teams, instead of the hometown Indians. Mark Shapiro was quoted as saying, “Hopefully in 2015, Nick Swisher teaches Cleveland how to love again.”