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Indians Were “Entertaining” on Saturday

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Now this is what I meant when I claimed the Indians would be an entertaining ballclub in 2013. They can’t possibly do this in every games, so I figure them for an “around-.500” team.

Swisher hit a 2-run shot in the first inning, and then Mark Reynolds hit a grand slam as part of a 6-run fifth inning. Good times.

Oh, and Justin Masterson was magnificent on Friday night. Lots of first-pitch strikes. Terry Pluto wrote

Masterson pitching like a throwback to my youth…complete game…shutout…113 pitches, one walk.

Terry Francona managing like they did back when I was a kid, allowing the starter to put the final stroke on his mound masterpiece.

 

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Written by jjvedamuthu

April 13, 2013 at 17:34

Indians Rotation Wretched, as Expected

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Wow, with the exception of Justin Masterson, the starting pitching for the Cleveland Indians has been, well, terrible.

This does make them, you know, kind of entertaining, as their offense is decent, and could end up being better that merely decent, so they will play in lots of softball-like games with plenty of scoring. This will, of course, drive the true Indians faithful, a long-suffering lat for sure, crazy, for they will lose a number of games in which they score 6—or even more—runs.

The real lesson out of all this, of course, is that major league teams should stop paying Brett Myers a single penny above the major-league minimum salary, and that might even be too much money as he may well be the poster boy for “below-replacement-level fodder.” But perhaps I’m being too hard on Myers as Ubaldo Jimenez, pictured above, has also been awful.

 

Written by jjvedamuthu

April 12, 2013 at 13:34

AL Central Prediction: Pitches

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Pitches, as in those things people on Mad Men do professionally, or a screenwriter does to an agent, or whatever. Pithy bromides about why I picked my picks the way I picked them.

What follows are just summaries of my reading (see the blogroll), looking at depth charts (click on the team names in bold below to look at how kick-ass the Baseball Prospectus website is) and some video about the American League’s Central Division.

1. Detroit Tigers. Let’s just say that if they are anywhere near as good as they look on paper, even if they are sevens wins less good in real life, they will easily win this division. Best (known) offense and best rotation should trump a possibly shaky back end of bullpen.

2. Kansas City. Let’s just say their offseason  moves demonstrated faith in their young position players. They  turned over most of the rotation while adding no new bats, instead trading a prospect to land a pitcher.

3. Cleveland. Let’s just say they risk becoming a vastly entertaining close-to-.500, a few games, somewhere between 77 and 84 wins, with an improved offense. Outfield defense also improved, but their starting pitching may be interesting (Brett Myers and Scott Kazmir?) Lot’s of slugfests will ensue. Wildly entertaining.

4. Chicago White SoxLet’s just say we don’t have much to say since very little news came out of the South Side over the winter. The impression depth chart study made inclines towards regarding their lineup as having poor on-base skills and their pitching as being workmanlike. Fodder.

5. Minnesota TwinsLet’s just say Twins fans should prepare themselves for the anxiety, and perhaps even terror, they will feel if the Astros turn out to not be as bad as everyone thinks. Replacement-level rubber is going to meet a fanbase road in either Houston or Minneapolis in 2013. While “better,” the Twins’ rotation is…not even interesting; it’s just terrible. Good outfielders lurk in the minor league system. Things will improve, but it will be 2015 when they really start to do so.

Run Prevention for Real in Cleveland

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Or so says Jim Bowden today at ESPN’s SweetSpot:

This Indians team is not only contending but has the best record in the American League. Are they for real? Yes, they’re for real. I’m not saying they’re going to win the division, but what I am saying is that if they stay healthy, this team will contend into September and should win more games than they lose. The main reason this team is for real is the pitching and defense. The starting pitching is solid, the bullpen underrated and the infield defense is the best the Indians have seen since Jim ThomeRoberto AlomarOmar Vizquel and Travis Fryman played together.

Their run differential bears this out: they enter today with it at +48, 165 runs scored and 117 runs allowed (5.00 scored and 3.55 allowed per game). That represents a .652 Pythagorean winning percentage, which is only slightly lower than their actual .667 winning percentage. This projects out in the neighborhood of  106 wins, which is probably high, but we shouldn’t be all that surprised if they win 90.

Written by jjvedamuthu

May 10, 2011 at 14:00

BP and the Tribe

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Baseball Prospectus says “Hello Cleveland” today, and I’m just here to evaluate their evaluation.

John Perrotto first notes that “the pundits” picked Cleveland to finish no higher than fourth in the division in 2011. After all, though they took the Red Sox to 7 in the ALCS in 2007, they lost 97 games in 2009 and 93 in 2010.

I shouldn’t sound superior at all, for I figured it would be a three-way race as usual–Twins, White Sox, and Tigers–with Detroit the weakest of the three, and then Cleveland and finally Kansas City. I opined to a friend that Cleveland might–just might–have a shot to overtake Detroit, but no more than that. I thought the Twins were really good, despite some questions.

That was, you know, “on paper.”

Ah, reality! Or, “that’s why they play the games,” or some such springtime nonsense.

As Perrotto notes, the Indians have the best record in the Bigs, hold a 4 1/2-game lead in the division (and are leaving the Twins and White Sox in the dust, holding 10 (ten–yes, ten!) games leads over both of them. And Cleveland leads the Majors in (a) Run Differential (+47), (b) Pythagorean Winning Percentage (.671), (c) are second in the Bigs in runs per game, and (d) fourth fifth in runs allowed per game. Doing it in all phases.

Hey, the Indians have the lowest attendance in the Majors (yes, lower than Pittsburgh’s), they’ve lowered ticked prices both of the last two seasons, and they have $10 bleacher seat tickets for every game. Oh, to be a baseball fan in Cleveland this spring!

Perrotto tells us we should have been paying attention: The Tribe’s pitchers had a 3.89 ERA after the 2010 All Star Break, fourth best in the American League, and their bullpen ERA after September 1 was 2.11, best in the majors.

At this point, as a baseball fan, I’ve got to say they’ve been exciting. I saw the end of Friday night’s game (Santana’s walk-off slam), so I made it a point to watch both Saturday’s and Sunday’s games, and they are fun to watch.

Perrotto notes the exciting factor and brings up the numbers:

The Indians have been not only exciting but resilient, as two starting pitchers, Carlos Carrasco and Mitch Talbot, have been forced to the disabled list, and their two top hitters, catcher Carlos Santana (.191/.324/.382) and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo (.250/.322/.394) have not hit their strides. However, the Indians have gotten a lift from a number of unlikely sources, including journeyman third baseman Jack Hannahan, who was signed as a minor-league free agent in the offseason to improve the defense. Hannahan is hitting .273/.349/.481 with four home runs in 86 plate appearances.

“He came to big-league camp this spring and changed his approach,” Acta said. “Basically, people have been telling him to play third base in the major leagues that he’d have to hit home runs. He changed his mind this year. He’s staying inside the ball and hitting it where it’s pitched. We didn’t ask him to hit home runs. All we asked was to play good defense, which he’s done. Any hitting from him is a bonus.”

Right-hander Justin Masterson has turned into the ace of the pitching staff so far, as he is 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 1.15WHIP in six starts and 40 innings. Masterson’s 3.83 SIERA last season was an indicator he could be due for a turnaround this year, as it was nearly a full run lower than his 4.70 ERA in 180 innings.

“His sinker can eat up right-handed hitters,” Acta said. “He’s got the right mentality. He takes things in stride. His struggles last year got him down at times, but he kept working until things clicked. He’s an easygoing guy. He’s got a pretty good idea now of how to fix things when he gets out of sync and he gets back to throwing strikes. He has done a tremendous job of staying consistent in the strike zone so far, which he did in last six weeks of last season.”

Right-hander Josh Tomlin has also been a revelation, going 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in his first five starts. That followed a pedestrian rookie season in 2011 when he had a 4.56 ERA and contributed just 0.4 WARP in 12 starts and 73 innings.

“He doesn’t overpower you but he mixes things up, changes speeds and puts his pitches where you can’t get good swings,” Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said of Tomlin.

The best news of all for the Indians, though, has been the strong return of center fielder Grady Sizemore, who was limited to 140 mostly ineffective plate appearances last season before succumbing to microfracture knee surgery. Since being activated from the disabled list on April 17, Sizemore has put up a slash line of .340/.389/.740 with four homers in 54 trips to the plate.

“It’s huge having him back and producing,” Acta said. “Just his presence alone means a lot and we were just hoping to have him back because we feed off him a lot as a franchise player. The way he has stepped into the lineup, it’s like it was two years ago when he was injury-free. He brings so much to the table offensively. Even with all the home runs he has hit in the past, I never realized how strong he is. As a leadoff hitter, he’s a threat to get an extra-base hit every time up and put himself in scoring position. He’s been great.”

As Perez said, “What Grady has done, besides being very productive, is give us even more confidence that we can win. We have our franchise player back and that’s a big boost.”

Despite the Indians’ hot start, Baseball Prospectus’ Playoff Odds Reports give them just a 34.1 percent chance of reaching the postseason. Second baseman Orlando Cabrera, though, says numbers cannot measure the Indians’ confidence.

“This team has a real good feeling,” said Cabrera, a 15-year veteran who has played in the postseason in six of the last seven years. “We believe we’re going to win every day and that belief gets stronger with every game we win. I don’t know what everyone else thinks of us, but we’re a confident team that believes in itself.”

Written by jjvedamuthu

May 2, 2011 at 15:14

AL Central: The Central Question

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The Daily Pitch, USA Today’s baseball blog, asks it: Are the Indians this good and the Twins this bad?

Yes, the Indians have played a lot of games against sub-.500 teams, but their offense is clicking (2nd most runs/game in AL), and their pitching (and defense) has been good (3rd lowest runs allowed in the AL after the A’s and Angels, who have both had lights-out pitching so far). We’ll see, but the Tribe’s youngsters have been good.

As for the Twins: dismal. Worst run differential in MLB (-64 after only 27 games!), lowest runs scored (3.15/game, which is 26.5% below the MLB scoring average of 4.29/game). And they have a host of other problems (Liriano, Pavano, middle infield), and the Daily Pitch piece bullet points some of them for us:

Minnesota’s list of problems are lengthy, and include:

  • Joe Mauer’s absence. The former MVP and three-time batting champ last played April 12 but says he is finally improving after losing 15 pounds because of a viral infection. However there is no timetable for his return.
  • Justin Morneau’s struggles. Another former MVP, he is batting .232 with a .612 OPS and has yet to hit a home run this season. [He hit his 1st on Sunday, actually, but still…]  Morneau went nearly eight months with minimal baseball activity as he recovered from a concussion and then had a short spring training to prepare for the season. It’s possible he just needs time — at a time when the Twins need him most, though.
  • Woeful pitching [yeah, that’s ERA-ranked, but in terms of xFIP it ain’t much prettier, but not quite as sucky as it could be, and Brian Duensing has surprisingly not sucked as badly as everyone else, so go figure]. Francisco Liriano has a 9.13 ERA, Joe Nathan has yet to regain his closer role, Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn have combined to go 3-6 with a 5.12 ERA.
  • Lack of productivity from the bottom third of the order: As a result of injuries to Mauer and second baseman Tusyoshi Nishioka, the Twins have been rolling out replacements such as Luke Hughes and Drew Butera. Combined with shortstop Alexi Casilla they have filled the 7-8-9 spots in the lineup on most days and are hitting a combined .185 with nine RBI and five extra-base hits.

Written by jjvedamuthu

May 2, 2011 at 10:42