With all the teams in contention this season, finding under-valued commodities turns into the strategy of choice for organizations which are buyers.no comments
This was a smart move in terms of value for the Tigers, but it wont make that much of difference (as adding a non-closer at the trade deadline usually is) in the standings at the end of the year.no comments
BABIP is a skill for hitters, but it is subject to far more random outcomes than home runs rates, strikeouts, and walks. That general notion may lead one to think Santana is just getting lucky in that respect so far this season, which may very well be the case. However, a closer look at the batted ball data suggests that there is more in play in this situation than luck. His line drive, ground ball, and fly ball rates are almost on par with his career average. Although he is hitting slightly more line drives and ground balls than flyballs compared to his past, the difference is not large enough to be statistically significant. What stood out to me was his Infield-fly ball (IFFB%) rate. So far this season, his IFFB% is 5.7 which is far lower than last year's rate of 11.5. Although there has not been much research done on the year-to-year correlation of IFFB%, Matt Klaassen at Fangraphs wrote this piece and concluded that pop-up rate is just as much of a skill as slugging percentage. That being said, Santana should be given just as much credit for his improved BABIP rate as any other hitter should for an improved SLG%.
Santana has improved his BABIP while returning to his pre 2012 power. Usually, an increase in BABIP means sacrificing a little bit of power. It is not as if his current power (.187 ISO) is unprecedented: he had a .207 ISO in 2010 and a .217 in 2011. However, he dropped off to .168 in 2012. It was not just his rate of home runs (6.3 percent on contact in 2011 to 4..4 percent in 2012) that dropped, but also his rate of doubles and triples on hits in play (3.5 percent in 2011, 2.6 in 2012). In 2013 so far, the rates are back to about 2011 levels: 6.3 percent for home runs, 3.3 for doubles and triples.
With all the moves the Indians made this offseason, the most significant may have been the reinvention of Carlos Santana.no comments
Much talk has occurred about the Indians starting rotation being a team weakness, because the overall stats aren't that pretty. Each of the Indians five starters (for the sake of this article, Masterson, Kluber, Jimenez, Kazmir and McAllister) has an ERA above 3.50 and all but Masterson have a WHIP over 1.20. Using WAR, the Indians starters rank 16th, 54th, 75th, 97th and 114th among American League pitchers and yet Cleveland is just 3.5 games away from a playoff spot with two months left in the season.
Statistics don't tell the whole story here however, as these undervalued starters have given the Indians a chance to win every single time out. Here is a chart that shows how the Indians starters have pitched (through ERA) during good games (at least five IP and less than four earned runs allowed) and bad games (everything else) and the team's results from those games:
|Good Starts||Bad Starts|
|Player||Team W/L||ERA||Team W/L||ERA|
*For Corey Kluber, his first relief appearance was not included, but his second, where he appeared in long relief and earned a win was. Also, his rain shortened appearance against Tampa was considered a good start despite just throwing two innings.
What is being shown isn't really that groundbreaking. Obviously, pitchers numbers will look better during games they play well than in games they play poorly. What should be noted is there are vastly more games that have been pitched well than have been pitched poorly. This shows the primary point that despite not having the greatest personal stats, these particular starters are giving the Indians the best chance to win. Overall, their team record in "good" games is 43-19, while it is just 7-17 in poor starts. If the standards are raised to throwing at least six innings to make it a good start, the overall record jumps to 36-6. This shows the overall importance of the starting pitcher going that one extra inning before turning things over to the bullpen.
The alternative to a starter who pitches fantastically in two out of every three starts and terrible in the other, is to have a starter that actually allowed his average every single game. This would actually make things more difficult for a team, like the Indians, that has trouble scoring runs. By using everything they have in one start, rather than pacing themselves, Indians starters are almost guaranteeing wins (86% of the time) when they throw six innings while allowing three or less runs. The Indians still have some chance at winning in the other starts if the offense actually shows up and scores more than four runs, but since the starters are good more than 50% of the time, they are essentially guaranteeing at least a winning record with this strategy.
Of course all this is assuming this is a strategic decision and not just a random trick of statistics that will soon go away.
Zach McAllister has been the steadiest starter to this point, with just one start qualifying as bad.no comments
When Zach McAllister was activated from the disabled list earlier today, the Indians made Chen Lee the odd man out in the bullpen and sent the rookie back to Columbus. This isn't the first time this has happened this year as the veteran relievers who are out of options, but less talented, than a few young pitchers are being held onto while the kids are forced to constantly shift between the Clippers and the pros.
The three pitchers most recently used in this fashion were Lee, Preston Guilmet and Joe Martinez (who is not young, but is playing for the Clippers) who combined to pitch in six games and allow a single run between the three of them. Rather than keep them around (or T.J. House, Matt Langwell, Nick Hagadone or Fernando Nieve who all also saw time with the Tribe in 2013), the Indians have stuck with Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw and Rich Hill at the bottom of the bullpen and have seen limited success.
A deal for aging closer Francisco Rodriguez (31) has shown that the market for relief pitchers is very good right now and the Indians have a few who could bring back some major value if they decided to move them before the trade deadline. With the plethora of relievers in AAA (those already mentioned in addition to possibly Danny Salazar) the Indians are in a prime position to move some of their top relievers without harming the team's play-off potential.
The best two options for bringing in the most value for the lowest price are set-up man Joe Smith and closer Chris Perez. Perez has been a thorn in Indians fans sides for the past two seasons as his mouth, rather than his pitching style, has offended the masses. He was also one of the biggest personality clashes with former manager Manny Acta and has shown no hints that he will attempt to stay in Cleveland past his years under team control. Speaking of which, 2014 is his final season of arbitration and he is likely to be valued by an arbiter at a much higher price than the Indians would like to pay for a man who throws 60 innings a season. Any team he is traded to however, is likely to enjoy that they would be getting almost a year and a half out of a player instead of just a two month rental.
While he has been a distraction, Perez has still been a dominant closer during his time in Cleveland and is one of the team's top three all time as an Indian despite his short tenure. This year he has already converted 13 of 15 save opportunities and has given up just nine runs in more than 27 innings. His biggest failing this season (other than the legal trouble) is that he has not been given enough chances to show off his stuff. Perez is a two time All-Star and has the mental toughness to be a closer, something possible trade partners will not look past.
Joe Smith has been even better than on the mound than Perez and almost silent off the field (at least this season). He has quickly become (with Vinnie Pestano) one of the greatest set-up men in Indians history and it would be sad to see him go, but if the Indians are not going to resign him (Smith becomes a free agent at the end of this season), now would be the best time to get some value out of the right hander.
If either pitcher is traded, Indians fans should not see this as a white flag maneuver. Cody Allen seems more than ready to take over any difficult late inning situation and Vinnie Pestano has been a closer waiting in the wings for the past two seasons. With the two of them filling out the back of the bullpen and Bryan Shaw taking care of early innings, it would allow the Indians to bring the two great AAA relievers, Lee and Guilmet back to Cleveland in a more permanent role. Because of this depth, the two relievers could both be moved, either to add a small amount of pep to the currently depressed offense or to add some top level minor league (hopefully outfield) talent. This type of move would be much safer than mortgaging their future by trading any of their budding young minor leaguers (that they have long term control over) or than doing nothing at all and sticking with the team that is good enough to place second behind the Detroit Tigers.no comments
There has been some trade talk in recent days involving the Indians, especially considering extra starting pitching. There have been no articles predicting the many moves Cleveland will make before the deadline on Burning River Baseball to this point, however, for one simple reason: the Indians shouldn't trade anybody before the deadline. With the starting rotation finally healthy and back to what it was supposed to be before the season started (with Corey Kluber instead of Brett Myers), there really is no need for another starting pitcher. The fact is there is no one on the market (not even Matt Garza) who is better than Danny Salazar, meaning that if the Indians need another starter, they can just bring one up from AAA.
Even if the Indians did add another pitcher, it is questionable where he would fit. Scott Kazmir has been very impressive through his last six starts and there will be no replacing Kluber, Justin Masterson or Ubaldo Jimenez. Zach McAllister is finally returning from the DL, so he will likely be given a little slack even if he struggles at the beginning. If the Indians could pick up a starter the quality of Chris Sale, then it would be worth disrupting what has been a very solid rotation, but there is no one anywhere near that level available on the trade market.
The offense is much weaker than the pitching staff at this point, but even here a trade would be questionable. More so for deadline deals than offseason trades, the value heavily favors the sellers as teams will trade high ranking prospects for a couple months of help from a single player. Right now that option shouldn't look too attractive for the Tribe.
There may be one good looking trade option available for the Indians, but it won't be a blockbuster that makes the fans go crazy. The Indians are incredibly loaded at the middle infield position at the upper levels of the minor league system. Between Akron and Columbus, the Indians have Cord Phelps, Juan Diaz, Matt Lawson, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Ronny Rodriguez and Giovanny Urshela who are all considered Major League prospects. This doesn't even include two of the most talented middle infielders in the system, Joe Wendle and Dorssys Paulino who are still below AA. Having this many talented young stars is actually becoming a detriment as they are having difficulty splitting playing time since most of them are currently in Akron. Since Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis seem entrenched in their positions for at least the next few seasons, it seems it would be safe for the Indians to do a little thinning out at the upper levels.
Phelps and Diaz are both Major League proven and could fetch a prospect or utility player (to possibly replace Jason Giambi). Lindor, Wendle and Paulino should all be considered untouchable, but the rest of the players listed could be made available and some combination of them may be enough to bring in a new left handed reliever or pinch hitter.
The Indians actually have a pretty well rounded team (despite what you may hear from the national media if they ever were to mention Cleveland) and don't have to look outside the organization to continue to compete for the Central Division title. Chris Antonetti should feel under no pressure to make a move (like he has had in recent seasons) and the rewards better be great if any trade is completed before the July 31st deadline.no comments
After nearly 100 games, we know this run of success isn't a fluke. The Indians are good enough to potentially make a run into October – not something we all anticipated back in April. But there are still some questions about the strength and depth on this upstart club. Let’s look at the 5 biggest questions heading into the second half:
1. Can the Indians Keep Up With the Tigers?
The largest hurdle for the Indians in the second half of the season is definitely their division rivals, the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are known for their All-Star talents, such as Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Prince Fielder. If the Indians are going to take control of this division by the end of the season, they need to prove they can effectively handle the Tigers, something they did not do the week before the All-Star Break (the Indians lost 3 out of 4 to Detroit). Earning a Wild Card slot is always an option, but it’s better to concentrate on the divisional crown and treat the Wild Card as a last resort.
In addition, consistently defeating the proven powerhouse in Detroit will bolster the Indians’ confidence and prove that they are legit. Right now, it’s still unclear if the Indians’ have the lineup and bullpen to match their AL Central rivals.
2. Will the Indians Meet Their Needs Before the Trade Deadline?
With thetrade deadline looming, the Indians may be active in the weeks to come. Rumors have the club looking to fill crucial gaps on their pitching staff. Specifically, the Indians could be looking for another left-handed reliever, and possibly another starting pitcher.
How much are the Indians willing to give up to fill these needs, and who or what will they give up? It will be interesting to see just how desperate the Indians are to get help in these problem areas, and how these moves affect the charisma and morale of the locker room.
3. Can the Indians Take Advantage of Their Second Half Schedule?
Indians fans, who peek ahead at the remaining schedule, may be excited about the teams they will face. Get this: Out of the remaining 67 games for the Indians, a whopping 45 are against teams that currently have losing records.
But be careful. While this may seem like a positive sign, constantly playing against sub-par teams can lead to complacency and a lack of effort. (In other words: You sometimes play to the level of your competition.)
4. Who Will the Indians Call Up?
If the Indians don’t find any favorable trades, they have a few farm team names who can be called up to address their pitching weaknesses.
Two prospects showing MLB promise are right hander Danny Salazar, who earned a win against the Blue Jays in his only Major League start (before being recalled to the minors), and lefty Nick Hagadone, who the Indians have already brought up to the Majors and demoted again a few times this season.
While Hagadone could fill the gap the Indians have with left-handed pitching, Salazar was more promising in his Major League appearance. If the AL Central – or Wild Card chase – comes down to the wire at the end of the season, look for the Indians to utilize these two young pitchers.
5. Will the Indian’s Clubhouse Continue to Mesh?
The Indians made many smart moves this off-season, including the acquisition of veterans Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi. These older and more experienced players have given this young team the elder leadership and direction that it sorely missed in the past.
Swisher and Giambi, who both have serious playoff experience, have motivated and stimulated the Indians clubhouse, which has led to higher expectations on the field. Of course, they’ve also helped manager Terry Francona motivate his club.
The Indians will need the leadership of Giambi, Francona and Swisher for the remainder of this season in order to overcome the obstacles in front of them. No matter what, it should be a great run into September. And possibly beyond.
Jason Giambi could be a pivotal part of the Indians clubhouse in the second half.no comments
After a first season full of up and downs, the Indians have ended the first half of 2013 comfortably in second place in the American League Central behind the Detroit Tigers. The Indians have been a confusing team through the first half, showing greatness in every facet of the game at some point, but failing in all those same ways at other times. An example is that the Indians lead all teams with 12 shut outs on the year, but have also allowed six or more runs in a game in 48 of their first 95 games. They have won just seven of those 48 games, making their record of 51-44 overall even more impressive. At times this Indians' offense has looked power heavy and at other times it has been powerless. If there is any one player who is to blame for this change it is Mark Reynolds, who powered the Indians to the league lead in home runs for the first two months of the season, but has batted under .100 in the month of July.
Starting pitching has been a strength overall for the Indians (hence the 12 shut outs), but it has still been far from ideal as only two regular starters are taking an ERA under 4.00 into the second half. Justin Masterson is an All-Star and the Indians ace, but even he has struggled at times with almost a Jekyll and Hyde type transformation between starts. The Indians have won 12 of Masterson's 20 starts this year and it was his fault either way pretty much every time. In his wins, he has an ERA of 1.55 with a WHIP of .99. In his losses, however, he has allowed more than seven runs per nine innings and more than a base runner and a half per inning. Some of this may be from over use (three of his worst games came after his three complete game shut outs), and the All-Star break should help as he will have his longest length of time between starts so far this year.
The rest of the rotation has not been quite as dominant (with the exception of Corey Kluber), but there is some help waiting in the wings. The Indians have already used Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and Matt Langwell in games this year with varying success and the back end of the Indians rotation (most notably Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco) will need up their game if they would like to continue playing in the Majors this year. Zach McAllister is also set to come back soon and has already begun his rehab with a start in Akron. By the second time through the rotation after the break, Terry Francona should be set with his starting five for the first time in a long time (the last four starters to fill the number five hole in the rotation have been brought up from AAA the day of the start). If things go well, the Indians rotation for the rest of the season should look something like this: Kazmir, Kluber, Masterson, Jimenez and either McAllister or Salazar bringing up the rear.
There are two aspects of the Indians that have remained consistent this year and they are defense and team speed. As the saying goes, "speed never slumps" and both Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn have brought a new dimension to Cleveland with their legs. The defensive turn around has largely been started by Asdrubal Cabrera, who has looked more like 2011 of late than 2012. He is finally starting to turn some of his amazing plays into outs instead of errors. Having a strong, confident short stop is the keystone of a great defense and the rest of the team has looked better because of him. The team speed has helped in the outfield as well, as anything that stays in the air more than a second or two is an automatic out. Both of these attributes tend to be easier to remain consistent in than hitting or pitching, so there is no reason to expect a drop off in the second half.
If the Indians can maintain or decrease the distance between them and Detroit before the end of July, look for the patience to wear thin on players such as Jason Giambi, Reynolds and Rich Hill, who have struggled so far this year. Don't expect the answer to be a trade bringing help from the outside, though. With a minor league system that is absolutely stacked, the Indians should dip into their own talent pool before looking elsewhere. The fact is there is no starting pitcher on the market that is as good as Salazar or Bauer and both these pitchers are already under team control for years to come. The Indians have Major League ready players at almost every offensive position as well with Chun Chen (1B), Chris Wallace (C), Tim Fedroff (OF), Ezequiel Carrera (OF), Cord Phelps (2B) and Jeremy Hermida (OF) all as ready as they will ever be for the big time.
There is no reason to believe the Indians can't win the division outright with the team they have on hand right now. Just staying within two games of the Tigers for a half of a year is impressive, considering the triple crown winners they have leading both their offense and pitching staff. The Indians are now as injury free as they have been all year and many players (Drew Stubbs, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to name three) are just starting to play up to their potential. If the pitching staff can continue their progress, the Cleveland Indians should absolutely be able to return to their glory as the Central Division Champions in 2013.
Danny Salazar could be a big part of the Tribe's rotation down the stretch.no comments
The All-Star break is here so it's time to look back at some of the things that happened during the Indians first 95 games. Here are the best so far this year and make sure to check back at the end of the season for the Indians top ten defensive and offensive plays.
Best Offensive Play
4/3 Mark Reynolds hits go ahead home run in 11th inning.
The Indians have had quite a few late inning comebacks, but the first is my favorite. Mark Reynolds hit his first home run as an Indian and gave the Indians the go ahead run in just the second game of the year. This mammoth shot was a prelude to an amazing first two months with the Tribe.
Runner Up: 5/20 Yan Gomes hit a 10th inning three run home run against Seattle to give the Indians their third walk off wins in the four game series.
Best Defensive Play
6/10 Mark Reynolds goes crazy.
This play is hard to explain. Reynolds made a magnificent catch and throw that should have been called an out at first, but wasn't. Nick Swisher then alertly threw back to Reynolds at third to get the runner that was attempting to go from first to third. It should have been called a double play, but even with just the out at third it is the most amazing play so far this year.
Runner Up: 4/2 There are no plays near Reynolds' in quality, but there was a great one on Opening Day in Toronto when Asdrubal Cabrera flipped the ball behind his back to Jason Kipnis who turned the double play.
Best Offensive Performance
7/7 Michael Brantley: 3-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 Runs
Brantley has been one of the Indians most consistant hitters since he has been part of the team, but he has never been a power hitter. Things changed in a recent game against Detroit when Brantley hit a double and a home run off starting pitcher Doug Fister and a second home run later off Al Albuquerque. He set career highs in home runs and RBI while providing enough runs to beat Detroit by himself as the Tigers scored six runs. His effort earned him a Player of the Game score of 11.53.
Worst Offensive Performance: Two players tied for this honor as both Jason Kipnis (4/3) and Michael Bourn (6/15) have went 0-5 with two strike outs and two runners left in scoring position. This is good for a Player of the Game score of -0.60.
Best Defensive Performance
6/19 Mark Reynolds: Three great plays at first base.
The Indians knew they were improving their defense this offseason with the additions of Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs, but they never though that Reynolds could actually be a defensive asset. In this game he turned three great plays (the best is seen above) and all season he has been better than expected at both third and first.
Worst Defensive Game: On June 7th, Nick Swisher had a day to forget that we are now remembering for him. Swisher committed two errors that allowed three unearned runs to the Tigers on a day that the Indians lost by two runs. Of all the days for the usually solid defensive first baseman to fall apart, he picked about the worst one possible.
6/30 Justin Masterson: Complete Game Shut Out, 8 K's, W
Masterson has thrown three complete game shut outs this year, but his last was his best, outdueling Cy Young candidate Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox. Four double plays and a pick off helped him face just three batters above the minimum. The start earned him a Player of the Game score of 11.30.
Worst Start: Owner of two of the worst four starts this year, Carlos Carrasco made the worst start for an Indians pitcher this year on July 6th. Carrasco threw 3.1 innings and allowed six earned runs as well as an unearned run off his own error. Six of his ten hits allowed went for extra bases and he struck out just two while taking the loss. His Player of the Game score was -11.09.no comments
The Indians bullpen has been it's greatest asset for at least the last three seasons and for most of the years since 2005. There has been some transition among players over the years, but the current incarnation of the relief corp or "Bullpen Mafia" started in 2011 with the rookie year of Vinnie Pestano, the moniker being named mostly after him and Justin Germano. Since then, Joe Smith and Pestano have essentially become the greatest duel set-up men in team history, making three of the top ten single season hold records in the past two seasons. Chris Perez joins them as the final member of the trio, and has in the past three years become one of the greatest closers in Indians history.
Despite fantastic results in each of the past two years, the statistics have dropped off in 2013 (even though the wins have not slowed down). Nine times in 2011 the trio (Pestano, Smith and Perez) pitched in a game together that culminated in Perez getting a save. After learning the winning combination, the Indians used the three successfully 18 times in 2012. Overall during this two year stretch, Perez earned 75 saves, Pestano took 59 holds and Smith grabbed 37 holds of his own. This marked three consecutive seasons of at least 20 saves for Perez and 16 holds for Smith. There was no reason to think this wouldn't continue in 2013.
Newsflash: It didn't. Things started fine with the Indians making use of the trio in each of the first two games of the season, with Perez and Smith earning saves in games one and two. The Indians didn't get another save opportunity for the next 15 games, then again got two in a row (although the whole trio only pitched in the first game). Before another opportunity came around, Pestano went down with elbow tendonitis and missed 17 games in the first two weeks of May. As soon as he came back, Perez's shoulder exploded and he allowed three home runs with seven runs overall over his next three appearances while pitching through the injury. He then went on the DL for himself, missing 28 games in the process.
During Perez's time on the DL, Pestano became the closer and appeared to get over his injury, earning five saves during Perez's last ten days on the DL. Since his return, Chris Perez has been lights out in three games. Finally, in his third game back the Indians were able to get the band back together and throw out Smith, Pestano and Perez in consecutive innings, ending with a save. The first time this had happened since April 21st and just the third time in 2013.
While injuries have had a lot to do with the Indians bullpen not aligning correctly, the rest of the team is to blame as well for what has been a very odd dichotomy between wins and losses. Since saves are impossible in losses, we generally need to just focus on the 45 games the Indians have won so far. In these games, the Indians have averaged 6.7 runs per game (compared to 4.8 RPG overall) and allowed just 2.8 RPG. This has been largely because of the 14 Indians wins by at least five runs already this year. Overall, the Indians have had just 33 save opportunities (this includes blown holds) and are fourth from last in the Majors in team saves (17). Of those 33 chances, 14 were blown by non-closers and four were saved by non-closers, meaning there have really just been 15 save opportunities by the active Indians closer. Of these, Perez was saved 8 of 10 and Pestano is a perfect five for five.
In addition to the Indians scoring too many runs during wins, the non-mafia part of the bullpen struggling has also cost the team in close games. The combination of Rich Hill, Bryan Shaw and Nick Hagadone has blown five holds while completing just 12 successfully. The lack of hold opportunities for Pestano and Smith are largely to blame on the early relievers who have lost the lead before the Indians set up men get into the game. As of now, Smith leads the team with just eight holds while Pestano comes in third with five.
Prior to this season it seemed self evident that by the end of the year, Pestano and Smith would rank first and second in career holds as an Indian, surpassing Rafael Betancourt's 84 with just a modicum of effort. Now, this looks like a pipe dream. Smith currently ranks second and Pestano ranks fifth, with the top position having to wait at least one more year. Chris Perez was also poised to take over the historical lead in saves with a great season of at least 40 saves, but now will be lucky to get into second all time. He still needs 22 to catch Doug Jones, which he could possibly do if he can stay healthy and the Indians stop using Rich Hill to pitch with the lead.no comments