A series loss to the Tigers has essentially eliminated the Indians from the Central Division race. Here is some additional proof of this, after which, BurningRiverBaseball will never again mention the Indians and their attempt at the 2013 Central Division title.
- The Tigers will play the Red Sox next, then will not play another play-off contender for the rest of the season. They have nine more games with the Royals and besides those two teams, they will not play a team above .500.
- Considering winning percents, the Tigers are expected to win 16 more games and go 96-66. To match this, the Indians would have to go 24-2. Assuming the Royals can hold their own against Detroit that number could possibly be dropped by a couple of wins, but nothing obtainable. As it stands the Indians would finish 86-76.
On a more reasonable level, the Indians are competing with five other teams for the two available Wild Card spots.
- In this race, strength of schedule is very favorable towards the Indians. The two top teams (the Rays and the A's) have multiple series left against play-off contenders. The Rays have the worst of it, playing in the difficult AL East where they have series against the Red Sox, Rangers, Yankees and Orioles.
- The Indians could improve on their expected 14-12 finish by winning the four game series against the Astros, White Sox and Twins instead of splitting them. If they can turn around their offensive issues they could possible finish as well as 19-7, a record that would place them ahead of the Rays expected finish of 90-72 behind the Athletics at 92-70.
- This imagined finish should show what dire straights the Indians are in right now as far as the play-off picture is concerned. At just seven games over .500, it is hard to believe that they will be able to, all of a sudden, go 13 games over .500 for the last month.
- Not mentioned are the four other legitimate contenders for a Wild Card spot. These are the Orioles (who the Indians will play in Cleveland next), Yankees and the Royals. A hot streak by any of these teams could be enough to dislodge the current leading teams by the end of the year, so we'll keep close tabs on how these other competitors are faring during the next few weeks.
The loss to the Tigers has put a damper on the Indians season and was a major blow to their play-off hopes. This route is where that hope now lies, but it will be difficult. If they continue to play as they have against Atlanta and Detroit the past two series, it wouldn't even matter if they had already clinched the pennant. With the effort the Indians have put out recently, they couldn't possibly beat any play-off contender in a single game, let alone a series.no comments
August was a poor month for the Indians in general as can be seen by the many players who played below their expected values for the month. While the pitching staff maintained their level of excellence. As players have fallen into their niches this deep into the season, there has been very little movement, most of which was due to Corey Kluber being absent from this month's rankings.
1. Jason Kipnis Even (0)
In a month of inexistent offense, Kipnis was still the top performer, leading the Indians in hits and coming in second in doubles, RBI and runs scored in August. Kipnis has been so far ahead of every other offensive player, it is hard to imagine him not taking this top spot next month.
2. Justin Masterson Even (0)
The starting rotation has been one of the biggest assets of the Indians team this year and Masterson is right at the head of things. He still leads the team in wins (14), innings (188), strike outs (188) and BAA (.224). He will start between fix and six more games this year and the Indians couldn't be happier than if he just keeps pitching the way he has all season. Masterson and Kipnis will be competing over the final month for team MVP, now a two player race.
3. Michael Brantley Below (+1)
Brantley has been the Indians second most consistent hitter all season, but he has done something really special this past month. In over 100 at bats, Brantley has only struck out eight times. On the season, his 53 strike outs in 470 at bats is impressive, but he has really stepped things up in August. While his hits aren't falling in at a great rate (he has a three year low .289 BABIP), he is making contact and things will eventually turn around for him.
4. Carlos Santana Below (+3)
What is said about Santana is going to sound like a broken record by the time this list is through. He under-performed just like every one else (every single starting batter aside from Kipnis played below their expectations). Santana, however, unlike almost everyone else, actually had a couple positives this month. He seems to have found the strike zone again and started walking a lot, leading to his team high .354 OBP in August and has shown a little power by leading the team with five home runs.
5. Cody Allen Above (0)
Allen added a great August (1.88 ERA in 14 innings) to an already great season, making him a lock as the Indians top reliever in 2013 as long as he doesn't completely fall apart in September. As always, one of Allen's biggest strengths is his strike out ability and last month didn't change anything and he currently leads all relievers with 73 strike outs in 58 innings.
In another strange move in what has been a very much against the grain season as far as roster moves are concerned, the Cleveland Indians have traded a player to be named later to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jason Kubel. Indians fans remember Kubel as a part time outfielder and DH for the Twins from 2004 through 2011. In 2012, Kubel had a stand out season (30 home runs and 90 RBI) in his first year of a two year $15 million contract. This year, however, he has struggled through 89 games, batting just .220 with five home runs on the year.
The Indians largely signed Kubel to replace Ryan Raburn during the next two series, against Detroit and Baltimore. These are the biggest series left in the season for the Tribe and they will face no left handed starters (against whom he has batted just .162). Kubel will be able to play right field and DH, providing the Indians with more flexibility than Jason Giambi can offer from the bench and will likely be used extensively until Raburn's return. In the active lineup, he should replace Drew Stubbs as an every day player, with the Indians forgoing defense and base running skills for a little extra offensive power. Of course, the trouble with this logic is that Stubbs has out slugged Kubel by 50 points so far this year.
There is little risk in adding Kubel as the Diamondbacks are paying the vast majority of his salary for the rest of the season. While the minor leaguer to be exchanged has not been named yet, it can be assumed it will be a player the Indians have deemed expendable , so there is little cost there. The Indians will have to pay the million dollar buy out if they release him at the end of the season, but will also have the right to accept his $7.5 million team option for 2014.
Matt Carson will likely be the odd man out when Kubel is added to the 25 man roster to tomorrow's game two against Detroit. If the Indians would like to see Carson in further action (I can't imagine why they would) they can bring him up in ten days with no further cost.
It turns out the PTBNL in this deal was not a low level minor leaguer with no Major League future, but was in fact, Matt Langwell, a right handed starter in Columbus who has already made an appearance with the Indians bullpen this year. While he is likely never to an All-Star or even much of a Major League starter, it seems a very steep price to pay for a one month rental of a player that was going to be released anyway. Unless Kubel pulls an amazing turn around and provides the Indians with the power they have been lacking since Mark Reynolds stopped hitting home runs in June or the Indians intend on using his 2014 option, this looks like a very poor move overall.
If there is any upside in Langwell leaving, it will be that they no longer have to protect a player that doesn't project very well and can use the innings he would have gotten in AAA next year to further develop a player with a higher ceiling like Cody Anderson.no comments
As one can see from Pestano’s FIP, it is not as if he was subject to the usual “luck” problems one often sees with pitchers. His big league BABIP this year was .299 (slightly above his career numbers), and he stranded runners at an above-average rate. From looking just at those numbers, if anything, Pestano has been “lucky” this year. Given that his ERA has been poor for a reliever, especially a high-leverage reliever, that is a bad sign.
Pestano’s strikeout rate was down this year from both 2011 and 2012, and although that is an issue, it is not the only or primary problem. Just looking at the components of FIP, the main problems are increased walks and home runs. Pestano has never been a control pitcher, but with his strikeout rate high in past seasons, a walk rate just under 10 percent was fine. However, at the the same time his strikeout rate has dropped, Pestano’s walk rate is up to 11.5 percent. He was not only allowing more balls in play (and his contact rate actually jumped already from 2012), but is putting more runners on with the free pass — not a good combination.no comments
The Indians placed themselves in a very difficult position by losing a series to Oakland, a team they are directly trailing in the Wild Card chase. Based on my winning percent, the Indians are expected to win about 20 of their final 38 games while the Tigers should go 23 and 15. With this expected outcome the Indians will finish the season exactly ten games back in the AL Central (although still likely ahead of the Royals as both the Indians and Tigers are expected to win series against Kansas City).
My original calculations that saw the Indians possibly winning the division included a sweep of Los Angeles (the Indians lost the series 1-2) and a series win against Oakland. With those possibilities now destroyed, a new set of dreamy miracles needs to be created for the optimist inside each and every one of us.
It may be a long shot, but here is all the Indians need to happen to win the American League Central:
- The Indians need to win literally every single series for the rest of the season. This includes the three four game series as well as the three consecutive series against the Braves, Tigers and Orioles.
- Cleveland will also have to sweep the White Sox in a two game series at the end of the season. Of course, if the Indians sweep any of the other series previous to this point, it would give them some room for error.
- The Tigers are expected to go 9-1-2 in series for the rest of the series. The Indians essentially need them to go 7-4-1 instead for the Indians games to matter at all. This is as poorly as the Tigers can be expected to play and it would include unexpected losses to the Athletics, Royals on the road and the Indians at home. Just as with the Indians, if the Tigers were to get swept (or lose a series they are supposed to win), it would go a long way into helping the Indians reach the playoffs.
- The most important series remains the Indians/Tigers series in Detroit from August 30th-September 1st. A series loss here would be enough to eliminate the Indians from contention, while an Indians sweep would put them right back into it. Of course, if they play poorly in the previous series, this one may not matter all.
Expect the next one of these to be about the Wild Card.no comments
On Sunday afternoon against Oakland, Scott Kazmir struggled in his second consecutive game, despite being giving more than a week off between starts. On the whole this season, Kazmir have been much greater than expected (easy to do when nothing is expected), making 22 starts, winning seven and striking out 107 in 119 innings along the way. While he has struggled sporadically, his last two starts were the first time this season he had two very bad games in a row, allowing 10 runs in just eight innings across the two starts. This, combined with his admitted tiredness (aka dead arm), should make everyone wonder exactly how much left he has in the tank.
One reason this season has been so impressive for Kazmir is that he spent all of 2012 outside of Major League baseball, throwing just 64 innings for the Suger Land Skeeters, an Independent Atlantic League team. In 2011, things weren't much different with injuries forcing him to throw just 18 innings between the Angels and AAA Salt Lake City.
If a young pitcher was just coming into the league and had thrown only 82 innings in the previous two seasons, he would likely be coddled by keeping to strict pitch and inning counts. No such talk has surrounded Kazmir (a ten year veteran), who is just as much at risk of injury or break down as any rookie. If the Indians can act quickly and decisively, Kazmir could be moved into the bullpen before his next start, still being able to help his team through the rest of the season. From this position he would only need to throw about 10 more innings instead of the minimum of 35 he would be expected to throw if he stayed in the starting rotation. He would also likely be more effective in this role, being able to give each pitch 100% effort, making good use of his mid-90 MPH fast ball.
The Indians don't need to worry about pitching depth in his absence either. Carlos Carrasco is already with the team as long reliever and could immediately move into the rotation. If he doesn't suit the Indians needs, they could always go back to Trevor Bauer, who has remained in AAA since his last start in late June. The Indians could even make use of the two off days left in August and go with a four man rotation until September starts. On September first the Indians would be able to bring up as many pitchers as they wanted to with the expanded rosters. This could even include Josh Tomlin, who is almost done rehabbing after his Tommy John surgery last season.
Any of these options is preferable to continually throwing Scott Kazmir out there until his arm breaks down for good. He has shown already this season that his career doesn't need to be over, but it would be hard for the 29 year old to sustain another injury and be forced through another long come back attempt. The Indians owe it to Kazmir to treat him with respect after all he has given the team this year and the best way to keep him safe and still involved is by removing him from the rotation and placing him in the bullpen.no comments
Ryan Raburn signed a two-year, $4.85 million contract extension with a club option for 2016, the Indians announced on Wednesday.
Although Joe would disagree with me, this was an extension that needed to get done before Raburn tested the free agent waters this offseason. In a season of 162+ games, having productive offensive players low in the depth chart is one of the characteristics of having a deep team. Ryan Raburn will fit that role for the next few seasons.
For many years with the Tigers, Raburn would be named a starting outfielder at the beginning of the season, struggle at the plate, get sent down or benched for a another player who was well below replacement level. Raburn would then get another chance and go on a hot streak. Part of his problem was that he was not a good defender anywhere.
Raburn did have flashes with the bat, though. He put up a .291/.359/.533 (129 wRC+) line in 2009, including 16 home runs in just 291 plate appearances. He got off to a rough start in 2010, but finished the year strong, with an overall .280/.340/.474 (120 wRC+) performance over 418 plate appearance.
At that point, Raburn was eligible for arbitration, but was also going into his age-30 season, and the Tigers bought out a couple of years of his contract for league average money. Raburn’s offense suffered, though. His 93 wRC+ in 2011 was not bad for part-time bench player, but the problem was that that only place he could play acceptable defense was on the outfield corners, despite the Tiger's internal scouting reports. Things really went downhill for Raburn in 2012. In prior seasons, his decent power had made up for his bad plate discipline, but in 2012 his power disappeared, and combined with his BABIP streaking down, he managed 28 wRC+ (.171/.226/.254). Understandably, the Tigers let Raburn go.
It was not clear that Raburn would even get a major league deal, but the Indians, being a low-revenue team that needs to take big calculated risks, did give him one. They have been smart thus far, using Raburn as mostly a corner outfielder. He has not been strictly platooned, but he almost half of his plate appearances have been against southpaws, which is a good proportion for a right-handed hitter, given that their splits regress more heavily to average. (Raburn has actually been good against righties this year, but that is probably a fair bit of random variation, too, so Terry Francona is right to try not to play him too much against them.) Raburn’s massive 168 wRC+ (.283/.377/.584) thus far this season does not have the typical BABIP hot streak as its main foundation — .321 is not that high. Raburn has improved is walk rate considerably (11.6 percent versus 7.1 percent career) and, more significantly, hit for massive power (.301 ISO). Obviously, while Raburn may have made adjustments, the organization and fans cannot expect him to continue at that pace for the remainder of his contract.
No one could have seen this coming from Raburn, but whatever luck is involved, the Indians deserve credit for being willing to go out on a bit of limb (Raburn is making more than the minimum) for a corner outfielder in his thirties coming off of two bad seasons. Both he and they have been rewarded; Raburn at the age of 32 and the team, fighting for its first playoff birth since 2007.no comments
When the Indians gave Mark Reynolds a six million dollar contract this offseason, they were expecting the 29 year old to play similarly to his previous seasons in Baltimore and Arizona. Taking into account a slight decrease into production due to age (Reynolds hit his peak at 25, a much younger age than most people), they could have expected him to hit between 20 and 30 home runs while hitting about .220/.320/.420. Home runs are expensive stats (like wins and saves) and that amount of money for that amount of production is below market value.
Reynolds hit eight of those prospective 25 home runs in April and batted .301/.358/.651, a pace that pretty much everyone on the planet (including the Indians staff) agreed he could not maintain. In May, he had a month that he could maintain with just five home runs and a line of .218/.310/.386, but here we need to stop. The player the Indians though would bat .220 was still batting over .260 and had already hit thirteen of an expected 25 home runs. While it is possible, it is very rare for a player to completely jump over his career averages. Assuming no great Reynolds renaissance, he was set to hit 12 home runs and bat around .200 the rest of the season, just to make up for his early season power fest.
Reynolds did just that, batting under .200 with just two home runs over the next two months. He was removed as starter and shortly after released. While he may have had one more hot streak in his bat (with another ten home runs or so), the Indians all of a sudden didn't think it worth the risk. At this point, there seem to be no suitors to pay for the two million left on Reynolds contract. The Indians have to have expected this and must agree that he isn't worth it, or they would have kept him themselves. His 15 home runs and 48 RBI were enough to make his contract worthwhile, but it isn't worth keeping him around while he finishes bottoming out the rest of his expectations.
The only thing that makes this move odd, is that Jason Giambi (who has been statistically worse than Reynolds in every facet and can't play either defensive position Reynolds can) remains on the team. This is supposedly because the Indians value his "clubhouse presence," but if that were the case and he is really the "great guy" they say he is, he would retire from playing and serve the team in a different role as special assistant to the hitting coach or something similar.
Finally, both of these options (Giambi's retirement and Reynolds' release) have to beg the question, why weren't they done sooner. If the paltry offense expected from Reynolds during the last two months wasn't enough to keep him around, why didn't they release him when his batter average dipped below .200. There is almost no chance that he would have continued to struggle at this rate for the last two months (as little of a chance as there was of him hitting 40 home runs this year), so it would seem that they sold too late, taking all the bad and giving up just as things were going to get good again. If the Indians had given up on Reynolds a month ago they would have had options, whether it be in bringing up a AAA player (Chun Chen or Jeremy Hermida seem the only options) or trying to make a trade to lose Reynolds and gain another player of his caliber (maybe Adam Dunn). Now, Reynolds is likely to clear waivers, but be grabbed by another team at league minimum when he refuses a demotion to the minor leagues. The whole situation was played rather poorly and, while it is not too costly for the Indians, it could have been handled in a much superior way.no comments
Going into the series with Detroit, the Indians had a chance to make a move on the Central Division and possibly take over the top spot. After an extremely disappointing (though well played) series, the Indians are further back than ever and will need to make a run if they stand any chance of reaching the playoffs this season. This is what the Indians will need to happen for them to return to the post season as the Central Division Champions for the first time since 2007:
- The Indians are now seven games back from Detroit and need to make this up within the next 47 games. This looks impossible, but we'll delve a little deeper into the remaining schedule to see what should be expected.
- Using current winning percentages, the Indians are expected to go 25-22 through the rest of the year against the opponents they face. The Tigers, facing a slightly easier schedule, can be expected to go 31-18.
- With that, the Indians would finish another five games back from the Tigers, so they need a deviation from the expected of 13 games, instead of seven.
- Taking a slightly positive outlook, assuming the Indians will win their last three four game series and sweep the Twins and Angels at home, the Indians record could be 31-16. Similarly, looking at the Tigers schedule, some bad luck for them could see a turn around against their more difficult opponents (the A's, Red Sox and Yankees), possibly seeing them go 26-23. Assuming these slight changes, the Indians would finish just one game back from the Tigers in the Division chase.
- This still assumes the Indians will lose the final three game series between the two teams. If the Indians take that series and all the extended circumstances listed above take place, the Indians would win the division by a single game.
While all this is unlikely, it shows that the Indians are not out of it. They are even closer to the second Wild Card spot, but that would be a last resort, so their efforts should still be based on winning the Central. The fact is that if they do everything they need to do (win 68% of their games down the stretch) they will probably make the playoffs even if Detroit doesn't fail. Almost every season there is a team that comes from behind to make the playoffs, sometimes past seemingly insurmountable odds. The point being, don't give up hope until it is taken from you.
That three game series in Detroit (8/30-9/1) will be another turning point. An Indians sweep would eliminate most of the distance between the two teams and a Tigers sweep could end the Central Division playoff race once and for all. As the season progresses, Burning River Baseball will keep you updated with the Indians playoff chances and what they will have to do to make it happen.no comments