The Indians headed into this season with an overhauled offense and high expectations. Given the team’s propensity for strikeouts, and its potential for power, a kind of all-or-nothing output was anticipated. That has, more or less, been the case over the first month for this interesting Indians squad.
The lineup has experienced feast-or-famine stretches that have left Tribe fans scratching their heads, wondering which group is going to show up on a nightly basis. Well, Cleveland closed out April with an all-out smorgasbord at the plate, pounding out 33 runs in the final 26 innings of the month.
On Tuesday night, the Indians launched seven home runs in a game for just the fourth time in team history, and churned out 14 runs. That was without center fielder Michael Bourn (hand injury) and first baseman Nick Swisher (shoulder soreness) — the two big-ticket offseason signings — in the lineup. Indians manager Terry Francona said seeing the entire team pitch in has been the fun part of late.
“It’s actually more fun when a guy like Swish is getting time off and you have guys that are coming in,” Francona said. “You’re using the whole ballclub. I think that’s good. [It's fun] when we score runs, but the growth of the personality of your team and things like that [is good to see].”
The big question coming into this season was simply: will the pitching do its part?
So far, the rotation has endured its share of ups and downs, cycling through eight starters already this season. The bullpen has held steady and the offense has provided ample support for the most part (until the streakiness kicks in), but the rotation will need to improve over the next five months if the Tribe wants to be a serious threat in the American League Central.
Here is a glace at the Indians’ showing in April…
AL Central standings heading into May:
1. Tigers 15-10 (–)
2. Royals 14-10 (.5)
3. Twins 11-12 (3)
4. Indians 11-13 (3.5)
5. White Sox 10-15 (5)
Record at home: 3-6
Record on road: 8-7
Offense (AL rank)
.265 AVG (3)
.333 OBP (4)
.465 SLG (1)
.798 OPS (1)
120 R (5)
222 H (10)
49 2B (5)
36 HR (1)
115 RBI (5)
13 SB (8)
82 BB (5)
199 K (8)
90 XBH (3)
389 TB (4)
Note: This is the 54th time the Indians have hit at least 36 HR in any single month in team history and marks second-most ever for an Indians team in March/April (49, 1997). … The Indians have belted 36 home runs through 24 games (929 PA). The team needed 44 games (1,693 PA) to reach 36 homers last season.
Pitching (AL rank)
10 wins (10)
4.27 ERA (11)
5.09 rot. ERA (11)
2.82 rel. ERA (4)
4 saves (11)
211 IP (14)
186 H (1)
109 R (8)
100 R (8)
32 HR (12)
87 BB (10)
190 K (11)
.235 AVG (2)
1.29 WHIP (9)
Player of the Month: co-winners Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds
Santana: .389/.476/.722/1.198, 5 HR, 9 2B, 13 RBI, 12 BB, 14 R, 28 H, 20 games
Reynolds: .301/.368/.651/1.019, 8 HR, 3 2B, 22 RBI, 10 BB, 17 R, 25 H, 23 games
Note: Santana exited April with the highest average in the Major Leagues and the highest average in a season’s first month by an Indians catcher in team history. His 1.198 OPS also led baseball and marked the fourth-highest OPS for an Indians hitter in March/April in franchise history. … Reynolds’ eight homers and 22 RBIs are both the most for an Indians hitter in the season’s first month since Juan Gonzalez had eight RBIs and 26 RBIs in April 2001.
Pitcher of the Month: Justin Masterson
Stats: 6 starts, 4-2, 3.12 ERA, 40.1 IP, 39 K, 17 BB, .231 AVG, 1.26 WHIP
Reliever of the Month: Joe Smith
Stats: 9 games, 0.00 ERA, 8 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 9 K, .154 AVG, 0.50 WHIP
Game of the Month (hitter): Ryan Raburn
April 29 against Kanas City: 4-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 10 total bases
Game of the Month (pitcher): Justin Masterson
April 12 against White Sox: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K, 83 game score
Minor League standouts for April
Player of the Month: OF Jeremy Hermida
Stats: .259/.376/.471/.847, 4 HR, 4 2B, 1 3B, 15 RBI, 11 R, 24 games
Pitcher of the Month: RHP Preston Guilmet
Stats: 11 games, 1.46 ERA, 8-for-8 saves, 12.1 IP, 13 K, 2 BB, .136 AVG, 0.65 WHIP
Player of the Month: 1B/DH Chun Chen
Stats: .351/.468/.558/1.027, 3 HR, 5 2B, 1 3B, 16 RBI, 12 R, 22 games
Pitcher of the Month: LHP T.J. House
Stats: 4 starts, 2-1. 3.22 ERA, 22.1 IP, 27 K, 3 BB, .235 AVG, 1.03 WHIP
Class A (high) Carolina
Player of the Month: SS Francisco Lindor
Stats: .341/.406/.505/.911, 1 HR, 6 2B, 3 3B, 10 RBI, 12 R, 7 SB, 24 games
Pitcher of the Month: RHP Cody Anderson
Stats: 5 starts, 3-0, 2.25 ERA, 28 IP, 18 K, 9 BB, .206 AVG, 1.04 WHIP
Class A (low) Lake County
Player of the Month: OF Logan Vick
Stats: .303/.427/.439/.866, 1 HR, 4 2B, 1 3B, 12 RBI, 12 R, 23 games
Pitcher of the Month: RHP Michael Peoples
Stats: 6 games, 1-0, 1.20 ERA, 15 IP, 18 K, 2 BB, .250 AVG, 1.13 WHIP
Because I’d rather focus on what I forecasted correctly last year than what I got wrong. And, by wrong, I mean, oh, so wrong. Like, super wrong. Wrong to the point that my colleagues are still busting my chops about it.
Last spring, I predicted that Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero would capture the American League Cy Young Award.
Now, I wasn’t taking crazy pills at the time, really I wasn’t. But I didn’t want to do what most writers do, which is pencil in Justin Verlander or Felix Hernandez for the award. I guess I could’ve gone with lefty David Price. That wouldn’t have been too far out on the ol’ limb.
I was accused of homer-ism, considering I covered the Blue Jays for six seasons. I honestly just thought Romero was on the verge of a breakout season. From 2009-11, his win total and innings load had increased each year, and his ERA and WHIP had declined each year. Over that three-year span, he ranked within the AL’s top five in virtually every major pitching category for starters. He was an All-Star in 2011, and received Cy votes. Romero looked poised for a huge year.
Romero went 9-14, walked 105 batters, posted a 5.77 ERA and was demoted to Class A earlier this week.
“Don’t pick me for anything,” Indians closer Chris Perez said.
I think I’ll avoid any extreme darkhorse picks this time around.
That said, I did pick Cabrera to win the AL Most Valuable Player Award, and all he did was win the Triple Crown. I also picked Davey Johnson to win the National League Manager of the Year Award, which he did after leading the Nationals to a baseball-best 98 wins last season.
Those were the two major awards I correctly predicted. I also was right on 10 of the 30 team’s place in their respective division standings, including a perfect 6-for-6 for my NL Central predictions. I also had the Giants winning the pennant (though I had them losing to Texas in the World Series. Swing and a miss!).
As for your Indians, I like what they’ve done heading into this season. The offense has the potential to be really good. It had that potential even before adding Michael Bourn to lead off and take over in center field. What I’m not sure on is how well Cleveland’s rotation will hold up. Over 162 games, that group could get exposed again.
That’s why I’ve got to stick with Detroit as the favorites in the AL Central, and why I’m not ready to declare Cleveland a playoff team. The Tigers have won the division two years in a row and went to the World Series last fall. Even without a clear-cut closer, Detroit’s my team to beat again this season.
And here are all of my preseason picks for this season…
*2. Blue Jays
5. Red Sox
4. White Sox
*indicates Wild Card pick
NL Wild Card: Nationals over Dodgers
NL Division Series: Braves over Nationals
NL Division Series: Reds over Giants
NL Championship Series: Braves over Reds
AL Wild Card: Blue Jays over Rangers
AL Division Series: Blue Jays over Angels
AL Division Series: Tigers over Rays
AL Championship Series: Tigers over Blue Jays
Tigers over Braves
AL Most Valuable Player: Adrian Beltre, Rangers
AL Cy Young Award: Jered Weaver, Angels
AL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers, Rays
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Rays
NL Most Valuable Player: Joey Votto, Reds
NL Cy Young Award: Matt Cain, Giants
NL Rookie of the Year: Shelby Miller, Cardinals
NL Manager of the Year: Fredi Gonzalez, Braves
Kazmir hoped he’d earned his way into the rotation, but he knows as well as anyone how the business side of baseball can often work.
“I really didn’t know, to be honest with you,” Kazmir said. “I’d like to say I thought I did enough, or I felt like I’ve proven enough, but anything can happen, it really could.”
“I’m just happy I’m in the situation I’m in now.”
On Monday, Kazmir was named Cleveland’s fifth starter. This is a comeback tale that will be interesting to follow this season. If the lefty can be anything remotely close to the pitcher he was in the past, the Indians caught a break here. And it’s not like they’re asking him to be their ace. He’s the fifth man, being offered a chance to resurrect his career.
Kazmir was on top of the baseball world a few years ago. He led the American League in strikeouts in 2007 and was a rising star in the game. Then came the health issues, and the subsequent mechanical problems, and the trade to the Angels, and lost velocity, and eventually, his release.
Last year, Kazmir pitched with the Sugar Land Skeeters in the Independent Atlantic League. He couldn’t get a big league job. After pitching for Sugar Land, and working overtime during the winter to get back into prime shape, and then pitching in Puerto Rico for manager Edwin Rodriguez (a manager in Cleveland’s farm system), Kazmir caught his break with the Tribe.
They gave him a Minor League deal and he responded by being the team’s most consistent starter this spring. His velocity was back to 92-92 mph (topping at 93-94) after dropping to the mid- to low-80s a couple years ago. He has more pitches now.
Most importantly, Kazmir has a spot back in the Majors.
“It’s a really great story,” Indians GM Chris Antonetti said. “As we told Scott when we met with him, he deserves a ton of credit. He overcame a lot of adversity. He went to the Independent league last year and tried to rework his delivery and get back to the point of being a competitive pitcher.
“He carried that forward in winter ball and came into camp, really from Day 1, ready to go. He impressed from his first bullpen all the way through his last outing. He deserves a lot of credit for the work he put in.”
Kazmir knows his work isn’t done, either.
“I feel like the way I’ve progressed over the last couple of years,” he said, “and the way I’ve progressed during Spring Training, it’s only going to get better. I really feel that way. It’s exciting. It’s exciting to feel that way and to be that confident, but I truly believe it.”
Throughout his sit-down with reporters, the 29-year-old Kazmir spoke softly and seemed relaxed. He said, inside, he was far from it.
“It’s kind of hard to even collect my thoughts right now,” he said. “With everything that’s gone on the last couple years, it’s kind of emotional. It really is. I think it’ll sink in a little bit later. It still hasn’t set in. At the same time, I’m so determined just to get back to where I want to be that this is not it for me.”
Decisions and moves made on Monday:
- DH/PH Jason Giambi’s contract was purchased from Triple-A Columbus
- Indians placed Giambi (lower back strain) on the 15-day DL (eligible 4/9)
- OF Ezequiel Carrera designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Giambi
- INF Cord Phelps and C Yan Gomes optioned to Triple-A Columbus
- RHP Matt Capps released from his Jan. 31 Minor League contract
- LHP Nick Hagadone & RHP Bryan Shaw informed they’ll be in OD bullpen
- RHP Carlos Carrasco will open year in MLB to serve 6-game suspension
- Carrasco will be optioned to Triple-A Columbus once suspension is complete
- LHP Scott Kazmir told he will be called up on 4/6 to start team’s fifth game.
- LHP David Huff informed he will not be on the Opening Day roster
- Antonetti said he’ll work to trade Carrera and/or Huff (both out of options)
- Antonetti maintained interest in re-signing RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka and Capps
- Roster moves will be needed to add non-roster players Kazmir and Raburn
- One way to clear spot on 40-man will be RHP Frank Herrmann to 60-day DL
Tentative Opening Day roster
1. Justin Masterson
2. Ubaldo Jimenez
3. Brett Myers
4. Zach McAllister
*5. Scott Kazmir
Note: Kazmir will not be on Opening Day roster, but is the fifth starter to open the year. Carlos Carrasco will be on the Opening Day roster, but the plan is to have him back in Triple-A after he serves six-game suspension from 2011. Carrasco was punished for throwing at KC’s Billy Butler. The pitcher originally appealed the suspension, but injured his arm and missed the rest of 2011 and all of 2012 without serving it.
RH Chris Perez
RH Vinnie Pestano
RH Joe Smith
RH Cody Allen
RH Matt Albers
RH Bryan Shaw
LH Nick Hagadone
LH Rich Hill
Note: When the Indians add Kazmir to the roster, one of the relievers will likely be optioned, considering Carrasco will have one game remaining on his suspension. Players who have options (Allen, Shaw and Hagadone) are most vulnerable for demotion.
1B Nick Swisher
2B Jason Kipnis
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
3B Lonnie Chisenhall
C Carlos Santana
DH Mark Reynolds
LF Michael Brantley
CF Michael Bourn
RF Drew Stubbs
UTIL Mike Aviles
UTIL Ryan Raburn
C Lou Marson
Note: When Jason Giambi is ready to be activated from the disabled list on April 9, Cleveland could clear a spot on the active roster by optioning Carrasco to the Minor Leagues. The Indians would then be back to a customary 12-man pitching staff (seven relievers) and a normal four-player bench.
DH Jason Giambi (back)
RH Blake Wood (elbow)
RH Josh Tomlin (elbow)
RH Frank Herrmann (elbow)
The race for the fifth spot in the Indians’ rotation is down to two arms: Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco. In Carrasco’s case, there is a situation that requires clarification before he is potentially added to the roster.
Do you remember July 29, 2011?
It was a 12-0 loss to the Royals, so there’s a good chance you washed that game from your memory bank. The only reason you should recall that day is that’s when Cookie Carrasco threw a fastball at Billy Butler’s head.
The timing of that high-inside heated was curious, seeing as it came one pitch after Melky Cabrera took a moment to admire a fourth-inning grand slam. Carrasco then threw at Butler, was tossed from the game and had his wrist slapped with a six-game suspension from Major League Baseball.
Carrasco appealed and went on to blow out his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery. The pitcher sat out all of 2012 with the injury, watched Cleveland lose 94 games and is only now back on a mound and in the mix for a job.
I’d consider this all time served, but that pesky suspension is still hanging over Carrasco’s head. Shoot, Cabrera is on his third team since the incident took place. But, barring a pardon from The Commish, Carrasco still needs to serve his suspension when he’s back in the big leagues.
Complicating matters is the fact that Cleveland has 13 games in 13 days to open the season. The Indians are already considering opening the year with 13 pitchers (eight relievers) to guard against any setbacks with the rotation. If Carrasco is one of the starters, well then Cleveland will need a spot starter out of the gates due to the suspension.
This is all in theory, anyways.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti is still sorting through the suspension situation.
“That’s something that we have to think about,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “There’s all kinds of things to think about and that’s one of them. … The one thing we have to figure out is how that suspension [works]. We need some clarity on that and Chris is working towards that, too. We’ll get it figured out.”
In his outing against the D-backs on Thursday, Carrasco was charged with four runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and no walks in five innings. I say “charged with” because there was some defensive issues (Brantley lost a ball in the sun) that contributed to Arizona’s three-run third inning.
Some notes and quotes from Thursday…
- Cleveland optioned starters Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber to Triple-A on Thursday, narrowing the rotation race down to Kazmir and Carrasco. Kazmir is in camp as a non-roster invitee, but his progress in terms of command and velocity have been promising, and having a lefty in the rotation would be nice. As of now, he’s still my favorite to land the fifth spot.
- Bauer said he has spent this spring working to “overwrite 10 years of neuromuscular programming” with his delivery. Let me translate: he’s altered his mechanics and it’s going to take time to get used to the changes. He knew tackling mechanical issues could hurt his chances of making the Opening Day rotation, but Bauer said he is focusing on his long-term future. Cleveland is on board with the changes. And, honestly, he seemed a long shot for Opening Day from the start. He has 14 Triple-A starts under his belt and can stand to improve his pitch efficiency. Chances are Bauer will come to Cleveland at some point this summer.
- Kluber had a so-so spring between his Cactus League and Minor League outings. Francona said the Indians want the right-hander to concentrate on fastball command, and having more variation between his slider and cutter. Kluber has shown promise in spurt, but the consistency isn’t quite there yet.
- Brantley launched a three-run homer on Thursday, making him 5-for-6 with five RBIs and nine total bases in his past two games. Prior to those games, the Tribe’s left fielder went 2-for-16 after returning from a left forearm injury. He appears to be getting his timing back.
- Mike Aviles (Puerto Rico) and Carlos Santana (Dominican Republic) were back with the Indians on Thursday, but both were given the day off. They’ll be back in the lineup for the Tribe for Friday’s night game against Arizona in Goodyear.
- Aviles said the atmosphere created by the fans in the World Baseball Classic was the highlight for him: “I’ve never seen that. They were so into the game and just so proud to be cheering us on. It was definitely one of those deals where you went to the park and you were excited, because you knew they had your back no matter what. That was my favorite part.”
- Another highlight? Getting two hits off Indians teammate, and Team USA reliever, Vinnie Pestano. Said Aviles: ”That was a fun part, too. That was more for the bragging rights. He had been telling me I was 0-for-6 before that. Well, I’m two-for-my-last two against him and hopefully I don’t need to face him anymore, so I can hold on tot hat until the next time.”
- Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has missed the past two games due to soreness in his throwing elbow. Francona said it wasn’t serious, and Kipnis could play through it if this were the regular season.
- Indians catcher and bench candidate Yan Gomes has remained sidelined with a right hamstring issue since Friday. Francona said Gomes might be able to return to the lineup some time this weekend.
- The Indians sent lefty Scott Barnes to Triple-A on Thursday, and also informed righty Jerry Gil that he will be going to Triple-A, too. Righty Matt Capps appeared in Thursday’s game, but he was told a couple days ago that he will not be on the Opening Day roster. Capps is currently looking for another big league job before telling Cleveland if he will go to the Minors. Francona is fine with Capps taking that approach: “I think Matt has an obligation to look around. We completely respect that. For his sake, I hope he finds a job. But, selfishly, I hope he ends up staying with us.”
- With those moves, the bullpen continues to come into focus. Right now, it looks like it’s Bryan Shaw, Nick Hagadone and David Huff (out of options) battling for one or two openings, depending on whether Cleveland begins the season with seven or eight relievers.
- Predicting the Opening Day roster as of today: ROTATION — Masterson, Jimenez, Myers, McAllister, Kazmir; BULLPEN — Perez, Smith, Pestano, Allen, Albers, Hill, Hagadone, Huff; REGULARS — Swisher, Kipnis, Cabrera, Chisenhall, Brantley, Bourn, Stubbs, Reynolds, Santana; BENCH — Aviles, Marson, Giambi.
- EXPLANATION: I’m predicting a 13-man pitching staff out of the gates as of this writing. I have Huff as an eighth reliever, because he is out of options, so Cleveland could maintain its depth for a couple weeks and delay running him through waivers. Huff also has experience as a starter and is ready for a long relief role, which could come in handy given the 13 games in 13 days to begin the year. With a three-man bench, I could see a scenario where the Tribe has a handshake agreement with a utility guy like Raburn (or Phelps), telling him he’d go to the Minors until the team reverts back to a customary 12-man pitching staff. In the meantime, you’ve got a fourth outfielder in Swisher, and a super utility player in Aviles to backup multiple infield spots (and possibly the corner outfield spots) until another bench player is called up from Triple-A to pitch in.
I’ll try to do these more detailed blogs more often as we approach the regular season.
Stay tuned for more…
We have hit the Indians’ first team off-day of Spring Training. It is March 12, and three weeks remain until Cleveland opens its season on the road in Toronto. Much has transpired over the past month, and there is plenty that will happen before camp breaks.
As I sit here in Starbucks, my off-day story on Mark Reynolds filed, with some time to kill, it seems appropriate to tackle some thoughts on the Tribe’s spring thus far:
- You can take this for what it’s worth from a reporter’s perspective, and I know it sounds very cliché, but the buzz around the Indians has felt more real this spring than previous years. Maybe it’s all the new faces and great personalities added, and the fact that, when players look around the clubhouse or field, they see a team built to win. Whatever it is, there has been an energy and intensity that has been missing in recent springs.
- The only holes to be filled at this point are the fifth spot in the rotation, a few spots in the bullpen, and one or two bench jobs. Let’s go over each…
- Fifth rotation spot: Ask me, and I’d tell you right now that lefty Scott Kazmir (11 shutout innings between Cactus League and B games) looks like the favorite to land this job. Pitching prospect Trevor Bauer has also looked solid. I think Corey Kluber will open at Triple-A, and I think Carlos Carrasco could benefit from the same. Carrasco — coming off Tommy John — is seeking consistency, and the Tribe could better control his innings in the Minors to start the season. Daisuke Matsuzaka — his recent calf cramp aside — has looked decent enough, but not strong enough to seem like a favorite for the job. It’s really tough to say right now which way the Indians are leaning. And, hey, with three weeks left, there is plenty of time for someone to pitch their way in or out of the discussion.
- BULLPEN: For the sake of argument, let’s say closer Chris Perez is ready in time for Opening Day. If that’s the case, then it’ll be Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith and Rich Hill (out of options and now added to the roster) as potential locks. Righty Matt Albers, who is out of options and has a big fan in manager Terry Francona, seems like a virtual lock as well. That leaves two spots open, or three if Cleveland carries an extra reliever to help out for the first two weeks (13 straight games with no off-days). If there is an extra reliever, lefty David Huff (out of options) seems like a candidate to come north, considering he can log multiple innings. Others in the mix are righties Cody Allen, Matt Capps and Bryan Shaw, and lefties Nick Hagadone and Scott Barnes. Francona has raved about both Allen and Hagadone. Cleveland will need to make a decision about Capps on March 26. I could see a scenario (much like with Wheeler last season) where the Indians keep Capps in order to help maintain their bullpen depth at the onset of the season. Allen, Shaw, Hagadone and Barnes all have options, so there will be a tough conversation or two before the end of the spring. Now, if Perez isn’t ready for Opening Day, that frees up an extra spot for another one of these guys.
- BENCH: It sure seems like 42-year-old Jason Giambi has a spot on the Opening Day roster, barring injury. Given the versatility and positional flexibility with the starting nine, the Indians can afford to carry a part-time DH and pinch hitter on the bench. A guy like Ezequiel Carrera (out of options) would seem like a lock for a bench job given his speed, ability to play center and contract status. But the Indians already have three center fielders in the starting lineup, and a first baseman (Nick Swisher) who can man right field if needed. There is also ample speed in the lineup, and also a solid baserunner on the bench in Mike Aviles. That makes Carrera, while valuable as a fourth outfielder, a bit redundant in terms of tools. That makes carrying someone like Ryan Raburn (second, third, corner outfield) realistic. Cleveland might try to find a trade partner for a deal involving Carrera before the end of camp, because it’s highly unlikely he’d slip through waivers. This spring, Carrera has ben getting a lot of work in right field (arguably his weakest outfield spot) and he’s led the team with eight stolen bases, while batting just .192. Raburn has hit .440 with four homers and 11 RBIs, and Francona has raved about his short swing being the perfect type of approach for handling a bench role. The writing isn’t entirely on the wall, but you can already make out some of the letters.
- The Indians have a Rule 5 pick in camp in Chris McGuiness (first base, DH, corner outfield), but he has hit .120 — likely pressing while attempting to be impressing — and hasn’t played above Double-A. McGuiness will likely be offered back to Texas, though Cleveland might try to work out a trade to keep him. The Tribe clearly thinks highly of him.
- Yan Gomes skipped the World Baseball Classic to focus on competing for a bench job, and there is a scenario where Cleveland could carry him — over, say, Raburn — as a backup for catcher, first, third, DH and corner outfield. Francona has made it a point to note, though, that the Indians want to see if Gomes can develop into an everyday catcher in the big leagues. That being the case, it would seem to make more sense to have him playing every day at Triple-A rather than playing sporadically as a third-string catcher/utility player in the big leagues. Gomes has hit .381 with one homer, four doubles and six RBIs this spring. He’s also gone 4-for-8 vs. LHP.
- Most at-bats to this point in camp? Big Mike McDade, who was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays over the winter. He’s been impressive at the plate (.400 with one homer and 10 RBIs), but he’s got a ticket waiting for him for Triple-A Columbus. He had limited exposure to Triple-A last season with Toronto, but raked in his brief stint with Las Vegas. If he builds off that, and his spring showing with the Indians, that could provide Cleveland with solid depth one rung down from the Majors.
- Predicted Opening Day roster as of today: Rotation — Masterson, Jimenez, Myers, McAllister, Kazmir; Bullpen — Pestano, Smith, Hill, Albers, Capps, Hagadone, Allen; Regulars — Swisher, Kipnis, Cabrera, Chisenhall, Santana, Reynolds, Brantley, Bourn, Stubbs; Bench — Marson, Aviles, Giambi, Raburn.
- NOTE: I left Perez off the OD roster prediction because it’s too early in his rehab process to know if he’ll be ready for the start of the season. So my prediction assumes a disabled list stint to begin the year. That could change as he gets deeper in his recovery program.
“I think it’ll be a good outfield, man,” Bourn said. “We’ve all got speed out there. We’ve all got pretty good arms and we’re all going to make plays. You put that combination together, I think we’ll be just fine. I think we’ll be exciting to watch.”
This does not mean that their defensive partnership will come without growing pains.
In Friday’s spring opener against the Reds, it was evident early on that the group will need some time to learn how to work together.
This is why the preseason is so important.
“We had a little mix-up in the outfield early,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Those are things that, not that you want to have happen, but if it’s going to happen, that’s why you have Spring Training. You can take that and work on it, and it ends up helping you.”
In the first inning, Cincinnati’s Ryan Hanigan sent a pitch into the right-center gap. It was a catchable fly ball, but Bourn and Stubbs had some communication issues are they sprinted toward one another. The baseball dropped in and Hanigan was rewarded with a two-run double.
“That was really my fault,” Bourn said. “I didn’t go at it, because I thought he already had it. That happens in Spring Training. You’d rather for it to happen now than when it really counts. I take the blame for that one.”
Stubbs also felt at fault, according to Francona.
“Drew said, ‘I took for granted that he was going to catch it,’” Francona said. “Those are things that you iron out now.”
All three outfielders are such good runners that they will need to learn how to account for the other’s range as they convene on fly balls. Bourn said learning and adjusting to the athleticism offered by Brantley and Stubbs will be important this spring.
“That’s the biggest key for me the first couple weeks,” Bourn said. “I just want to figure out who has what ranges with each other. I’ll go from there. Because I’m in the middle, I want to know what the corners look like. I know we have good corner outfielders.
“It’s pretty much three center fielders out there playing. We’ll just watch each other, feed off each other and we’ll learn as we go.”
Final score: Indians 11, Reds 10
Cactus League record: 1-0
Catching you up on some stories and happenings of late…
- Francona proud to be back in uniform, and already proud of his new team
- Bloom: New-look Tribe reminder of ’90s teams
- Pestano likes the depth brewing in the bullpen
- Gomes content with decision to stay in camp
- Baerga and Hart elected to Indians Hall of Fame
- Carrasco healthy, competing for rotation spot
- Capps eager to push for relief role
- Some Indians pitchers went without L screens in live BP
- Bauer debuted his long toss program in Tribe camp
- Francona weaves some tales about managing MJ
- Who will hit behind Bourn?
- Ringolsby stopped by camp to examine busy winter
- Aviles has fond memories of Ashland, Ohio
- Swisher had to step away from camp due to a tough loss
- Stubbs confident he can handle switch to right
- Chisenhall relaxed now that third base job is his
- Santana might not see much time at first or DH
Keep checking Indians.com for more news and features throughout the spring, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@MLBastian) and Instagram (bastianmlb). I have posted photos from camp on both social-media sites.
Talk about a hectic, news-filled first few days in Indians camp. Cleveland turned in one of the busiest offseasons in the long, storied history of its franchise, and it turned out the ballclub wasn’t done. Since the team began gathering in Goodyear, it has added veteran Jason Giambi, pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and, the stunner of the winter, free-agent Michael Bourn.
“There’s a lot of buzz around this locker room,” Nick Swisher said on Wednesday morning. “If you’re a Tribe fan, you should be super excited.”
It sure seems like Indians fans are indeed excited.
Since arriving, my Twitter feed has been peppered with fan inquiries about single-game tickets becoming available. I can’t say that has been the case in my previous two springs covering this team. On Wednesday, the team went as far as issuing a reminder that tickets for all 81 home games will go on sale starting at 10 a.m. ET on Feb. 25. Mark it down. A few other notes offered by the team:
- On Tuesday, the Tribe reached one-day season-ticket sales totals that equal what the team typically sees during an average offseason month.
- Retail was up over 50-percent on Tuesday compared to the same date last year.
- Indians.com site traffic doubled on Monday and Tuesday compared to the previous week’s daily average.
- The team tripled the amount of @indians Twitter mentions on Monday and Tuesday compared to previous days
There is much to be said about the Terry Francona Effect. The manager is quick to point to his coaches, and players such as Swisher, who have helped in the recruiting process. And there is no denying many people have played a role in this winter transformation. That said, it all started when Francona agreed to take on Cleveland’s managerial challenge.
“Ever since we got Tito, it seems like the dominos keep falling,” Vinnie Pestano said.
Strings attached: During some of the team’s early bullpen sessions, there have been two parallel yellow strings lined above the frot of the row of home plates. The idea, which Francona said was a suggestion of new pitching coach Mickey Callaway, is to help the pitchers focus on pounding the lower part of the strike zone.
“The guys are trying to build their arm strength,” Francona said. “Hopefully, along with that, we start seeing, as we get moving, command without effort. That would be really exciting. That’s why sometimes you see the strings out there. I think guys when they’re throwing sides, Mickey’s idea is if the strings are there, it shows you what ball down actually is.
“Sometimes guys get comfortable just throwing it across the plate and it ends up being a little bit up and very hittable. So it’s just a reminder. If guys want it, it’s there for them. If they don’t want it, we don’t use it.”
The Tribe’s pitching woes of 2012 have been well-documented:
- 543 walks ranks 13th in the American League and 27th in baseball
- 1,503 hits allowed ranked 12th in the AL and 27th in baseball
- 1,086 strikeouts ranked 13th in the AL and 29th in baseball
- 1.42 WHIP ranked 14th in the AL and 28th in baseball
- 845 runs allowed ranked 14th in the AL and 29th in baseball
- 4.79 ERA ranked 14th in the AL and 29th in baseball
Give ‘em strings. All of them.
- Where was I when the Bourn news broke? Buying shower shoes for the gym. Ah, the life of a journalist. No trip to the store is safe. In fact, that’s always the precise time news breaks. Bourn is expected to be in camp Thursday for his physical and his four-year, $48 million contract (with a fifth-year vesting option worth $12 million) will likely become official on Friday.
- Closer Chris Perez spoke his mind about plenty of things last season. Most controversial was his late-season critique of Cleveland ownership. Well, the Indians have spent $117 million on guaranteed contracts this winter, and suddenly look like a team on the rise. “It feels like we’re a big-market club,” Perez said.
- No Spring Training is without some bumps and bruises along the way. Early injuries to watch: Joe Smith is taking things slow out of the gates due to a left oblique issue, but he’s already playing catch up to 75 feet; Minor League Trey Haley has a “balky” right shoulder (as Francona described it) and is also being slowed for the next week.
- Giambi arrived to camp on Wednesday afternoon and will be with the team on Thursday. With Bourn in the fold, causing a ripple effect that now has Mark Reynolds as the main designated hitter, Big G will be competing for a part-time DH and pinch-hitter role. At the very least, the 42-year-old Giambi will provide another veteran voice this spring for a team filled with youngsters.
- There was a slight passport problem with lefty Edward Paredes, but his name is in fact Edward Paredes and he is no longer stuck in the Dominican Republic. After missing the report date for the Indians, the non-roster invitee has made it to Arizona and will be in camp on Thursday.
- Trevor Bauer will get a legitimate chance to make the rotation, said both GM Chris Antonetti and Francona on Wednesday. One day earlier, Bauer responded to even more criticism from D-backs catcher Miguel Montero.
- The Indians released their promotional schedule, and there will be an Albert Belle bobblehead, and it will feature his famous biceps-pointing pose, from what I’ve been told.
- Dice-K arrived in camp with a large Japanese media following, but nothing like what he experienced when he first came to the United States. Read about his comeback attempt on Indians.com.
- Swisher has had an immediate impact on the clubhouse and atmosphere in camp. Read about it here.
- Gomes is leaning toward not playing in the World Baseball Classic. Francona is hoping Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano can maybe get some work in with the Indians during their training period with Team USA.
- Matt LaPorta is feeling “a million times better” than he did last season.
- MLB.com’s Zack Meisel fashioned this fine feature on Perez.
- I will be posting photos on Twitter (@MLBastian) throughout the spring, and you can also find me now on Instagram (bastianmlb).
Stay tuned for more…
The snow storm that is pounding the East Coast has caused a ripple effect throughout the entire country in terms of traveling. Many flights were canceed this morning. Mine out of Cleveland was not, but it was delayed and the de-icing of my plane essentially iced my day.
My connecting flight out of O’Hare in Chicago actually left two minutes early. Great news for those passengers who happened to already be in the Windy City. As for the rest of us, and there were plenty, we have been stranded. I’m scheduled on a 7 p.m. flight to Phoenix. I’ll get to Arizona eventually. It could be worse.
In the meantime, I have been wandering the airport aimlessly — I now know the precise location of at least three Starbucks and where the Nuts on Clark stands are found — and answering Tribe questions on Twitter. I’ve also, as you’ve gathered, sat down at a tiny work station (elbow to elbow with my fellow weary travelers) to knock out this post.
Let me tell you, finding an outlet in this airport is akin to searching for the Holy Grail.
“Get to the point, Bastian!” you shout.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. When you’ve got six hours to kill (two left), you walk slow and type your thoughts out even slower.
On a recent morning, I spent some time trying to see how much Cleveland has potentially improved itself against left-handed pitching after last year’s dismal showing. The Tribe went 18-35 against southpaw starters in 2012 and ended the season ranked last in the league in average, slugging and home runs versus lefties.
Part of the issue — more like the entirety of the issue — stemmed from the lopsided left-handed-ness of the Indians’ lineup. In 2011, one team, on one occasion, ran out an all-lefty lineup for a game. Cleveland did so numerous times last season. It was a platoon advantage to the far extreme.
Consider this, over the past two years, Indians hitters have combined for 4,085 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers — the most in baseball across that span. Last year, the Indians had 2,103 PAs vs. LHP, marking the fourth most in the Majors, but the most in the division.
Plate appearances vs. LHP in 2012 (AL Central)
1. Cleveland (2,103)
2. Minnesota (1,935)
3. Kansas City (1,903)
4. Detroit (1,875)
5. Chicago (1,612)
The Tribe’s total last season marked the club’s most plate appearances against lefties in a single season since 2004, when Cleveland had 2,189 such PAs. Obviously, something had to give, and general manager Chris Antonetti went to work this season on trying to upgrade this glaring weakness within the lineup.
By adding Mike Aviles, Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds, Cleveland has improved its lineup balance with three right-handed hitters. In Nick Swisher, the Indians now have a third switch hitter (joining Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana) to help the lineup’s flexibility for RHP vs. LHP starters.
I wanted to see how much better the incoming group is than the cast fielded by the Indians last year. For this experiment, however, I did not delve into projection-based numbers like I did with my recent offense and pitching posts. For this, I simply looked at what the players did in 2012. That’s all. Pretty simple.
I wanted to create two groups of hitters that piled up roughly the same amount of at-bats as a whole during the 2012 season.
With that in mind, my 2012 Indians class includes: Casey Kotchman, Jason Kipnis, Cabrera, Jack Hannahan, Santana, Michael Brantley, Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Jose Lopez, Ezequiel Carrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Johnny Damon, Lou Marson and Shelley Duncan.
Let’s call that Group A.
For the 2013 roster, I included: Mark Reynolds, Kipnis, Cabrera, Chisenhall, Santana, Brantley, Stubbs, Swisher, Aviles, Marson, Carrera, Yan Gomes and Ben Francisco.
We’ll call that Group B.
That is obviously 14 players in the first sampling compared to 13 in the second group. I did that because the first group had a combined 1,623 at-bats vs. LHP (4,941 at-bats overall) in 2012 and the second group had a combined 1,644 (4,983). That is a pretty close comparison in terms of at-bats.
I added Gomes and Francisco to the mix simply to increase the at-bats total to mirror that of the first group. Both Gomes and Francisco will be in the mix for bench jobs this spring, but neither are a lock to make the roster. So, it goes without saying, the numbers here might wind up being slightly different come Opening Day.
In 2012, here is what Group A did compared to Group B.
Against Left-handed Pitchers
Group A: .235 (381-1,623)/.314 OBP/.347 SLG
Group B: .255 (420-1,644)/.334 OBP/.381 SLG
Group A: 30 HR, 65 2B, 182 RBI, 176 BB, 315 K, 563 TB
Group B: 39 HR, 72 2B, 192 RBI, 188 BB, 333 K, 627 TB
Against Right-handed Pitchers
Group A: .264 (876-3,318)/.337 OBP/.410 SLG
Group B: .251 (837-3,339)/.325 OBP/.408 SLG
Group A: 94 HR, 172 2B, 401 RBI, 351 BB, 592 K, 1,360 TB
Group B: 104 HR, 189 2B, 418 RBI, 361 BB, 762 K, 1,361 TB
Group A: .254 (1,257-4,941)/.330 OBP/.389 SLG
Group B: .252 (1,257-4,983)/.328 OBP/.408 SLG
Group A: 124 HR, 237 2B, 583 RBI, 527 BB, 907 K, 1,923 TB
Group B: 143 HR, 261 2B, 610 RBI, 549 BB, 1,095 K, 1,988 TB
So, on paper, based on last season’s production by these two sets of hitters, it appears the Indians have an offense that is relatively the same overall, but with more potential for power. There will be strikeouts, but this group also has the potential to draw more walks, knock the ball out of the yard more often and score more runs.
Against lefties, Cleveland should be noticeably improved if the incoming roster hits near its level from a year ago. The strong lefty advantage vs. right-handed pitching from 2012 will probably take a hit, though. In the end, though, more balance was sought, and it looks like more balance will be achieved.
Now, would they board my flight already?
I can always count on John Bryndal — a loyal reader and Twitter follower — to send me a question that inevitably leads to a couple hours of research and writing. Today, I opened my Indians’ Inbox account (IndiansInbox@gmail.com) to see if there were any thought-provoking inquiries from the Tribe faithful, and John (@jjsnowcat on Twitter) sent me this one:
Around the halfway point of the season last year, I asked you about stolen bases leading to runs, and you calculated that a surprising 47 percent (if memory serves) had led to runs being scored. So… two questions: did you ever follow up and work out the final stat on that at the end of the season? And, is Terry Francona more or less of a proponent of the stolen base than Manny Acta was? My thinking is maybe Acta’s light was little greener with his National League background. What do you think?
–John in Japan (originally Willoughby, Ohio)
Well, John, the answer is no, I did not work out that stat through the end of the season. Until this morning, that is. Thanks for the reminder, because I was definitely interested in seeing how that percentage turned out in the end. I got out my handy-dandy scorebook and found my most recent notation appeared on June 6 (likely around the time you first asked) and, indeed, the percentage of stolen bases that eventually turned into runs was 47 percent (22-of-47). You have excellent memory.
I went through the remainder of the games today and found that only 33 percent of Cleveland’s stolen bases (21-of-62) were converted into runs over the rest of the schedule. There is a slight asterisk involved, because on Aug. 5, Asdrubal Cabrera swiped two bags on the same trip around the bases and eventually scored. So, I counted that as “two runs” since both stolen bases led to a run. If you want to say that only counts for one, then the rate drops to 20 converted in 62 thefts.
Why the dramatic drop-off over the final 107 games? Well, obviously this statistic is extremely dependent on the success or failings of the hitters who are being asked to bring the runner home. Over the first 55 games, the Indians hit .265 (127-for-479) with runners in scoring position, helping to take advantage of the steady stream of stolen bases. Over the final 107 games, Cleveland hit just .226 (202-for-895) with RISP. As the team slumped, the rate of stolen bases also decreased in step with the success rate. Over that 107-game sample, the Tribe averaged one stolen base ever 1.7 games. In the first 55 games, the team swiped one bag every 1.2 games on average.
Overall, the Indians turned 39 percent of their stolen bases into runs (43-of-110). I don’t know how that compares to the rest of the league — I only did this for the Tribe — but it seems fairly solid in light of the offense’s struggles with situational hitting last season. Stolen bases were essential in creating runs for the offense, which was under an increasing amount of pressure late in the season when the starting pitching staff began to crumble.
It is also worth noting that the Indians’ runners began taking more risks on the bases as the season wore on. Consider that the Tribe had a 75.3 percent success rate on stolen bases between April-June, but had just a 67.9 percent success rate over the rest of the season. During one particular stretch between Aug. 2-Sept. 7, the Indians had 10 games with two or more stolen bases, but the team was only able to convert 26 percent of the stolen bases (31) into runs (8) in that stretch. During that period, the Indians went 9-25 as a team, falling out of contention.
Now, I’ll do my best to address the Francona vs. Acta element of your question.
Any manager will tell you that their opinion on using stolen bases is directly related to the roster in hand. If you have players who have the ability to steal 30-plus bags, you’re not going to tell them to stop running. That’s a weapon any manager would want to utilize. Beyond those clear basestealers, though, there will be a difference of opinion from manager to manager on whether to ask the mid-tier runners to try to maximize their running game.
Over the 20010-12 seasons, when Acta was at the helm, the Indians ranked 11th in stolen bases (290) and 12th in stolen-base percentage (70.9) in the American League. Cleveland topped 89 swipes in each season. Last year, the Indians stole 110 bases, which marked the most for the ballclub since 2000. Acta had a bonafide basestealer in Jason Kipnis (31 thefts) leading the charge. I’d say Acta’s use of the stolen base was mostly out of necessity, given the state of the Tribe offense between 2010-12. Creativity was required, and last year Acta had a few runners (Kipnis, Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley) capable of stealing some bags. In Washington, Acta’s teams (2007-09) never topped 81 stolen bases in a season. So he actually ran more in the American League than in the NL.
If we look at Francona’s managerial career, what stands out to me is the success rate he had with having players steal. His Phillies teams (1997-2000) ranked 17th in baseball in stolen bases (416) during his time there, but their 71.5 percent success rate ranked fourth in the NL over that span. In Boston (2004-11), the Reds Sox ranked 22nd in baseball in stolen bases (676) under Francona’s watch, but 2nd in the AL and 4th in the Majors in success rate (75.3 percent).
It’s also worth noting that in 12 seasons with Francona as manager, his teams have topped 90 stolen bases eight times, 100 stolen bases five times and 120 stolen base attempts eight times.
What this all says to me is that, if Francona has the right players in place he’s going to utilize the stolen base. More importantly, though, he wants his players to be smart on the bases. If you’re going to run, you better make sure it’s the right situation, and you better make it.
In 2013, it seems a safe bet than the Indians will have the players in place to make stolen bases an important part of the offense. Kipnis — a threat to swipe 30-plus bases — will be back. Cleveland also acquired speedy outfielder Drew Stubbs — another 30-plus stolen base threat — this winter. Cleveland hasn’t had two players steal 30-plus in a season since 2000, when second baseman Roberto Alomar and outfielder Kenny Lofton accomplished the feat.
Cleveland also added utility man Mike Aviles this winter. Over the past three seasons, Aviles has had a rate of 21 stolen bases per 162 games, with a success rate of 74 percent over that span, and in his career. Stubbs has an 162-game stolen base rate of 37 thefts, and he brings an 80 percent success rate for his career. Add that to Kipnis, who has an 84 percent success rate in his two seasons in the big leagues, and the Indians look like a team that will be on the run.
Cabrera also has the potential to steal 10-20 bases, and the shortstop has a 72 percent success rate over his career. Another intriguing option will be outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, who is out of options and a front-runner to break camp as the Tribe’s fourth outfielder. In the big leagues, Carrera has had a 75 percent success rate, and he has posted a rate of 26 stolen bases over an 162-game sample. Brantley could be a 15-20 stolen base threat as well, but his career success rate of 66 percent needs improvement.
In my recent post projecting the offense for 2013, I had the Indians stealing 141 bases in the coming season. Cleveland hasn’t swiped that many bags since 1999, when they had 147. From 1996-2000, the Indians ranked second in the AL with 681 stolen bases and had the best success rate (72.9 percent). That said, those clubs could also mash the ball, put up runs in bunches and were yearly contenders for the postseason. Stolen bases back then were a part of a balanced, potent offense. Right now, it’s a necessary element to help generate runs, regardless of who is occupying the manager’s office.
The Indians won 68 games last season, falling far short of what many predicted for a team expected to be on the cusp of contention when the 2012 tour began. With a young roster, and an 80-win showing in the previous campaign, the Tribe looked like a club on the rise.
Now, Cleveland’s ride back to the bottom of this decade-long roller coaster has everyone wondering what is in store for 2013. With its agressive offseason — reeling in the likes of Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Brett Myers and Trevor Bauer — will the Indians be significantly improved in the coming year?
As I did a few days ago, I grabbed my notepad and my trusty TI-86 calculator and went to work on trying to find a way to project some realistic numbers for this club. In my previous post, I tackled the group of “regulars” expected to be in the lineup. Today, I sorted through a majority of the Tribe’s potential pitching staff.
With both sets of projections in hand, I believe I have a realistic win range for fans to expect this season.
Before I get to that, let me explain how I went about projecting the pitchers.
Similar to how I handled the offense, I looked at each pitcher’s past three seasons (or career, if they lacked three seasons in the big leagues) and averaged against their most recent season.
- For starting pitchers, I projected over 180 innings if they lacked a number in that range for their three-year, career or 2012 numbers. I projected for Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, Carlos Carrasco and Zach McAllister.
- For Myers, I used his past three full seasons as a starting pitcher, because he worked as a reliever last season and had an injury-shortened season a few years ago.
- I did not project for Trevor Bauer or Corey Kluber given the lack of experience on their respective big league resumes.
- For the main relievers (Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw), I worked off a projection of 60 innings. I used a 40-inning projection for Cody Allen and Frank Herrmann, because that seems more likely to be near their work load if the other five arms log 60-plus.
- I did not project for David Huff, because we don’t know yet if he will be starting or relieving. I also did not project for Scott Barnes or Nick Hagadone due to their extremely small sample sizes in the big leagues.
One thing I did not do was use the three-year/2012 averaging method to project a win-loss total. Wins and losses are too dependent on the offense on any given day. What I did instead was I took each starter’s projected ERA and then looked at pitchers in the same over the past decade. Example: With a projected ERA of 4.60 for Masterson, I averaged the win-loss total of each starter with 170-plus innings and an ERA between 4.55-4.65 from the past 10 seasons.
I did not project a win-loss total for relievers.
Now that all of that is out of the way, I’ll get to the results, including Bill James’ 2013 projections (which you can find on fangraphs.com).
Bastian: 12-10, 4.60 ERA, 203.2 IP, 210 H, 156 K, 82 BB
James: 10-12, 4.01 ERA, 204 IP, 206 H, 160 K, 79 BB
Bastian: 12-12, 4.78 ERA, 186.1 IP, 185 H, 161 K, 92 BB
James: 9-10, 3.97 ERA, 170 IP, 158 H, 151 K, 82 BB
Bastian: 12-11, 4.27 ERA, 213 IP, 219 H, 164 K, 60 BB
James: did not project Myers as a starter
Bastian: 12-11, 4.35 ERA, 18o IP, 196 H, 157 K, 49 BB
James: 8-11, 4.50 ERA, 170 IP, 190 H, 134 K, 50 BB
Bastian: 12-11, 4.75 ERA, 18o IP, 196 H, 125 K, 60 BB
James: did not project
Bastian: 3.24 ERA, 58.1 IP, 47 H, 56 K, 20 BB, 36 saves
James: 2.79 ERA, 58 IP, 44 H, 59 K, 20 BB, 41 saves
Bastian: 2.63 ERA, 65 IP, 48 H, 75 K, 24 BB
James: 2.72 ERA, 76 IP, 60 H, 89 K, 27 BB
Bastian: 2.86 ERA, 63 IP, 49 H, 48 K, 24 BB
James: 2.91 ERA, 68 IP, 58 H, 55 K, 25 BB
Bastian: 3.25 ERA, 63.2 IP, 54 H, 49 K, 26 BB
James: 4.21 ERA, 62 IP, 62 H, 47 K, 25 BB
Bastian: 3.47 ERA, 59.2 IP, 61 H, 43 K, 23 BB
James: 4.06 ERA, 62 IP, 63 H, 47 K, 23 BB
Bastian: 3.38 ERA, 40 IP, 35 H, 27 K, 9 BB
James: 4.15 ERA, 39 IP, 43 H, 28 K, 11 BB
Bastian: 3.83 ERA, 40 IP, 40 H, 37 K, 21 BB
James: did not project
With these projections in hand, combined with the offensive numbers I compiled on Friday, I tried to come up with a reasonable expectation for a 2013 win total for the Indians. I looked at the combined rotation numbers, took the projected runs scored for the offense, and then compared the results to the past 50 years. Let me walk you through it.
While it is rare to have five pitchers each compile 180-plus innings (Cleveland has only had four-plus accomplish the feat in the same season twice in the past 23 years), the projected ERA that I came up with for Masterson, Jimenez, Myers, McAllister and Carrasco was 4.54. For argument’s sake, let’s say that is where Cleveland’s rotation ERA ends up for the season.
Over the past 50 years, excluding strike-shortened seasons, there have been 12 teams to end a season with a rotation ERA between 4.50-4.60 in a single season. According to my offense projections, this Tribe team hs the potential to score roughly 756 runs in 2013. Of the 12 teams I filtered out, only five have scored 680-plus runs, and only four had 700-plus runs from the offense.
2006 Reds (80-82 overall), 749 runs scored
2005 Yankees (95-67 overall), 886 runs scored
2003 Cardinals (85-77 overall), 876 runs scored
2000 Marlins (79-82 overall), 731 runs scored
1970 Expos (73-89 overall), 687 runs scored
The average record of those five teams is roughly 82-80. The average record of the four clubs that scored more than 700 runs is roughly 85-77.
If history is any indication, and if you deem my projections to be realistic, well then the 2013 Indians appear to be a good bet to win between 82-85 games. That won’t reach the playoffs, but it would be an improvement of at least 14 victories in one year.
If Cleveland wants to make the postseason, it is going to have to do better than that. Masterson and Jimenez will need to be better than my admittedly pessimistic projections. Maybe Bauer can rise to the big leagues, live up to the hype and drop the rotation’s ERA down a couple notches to put the Tribe in a better position.
Detroit claimed the American League Central crown with only 88 wins last season, so a team like Cleveland — a team capable of winning 82-plus games — should be able to stay within range of contending. Over the past decade, however, it has taken an average of 93 victories to win the Central. Last season was a down year.
The question for Tribe fans is: what would your reaction be to an 82-85 win team?