First-Half Grades

It begins on Thursday. I’ll hop in an early a.m. taxi, head to the airport, catch a flight to Baltimore, and welcome the season’s second half. It’s hard to believe we’re already at baseball’s midpoint.

As has been customary on this blog over the past few years (when I covered the Blue Jays), it’s time to pass out the Bastian’s Midseason Report Card for the ballclub. There’s no specific metric I follow to arrive at these grades. I go by the general numbers, but also by what I’ve seen first-hand.

Before we dive into all that, though, I can now shed some light on where I’ve been over the past week and a half or so. One Twitter follower asked me why I was taking time off and where I was going, and I replied that it was top secret. I wasn’t kidding. It really WAS top secret. The MLBastian clan was all heading to Colorado to throw my dad a surprise 70th birthday party.

With my siblings and I scattered around the country, rare is the opportunity to have all of us, and our kids, in the same room at the same time. So after months of planning, we pulled off quite the feat. We all were at the airplane hangar where my dad flies cessnas when he arrived on the morning of July 6. He didn’t see it coming.

So I took a week to see the old man, visit with my brother and sisters, and their kids, and stepped away from baseball to focus on family. Now that my extended All-Star break is over, however, it is time to get back to ball. The Indians are within sniffing distance of first place and the second half is upon us.

Let’s get to those first-half grades. And as an added bonus, I’ve added a category called “Fun with Splits,” which takes a look at some odd numbers within the numbers for each player.

For grades, I went with hitters with a minimum of 60 at-bats and pitchers with at least 12 innings. That means Lonnie Chisenhall, Cord Phelps, Ezequiel Carrera, Luis Valbuena, Josh Judy and Zach McAllister get incompletes. For fun with splits, I also excluded Adam Everett, Jeanmar Gomez, Alex White and Justin Germano.

On with it already…

FIRST-HALF GRADES

Hitters

Player: SS Asdrubal Cabrera
Grade: A
Comment: Steady at the plate and solid in the field. Played like an All-Star in the first half and was easily the team’s MVP.
Fun with splits: Keep AC in the No. 2 hole. When batting second, he’s hit .310 (84-for-271). In the Nos. 3-4 spots, Cabrera hit only .241 (21-for-87) in the first half.

Player: DH Travis Hafner
Grade: A
Comment: Has been Cleveland’s Renaissance Man this year. The Tribe has been a much better team with him in the heart of the lineup.
Fun with splits: Pronk comes out to play when runners are in scoring position. With RISP, Hafner posted a 1.436 OPS in the first half. With a man on first? Only .554.

Player: OF Michael Brantley
Grade: B
Comment: Inconsistent at times, but has proved to be one of the Tribe’s more reliable hitters (not to mention a solid defender) within this year’s enigmatic offense.
Fun with splits: Brantley’s production has decreased as baserunners have advanced. His averages with a man on first, a man on second or a man on third are .364, .316, .000, respectively.

Player: C Carlos Santana
Grade: C+
Comment: Santana’s power production brings his overall grade up. Without the pop, the first half would’ve been a full-fledged flop.
Fun with splits: CSan’s power has come with sporadic performance. From the left side, he’s hit .207, but has averaged 1 homer per 20.3 plate PAs. From the right side, he has a .281 average, but has only 1 homer in 111 PAs.

Player: 2B Orlando Cabrera
Grade: C
Comment: There has definitely been inconsistency at the plate, but OC definitely brings something to the clubhouse. You can’t quantify it, but it’s there. Trust me.
Fun with splits: Tribe fans have been hard on Cabrera. Maybe his .204 average in 41 games in front of the home audience is to blame. On the road, he’s hit .295.
Fun with splits II: What a difference one pitch makes. OC has hit .327 on the first pitch, .233 on a 1-0 count and .375 on a 2-0 count.

Player: OF Grady Sizemore
Grade: C
Comment: Got off to a strong start, and has been solid enough in the field, but his offense has dropped off between two DL stints.
Fun with splits: Say what you will about “clutch” stats, but Sizemore has posted a .894 OPS when the Indians have a lead and a .651 OPS when the team is trailing.

Player: 1B Matt LaPorta
Grade: C
Comment: Both at the plate and in the field, LaPorta has been consistently inconsistent. Flashes of wow and flashes of yow. Tribe is still waiting for him to break out.
Fun with splits: LaPorta has put up an impressive .900 OPS with no outs. But it decreased from there. With one out, he has a .799 OPS. With two? Try a .471 OPS.

Player: OF Travis Buck
Grade: C
Comment: Really, Buck has performed about as well as was expected, given his history. When he’s been in there on a regular basis, he’s looked even better.
Fun with splits: Figure this one out… Buck has hit at a .350 clip with a .850 OPS as a right fielder, but has hit .253 with a .614 OPS as a left fielder.

Player: OF Shelley Duncan
Grade: C
Comment: Fits perfectly as a pinch hitter off the bench. Has been brutally exposed when he’s been in the lineup on a regular basis.
Fun with splits: As a sub, Duncan has hit .500 (4-for-8) with seven RBIs. As a starter, he’s hit .217 (20-for-92) with only 13 RBIs.

Player: C Lou Marson
Grade: C
Comment: Overall, has been inconsistent at the plate, but Marson has delivered some big hits. His strong arm behind the plate ups his grade.
Fun with splits: What’s wrong with batting 8th? In the 7th or 9th spots, Marson has hit .333 and .303, respectively. In the dreaded eight hole, he’s hit just .108.

Player: OF Shin-Soo Choo
Grade: C-
Comment: Choo’s strong arm and solid defense (though the routes are suspect at times) save him from getting a “D” in my book. Tough first half for the Tribe’s star player.
Fun with splits: Choo’s discipline as a hitter has taken a big hit this year. Consider that he’s hit .345 (29-for-84) in one-strike counts compared to .111 (15-for-135) in two-strike counts.

Player: 3B Jack Hannahan
Grade: C-
Comment: Hannahan has been a joy to watch at the hot corner. He was brought in for his defense and he has not disappointed. At the plate? You take what you can get.
Fun with splits: Hannahan has gone against the typical trend in the batter’s box. As a left-handed hitter, he’s batted .328 with a .947 OPS vs. LHP. Against RHP, he’s hit .183 with a .554 OPS. It’s opposite day.

Player: INF Adam Everett
Grade: D
Comment: Before being releases, Everett brought solid veteran leadership to the clubhouse and sound defense to the field. His offense left something to be desired.

Player: OF Austin Kearns
Grade: D-
Comment: It’s been bad, but in my years of covering ball, I’ve seen worse. That’s about all that keeps Mr. Kearns from getting a failing grade for the first half. Adjusting to a pure bench role has not gone well for the veteran outfielder.
Fun with splits: With a runner on first base, Kearns has actually hit .407 with a .948 OPS in 31 plate appearances. In 74 PAs with no one on base, he’s hit .154/.472.

Offense Overall: C

Pitchers

Player: RHP Joe Smith
Grade: A+
Comment: It’s not often I hand out an “A+” but Mighty Joe gets it. No one saw a sub-1.00 ERA at the break coming.
Fun with splits: Smith has heated up with the summer. Over 14 2/3 innings between April and May, he allowed four total runs. In June and July (so far), he’s given up zero runs in 17 innings out of the bullpen.

Player: RHP Justin Masterson
Grade: A
Comment: Toss out the W-L record and look at how solid Bat Masterson has been for the Tribe this season. Critics saying he should be in the bullpen have gone quiet.
Fun with splits: Masterson seems to get stronger as his pitch count rises. From pitches 26-50, batters have hit .339 off Big Nasty. From pitches 76-100, he’s held them to a .143 showing.

Player: RHP Josh Tomlin
Grade: A
Comment: Tomlin has been the picture of consistency and has 10 wins at the break. Has been a rock within the starting staff. 
Fun with splits: Run support doesn’t influence Tomlin’s performance. With 0-2 runs of support, he has a 3.82 ERA (5 starts). With 3-5 runs of support, it’s a 3.80 ERA (7 starts). Tomlin has a 3.82 ERA (6 starts) with 6+ runs of support.

Player: RHP Vinnie Pestano
Grade: A
Comment: If he were closing, he’d surely be in the discussion for the Rookie of the Year. For now, Pestano’s gem of a season is quietly hidden in a setup role to All-Star closer Chris Perez. 
Fun with splits: Hitters have a .733 OPS on a 0-1 count against Pestano, but it’s pure filth after. If they don’t get to him then, on 0-2 counts they’ve hit .000 (0-for-17 with 15 strikeouts).

Player: RHP Chris Perez
Grade: A
Comment: Say what you want about the drama he creates at times, but one thing is for sure: CP gets the job done when it counts. He wouldn’t have been an All-Star otherwise. 
Fun with splits: He takes the mound to Prodigy’s “Firestarter” and he certainly puts out the flames in save situations. Pure Rage has a 0.93 ERA in save situations (19 1/3 IP) compared to a 3.29 ERA in non-save scenarios (13 2/3 IP).

Player: LHP Rafael Perez
Grade: A
Comment: The Silent One has quietly put up a stellar showing to this point. Has been a solid lefty option out of the ‘pen. 
Fun with splits: It means nothing, but Perez has held No. 5 hitters to a .343 OPS, while No. 6 hitters have thrived to the tune of a 1.385 OPS against the lefty.

Player: RHP Carlos Carrasco
Grade: B
Comment: Carrasco has shown flashes of brilliance and was one of the main reasons Cleveland’s turbulent June didn’t completely derail the season. 
Fun with splits: Carrasco has done much better against righties. RHH have hit .210 with a .555 OPS and he has a 6.33 K/BB ratio against them. LHH have hit .315/.868 and that K/BB rate drops to 1.32.

Player: LHP Tony Sipp
Grade: B
Comment: Sipp has been a solid lefty setup man for the Indians’ strong bullpen. A few lapses have taken a toll on his overall stat line. 
Fun with splits: Sipp loves pitching in Cleveland. At home, he has a 1.74 ERA with a 4.00 K/BB ratio. On the road, he’s posted a 4.02 ERA with a 1.56 K/BB rate.

Player: RHP Frank Herrmann
Grade: B
Comment: The Harvard Heat has improved as the season has progressed, giving the Indians with a good multi-inning or middle-relief option. 
Fun with splits: Herrmann performs best when there is a lack of lefties on the agenda. Against righties, he has a OPS against of .385 with no homers allowed. Against lefties, it’s a 1.164 OPS against with four homers yielded.

Player: RHP Alex White
Grade: B
Comment: Called up earlier than expected, and sidelined with a finger injury for more time than anyone would want, White performed admirably in his first brief taste of the bigs.

Player: RHP Jeanmar Gomez
Grade: C
Comment: Gomez has been an outstanding member of the Triple-A Columbus rotation, but has been just so-so in his small sample of Major League outings this season.

Player: RHP Chad Durbin
Grade: C-
Comment: Durbin has his critics, and his showing has certainly been up and down, but he has been a solid veteran leader in the clubhouse and his performance with inherited runners has been fantastic. 
Fun with splits: Relievers don’t get personal catchers, but one split that is glaring for Durbing is hit 2.55 ERA with catcher Lou Marson compared to his 10.07 ERA with Carlos Santana.

Player: RHP Justin Germano
Grade: D
Comment: The Indians gave Germano a shot as a multi-inning/middle relief man as part of the Opening Day bullpen. His struggles knocked him right off the 40-man roster.

Player: RHP Fausto Carmona
Grade: D
Comment: How do you solve a problem like Carmona? When he’s been on, he’s been really on and ace-like. And when he’s been off, well, it’s been nearly unwatchable. Too many starts unraveled out of control in the first half.
Fun with splits: Carmona has gone 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA in eight starts resulting in a win or a no-decision. In his 10 losses, he has a brutal 9.56 ERA.
Fun with splits II: With 6+ runs of support to use to his advantage, Carmona has posted a 10.27 ERA.
Fun wuth splits III: With no one on base, Carmona has held hitters to a .228 average. With the bases loaded, however, hitters are coming through at a .700 rate.

Player: RHP Mitch Talbot
Grade: D-
Comment: Cleveland’s lack of organizational depth, combined with Talbot being out of Minor League options, has saved him from losing his job up to this point.
Fun with splits: Over the first two innings, Talbot has posted an 8.59 ERA, giving up 21 of his 41 runs in those frames. He has put up a 4.95 ERA across innings 3-9.

Pitching Overall: B

Catch you from Baltimore…

–JB

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