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A look back at Bobby

STOPLet’s STOP, and take a moment to reflect on the three-year stint of Ryan Raburn — affectionately referred to as “Bobby” by his teammates — as a member of the Indians. Tribe fans, you laughed. You cried, or at least cringed when he famously spiked the ball in left field. And you certainly admired when he’d belt homers off the likes of Chris Sale.

For reporters, Raburn was always accessible and accountable. That’s really all you can ask. Now, he’ll get a chance to provide some veteran leadership (not to mention a potent versus-lefties bat) elsewhere. On Wednesday, Raburn became a free agent after Cleveland declined his $3-million team option for 2016.

“He was a really good teammate, a guy that really had an impact in his time with us,” said Chris Antonetti, the Indians’ president of baseball operations. “That made the decision really difficult.”

In honor of No. 9, here are nine highlights from Raburn’s tour with the Tribe. Click on the photos for videos:

1. The Goon Squad


2. The Balk-off


3. The Spike


4. Raburn pitches


5. Raburn pitches… again!


6. A dive and a bomb


7. Dirty diving


8. Can’t stop, won’t stop


9. Buy one, get one vs. Sale



How close are the Indians to a World Series? Kipnis: “We’re close.”


Wade Davis pumped a knee-high strike to Wilmer Flores. Home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez turned and pumped a fist, signaling a strike. And the party was on. Davis tossed his glove high in the air as he raised his arms in a V. Catcher Drew Butera sprinted to the mound and jumped into a celebratory embrace with Kansas City’s closer. And a mob formed on the field, bouncing and splashing water as the stunned Mets faithful looked on, or filed out.

The Royals, following nearly two decades of futility and a recent rise defined by aggressiveness, fundamentals and a never-say-die spirit that was on full display this October, won the World Series. Here in Cleveland, Tribe fans probably felt a bit of a sting. This was, after all, the third time in the past four years that an AL Central rival reached the World Series, and one more year tacked on to Cleveland’s championship drought.

Kansas City, of course, won the pennant last year, too. The Tigers won the division and made it to the Fall Classic back in 2012. As for 2013? Well, no one needs to tell Indians fans what happened. They got a nine-inning taste of playoff baseball. What a tease. There’s always next year, right?

The Indians sure hope so.

“We’re close,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said at the end of the regular season. “We’re going to have to keep getting better and we’re going to have to keep growing. I think the front office knows that. We’re not far away. We’ve definitely got a good foundation here. We’ve definitely got good players and now, we could be just one piece away, one bat away, one pitcher away and I think it’ll be important for us to go out and get it.”

How close are the Indians? Well, when the Royals notch 95 wins and the Indians only collected 81, it sure doesn’t look that close on the surface. That said, examine what Kansas City did this season, and also take a look at how the Mets reached the World Series, and Indians fans should see that, really, the Tribe isn’t that far off.

“I think you see the core of the Mets’ rotation,” Indians GM Mike Chernoff said, “and you can feel that we have something similar in our core starters right now. And then you see the same thing with the Royals’ position players and feel like, with a core group of guys here for the long term, maybe we can replicate both of those things.”

Quickly, on the Mets’ and Indians’ rotations, here’s a snapshot comparison:


Those numbers are fairly close across the board. Indians also ranked first in the Majors in average velocity (92.9 mph) — a tick above the Mets (3rd at 92.7). Cleveland led the Majors with a 11.3 swinging-strike percentage, while New York came in at ninth (9.8). Obviously, a good chunk of the Mets’ numbers include the ageless Bartolo Colon. If you swap him out and toss in Steven Matz, New York’s average age for their core four is 25, while the Indians’ sits at 26.5.

So, what does this all mean? Well, it means both teams have elite rotations, and the foundation for each is relatively young, controllable and set up to help their respective teams contend for the next several years. If we’ll sit here and say that the Mets will be back contending again due to the strength of their young, talented staff, well, then we should be able to say the same about Cleveland’s group, too.

What about Chernoff’s point about the Royals’ position players? Take a look:


The Royals had a slight edge in power production, but both teams were near the bottom in that regard. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say the Indians don’t need more power in the middle of the order. They do. It should be the top priority this winter. BUT, Kansas City showed that power isn’t everything. And, as much as the Royals put their baserunning on display in the playoffs, Cleveland rated better on the bases during the season. The Indians were more patient. The Royals put more balls in play. There were some slight differences here and there, but in the end both clubs came in around league average (wRC+) overall.

So, what made the Royals a 95-win, World Series-winning team, and the Indians an 81-win disappointment?

The biggest difference came in the defense, but this is where it’s worth noting that the Indians rallied in a major way in the second half in that area. Overall, the Royals led the AL with 56 Defensive Runs saved and a 56.9 defense rating, according to Fangraphs. Cleveland checked in at third in DRS (18) and second in defense (23.0). The Indians did not rate that high at the season’s midpoint. Most of that came after Francisco Lindor took over at short, Lonnie Chisenhall moved to right, Abraham Almonte manned center, Gio Urshela handled third and guys like Chris Johnson and Jerry Sands cut into Carlos Santana’s innings at first base.

There is reason to believe, then, that the Indians closed the gap some defensively on the Royals in the final few months. Heading into 2016, maybe Cleveland is still short of the Royals’ level in the field, but the difference between the clubs defensively is no longer as large as it was back in 2014, or even in April and May.

Pitching wise, Kansas City was a touch behind Cleveland in overall ERA (3.74) mainly due to the strength of the Royals bullpen (AL-best 2.72 ERA). Cleveland’s relievers were second in the AL with a 3.12 ERA this year. In terms of pitching fWAR, K/9 and K/BB, Kansas City was in the middle of the pack or in the bottom third of the league. The Indians had the better pitching staff on the whole, and should still for the next couple years.

While watching the World Series, Indians fans probably didn’t feel like their team was close to being on the same stage. And, I’m not here to say Cleveland is on that level, yet. The offense does need more thump, the bullpen needs more depth, the rotation is a setback or two from being really thin at the back end, and there are still so many questions surrounding the likes of Chisenhall, Urshela, Almonte and others.

Even with all of the unknowns, though, the knowns — the statistics, especially following Cleveland’s mid-season roster makeover — paint a positive picture for the Tribe. This team, as Kipnis stated so matter-of-factly, doesn’t appear to be that far off.

“We’re getting better,” Kipnis said. “It’s not like we’re at the tail ends of our career. We’re all entering our primes, a lot of guys, so there’s going to be reasons for excitement. That’s why I just think that if it is one piece or if it is one person that we need, or type of player that we need, I’m hoping we go get him.”


Breaking Down a 1.68-Second Pop Time with Yan Gomes

By: August Fagerstrom / @AugustF_MLB

CLEVELAND — Yan Gomes’ throw to second base that nabbed Brett Gardner in the ninth inning of the Indians’ 5-4 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday caused quite a buzz. As it should, it was an extraordinary effort from start to finish, and the Statcast numbers back that up.

Gomes’ pop time of 1.68 seconds was his fastest all season, and among the fastest by any catcher in 2015. But 1.68 is just a number. How does a catcher achieve such a time? Let’s walk through Gomes’ technique, step-by-step, with some visual aids and commentary from the man himself.

Step 1: The Setup


In the first frame, Gomes is simply in his normal squat position. Nothing out of the ordinary. But he’s aware of the speedy Gardner on his first base, and the idea of that he may be on the move is certainly in the back of his mind. In the second frame, two things are happening. The first is, of course, Gomes receiving the pitch. That’s always the first part of the equation. But the second thing that’s happening is Gomes has noticed that Gardner has broken for second base, and he subtly begins shifting is body — left hip forward — to enter the ready position to throw.

“When I see him going, I kind of want to beat the ball to the punch with a little bit of anticipation,” Gomes said. “I know what pitch is coming — if it was a curveball it would have been a different way of handling it. I have to make sure I catch it first. But especially with a ball like that, you almost want to take your time with it. You work so much on getting your quick feet or your hand exchange that you kind of just have to let that work. But once you see him going, you want to anticipate and then let it happen. I was a little turned, but in my mind I didn’t feel like it, I try to stay underneath it as much as I can.”

Step 2: The Footwork

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 6.12.53 PM

This frame shows the moment that Gomes’ back foot has lifted off the ground. Of course, by this point, everything is reactionary, but Gomes’ said his subconscious focus places the most importance on his back foot first.

“It’s really trying to get my back foot down, it’s my anchor foot,” Gomes said. “Once I have my back foot down, I can put some more strength into the throw.”

Step 3: The Exchange

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 6.13.11 PM

Two things have happened since the last frame. The first is that Gomes has already planted his back foot — his anchor. His front foot has also began moving forward, and it’s in his front foot that Gomes actually finds something wrong within this seemingly perfect throw:

“I think you can see in that throw, my left foot probably wasn’t as in position as to where I’m squaring my shoulder as much as I should have,” Gomes said.

The second thing that’s happened since the last frame is that Gomes has transferred his ball from the glove to his throwing hand. According to Statcast, this exchange took just 0.483 seconds, making it the fastest exchange of the season for Gomes.

“It felt like it was probably the quickest out of my hand,” Gomes said. “Especially with a guy like Gardner running, you kind of have to get rid of it as fast as you can.”

According to Gomes, the transfer is the most important part of a throw down to second. When something goes wrong, and Gomes doesn’t achieve a pop time with which he’s satisfied, the exchange is typically the culprit.

“Usually it comes down to the exchange,” Gomes said. “Sometimes that can mess up a fairly good throw. It can be throws going different ways, but it’s usually always about the exchange. During that exchange, you want to try to grip the ball as best you can and sometimes you don’t get a good grip or you try to change your grip while you’re bringing your hand back. That’s when you’ve got to try to slow down a little bit sometimes.”

Step 4: The Release

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 6.13.30 PM

This frame shows the moment that Gomes’ front food has landed and the ball has been released from his hand. His gripe about not being square in his base is revealed in this shot, as he’s not quite in the perfect position to deliver a throw to second base. Nevertheless, he still throws the ball at his average speed to second base of 78mph, and his lightning-quick exchange makes up for what his throw may lack in velocity.

“It’s something that we work with, Roberto and I, we work with Sandy [Alomar] to try to get the ball out of our glove as fast as we can and let our arm create some force and separation to gain some strength in the throw,” Gomes said. “That’s really what it’s mainly about. I think from then on you can figure out how to get the ball towards second.”

Finding Comparisons for Who Cody Anderson Might Be

By: August Fagerstrom / @AugustF_MLB

There was a time when Cody Anderson was the best pitcher in Major League history, at least through his first four starts. Since then, he’s been a disaster. For the time being, he’ll be no kind of pitcher, as he’s found himself on the disabled list with an oblique injury.

The Indians and their fans alike thought they might have found something with Anderson, at first. Now, nobody has much of a clue, and that won’t change for at least a couple more weeks until Anderson resumes pitching. What that time off gives us, though, is a chance to reflect, and to look towards the future.

Certainly, Anderson is not as good as his first four outings, nor is he as bad as his latest four. Results can be fluky. We know this. There are so many external factors in play, especially over the span of a mere eight starts and especially with statistics like ERA, that’s it’s nearly impossible to draw a significant conclusion from results in such a limited sample.

Less fluky than results, though, are the characteristics of a pitcher’s arsenal. While ERA is marred by nine fielders, the quality of the opposition, the park in which the game is being played and the discretion of both the umpire and the official scorer, the characteristics of a pitch have but one variable: the pitcher. The pitcher, and the pitcher alone, has complete control over the velocity, spin, and movement of his offerings. This allows us to have a clear understanding of the true nature of a pitch, even in relatively limited samples.

Rather than attempt to analyze Anderson by his inconsistent results, then, let’s attempt to analyze him based on the qualities of his pitches. Our question: Like whom has Cody Anderson pitched?

You could probably skip the next two paragraphs if you don’t care about the math and just want to see pitch comps and .gifs. I wouldn’t blame you.

* * * * *

The inspiration for the exercise that follows comes largely from the work of FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan. Back in January, Sullivan introduced the idea of using pitch characteristics to create comparisons in the way that will be utilized in this post. The math is boring, but Sullivan essentially isolated velocity and movement to find pitches that behave in a similar manner. I’ve done the same for Anderson, but done so with the added benefit of access to the Statcast database that includes spin rate – something the Indians use to evaluate their own pitchers.

The comparisons were found using z-scores of velocity, horizontal movement, vertical movement, and spin rate, looking only at other right-handed starters. The “comp” score is a sum of the absolute value of those four z-scores. The closer the number is to 0, the stronger the comp. Pitches with a comp score stronger than 2 are displayed. I’ve also included whiff/swing and ground ball/ball in play in the tables to give an idea of the effectiveness of each pitch. Let’s now gain a better understanding of Cody Anderson’s arsenal.


Top comp: Johnny Cueto

Name Velo HMov VMov Spin Whiff% GB% Comp
Cody Anderson 93.6 6.8 9.1 2,232 12% 46% 0.0
Johnny Cueto 93.5 5.5 9.3 2,278 24% 25% 1.2
Nick Martinez 91.1 6.3 9.3 2,253 8% 34% 1.8
Michael Lorenzen 94.5 6.4 9.5 2,324 14% 39% 1.8
Tom Koehler 93.1 5.7 9.1 2,102 9% 42% 1.9

Hey! Cody Anderson has Johnny Cueto’s fastball! That’s great news for Cody Anderson, and people who wish to see Anderson succeed, because Cueto’s had more success as a pitcher than virtually every living person on Earth, and the fastball is his primary pitch.

Then again, there’s also those other three names in the table. Without Cueto, that would be an entirely underwhelming list of comps, but Cueto showing up as the top comp is actually kind of perfect because it highlights the main limitation of using pitch comparisons to find pitcher comparisons.

Let’s see these pitches in action. First, Cueto’s fastball:


Now, Anderson’s entirely comparable fastball:


There’s a reason I chose the pitches I did. Anderson’s average fastball is nearly identical to Cueto’s average fastball, in terms of velocity and shape. That’s what these pitch comps can reveal. What these pitch comps can’t reveal is perhaps the bigger part of the equation, relative to a pitcher’s success: command.

Cueto had two strikes on Justin Upton with two outs and the tying run on second base. He needed to make a good pitch. Upton is a great hitter, but an aggressive one with a reputation for chasing and struggling with fastballs. Cueto’s catcher set up for a heater off the plate and Cueto nailed his spot, blowing Upton away to end the inning.

Anderson had Grady Sizemore in a 1-2 count with a perfect game on the line in the seventh inning. Anderson had no incentive to give Sizemore a hittable pitch. Anderson’s catcher set up for a fastball off the plate, just like Cueto’s. Anderson yanked the pitch, leaving it elevated and over the middle, and Sizemore broke up the perfect game in the loudest way possible.

To use two cherry-picked examples as a representation of a pitcher’s entire body of work is nitpicking, sure, but I wrote about Anderson’s struggles to expand the zone with two strikes for last month, back when he still had a 1.91 ERA. The Sizemore pitch wasn’t a one-time occurrence. The most interesting thing about Anderson, to me, comes down to the difference between control and command. And there is a difference.

Control could be thought of as the ability to put the ball over the plate. Command, then, would be the ability to put the ball where the glove is. It’s possible to have control without command. Anderson’s eight walks in 48 innings demonstrates great control, which is more than some pitchers can say! What Anderson hasn’t yet demonstrated is any semblance of consistent command, being able to spot a pitch on the corner or in the dirt when he needs to. Therein lies the difference between the Cueto fastball and the Anderson fastball. On to the next pitch.


Top comp: Joe Kelly

Name Velo HMov VMov Spin Whiff% GB% Comp
Cody Anderson 84.8 9.7 4.4 2,192 30% 54% 0.0
Joe Kelly 85.7 9.5 3.7 2,076 33% 58% 1.2
Nick Martinez 83.9 9.5 5.1 2,022 28% 42% 1.5

The names here aren’t particularly promising, so why don’t we jump right into the visuals. Lest I run the risk of picking on Anderson, let’s observe a very good changeup:


Anderson’s changeup, when spotted like this one, has the potential to be a very effective secondary offering. It’s got some nice fade, and a reasonable 9mph separation from his fastball. Now for the Kelly changeup:


These pitches were chosen, again, for a specific reason. Anderson’s pictured changeup was a fantastic changeup. Kelly’s pictured changeup was a terrible changeup. Adrian Beltre should have taken that pitch deep for a three-run homer. He just missed.

One of the next-closest comps for Anderson’s change, but one that didn’t quite make the cut, was Anibal Sanchez’s split-change. Anibal’s splitter is a great pitch, so it’s nice for Anderson that it could be considered a loose comp. But this, again, brings us back to the control vs. command idea.

Above, I said Anderson’s change can be great when spotted like shown. What follows is an image that shows the location of all of Anderson’s changeups vs. all of Sanchez’s split-changes:


With Sanchez, you see a clear plan of attack: a healthy number of pitches in the dirt with a heavy cluster on the lower edge of the strike zone. Almost nothing is above the waist. With Anderson, you see a scattered representation. There’s red in the middle of the plate, plenty of pitches above the waist and very little in the dirt.

When Anderson throws a changeup like the one he threw to Pedro Alvarez, it’s a great pitch. Problem is, he’s thrown more like the one Kelly served up to Beltre.


Top comp: David Buchanan

Name Velo HMov VMov Spin Whiff% GB% Comp
Cody Anderson 89.6 0.4 5.4 2,031 20% 35% 0.0
David Buchanan 89.3 0.4 5.8 2,123 17% 69% 0.9
Michael Wacha 89.9 1.3 5.7 2,022 16% 51% 1.2
Shelby Miller 87.8 0.4 4.6 2,017 27% 53% 1.4
Jerome Williams 88.3 0.1 4.3 2,085 23% 54% 1.7

Wacha and Miller: inspiring. Buchanan and Williams: not so much.

By now, I’ve largely made my point, so I’ll leave it up to you to parse out the difference between Buchanan and Williams’ offerings with regards to Wacha’s and Miller’s, and why Anderson has only generated a ground ball on one of every three balls in play against his cutter. I’ll give you a hint: the keyword(s) begin with a “C”.

* * * * *

Search for pitch comps for Cody Anderson and names like Johnny Cueto, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller pop up, which is encouraging. Anderson’s stuff might not be electric, but he’s not up there throwing junk, either. Outweighing the Cueto’s, Wacha’s and Miller’s, though, are the Nick Martinez’s, Joe Kelly’s and Tom Koehler’s of the world. Martinez’s name appears twice in this study, and he feels like a reasonable comp for who Anderson might be, as much as that may be disappointing for Indians fans after Anderson’s debut.

Combine the season-to-date numbers of the nine pitchers unearthed in this exercise and you wind up with the following line: 4.00 ERA, 17.6 K%, 7.8 BB%, 0.98 HR/9.

The one constant among the group is that none of these pitchers, including the three upper-echelon names, are big strikeout guys. Anderson simply does not have a strikeout arsenal, regardless of whether he develops the ability to expand the zone with two strikes. Working in his favor is that he does appear to exhibit far better control than the lower-tier names of the group, as evidenced by his probably-unsustainable-but-still-very-impressive 4.2 BB% through eight starts.

As we’ve discussed, however, control is far different than command. With better command, perhaps Cody Anderson could be Shelby Miller. They do throw the same cutter, after all. But for now, he’s probably closer to being a Nick Martinez or Joe Kelly.

Revisionist Swishtory

SwisherDo you remember how excited Nick Swisher was at his introductory press conference with the Indians? Do you, loyal Tribe fan, remember how excited you were at the time, too? It was a Merry Swish-mas! The switch-hitting, living, breathing can of Red Bull had signed with Cleveland and we all suddenly lived in Bro-hio.

Do you recall his first day in Indians camp during Spring Training? He unpacked his stuff, singing his own made-up tune (“It’s Triiibe Time!”) while teammates chuckled and figured Swisher’s energy and enthusiasm would help cure any lingering effects of the 94-loss season in 2012. He roared through the clubhouse on Tito’s scooter, jabbed reporters in the shoulder after questions, handed out high fives daily. Swisher immediately changed the culture.

On Day 1, here was what one of his teammates said: “That’s definitely somebody you want to have on your team. For him to be the kind of leader, and vocal leader, that he is, that’s definitely going to be something we need.”

With Swisher, and Michael Bourn, now in Atlanta, try to remember.

Underneath the bitter pile of frustration and anger over diminished performance, unexpected injuries, roster limitations and a tightened payroll, try to remember the good vibes that existed when both Swisher and Bourn signed with the Indians. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone — in the media or among fans — who knocked the deals at the time. Both were top-flight free-agents, and they came to Cleveland?

These were veterans with track records and there was little to nothing that said they couldn’t be productive for the Tribe over the life of their respective four-year deals.

“The free agent stuff, sometimes it’s a little bit of a crapshoot,” Indians manager Terry Francona said earlier this week. “That was one of the things I think we had really hung our hat on, was the level of consistency both guys had had.”

MLB Trade Rumors — as reliable a resource as any for projections, speculation and rumor roundups — ranked Bourn as the third-best free-agent before the 2013 season. Swisher was ranked sixth that winter. The site noted that Bourn might be in line for “Torii Hunter money,” referring to the five-year, $90-million pact inked by Hunter in 2007. As for Swisher, no one expected a $100-million contract, but he was viewed as “a fine addition to any lineup.”

Prior to 2013, Swisher hit .256/.361/.468 with an average of 26 homers, 31 doubles, 83 walks and 83 RBIs in 149 games each season. He had just one stint on the disabled list — in 2005 for a shoulder issue. In that eight-year time period, he averaged 4.20 pitches per plate appearance (ninth-best in the Majors in that span). Only five players had seen more pitches than Swisher. Consistency, health and a good eye often mean a player will age fairly well.

Swisher got four years and $56 million. The largest free-agent deal in team history.

BournBefore 2013, Bourn hit .280/.348/.378 with an average of four homers, 28 doubles, 10 triples, 45 RBIs, 61 walks, 93 runs and 54 stolen bases in 153 games in that four-year span. He stole 257 bases from 2008-12 (51 per year and the most in the Majors overall). From ’09-12, he ranked first in MLB in steals, fourth in triples, 10th in runs and 13th in hits. Even if Bourn, 30 years old at the time, wasn’t going to keep swiping 50 bases (or even 40) per year, expecting 30 per season wasn’t unrealistic.

Bourn got four years and $48 million. No pun intended, it was a steal. (OK, pun intended.)

“That was a big part of why he acquired him, was defense in center field and disrupting the game,” Francona said. “He just wasn’t able to disrupt the game like we’d hoped, as often as we’d hoped.”

The Indians couldn’t see the future. They couldn’t possibly predict that Swisher — mostly healthy for his entire career — would break down, hurt both knees and see the leg issues cost him two-years worth of expected production. The Indians couldn’t predict that Bourn would rupture a hamstring in the Wild Card-clinching game in 2013, creating an issue that lingered through 2014. They couldn’t know that, even when healthy in ’15, Bourn wouldn’t be the same player. They figured he might steal 46 bases in a season — not total over the 331 games he’d be in an Indians’ uniform.

In the clubhouse, Bourn had the bigger impact over the past three seasons. After tough defeats, as a veteran on a relatively young team, Bourn was often one of the only position players around when reporters walked into the room. He’d make himself available, taking the heat off some teammates. That kind of accountability goes a long way. And, from his comments, you could tell his diminished production ate at him. You can complain all you want about Bourn’s numbers, and have every right, but he cared and put in the work.

During the 2013 season, Swisher had a good impact on the clubhouse, too. His performance down the stretch played a key role in reaching the playoffs and his energy was unquestionably welcomed after the Tribe’s turbulent 2012 season. Once the injuries struck, and the performance dropped, though, Swisher’s all-out personality didn’t always work well behind the scenes. Some people within the organization don’t mind seeing him in a new uniform.

And, really, that’s kind of a shame. Given the way Swisher embraced the Indians organization and the fan base, and with the charity work he and his wife did both here and elsewhere, this could have been a perfect marriage under different circumstances. As I posted on Twitter after the trade went down, Swisher could’ve owned this town, rather than being run out of it.

“When we signed both guys,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said, “we were hopeful that they would help expedite our return to competitiveness. And in the 2013 season, both guys were key contributors to us making the postseason. Unfortunately, since that time, things haven’t played out maybe the way anyone would’ve hoped, and so that got us to [this point].

“At this point, we had to not necessarily dwell on the past, but figure out the path forward. We felt this move made sense for us and allows us that flexibility that would be helpful for us as we build our teams.”

This team needed a culture change heading into 2013, and it needs one again heading into 2016.

Trading Swisher and Bourn was needed in order to begin that process.

But, try to remember what it was like when they signed.

Remember how many times Swisher used the word “excited” when he first donned a Cleveland uniform? True to his persona, Swisher still used that word as he emptied his locker on Friday.

“I’m just excited, packing up all my stuff,” Swisher said. “I’m really just excited to get back on the field and play again — just be myself. Everything that’s went down here in the last year-and-a-half has been tough. Not only for myself, but organizationally as well. I just wish these guys the best of luck in everything they do and I hope they do the same for me.”


Month in review: July

michael-brantley-mlb-tampa-bay-rays-cleveland-indians-850x560Like it or not, the Indians have now entered into a two-month evaluation period. Things have not as planned or expected — just ask the people who planned Sports Illustrated’s season preview during the spring — and now Cleveland has to begin thinking about its future.

In the final days of July, which resulted in a .500 record for the Tribe, the Indians dealt away Brandon Moss (Cardinals), David Murphy (Angels) and Marc Rzepczynski (Padres). That sheds some potential salary for 2016, and it also opens the door for the Indians to test out some of its internal options down the stretch this year.

“We want to make sure that we learn something about ourselves in the second half,” Indians GM Chris Antonetti said on Thursday. “We have to look at it as an opportunity for us to go into the offseason and next year in a better position.”

The pitching continued to rank as one of the American League’s best groups throughout July, and the foundation in place for the rotation is what should provide some optimism about Cleveland’s ability to make this a quick turnaround. That said, this team needs offense in a bad way. July was a perfect example. While the pitchers rated as arguably the best staff in the AL, the offense was in the cellar, making it hard to scratch out wins.

The lineup also had a solid core group, but there will be holes to fill this coming winter.

First, the Indians need to fight through the final two months of this year.

Here is a look back at the month that was for the Tribe…

Overall: 13-13
Record at home: 5-9
Record on road: 8-4

Offense (AL rank)

.245 AVG (12)
.311 OBP (11)
.371 SLG (14)
.683 OPS (13)
93 R (12)
211 H (10)
18 HR (t-13)
68 XBH (12)
90 RBI (12)
15 SB (2)
76 BB (4)
187 K (9)
320 TB (13)
2.6 WAR (10)

Pitching (AL rank)

13 wins (5)
3.52 ERA (4)
3.64 rot. ERA (5)
3.12 rel. ERA (6)
9 saves (t-1)
233 IP (5)
23 HR (t-6)
53 BB (2)
217 K (2)
.231 AVG (1)
1.08 WHIP (1)
3.26 FIP (1)
4.1 WAR (2)

Notes: This was one of the best overall pitching months in franchise history. It’s the first time that Cleveland had 215-plus strikeouts with no more than 55 walks in a single month. If you tweak the criteria to 200-plus strikeouts and no more than 60 walks, it’s happened three times: July 2015, July 2014 and September 2014. This was also the first month a Cleveland staff had a 1.08 WHIP or better since May 1968 (0.93).

Player of the Month: OF Michael Brantley
Stats: .299/.389/.495/.884, 4 HR, 7 2B, 18 RBI, 14 BB, 8 K, 12 R, 26 games

Previous winners: Brantley (April), 2B Jason Kipnis (May, June)

Notes: Brantley became the first Indians batter to have at least 18 RBI and 14 walks with no more than eight strikeouts since August 2000, when Kenny Lofton achieved the feat.

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Danny Salazar
Stats: 2-3, 2.65 ERA, 34 IP, 35 K, 9 BB, .175 AVG, 0.88 WHIP, 5 starts

Notes: Salazar joins teammate Corey Kluber, along with Gaylord Perry, Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Herb Score and Bob Feller as the only pitchers in team history to have a month with at least 34 innings and 35 strikeouts, plus an opponents’ average of .175 or lower. Kluber accomplished the feat in July ’14. Before that, Perry was the last to do it for Cleveland (June 1974).

Previous winners: RHP Trevor Bauer (April), Kluber (May), Salazar (June)

Reliever of the Month: RHP Bryan Shaw
Stats: 1.00 ERA, 9 IP, 7 K, 1 BB, .167 AVG, 0.67 WHIP, 9 games

Previous winners: LHP Nick Hagadone (April), RHP Cody Allen (May), RHP Zach McAllister (June)

Notes: Shaw now has three months in his Cleveland career with no more than one walk, at least nine appearances and an ERA of 1.00 or better. While that has been done 17 times in team history, only Paul Assenmacher also did it three times (once each in the 1996-98 seasons).

Game of the Month (hitter): Brantley
July 22 at Brewers: 4-for-5, 1 HR, 1 2B, 2 R, 4 RBI, 8 TB

Previous winners: OF Brandon Moss (April 24), Kipnis (May 3), 1B Carlos Santana (June 16)

Game of the Month (pitcher): RHP Carlos Carrasco
July 1 at Rays: 8.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R/ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 89 Game Score

Previous winners: Bauer (April 9), Kluber (May 13), RHP Cody Anderson (June 21)


Minor League standouts for July

Triple-A Columbus

Player of the Month: 1B/OF Jerry Sands
Stats: .333/.465/.603/1.063, 5 HR, 6 2B, 20 RBI, 18 BB, 19 R, 25 games

Previous winners: OF Tyler Holt (April), OF James Ramsey (May), 1B Jesus Aguilar (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Shawn Armstrong
Stats: 1.86 ERA, 9.2 IP, 15 K, 3 BB, .216 AVG, 1.14 WHIP, 2 saves, 10 games

Previous winners: LHP Bruce Chen (April), RHP C.C. Lee (May), Armstrong (June)

Double-A Akron

Player of the Month: OF Bryson Myles
Stats: .316/.398/.487/.885, 2 HR, 8 XBH, 15 RBI, 10 BB, 10 R, 5 SB, 22 games

Previous winners: OF Ollie Linton (April), SS Erik Gonzalez (May), OF Anthony Gallas (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Jeff Johnson
Stats: 0.00 ERA, 9 IP, 10 K, 4 BB, .103 AVG, 0.78 WHIP, 6 saves, 9 starts

Previous winners: RHP Cody Anderson (April), RHP Josh Martin (May), RHP Mike Clevinger (June)

Class A (high) Lynchburg

Player of the Month: OF Clint Frazier
Stats: .363/.442/.559/1.000, 3 HR, 12 XBH, 17 RBI, 16 BB, 21 R, 6 SB, 28 games

Previous winners: OF Brad Zimmer (April, May), 1B Nellie Rodriguez (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP D.J. Brown
Stats: 4-0, 2.91 ERA, 34 IP, 22 K, 4 BB, .246 AVG, 1.06 WHIP, 5 starts

Previous winners: RHP Adam Plutko (April, May), RHP Justin Brantley (June)

Class A (low) Lake County

Player of the Month: 3B Taylor Murphy
Stats: .290/.396/.441/.837, 3 HR, 5 2B, 12 RBI, 16 BB, 22 R, 27 games

Previous winners: None (April), 2B Claudio Bautista (May), 1B Bobby Bradley (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Luke Eubank
Stats: 0.96 ERA, 9.1 IP, 14 K, 2 BB, .129 AVG, 0.64 WHIP, 8 games

Previous winners: RHP Dace Kime (April), RHP Nick Pasquale (May), RHP Cameron Hill (June)

Class A (short-season) Mahoning Valley

Player of the Month: 2B Mark Mathias
Stats: .320/.361/.454/.815, 1 HR, 9 XBH, 11 RBI, 7 BB, 11 R, 23 games

Previous winners: OF Anthony Santander (June)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Cortland Cox
Stats: 1.46 ERA, 12.1 IP, 15 K, 2 BB, .143 AVG, 0.65 WHIP, 5 games

Previous winners: RHP Shao-Ching Chang (June)

Arizona (Rookie) League

Player of the Month: OF Gabriel Mejia
Stats: .354/.463/.418/.881, 5 2B, 10 RBI, 15 BB, 22 SB, 18 R, 22 games

Pitcher of the Month: LHP Sam Hentges
Stats: 3.13 ERA, 23 IP, 31 K, 10 BB, .250 AVG, 1.39 WHIP, 5 games

Dominican Summer League

Player of the Month: SS Elvis Perez
Stats: .333/.448/.417/.865, 4 2B, 10 RBI, 18 BB, 17 R, 26 games

Pitcher of the Month: LHP Ramon Tieno
Stats: 4-0, 0.54 ERA, 16.2 IP, 15 K, 4 BB, .190 AVG, 0.90 WHIP, 9 games


Month in review: April
Month in review: May
Month in review: June


The 10 Most Extraordinary Indians Home Runs: First Half Edition

By: August Fagerstrom / @AugustF_MLB

The All-Star Break is here, and that means no meaningful Indians baseball for the next four days. Since nothing is happening in the present, let’s enjoy the past! With the Home Run Derby happening tonight, I figured it was a good time to revive a series I did a couple of times over at FanGraphs, looking at the most unique home runs of the season. Rather than looking at the whole league, though, let’s look just at the Indians. The data used in this post comes from HitTrackerOnline and BaseballSavant.

Fast, slow, high and low, these are The 10 Most Extraordinary Indians Home Runs of the first half.

* * *


Batter: Carlos Santana

Pitcher: Phil Klein

Date: 5/25


We’ll go ahead and get a Santana dinger out of the way because there’s going to be a few of them. Santana hit 10 homers in the first half and it turns out pretty much all of them were extraordinary in one way or another. At 441 feet, this is the farthest a ball has traveled off an Indians bat this season and the fourth-deepest homer of Santana’s career. Ball went and got itself some Barrio.


Batter: Roberto Perez

Pitcher: Phil Klein

Date: 5/25


It’s our friend Phil Klein again! Hi, Phil! Phil had himself a rough day at the ballpark. Sorry, Phil. Phil already served up the longest home run of the season to Carlos Santana an inning prior, and then Roberto Perez got him for the luckiest homer of the year the next. In the previous FanGraphs iterations of this post, I had a category for “most wind-aided home run.” This clip serves as both. Notice the flags in center field — the wind was blowing out to right field this day. Under standard conditions, Perez’s shot would have traveled approximately 342 feet and left zero Major League ballparks. On this day, though, the wind gave Perez’s ball an extra 22 feet of carry, just enough to make Shin-Soo Choo run into his old home fence.


Batter: Lonnie Chisenhall

Pitcher: Kelvin Herrera

Date: 5/5


Here’s a clip of Lonnie Chisenhall doing something extraordinary in the year 2015. Kelvin Herrera was the pitcher, and Kelvin Herrera throws hard, in part explaining the 112mph exit velocity off Chisenhall’s bat. Though the exit velocity is exceptional in itself, this home run would have been noteworthy regardless of how hard it was hit, because Herrera hadn’t given up a homer all year. No, wait, that’s not it. Because Herrera hadn’t given up a homer all of last year either. Chisenhall’s homer broke a Royals franchise record 105 1/3 inning homerless streak that dated back to July 2013. Herrera gave up another home run later that month, and is currently 20 innings into his next streak.

Highest pitch

Batter: Carlos Santana

Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Date: 6/13


Advertising worked. See that Jimmy John’s sign, right above where Santana’s home run landed? Yeah, that did it’s job. I’m currently eating a No. 10 with a side of BBQ Jimmy Chips because of that sign. And, no, I know what you’re wondering — I totally didn’t get one of those massive triple chocolate chunk cookies as well. Yeah, definitely not gonna scarf that down and make myself feel sick as soon as I finish this sandwich.

Oh, the home run? Yeah, geez, that sure was a high pitch. Thirteen inches above the center of the strike zone. Santana can get up and hit the high one.

Lowest pitch

Batter: Carlos Santana

Pitcher: Darren O’Day

Date: 6/26


Apparently Santana can go get the low one, too. Batters swinging at pitches like this is a reason why Darren O’Day is so good. Carlos Santana being able to hit pitches like this for home runs is a reason why, throughout his career, he’s been so good. If you follow me on Twitter, you might already know some fun facts about this dinger. Among other things, it’s the lowest pitch hit for a homer by an Indians player in the PITCHf/x era (2008-present) and one of the lowest fastballs hit out by any player in that same time.

Highest apex

Batter: Brandon Moss

Pitcher: Al Alburquerque

Date: 4/24


No, I didn’t order another Jimmy John’s sandwich. That would be ridiculous. I did just eat that cookie, though, and damn it was good. This ball reached an apex of 138 feet above field level at its peak.

Lowest apex

Batter: Michael Brantley

Pitcher: Mark Buehrle

Date: 5/1


I’d like to call something to your attention. It isn’t the home run. It’s that guy. Right there. You probably already noticed him. I purposely extended the length of the .gif so you would. That bald man is very excited. His children are embarrassed. Two options for the reason behind his happy dance

The likely reason: “Hot dog! These seats offer me a splendid view of tonight’s ballgame! And at an affordable price, too! Roll Tribe!”

The less likely reason: “Gee whiz! Certainly that will end up as the lowest-apex home run hit by an Indians batter in the first half of this season! I love physics!”

Most inside pitch

Batter: Francisco Lindor

Pitcher: Brett Oberholtzer

Date: 6/24


Just like the scouts said: “can hit pitches 10 inches in from the middle of the strike zone for home runs as well as any shortstop prospect in baseball.” Just imagine if the defense ever comes along.

Most outside pitch

Batter: Carlos Santana

Pitcher: Colby Lewis

Date: 5/27


If I can, I’d like to submit this as “most impressive home run” as well. Sure, there’s some takeaways — the score of the game and also the Colby Lewis on the mound. But to take a pitch that low and away and drive it 421 feet to dead center field is impressive, regardless of circumstance. Though, perhaps not as impressive as the final homer on this list…

Most Gattis

Batter: GATTIS





Month in review: June

478930288Growing up in Chicago, I was all too familiar with the phrase “June swoon” while rooting on the Cubs. So often, it seemed that promising starts hit a wall in baseball’s third month, shifting fans into an early wait-til-next-year mindset.

Well, Indians fans wouldn’t be blamed for letting their thoughts wander similarly right now.

April was a bust, but Cleveland stormed through May with one of the best collective offensive and pitching performances in baseball. When the calendar flipped to June, the temperature got hot, but the Tribe’s bats went cold again. The pitching was middle-of-the-road, but the run support was nearly non-existent, giving the arms little to no margin for error.

Rock bottom arrived in Baltimore, where the Indians scored three runs in three games, included putting up 18 zeros in a doubleheader in (not-so) Charm City on the month’s final, bloody Sunday. Fortunately for the Tribe, some good feelings arrived in St. Petersburg, where the Indians ended June with a pair of impressive wins, leading up to Carlos Carrasco’s near no-hitter on July 1.

There is still plenty of time for the Indians to regain their footing and make a second-half push, but June made things a little more daunting.

Here is a look back at the month that was for the Tribe…

Overall: 11-15
Record at home: 5-9
Record on road: 6-6

Offense (AL rank)

.249 AVG (9)
.313 OBP (9)
.364 SLG (13)
.677 OPS (12)
79 R (14)
215 H (13)
18 HR (14)
62 XBH (t-13)
73 RBI (14)
10 SB (9)
79 BB (6)
197 K (8)
314 TB (t-13)
1.8 WAR (13)

Notes: The last time the Indians scored no more than 79 runs and had an OPS no greater than .677 was, well, way back in April. Oof. Before April, you had to go all the way back to June of the 1991 season to find an offensive outage of that kind in one month. And, go figure, Cleveland also did the same dubious feat in April of 1991. Baseball is weird.

Pitching (AL rank)

11 wins (12)
3.90 ERA (10)
4.22 rot. ERA (11)
3.15 rel. ERA (6)
4 saves (14)
226.1 IP (14)
29 HR (10)
69 BB (6)
212 K (6)
.245 AVG (7)
1.23 WHIP (7)
3.91 FIP (11)
2.4 WAR (11)

Notes: Let’s flash back to 1991 once again! April of ’91 was also the last time an Indians’ pitching staff had an ERA no higher than 3.90 with no more than 11 wins to show for it. I bet Paul Hoynes’ Plain Dealer articles back then detailed a lack of run support just like in June this year. In April of ’91, though, the staff went 7-10 despite a 2.61 ERA.

Player of the Month: 2B Jason Kipnis
Stats: .358/.441/.484/926, 10 XBH, 8 RBI, 15 BB, 15 R, 5 SB, 25 games

Previous winners: OF Michael Brantley (April), Kipnis (May)

Notes: Man, Kipnis really slumped through June. I mean, he hit .429/.511/.706 with 30 runs and 51 hits in May, taking home the AL’s Player of the Month award. Oh well. Looking at his June, Kipnis is the first Indians batter to have at least five steals, 10 extra-base hits, 15 runs and a .926 OPS in a month since… Kipnis did that in June 2013. In the last 10 years, only Asdrubal Cabrera (May 2011), Shin-Soo Choo (Sept. 2010) and Grady Sizemore (twice in ’08 and twice in ’06) achieved the same feat.

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Danny Salazar
Stats: 3-2, 3.82 ERA, 30.2 IP, 30 K, 8 BB, .233 AVG, 1.14 WHIP, 5 starts

Notes: There wasn’t anything particularly historic about Salazar’s month, but he was arguably Cleveland’s top start for June. I could’ve easily gone with reliever Zach McAllister here, but I decided to pick him for the next category.

Previous winners: RHP Trevor Bauer (April), RHP Corey Kluber (May)

Reliever of the Month: McAllister
Stats: 2.61 ERA, 10.1 IP, 14 K, 1 BB, .200 AVG, 0.77 WHIP, 9 games

Previous winners: LHP Nick Hagadone (April), RHP Cody Allen (May)

Notes: McAllister has developed into a solid part-time late-inning option, or a bridge to Cleveland’s setup men and closer. He’s on a short list of Cleveland pitchers to ever have 14-plus strikeouts with no more than one walk in nine-plus outings in one month. Prior to his June, that list included Chris Perez (July 2012), Rafael Betancourt (April 2004), Paul Shuey (July 2002), Sean DePaula (September ’99) and Paul Assenmacher (July ’96).

Game of the Month (hitter): 1B Carlos Santana
June 16 vs. Cubs: 2-for-3, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 RBI

Notes: Over the past 10 years, an Indians batter has had two-plus hits, two-plus walks and six-plus total bases in a game 16 times. Players on that list include Grady Sizemore (four times), Santana (three times), Jhonny Peralta (twice), David Murphy, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Jason Giambi, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and Ryan Garko.

Previous winners: OF Brandon Moss (April 24), Kipnis (May 3)

Game of the Month (pitcher): RHP Cody Anderson
June 21 vs. Rays: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 0 R/ER, 1 BB, 4 K

Notes: There’s an argument to be made that Anderson’s eight-inning gem vs. the Rays on June 29 was actually the best start of the month, but I’ll go with his MLB debut due to the historical elements. Anderson joined Scott Lewis (2008), Luis Tiant (1964) and Ray Benge (1925) as the only Cleveland pitchers to log at least 7.2 shutout innings in an MLB debut.

Previous winners: Bauer (April 9), Kluber (May 13)


Minor League standouts for June

Triple-A Columbus

Player of the Month: 1B Jesus Aguilar
Stats: .310/.352/.469/.821, 4 HR, 9 XBH, 24 RBI, 11 R, 28 games

Previous winners: OF Tyler Holt (April), OF James Ramsey (May)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Shawn Armstrong
Stats: 1.29 ERA, 14 IP, 19 K, 6 BB, .170 AVG, 1.00 WHIP, 4 saves, 10 games

Previous winners: LHP Bruce Chen (April), RHP C.C. Lee (May)

Double-A Akron

Player of the Month: OF Anthony Gallas
Stats: .326/.364/.576/.940, 5 HR, 12 XBH, 18 RBI, 24 games

Previous winners: OF Ollie Linton (April), SS Erik Gonzalez (May)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Mike Clevinger
Stats: 1.84 ERA, 29.1 IP, 32 K, 7 BB, .206 AVG, 0.99 WHIP, 5 starts

Previous winners: RHP Cody Anderson (April), RHP Josh Martin (May)

Class A (high) Lynchburg

Player of the Month: 1B Nellie Rodriguez
Stats: .341/.412/.541/.954, 3 HR, 10 XBH, 18 RBI, 14 R, 23 games

Previous winners: OF Brad Zimmer (April, May)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Justin Brantley
Stats: 1.17 ERA, 15.1 IP, 19 K, 7 BB, .157 AVG, 0.98 WHIP, 8 games

Previous winners: RHP Adam Plutko (April, May)

Class A (low) Lake County

Player of the Month: 1B Bobby Bradley
Stats: .277/.346/.574/.921, 7 HR, 12 XBH, 20 RBI, 15 R, 24 games

Previous winners: None (April), 2B Claudio Bautista (May)

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Cameron Hill
Stats: 0.90 ERA, 10 IP, 14 K, 5 BB, .147 AVG, 1.00 WHIP, 3 saves, 7 games

Previous winners: RHP Dace Kime (April), RHP Nick Pasquale (May)

Class A (short-season)Mahoning Valley

Player of the Month: OF Anthony Santander
Stats: .419/.486/.903/.1.389, 3 HR, 9 XBH, 9 RBI, 6 R, 4 BB, 8 games

Pitcher of the Month: RHP Shao-Ching Chiang
Stats: 0.82 ERA, 11 IP, 3 K, 1 BB, .132 AVG, 0.55 WHIP, 2 games


Month in review: April
Month in review: May


The Complete Guide to the Indians and Miguel Cabrera in 2015

By: August Fagerstrom / @AugustF_MLB

Want in on a little industry secret? I’m not even sure if I should be sharing this type of information with the public. I had to do a lot of reporting and digging for this, and I think I’ll be the first to report it. OK, ready?

Miguel Cabrera is really, really good.

Maybe that’s already made its way out there. I don’t know. Cabrera is 26-for-42 against the Indians this year with five homers and a 1.697 OPS, so I guess it probably has. Shoot. Really thought I had a scoop there.

Those kind of numbers have had Indians fans scratching their heads. Those kind of numbers have had the Indians scratching their heads. A reporter asked Corey Kluber how to pitch to Cabrera. The reigning Cy Young Award winner said he was “the wrong guy to ask.” It’s been the question on everybody’s mind this year, so why don’t we break it down?

How should you pitch to Miguel Cabrera? How have the Indians pitched to Miguel Cabrera, and what does the way they’ve pitched him tell us about the season’s most lopsided player vs. team matchup?

First, let’s briefly address the question the fans keep asking. “Why don’t they just walk him every time?” Well, because you just can’t do that. Cabrera is still a human being. Cabrera still makes outs more often than he doesn’t. I ran the math, and even with Cabrera’s otherworldly stats against the Indians this season, they would’ve been worse off issuing him a free pass every time.

When Terry Francona was asked about the subject, his response backed that up:

“I guarantee you, if we just went into a series and said we’re walking Miggy every time, they’d score more runs than if we pick our spots,” Francona said.

Walking Miggy every time is simply not an option. The Indians have to pitch to him, just like anyone else. Which leads us to the million-dollar question: What’s the best way to pitch to Miguel Cabrera?

Well, see, here’s the problem with that:

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 8.00.24 PM

That’s a heatmap of Cabrera’s career slugging percentage against all teams, going back as far as that kind of information is on record. Cabrera covers the plate as well as any hitter of our generation, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody who’s seen him hit. I’ve heard plenty of people say something along the lines of “You’ve got to pitch him inside to keep him honest,” but the inside pitch is actually Cabrera’s biggest strength, so that doesn’t exactly apply here.

I sought out pitching coach Mickey Callaway in an attempt to find what, if any, are Cabrera’s perceived weaknesses, and how Callaway’s instructed his guys to face the slugger. Callaway’s opening statement mirrors the image above:

“The bottom line is, he doesn’t have any holes,” Callaway said. “And the more pitches he sees, the better he gets.”

That second part piqued my interest. On one hand, Cabrera is the kind of guy you’d intuitively want to pitch around. On the other hand, it makes sense that the more pitches he sees, the better timing he’d have, making a potential mistake later in the at-bat more costly. So Callaway really wants Miggy to put the ball in play as early as possible?

“That’s exactly what I want,” Callaway said. “I want them to attack him to a good area, knowing he’s going to be super aggressive. We want him to put the ball in play early. When he starts fouling balls off, fouling balls off and timing our guys up, it gives him a better chance to square the ball up, and that’s what he usually does.”

Against Cabrera, Callaway wants short at-bats. Have the Indians done that? Cabrera’s faced Cleveland 52 times this year, and averaged 3.6 pitches per plate appearance. Against the rest of the league, he’s averaged exactly 4.0 pitches per plate appearance. In this one way, Indians pitchers have accomplished a goal! Clearly, though, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Callaway also wants them to “attack to a good area.” Based on the heatmap above, it appears no such thing exists. However! That first heatmap dates back to 2007, and Cabrera is older now than he was in 2007. Has anything changed since then?

Here’s his heatmap, just from this year, against all teams:

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 8.18.21 PM

A weakness appears! Cabrera still covers the plate extraordinarily well, but, as he’s gotten older, he’s become relativey susceptible to the high-and-tight pitch. I noted earlier in the month that Cabrera has been swinging and missing against the elevated fastball more and more over the last four years, so perhaps that’s the place to attack. Have the Indians been going there?

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 8.38.17 PM

Sort of.

Remember, this is from the catcher’s view, behind the plate, so Miggy is standing on the left-hand side of this image. You can see, certainly, the intent to pound Miggy with strikes up-and-in. It’s no secret he’s developed a mini-hole in that area, and surely the Indians are aware. But here’s the problem with that location: if you miss down, at all, you’re throwing to the area of his greatest strength — the inside pitch. And if you miss out, at all, then you’re throwing to the area of every hitter’s strength — the middle of the plate. The key is to pitch up-and-in against Cabrera, but there’s absolutely no margin for error.

Just a few more heatmaps. First, the successes. This is going to show pitches where Cabrera either swung and missed, or made an out:

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 8.41.10 PM

Gameplan: executed! The Indians have attempted to pitch Cabrera high-and-tight, and when they have, it’s worked! It’s that easy. We just went over the problem, though. There’s no margin for error.

Now, the failures. This is going to show pitches where Cabrera put the ball in play for a hit:

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 8.41.35 PM

Miggy’s pounced on the pitches that missed down. Miggy’s pounced on the pitches that missed out. Maybe Indians pitchers have just missed their spots with Cabrera up more than they typically do. Maybe Cabrera’s hit the mistake pitches more often than he usually does. My guess is it’s probably a little bit of both.

One more thing to tie this all together. Remember earlier, when Callaway said he wanted his guys to attack Cabrera in “good areas” early in the count? Make him uncomfortable as soon as possible? Well, all five of his home runs have come within the first three pitches of the at-bat, with the most recent two coming on the first pitch, so that hasn’t gone over well. We’ve seen what the approach has been, overall, but what’s the approach been on the first pitch?

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 9.11.27 PM

On the first pitch, you see far less reliance on the high-and-tight pitch, with a larger focus on going down-and-away. Cabrera’s latest two homers against Cleveland came on the first pitch, and, on each, the pitcher was set up for a low-and-away fastball. Each missed over the middle of the plate, which of course is the bigger issue at hand, but if the Indians want to make Cabrera uncomfortable as early as possible, it would stand to reason that going up-and-in with the heat early — as opposed to later in counts as a putaway pitch — might better accomplish that goal. Then again, I’m far from a pitching expert. I just play one on the internet.

What have we learned from this exercise? We’ve learned that walking Miguel Cabrera isn’t an option. We’ve learned he’s never had a hole in his swing throughout his career, though lately he’s become relatively susceptible to fastballs up-and-in. We’ve learned that the Indians have made an effort to pitch him there. We’ve learned that when they have pitched him there, it’s worked, but there’s no margin for error whatsoever. We’ve also learned that, despite a focus on making Cabrera uncomfortable early in at-bats, the Indians have seemed unwilling to throw to his most uncomfortable area on the first pitch. That’s the only part of the approach against Cabrera that perhaps seems questionable. The rest can mostly be boiled down to a strong gameplan backfiring by good pitchers missing their spots against the best hitter in the world. It’s a tough game. Becomes a hell of a lot tougher when facing Miguel Cabrera.

Aiken tops Tribe’s pitching-heavy Draft class

Brady_Aiken_1280_yei8jnm8_aw8dc5o9After selecting a position player to open each of the past four Drafts, the Indians returned to the pitching front for its first-round pick this week. With the 17th overall choice, Cleveland grabbed highly-touted lefty Brady Aiken, who went first overall to the Astros last year, but did not sign. It was a pitching-heavy Draft for the Tribe, which selected 23 pitchers compared to 18 position players for this year’s class.

Here is a breakdown of Cleveland’s 2015 Draft class:

Round 1 (17): Aiken, IMG Academy ( rank: 24)
Story: Indians select last year’s No. 1 pick Aiken at 17

Comp. A (42): RHP Triston McKenzie, Royal Palm Beach HS (53)

Round 2 (59): LHP Juan Hillman, Olympia HS (52)
Feature: Hillman, Gordon family share special bond

Round 3 (93): 2B Mark Mathias, Cal Poly (128)
Story: Indians open Day 2 by Drafting Mathias

Round 4 (124): SS Tyler Krieger, Clemson (104)
Round 5 (154): OF Ka’Ai Tom, Kentucky

Round 6 (184): RHP Jonas Wyatt, Quartz Hill HS (187)
Story: Wyatt highlights home stretch of Day 2

Round 7 (214): OF Nathan Lukes, Sacramento State
Round 8 (244): RHP Justin Garza, Cal State Fullerton (155)
Round 9 (274): RHP Devon Stewart, Canisius College
Round 10 (304): LHP William Strode, Florida State
Round 11 (334): RHP Chandler Newman, Richmond Hill HS

Round 12 (364): SHP Ryan Perez, Judson University
Feature: Indians grab intriguing prospect in switch-pitching Perez

Round 13 (394): C Daniel Salters, Dallas Baptist University
Round 14 (424): RHP Matt Esparza, UC Irvine
Round 15 (454): RHP Daniel Sprinkle, White Hall HS
Round 16 (484): 2B Cobie Vance, Pine Forest HS
Round 17 (514): SS Nick Madrigal, Elk Grove HS
Round 18 (544): 1B Anthony Miller, Johnson County CC
Round 19 (574): OF Todd Isaacs, Palm Beach CC
Round 20 (604): SS Luke Wakamatsu, Keller HS*
Round 21 (634): RHP Brock Hartson, Univ. Texas-San Antonio
Round 22 (664): 3B Garrett Benge, Cowley County CC
Round 23 (694): RHP Chad Smith, Wallace State CC
Round 24 (724): 2B Sam Haggerty, Univ. of New Mexico
Round 25 (754): OF Connor Marabell, Jacksonville University
Round 26 (784): SS A.J. Graffanino, Northwest Christian School**
Round 27 (814): RHP Austin Rubick, Buena HS
Round 28 (844): C Jack Goihl, Augustana College
Round 29 (874): RHP Christian Meister, No School
Round 30 (904): RHP Chandler Day, Watkins HS (86)
Round 31 (934): 2B Dillon Persinger, Golden West College
Round 32 (964): LHP Jacob Hill, University of San Diego
Round 33 (994): C Garrett Wolforth, Concordia Lutheran HS
Round 34 (1024): RHP Andrew Cabezas, Mater Academy Charter School
Round 35 (1054): C Cade Tremie, New Waverly HS***
Round 36 (1084): RHP Ryan Colegate, Ohio Dominican University
Round 37 (1114): RHP Lucas Humpal, Texas State
Round 38 (1144): RHP Braden Webb, No School
Round 39 (1174): RHP Tristin English, Pike County HS
Round 40 (1204): RHP Hunter Parsons, Parkside HS

*Son of Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu
**Son of former MLB infielder Tony Graffanino
***Son of Triple-A Columbus manager Chris Tremie



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