Hello from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. This space will be used to give updates throughout these Winter Meetings on any rumblings involving the Indians.
I’ll update throughout each day as rumors and reports surface, and following our sit-downs with Cleveland’s decision-makers, including president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, general manager Mike Chernoff and manager Terry Francona.
- On Sunday night, Peter Gammons said on MLB Tonight that Indians outfielder Michael Brantley could be out until August due to complications with his right shoulder surgery. Multiple sources within the Indians indicated that the report was not accurate. Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com hears Brantley could be out until June. The Indians say the timetable has not changed, meaning their projection of late April of some time in May is the expectation.
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle has reported that the Indians are among teams who have expressed interest in infielder Brett Lawrie, who can play second and third base. Presumably, the Tribe would see Lawrie as an option mainly for third, where Giovanny Urshela is the projected starter at the moment. Slusser reported that the White Sox and Tigers have also shown interest.
- Not surprisingly, ESPN’s Jayson Stark hears that the Indians might be leaning toward holding on to its starting pitching, rather than trading from a strength to address the offense. He quotes a source who opines that such a move could potentially be “shifting around your problems.”
- ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Sunday that the Indians are open to exploring trades involving catcher Roberto Perez. This isn’t really surprising, either. It could be argued that Perez is the best backup catcher in baseball and he could be a starting catcher on a number of teams. There is value there worth exploring for Cleveland.
- The Indians announced Monday morning that the scoreboard at Progressive Field is being upgraded for 2016. From the press release: “The new scoreboard, manufactured and installed by Daktronics, will feature premier high-definition technology for every fan at Progressive Field. It measures 59 feet high by 221 feet wide, amounting to 13,000 square feet of active display area.”
- According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Indians are among the teams who have shown interest in Mike Napoli.
- Wes Ferrell, who went 102-62 with a 3.67 ERA for the Indians from 1927-33, did not receive enough votes via the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Pre-Integration Era Committee to make it into the Hall. No one was voted in during Monday’s announcement.
- OF Clint Frazier has been named to the Arizona Fall League’s Top Prospects Team.
- Indians have claimed OF Joey Butler off waivers from the Rays. The Tribe designated lefty Jayson Aquino for assignment to vacate a roster spot. Butler is, of course, the player who broke up Carlos Carrasco’s no-hitter on July 1 with two outs in the ninth inning.
Stay tuned for more…
The Nexen Heroes made Park available to Major League teams via the posting system last week, setting a deadline of 5 p.m. ET on Friday. Cleveland was among the teams that submitted a blind bid, though the Tribe did not win the right to negotiate a contract with Park.
Reports out of Korea indicated that the Heroes accepted a top bid of $12.85 million, though the winning club has yet to be revealed. MLB.com learned Saturday morning that the Indians fell short of that price, which will give the top team an exclusive 30-day window to try to sign the first baseman.
It isn’t immediately known how much Cleveland bid for the right to talk to Park.
This past season, the 29-year-old Park hit .343 with 53 home runs and 146 RBIs in 140 games for Nexen. He launched 173 homers and knocked in 492 runs from 2012-15, though he also had 510 strikeouts in that time period. Park was the KBO MVP in 2012-13 and will likely win another for his work this past season.
Bidding on a player like Park makes sense for the Indians, who are not expected to be major players in free agency. Park would come at a lower annual rate than a similar Major League free agent and would not be tied to any Draft pick compensation. Cleveland’s top pick for the 2016 Draft (16th overall) is unprotected, so any free agents who decline Qualifying Offers (20 received a QO on Friday) would not only come at a high price financially, but would eliminate that first-round selection.
At first base, the Indians have the switch-hitting Carlos Santana ($8.25 million in 2016) and Chris Johnson ($7.5 million) for the time being, but each are trade candidates this winter. If both Santana and Johnson are back in ’16, they would also project to serve as a designated hitter at times, with Johnson also seeing innings at third base and potentially in the corner outfield spots. Johnson would primarily be used against left-handed pitching.
Cleveland has little wiggle room financially for any major free-agent additions this offseason, so the club will be looking more toward the trade market to address its need for an impact bat. Taking a flier on a player like Park also made sense. Given the success of Korean infielder Jung Ho Kang (posting fee of $5.1 million, followed by a four-year, $11-million contract) with the Pirates, though, Park’s price exceeded Cleveland’s comfort zone in a blind-bid scenario.
The Indians enter this offseason in a familiar position. Much of Cleveland’s core group is under contract and the payroll projects to be in the same range as recent years. That means little monetary wiggle room.
Chris Antonetti, the Indians president of baseball operations, has been upfront that the Tribe’s top priority this winter is upgrading the position-player side of the roster. To do so, under the usual restraints, it looks like the trade market is the most realistic route for the Indians to follow.
If the Indians had money to spare, maybe they would’ve picked up Ryan Raburn’s $3-million team option on Wednesday. He was one of baseball’s top hitters vs. lefty pitching last year (Raburn’s 1.004 OPS ranked behind only Nelson Cruz, Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson in the American League) and his deal was affordable.
Instead, the Tribe declined Raburn’s option, will pay him a $100,000 buyout and Antonetti offered this reasoning: “In the end, a lot of this comes down to timing. With where we are in the offseason, we just felt that we were best served by not committing the $3 million at this point to that spot on our roster. That’s really what it came down to.”
That familiar word — “flexibility” — was quickly in a subsequent quote. So, just how much flexibility does Cleveland have this winter? Perhaps not as much as people might have thought when the team dealt Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. It’s important to remember that that trade, which brought Chris Johnson and his contract to Cleveland, was more about loosening up the roster than the purse strings.
Let’s take a walk through the Indians’ current payroll situation.
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2016
Carlos Santana, $8.25 million
Chris Johnson, $7.5 million
Michael Brantley, $7.38 million
Jason Kipnis, $6.17 million
Corey Kluber, $4.7 million
Carlos Carrasco, $4.5 million
Yan Gomes, $2.5 million
That group of seven players are slated to earn approximately $41 million for the upcoming season.
According to the educated guess work of MLBTradeRumors.com, that group could net $14.7 million through arbitration. Obviously, that’s not a firm number. So, for now, we have to assume that the arbitration cases, if everyone is retained, will account for roughly $13-15 million. That brings us to around $56 million on the high end.
While I don’t know Trevor Bauer’s specific salary for 2016 at the moment, it will be north of $1.5 million, in accordance with the Major League contract he signed at the time he was drafted. We’re currently at 15 roster spots. So, at this point we can put the other 10 spots in the range of $5.5 million. That’s around $7 million (and I’m probably a little short here) for the pre-arbitration section of the roster. Now, we’re at $63 million.
Now that we know the decision on Raburn’s deal, we know that we’re not adding $3 million to that total. But, assuming I was a little short on the pre-arb class, and accounting for Raburn’s buyout, we can say the payroll is around $63-64 million. This is where it gets a little tricky. We have to account for the cash sent to Atlanta as part of the trade that shipped Swisher and Bourn to the Braves. The Indians haven’t said the specific amount, only that they picked up “a majority” of the difference between Johnson’s contract and the Swisher/Bourn contracts. That money was deferred over the life of Johnson’s deal, which is guaranteed through 2017 ($7.5 million in ’16 and $9 million in ’17, plus a $1-million buyout if his $10-million option isn’t picked up for ’18). Again, I haven’t received specific details, but I have been told that projecting a current payroll status of $70-75 million puts me “in the ballpark” of where Cleveland is at the moment. That means, if the Indians are sticking to the $85-million neighborhood for its payroll, we can guesstimate that the team has $10-15 million worth of flexibility to play with this winter. So, don’t expect any major free-agent additions, but rather Cleveland targeting younger, controllable players through trades. And, obviously, trading away a contract or two from the current roster would alter the situation, too.
Antonetti reiterated on Wednesday that the team plans on focusing more on its offense than its pitching, though I’d wager that we’ll see some depth adds on the pitching front. Cleveland could stand to shore up its lefty-relief situation and, let’s be honest, the rotation gets a little thing behind the Tribe’s talented front four. Offensively, the Indians could target right field, the corner infield spots and designated hitter as areas to use in an effort to add some offense. Cleveland’s preference is to keep Michael Brantley in left field, too. That probably means the Indians will look for alternatives for center field, potentially moving Abraham Almonte into a fourth-outfielder role. The Tribe likes Lonnie Chisenhall in right field, but he might be in a platoon-esque scenario.
Let’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
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.”
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
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
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
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.”
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.
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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
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 MLB.com 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
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
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”.
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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.
Do 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.
Before 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.”
Like 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…
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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.
Batter: Carlos Santana
Pitcher: Justin Verlander
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.
Batter: Carlos Santana
Pitcher: Darren O’Day
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.
Batter: Brandon Moss
Pitcher: Al Alburquerque
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.
Batter: Michael Brantley
Pitcher: Mark Buehrle
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
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
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…
Pitcher: DOESN’T MATTER
Date: GATTIS TIME