In the wake of the debacle versus the Yankees, the Indians optioned Tuesday’s starter Carlos Carrasco to Columbus to work on command of his fastball and, presumably, control of his head-hunting impulses.
Tito’s proclaimed bullpen savior (and Wednesday’s scheduled starter) Brett Myers worked 5-1/3 innings in relief of Carrasco, necessitating the call-up of Corey Kluber from Columbus to take Myers’ turn in the rotation.
Yesterday’s rainout spared Kluber a likely beating from the suddenly potent Yankee bats, but cost him his chance to start. Zach McAllister will take the ball as scheduled in tonight’s series finale.
Kluber, who made 12 starts for the Indians last season, will stick around to provide mop-up innings in case the Yankees get the best of McAllister, but his stay will likely be a short one barring further injury and incompetence. The Indians will not need a fifth starter again until April 20 against the Astros, which is three days after Scott Kazmir is eligible to be activated from the disabled list.
Jason Giambi was eligible to come off the DL on April 9, so Kluber’s roster spot may soon be needed to accommodate the Indians’ elder statesman. Here’s hoping Giambi can deliver some of his Yoda-like wisdom to build the confidence of our young Jedis, who have taken a thrashing at the hands of baseball’s Evil Empire.
In the musical “Damn Yankees,” the Devil sends the seductress Lola to seal his deal with slugger Joe Hardy by stealing him away from his wife. How fitting then that Mark Shapiro chose Chef Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro as the setting for his own seduction of erstwhile Yankee Nick Swisher Monday night.
Shapiro might need the services of the Dark Lord to sway Swisher, who reportedly would prefer to play in Los Angeles where his wife, the actress Joanna Garcia, makes her living. Cleveland, for all its charms, undeniably lacks career opportunities for Mrs. Swisher.
But no job openings seem to exist in L.A. for her husband either. The Angels have no room in the outfield after signing Josh Hamilton, who might know a thing or two about Faustian bargains. And the Dodgers, who have more money than God, can’t seem to find a taker for Andre Ethier and the contract extension they signed him to last June. Perhaps the Lord does work in mysterious ways.
Of course, the demands of marriage are not the only influence on Swisher’s decision. As a young ballplayer with the A’s, Swisher once told a roomful of fans at Fanfest that, while loyalty was nice, he would play for whoever paid him the most money. Now 32 years old, Swisher might not get another chance at a long-term, big-money contract.
Who could blame him, then, for balking at the Indians’ reported offer of four years and $52 million when his statistical inferior Ethier got five years and $85 million? And Hamilton’s deal just provides 125 million more reasons for Swisher to keep looking.
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but could the contents of a man’s stomach betray what’s in his heart? If Chef Symon knows, he isn’t telling. Symon said in an email that “we don’t ‘kiss & tell’ with our customers…go tribe!!!”
Whenever the Indians were on TV, the whole family would gather around to watch. When Manny would do something particularly amazing, everyone would go nuts. “Manny Ramirez! Manny Ramirez!”, they’d all yell. The family’s King Charles spaniel was your typical cute little lap dog, rarely making noise or bothering anyone. But every time anyone exclaimed “Manny Ramirez!”, the dog had the same reaction: YIPYIPYIPYIPYIPYIPYIPYIPYIPYIP
More importantly, Keri points out that despite his skill erosion, Manny is still a very bad man:
Are you a skeptic who thinks Ramirez isn’t the same since his 50-game PED suspension in 2009? You’re absolutely right. In 167 games (631 PA) since then, he’s hit well below career norms, with a line of .284/.399/.476. That’s still better than anyone the Rays had before last night.
Keri also points out that Manny has an OPS+ of 156 for the years 2008-2010, second only to Albert Pujols.
Ramirez signed with the Rays for $2 million, a steal for a DH with that production and just $700k more than Austin Kearns signed for. And in the past, Manny has publicly stated his desire to return to the Indians.
So forgive me if I wax nostalgic and wonder if, with a little more interest, Manny could have been Manny in Cleveland again.
According to Jordan Bastian at MLB.com, Dr. Rick Parker has given Carlos Santana a clean bill of health, allowing Santana to participate fully when spring training begins on Feb. 17. The switch-hitting catcher is also on target to start on Opening Day against the White Sox.
This is obviously great news for Manny Acta, who intends to get Santana into the lineup more often this season by giving him occasional starts at first base. Baseball Prospectus no doubt would agree with this move: Their PECOTA forecasting system projects Santana to be the Indians’ top hitter in 2011, a somewhat surprising development given Shin-Soo Choo‘s emergence as one of the AL’s top players.
Even more surprising is how much better than his teammates PECOTA projects Santana to be. Using a method borrowed from Rich Lederer at BaseballAnalysts.com, I graphed each Indians hitter’s projected OBP and SLG against an axis showing the league averages for 2010.
That’s Santana, floating by himself in the upper right corner. PECOTA projects him to post a .264/.379/.470 line, bettering Choo’s projected OBP by 10 points and projected SLG by 30 points.
Coming off his MVP performance in the Asian games, Choo is entering his age-28 season, arguably the peak performance age for most MLB players. Yet the system predicts a down year for Choo in comparison to his last two full seasons, forecasting a loss of 75 points of OPS for the Tribe slugger.
Tribe fans should be cautiously optimistic about Grady Sizemore, however. While a return to his peak years of 2006-2008 is unlikely, Sizemore projects as a .252/.350/.435 hitter, numbers that would be welcome at the top of the lineup. In 2010, Tribe hitters—primarily Michael Brantley, Trevor Crowe and Asdrubal Cabrera—managed only a .294 OBP from the leadoff spot and just a .315 OBP hitting second.
Cabrera, too, should rebound slightly from last year, to .273/.330/.378, but don’t expect the newly signed Orlando Cabrera to contribute much. PECOTA not only sees his bat declining to .264/.307/.351, but also divines a drop in his defensive ability as well.
Jordan Brown is a good baseball player.
Good enough to win an International League batting title in 2009.
Good enough to win back-to-back MVP awards in 2006 and 2007.
Good enough to be a third-team All-American at Arizona.
In other words, Brown plays baseball better than 99.9999875 percent of the world’s population, give or take a ten-millionth of a percent.
Many fans, I’m sure, disagree with this assessment.
Many of you wonder why the Indians, who finished 12th in the AL in runs scored in 2010, could not find more than 87 at-bats for Brown, who hit .305/.354/.471 over three AAA seasons. And there was a time that I would have agreed with you.
At the end of the 2007 season, Brown looked to me like the resurrection of Mark Grace. Compare Brown’s 2007 line to Grace’s 1987 season with Pittsfield:
Jordan Brown, 2007 at AA Akron (age 23)
.333/.421/.484, 558 PA, 161 H, 36 2B, 2 3B, 11 HR, 63 BB, 56 K
Mark Grace, 1987 at AA Pittsfield (age 23)
.333/.394/.545, 513 PA, 151 H, 29 2B, 8 3B, 17 HR, 48 BB, 24 K
The batting averages are identical, the counting stats are similar, and Grace’s lead in slugging is somewhat offset by Brown’s higher on-base percentage. Each player’s numbers were good enough to garner him the Eastern League MVP Award.
But the two players’ careers diverge from there.
In May of 1988, Leon “Bull” Durham—Chicago’s four-year incumbent at first base—was struggling at the plate. His wife had been ill during spring training, which may have been a distraction to him in the season’s early going. Grace, with little experience above AA, took over the starting first base job when the Cubs traded Durham to his hometown Cincinnati Reds.
With Grace at first, Chicago won the NL East title in 1989, thus cementing his “favorite son” status among the Cubbie faithful. And despite criticism that the offense he provided was not “good enough” for a first baseman, Grace went on to win four Gold Gloves and appear in three All-Star Games, and he famously led the 1990s in hits.
Could Brown, with a little luck and his MVP award in his pocket, have won a big league job with the Tribe in 2008?
At the outset of 2008, the Indians had Ryan Garko at first, Travis Hafner at DH, and a platoon of Ben Francisco and David Dellucci in left. Hafner had to play, thanks to his contract, and Victor Martinez spelled Garko at first against tough right-handers.
As the left-handed half of the platoon, then, Dellucci posed the biggest obstacle to Brown—except, maybe, for Brown himself.
When Hafner went on the DL at the end of May 2008, opening a spot in the lineup, Brown was hitting .295 at Buffalo with 18 doubles. But he had zero home runs, and his performance tailed off in June and July, guaranteeing that he would not get a shot to replace Pronk or to platoon with Garko—even as Dellucci disappointed the Tribe for the second straight season.
To his credit, Brown rebounded that August, then posted his best power numbers in 2009—35 doubles and 15 homers for a .532 slugging percentage. But in retrospect, his strong numbers in 2007 and 2009 were each buoyed by an unsustainable BABIP of over .360.
Grace’s BABIPs stayed consistently in the .320 range, even in the majors. And Grace possessed an uncanny batting eye: He walked more than he struck out in every season of his career, majors or minors.
Brown, by comparison, has become less selective at the plate in recent years, perhaps in search of more power. While he still strikes out infrequently, his walk rate has fallen below 6 percent from a high of 11.3 percent in 2007.
And now, blocked by Matt LaPorta and an Indians lineup heavy with left-handed hitters, Brown’s “Grace period” seems to have come to a close. He will return to Columbus and resume being a good baseball player.
But, I suspect, Brown just won’t be good enough.