Skip to content

Carlos Santana Projected as Tribe’s Top Hitter in 2011

2011/02/09
Grady Sizemore

Image via Wikipedia

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.

(Note: The projections include some players, like Matt McBride and Delvi Cid, who are unlikely to have any role with the 2011 Indians.)

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.

“Grace” Period Over for Jordan Brown

2011/01/20
Mark Grace 8x10 1988 Signed

Image by Kirk Bravender via Flickr

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.

But Chris Antonetti has determined, apparently, that Jordan Brown is not good enough to play for the Cleveland Indians.

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.

Links-O-Mania: Acta Talks, Wahoo Mocks, Chapman Rocks

2011/01/20
Carl Mays

Image via Wikipedia

The Indians players aren’t the only ones who need to get in shape for the coming season. TribeScribe’s personal spring training begins now with this links-o-mania post:

Bert Blyleven Pitches to the Score

2011/01/12

Sheldon Ocker related this story about Bert Blyleven in Sunday’s Beacon Journal:

There also was a 1981 start he made for the Indians in Fenway Park. Umpire Greg Kosc was refusing (so Blyleven said) to call his curveball for strikes. Blyleven’s complaints fell on deaf ears, so he retaliated by throwing eight consecutive batting-practice fastballs, giving up eight hits, including a double and a home run.

By the time manager Dave Garcia led Blyleven away, he had proven his point to Kosc, and never mind that he gave the Boston Red Sox six runs (and a win).

Blyleven offered this sarcastic assessment of his beef with the umpire: ”I think [Kosc] called a super game. I just asked him how his family was. Then I made some bad pitches.”

As stories go, this is a pretty good one:  “Newly Minted Hall of Famer Once Threw Game to Prove Point.”  Although many of these stories, as remembered 30 years later, turn out to be inaccurate or apocryphal, Blyleven really did melt down against the Sox in Fenway on May 27, 1981.

Coming into the game with the Red Sox, Blyleven had won six straight starts and thrown six straight complete games, including a 10-inning effort against Toronto.  That day, the Indians were nursing a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth, with Kosc behind the plate, when Carl Yastrzemski led off with a double, Jim Rice struck out, and Tony Perez advanced Yaz to third with a ground out.

And then the wheels came off.

Carney Lansford and Dave Stapleton each singled, followed by a Rich Gedman double and a Rick Miller home run.  Davey Garcia watched Blyleven surrender three more singles—making it seven, not eight, consecutive hits—before replacing him with Mike Stanton.  The sequence of events must have taken place quickly, giving Stanton little time to warm up; otherwise, Garcia would surely have pulled Bert after Miller’s homer.  By the time Stanton set down Rice to end the inning, the Tribe trailed 6-3.

Blyleven had allowed only two hits and one walk in 3 2/3 innings before his meltdown, while striking out three.  Pitch counts aren’t available for this game, and Pitch F/X hadn’t been invented, leaving little evidence to support Blyleven’s claim that Kosc was squeezing the strike zone.

But Blyleven has said that he was loath to give up even a single run due to the poor run support he received early in his career, and credits that attitude for his 60 shutouts.  Perhaps with two outs and Yaz on third, Kosc failed to call a critical strike on Carney Lansford.  Perhaps when Lansford singled home Yaz for the Sox’s first run, Blyleven just snapped.

Or maybe—just maybe—the fatigue of throwing 63 innings in his first seven starts finally got to the Hall of Famer.

2010 in Review: Top 9 Pitching Performances

2011/01/11
Justin Masterson

Image via Wikipedia

Some writers—no doubt emboldened by four no-hitters, two perfect games and one near-perfect game—have christened 2010 as the “year of the pitcher.”  (Never mind that 1968 was really the “Year of the Pitcher,” with four no-hitters, one perfect game and a scoring environment nearly a run per game lower.)

The Indians witnessed perhaps the best-pitched game of 2010, when Armando Galarraga dispatched the Tribe with great haste.  Had Jim Joyce gotten the call right, Galarraga would have completed a perfect game in just 83 pitches. Even if every Indians hitter had looked at three straight strikes, they would have spared Galarraga only two pitches of effort.

Tribe hurlers were rarely so commanding or efficient last season, but they had their moments.  Here are the top nine pitching performances by Indians of 2010.

Read more…

Tribe Should Bring Back Ramirez

2011/01/03
#15 Max Ramirez

Image by SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent) via Flickr

Not that Ramirez.

Per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers have designated Max Ramirez for assignment.

As you may recall, Ramirez was once traded by Atlanta to Cleveland for Bob Wickman.  At the time, it was considered quite a coup for the Tribe to obtain a 21-year-old catcher with an .857 OPS (albeit in Single-A) for a 37-year-old potbellied reliever who was missing part of the index finger on his right hand.

But just one year later the Tribe sent Ramirez, now 22 and sporting a .924 OPS in High-A, to the Rangers for the warmed-over remains of 40-year-old Kenny Lofton so that he could aid us down the stretch and retire an Indian.

Ramirez has never been much of a catcher—he wears a glove only when absolutely necessary—and he struggled to hit the past three seasons at Oklahoma City, where he posted a .700 OPS in 587 plate appearances.  But he routinely got on base more than 40 percent of the time in the low minors, and in 2008 he hit .354/.450/.646 as  a 23-year-old in AA for the first time.

Ramirez may never again hit as well as he did that season, and his weaknesses as a hitter might have been revealed once he began to face more advanced pitchers, but he had something special once.

And with the Indians in desperate need of right-handed power and loath to spend what it would take to bring back Manny, they would do well to sign this Ramirez to a minor league contract and see if the 26-year-old can get “it” back.

C.C. Sabathia is the Jack Morris of the Aughts…

2011/01/03
Sabathia

Image via Wikipedia

…at least in one respect—wins.

It’s About the Money, Stupid published a lengthy post today about the pitchers of the decade, showing the leaders in various pitching categories for the years 2001–2010.  C.C. Sabathia topped Roy Halladay for the most wins in the decade, 157 to 156, earning 40 of those victories in just his past two seasons with New York.

Jack Morris, whose 161 wins led the decade 1981-1990,  has been famously touted by his Hall of Fame supporters as the most dominant pitcher of the ’80s on this basis, discounting the role that run support and durability—not necessarily marks of greatness—played in his accomplishment.

Morris ranks just 33rd in the decade with an ERA+ of 108, tied with such pitchers as Britt Burns and Steve Rogers; Morris trailed far behind the leader, Roger Clemens, who had an ERA+ of 147.

Sabathia fares a little better in his decade than Morris, tying for 20th with an ERA  22 percent better than the league.  Although Sabathia, who failed to clinch the AL pennant for Cleveland in Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS, has yet to record a signature postseason victory like Morris’s Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, he already has one thing Morris could never claim: a Cy Young Award.

And unless Sabathia chooses to opt out of his Yankees contract after 2011, he also has five more seasons in pinstripes to add to his resume.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 335 other followers