Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Michael Bourn is the Player Michael Brantley Will Now Never Become

i just wrote a lengthy blog with some compelling arguments, if i do say so myself, about giving Brantley his shot in the leadoff spot this season. then the Indians shock everyone last night by signing Michael Bourn. so now i have new issues to address. Bourn automatically becomes the leadoff center fielder. there's definitely no longer any opportunity for a debate or a spring training showdown in CF. the title i came up with for this blog says it all. Michael Bourn did not become Michael Bourn by being tossed around in the outfield or juggled around in the lineup, so my Michael will never emulate the new Michael.

left field is the loser position of the outfield. it's one step away from being the ball boy in foul territory really. okay maybe it's not that bad but it can be perceived as the least respected position. left is not flashy. you're not the captain running the outfield. you're not able to make over-the-wall catches in left in our ballpark and a lot more balls can be hit high up that you can't get to, giving off the false impression that you're not a good fielder. not to mention the paycheck is certainly not as fat as a center fielder or right fielder. money talks in this business and it will become an issue in the future. sigh, this is now Brantley's reality.

first, let's get the facts of the Bourn deal straight. it was all over mlbtraderumors that Bourn was close to signing on the dotted line with the Mets. Bourn's first choice was the Mets, he really wanted to play in the Big Apple. the Mets offered Bourn 48 million for 4 years, but were very hesitant when it came to the draft pick compensation situation. so when the Indians heard about this, they decided to sweeten their offer and add an option for a 5th year along with the 48 mill for 4 years. Bourn and Boras had no choice but to listen and then finally decided to accept our offer. i said it about Swish and i'll say it to Bourn, hey man, thanks for settling. =/

before the Bourn acquisition, Francona admitted he was torn about letting Stubbs play center and moving Brantley over to left because he did progress in center quite nicely last season. now i don't know if that was a little bs'd to present himself in a more positive way towards Brantley or completely sincere. but the ease of the decision now just goes to show, Brantley is still not seen the way i want him to be seen on this team. he will be taking another backseat for the immediate future. his development as a center fielder is stifled and he will probably never be viewed as anything more than mediocre now. =/

so, Bourn is our new center fielder and leadoff man for at least the next few years. i admit i didn't know much about this guy, since he's always played in the NL and i don't pay much attention to guys in the NL since we don't play those teams a whole lot. after some research, i see that the man's never hit 10 home runs in a season, and is another guy to put on high strikeout watch. oh my. however, he's super fast and has a ridic amount of steals, which i feel was attributed to by constant placement in the leadoff spot.

now it's time to do some comparisons.

it's interesting to me that Bourn isn't exactly a HR hitter, much like Brantley, and he struck out 3x more than Brantley did in 2012. wow that is gonna get old real quick. how will he perform against pitchers in the AL such as Verlander and the rest of the tough pitching we constantly face in the Central? this is a fair question. just because this guy is speedy and led off more games in his career than Brantley, it shouldn't necessarily deem him the best leadoff man. both Brantley's SLG and OPS #s were higher last season. Bourn is a career .272 hitter, Brantley is at .274 right now. (and don't forget, Brantley played a handful of games injured which definitely brought his BA down some.) Bourn struck out 295 times in the last two years, while Brantley struck out 132 times. Bourn batted .311 in the first half last year, and only .225 after the All-Star break. Brantley bat .288 in both the first and second half last year. at least Bourn can also draw some walks. but again, will that translate over to the AL?

the main thing Bourn's really got over Brantley right now is experience, which has groomed him into becoming a gold glover, and a lot of respect. he also has more runs scored and steals. why? because he was allowed to leadoff consistently, duh. do people really think Brantley is such a shitty player that if given a chance he wouldn't be able to steal and develop into a GG defensive guy? it's easier to pad your runs scored total when you're batting in the top of the lineup. when you're batting lower and you have crap hitters behind you, how many runs do you think that player will score? same with the steals. it's easier to steal when you have no one ahead of you. hitting higher in the lineup allows for that, as opposed to being stuck behind slow pokey Santana or the like. the arguments and assumptions that Brantley just couldn't do any of these things are not very valid imo. Brantley wasn't given enough time to reach his maximum potential and prove himself. Bourn was and now he's the top dog here.

okay now i definitely NEED to clarify that i'm not "throw my computer at the wall" mad that we got Bourn lol this makes us better in a multitude of ways, which is great. i just wish the result didn't mean such a change for Brantley. i've said this a million times before (to the point where even i'm getting tired of it) but he was once projected to be our next Kenny Lofton. that pretty much will never happen now. you can't get really good at a position like Kenny and Bourn have if you're not allowed to constantly play there. i'm super pissed about Brantley not being given enough of a chance here to become a Lofton and Bourn type player. who do i blame? the actions and decision making of Mr. Manny Acta? he's not even here anymore to rectify that situation so that's pretty pointless. i hate that the franchise once saw him as something he now will not be. the direction of his future career here is completely changing. i know Michael's just thankful to have a job and put on the jersey but behind closed doors, come on, the boy is irked. as a #1 supporter of Brantley, i honestly think we screwed him by getting him as the PTBNL in 2008, i really do.

i feel so bad for Brantley. he's saying all the right things, as i knew he would, but deep down i think different thoughts are going through his head. i'm surprised his agent didn't have a stroke yet. he was none too thrilled when we first added Stubbs, but now that Bourn's here, he has no other choice but to accept his client's fate.

here are some quotes from Brantley's agent in December:

Why do the Indians keep adding CF? Brantley had a 2.9 WAR last year. Stubbs 1.3, BJ upton 2.6. I dont get it. Not one bit.

I just hope Mike gets ample time in CF this year. He's earned it.

Reynolds and stubbs are two of the top K guys. I hope for their sake they bounce back this year. I just want Mike to get what he's earned

I just feel he has a greater value in CF add his bat and his ability to get on base you have a burgoning all star.

rarely strikes out and walks a ton. He made many highlight reel catches as well. Stubbs will have to cut down his K's to be a guy

i agree with his agent 1000%. maybe they need to hire me haha

now let's get to Brantley's thoughts on the situation (his public thoughts anyways). this was before Francona told him today that he would for sure be starting in left:

"He's a phenomenal player all the way through on the offense and defense. I'm excited to meet him.

"I'm not sure what this means to me. I'm sure I'll be talking to upper management and Francona."

Asked if it was easier to accept a move to left field because of Bourn's reputation as being one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, Brantley said, "Yes. I've seen it too. He has speed and is a great defender. I'm just looking forward to being by his side no matter what side it is."

"My job is to come out here and play baseball wherever the team needs me...I get a uniform and I got a position I'm happy," Brantley said.

ever the professional. but sometimes i wish he didn't have the reputation that he has. it might help him if he was a bit more vocal and opinioned. maybe he can be now because what's left to lose? imagine if we acquired another closer for our bullpen and he was going to take over Chris Perez's spot. what do you think his reaction would be? lol i'm not saying go all Pure Rage but as i learned back in grade school, your feelings can be disregarded somewhat more easily if you're always agreeable to superiors.

and here's a comment from one of my most respected Tribe twitter boys confirming my thought about the money:
Brantley saying the right things, but move to LF will probably hurt him in wallet down the road.
idc how Brantley tries to spin that, he is not going to happy when it comes time to negotiate for a raise.

all i can do now is hope that this doesn't affect Brantley's place on the team. it's a fear i did not think i'd need to be concerned about so soon, and it doesn't feel good. he could easily be used in a future deal to bring back a starting pitcher. he's no longer a necessity in the outfield now that we have Bourn and Swisher for at least 4 years and Stubbs for 3 years. Brantley is arb eligible after this season. he's definitely going to lose out on some money since he's going to play most if not all of 2013 in left field. my heart really goes out to this man. someone's always ahead of him on this team. doesn't matter if he led the team in BA or played the most consistent ball last season. he's become almost replacable in the eyes of this franchise. and all the fans who argued that he was never going to be anything more than a mediocre ballplayer (despite my protests) will claim to be right now.

at the end of the day, my opinions and input really don't mean much, it's not like what i say will change anything. probably won't change any fan's mind either. but i at least hope people will acknowledge and realize that i have made some valid points, as well as try to see where i'm coming from with this. or, if nothing else, appreciate my passion for my favorite Indian.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Brantley For Leadoff Man 2013

let me start this off by saying i love my Tribe beat writer boys and sports columnists. i love their articles and i respect their opinions. but when it comes to the issue of who should lead off for the Tribe in 2013, i have to set the record straight.

now that spring training is upon us, lineup projections have been on the minds of many. the notion that Brantley should not or simply can not bat leadoff has been mentioned by some, but i'm not sure if those people really have all the facts regarding this. so who better to put things in perspective here than me? this one's for Bast, D-Man, Hoynsie, Camino, and Terry (even though they'll never read it) as well as any other naysayers out there.

some of my boys think Michael should bat 5th or 6th because that's where he hit best last year. this is basically stating the obvious but of course Michael had good numbers in the 5th spot, he played the most games/had the most at bats there. any hitter who is in fact a good hitter will undoubtedly have the best overall #s in the spot where he has the most at bats. i think that should be common sense.

let me compare those 2 spots to show you how batting average #s don't always tell the whole story.

Michael played 65 games batting 5th, with 237 at bats, finishing with a .308 BA there.

Michael played 19 games batting 6th, with 60 at bats, finishing with a .350 BA there.

does this mean Michael is better in the 6th spot? not at all. because sometimes, the less at bats/smaller sample size you have in a spot can misconstrue your true capability at that spot. this can be proven by looking at Michael's BA in the 8th spot last year.

Michael played 2 games batting 8th, with 4 at bats, finishing with a .750 BA there.

i rest my case.

now let me pull up his leadoff #s from 2012.

Michael played 22 games batting leadoff, with 97 at bats, finishing with a .227 BA there.

i'm not going to lie and say that his leadoff #s were great. they clearly were not. but you can't just go by the #s. the majority of Michael's leadoff at bats came in April. April was a month where he atypically struggled. my argument is that you could have put Michael at any place in the batting order, and he would not have performed well in that first month. his approach at the plate was different and it threw him off for the first few weeks. it had NOTHING to do with him not being able to lead off. i will point this out to people until i'm blue in the face if i have to!

i know a lot of people aren't looking at it that way, but i'm saying you really need to keep that in mind because for the entire rest of the season, he performed much better. Michael was one of, if not the most consistent hitter throughout the season after April. is no professional ballplayer allowed to "slump" at any point in the year? a lot of players tend to do it mid-season. he got his "slump" out of the way at the beginning. doesn't mean he can't hit leadoff.

we faced a lot of tough pitching last year and it seemed like almost half the time that Michael was leading off, he had the task of going against the other team's ace. (more evidence as to why #s just don't tell the whole story.) he was not the only one who failed to hit against certain pitchers, but because he led off, this seemed to be a bigger issue than the other players who whiffed at the plate. [although, Verlander has never phased him, as he is 10-for-23 against the Detroit ace.]

if anyone besides myself remembers, the last 3 games in April that Michael led off, we played the Angels. Weaver, Haren, and Santana started if i'm not mistaken. and what do you know, Michael had a leadoff hit in each of the 3 games against these pitchers. so i'd like to think that by this point, he was finally starting to get back into his groove. however, after that series he was removed from the leadoff spot. i truly believe Manny Acta jumped the gun. because of this, we have no statistical proof that Michael would have been fine had he stayed in the leadoff spot. i can only go off gut instinct. and because my gut instinct about this man has been right since 2009, i think this is a strong argument.

furthermore, in 2011 before Michael started playing injured with his broken hamate bone, he had an approximate .280 BA in the leadoff spot (from April to mid-July). history speaks for itself and i don't know why more people can't give Michael the benefit of the doubt. i don't care if he doesn't hit for power, your leadoff guy doesn't need to hit home runs, he just needs to get on base. and with Michael's professionalism and patience at the plate, i believe we will see him continue to get on base more and more as his career goes on.

so who do people want to see bat leadoff over Brantley? i've heard Kip's name thrown out there because of his speed and ability to steal bases. i'm sorry but Jason is not a leadoff man. i think his placement in the 2 or 3 hole is perfect for him and for us. i've also heard new center fielder (rhymes with) "Boo Scrubbs" is a candidate. you gotta be kidding me with this. although he too is a speedy thief on the basepaths, he has a very high strikeout rate. when you have a guy on your team who's very hard to strike out, aka Brantley, why on earth would you put the guy who Ks all the time in the leadoff spot? Scrubbs should be the second leadoff man as they call it in the 9 hole. Brantley's not exactly a slow poke either, you know. this is not a debate of Pronk proportions lol

and let's not forget, Michael doesn't need to bat in the middle of our order anymore. you could argue that last year, we just didn't have many guys who could drive runs in and Michael did a good job with that. but now that we've acquired Swisher and Reynolds and yes i'll even throw Scrubbs in there, Michael can and should go back to the spot that i believe is rightfully his. with that, i rest my case.

if Brantley is given the chance to start 2013 as our leadoff man, he cannot afford to have another bad April. he won't have the luxury of starting out slow, he needs to get his stance perfected in spring training and really come out the gate with guns blazing. if he doesn't, he may not get another chance to lead off in Cleveland ever again. then it's going to be the same negative things coming from the writers all over again and quite frankly, i don't want to have to repeat myself anymore lol

all i know is, you can't take the man out of center field AND leadoff and expect him to really be happy here. he was groomed to be a CF and leadoff hitter, and now he's on the verge of playing left and possibly batting 5th or lower. he did all he could do in center last season, and made quite an impression there. then uncontrollable circumstances brought an outfielder here who can only play center, so despite his excellent defense and home run robbing catches, Michael is forced to move over. it's sad and it sucks. i won't be surprised if there's some trouble come his arbitration time next year, but hopefully not. i fully expect Michael to handle his "demotion" with the utmost class in public, but behind closed doors he will not be happy and i don't blame him. it's his career and he can "pout" if he wants to, D-Man =P

Go Tribe 2013 and Go Brantley =D

PS--as a longtime avid reader of all the aforementioned writers' articles and tweets, i actually know who originated the nickname "Dr. Smooth" for Brantley. i'm honestly shocked this person doesn't realize that he in fact was the mastermind behind it. one of these days i might clue the boys in. til then, i guess it's just my little secret ;D