Monday, July 7, 2014

A Retrospective of Michael Brantley's Career Thus Far

in honor of Michael Brantley being named to this year's American League All Star team for the first time in his career, i want to take this opportunity to recall how Michael got here. once again, words can't explain how happy i am that Michael is finally being recognized around the league as a strong player. he deserves this so much and i'm so proud of him.

i think this would also be a good time to talk about how i became the ultimate Brantley fan, because i realize i've never publicly explained it. i can honestly say i've been Team Brantley almost from the day we acquired him in the CC Sabathia trade as a PTBNL from the Milwaukee Brewers in October 2008.

i have been there during Michael's struggles and triumphs, through the good times and the bad, the hitting streaks and the slumps. from his first career home run to his season ending injury to his first career walk-off home run, oh yes, i have been there. actually, i have not missed any of Michael's 39 big league home runs. and i have been there for every plate appearance Michael has had dating back to late 2010.

from this walk up song, to this, and currently this. (btw, yuck! lol not my taste, sorry.)

i stuck by him and defended him when he was sent down to Columbus and when he played through injuries that hurt his overall numbers.

i kept supporting him when he got moved out of the leadoff spot and when he got moved out of center field. i expressed my anger when he was forced to take a backseat to Grady Sizemore.

and then Johnny Damon, and then Shin-Soo Choo, and then Michael Bourn.

when writers called him a mediocre/replaceable player, i had about 100 reasons as to why that was false. and i was right, bitches! lol he has become a major asset to the team offensively and defensively. i've watched him grow and develop as a player throughout his time in Cleveland. i've taken pride in documenting his game numbers for the last 3 years. and now, this year and this All Star selection, makes it all worthwhile.

so let's take it back. Michael practically grew up in the clubhouse, because his father Mickey Brantley was a baseball player for the Seattle Mariners from 1986-1989. Mickey continued playing ball for several Triple A minor league teams through 1993 before he got into coaching and managing in the minors. Michael idolized Kenny Griffey, Jr. as a child. he worked hard, played harder, and was an astute student of the game. he had a maturity about him and a certain respect for the game that not every potential ballplayer has. baseball was in Michael's blood. he was always meant to do this and it shows.

Michael was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 7th round of the amateur draft (205th overall) and signed with the Brewers on June 7, 2005. he first played with the AZL Brewers and Helena Brewers in 2005.


in 2006 and part of 2007, Michael graduated from the rookie league and played Single A ball with the West Virginia Power.

later in 2007, Michael was promoted to the Double A Huntsville Stars, where he also played in 2008.

Michael is 19 years old here, he looks so young lol

on October 3, 2008, Michael was traded from the Brewers to the Indians as the final piece (the player to be named later) of the CC Sabathia deal. the Indians had previously acquired Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson, and Zach Jackson for Sabathia on June 7. because the Brewers made the playoffs that year, the Indians got to choose the player to be named later, and thankfully, they chose Michael over Taylor Green.

Michael got a 2009 spring training invite with the Indians,

but he started the 2009 season in Triple A with the Columbus Clippers. while he was playing for the Clips, all i kept hearing from the announcers was how this guy was going to be the next Kenny Lofton, a speedy leadoff center fielder with a nice swing. so i decided i was going to start supporting this kid.

screenshot cropped from a video on Scott Leo's facebook

during the Indians season, i heard Michael was racking up some good stats in Columbus and i was so excited when he got called up and made his major league debut on September 1, 2009.

in his short time with the Indians, he bat .313 with 11 RBI in 28 games. not bad for a rook.

in 2010, Michael went to spring training with the Indians and continued to play hard.

then Michael made the opening day roster in 2010, partially due to injuries, let's be real. but it was still very exhilarating. he started the opener batting 9th and playing center field.

alas, Michael's stay was short lived. he struggled, and after less than 2 weeks and 9 games he was sent down to Columbus. in his 9 games with us, he bat 9th in 7 games and 2nd in 2. when he was demoted, i did not stop supporting him.

i kept an eye on his Columbus numbers and from the day he was sent down, i added "call up Brantley!" to the signature part of my online profile on the Cleveland sports message board i belonged to at that time. and i didn't remove it until he was surprisingly brought back up on July 4, 2010 to take Choo's roster spot after he went on the DL. this is when Michael began hitting in the leadoff spot. but before his promotion, he played 59 games in Columbus, batting .315 with 9 doubles, 3 homers, 26 RBI, 47 runs, 29 walks, and 11 stolen bases.

then came July 8, 2010. Cleveland sports fans remember this as the day LeBron James shit all over the Cavaliers and its fans. i remember it for 3 reasons. that was one of course. the 2nd was that it was the day of my cousin's funeral, so needless to say i was extra emotional and not happy. but the third thing i remember this date for is what happened during the Indians game that night. i remember exactly where i was, what i was wearing, and every detail about the at bat. the Indians were playing down in Tampa Bay and facing Rays starter Wade Davis. after a 1-1 count in the top of the 1st inning, Michael Brantley hit a leadoff home run, his first home run in the major leagues. and because the Indians were in Florida, Michael's family was able to attend the game, making it extra special for him.

Michael's actually waving to his family in the stands in this pic

i jumped up and down on my bed and screamed. it was the only thing that made me happy that day, the only thing that brought a smile to my face. i've said before that i don't think athletes and famous people truly understand how they can make someone's day just by doing what they do, and this is a prime example of that. thank god for that home run, that momentous occasion for Michael, because i really needed it.

the Indians still lost that game, and 2 hours after Michael's home run, the asshole #23 of the Cavaliers made his decision to leave Cleveland. my anguish over the LeBron debacle, combined with the memory of being at my cousin's funeral and being extremely upset about that whole situation remains. but Michael's triumph of the night adds a little bit of joy to what otherwise would have been a miserable day in my life. thank you, Michael.

after the big HR, Michael continued to have some struggles. his BA got down to .118 at one point, but i did not leave his side. if memory serves, on July 27 he was briefly sent down again for 8 games to make room for Choo to come off the disabled list. while back in C-bus, he bat .344 with 4 doubles, 1 homer, 3 RBI, 7 runs, and 5 walks.

the Indians brought him back up as soon as they could, on August 6 after the 10-day roster move requirement, and his career with the Clippers was over forever. the call up was perfect timing because i was going to the August 7 game, and was thankful that i'd be able to see him play. but he went 0-for-4 that day lol typical.

i also remember Michael suffered a minor ankle injury in August that year. August 19, to be exact. he had to leave the game early and be assisted off the field.

i was very upset and concerned about it because i didn't want him to be hurt and miss a lot of time. plus i thought i wouldn't get to see him play when i went to the game on August 28. but he only sat out 4 games and resumed play on August 25. so i did get to see him and it was amazing. i brought the MICHAEL BRANTLEY'S #1 FAN sign that i made with me and that's when i got my first autograph from him. first of many lol (i currently have 10 autographs and am always seeking more every time i go to another game. i want as many as i can possibly get. and i don't think most fans have his autograph 10 times, so i always use that as another big reason as to why i am his #1 fan.) i continue to hope that that was a special day for Michael and that he remembers it, because i'm pretty sure not a lot of Indians fans were making #1 Brantley fan signs and declarations back in 2010.

from the time he was brought back up in August, he finally started seeing the ball better and hitting consistently. he racked up a 19-game hitting streak from August 30 - September 19, the longest by a rookie since Larry Doby's 21-game hitting streak in 1948. but i'll never forget the game on September 20, when he went 0-for-5 against the Minnesota Twins. though he claims he was simply upset due to the Indians loss, i think there was more to it. a picture is worth a thousand words.

during Michael's streak, he bat .286 with 26 hits and 5 stolen bases. additionally, he had a .292 batting average with 12 extra base hits and 15 RBI from August 6 through the end of the 2010 season. it should have been apparent to everyone then that Michael was on his way to becoming the hitter that everyone said he would one day be. defensively, he played the majority of his games as our center fielder, while playing left in only 7 games.

in 2011, Michael was poised to have a great year. in our opener, he was our leadoff center fielder.

he played both center and left in 2011, appearing in left in 66 games vs. 52 in center. he mostly led off, but by year's end he had bat in every spot in the order except for 9th.

Brantley's first game in left field in 2011

his batting average for the months of April and May were the 2nd highest on the team, and in July he had the highest, batting .294.

however, shortly after the All Star break in July, he developed a wrist injury that later turned out to be a broken hamate bone, but he continued to play sparingly. it ended up bringing down his batting average for the year because he was unproductive in the majority of his at bats.

eventually, on August 26, he had to be shut down and put on the DL for the first time in his big league career. he had season ending surgery on August 31. i must confess, i did admire his desire to keep playing hurt. he was determined to help the team and i like that attitude. but people tend to forget that fact when looking back on his year, and that irks me. did you really think Michael was a .266 hitter? no. i approximated that had he stopped playing right when the injury first came up, he would have finished the year batting .281. you can see my reasoning for that in the blog i wrote here.

in an offseason interview with Nick Camino, Michael admitted that he played for a month and a half while injured, confirming what i previously deduced. he said he wanted to battle through and learn about himself as a person, to see what he could take and what he could do. Michael wanted to be out there with his teammates until he couldn't do it anymore. his goal once he starts the season is to finish it to the end no matter what gets in the way. he tried to fight through his injury, as he believed the team needed him as much as he needed them. but he was limited in what he could do, so he had to make adjustments and pull back. ultimately, the training staff makes the call as to when to shut down a player, and they finally did that with Michael in late August. but his teammates saw what he went through and how he was willing to give it all he had each and every day.

Michael's offseason routine was not his usual routine due to his rehab. but it did not seem to impact his 2012 season. he began the year again as our leadoff center fielder.

photo cropped from a video on

but he did start out slow, most likely because of his irregular offseason preparations. sadly, that made Manny Acta think twice about Michael batting so high in the order and on May 2 he was moved down to 7th. conversely, when June came around, he never had a batting average lower than .276. from June 1 to the end of the year, he had a .294 batting average, with 22 doubles, 2 triples, 6 homers, 39 RBI, and 43 walks. he also had a career high 22-game hitting streak from May 20 - June 15, where he bat .337 with 29 hits, 6 extra base hits, and 16 RBI. he passed his father's RBI total with a career high of 60 during this season as well. and he finished the season batting .288, highest on the team.

this was also the season that the nickname "Dr. Smooth" started floating around the internet, thanks to Dennis Manoloff of The Plain Dealer.

so you see that Michael had a great year despite being demoted from the leadoff spot, which i maintained was a big mistake. Michael was moved all around the batting order, contradicting Manny Acta's claims that he wanted regularity in his lineup. but thankfully, he let Michael stay in center all season.


when Manny decided to give Michael a crack at the cleanup spot, pitchers were "unintentionally" pitching outside to him and walking him out of fear of giving up a big hit. i took that as a compliment, but was angry too because i wanted to see him get the big hits.

unfortunately, Michael once again had a few health issues towards the end of the year. first on September 13, he injured his left pectoral muscle in batting practice and missed a few games. but that wasn't nearly as serious as the sore left groin he developed on September 23 when he was attempting to stay out of a rundown. the injury caused him to miss 6 of the final 9 games of the season. he did somehow play 1 full game in October, pinch hit in 1, and then sat out the entire last game. so he couldn't finish the year the way i wanted him to, but i understood that his health was more important, especially since the Indians had no chance of making the playoffs. he ended up having sports hernia surgery on October 11 and it was revealed that Michael was playing with pain for the entire second half of the season. for a guy playing hurt, he did unbelievably well. but again, this caused Michael to not be able to have a proper offseason from a training standpoint.

2013 was the first year he played in full and he put up some career highs for himself, particularly in home runs (10) and RBI (73). he played left field for the whole season except in 1 game when he was moved to center for 4 innings. he only bat leadoff when Bourn, who was our final offseason acquisition, was out hurt. he spent the majority of the year batting 5th.

however, on May 21, just 45 games into the season, Michael had already bat in every spot in the lineup. i didn't like it, but he handled it well, never complaining.

this was the season Michael finally became fully appreciated by the fan base.

he worked very hard, some days harder than others.

and he finished the season with the highest batting average on the team (.284) for the 2nd year in a row.

he played in the first postseason game of his career when the Indians played in their wild card game against Tampa Bay, and he recorded one hit, a single. he proved himself as a leader to me after that game, which we lost, when he was seen publicly consoling Jason Kipnis in the dugout, who was visibly upset and crying.

i was so proud to see that, so much so that my sadness over our loss almost completely went away.

before spring training 2014 officially got underway, Michael signed a 4-year contract extension with the Indians. it was very exciting, but i firmly believed Michael's agent undersold him. (and based on his numbers so far this season, it looks like i was right.)

and now here we are in 2014. Michael's opportunity as a leadoff hitter seems to be gone, at least for the time being, but he's now found a home in the 3rd spot and is doing amazing. the only dark cloud on his year so far was when he ended April with a bad stretch in San Fran. but he's more than made up for it since then, confirmed by his selection to this year's All Star team. oh, and there was also this mishap. don't get me started lol

screenshot cropped from

Michael's already set 2 new franchise records this year, with a 247 consecutive game errorless streak in the outfield and a 19-game home hitting streak.

then there was his first career walk-off home run on May 19.

he was also named American League Player of the Week for the first time in his career back in June of this season. he doesn't play for the individual accolades, he's very much a team first player. but with all the talent he has, he can't help but set new records. and getting yourself in the Tribe record books is certainly not a bad thing.

screenshot cropped from a video on

Michael currently the leads the team in batting average, RBI, runs scored, and stolen bases.


and he's tied for the team lead in home runs.

all of these leader photos were cropped from

additionally, Michael is the team leader with 103 hits, 34 extra base hits, 164 total bases, .385 OBP, .511 SLG, .896 OPS, 358 PA, and 83 games.

he's a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen bases, also tops on the club. he's tied for 2nd with 20 doubles and 3rd with 29 walks. plus, he has only 30 strikeouts among all the regular players.

Michael currently ranks 4th in batting average, 5th in OBP, 7th in hits, tied for 3rd in runs, and tied for 9th in RBI compared with the rest of the American League. among American League outfielders, Michael is 1st in batting average, 3rd in RBI, 3rd in OBP, 4th in SLG, 4th in OPS, 4th in hits, 5th in total bases, 6th in extra base hits, 6th in doubles, and 7th in home runs. in the race for the major league batting title, Michael ranks 8th. defensively, he's tied for the major league lead with 10 outfield assists.


the fact that Michael's doing so well this season verifies that his .500 batting average in spring training, highest out of everyone in the league, was no fluke. he attributes his success to finally being able to train for a full offseason the way he wanted, without having to rehab any injuries.

Michael is on pace to set career highs for himself in all the major categories this season. any home run he hits for the rest of the year is a new career high. and he's going to crush his RBI career high as long as other Indians continue to get on base ahead of him. can he sustain his hot hitting and continue batting over .300 in these final 2 and a half months? idk, but i'm gonna be keeping a close eye on it, as i always do.

watching Michael develop as a player, offensively and defensively, and go from being a quiet kid to a leading man, has been a real treat. he's a great all-around ballplayer, a great teammate, and great to his fans. and i am very grateful that he's a Cleveland Indian.

so congrats again Michael on your first All Star nod. i have no doubt this is just the beginning for you. and i will continue to be there as you continue to flourish as a ballplayer. "i'll be there for you..." ;D

disclaimer: all the photos here that were not cropped screenshots were found using google image search, from's photo gallery page, or on various Indians writers twitter accounts. i do not claim to have taken any of the photos used in this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment