Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tribe 2014: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

the Indians finished 2014 with a record of 85-77 and did not make it to the postseason. that's a 7 win deficit from the previous season. can't say i'm surprised. in fact, i almost perfectly predicted this. while a lot of fans see the year as a letdown, some are filled with encouragement. the Indians have now put together 2 winning seasons in a row, something they have not done since 2000 and 2001, proving that last year wasn't just a fluke. there's certainly hope for the future.

coming into this year, there were many question marks, as there usually are. how would the Indians improve on their 2013 season without having made any big offseason moves or having the finances to acquire any major free agents? would the free agents we signed during the 2013 offseason, who had substandard seasons last year, perform better this year? also, we lost a few key pieces of our starting rotation from 2013, some bullpen pitchers, and our closer due to free agency. how would that affect the team? and would the minor free agents we picked up be significant enough to help us get back to the postseason and, this time, extend our stay? i'm about to get into all of that for you in this blog.

Indians fans saw a little bit of everything in 2014, from exhilarating wins to heartbreaking losses to 2 baseballs on the field at once lol there were pitchers who threw complete game shutouts and pitchers who could barely get through 3 innings. we had relievers who struck out the side and relievers who blew games. several players spent time on the DL, and a few played with injuries even though they shouldn't have. there were fantastic defensive plays, including run saving catches and even a triple play, as well as many defensive gaffes. sometimes the Tribe's offense was hot, and other times the offense was shut out. we were winners of blow out games and also victims of getting blown out. and of course i can't forget the team's 11 exciting walk-off wins (2 from Brantley), tying their total from last season.

it officially took until after Game #160 before the Indians were eliminated from a wild card spot. the boys gave it a good fight despite all the injuries and players who underperformed. and unfortunately, there were some regulars who had down years. not to mention, we had the worst defense in the major leagues, finishing the season with 116 errors. yikes. yet we still managed to stay in many games and even keep some losses close. that was probably due to our starting pitching, which allowed us to remain in the race for as long as we were, particularly down the stretch.

September was clearly the month of the starters. during the Tribe's stretch run, they were freakin' strikeout machines. they racked up so many Ks, they set a new franchise and major league single season strikeout record by a pitching staff with a total of 1450 Ks. amazing. more often than not though, our offense was nonexistent. well, Brantley was still hitting (.416 BA for the month), Santana was doing well despite his quad nagging him, and Gomes was pretty reliable, too. but a lot of their other teammates were struggling or really looked lost. we had rookies in the lineup because there was nobody else to play and certain veterans couldn't hit their way out of a wet paper bag. and if that wasn't enough of a problem, there were more than a few defensive blunders, especially among the infield crew. all that said, the Indians were still right there in playoff contention until the final series of the season.

some see the Tribe's last series in Detroit, when they got swept from September 12-14, as the end of our quest to the playoffs. Shaw ruined 2 Tribe leads late when he gave up 2-run home runs and blew the final 2 games. the team did improve their record against the division rival Tigers this season to 8-11 (up from 4-15 in 2013), but they continued to look overmatched against them at times. how did Brantley do against Detroit this year, you ask? he bat .405 (32-for-79) with 3 home runs, 16 RBI, and 12 runs scored. =D

i personally think the postseason chase was over on September 23, once Kansas City took a 5-0 lead in the top of the 5th inning. at least that's when my heart started feeling it, and i literally had to fight back tears of sadness from that reality. the Royals went on to win that game, 7-1. alas, the Indians could not pull off a miraculous 10-game win streak at the end of this season like they did a year ago, and that's what was needed to lock down another postseason berth. on the plus side, the Indians did finish with a winning record of 11-9 against Kansas City. but the Royals still earned a wild card spot this year with their 89 wins. October baseball was just not meant to be for the Tribe in 2014.

i always get sad at the end of every Tribe season, but this one was especially hard on me. immediately after the Indians were eliminated, my heart was battling and i was so conflicted. i was mad at the team that i love for screwing over my boy. and i hated that. Michael's unbelievable career year was somewhat spoiled because the team didn't achieve its ultimate goal. i know he would have been much happier about it if it led to some postseason play. and i was unable to enjoy it as much as i should have too, because i was upset that certain boys on the team let others down, including Michael, with their poor play. it's funny, cause while i didn't expect the team to make the playoffs this year, it hurt worse than i thought it would since Michael had an MVP-type year that i really didn't expect. because of that, i so badly wanted to see how Michael would perform in the postseason, and him not getting that opportunity pained me. i had never been so conflicted about my feelings before. however, now that i've had some time to deal and heal, i'm not so upset. but it was a tough end of September and early October for me, that's for sure.

now i'm going to include some excerpts from my preseason blog and compare them with what actually happened. everything that's in italics here represents my thoughts and concerns from the preseason.

assuming everyone plays to the max of their abilities and we don't get hit with too many major injuries, i think we'll finish 84-78. because we won 92 games last year, i think a lot of people will predict wins more towards the high 80s, but i'm not willing to go that high. and regardless of exact record, i don't think we'll be good enough to win our division. it's probably going to take at least 90 wins just to nab a wild card spot because there are a lot of good teams (at least right now on paper) in the AL this season.

my preseason prediction was almost right on the nose. i just didn't see enough offseason acquisitions to give them much more wins than that. i figured that some of the players who did well last year could potentially regress this year, and that injuries and other unfortunate mishaps would interfere with our run to the postseason. so factoring all that in, i thought 84 wins would be about right. but i certainly didn't anticipate our highest paid athletes having rough seasons. again. looking back, it's kind of astonishing that we did finish with those 85 wins this year.

my PD boys, whom i respect a great deal, have made predictions that i want to keep on record here.

Hoynsie: 90-72, wild card

D-Man: 85-77, no wild card

Terry: 85-77, no wild card

Bud: 88-74, no wild card

Z-Mise: 88-74, wild card

everyone had us finishing above .500, but i was leaning more towards D-Man and Terry's prediction. and those two totally nailed it. i could not see us getting 90 wins again so i thought Hoynsie had drunk too much Kool-Aid lol between Bud Shaw and Zack Meisel, i did not agree with Meisel at all, as i believed it would take more than 88 wins to grab a wild card spot. well i was wrong, as the 2nd wild card team, the Oakland Athletics, did finish with just 88 wins. so in a way, Meisel was right. and that made it more upsetting for the Indians and their fans. with only a couple more wins, we could have been a wild card team again. but too much went wrong this year.

 some things that might make a difference this year that we didn't have last year:

--a full season with Salazar in the starting rotation

--Swisher starting the year without a shoulder injury and hopefully playing a full season healthy

--Bourn being more acquainted with AL pitchers, leading to more stolen bases

--Santana not catching as much, which should help his offense and take the pressure of calling games off him

--having a healthy Vinnie Pestano back in our bullpen for a full season

--having a full season under their belts with Francona as manager

--all of the players who were newbies last year have now gotten familiar with everyone and meshed very well together with the rest of the guys

so did any of that happen and make a difference? haha! sadly almost none of that happened. Salazar began the year here, but struggled and was sent back down to Columbus in mid-May. he didn't return until after the All Star break in late July. Swisher didn't have a shoulder injury, but he did have problems with his knees. he played poorly when he did play and eventually had season ending knee surgery on both knees. idk if Bourn ever got more comfortable with AL pitchers because he had hamstring problems that landed him on the DL twice this season. Santana was only the catcher in 11 games this year, but it didn't seem to matter in the beginning. he couldn't hit anything for the first 2 months of the season and that really dragged his overall numbers down. Pestano was only effective this year against righties, and sometimes not even those hitters. he spent most of the year in Columbus before being traded. Francona having a year under his belt here probably didn't make much of a difference in the long run. he's a player's manager, and that sometimes comes with stubbornness. and as for the newbies from last season, they may have gained familiarity with the team, but they did not all perform up to par.

not every player on the roster made it from beginning to end in 2014. a couple of trades went down before the July 31 trade deadline and some after. so let me take a minute to acknowledge those Cleveland Indians that we lost this year.

Justin Masterson was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 30 for outfielder James Ramsey. Ramsey went to Columbus and was not called up to the Tribe during this season. i wrote a blog with more details about it here.

Asdrubal Cabrera was traded to the Washington Nationals on July 31 for Zach Walters. Walters is considered a shortstop, but he can play several positions, including the outfield. he was brought up to Cleveland as soon as Murphy and Swisher went on the DL while Bourn was still rehabbing his hamstring. the blog with more details can be found here.

while he was with the Columbus Clippers, Vinnie Pestano was traded to the LA Angels for Single A pitcher Mike Clevinger on August 7. he started with their Triple A team but was quickly called up to the Halos. i wrote a goodbye blog to Vinnie here.

also while with the Clippers, Frank Herrmann was released from the Indians organization on August 10. he was still working his way back from his Tommy John surgery and never made it to the Tribe's roster this year. he was a big part of our bullpen in the past and i was disappointed that the Indians decided to part ways with him. my goodbye blog to him is here.

those 4 players were long-time Indians that i believed deserved special recognition and a proper farewell. the rest that i'll talk about now weren't with us that long and do not have separate blogs.

Nyjer Morgan was released by the Indians on August 5 once it was known that he wouldn't be able to come back this season from his knee issue.

John Axford was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 14. he lost his closer's job and effectiveness long before then. this was not a sad loss.

while with the Clippers, Josh Outman was traded to the New York Yankees for cash or a player to be named later on August 28. he was another reliever who did not perform well. again, no big loss.

Chris Dickerson was outrighted off the Indians roster to Columbus on September 9, and since the Clippers' season was over at that point, he did not play anymore. prior to his outright, he had been dealing with back tightness.

additionally, a few players left the organization before the trade deadline by way of DFAs. Blake Wood was designated for assignment on May 27 while with the Clippers, then claimed by the Kansas City Royals on June 2. and George Kottaras was DFA'd from the Tribe's roster on July 7, only to be claimed by the St. Louis Cardinals on July 11.

i've already eluded to some particular players' problems this year, but now i will get more into it by doing detailed player evaluations.

let's start with the best of the hitters this season, the infamous Dr. Smooth, Mr. Michael Brantley. he had a career year, finishing with a .327 batting average, highest on the team, and he made franchise history when he got his 200th hit of the year on September 27. he had so many career highs and career firsts, he set 3 franchise records, and he led the team in just about every important offensive category minus triples and home runs. between his 97 RBI, 28 go-ahead hits, and .376 batting average with RISP, dude was on fire this year. he had a little trouble in August, but that barely had any effect on his numbers. he played very good defense in both left and center field this season, too. if not for Michael, this team would have done much worse in 2014. the Tribe got a steal with his contract extension.

now i'll just try and go from top to bottom in the order as best i can.

Bourn really needs to prove himself this season. he has to do better than last year in order for us to put together a run towards the World Series, not to mention show everyone that he is worth his giant contract.

as i already mentioned, Michael Bourn had hamstring issues this year, at 2 separate times. he was on the DL to start the season but was activated on April 16. then he tweaked another area of his hamstring on July 5 and was out until mid-August. his overall totals were underwhelming and for the second year in a row he did not resemble a desirable leadoff man. i just don't think we'll ever see him steal 40+ bases in a season, the big reason the Indians acquired him in the first place. and here's where Tito's loyalty to his players hurts the team--Bourn should not be leading off anymore. his OBP is just too low. but no doubt that's where we'll see him for the next 2 years.

so because Bourn was going to open up the season on the DL, Nyjer Morgan made the Indians big league roster coming out of spring training. being Bourn's backup, he was sent down to Columbus after Bourn came back. then in early May, Bourn had some hamstring issues again, so Morgan was brought back up while Bourn took a few days off. when Brantley left a game due to back tightness on May 14, Tito used Morgan to replace him in left field. however, Morgan is a center fielder by trade. so just like i figured, this was a disaster. he played 1 inning and fucked up his knee. he tried to catch a ball, missed it, fell, and ended up with a right knee sprain. he went on the DL and that was the end of T-Plush. his recovery was slow and he was released from the team in August. had Bourn stayed healthy, Morgan may not have made it to Cleveland until September. he then, potentially, could have helped during some of the most important games of our season. or, had Morgan never been subbed into left, he might have stayed healthy and contributed more to the team. i honestly never thought he would be a big impact guy for us. he has a reputation as a loose cannon and i worried that would negatively affect our team. luckily the time that he did play here and for Columbus, he was not only helpful, but also very professional and didn't cause any unwanted drama. too bad Tito misused him.

is Cabby going to have a better year? you would think so, especially considering this is his last year before free agency and players have a tendency to step things up during their walk year. the fact that he's had a great camp is encouraging.

Asdrubal Cabrera came into camp in great shape but he didn't play very well, and that was bad news not only for the Tribe but also for him since this was his walk year. he had 14 errors at short before the trade deadline. the Indians knew he was not going to re-sign here once he became a free agent so they were taking calls and shopping him. he barely had an OBP above .300 and had just recovered from back spasms when he was traded on July 31. he did make it to the postseason again with the Nationals though.

after Cabby was traded, switch-hitter Jose Ramirez took over the shortstop duties and bat 2nd for the final 2 months of the year. he also played some 2nd base while Kip was out injured in May. he played hard and unselfishly, as demonstrated by his 13 sac bunts, and he used his speed to steal 10 bases. his defense made our previous shortstops look bad. Ramirez should open up 2015 at short.

last year Jason Kipnis had a cold spring and slow start to the regular season. this spring, his bat was hot. if that can carry over into April, it would give the team a boost that it did not have a year ago.

Jason Kipnis had a disappointing season that stemmed from the oblique strain he suffered at the beginning of May, which kept him out for 4 weeks. he was moved around in the lineup a lot this year, starting out 3rd, then 4th after returning from the oblique injury. he even led off to fill in for Bourn when he was out. then Kip bat 5th or lower from mid-August until he tweaked his hamstring in mid-September and then played sporadically to the end of the year. but it didn't matter where he hit in the order, he did not play like an All Star. his defense was poor at times, too. some argued that he was a little heavier this season than in the past. some thought he was overcompensating for the big contract extension he signed hours before the Indians home opener. but Kip himself came out and said he wasn't playing at 100% after his oblique injury and had to adjust his swing accordingly. whatever the excuse, he needs to improve. the scary thing about Kip is, when you look back to 2013, outside of a very strong month of June, which ultimately got him named to the All Star Game, his play in the big leagues has just been average. it begs the question, will Kip ever live up to his potential?

the Indians have basically said Santana will continue to "try out" at 3rd while the season gets going. we don't know for sure that this experiment will work out well, and if it doesn't, that could cause problems such as affecting his hitting and/or the outcomes of our games.

Carlos Santana went from starting 3rd baseman to the team's main 1st baseman. he struggled out the gate though, killing his numbers and hurting the team in the cleanup spot. it was literally the worst start of his career. in addition, he made his share of errors at 3rd base. combine that with his cold bat and soon he was DHing and catching just once or twice a week. eventually he was moved over to 1st base when Swisher, who also started the year out cold, began having health issues. Santana played much better defense at 1st. all that training at 3rd somehow made him a better 1st baseman. neither the team nor Santana wanted him to strictly DH at this point in his career, so he saw a lot of time at 1st (while Swisher mainly DH'd). he sparsely caught, but when he did on May 25, he ended up with concussion-like symptoms and went on the DL. shortly before that, Francona moved him out of the cleanup spot. Santana came back from the concussion in June and never caught again. he then started hitting better and was soon reinserted into the 4 spot. things really picked up for him in the second half when his bat got hot and he finished the year with a team leading 27 home runs. he also had 85 RBI, second most on the Tribe. despite playing with a quad injury in August and September, he was a big contributor for the team over the final months of the year.

Swisher is another big piece of our team who needs to improve his numbers from last season if we want to make a push towards October. hopefully his shoulder won't give him any trouble this year and he can produce when we need him to.

Nick Swisher started out as the 1st baseman in the 2 hole. after a month and a half of barely hitting .200, Francona finally moved him down in the order. then his knee issues began. he was out hurt for a few weeks at the end of May and into June. when he came back, he mostly DH'd and played a few games in the outfield when we had no other options. this was better because he had been making silly mistakes and errors at 1st. then he left the August 9 game early with more knee problems and that was his final game of the year. (so at least that .208 batting average didn't get any lower.) on August 20, he had season ending knee surgery on both his knees and later admitted that he'd been playing hurt since spring training. that's 2 years now where Swish has underperformed (and been overpaid) and done more harm than good for the team.

Murphy didn't blow anybody away with his spring play. he's also known to have slow starts and unproductive numbers in April. so right now it's anyone's guess if he will even be an asset to this team.

remember when David Murphy had a .290 batting average? it was so long ago it feels like it happened last year, which makes no sense but you get what i mean. he operated backwards from how he usually does. his M.O. in the past has been to start off cool and then get hot. this year, he had a bad spring but then was hot in April and May. after that, he really regressed. furthermore, he had an abdominal strain in August and missed 5 weeks. it's a shame because Murphy was one of the more consistent hitters in the early going. after being in a back and forth race with Brantley in April and May for the highest BA and most RBI on the team, he really fell back. by June it was no longer a contest for my boy lol and i feared this from Murphy. i figured he was using up everything he had in the beginning and would start slumping as the season went on. and i was right.

Gomes will be our starting catcher. he did quite well coming off the bench last year. will his bat remain hot now that he's going to get more playing time, or will there be a regression?

Yan Gomes signed a contract extension before the year began, solidifying him as our starting catcher for the foreseeable future. like Kipnis, he too may have been overcompensating, specifically at the beginning of the season, because he racked up a lot of throwing errors. he was in such a hurry to get the ball out of his glove and his throws weren't always on point. fortunately though, as the year went on, not only did his defense get much better, but he became one of our more dependable hitters in the lineup, particularly after the All Star break. as a result, Francona gave him higher BOPs in August. Gomes did suffer a concussion in late August which caused him to miss about a week, but other than that, he was predominantly healthy. overall he did quite well playing his first full season in the bigs and with the Tribe. he even finished with the 2nd most homers on the team--21.

a good strategy for the team would be to simply use Chiz against right-handed pitchers, and don't let him go near the lefties. there's also a chance Lonnie gets sent down to Columbus if the Indians feel like they can't regularly find playing time for him.

this year, Lonnie Chisenhall went from backup 3rd baseman to main 3rd baseman. Francona started him out by only putting him in the lineup against right-handed pitchers to gain confidence and his numbers soared. then Francona slowly let him play more against lefties and he was hitting them, too. his batting average stayed very high until we got into June and July. that's when his upper .300 average slowly dropped down, then down some more, and then even more until he was finally batting under .300 in August. at one time he was giving Michael a run for his money regarding BA, but Chiz really ran out of gas in the last 2 months of the year. he made some errors at 3rd base and had several different BOPs throughout the season. it's still hard to say what kind of hitter Chiz will become for us because up to this point, he's only been inconsistent. however, he did end the year with a .770 OPS which is encouraging.

Raburn, will he be able to carry over his hot spring to the regular season, or will leg injuries slow him down?

Ryan Raburn could not reprise his role from 2013. basically he looked like the guy that the Tigers got rid of in 2012. he was supposed to do damage against left-handed pitchers yet he hardly hit them this season. he played left field and right field, and did some DHing as well as PHing. once when he was needed to fill in for Brantley in left, he made a serious blunder when he spiked the ball towards the infield. it became a .gif seen round the world. he dealt with some injuries this year as well, starting with a wrist injury which occurred in spring training. that most likely attributed to his terrible season. he finally went on the DL for his wrist in August. he came back in September and not even 2 weeks later he hyperextended his knee. on September 19, he had season ending knee surgery. Raburn ended the year batting .200 while playing in just 74 games.

can Aviles continue to be a productive utility man for this team?

Mike Aviles did a good job coming in off the bench and filling in anywhere the team needed him to. he spent time at 3rd base, 2nd base, shortstop, left field, center field, and right field. he had some great plays in the outfield and not many bad ones. he had some big hits at the plate along with some poor at bats. mainly, he just did what was asked of him and was a great utility man for us. he was pretty durable this season, too, only missing time when he suffered a concussion in September and sat out 10 games.

will Giambi still be a force, or is he just too old to help us now?

Jason Giambi spent most of the year on the DL, sometimes with real injuries, sometimes with "ghost" injuries, and sometimes his DL stay was extended in order to avoid roster moves. let's see, he had a rib fracture in spring training, a calf strain in May, and knee inflammation in June that kept him on the DL until September. he did not contribute the same way he did a year ago and was usually a waste of at bats during games, as he had just 8 hits, 2 home runs, and 5 RBI. but he only played in 26 games, so that .133 BA didn't hurt the team too much. he assuredly will not be an Indians player next year.

Chris Dickerson was acquired in July after Bourn went on the DL for the 2nd time this season with hamstring problems. in an ironic twist of fate, Dickerson had a minor hamstring issue about a week into his time here. but it was not serious and did not require a DL trip. all-in-all, he made some nice plays in left field (while Brantley played in center). he also started out strong offensively, but once we got into August, his bat cooled. the Indians eventually outrighted him in September as he was dealing with back tightness. too bad, cause i was hoping that "we want The Dick" chants would start breaking out at the ballpark sometime... lol =P

when Zach Walters was called up to the Tribe in early August, he played a little left field and did a lot of DHing. then in September, he also saw time in right field and at 2nd base. he put his power on display by hitting several balls out of the park. he hit 6 homers in August, 3 of which came in 3 consecutive games. one of his homers was even a walk-off home run. as the season wound down and we got into September, his bat cooled off and he only hit 1 home run, which came during the season finale game. he was dealing with a little rib injury so that could be why his September numbers weren't as great. but Walters is also a big swing and miss guy. in 30 total games with the Indians, he struck out 32 times. if we compare his #s here to Cabrera's #s in his first 30 games, Walters put up some better ones. he showed potential and could be a big utility man for us in the future.

Elliot had a big spring. Tito likes him because he can play every position in the infield and outfield, and he's even been named the team's emergency catcher. his defense is stronger than his offense, so it's possible that once the season gets underway his bat will cool down.

Elliot Johnson didn't contribute much in his time with us but he will mostly be remembered for the "missed catch" in right field. in the game on April 9, he caught a ball, ran over to the visitors dugout's fence to gather himself, and then on the rely throw to the infield, he dropped the ball. the umpire ruled that it wasn't a catch and when Francona challenged it, the NY crew agreed it was not a catch based on the new MLB rules. later in the season, the catch/transfer rule was changed so that an incident like that would rightfully be considered a catch moving forward. typical.

in George Kottaras' first game with the Indians on May 4, he hit 2 home runs in his first 2 at bats. he was here in a backup catcher's role while Gomes was out on paternity leave. Kottaras didn't stay long though, getting DFA'd on May 6. he cleared waivers, went back to Columbus, and was brought up to Cleveland again in late May. he only played a handful of games and then was DFA'd when we brought in Dickerson in July.

speaking of backup catchers, Roberto Perez took on that role later after Kottaras was DFA'd. Perez really got his chance behind the plate when Gomes had a concussion in August. he continued to catch some games even after Gomes came back, as Gomes was DHing in more games. Perez actually did well catching, throwing out several runners who tried to steal bases. he also did decent with his bat in the 29 games he played. he got his 1st major league home run in his first game with the Indians after a "double" was challenged and then changed on July 10.

former Indian Chris Gimenez was brought here in August after Gomes went down with the concussion. he was supposed to be the one filling in for Gomes, but as i just stated, that honor went to Perez, making Gimenez his backup. Gimenez only played in 8 games with the Tribe, all in September, and went hitless with 1 walk. 

Tyler Holt got his big chance with the Tribe when Raburn went on the DL in August. he had been up and down twice before, albeit briefly, but he stuck after August 19. he played some complete games and was subbed into some games late, too. Holt plugged in wherever he was needed in the outfield. in 36 games, his 19 hits and .268 BA were more than respectable.

J.B. Shuck only had 2 hits in 16 games that he played in. there's not much else to say about him. also, Justin Sellers and Jesus Aguilar did not play enough games with the Indians this season to provide any significant support to the team. it came across as odd that Aguilar did not see more playing time in September, making me wonder if he's in the Tribe's future plans anymore...

our starting rotation has potential, but let's face it, it's not great. and it sure as hell is not intimidating to opponents by any means. Masterson is not a true ace, though he is our best starter hands down right now. he is capable of achieving a 20-win season, if our offense wants to help him out when he pitches. unfortunately, because Masterson pitches in the #1 spot, he usually goes against the opposing team's ace, and so it's easy to see why he's yet to have a 20-win season in his career.

Justin Masterson did nothing this year to earn that 3 year contract he was asking for during spring training. the guy who was supposed to be our ace fell flat. the thing with Masterson is he's inconsistent. he'll have a great season one year and then a bad season the next. in 2013, he was Masterful. in 2014, he was Mastersuck. the velocity on his sinker was down and sometimes he just didn't look right on the mound. maybe the fact that he'd been playing with knee soreness since his 2nd start of the season had something to do with it, but that issue should have been dealt with long before it was. he finally went on the DL for it on July 8 and was traded to the Cards on July 30. it was a sad departure, but there was no way the Indians were going to re-sign him to the deal he was asking for.

Kluber and McAllister are more than capable of throwing solid games, but they can also throw some ugly ones. not to mention there's concern that both will regress this year.

with Masterson gone, Corey Kluber officially became the pitching staff's ace, although he'd been auditioning for the part since May. Kluber didn't pitch perfectly all year but he certainly didn't regress. he made so much progress that he finished the season with 18 wins, 269 strikeouts, and 3 complete games, one of which was also a shutout and came on the day that the Indians traded Masterson. (if that wasn't a sign, idk what was lol) in 34 starts, he only gave up 14 home runs, 72 runs, and 51 walks. all that plus his 2.44 ERA gives Kluber a real case to be this year's AL Cy Young Award winner. he gave fans that feeling of "we're gonna win today" whenever he was scheduled to take the mound. it's a feeling i personally haven't felt since the days of Cliff Lee back in 2008.

Zach McAllister's first start was bad, then he pitched a few good games in April, and then things just got worse. i assumed he was playing hurt, and low and behold he went on the DL with a back strain on May 22. after his rehab was done in mid-June, he was activated for a day and then sent down to Columbus where he pitched until July 12. the Indians put him back in the rotation for 4 turns and he did not win any of those games. he was DFA'd on August 1 and sent to Columbus after he cleared waivers. he was called up again on August 31 and mostly pitched out of the bullpen in September. he had 4 wins total this season, 3 in April and 1 coming out of the pen in September. it just wasn't a great year for Zach Attack.

Danny Salazar is getting his first full year in the big leagues now, and even though this kid has the stuff to be great, i think it's fair to say he will experience some struggles at times this year.

Danny Salazar did struggle. he had difficulty getting guys out once he got to the 3rd time around in the order. he was sent down on May 16 and brought back up to start the July 22 game. after that, he finished the year in Cleveland and brought his ERA down a little over 2 full points in those last 12 games he started. he still had some trouble getting into the later innings, however he did throw a complete game shutout on September 3. his potential is there and hopefully he'll reach it next season.

rounding out our top 5 is Carrasco. he would be better suited in the bullpen in my opinion, but what Tito wants, Tito gets. Carrasco has 2 personalities: the one who pitches well and remains focused on the game, and the one who's immature, forgets to use his fastball, and sometimes can't handle the pressure. i just hope that if the Carrasco Fiasco takes over the month of April, a change will be made by May.

Carlos Carrasco looked like 2 different people this year. he started 4 games in the rotation in April before being moved to the bullpen, making me and many other Tribe fans very happy. sometimes he pitched just an inning or so and other days he'd pitch some long relief. he was using his fastball with no hesitation, striking guys out no problem, and as the season went on, his ERA decreased more and more. not having 4 days to dwell on a bad start really helped him to relax and pitch better. on August 10, he was reinserted into the rotation and became a force. he started 10 games through the end of the season, even pitching one complete game shutout in September when he struck out a career high 12 guys, and ended up with a 2.55 ERA.

it's comforting to know that we have Tomlin starting in Columbus, ready to be called up at any time. he's been very reliable, always pitching at least 5 innings when he starts. on the flip side, he hasn't pitched a full year in the bigs since 2011. he could struggle as well.

Josh Tomlin was brought up in May to replace Carrasco in the rotation. and he did great at first. but as the season went on, he started losing it. it was inferred that maybe he wasn't far enough removed from Tommy John surgery, and therefore his body wasn't holding up in his first full season back. it looked like maybe he was turning things around on June 28 when he pitched a complete game shutout. but he was sent down to Columbus again on July 25, then brought back to start on August 5. after that, he pitched out of the bullpen for the remainder of the year except for spot starting the 2nd game of a doubleheader on August 13. this was not the year he hoped for, but i truly believe Tomlin will do better next year.

we also have Bauer in Columbus, another pitcher with potential that has not yet been reached. he's young, unreliable, and not ready to be a current fixture in our rotation.

Trevor Bauer didn't spend much time in Columbus this year. he first got called up as a 26th man to start the 2nd game of a doubleheader on April 9. he didn't come back to Cleveland until May 20, and that's when he received a permanent spot in our rotation for the rest of the season. he pitched some good games and some bad ones. he was somewhat inconsistent though, showing greatness one start and not the next. he couldn't always get deep into games either because he'd have 1 bad inning where he'd give up 4 or 5 runs and put us in a hole. like with Salazar, i definitely see the potential but he needs to do better than a 5-8 record in 26 starts next year.

after that, we really don't have any other strong pitching prospects. TJ House and Tyler Cloyd are both wild cards who would probably labor if brought up.

welcome to the big leagues, T.J. House. in true rookie fashion, House got a lot of familiarity with the I-71 between Columbus and Cleveland, as he was called up 5 different times during the season lol but he stuck up here after August 2, and he turned out to be a little bit of a secret weapon for us. they say that when a pitcher first comes up to the big leagues, he usually has the advantage. House found that to mostly be true. in 18 starts, he had about 3 rough games. all the others, he definitely gave us a chance to win and that's all you can really ask for from a rookie.

Tyler Cloyd never made it to Cleveland this season. (though he did throw a complete game shutout at home against the Louisville Bats on July 30 that was pretty exciting.) somehow we got through the year using only 8 starters.

our bullpen this season is very different from years past, and that may cause some problems.

Francona sure had that call to the bullpen phone working this year. the Indians ended the season with 574 relief appearances by the bullpen. that blows away the previous AL record and is 3rd most in MLB history for a season. and maybe some of the guys were overworked; 23 of the team's 77 losses were a direct result of the bullpen. that's an 8 game increase from last season. but despite that, the top dogs all managed to stay healthy and that's why the team was able to win a lot of close, low-scoring games this year.

we don't know if Axford can close, he lost his closer job last year after all, and we have to be prepared that he may not be able to.

so yeah, let's begin with our new closer, John Axford. i went on record that i didn't like this offseason pickup. i knew he had lost his closer's job in the past and i didn't think he would do well here either. he started off good, saving 9 of 11 games. but after that, he walked a lot of guys and by May he had been demoted from the closer's role and only pitching in games that we were losing. he had some okay outings but not enough to stay. i wanted him gone before the All Star break; Tito kept him around until August 14.

Allen, Shaw, and Rzepczynski. these guys pitched very well for us in 2013, and the same is expected from them this year. although again, some regression could be a realistic possibility.

Cody Allen took on the role of closer after Axford proved he couldn't be trusted. most people expected him to be our future closer and a lot of us wanted the "future" to be on Opening Day 2014. however, Tito likes those veterans for their experience, so he tried out Axford first and had Allen as the setup 8th inning man. but this was an inevitable transition for Allen and he did quite well, finishing the year with 24 saves, 4 blown saves, and a 2.07 ERA. he made 76 appearances this season, just 1 less than in 2013.

Bryan Shaw became the 8th inning setup man after Allen moved to closing in the 9th. he made a team high/career high 80 appearances this season, also a new club record, and had a total of 24 holds and 64 strikeouts. yes, he was responsible for blowing 2 crucial games in September while the Indians were still trying to squeeze their way into the postseason. but for a guy who pitched as much as he did, he proved to be a very vital part of the pen.

Marc Rzepczynski filled in wherever needed. he pitched in the 6th, 7th, 8th, and sometimes even 9th innings. he once again did his job here as a lefty specialist, appearing in a career high 73 games and finishing the year with 14 holds.

our bullpen wouldn't be complete without a veteran presence, and this year that role is being filled by Scott Atchison. he had a nice spring, but we've seen in the past that the older bullpen guys can be disasters when they get in the real games. he could be this year's Hill or Durbin and get DFA'd before the All Star break. and you can't rule out that a guy his age might suffer a freak injury or two.

Scott Atchison, or Old Man Atch, not only showed durability, but reliability. he pitched in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th innings this season and finished with 14 holds. he pitched 1 inning, 2 innings, whatever was asked of him. in 70 appearances, 20 more than his previous career high set last year, he struck out 49 batters while walking only 14. not bad for a 38 year old. he did exceptionally well. so much so that, on August 19, the Indians signed him to a one year deal for next season with a club option for 2016.

it's very impressive that Allen, Shaw, Rzepczynski, and Atchison each made 70 or more appearances in relief this season while maintaining their effectiveness and good health all year. that's a rarity to have your 4 best bullpen boys all perform well, pitch as much as they did, and not get struck with any injuries. it may never happen again.

now let's talk about some more of the disappointments in the bullpen. Josh Outman was another lefty reliever coming out of our pen at the start of the year. he had some good appearances and bad appearances. but he wasn't spectacular and i remember he would walk too many batters during his short stints on the mound. the Indians sent him to Columbus on June 25 because they felt they had better lefty arms to use than his. Outman was traded to the Yankees on August 28 and actually pitched well for them in September.

Vinnie Pestano is back with the club and he looked very good in spring. he's not hurt this year, which was his main problem last season. he's not going to return to his old role of set up man right away, but regardless of what inning he comes out for, if he can pitch like he did in 2012, that's a nice weapon to have.

poor Vinnie Pestano. i was rooting for him. he made the team out of spring training, which i was so happy about, but it turned out that he still had some things to work on. he was sent to Columbus after 3 appearances in April, then got brought up on June 20. and he was improving until one day when Francona made him stay in the game and face a left-handed batter. he of course gave up a home run that caused the Indians to lose that game. Pestano just wasn't getting lefties out anymore. we couldn't keep him around and he was sent back down on July 11. then, in a move i never saw coming, he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels on August 7. he was a great guy and i think he will bounce back next year. too bad it won't be with us.

Blake Wood is also breaking camp with the Tribe this year. he's had surgery in the past and while that sometimes makes pitchers stronger, it's hard to say if Blake is really going to be a reliable part of the pen yet.

Blake Wood didn't last long with us. he pitched 1 scoreless inning in his first appearance with the Tribe this year, then another scoreless inning in his second appearance. after that, he struggled, giving up too many runs and walking too many guys in 1 inning or less. after 7 total appearances, he was sent to Columbus on April 21 to make room for Giambi and that was it for Wood in Cleveland. he was DFA'd in late May and claimed by the Royals in early June.

in baseball, you almost never see the same bullpen guys that you started the year with in the bullpen at the end. shit happens lol so let me talk about the other guys we called upon to help at various times during the season.

we saw a little bit of C.C. Lee and his potential at the end of last season. he was first brought up this year as a 26th man for insurance during the 2nd game of a doubleheader on April 2, but he wasn't used. he got called up again on April 9 and used the next day. he stayed in Cleveland until May 17 when he was sent back to the Clippers again. he had another brief stint here from July 18-22. when he finally came back here for good on August 7, he was much improved and only had 1 bad outing. something tells me he will become an integral part of our core in the bullpen in the future.

who else might be a core piece in the future? Kyle Crockett. he pitched so well this year i almost forgot the kid was a rookie. he pitched in 3 games in May, then became a mainstay in the pen once he got recalled on June 13. Crockett was pitching in big innings in big games all while looking like a regular out there. he finished the season with a 4-1 record and 5 holds in 44 appearances. he also struck out 28 and only gave up 2 home runs and 6 runs scored. oh yeah and his ERA was just 1.80. that's phenomenal. his fantastic debut may have gotten lost in all the other things that happened in 2014, but he made a strong case to break camp with the Tribe next year. way to go, kid!

hey, remember when Mark Lowe was on the team? yeah i barely do either. he made 7 relief appearances with the Tribe though. he came up on May 22, was sent down on June 2, brought up again on June 16, and sent down on June 25. in that time, he gave up 7 runs--3 earned--and 2 home runs. (that's 1 more run than Crockett in less outings!) he was DFA'd in early July and outrighted to the Clippers. he became a free agent on October 6. i know, i know, get out the tissues. ha!

Nick Hagadone didn't get to pitch for the Indians until June. but he got sent down, called up, and sent down again as the month went on. finally he was here to stay on July 8 and finished the year with 35 relief appearances. he only gave up 7 runs while racking up 27 strikeouts. he looked much improved this year and it was pleasantly surprising.

Austin Adams saw some time in Cleveland this season, but man did he have an awful major league debut. i was there to see it, too. he gave up 3 runs in 0.1 innings on July 12. he only pitched in 6 games and compiled a 9.00 ERA. fellow rookie Bryan Price didn't have the best debut either. he was brought up in September when rosters expanded and gave up 6 runs and 3 homers in 3 appearances (2.2 IP). he gave up 2 runs in each of his outings and finished with a 20.25 ERA. these 2 have a lot of work to do if they wanna get back to the big leagues and actually stick around for a while.

that's it for the players, but how did Terry Francona do in his second season here as manager? aside from occasionally sticking with some of his players too long when he shouldn't, he had another great year as the Tribe's skipper. i think it helped that his coaching staff was mostly the same as last year, though he changed some of their roles. Brad Mills moved to the bench, Sandy Alomar, Jr. became the 1st base coach again, and Mike Sarbaugh was the 3rd base coach. Mickey Callaway worked a few miracles as the pitching coach and bullpen coach Kevin Cash kept the core guys pitching right. hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo got an assistant to help him this year, Matt Quatraro, but idk if there was much benefit from that addition.

the usual stuff irritated me, like, you know, keeping a struggling player in a certain spot in the order too long. or keeping a pitcher on the mound for 1 batter too long. or keeping guys that suck on the roster because he believes they're still important to the team lol but that's probably something that bothers most fans about their manager, regardless of who they are and if they have a great reputation. i know we are very lucky to have Francona in Cleveland. he makes players want to play for him and be a part of the Tribe. plus, he loves the city, he's genuine, and he really wants to be here. he's got passion for the job and wants to help us win that championship that we so desperately desire. and hopefully he can do it here like he did in Boston and with Philly.

now let me recognize the MVP and some other standout players on the team this season. Brantley is for sure getting my MVP vote. Kluber is a close second. seriously those two were the rock star saviors of the team. take away their performances and how many more losses do you think we would have had? Santana and Gomes did great in the 2nd half of the season and Chisenhall was very good in the 1st half, so i have to mention them. in the bullpen, i think Allen and Shaw were an imperative part of our success this year. and my rookie of the year pick is Crockett.

and what about the players who vastly disappointed us? my LVPs, or least valuable player awards, definitely go to Swisher and Bourn. i'll also throw in Masterson and Cabrera before they were traded because they did not do much to help the team either, and it wasn't likely that they would have turned things around significantly enough had they stayed and finished the year here.

so there you go, we pretty much got nothing from our top paid guys. if we add up Swisher's $15 million salary, Bourn's $13.5 million, Masterson's ~$9.8 million, and Cabrera's $10 million for this season, that's about $38.3 million in contracts that were mostly worthless due to injuries and ineffectiveness. that hurts. and it's a huge reason we were unable to build on last year's wild card playoff game and at least make it to a divisional series this year.

when you go through the laundry list of things that went wrong for the Indians this season, the 85 wins is rather extraordinary. if nothing more, it shows resilience and that's something Indians teams' of the past haven't always had. my prediction may have been close to absolutely right, but i never imagined that the year would have played out the way that it did. it's sad we couldn't get back to the postseason but the fact that we have a solid core of guys who are signed for the next 4-6 years is promising. if we can just add another piece or two, get some better production from the guys who struggled this year, and work on that poor defense, then the possibilities for this team are endless. i'm excited and desperately waiting for next year to start already! lol as of this post, there are 170 days until Opening Day!

Go Tribe 2015!

one more thing, i want to acknowledge and thank my Tribe sources again. the following people are how a diehard Cleveland Indians fan, who lives in a part of Western New York where Indians games are blacked out on the MLB package, stays up to date with all the latest, breaking news and basically always knows what's going on, and without which i would be lost:

Paul Hoynes and Terry Pluto--my Tribe bible

Jordan Bastian--my stats bloodhound

Dennis Manoloff--some stats and amazing insights that i rarely disagree with

Zack Meisel and TJ Zuppe--also provided some tidbits along the way

oh and if i didn't mention you, it's because you either helped me in no way, shape, or form, potentially because i don't know you exist as a Tribe source cause the above provide me with an abundance of info to keep me on top of everything, or else you are a very special Tribe source that i don't want to give up because if i out you, then i won't be needed as much for info =P ;D

No comments:

Post a Comment