Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wrapping Up Brantley's 2015 Season

well, here we are. another season in the books. and boy did this one take some unexpected twists and turns. i never could have predicted that Michael would battle through injuries literally ALL year long and still turn in statistics that a lot of healthy players would kill for. damn, he's good.

i'm going to start this by posting the links to all the past monthly blogs in case anyone wants to refer back to them:
Brantley's April 2015 #s blog,
Brantley's May 2015 #s blog,
Brantley's June 2015 #s blog,
Brantley's July 2015 #s blog,
Brantley's August 2015 #s blog, and
Brantley's September/October 2015 #s blog.

and now for the last time, here are Michael's final #s for the 2015 season:

Michael had a total of 596 plate appearances and 529 at bats in 137 games (1034.2 innings). in total, he had 164 hits, 60 extra base hits, 104 singles, 45 doubles, 15 home runs, 84 RBI, 5 sac flies, 68 runs, 60 walks, 8 intentional walks, 2 hit by pitches, 15 stolen bases (14 - 2nd, 1 - 3rd), 1 caught stealing (3rd), 14 GIDP, 51 strikeouts (37 swinging, 14 looking), 34 first at bat hits, 254 total bases, 223 left on base, 212 putouts, 8 assists, 2 errors, and 1 double play.

2015 season batting average:
.310 (164-529)

OBP: .379

SLG: .480

OPS: .859

overall #s while playing the outfield: 212 putouts, 8 assists, 2 errors, 1 double play, 0.991 fielding percentage (1034.2 innings, 118 games)

that's a pretty solid list of stats and i honestly did not anticipate that from him. i assumed he'd have a lackluster year when the Indians first said he had back soreness in February. poor guy wanted to replicate his 2014 season so bad that he over-worked out in the offseason and hurt his back. i thought he wouldn't come anywhere close to his performance from a year ago. yet, astonishingly, he did come close and did a lot better than i ever could have imagined. it was the 2nd best season in his career behind 2014. just think what else he might have accomplished had he played more games and not been so hurt... he probably would have given 2014 a real run for its money.

no, Michael won't be an MVP finalist this year and most likely won't win the Silver Slugger Award either due to how much time he missed, causing him to lose out on opportunities to increase his stats more before his season came to an end. but that doesn't take away from how well he played this year, having done it all at less than full strength.

i know Michael worked hard, more so this season because he had to really exert himself to stay on the field and remain in playing condition. a back strain is a serious issue, and he spent a multitude of time working with trainers and in the trainer's room in order to be able to play as much as he did. still, i'm a bit baffled as to how he could swing the bat so well. i mean, i get a stomach ache and i'm on the couch for like a week and a half. and this man seemingly played through his back problems like they were nothing. you're an enigma, Mr. Brantley, but a good one.

while it may have looked like the odds were against Michael, he persevered, was resilient, and played hard for as long as he could, even when i didn't want him to. his performance may have suffered at times but he never complained. well, only when Terry Francona didn't write his name in the lineup lol he habitually wanted to be out there with his teammates, and if that meant playing at less than 100%, sacrificing his own personal numbers, and not necessarily being able to perform at the highest level possible, then that was what he was gonna do. he was a determined, team-first player, just like he's always been.

"everybody plays through nicks and injuries," Michael declared. "i'll never make an excuse or use that to lean on anything. i'll always push to play. i played through a couple things [this year], but at the same time, you have to block that out mentally. you have to stay mentally tough and just keep grinding away. you have to be out there with your team as much as possible. that's the most important thing. i pride myself on trying to play as many games as possible, going out there and battling through anything and everything, if i can."

that said, i'm gonna need Sports Illustrated to NEVER put my boy on the cover of their magazine ever again. do i believe in the SI jinx? because Michael's back strain lingered and he had to learn to tolerate playing with injuries the whole year, yes. yes i do. okay, okay, i know it's not fair to blame SI. i'm probably being a bit frivolous here, but the correlation between this Cleveland curse and both cover boys (Corey Kluber too) dealing with injuries and not performing to their usual standards is a little too coincidental for my liking.

now, even though the final numbers look good, make no mistake--this season was not without its ups and downs. despite the fact that Michael was still getting his share of hits, there were instances when he struggled in specific batting situations. watching his numbers sometimes go down on almost a nightly basis because he was playing hurt early on in the year and again late in the season was tough. i can only surmise it wasn't easy for Michael either.

then, just when it appeared as though his back strain might not be bothering him anymore, he was stricken with some new injuries. first he had left shoulder inflammation in August, which luckily never amounted to anything significant. on the contrary, in September, he jammed his right shoulder when he attempted to make a diving catch, and that produced somber results. his soreness persisted, and when he tried to return to game action after 4 days, he was clearly not himself. so the Indians sent him for an MRI which revealed inflammation, and that led to him being shut down early. how this was the injury to do him in this season instead of his back, i don't know. once again, he's a mystery.

Michael provided many highlights in 2015. he set a few new personal records, with a career high in walks and career low in strikeouts, and made a little history. this year marked his 4th straight season with at least 150 hits (2012-2015) and 2nd straight season with 45 doubles, the latter being an MLB high. Michael was also the 2nd player in Indians history with back-to-back seasons of at least 150 hits, 45 doubles, 15 home runs, and 15 stolen bases, AND the 1st player in Major League history with back-to-back seasons of at least 150 hits, 45 doubles, 15 home runs, 15 stolen bases, and a .300 batting average! yeah, what back strain and shoulder inflammation? lol #killedit

this season, Michael played in 137 of 161* games. he had a hit in 104 of 137 games that he played and reached base safely in 117 games.

(*1 game in September was postponed due to rain. MLB rescheduled it for the day after the regular season ended, but it would only be played if the game was going to have any postseason implications. the Indians were eliminated from postseason play after the games on October 1 concluded and therefore the PPD game was officially cancelled.)

Michael's season was not without its streaks. he had a 9-game and two 11-game hitting streaks, along with a 12-game road hitting streak. he also hit in 5 or more straight games on 8 separate occasions this year.

his on-base streaks included two 9-game and two 11-gamers, as well as a 9-game, 12-game, and 15-game road on-base streaks.

what's more, he had 3 consecutive 3-hit games, 5 consecutive games with an RBI, 6 consecutive starts with multi-hits, and a 19 consecutive stolen base streak.

in 2015, Michael had 43 multi-hit games, 15 3+ hit games, and 16 multi-RBI games. he also had 2 4-hit games, giving him 10 now in his career. in addition, he had 19 go-ahead hits and 22 go-ahead RBI. Michael had an RBI in over 44% of the games he played in this year as well.

Michael played 118 games total where he was in the outfield. he started all 118 games in the outfield and completed 106 of those games. he was subbed out of 8 games after playing a total of 57 innings. he was lifted for a pinch runner in 3 games after playing a total of 23 innings. he left 1 game early with injury after playing a total of 3 innings. Michael played 18 games total as the DH. he started and completed 17 of those games. Michael was also a PH in 2 games. he came in to PH in the top of the 8th inning in 1 game--as the PH for DH--and came in to PH in the top of the 9th inning in 1 game, then was lifted for a pinch runner.

for the fourth consecutive year, Michael finished the season with the highest batting average out of all the qualifying Indians players. he was in a battle with Jason Kipnis for much of 2015 and ultimately won out in spite of missing 24 games due to injury. since April 24, he bat at or above .286. only in his first 8 games of the season did he have a BA lower than that, which is extremely remarkable for someone who had back and shoulder issues throughout the year. his final .310 average ranked 1st among AL outfielders, 4th overall in the AL, and 12th in all of baseball.

it's hard to pinpoint my favorite memory of Michael's 2015 campaign because there were several big moments for him. one particular highlight for me was Michael's 2 go-ahead homers night on September 10 versus the Detroit Tigers. it was his only game of the season where he registered 2 go-ahead hits in the same game.

i also really enjoyed the two 4-hit games Michael had this season. he was a perfect 4-for-4 in the April 25 game against the Tigers with 2 doubles, an RBI, and a stolen base. then he went 4-for-5 against the Milwaukee Brewers on July 22. he hit a double and home run, drove in 4, and scored 2 runs in that game.

Michael had another perfect game on his birthday, May 15, going 3-for-3 and reaching base 5 times. in this game against the Texas Rangers, he totaled 2 doubles, 2 RBI, 2 runs, 2 walks, and 1 stolen base. happy birthday indeed it was!

and of course i can't neglect to mention his walk-off single versus the New York Yankees on August 11. the game was tied at 4 when Michael came to bat against Branden Pinder in the bottom of the 16th inning with 1 out, Jose Ramirez at 2nd base and Francisco Lindor at 1st. after a 1-0 count, Michael hit a ground ball off the glove of Mark Teixeira that scored Ramirez for the win. Michael ran into the outfield but still got tackled and sprayed with water by his teammates lol that represented the 4th walk-off of his career.

now let's compare Michael's 2015 numbers to his last 4 seasons.

Category 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011

Batting Average .310 .327 .284 .288 .266*

OBP .379 .385 .332 .348 .318
SLG .480 .506 .396 .402 .384
OPS .859 .890 .728 .750 .702

Plate Appearances  596  676  611  609  496
At Bats  529  611  556  552  451
Games Played  137  156  151  149  114

Hits  164  200  158  159  120
Singles  104  133  119  112    85
Doubles    45    45    26    37    24
Triples      0      2      3      4      4
Home Runs    15    20    10      6      7
RBI    84    97    73    60    46
Sac Flies      5      5      8      4      5
Runs Scored    68    94    66    63    63
Walks    60    52    40    53    34
Intentional Walks      8      4      1    12      2
Hit By Pitches      2      8      4      0      3
Stolen Bases    15    23    17    12    13
Caught Stealing      1      1      4      9      5
Sac Bunts      0      0      3      0      3
Strikeouts    51    56    67    56    76
Total Bases  254  309  220  222  173
Extra Base Hits    60    67    39    47    35
First At Bat Hits    34    51    42    36 DND

Innings 1034.2 1304.1 1297.1 1237  971
Putouts   212   271   257  336  236
Assists    8   12    11    5    5
Double Plays    1    2     1    3    2
Errors    2    1     0    1    3
Fielding % .991 .996 1.000 .997 .988

*if he hadn't played injured, i calculated a .281 BA

black bold = i did not document this then

blue bold = a career high

Michael set the bar SO high for himself last year that in order for him to top those career highs, he was going to need a truly outstanding season in 2015. arriving in Arizona with a lower back strain had me panicked from the very beginning. however, when looking through Michael's 2015 stats, if you take away his extraordinary 2014 season, you'll see that most of his numbers are almost as good if not better than 2013, which shows he's not regressing. (if you disagree with that, continue reading.) i know i keep harping on his injuries, but even with those being a prominent part of his year, he still put together a highly respectable season. let me now get into a few specifics and make a couple of comments and comparisons.

right off the bat, the big stat that stands out is triples. this is the first season where Michael didn't hit any triples. undeniably, that was a result of his lower back strain and the issues that it produced. but i always regard triples as a luxury anyways. i'd much rather see Michael hit doubles or home runs than be concerned about triples. i'm more than happy he hit 45 doubles again, giving him back-to-back seasons with such for the first time in his career. admittedly though, i am sad that he couldn't hit one more to set a new record. had he not been hurt in that final week of the season, i know he would have. oh well.

as for home runs, 15 is quite good for him considering that prior to last year, he never hit more than 10 in a season. if not for Michael's injuries and missed time, he may have hit close to 20 again.

obviously his OPS is less than a year ago. but remember, anything that falls in the .833-.899 range signifies a very good player according to statistician Bill James.

i do wish Michael would have stolen more bases this season, but once again, i understand why that was a challenge for him. at least when he did attempt to steal, he was only caught once.

regarding hits, it may surprise some but it did not surprise me that he had more hits in less games in 2015 than in 2012 or 2013.

i was greatly impressed with his career high walks and career low strikeouts this year. Michael's 1.18 BB/K was the highest in baseball. his K rate (8.6%, lowest in the AL) continues to be one of the absolute best in all of major league baseball as well, and that's one thing a bad back can't take away from him lol

his 8 assists in the outfield were more than acceptable. Michael says assists aren't so much about the arm as they are dependent on the legs. for that reason, any shoulder problems he had weren't a factor there. but his lessened ability to run and get to the ball quickly could have been (though i know those sabermetric-obsessed fans will maintain their position that Michael's overall defense is weak whether he's healthy or not). without those missed games/injuries, this is a category that he could potentially have set a new career high in.

what other categories do i believe he may have set a new record in had he been healthy and played more games? doubles FOR SURE, extra base hits, OBP, possibly RBI, and also maybe even batting average.

now, if you didn't agree with my proclamation above that Michael did not regress this season, then these next few paragraphs are for you. yes, i have to take a minute to address the fans who think Michael dropped off, had a bad season, and reverted back to his "old" self. come on, people. he simply played hurt. and his season numbers were MUCH better than a lot of players who play through injuries or claim to have been hurt for most of the year. i'm not sure what more you could have hoped for from Michael, and i'm gonna advise you to take your unrealistic expectations down a notch.

Michael's approach at the plate this year did not change from his 2014 All Star season, like i knew it wouldn't. he remained aggressive, and as someone who payed majorly close attention to the pitch counts of all his plate appearances this season, i can personally confirm this. therefore, anyone who said Michael's reverted obviously did not pay a lot of attention to what was actually going on and probably just checked out the box score on a nightly basis. ignorance will not be tolerated here. use my blog as an opportunity to be corrected. i wrote a blog before spring training even began saying that Michael would not be "worse" in 2015. go ahead and give that a read, because injuries aside, i was right.

i'm fully aware that they're not going to put an asterisk next to Michael's 2015 season to signify that he played with 3 different injuries and hence didn't achieve some of the (higher) totals that he otherwise could have. but i will take it upon myself to make sure that that is well-known and i'll take the first bullet from the internet firing squad if i have to.

okay that's enough about me. aside from expressing some disappointment and frustration that he could not finish the year on the field with his teammates, Michael never really commented about his overall stats or his season. but he did have this to say about his teammates and the Indians' season as a whole. "we have such a great group of guys in that locker room that care about the game so much and have so much passion towards the game that we need to bring that passion each and every day. we've talked about it. we've had some great meetings this year and we really took some good steps forward these past couple of months."

as for Michael's final thoughts on the season, he acknowledged, "we didn't reach our ultimate goal. at the same time, i think we learned a lot about each other. we had some young kids come into the Major League level and help out tremendously. our core guys got another year under our belt playing together with one another. i think that's very important."

moving away from the statistical side of baseball, this season Michael emerged as more of a leader to his teammates. he slowly stepped into the role last year, but 2015 is when he really stepped UP as a leader. he learned not to be afraid to speak up if necessary. he made it a point to take rookie Francisco Lindor aside and talk to him when needed. and that initiative is something Francona praised him for. typically the shy, quiet, lead-by-example type of player, Michael is presently more vocal and unapologetic. he knows he's a veteran and has an obligation to educate his inexperienced teammates. and knowing how intelligent a player Michael is, those kids should be absorbing everything he says like a sponge. leading is now part of Michael's job description, and i love that.

before this season began, i blogged about what i expected and hoped to see from Michael in 2015. here is a reminder of what i predicted (and note: i made these predictions assuming Michael would have a healthy season):

--aside from a couple minor issues last year (mid-back tightness, mild concussion), Michael was blessed with good health. knowing that he came to camp with lower back soreness, which lingered some throughout his time in spring, scared me. but i don't think he would have played the last week of spring if he was still really hurt, so all i can do is postulate that he's okay now and be optimistic that he will have good health all season.

--Michael sure did set the bar high in 2014 as far as batting average went. while i don't necessarily believe he will hit .327 again, i now expect a BA in the .305-.310 range.

--on to home runs. i used to hate discussing this category, but how things change in a year lol a player doesn't double his career high in one season if he hasn't developed some power, and it would strike me as odd if that power all of the sudden disappeared, especially while Michael is in the prime of his baseball career. that said, i think he will hit at least 18 homers, if not 20 again.

--as for RBI, Michael is all set up to get many of these once again, since he will be batting 3rd in the lineup. there's no reason not to think he won't get a minimum of 85. this is one of those statistics that's dependent on the performance of other players, but as long as there are guys on base when he comes up to bat, it's possible. i also don't think it's unrealistic to give him a maximum of 100 either.

--doubles: 42

--runs: 85 (i'm putting a lot of faith in the batters behind Michael for this--Santana, Moss, Gomes)

--walks: 55

--stolen bases: 24

--total defensive errors/fielding percentage: 0/1.000%

as usual, i was right about some things and i was wrong about some things. let's break it down.

--my hopes for Michael's health were crushed. he played with injuries all season and missed 24 games because of them, including being shut down for the last 6. i'm surprised he didn't miss more time to be honest.

--Michael would have exceeded my BA range prediction if he hadn't played those last 2 games before the shoulder inflammation ended his year. instead, he finished 2015 batting .310, the highest batting average on the team (out of all the qualifiers) for the 4th season in a row.

--due to his back issues, Michael lost some of his power at the plate. that's not arguable. however, he still managed to hit 15 home runs for the year. for him, that's not bad. had he been healthy, i think he definitely would've gotten up to 20.

--i almost completely nailed the lower range RBI prediction. he had his chances, like i knew he would, and totaled 84 RBI. he led the team in RBI every day from June 22 - October 2. it wasn't until October 3 that Carlos Santana passed him to finish the year with 85 RBI. once again, Michael's injuries held him back in this category, but after everything, i am still pleased with his production here.

--for the 2nd consecutive year, Michael hit 45 doubles. he led the team, the American League, and Major League Baseball in this category. fantastic job.

--though i assumed there would be a decrease, i was really off regarding runs scored for Michael. he got himself on base this year with 164 hits, 60 walks, 2 hit by pitches, 7 reached on forceouts/fielder's choices, 1 reached on throwing error, and 2 reached on fielding errors. that means he reached base 236 times overall. now take away 15 runs from the homers he hit, and his teammates only drove him home 53 times while leaving him on base 168 times. (Santana disappointed, Brandon Moss had like 1 hot month and then disappointed before he was traded, and Yan Gomes hurt himself early in the season and just wasn't the same.) he had no shot at leading the team in this category again. that honor went to Jason Kipnis, with 86 runs. he should thank Michael for that because my boy brought him home 30 times. if only Michael had a hitter like himself batting behind him to help boost his run total.

--i predicted a career high for Michael in walks, and i got that. he drew 60 free passes this year, continuing to display his accurate eye at the plate. he was even robbed of a few walks too, because of bad calls made by home plate umpires. that's nothing new in baseball but i hate when Michael is subjected to it.

--since Michael was at a disadvantage as far as running the bases went this season because of his back problems, he couldn't steal as many bases as i know he would have liked. nevertheless, his 15 stolen bases were still a team high. go figure.

--as for the fielding percentage, i expected perfection and i did not get it. unfortunately, Michael committed not 1 but 2 fielding errors as the left fielder this season. combine that with his decreased play in the field (read: less putout chances to bring his fielding percentage back up) and he could only manage a .991% for the year. he did make some breathtaking catches and recorded some big assists to uphold the argument that he's a valuable defender, but it's evident once again that his back restrained him sometimes in the field. it is what it is.

so, who remembers what Michael worked on with his father, Mickey Brantley, in the offseason? anyone? it was hitting home runs to left field. Mickey really wanted his son to develop some power to left as opposed to just hitting line drives and bloop singles to that part of the field. so he worked with Michael on hitting the ball out of the park or over the left fielder's head. in total, Michael hit 15 home runs in '15, and like always, they all fell somewhere between center and right field lol the back strain may have gotten in the way of this goal, as it certainly strained his ability to hit more balls out of the ballpark. so i suspect this is something that Michael and Mickey will again work on this offseason. but first, he's gotta make sure that his shoulder is good to go.

prior to Michael's offseason, he was scheduled to partake in a 2-week recovery program to ensure that his right shoulder inflammation wasn't lingering. he would be staying in Cleveland a little longer before heading back down to Florida to enjoy some downtime and then begin his offseason training. i currently have no update on how those 2 weeks went, and if i do read about one, i will either tweet it (so make sure you're following me @clevelandgirl23), or if it's a lengthy update, i will write a blog with all the details.

speaking of social medias, i was very active on twitter this year, much more than in the past, tweeting many updates about Michael during the season. if he was doing exceptionally well, i tweeted that, and if his BA was continuously decreasing because he was struggling, i mentioned that too. and i was able to do it in a prompt manner because, as usual, i did not miss any of Michael's plate appearances, so i documented and calculated specific batting averages in real time. my documentation of Michael's stats, like last season, was kept in both an Excel spreadsheet and notebook, cause you never know when your computer might crash. (with me especially because i have such bad luck with computers. but i digress.)

Michael again had one of the strongest seasons of all his teammates despite him not being at his strongest physically. he was uncontrollably inconsistent yet somehow still performed at a level that came close to rivaling his 2014 All Star season. i want to thank him for all his hard work and dedication to staying on the field no matter what ailment he was facing. i am so proud of him for everything he accomplished this year and never giving up. i hope he takes a lot of time for himself in the offseason to relax (because he definitely deserves it) and heal up. then he can get back to his regular offseason routine, get more top-notch tips from his father, and start 2016 healthy!

and can i just also BEG him NOT to do whatever it was that he did last year that initially caused his back strain? i'm hoping it's a preventable thing and can be avoided lol

i know Tribe season has barely ended and that wound is still a little fresh as MLB playoffs are well underway, but i already can't wait to see what Michael's going to do next year! i expect another big season, even if he develops some injuries! lol i'm counting down the days until i see him and the rest of the guys back in action on April 4, 2016 at the Indians Home Opener/Opening Day. as of this posting, we're at 174 days. it will fly and spring training will be here before we know it, trust me!

and before i wrap up this wrap up blog, i want to quickly shout out a few of my Tribe Scribes for all their articles and tweets throughout the season, without which i would have missed out on some interesting statistics and many, many quotes from and about Michael himself. so thank you very much to my boys--Paul Hoynes, Jordan Bastian, Zack Meisel, Terry Pluto, T.J. Zuppe, and Dennis Manoloff. all your hard work is appreciated immensely and does not go unnoticed by this hardcore fan. <3

for even more details about Michael's season, be sure to read my other blogs:
Brantley's 2015 Game-by-Game Numbers & Notes
Brantley's 2015 Batting Order Position & LF/CF/DH/PH #s
Brantley's 2015 Situational #s, Team Highs, League Rankings, etc.

up next: a Tribe wrap up blog with my thoughts about the 2015 season and more! 

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