Friday, October 25, 2013

Tribe Needs: Looking Ahead to 2014

the 2013 season was a blast and just about every guy on the roster played an important part in us winning 92 games and making it to the postseason. unfortunately, there are going to be a lot of changes to the roster next season, so it will be hard to emulate what just happened this year. and sadder still, anything less than another playoff appearance, no matter the duration, will be dissatisfactory to fans. the bar has been set and set high, so now the Indians have to figure out a way to make the team even better going forward to keep everything moving in the right direction--to the World Series.

a big question for the front office is how much are we allotted to spend this offseason? we do have some money coming off the books, but we also have many players who are now eligible for arbitration and will be getting pay increases next season. i will venture to guess that our payroll remains close to the same as it was last year. i can't see it largely increasing or decreasing. therefore, it should be between 80-85 million. so how will that be divvied up?

i'll start with the fact that we freed up 13 million from the departures of Myers and Reynolds. so you're thinking, okay let's take that and lure a decent name here. not so fast. Swisher's salary rises from 11 to 15 million bucks and Bourn's goes up from 7 to 13.5 million. those two are getting a combined 10.5 million dollar salary increase, which almost completely wipes the Myers/Reynolds money away. the leftover $2.5 million is not going to last long.

in addition to Swisher and Bourn, there are 4 other players who already have set contracts going into 2014. those guys are Cabrera, Santana, Raburn, and Aviles. all 6 contracts total $47,750,000. that's an increase of $19,250,000 from last season.

i went through our roster and also found we have up to 9 players whose paychecks will rise due to the increase of the league minimum salary in 2014. the lucky 9 include Kluber, McAllister, Salazar, Kipnis, Chisenhall, Gomes, Allen, Shaw, and Hagadone. the new minimum is said to be a 2% increase from last season, or $500,000. of the 9 guys, only 2, Kip and Shaw, were already making more than this amount. according to my calculations of their lowest possible salaries, these guys will earn a minimum combined total of $4,531,300. compared to what they were making in 2013, their raises add up to at least an addition of ~$81,400. and there very well could be extra cash worked into some of these contracts, too.

if you combine the set contracts total and the league minimum salary increase total, the payroll approximately stands at $52,581,300. that gives us about 30 million left to play with. however, we still have 11 players eligible for arbitration and 7 free agents. we won't sign everybody, but the Indians are still going to need to make very enticing offers to certain players if they want them to stay. i have no inside track on what these guys will be offered, but i will break down the rest of the team and make a guesstimate as to how much money they might cost us.

in the arb eligible group, we've got Perez, Masterson, Stubbs, Rzepczynski, Marson, Brantley, Wood, Pestano, Tomlin, Carrasco, and Herrmann. dare i put it out there that Perez, Stubbs, and Marson might be non-tendered? regardless, there's still enough players in this group to bring about a decent pay increase. i went over what all these guys made in 2013, and after taking their performances into consideration, i came up with what i believe to be fair (and maybe a little generous) salaries for 2014. assuming we retain everyone except Perez, i calculated a total of just under $21 million for the arb eligibles. and that brings the payroll up to $73,581,300 so far.

now let's take a look at our free agent class. there's Ubaldo, Kazmir, Smith, Giambi, Albers, Hill, Kubel, and Shoppach. Ubaldo is getting a large multi-year contract from another team and he would be stupid not to take that. Kazmir is going to get a lot of large offers too, and i just don't know if we will be the most appealing to him. Smith would be a tough guy to lose because he is so vital to our bullpen. i know he wants a 3-year deal and so far the Tribe has only offered 2 years, so who knows how that's gonna go. i think Kubel and Shoppach are gone, since we don't have much room for them and they just aren't that good. although, it's possible they get a spring training invite and end up in Columbus. Albers could end up somewhere else, too. however, he does have a Francona connection, so maybe he'll agree to terms and stay. Francona also really likes Hill, so he probably isn't going anywhere. and Giambi said he really wanted to come back, so i think we're gonna get to see how he performs as a 43-year old.

say we agreed to bring back only Kazmir, Smith, and Giambi. that's still more money added back to the payroll. Kaz certainly won't be signing on a minor league deal this year, he'd be making bank. Smith will most likely get a few more million also. the only good news is Giambi would be the cheapest lol looking at what they made last year and giving them what i think are generous pay raises, that would total $13.5 million.

okay so if we add everything up, we're already at upwards of $86 million just keeping our own guys. and even if i overshot some contracts, that figure should still be in the ballpark (ha) of where our payroll actually ends up for the year. there's basically no extra money to go get someone else unless Antonetti is "allowed" to spend more. of course there are still variables, like if not everyone makes the Indians roster. some players could end up in Columbus, and therefore just earn their minor league pay. that could take away a few million from my estimate. and maybe we don't keep everyone i assumed we would. particularly if we can't keep Kazmir, and/or if we do deal Cabrera, that would also decrease my payroll prediction. thank god i'm not really in charge of this because i don't do well with spending limits lol i can't wait to see how dead-on or off i end up being with all my approximations though.

now let's say our goodbyes. who i think is outta here:

--Chris Perez (the Indians are not going to pay him the $9 million he would get in arbitration when they can easily replace him in-house or by getting a cheaper FA closer)

--Ubaldo Jimenez (he will get a large long-term contract elsewhere)

--Jason Kubel (he was nothing more than insurance when we brought him in, we don't need him anymore)

--Kelly Shoppach (same as above, unless Marson is non-tendered and signs elsewhere)

--Scott Kazmir (50-50 chance honestly, depending on how money-hungry he is and how cheap we are)

if i'm in the front office, my first order of business would be to try and secure our starting pitching. i'd lock up Masterson to a long-term deal. and if they do that, that's another large contract on this and future payrolls. however, he is one guy who absolutely deserves a raise. then i would approach Kazmir and really try to convince him to stay with the organization that assisted him in getting back to the major leagues. but i don't know if the Indians would offer him more than a 2-year deal. i can accurately figure that other teams will offer him 3 years for more money, so i'm worried he would then walk. we shall see how much, if any, loyalty he has towards us since we did help him revive his career. and yes, make the qualifying $14 million offer to Ubaldo, but don't bat an eyelash because he's definitely a goner. extending the QO at least gets us a late 1st round draft pick and that's better than nothing.

next, what we really need to do is keep Smith in the bullpen and sign him to a long-term deal. i really think they should just give him the 3 years that he wants. they can always trade him after 2. it's not like they've never done something like that before. Smith said he wanted to stay here, so hopefully the Indians will recognize his importance and not let money get in the way.

there really are no good free agents on the market that we're gonna be able to afford. if we want to bring in another impact type guy, then Antonetti's going to have to come up with some kind of 3-team trade with a lot of moving parts again. and i believe his phone will be extremely active with teams calling to check in about some of our players and their availability.

so who's on the trading block?

well, it's been argued that Bourn and Stubbs are very similar in what they do. and Stubbs is cheaper, so i wouldn't be shocked to hear some Bourn rumors. that'd be a good way to save some cash. although if the organization is gonna trade him, it would probably be during the next offseason, and only if he once again plays below average and proves that he just can't get acclimated to the American League. cheaper or not, Stubbs also had a disappointing season, so maybe he'd go. if he's non-tendered and doesn't like what the Indians have to offer, then he might just leave on his own accord.

i don't know who would make a serious offer for Perez. yes he saved 25 games this past season and has like a 90% save rate over the last 3 years, but there are other factors that make him unattractive to teams. his weed habit was revealed this season, he had a rotator cuff injury, and in September he couldn't do his job and was giving up hits and homers that hurt us. and i didn't even mention his big mouth. i honestly don't believe any teams would trade for him. but if we let him go venture into free agency, that's a different story and some team will probably grab him. either way, his career in Cleveland is over because as i said before, there is no chance we give him the 9 million bucks he would receive in arbitration.

Cabrera's name will also be out there once more, though he too did not have the greatest time this season. getting rid of his big 10 million dollar contract would definitely be helpful, but i'm not sure what teams would offer us in return for him after his down year. maybe Cabby ends up in a deal like Choo was last offseason. then again, the Indians may not like what they hear and perhaps Cabby stays. potentially he could have a breakout year with us right before free agency, similar to what Ubaldo just did, and then make a lot of money elsewhere. wouldn't that be classic Tribe? it's also plausible that Cabby starts the season here, does well (fingers crossed), and then is traded before the deadline in July for whatever our big need is at that point.

i know a lot of fans dislike Chisenhall and wouldn't mind getting rid of him, but the Indians maintain that he's gonna be something special and they're not ready to give up on him yet. there would have to be one hell of an offer on the table in order for Chiz to be traded.

after going through the rest of our roster, i can't see anyone else who could realistically be traded. all i know is, if we were to give up any of our essential pieces on this team, then we better be getting some freakin 50 home run hitting players back in return. you couldn't justify trading a Kluber or McAllister or Shaw type player any other way.

the last possible option would be to put a package of some Columbus kids together. maybe include a starter, bullpen or position player, and a little cash. there may even be some players in Double A Akron to trade. other than that, i'm at a loss. it will be very interesting to see if Antonetti can make another deal and round up some more players that we need.

and who do we need? or more specifically, what positions?

major Tribe needs for 2014 include:

--closer/more bullpen depth

--a couple starting pitchers

--3rd baseman


the needs are certainly less than last year but we still have holes once again. let's run through the scenarios of who we've got for next year at this particular point in the offseason.


Left Field: Brantley, Raburn

Center Field: Bourn, Stubbs, Brantley

Right Field: Swisher, Stubbs, Raburn

other options: Carson?, Aviles

the outfield, for once, is probably the only part of the team that is set going into next season. if anything, they may try to bring in another backup outfielder or two on a minor league deal to build up the farm in Columbus and for protection.


1st base: Santana, Swisher

2nd base: Kipnis, Aviles, ?

shortstop: Cabby, Aviles

3rd base: ?, Chiz, Aviles

other options: Ramirez, Lindor possibly after the All Star break

we desperately need to figure out what we're gonna do about 3rd base. i'm assuming Chisenhall stays, but he can't be the every day guy unless he somehow can establish he's finally good enough. we could use Aviles there or bring someone else in. except, if Cabby does leave, then short becomes Aviles' every day spot unless we find a replacement there. maybe Aviles could platoon with Ramirez if the team thinks he's able to play a full season in the majors. either way, Aviles can't take over both the main short and 3rd base roles, so we'd need to bring in a legit player for one of those positions or we're in trouble. and if Aviles becomes too much of a regular and leaves his spot in the Goon Squad (bench), that could hurt his performance, his numbers, and therefore the team as a whole. however, if the Indians feel Lindor is ready to make his major league debut, he could take over at short mid-season, freeing up Aviles a bit more to play at 3rd. it's all a moot point though if Cabby stays. then we would just have to deal with 3rd. there's too many ifs right now.

Behind the plate:

Catchers: Gomes, Santana

other options: Marson?

Gomes will be the every day catcher, which means catching 4-5 games a week. he did well this year because he wasn't playing every day, so the game never really caught up with him. next year, it's possible that over the course of a full season, his numbers won't be as high and he'll struggle a bit. that's okay, just as long as he's still doing a killer job behind the plate.

and with Gomes now taking over as the main starting catcher, that allows for Santana to play more 1st base and also DH. if the Indians bring Marson back, then he could be the 3rd catcher. i think they definitely want a player with some major league experience available down in Columbus just in case there's another early or lengthy injury.


Santana, Giambi

other options: Swisher, Raburn

on any given day, really anybody on the roster could be the DH. but the 2 mains will be Santana, when he's not catching or playing 1st base, and Giambi, if he comes back as a player and not a coach. still, it would be good to bring in another power bat who can be a DH and also play in the field. we really need a player with some pop who can make an impact in the middle of the order. i don't know who though. again, the price is wrong on a lot of the free agents out there this offseason.

Starting Pitchers:






other options: Kazmir?, Tomlin, Carrasco, Bauer

the Indians like to keep 7-8 viable starters in the system because they know during the course of the year, things will happen and we will need replacements. going into 2014, we have Masterson, Kluber, McAllister, and Salazar penciled in as starters. if we cannot retain Kazmir, i wouldn't be shocked to see the Indians find and sign another reclamation pitcher to a minor league deal. you never know how that might turn out though. there's always Tomlin, Carrasco, or Bauer to choose from as a 5th starter as well, although i wouldn't be very confident if either of the last 2 were named to the rotation. odds are we will have to find some outside help, but it probably won't be a top of the rotation pitcher. maybe we'll luck out and at least find a cheap middle of the rotation vet with a little something left in the tank.


the bullpen will be very different next year. again we know Perez is outta here, via either trade or non-tender. and we have no idea if Pestano's gonna bounce back and be able to take back his 8th inning setup role, let alone be considered as a closer candidate. if we don't bring in a proven free agent closer, we might use Shaw there or even Allen if Tito thinks the kid is ready. i can't really even write out one scenario, i have to do several.

if Smith isn't retained and Pestano doesn't get better:

closer: ?

8th inning setup: ?

7th inning: Allen

long relief: Shaw

others: Rzep


closer: Shaw

8th inning setup: Allen

7th inning: ?


closer: Allen

8th  inning setup: Shaw

7th inning: ?

if we retain Smith, but Pestano doesn't get better:

closer: Smith

8th inning setup: Allen

7th inning: Shaw


closer: Shaw

8th inning setup: Smith

7th inning: Allen


closer: Allen

8th inning setup: Smith

7th inning: Shaw

if we retain Smith and Pestano gets back to his old self:

closer: Smith

8th inning setup: Pestano

7th inning: Allen


closer: Pestano

8th inning setup: Smith

7th inning: Allen


closer: Allen, ?

8th inning setup: Pestano

7th inning: Smith

other options: Rzepczynski, probably Hill (though i'd love to let him go), Albers (if he re-signs), Tomlin (if he's not one of the 5 starters), Carrasco (if they realize he can't start anymore), Herrmann (if he's healthy enough), maybe Wood, Hagadone or Lee (if they pitch well enough in spring training), and/or guys brought in on minor league deals or possibly from a trade.

i've gone through all the players, but there's one more important person we could lose this offseason, and that's Sandy Alomar, Jr. for the last couple years, he's been interviewing for managerial jobs and hasn't gotten one yet, but this could be the year. there are several teams looking for new managers and maybe this time he'll finally get his shot. that would be great for Sandy but very sad for Cleveland fans. he was part of the glory days in the 90s and i think most fans still love seeing him in an Indians uniform. Francona already changed up some of his coaching staff's roles—Alomar is now the 1st base coach again, Sarby is the 3rd base coach, and Millsy is the bench coach—and it's been speculated that it was done in anticipation of Sandy leaving. Tito likely has some replacement candidates in mind if this ends up being true, but it won't be the same.

this is another offseason with a lot of questions, though we're probably in a better spot than we were a year ago. but are we going to be able to get another starter, 3rd baseman, power bat, and closer? i anxiously await to see what tricks Antonetti has up his sleeve to improve this ballclub. i'm sure Francona will have an influential say as well. what's certain is we can't just look internally to fix things like they always say they hope to do, and we can't take a step back. more money must be spent to make the team as strong as possible in order to reach another (longer) postseason berth in 2014.

157 days until Opening Day as of this blog post. Go Tribe!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tribe 2013: From 94 Losses to 92 Wins

92-70. tied for the largest franchise improvement in one single year. and we clinched the top wild card spot. who was confident enough in March to say they honestly saw that coming? certainly not me. wow. see what can happen when you increase your payroll a little bit?

there were so many question marks going into this season. would certain players perform at a high level all year? could we count on the new signings? did we do enough in the offseason to put together the strongest team possible?

speaking of, how did our free agent signings and players we traded for do this season? Bourn and Swisher underperformed. Stubbs was below average, nothing special. Reynolds had one hot month then cooled off. Aviles was a nice option off the bench to fill in at short and 3rd when needed. Giambi didn't totally suck. Gomes was outstanding behind the plate. Myers was a 7 million dollar flop. Kazmir was a rewarding reclamation project. Bauer decided to change his mechanics this season and spent most of it in Columbus as a result. Shaw was very reliable out of the bullpen. Albers was decent as well. Rzepczynski was a lefty we wish we'd had out of our pen all season. so it was hit and miss with all these acquisitions. i will go into greater detail about everyone's seasons in a bit.

when i made my preseason predictions, i didn't expect us to make the playoffs. i really would have been content just seeing an improvement from 2012 and finishing with like 78 wins. well, by September 13, the Indians passed that number. and we rattled off a big 10-game winning streak to end the season. if that hadn't happened, we may not have made it to the postseason.

the Indians started the year out 5-10, and it began to look as though we could be in for another long tough season. the team slowly battled back to .500 in May. then we had an 8-game losing streak in June, bringing us back down under .500. but after June 19, we were never under .500 again. we continued to face some challenging teams and had some little losing streaks, but unlike last year, those streaks didn't last very long. this team knew how to rebound, and rebound they did. sometimes it looked like the Indians were about to fall out of it, but they always managed to hang around and come back strong. this group of guys never gave up, as is illustrated by our 11 electrifying walk-off wins. this season was a roller coaster, but it was one hell of a ride.

now i'm going to include some excerpts from my preseason blog to see how things panned out. any parts seen here in italics represent my preseason thoughts and concerns.

my PD boys, whom i respect a great deal, have made predictions that i will keep on record here. some i just don't agree with and also can't quite understand.

Hoynsie: 84-78, fourth in the central

Livy: 80-82, third

D-Man: 76-86, fourth

Terry: 82-80, second

Bud: 87-75, second

i thought Bud was absolutely out of his fucking mind but congrats, you were closest with your 87 wins prediction. he and Terry both knew enough that we'd finish 2nd in the division. hats off. i also didn't think Hoynsie's prediction made much sense, but at least he too knew we'd finish over .500.

despite some nice offseason acquisitions, it's gonna be very hard to go from 68-94 back to .500 in just one season, even with Tito leading the pack. making the playoffs is not a concern of mine for 2013. this is not our one and only year with a window for contending; we've got time and i believe it will take time to get there. right now with so many questions, particularly surrounding our starting rotation, i don't see us being able to reclaim the Central Division, and i don't see us getting a wild card spot either.

this team pulled itself together enough to have the biggest turnaround in franchise history. that is so hard to do and with our usual Cleveland luck, it seemed improbable. we definitely could not reclaim the Central Division, particularly because we went 4-15 against Detroit. but in those last couple days of the season, we managed to get up into that #1 wild card spot and stay there. and honestly, i think it was shocking that 92 wins were needed to clinch a wild card spot this year. the competition in the AL was no joke. and we are included in that ;D

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

--a full season with Chisenhall in the lineup

--if Bourn, Swisher, Reynolds, and Stubbs get on base and hit home runs the way they are supposed to

--Santana batting lower in the order (hopefully taking some of the pressure off him)

--if Myers can make the transition to starter and be an innings eater for us

--if Kazmir can pitch at least a couple decent months for us

--a very speedy outfield that should be able to run down a lot of fly balls, limiting opposing runners from scoring

--an even stronger bullpen mafia

so how did i do? well that Chisenhall thing certainly didn't work out. Bourn, Swish, Reynolds, and Stubbs getting on base and getting big hits was unpredictable. none of these guys had a great full season. i feared they would have a high strikeout rate, and they were, in fact, 4 of the 7 players with at least 100. with their help, we totaled 1,283 strikeouts, setting a new franchise record. yikes. Santana started the season batting lower, but eventually went back to the clean up spot in the lineup. the pressure came off him once he was no longer performing his catching duties every day. Myers sucked but thankfully Kazmir was a savior in our rotation. the outfield wasn't terrible this year, but errors were still made in some crucial innings in games. when Stubbs' bat started getting cold, he was replaced with Swish and Raburn (both slower runners) in right field. and the mafia as a whole was ever-revolving and shaky at times. it is amazing that we did as well as we did with all the things that went wrong and all the guys who didn't play to their max capabilities.

now let's really get into specifics; let's talk about the players' individual performances.

i'll start with the "golden child." a lot of people were fanatical about the possibility of signing Nick Swisher. well i always thought Swish was an average player made better by the good talent surrounding him on the Yankees. and that seemed to be the case for about half the year here. he was battling a left shoulder issue for most of the season, and the irony there is not lost considering that in his previous 7 years in the majors he's never had a serious injury. things started coming together for him in the second half of the season and he did finish with 22 homers, most on the team. but for what he got paid, he was a disappointment.

Kipnis started the year out slow, then had a monster June which led to his All Star Game nod. but like last year, his numbers dipped in the second half. he also had some defensive miscues (team high 12 errors) at inconvenient times and finished the year with 143 strikeouts. however, he did lead the team with 84 RBI, 86 runs scored, and 30 steals.

Cabrera struggled offensively and defensively. he had a quad strain injury early in the season and missed about 3 weeks of baseball. when he came back, he never quite found his rhythm. it was a very unsatisfactory season for a guy one year removed from All Star status and one year away from free agency.

Chisenhall once again did not meet expectations. he performed horribly offensively and defensively and was sent down to Columbus early on in the season. while with the Clippers, he had scorching numbers. when he was finally called back up, he did a little better than his first go-round in the majors this season, but his place at 3rd base is not set for next year by any means.

Santana improved at the plate when he wasn't catching. he started the year batting lower in the order and later ended up back in the cleanup spot, something i bitched about so many times in the past. but towards the second half of the season, it was okay for him because his catching duties decreased due to Gomes' defensive abilities. this helped Santana to be much more relaxed. he saw the ball better and it worked out well for the team. he led the Tribe with 39 doubles and 93 walks, as well as an OPS of .832.

Brantley had a few weeks where he couldn't hit anything, but other than that, he was the reliable, consistent hitter that we're used to seeing him be by now. he was very clutch, leading the team with RISP (.375 BA), and played perfect defense all year. he was also the team leader with his .284 batting average.

Stubbs struggled this year with 141 strikeouts, just 2 behind team leader Kip, and some bad defense. (damnit Scrubbs!) it got to the point where his role was reduced as much as possible at the end of the season. he's somewhat turned into the 4th outfielder now, especially against right-handed starters. luckily, Tito was able to call upon Raburn more.

Raburn did well in his limited bench role at the start of the season. he had a strained left Achilles in August and didn't play for about 3 and a half weeks, but he was still a great weapon off the bench when he was healthy.

now let's get to the remainder of the Goon Squad. i didn't like when Tito named Giambi to the roster, but he managed his play extremely well. it was probably why, aside from his mysterious "back strain" at the end of spring training, his body held up good. Giambi didn't start too often and was subbed into games against pitchers he had a good history against. his BA was the worst on the team, but he still got a lot of big hits when we needed him to do so. his season was highlighted by him sliding into 1st base in late April against the Phillies while the Indians held a 12-run lead, and his big walk-off home run in September against the White Sox. his veteran leadership was apparently very important and helpful to his teammates as well.

Gomes didn't get much play time when the season began, but that really changed by the second half of the year. he became the main catcher and was great defensively. some runners didn't even want to attempt to steal off him because they knew he had a cannon. he did very well at the plate too. by season's end, it was all but guaranteed that he would take over the every day catcher's role next year and no longer be a part of the Goonies.

Aviles filled in as needed. while he didn't have great offense numbers, his versatility to be able to play for injured or struggling players during the year was vital.

i have a lot to say about Bourn, so i saved him for last. Bourn way underperformed this season. he didn't live up to his hype or his contract. not to mention he experienced injuries both at the beginning and end of the season. he missed almost a month when he suffered a finger laceration in mid-April, and he missed a little time in September with a wrist injury. plus he just underwent hamstring surgery on October 15, due to him pulling it during the last game of the regular season when he tried stealing 2nd. but can you attribute his poor second half of the season to this issue also? that we may never know. if he had any problems with his hamstring before that last game, he never told anyone.

i expected this guy to have around 40 steals this season. instead, he stole 23 (not even the highest SB total on the team) and was caught 12 times. it seems as though 12 is about his average. people will argue that his steals were down because he's in a different league and needs to get to know all the AL pitchers. well, what was wrong with him doing some homework on his own time during the season and reading up on the guys? there will be no excuses for this next year.

and his defense in center... he made some of his catches seem more difficult than they really were. i'm not the only one to say this either. and because he's so short, his leaping catches got played up like they were so freakin amazing. when really, if someone a little taller was in center field, those catches would just be routine because the player could simply reach up and grab the ball without any dramatics or suspense.

additionally, his .263 BA pissed me off. in the past when Brantley was batting in the .270s and leading off, SO many fans complained that he wasn't a good leadoff hitter. Bourn's BA once dipped down into the .250s, but that was okay because he's a gold glover with a speedy reputation. well you can't use your speed if you're not getting on base, and Bourn struck out twice as much as Brantley this season. cue the fucking eye roll.

i'm really not being a hater. it's fact that Bourn's OBP was unacceptable for a leadoff man. he didn't create the havoc he was supposed to. he did not live up to his rep. and you have to wonder and worry about this because his contract is going way up next year. if his below average play continues next season, and we're dedicated to keeping him through his whole contract, then he can't lead off anymore. if he can't hack it in the AL, Tito will need to stray from his player loyalty shtick. i know we desperately needed another OF and the only way to get one was to overpay, but Bourn needs to have a better season all around in 2014 or changes will have to be made for the betterment of the team.

no i didn't forget about Reynolds. he had a sizzling hot April, then faded away and was dropped in early August. we really needed a hitter who could emulate his April performance all season, or even half that, and we never got that consistently from anyone.

in more bad news, Marson got hurt 5 games into the season, with a neck injury during a bang-bang play at the plate. he was on the DL for 2 weeks. then 4 days later, he went back on the DL with right shoulder soreness and never got off it. it was revealed that he'd been battling this shoulder soreness since spring training. he tried to rehab and get back to the majors, but it just never worked out.

when Ramirez and Carson were added to the roster towards the end of the year, they both did some positive things. Ramirez was a speed demon on the basepaths and Crash Carson even got a walk-off hit during our 10-game winning streak to close out the season.

McDonald, Kubel, and Shoppach didn't play enough to make an impact. nor did Carrera, Phelps, and Santos, who were called up here for insurance when guys got hurt.

man, going back and remembering all this, seeing how a lot of guys had problems, you almost wonder how we won 92 games. there were many times when guys in the lineup were struggling, and struggling all at once, yet we managed to pull out wins. and that's a testament to the pitching. all our pitchers struck out a combined 1,379 players, 2nd best in the American League. so when you look at that, then you feel as though 92 wins was just about right.

if the starting rotation pitches decent, we might be pleasantly surprised. it would be amazing if Masterson could rack up 15 wins this year, and if Ubaldo could win about a dozen.

Masterson was masterful this season. we needed him to bounce back this year and pitch like an ace and he certainly did that. he no longer had a good game one start and a bad game the next like last year. he was pitching well into the 7th and 8th innings most games and finished with a team high 195 strikeouts. he was a 14-game winner and even had 3 complete game shutouts. it's no wonder he was selected to this year's All Star game. yes, he had an oblique injury at the end of the season, but every other starter in the rotation pitched so good that we really didn't even miss him. how crazy is that?

even though Ubaldo had a nice spring, you never know what will happen with him when the regular season starts. can he stay confident all season and will that really help him throw more strikes and get more guys out? wanna put all your eggs in that basket?

Ubaldo turned into the guy we traded for. finally. the dude was on a whole nother level in the second half of the season, and that helped him acquire 13 wins and a 3.30 ERA for the year. he had a 1.09 ERA in September in 6 starts, struck out 51 players, and won AL pitcher of the month. he used his fastball a lot, something i think we were all begging for. without him pitching the way he did, we don't land that wild card spot. and a huge thank you has to go to Mickey Callaway for all the work he did with Ubaldo this year. talk about a goddamn miracle worker.

well look at that, i wanted 27 wins from these 2 top guys, and i got exactly that lol

McAllister could have his bad starts and sometimes be erratic.

McAllister had some great games. he had a right middle finger sprain in early June. the team was very careful with him, so he missed about 6 weeks. when he came back, he was back to his old self and recorded 9 wins for the year.

Kluber wasn't originally in our starting rotation, but he turned out to be very good, finishing the season with 11 wins. he also suffered an injury, in August. he too had a right middle finger sprain, but it wasn't as serious as McAllister's, and he missed just under a month of play. he came back right when Masterson went down, so he couldn't exactly be eased back into the rotation or used in piggyback situations. he came right in as a starter and was solid once again.

Scott Kazmir could be the feelgood story of the year, or he could struggle and be inconsistent.

Kazmir had one hell of a comeback season, although he started the year on the DL because of a right rib cage strain. it wasn't serious and he only missed 2 weeks. he was up and down in the beginning, as he was working his way back to getting used to pitching in the big leagues again. there were also times in the beginning where he always seemed to have a health issue by the 6th inning and needed to come out of the game. but the Indians did all they could to help him. they gave him all the extra days rest possible, and by the second half of the season, KKKKKKKKKKazmir was outstanding. he earned himself 10 wins and possibly a large multi-year contract.

Brett Myers could be really bad. and with Tito's attitude, they will probably give him a good 2 months as a starter before considering moving him.

Myers was a total bust. i don't think he pitched more than one decent game for us while he was here. he ended up having a few different injuries in April, right elbow tendinitis and a strained ligament. once he landed on the DL, he never got off it. he tried to rehab, but aside from pitching horribly in those outings (shocker), he kept having setbacks. finally we just let him go at the end of August. Boom! Outta here! 7 million dollar waste.

Salazar came up from Columbus in early August to take Kluber's spot and pitched well. he was on a pitch limit for most of his time up here but man that kid could throw strikes. the majority of losses he suffered were due to the offense not doing its job, and not his own poor pitching. he never gave up more than 4 runs. he more than proved he could hang with the big boys in the major league.

Carrasco started the year in Cleveland to serve his suspension from 2011. then in his first game back, he hit a batter and got another suspension. facepalm. this happened so long ago i almost forgot that it was this season lol he went down to Columbus for a while, then served his second suspension here in June. after that was over, he had a few more starts and did not do well. by the middle of August, he was moved to the bullpen and pitched MUCH better there.

we also needed to use Bauer for a couple of starts. he apparently was in the middle of reworking his mechanics this year, and once when he came up here, he surprised everyone by pitching out of the stretch. that had some people in the organization up in arms. you could deduce that he wasted his opportunity here and his entire season trying to redo everything he knows. i think it's safe to say he won't be regularly pitching for us for a while still. he could stand to work with Callaway during the offseason.

i admit i was skeptical about Callaway being named as the new pitching coach, mainly because i knew nothing about him. but Tito did and he was right on with this hire. i gotta give it up, he really helped Ubaldo and Kazmir become the weapons we needed them to be. so yeah, hopefully he can help Bauer with the reconstruction of his windup next.

think the bullpen's not going to give up any runs this year? if these guys become overworked because our starters can't consistently go 5 or 6 innings, we're gonna be in trouble.

our Bullpen Mafia saw many changes this season, but they were solely responsible for only 15 of our 70 losses this year. i don't count blown saves, i just count the number of games we actually ended up losing all because someone in the bullpen gave up the lead and we couldn't recover from it. there were actually a few times when Perez blew a save in the top of the 9th but we rallied back with a walk-off win, taking him off the hook.

think Rage won't blow a couple saves? expect it, because it's gonna happen. but as long as it doesn't happen all the time, no one should really have much problem with it. i'd still rather have him closing over anyone else in our bullpen right now.

Perez started out strong, but by the end of May, he had tendinitis in his right rotator cuff, causing him to miss a month. while he was on the DL, the marijuana drug bust nonsense happened. when he was activated, he pitched well enough to get saves when needed but some people suspected he was not 100% healthy. then by September, getting a save out of him was nearly impossible. it got so bad that Tito finally came out and announced Perez would no longer be our closer, and we would have a closer by committee, at least until the playoffs. Perez was unselfish enough to say he didn't want to be the reason we lost games. he still finished the year with 25 saves.

what happened to Vinnie Pestano? that's what everyone would like to know. some think playing in the World Baseball Classic was the source of his problems. he had elbow tendinitis in May and never got better on the mound. he was sent down to Columbus when we needed a roster spot for Rzep, and didn't come back until rosters expanded in September. even then, he didn't look totally right and couldn't be trusted in tight situations.

Smith was a lifesaver. he wasn't perfect, no bullpen guy ever is, but he was usually very successful getting guys out in critical spots. he quickly became the set up man once Vinnie got hurt and did very well there.

Allen was another dependable guy, pitching wherever he was needed. but he was used a lot and despite him saying he wasn't tired, i feel like he was losing some of his "oomph" towards the end of the season. if the Indians were a more popular and nationally respected team, he would be a major rookie of the year candidate for sure.

Hill was a walking disaster. literally. how many times did he come in and walk people? i can't even count. there was a time period where it looked like he was getting better and turning the corner, but for the most part, he hurt us more than he helped, prompting the team to look for outside left-handed help. i did not like this guy from the start, and he didn't do much to get me to change my mind.

Shaw was a shawshanking (aka strikeout) machine. he was one of the most reliable guys we had in the pen. and after Perez lost his role as the closer, he was the leading candidate to replace him had we gone deep into the postseason.

Albers had his moments, good and bad. i remember times where he provided great long relief and also times where he struggled badly.

Rzepczynski didn't have a great reputation when we got him at the deadline, but he was remarkable out of the bullpen. the best lefty we had in there, hands down. sometimes a change in scenery is all a guy needs. definitely an A+ pickup.

if you know Tito, then you know he absolutely loves a big bullpen. there was a time when our pen was so large that guys were sitting on top of the dugout at the ballpark. guys like Barnes, Hagadone, Guilmet, Langwell, Huff, Martinez, House, Lee, Rapada, Wood, and even Tomlin were once in the mafia this year. out of this group, Lee and Hagadone were the most promising and could be named to the bullpen out of spring training next season.

Herrmann unfortunately got hurt in spring training and had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, making his Harvard Heater unavailable for the whole season.

that about wraps it up for all the players on the roster, so now it's time to talk about the main man in charge. Francona was the first big acquisition this team obtained, and he's definitely the reason we were able to recruit some of the other big name players that we did. his reputation and friendships with Antonetti and Shapiro convinced ownership to finally open up the purse strings for these players. all of this played a huge role in taking this team from 94 losses to 92 wins and a wild card spot.

but there were things Tito did that i wasn't a fan of. his lineup changed a lot, although he was very reluctant to move players out of certain spots. he likes to be loyal to players and believes in all his guys, but sometimes he should have cut the cord sooner. we started the year with Kipnis batting 2nd, Cabby 3rd, and Swisher 4th. all 3 struggled in these spots, but Tito stuck with them for as long as he could. eventually, he realized Swish couldn't bat cleanup, so he was moved to the 2 spot and Kip was pushed back to 3rd. this seemed to work a lot better. Cabby's move took the longest for Tito to make, but eventually Cabby was struggling so much that he went down into the 6th spot.

Tito had his reasoning for his lineups, but that seemed to change from day to day. i remember also in the beginning that Brantley was batting 5th, Santana 6th, and Reynolds 7th. evidently, Reynolds was 7th so that his strikeouts wouldn't hurt us. but once Santana got hot in May, he took Brantley's spot and was moved up to 5th. then a few days later, Reynolds took Brantley's "new" spot and he moved up to 6th. the reasoning was Santana could get on base with walks and Reynolds could hit home runs and drive him in. and Brantley was batting 7th now to protect Reynolds. there were also times when Reynolds' and Santana's spots were reversed in the order. i just could never keep up, and as someone who documented Brantley's daily BOP, it was very frustrating.

besides that, i had a few other problems with some of his decisions. Tito made it clear that he's not a big fan of playing small ball. but when our guys were struggling to get hits with men on base and in scoring position, we needed to do things like bunting or putting the squeeze on, and that rarely happened. i also took issue with his pitching management sometimes, such as him bringing in certain guys from the bullpen in certain spots, or just anytime he put Hill on the mound. not to mention leaving a starter in for too long, which in turn put us in danger of blowing a lead.

other than things like that, i think Francona did a tremendous job, especially with managing the bench guys and pinch hitting specific players at certain times. yes, spending money on free agents definitely helped, but simply Tito's presence and the way the players truly loved and respected him played a huge part in turning our team around. if not for John Farrell and the Boston Red Sox, i personally believe Tito would be the winner of the AL manager of the year award. he put together a recipe good enough to place us 11 games over .500 and earn us a winner-take-all playoff game battle.

it was very exciting for this team to see postseason play for the first time since 2007. but it didn't last long, and because of this, i don't need to do an extended recap of everyone's postseason performances. we got blanked in our one game wild card showdown with the Rays. some of the guys couldn't hit anything. Bourn was 0-for-4. fans could argue he was playing injured and that's the excuse for his poor play. Swisher has a reputation for disappearing in October, and this time was no different, as he went 0-for-4 too. i tell ya, if it gets to the point where having him in the postseason lineup is a liability, then the golden Ohio boy and all his fans better prepare for him to take a seat on the bench. the good of the team >>> Ohio State alum. sorry. Kipnis couldn't get a hit and was 0-for-4 as well. he was so upset about it after the game that he cried. our 1 through 3 put on a horrible performance. that a playoff team does not make. Cabrera was his typical bad self, grounding into a rally killing double play with 1 out and the bases loaded. surprisingly, Chisenhall recorded 3 hits. Santana had 2, Gomes had 2, and Brantley and Raburn each had 1 hit, but it wasn't enough since nobody could drive anyone home. some of the boys weren't at the tops of their defensive games either. Chiz had an error and there was some other sloppy infield play. it was very sad losing this game considering how happy all the boys were just a few days prior celebrating the clincher game with their champagne showers. seems silly after the fact. but, that we even made it to the postseason is very promising and something to be extremely proud of, especially when you consider how the season ended one year ago.

we did not have any guys with a real standout or career year this season. everything that this team accomplished was a group effort. the Indians displayed real teamwork, and everyone at different times pitched in to put us in the winning column 22 more times than the losing column. no guy hit 30 homers, or had 90 RBI, or won 15 games, or saved 30 games. and we still had the greatest turnaround in franchise history by winning 24 more games than in 2012. that's the epitome of teamwork. and it begs the question...

who then is the MVP of the season? it can't just be one player. there are many co-MVPs in my opinion. obviously, i think you have to include Brantley on the list because he was so clutch and finished with the highest batting average on the team. Kipnis did well enough in the middle of the season to be named one too. Santana started really coming around once his catching duties were reduced, so we can mention him. maybe even Gomes could be considered, although he didn't play a "full" season. pitching-wise, you have to give Ubaldo his props for finally resembling an ace, as well as Masterson before he got hurt. in the bullpen, i would go with Cody Allen who, again, should strongly be in the running for AL ROY.

so as you can see, it was a team effort by far. and honestly, that's a pretty exhilarating way to tally up 92 wins. every day someone else was the hero. you never knew who would come through in the clutch. it kept things interesting and made every guy feel like an important piece to the puzzle. it was a very fun season and i anticipate much more of the same in the upcoming years.

i don't care that my 78-84 record prediction was way off. i'm happy it was. this was a very different roster from a year ago. the vibe was totally different, and watching all these guys come together and gel so well was exciting. it really doesn't even matter that we lost our one playoff game. just getting there and making such a large jump up from last season was ultimately enough to declare this season a success. 92 wins. i still can't believe it. this team is definitely headed in the right direction, and i cannot wait to see what's gonna happen next year!

Go Tribe 2014!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Final #s for the Cleveland Indians 2013 Season

when looking back at all my game numbers from 2012, i get a little sad that i did not set any new records for myself this year. i wish i could have gone to more games. truthfully, there were 3 games i planned on going to that i did not make it to Cleveland for, and i'll get into the specifics of that in a minute. when i did go to games, i remained consistent with all my regular "work" that i do regarding taking photos and videos and parking lot stalking lol the Indians had a big year, even getting to play in one playoff game. they provided me with so many great memories, things i'll always treasure and that can't be measured.

for the third straight season, i did not miss so much as one out of one inning of one single game in real time. (i won't say "watched" because i have to listen to the majority of games on my computer.) i went 162 strong, plus the wild card game. i was present for every game dating back to the preseason games. i was lucky enough to be able to arrange my schedule/social life/doctor's appointments/tests around Indians games again this season. and that was a bigger task this year than ever before.

2013 was not a great year for me healthwise, and it was a struggle for me just to get to some of the games i went to this season. as you will see in a minute, i went to 8 games this season. but we paid for 10 games*. i was unable to attend 2 games due to health issues beyond my control. even one of the 8 games that i went to, i was pushing through pain that started acting up once i was already at the ballpark. and there was another game that i really wanted to get tickets to, but decided against because i wasn't up for it. i haven't had problems like this in quite a while, so it was a tough year to say the least.

now i'm going to be as real as i've ever been publicly, because i want the truth to be out there and told by ME. starting at the end of 2012, i had been having pains in parts of my stomach and back, and that continued through 2013. in early June, it got so bad that i was too ill to go to one of the June games we had bought tickets for back in March. so that's the first game i missed. and even though i was in pain physically, my emotional pain from not being at that game hurt me too, exacerbating the situation. i was upset about that for the entire day and a few days afterward. it was devastating to me.

after seeing a few different specialists, the conclusion was that i had an 8 millimeter kidney stone in my right kidney along with fluid in my left abdomen. after talking with my urologist, we decided i would undergo a lithotripsy procedure to break the stone. i had this done a week before i was supposed to go to a game in July, to make up for the June game i was too sick to go to.

well i was not at all prepared for how lithotripsy was going to affect my body. the Indians had a pretty intense schedule after my shock therapy (as it's also known) and i was really pushing myself hard. they played a long doubleheader requiring me to stay up until the AM hours so i wouldn't miss any of it. and i couldn't sleep in that weekend because they had early afternoon games both days. this just so happened to coincide with the end of the month, when i had to write up my monthly Brantley blog as well. consequently, the lack of proper sleep really took its toll on my already weakened body. i was still too drained to go to the July game one week after lithotripsy, and once again had to miss another game. i was so angry and distraught over this one. and nobody had any clue about this because i kept it all to myself.

there was actually another game in June that i really wanted to go to after i missed the first one, but i still wasn't sure what was going on with me at that point. i didn't want to get tickets again and then have to cancel. so i did the smart thing and decided to pass on it. had everything gone right, i would have totaled 11 games for the year, same as in 2012.

i know i should just be happy that i went to any of the games that i went to, but i can't help but be disappointed. i've fought through health problems before, but what was going on with me this year was too much to fight. sadly, i recently discovered that my kidney stone did break, but it's still in my kidney, now in smaller pieces. idk when i may have to deal with those again, but i hope it's not during next Tribe season.

now here are my 2013 #s:

i went to 8 games this year*, including that crazy rain delay game that went until 2:53 am.
--compare this to 11 games last year and i really disappointed myself.

i took 4809 pictures
--including during batting practice, warm-ups, the actual game, and of course parking lot.

of those pictures, 853 were of Brantley
--3 of the 8 games i went to, he didn't play in, hence a severe decrease in photos from 2012.

i took 199 videos
--down 101 from last year.

other mentionables:

--i got 3 baseballs

--i got 16 autographs
     --1 from Brantley

--i did not get my picture taken with any players this year.

now let me make a few comments about the autographs. it was very hard to get autographs before games this year. usually when the gates open, a large crowd of kids would fill up Rows A and B along the 3rd baseline in an attempt to get player autos during warm ups. these kids would scream every guy's name and believe it or not, that helped bring some guys over to sign. this year, the on-field staff guys and ushers were kicking kids out of Row A a good half hour before the players even came out to warm up. so, unless you had a ticket for a seat in Row A, you weren't allowed there. normally, there aren't a bunch of kids sitting in Row A. so when the players finally came out, there weren't many people in Row A screaming for them to come sign. sometimes players would see a couple kids and go over to a certain section and sign for a few minutes, but it was no longer easy to get players to come over. i didn't get any autographs before games this year. everything i got was in the parking lot. and not every player will sign after games in the lot, so it's just going to be very difficult to get autographs from now on. fuckin sucks.

also, because i did not go for BPX this season, i didn't get the opportunity to have my picture taken with any players. nobody took pictures with fans after games in the parking lot at any of the games i went to either.

and between game tickets, food, souvenirs, merchandise, and hotel costs for the overnighter trip, we spent just over $2500. the same amount we spent in 2012 and 2011. that's kinda crazy to me. however, had the Indians made it to the ALCS, then that would have added another $611 to the total. i tried, i certainly did my part lol

despite my displeasure in not acquiring more of the above, i still consider myself very lucky to have gotten everything that i did. i will cherish these things forever, and as always, i will use them to help me get through my offseason withdrawal. thank you to all the Cleveland Indians for bringing me joy during a year that i otherwise would rather just forget.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wrapping Up Brantley's 2013 Season

i'm going to do this Michael Brantley wrap up blog similarly to how i did it last year. again, i will link all the past monthly blogs here if anyone needs a refresher: April, May, June, July, August, September, and Postseason October.

now for the last time, here are Michael's final #s for the 2013 season:

Michael had a total of 611 plate appearances and 556 at bats in 151 games. in total, he had 158 hits, 119 singles, 26 doubles, 3 triples, 10 home runs, 73 RBI, 8 sac flies, 66 runs scored, 40 walks, 1 intentional walk, 4 hit by pitches, 17 stolen bases, 4 caught stealing, 3 sac bunts, 67 strikeouts, 42 first at bat hits, 222 left on base, 257 putouts, 11 assists, and 1 double play.

2013 batting average: .284 (158-556)

OBP: .332

SLG: .396

OPS: .728

overall #s while playing the outfield: 257 putouts, 11 assists, 1 double play, 0 errors, 1.000 fielding percentage (1297.1 innings, 151 games)

Michael played in 151 of 162 games. he had a hit in 99 of 151 games* that he played and reached base safely in 115 games, 14 straight in April. (*he did not have any official at bats in 3 of those games because he was subbed in defensively in late innings.)

Michael started and played left field in 144 games. of those 144 games, he completed 143 in left field. he was moved to center field for the final 4 innings of 1 game. he was a defensive substitute in 7 games, playing a total of 16 innings, all in left field. he came in to PH in late innings in 4 games. after he PH'd, he remained in those 4 games as the left fielder and played a total of 10 innings. he had 8 complete games off and missed 3 games due to the birth of his baby. and for the first time, he did not have any notable injuries this season.

Michael provided another season of highlights for himself and his fans. there were many exciting things that happened for Michael all through the year. he set career highs, he accomplished things he's never accomplished before in the big leagues, he played phenomenal defense in left field, and he beat an Indians record that was set back in 1966.

for the second year in a row, Michael finished the season with the highest batting average on the team. but the road wasn't easy. Michael had his struggles and some slumps, causing his average to alternate month-to-month, going up and then going down a bit. this is evidenced by his .279 batting average in the first half of the season versus .291 in the second. it was a close race for the title, but when all was said and done, Michael beat out Jason Kipnis by 5 ten thousandths of a point. while Michael did not pass his BA from last year, .284 is still very respectable. and when compared to the rest of the league, he had the 45th highest batting average, coming in right behind former Indian Shin-Soo Choo, oddly enough.

this season, Michael made a case for replacing his Dr. Smooth nickname with Mr. Clutch. he hit .375 (45-for-120) with runners in scoring position, 3rd highest in the American League. he also hit .364 (24-for-66) with two outs and runners in scoring position. these RISP numbers were the highest on the team. part of his success in these situations comes from the fact that he can hit both left-handed pitchers and right-handed pitchers well. Michael's batting average this year against lefties was .276 (48-for-174), while his batting average against righties was .288 (110-for-382). no matter who he was facing, you just always felt confident that he could come through. he had 14 go-ahead hits this season. and when Michael got 2 or more hits in a game, the Indians went 25-17.

additionally, Michael ended the year hitting .338 (27-for-80) in a 1-2 count, .221 (19-for-86) in a 2-2 count, and .293 (12-for-41) in a 3-2 count. sometimes when Michael was slumping he worked quickly in the count. even though that bugged me, it seemed to work out okay for him. he hit .345 (20-for-58) when he swung at the very first pitch he saw, .281 (16-for-57) in an 0-1 count, .348 (24-for-69) in a 1-0 count, and .311 (19-for-61) in a 1-1 count. whatever works lol

Michael had some modest hitting streaks at different times throughout the year, but it was his 11-game hitting streak in September that got everybody talking. he was on fire, batting .467 (21-for-45) with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 10 RBI, 6 runs scored, 2 walks and 2 stolen bases during his streak. this helped earn him a .345 batting average for the month of September, 3rd highest in the American League.

also during this hitting streak, Michael recorded 4 straight 3-hit games with at least 1 RBI. prior to this, he only had 4 straight games with 2 hits and 1 RBI, so this feat was a career best streak for him. in addition, Michael became just the 5th major league player to have 4 straight games of 3+ hits and 1+ RBI since the year 2000.

my proudest moment of Michael's season just might have been when he set a new club record in August. (relinking that blog here.) it wasn't really being hyped up by any media members but i was well aware that the day was coming and had my countdown going. when Michael broke Rocky Colavito's record of 212 consecutive games played in the outfield without committing an error, i was elated. this new statistic is going to be in the Indians books for a very long time, and knowing that Michael has already made this kind of mark in his professional career with the Indians has me beaming every time i really think about it. not to mention when the 2013 regular season came to a close, Michael had built up that record and his career high to 245 consecutive games in the outfield without an error. and it's even more exciting knowing that he can keep adding to his record next year.

i also cannot forget about Michael playing in his very first major league postseason game. this was such a special day in Michael's life. it's what he's been working towards and dreaming of for a long time. in spring training, he mentioned that the Indians would make the playoffs this year. whether that was just a professional athlete's standard way of optimistic preseason thinking, or if Michael possibly has some sort of clairvoyant ability, he was right. while the Tribe's postseason play was brief, Michael still managed to record his first ever postseason hit. and i couldn't have been happier for him.

Michael remained under the radar for most of the year despite another great season with some record breaking numbers. it's amazing how that can happen. he is the ultimate quiet storm. and because there were no big standout players on the team, Michael's name was even tossed out there as a possible MVP candidate. just a mention of him for that particular accolade is one hell of an honor and it made me very proud.

now let's compare his 2013 numbers to his 2012 & 2011 numbers.


Batting Average


Plate Appearances
At Bats
Games Played

Home Runs
Sac Flies
Runs Scored
Intentional Walks
Hit By Pitches
Stolen Bases
Caught Stealing
Sac Bunts
First At Bat Hits

Double Plays
Fielding %

*if he hadn't played injured, i calculated a .281 BA
**i did not document this number at that time
red denotes he did better last year in that category
blue denotes a career high

i kept the 2011 column in there but i'm mainly just going to compare this season to last season. as i stated above, Michael set some career highs for himself this year. however, he also underperformed in some categories. he played 2 more games this year than last year and had a few more plate appearances and at bats. this was his first full year with absolutely no injury issues to speak of, thus proving he is not injury prone. thank god lol i'm going to start with discussing all the good stuff he accomplished in 2013.

the first category Michael set a new career high in was home runs. he originally set a new high in home runs in August and ended the year with 10 total. and for the first time in his career, he had not one but two multi-home run games in June and July. the initial time he did this was very exciting. i never imagined he would do it twice in one season, mostly because he's not known as a home run hitter. some of the power hitters on the team didn't even accomplish this once, so it's definitely noteworthy.

jumping around in the batting order may have helped Michael set a few other career highs. i had to wait until the last month of the season for it, but he acquired an RBI career high in September. he drove in 13 runs and set a record for himself at 73. this year brought Michael a career high in runs scored as well. fun fact: the Indians were 40-14 when Michael scored a run. it's good that aside from his 10 home runs (where he drove himself in 10 times), other players brought him home 56 times. it reveals that the team is pretty well-rounded and we have a lot of dependable players now, especially lower in the lineup. for usually hitting 5th or lower, i think this was an acceptable number for Michael.

Michael also recorded a career high in stolen bases, yet 17 stolen bases still seems a bit low to me. we do have a lot of base stealers on the team now, but considering Michael was very speedy in the minors, he can probably do better than this. he hit a lot of singles this year, and 2nd base wasn't occupied every time he got to 1st, so i do wish he had attempted to steal more. however, i like that he was only caught stealing 4 times. i think 20-25 steals would be a better average for him. he should set his sights higher for next year. actually, i know he will.

the Indians desperately needed a solid force in left field, and Michael was finally it for them this season. he made some nice running and diving grabs, and he set another career high with 11 outfield assists. also in 151 games, Michael did not have any errors in the outfield, an improvement over his 1 error in 144 games in center field last year. he was the only regular position player to finish his season with no errors.

as much as i would have enjoyed it, sadly Michael did not improve in every facet of the game. he had 1 less triple than his last 2 seasons. i'm not overly concerned about this. i know if Michael is on 2nd base and the guy behind him gets a hit, 9 out of 10 times, he's going to score. he'll never be a high triples guy. and that's okay as long as he continues getting to 2nd base, either by hitting doubles outright or advancing himself to 2nd with steals.

one thing i AM concerned with are Michael's doubles, or lack thereof. 26 compared to 37 last year isn't good. i can't lie, i was expecting more. at least as many as he hit in 2012 would have sufficed. i think people will agree with me on this. he's got speed, and i want to see him use it more to stretch some hits into doubles next season. i know he's capable of that.

i also have to admit i was a little saddened when Michael passed his strikeout total from last year. it wasn't like he had a lot more at bats this season, so i hope next year he can get back down into the 50s again. if it's any consolation, most of his strikeouts were swinging (42) as opposed to looking (25). and we had many players on this team with way more strikeouts than Michael. hell, 67 could be a goal for some guys.

another area that Michael did not excel in was walks. i don't care about the intentional walks because players really don't have much control over when those are gonna be issued. it's the regular walks that really matter. there were times when Michael struggled this year and was not working the count, so it's no surprise that his walks went down from 2012. but this is not acceptable. he once was very patient at the plate and he needs to get back to doing that, even during the times when he's struggling for hits. combine his decrease in walks with his increase in strikeouts, and that ratio is also not a good number. hopefully next year the opposite happens.

in 2 more games played, his hits this year were almost equal to last year. i don't have that much of a problem with his 2013 batting average, even though i wished there could have been an increase from last season. if his BA was low and he wasn't getting hits or driving in runs, then there would be an issue. but he still had some superior numbers and was one of the most reliable hitters on the team, so in that regard i can't really complain. but i know others will.

there will always be that fan base who thinks Michael is just mediocre, and much like some critics complained that the Indians only made the playoffs because of their easy end of the year schedule, some people will say Michael is overrated and only finished at .284 because he got lucky with his hitting streak in September. i don't want to hear this nonsense. if anything, Michael is underrated. yes, he did have a hot streak. so what? you can't take that away from him. there were a couple weeks this season where he bat atypically bad, so having that hot streak in September just balanced things out and put him right around where he should be. he earned every stat he racked up, fair and square. if it was so easy, everyone would have strung together a hitting streak for themselves. and that wasn't the case.

because Michael's overall batting average was a little lower this year, his OBP, SLG, and OPS numbers were all lower, too. while i'm okay with his BA, i'm kind of dissatisfied with these numbers. i think his OBP should be at least .350 if not more, and his SLG should be in the .400s for sure. according to statistician Bill James, an above average player has an OPS between .767 and .833. so there's definitely room for improvement here. there's always room for improvement somewhere, cause no athlete's perfect.

before this season began, i blogged about what i expected and hoped to see from Michael in 2013. here is what i predicted:

-- first, i really hope this is the year that Michael plays a full season without injury. no more freak injuries in August or September that cause him to miss games or be shut down sooner than the year ends, please.

-- batting average wise, i would love to see him finish the year close to .300. i'd be very happy with a BA between .295-.300. yeah i'm probably aiming a little high but i have confidence that he can do it. he's been getting better and better every year, and i really think this could finally be attainable for him. with our new offseason additions, i don't know if he'll finish the year with the highest BA on the team again, but he should still be one of our top and most reliable hitters.

--i think he can hit at least 8 home runs. and despite those who want him to hit for more power, i think this is fine. he'll make up for it by hitting plenty of doubles.

--Michael should have another high RBI total batting in the middle of the order for the year. i'll predict/expect at least 75.

--stolen bases: 15

--runs scored: 60

--doubles: 50

--walks: 50

--fielding percentage: .998

so like last year, i was right about some things and i was wrong about some things.

--Michael finally did play a complete season without any injuries. although he did miss 3 games in September because his wife went into labor, he didn't need to be shut down or on any restrictions before the year ended.

--this is a good segue for a quick rant. if i was a baseball wife, and i understood the fan base's desperation for a good team to be repping their city, and i knew my husband was an important part of that, i would be smart about things and not allow myself to get pregnant at a time where i'd be giving birth during baseball season. i'm serious. i would take one for the team and not be selfish. i also definitely would not be leaving my husband and going to my hometown to have our baby. different strokes i suppose. good thing i'll never have this problem haha

--i didn't do so well with the batting average hopes. i aimed high because i believed he could do it. and had he not endured those couple slumps, maybe he would have finished more around .290. he worked very hard in September just to get to .284. that's not bad, but i still think he hasn't reached his full potential yet. and he did finish with the highest average on the team again, so that's awesome.

--Michael's 10 home runs surpassed my prediction of 8, thanks to the 2 multi-homer games he had. that was really good for him and i think 10 is a nice number to strive towards every year now.

--i was SO close with my 75 RBI prediction, as he tallied 73. maybe i would have been dead-on had he not missed those 3 games for the birth of his baby. grrr... lol

--i predicted 15 stolen bases and he stole 17 in 21 attempts. so i was close again there.

--i predicted 60 runs scored and he scored 66 runs. sometimes underestimating is a smart strategy haha

--i was very wrong regarding the doubles. i mentioned it a few times during the year that i wanted him to hit more doubles and he never really did. i don't think i'll be predicting 50 again next season lol

--i was also wrong about the walks. when you go through periods of not working the count, it's kind of hard to draw walks.

--his fielding percentage was perfect. though i would never predict him to play errorless ball for a full season, i certainly welcomed it. that's a difficult task to accomplish and i'm proud he did it.

i feel the need to touch on one more thing i said in my preseason blog, which was this:

i also want to throw in here that if Bourn doesn't turn out to be the amazing leadoff man that most people keep saying he is, after a month into the season, they better think about swapping him out, just as was done with my Michael after a month last season. #eyeroll #stillbitter #stupidManny lol

as if right on cue, Bourn did not turn out to be a very good leadoff man for our Tribe this season. and of course, there was no consideration of moving him despite his problems. i will dig more into Bourn's season in my Tribe wrap up blog, but as far as me being upset about Brantley not getting the chance to become the player that Bourn is, i feel silly for ever even worrying about that lol in some aspects, i DON'T want Brantley to be like Bourn. my Michael is going to do just fine, no matter which position in the OF he's at or how far down in the lineup he goes. the same cannot be said of certain other players, which makes Michael more valuable imo.

which leads me to the last topic that i want to cover. Michael is now eligible for arbitration, which means it's time to increase that paycheck, and i am very interested in seeing what kind of cash he's gonna rake in. his surge during that hitting streak towards the end of the season may have added some money to the conversation. there was concern on my end, and by a few sports writers as well, that because Michael was moved to left field, he would not get as much money as if he were still a center fielder. but the fact that he dominated out there has got to count for something. he was the only position player to play errorless defense this year. there is no better left fielder on this team or even in the farm system right now. when Michael's agents are negotiating his new contract, this point needs to be stressed. repeatedly. until the front office really gets it. they should go in asking for 3, and hope to come out of it at 2.5 million, with increases after 2014 of course. 2.5 i think is still low compared to what the rest of the (older) outfielders are making and considering the verity that Michael did better than all of them this year. but he's still young and somewhat unproven that he can keep up his good play, so he can't get too greedy at this point. he certainly can't go charging in demanding 10 million, although that would be so badass lol

overall, i'd say this was a successful season for Michael. he played a full healthy season, set records, and was perfect defensively. he did what was asked of him and then some. he never complained, made waves, or brought unnecessary attention to the ballclub. he was a true team player and i'm happy to get to witness him beginning a role as a team leader now as well.

the next step for Michael will be trying to figure out a way to maintain in all the categories that he did exceptionally well in this year. he's gotta continue to put up those high numbers while he's young, before he gets older and his performance starts to decline. i think this is a challenge for every professional athlete out there--not just to try and keep getting better and achieving new highs, but to sustain the highs for as long as you can once you've accomplished them. Michael's about to embark upon his peak years, so i don't anticipate a big reduction anywhere any time soon. and i feel so lucky that i'm able to watch this all unfold right before my eyes while he's a member of my Cleveland Indians. i've seen him grow from a rookie to a regular to a vital piece of the roster. i can't wait to find out what he's going to do next and what new records he might set in 2014 and beyond.

i took a step up this year in my Michael documentation. i kept extremely detailed game records in a notebook that is very well organized, if i do say so myself. in the future, after his career with the Tribe is over, i might try and send him my notebook(s) for him to look back on and be impressed by, but for right now, all these analyzations and break downs i did shall remain in my possession. being the #1 fan of a player requires unconditional support, and involves not only praising him when warranted, but also criticizing when criticisms are needed. i do all of that, and maybe some day he will discover it.

once again, i have to thank Michael for making this an enjoyable season to document. he continues to make me proud with all his achievements. i hope he has a fun, relaxing offseason with his family and new baby. he definitely deserves it. and i will see him next year on April 4.

for even more Brantley details, be sure to read my other blogs:

Brantley's 2013 Game-by-Game Numbers & Notes

Brantley's 2013 Batting Order Position & LF/CF/PH #s