Thursday, October 30, 2014

Brantley Nominated For Three 2014 GIBBYs

it was announced today, on October 30, that Michael Brantley has been nominated for 3 GIBBY awards for his spectacular 2014 season! he's a candidate for the MLB MVP, hitter, and breakout hitter categories!

photo cropped off

the GIBBYs are Major League Baseball's Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards. these trophies are the ultimate honors of the award season. the A-Listers in baseball receive these awards based on votes by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at, and the Society for American Baseball Research.

fans can vote as much as they want through November 21 at 11:59 pm EST. all the GIBBY winners will be announced in a TV special on MLB Network and on Saturday, December 6 at 9 pm EST.

please vote for Michael in the categories of MLB MVP, top hitter, and breakout hitter. there are 9 other players up against Michael in each of these categories, so he'll need our help to win. this is the easiest thing to vote for, you don't even need to sign up for anything and there are no limitations. just keep clicking "vote" as much as you want. VOTE FOR MICHAEL HERE.

congratulations on the 3 noms and good luck, Michael! =D

Saturday, October 25, 2014

And The Winner of the 2014 AL Hank Aaron Award Is...

...not Michael Brantley =(

today was finally the day that the 2014 Hank Aaron Award winners were revealed. unfortunately, Michael, the Cleveland Indians' nominee this year, did not win. on October 25, Los Angeles Angel's Mike Trout was named the winner of the American League Hank Aaron Award. (Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton was named the National League Award winner as well.) Trout was supposed to be presented with the award by Hank Aaron himself before Game 4 of the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. however, for reasons i don't know, Trout was not there.

the Hank Aaron Award is given to the top offensive player in each league every year. Trout, with his .287 batting average, 173 hits, 39 doubles, 9 triples, 36 home runs, 111 RBI, 115 runs, 83 walks, 184 strikeouts, and .939 OPS, is the best hitter in the American League this year according to fans and a panel of Hall of Famers.

this is sad news for the Brantley fans and voters. but i want to thank everyone who voted for Michael through my blog and everyone who shared my blog to spread the word. you guys are awesome! the Brantley support is real. go team Brant! =D

Friday, October 24, 2014

Brantley Finishes 2nd For Baseball Bloggers Alliance's 2014 AL Stan Musial Award

this must be baseball award week because it was announced today, on October 24, that Michael finished 2nd for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance's 2014 American League Stan Musial Award! congratulations on another new career first!

okay this is one award that i was completely unfamiliar with, so i did my due diligence in research to provide my readers with a little background. the Stan Musial Award is voted on by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, which is constructed similarly to the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and goes to the best overall player of the season. BBA is made up of baseball bloggers for most of the 30 MLB teams and general baseball fan writers. it was formed in the fall of 2009 and currently contains 215 blogs.

when several blogs cover the same major league team, those blogs are grouped into "chapters," and only 2 votes from one chapter are counted towards the results. the general fan writing is also grouped into chapters and they have 2 votes each as well, however they don't have to vote for both leagues. so how exactly do these chapters get to vote then, you ask? by one of two ways--either each chapter has a representative who gets the ballots for voting, or a group ballot is posted.

the BBA voting results generally come out before MLB's official awards. but over the past 5 years, the BBA winners have been mostly the same as those from the BBWAA's results.

here are the complete results, totaling 870 points, for the 2014 American League Stan Musial Award:

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels - 195*
Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians - 105
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays - 74
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians - 67
Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers - 66
Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics - 65
Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox - 51
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners - 47
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals - 45
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros - 44
Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners - 35
Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers - 29
Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers - 12
Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles - 9
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers - 8
Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles - 7
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays/Detroit Tigers - 4
Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins - 3
Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins - 2
Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox/Oakland Athletics - 2

*Trout received all 15 first place votes
(a quick calculation shows that a 1st place vote equals 13 points for this award)

for the 3rd year in a row, Mike Trout won the AL Stan Musial Award. he basically won in a landslide, too, despite 2014 being his worst season in the majors. Trout's bWAR of 7.9 clearly weighed heavily in the decision, not to mention this being the first year that the Angels made the playoffs since he's been on the team.

my boy Michael placed 2nd with 105 points. he was the only other player on this list besides Trout to get over 100 points. good job, Michael! i like these results WAY better than Sporting News' by the way lol ;D

also, congrats to Corey Kluber, the other member of the Indians on the list, who finished 4th with a respectable 67 points.

what list of voting results will Michael appear on next? keep checking back, as i'll continue to blog all the awards i read about.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Brantley Named Finalist For Rawlings' 2014 AL LF Gold Glove Award

finally, this is the career first i've been waiting for! today, on October 23, Rawlings Sports named Michael Brantley as one of three finalists for the 2014 American League Gold Glove Award for left fielders. he's up against Kansas City's Alex Gordon and Boston's Yoenis Cespedes. Michael's teammate, Yan Gomes, was also a finalist for this year's AL catcher's award. no Indian has won a Gold Glove since 2008, when Grady Sizemore won the AL CF Gold Glove.

June 4 vs. Boston Red Sox
September 7 vs. Chicago White Sox
September 8 @ Houston Astros (photos courtesy of The Plain Dealer)

the Gold Glove is given to players annually based on their fielding performances. managers and coaches of each league are the voters for this award. however, managers cannot vote for their own players. after reading more about the Gold Glove, i found an additional factor that weighs into the final decision--sabermetrics, my favorite. the Society for American Baseball Research supplies a sabermetric statistic which counts for 25% of the vote.

this season, Michael played both left and center field. he finished with a career high 12 outfield assists, 2 double plays, 1 error, 271 putouts, and .996 fielding percentage in 1304.1 total innings as an outfielder. his 12 OF assists were tied for 4th most among American League outfielders. Cespedes had the most with 16. additionally, Michael played a franchise record 247 consecutive games in the outfield without an error, a streak that ended on April 2, 2014. that error occurred while Michael was in center field, i might add. so if we spotlight just his left field numbers, he's got 10 outfield assists, 2 double plays, 0 errors, 165 putouts, and a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 931.1 innings.

let's also not hide the fact that a player's offensive skills play a part in these awards as well. Michael's .327 batting average was the 3rd highest BA in the major leagues and 1st among major league outfielders when all was said and done. plus, he was the only player in the majors with a minimum of 40 doubles, 20 home runs, 90 RBI, 90 runs, 20 stolen bases, and a .300 BA.

how about we compare some numbers of all 3 finalists:
Brantley: .327 BA/200 H/20 HR/97 RBI/45 2B/94 R/23 SB/52 BB/56 SO in 156 games
Gordon: .266 BA/150 H/19 HR/74 RBI/34 2B/87 R/12 SB/65 BB/126 SO in 156 games
Cespedes: .260 BA/156 H/22 HR/100 RBI/36 2B/89 R/7 SB/35 BB/128 SO in 152 games

now here are the finalists' fielding #s in LEFT FIELD only:
Brantley: 10 assists/0 errors/2 double plays/1.000 fielding % in 931.1 innings and 107 games
Gordon: 8 assists/2 errors/0 double plays/.994 fielding % in 1372.2 innings and 156 games
Cespedes: 16 assists/5 errors/0 double plays/.979 fielding % in 1090.2 innings and 125 games

going off those numbers alone, Michael should win this in a landslide. sadly, with the way the Gold Glove is awarded to outfielders now, those 373 innings that Michael played in center this season probably take him out of the running. (which makes it mind-boggling that Michael wasn't a finalist last year when he not only played all but 4 innings in left field, but also had 11 assists, 1 double play, and 0 errors all season.) and who's to blame for that? Michael Bourn. this guy has been screwing Michael over ever since we got him. Michael's way too much of a nice guy and a professional (as he should be) to say anything bad about Bourn. and that's where i come in. i'm neither of those things so i'm going to attack his ass.

i have been anti-Bourn from the minute that signing was announced in February 2013. i knew it would push Michael into left field and take him out of his preferred place in center and of course i wasn't going to support that. Bourn has been a terrible leadoff man, and he's done absolutely nothing to make my rants and complaints about him look bad. instead i look like a Nostradamus. eff that guy. he's a contract nightmare and too injury prone for my taste. all those steals he was supposed to get disappeared once he started having all these new hamstring problems. ultimately his inability to stay healthy and play center will be a huge reason why Michael does not win this award. grrr.

then there are the sabermetrics out there that some fans think are the freakin' bible of baseball. i debated whether or not to include the UZR/150 (the number of plays made in a player's defensive zone per 150 games) in my blog because i once read that that fangraphs stat should be avoided whenever possible because it is very misleading. yet, i fear it will be a determinant of this year's Gold Glove winner, in which case Michael is f*cked. of 7 qualifying American League left fielders, Michael is last with a -10.1 rating. Gordon ranks first with a 22.6 rating and Cespedes is second with 14. i'm puzzled about how Michael's zone rating could be so bad because he's not a bad defender. is it his fault if hitters hit a lot of bloop singles into shallow left field that he just can't get to and/or opts to play off the bounce? that doesn't mean he's a defensive liability. sigh.

to know that these advanced stats continue to label Michael as a horrible outfielder regardless of what position he plays...i just can't with this again. there is no better OF on our team and he's now one of the best in baseball. anyone who still believes otherwise needs to watch Michael play every inning of every game in a season instead of basing their opinions solely on looking at specific numbers that don't even come close to telling his whole story. remember, if Michael wasn't in Cleveland, then the threat of Ryan Raburn spiking more balls in the left field corner would become a very real possibility. (i've never seen Corey Kluber display that kind of pissed off emotion in a game before, btw. but Michael's not good? smh)

another strong argument against Michael for the Gold Glove is the fact that Alex Gordon is the reigning champ (3 years running) and he had another great defensive season. plus, he's playing on a team that not only made it to the postseason, but is also currently in the World Series. but i'm gonna go the other way and say because of that, i feel like he shouldn't get the GG this year. Gordon could potentially be a World Series MVP candidate. let him have that and give my boy the Gold Glove lol

so congratulations to Michael on being a GG finalist! he's certainly earned it and it is a true honor just to be nominated. but it's not looking like he'll emerge as the winner based on the criteria. honestly, i'll be stunned if he does win. no matter what happens, i am just so happy that Michael is finally getting some much deserved Gold Glove consideration. no, that's not true. you know i'm gonna bitch if he doesn't win this lol

the winner of this award, and all other 2014 Gold Glove Awards, will be announced on Tuesday, November 4, at 7 pm EST on ESPN2. i will post a follow up blog to this after i find out who won. good luck, Michael!

Brantley Finishes 7th in Sporting News' 2014 Player Of The Year Vote

today, on October 23, it was announced that Michael Brantley finished 7th in the Sporting News 2014 Player of the Year vote! this is still another new career first for Michael. congrats!

SN's POTY is voted on by major league players from both the American League and National League. 244 players voted this year. Sporting News established this award in 1936.

here are the complete POTY voting results:

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (76)
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (73)
3. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (32)
4. Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers (22)
5. Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox (16)
5. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (16)
7. Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians (2)
7. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (2)
7. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers (2)
10. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (1)
10. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays/ Detroit Tigers (1)
10. Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics (1)

okay, you know i'm going in hard about these results. first off, i don't think pitchers should be considered in this kind of vote. what pitchers do and what hitters do is very different and their awards should be differentiated as such. (which is also why i've never liked the idea of pitchers receiving the MVP award.)

secondly, how is it possible that the guy with the 3rd best batting average in the league and the only player this season to have at least a .300 BA, 40 doubles, 20 HR, 90 RBI, 90 runs, and 20 SB placed in a 3-way tie for 7th? TWO votes? out of 244? i'm going to assume that the 2 votes he got came from Cleveland Indians players, which if true makes me sad because i thought Michael was finally getting respected around the league by his peers. he got voted to the All Star game by his peers, but only 2 players voted for him for player of the year? something's not adding up there, literally.

third, and much like my first point, i don't think rookies should be included in this list either. they get their own entire category with ROTY. so stay outta this one for crying out loud.

and look at some of the other players and where they placed in this vote. i mean, it's pretty laughable. and laugh i will do because this is a vote that's not at all worth getting upset over. it's an honor that Michael was deemed good enough to even place on this list. but when he finishes higher in MLB's MVP vote, we will all know that this SN list was wrong =P

congratulations again, though, Michael! you kicked ass this season! =D

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Brantley Named To Sporting News' 2014 American League All Star Team!

today, on October 22, Michael Brantley achieved yet another new career first when he was named to the Sporting News' 2014 American League All Star Team!

photo courtesy of SN's website

the Sporting News AL All Star team is picked by a panel of 20 American League, aka Junior Circuit, general managers and assistant general managers. the decisions for this year's teams were made in late September. SN has been selecting All Star teams since the 1920s.

Michael is the first Cleveland Indian chosen for this honor since 2011, when shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was selected. in addition, Michael is the first Indians outfielder named to SN's team since Grady Sizemore made it in 2008. Michael also joins starting pitcher Cliff Lee (2008), starter C.C. Sabathia (2007), right fielder Juan Gonzalez (2001), and 1st baseman Jim Thome (2001) as the only other Tribe players to be part of a Sporting News AL All Star team since 2001.

the rest of the AL team this year includes the following players: White Sox 1st baseman Jose Abreu, Astros 2nd baseman Jose Altuve, Angels shortstop Erick Aybar, Rangers 3rd baseman Adrian Beltre, Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez, Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, and Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances.

congratulations, Michael, on this postseason accolade!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hoynsie: 90-72, wild card

D-Man: 85-77, no wild card

Terry: 85-77, no wild card

Bud: 88-74, no wild card

Z-Mise: 88-74, wild card

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

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

--a full season with Salazar in the starting rotation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Tribe 2015!

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

Paul Hoynes and Terry Pluto--my Tribe bible

Jordan Bastian--my stats bloodhound

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

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

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I Now Have 11 Michael Brantley Autographs

during last year's offseason, i wrote a blog detailing exactly how i acquired all 10 of my Michael Brantley autographs from 2010 through 2013. if you want to (re-)read that, click here. this year, i only got 1 autograph from Michael, which brings my grand total up to 11. now let me tell you how. (and since this was the only auto of the year for me to blog about, i can go a little long with the description lol)

my 11th Brantley autograph didn't come until the 2014 season ended on September 28. after the game against the Tampa Bay Rays, i went to the players parking lot, like i always do. i attempted to get Michael's autograph in the parking lot 3 other times this season, and i was taking no chances this day. i went straight over to the gate where his parking spot is. i gave my mother one of my unsigned Brantley baseball cards to try and get signed while i hung onto a photo of my last birthday cake--a picture of myself and Michael from BPX 2012--for him to sign. Michael got a new parking spot mid-season, by the way. he took over Justin Masterson's spot in the back corner, which makes him much more accessible to fans now. as a result, he has been signing after games more than i've ever seen him sign before. however, he doesn't sign for everyone, just a handful. and the 3 previous times i was there that he signed, i couldn't get him to sign for me before he left. until this day.

but before we get to the autograph, here's a little more pertinent information. i went to the September 27 game as well, so i knew from then that Josh Tomlin was parking in Michael's spot. i figured Michael had already shipped his truck back to Florida and he was carpooling with Tomlin for the final week of the year. after i failed at getting Michael's autograph Saturday night, this one guy who's a "parking lot regular" informed everyone that Michael was gonna go straight to the airport after Sunday's finale game and that he wouldn't be signing prior to leaving. i wasn't buying that, though. it's possible this guy just said that in hopes of deterring some fans from coming back the next day. unfortunately for him, he had no idea who he was dealing with regarding me lol #number1fan =D

okay now back to the story. i was standing near the area where Michael was signing the night before, and my mother was a couple feet to the right of me. Michael had this season finale game off, so we didn't have to wait long for him to come out. he wheeled his suitcase down to Tomlin's truck and one of the ballpark workers followed him to the truck, too. this is when more fans started crowding around the gate and screaming his name for him to sign. he was literally 1 foot in front of us and some people just kept screaming. after putting the suitcase in the bed of Tomlin's truck, Michael opened the 2nd passenger side door and started moving the muscle milk that was there into the bed as well. he was clearly in the middle of something, but the fans wouldn't shut up, so i yelled, "he can hear you!" which got some laughs. the worker guy was also helping move the boxes of milk and Michael was telling him that he was the one who recommended the milk to Tomlin. then one of the boxes that the worker guy picked up ripped and fell to the ground.

soon after, Tomlin arrived at his truck. he was going to get in the driver's side but some fans called out to him so he went to sign for a few people. Michael continued talking with the worker guy behind the truck for a minute and then he came back around the passenger side. everyone started trying to push their way to the front of the gate and stick their hands through it. somehow, the "parking lot regular" squeezed his way up next to the right side of me. and everyone who was already right up front, myself included, got squished.

Michael began signing like a foot to my right, and i shoved my arms through that fence as far as they would go. but after signing for 5 people or so, he moved further down to my right and i just knew he wouldn't be coming back towards me. so in a whisper i said, "he's not coming back here." the regular guy said, "yes he will, just relax." he had been telling people to relax from the second Michael started signing, btw, like he was in charge. i wasn't not relaxed, i was defeated. and that guy was pissing me off because he got something signed by Michael on Saturday night. why was he even back there? who does he think he is, ME? lol =P

a few seconds later, all the sudden i hear my mom say, "someone is pushing down on my head." my first reaction was to go into defense-mode and scream "get off my mom!" and push on the guy who was pushing on my mom. except i couldn't move because i was still being pressed up against the gate even though Michael wasn't signing anywhere close to me at that point. but then immediately after that i thought, yes! her being vocal about being "hurt," whether real, exaggerated, or a made up ploy for attention, could potentially make Michael feel bad that someone was being harmed--ultimately because of him--and consequently give her an autograph. (why didn't i think of that?!) as i'm thinking both these things, i saw Michael look up from whatever he was signing at that moment and say, "can you move back, please?" and he kinda motioned at the big guy standing behind my mom. that guy claimed he, too, was being pushed and tried to excuse and dismiss his behavior.

right after that, Michael signed for my mother (but i couldn't see who he was signing for at that time). he only signed for a few more people before getting into Tomlin's truck. once the crowd cleared out, that's when i met back up with my mom and she handed me the signed baseball card while recapping what had just happened.

Tomlin and Michael didn't leave right away because they were sandwiched in the parking spot by other cars and had to wait for the parking attendant to move them. so i took a few (crappy) pics of Michael on his phone in the truck before they drove off. i didn't take any pics of him while he was signing because both my hands were occupied shoved far through the gate in my auto attempt, which ended up being pointless.

but i finally got a Brantley autograph this season. i wish i could take credit for getting the auto, but i can't. my mom took one for the team and i am so grateful. she really did get pushed down on her head, and smartly spoke up about it in hopes of getting Michael's attention and autograph. there's no telling if she would have gotten it had she kept quiet, so i'm happy she said something. i always say getting autographs is kill or be killed, and now my mom knows that first hand lol

and that is how i got my 11th Michael Brantley autograph to add to my collection. i plan to blog about all my future Brantley autos at the end of every season. with any luck, next time i'll have more than just 1 story to tell lol ;D

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Final #s for the Cleveland Indians 2014 Season

this is my annual blog where i take a look back at all the "work" i did and calculate all my personal numbers for the Cleveland Indians season. as usual, i have many memories in the form of pictures and videos that i took, as well as player autographs and baseballs that i received at games. you won't ever see me at an Indians game just sitting back and relaxing. i bust my ass to get as much as i can, so that when i go home and get everything organized, i can reflect on it and be happy. these things are what help me to not be so angry that i 1. don't live closer to Cleveland, 2. can't go to as many games as i'd like, and 3. don't get STO where i live because of blackout restrictions.

i spent the last 8 months of the year totally encapsulated in Indians baseball and Michael's season. for the fourth year in a row, i did not miss so much as one out of one inning of one single game in real time. i was present for all 162 games, plus the preseason games. (again, i can't say "watched" because i have to listen to most of the games on my computer.) fortunately, despite my crazy schedule and life obligations, i was able to arrange everything that i needed to do around the Tribe's schedule for yet another season. i scheduled appointments around games and skipped out on certain social outings to ensure that i didn't miss one second of anything. do i regret it? absolutely not. especially since this turned out to be a career year for Michael. i was present for every single plate appearance of his and i am very grateful that i was. i can't guarantee that i'll be lucky enough to continue this trend next season, so i really am appreciative that i've been around for as much Tribe baseball as i have--all of it--in these last 4 seasons. the laughs, the smiles, and even the tears that the Indians bestowed upon me, it was all worth it.

last year, i had some serious health problems. this year, it was more of the same. except this time, i had a new health issue pop up. figures, right? just like last season, i went to 8 games, but we paid for tickets to 10. i had to skip 2 games because my body could not tolerate sitting through them. i couldn't tolerate anything other than lying down to be honest. i was hoping that 2013 would be the end of my bad health, but those hopes were quickly squashed.

so what happened? get ready, because i'm about to get real. it all started a week before preseason games began in February. after many doctor's appointments and testing, my issue was properly diagnosed in March. i started taking medication for it, medication that i was warned had some unpleasant side effects. i was also told that if the specific medication they prescribed was making me sick, i could stop it and try another one, because there were a dozen different pills for my particular problem.

i took this pill for about 2 weeks until, as if right on cue, it made me sick on (the Monday of) Opening Day 2014. when consulting with the physician's assistant, i was told that this pill could potentially make me sick for a short period of time and then things would go back to normal. so if i felt better the next day when i got up, i should continue taking it. well i did feel better the next day, and i (stupidly) kept taking the pill. i should have known better. i should have known what was at stake.

i've been going to Indians' home openers for the past 3 years. i made it a tradition. and this year, the schedule allowed me to go to Cleveland the day before the home opener--on Thursday, an Indians' off day. we booked a hotel room for 2 nights and planned to see not only the opener on Friday, but the Saturday game as well. my health issue still hadn't been fully rectified, but i felt good enough to go on this trip. everything was fine with me on Thursday. then the Home Opener came on Friday. i arrived at Progressive Field 2 hours before the game was supposed to start. however, the 3 pm start time was being delayed due to rain in the area. they anticipated a quick shower would pass through and then we could play ball uninterrupted.

at about 2:45 during the rain delay, the sun was shining and no rain was in sight. but the forecast on my health was getting cloudy. i started feeling weak and dizzy and my stomach was kicking my ass. by 3 o'clock, i made the decision to go back to the hotel room. (thank god we had one.) i barely made it and by the time i got there, i was in horrible pain. my stomach hurt so bad i couldn't stand up straight. soon after, i threw up in the bathroom. there was no way i was going to be able to go back to the home opener, which officially began shortly before 5 pm. i stayed in the hotel room all afternoon and had to listen to the game on my computer, in between crying in the bed in pain and throwing up more in the bathroom. when i woke up on Saturday, i still felt very weak. so instead of going to that game like originally planned, i sadly just drove home while listening to the game on the radio, which miraculously came in for the entire drive back to NY.

if i thought it was devastating missing out on 2 games due to illness last year, well i was utterly destroyed about what happened this year. NEVER IN MY LIFE have i walked out of a Tribe game before it even got started. i was embarrassed even though nobody other than my mother knew what was going on. i mean, what kind of Ride Or Die fan punks out like that? it's a good thing the game didn't start on time, cause i would have been totally mortified having to leave during it. actually being in Cleveland and NOT being able to watch and enjoy a home opener because of something that could have been avoided left me heartbroken.

and you better believe i let my doctor have it. he took something away from me that i'll never get back. there will never be another Indians Home Opener 2014. i lost out on seeing the entire 2014 roster being announced, something they only do at the Home Opener, and the special tribute to the late Mike Hegan, which i had been looking forward to since Christmas. i missed the chance to see a great game, take lots of pics and vids, possibly get several player autographs, and, my favorite, do some daylight parking lot stalking. that's unforgivable.

so after that disastrous ordeal, i finally got put on a different medication, one that didn't cause me any major side effects. it took a good 5 weeks, like they said it would, before my health issue subsided. by May, i was getting better, but still felt a little lethargic at times. i fought through that though, and didn't need to miss any more games that i wanted to go to. by June, i was pretty much back to my normal self and i've been doing fine ever since.

much like last year, i know i should just be grateful for the games that i was able to go to, but i can't not be maddened about the circumstances that forced me to miss 2 games this season. i think about all the money that was wasted and it really pisses me off. my doctor offered his apologies, but that doesn't reimburse my family the money or give me back all the moments i missed out on. baseball means everything to me, and this is something that i'll always be sad about. however, since there's nothing anyone can do about it now, i guess i ought to try and focus on all the happy times i had this season. there were plenty of those. but maybe luck could cut me a break and give me good health next year, whaddya think?

now here are my 2014 #s:

i went to 8 games this year
--but missed 2 due to illness.
(8 in 2013, 11 in 2012, and 7 in 2011)

i took 5445 pictures
--including batting practice (but no BPX), player warm-ups, the actual game, and of course parking lot.
(4,809 in 2013 and 6,680 in 2012)

of those pictures, 1290 were of Brantley
--he played in 7 of the 8 games i went to, sitting out the season finale.
(853 in 2013 and 2,010 in 2012)

i took 176 videos
--it would have been over 200 had i not missed those 2 games in April.
(199 in 2013 and 300 in 2012)

other mentionables:

--i got 6 baseballs, the most i've ever got in 1 season.
(3 in 2013 and 4 in 2012)

--i got 25 autographs
(16 in 2013 and 40 in 2012)
     --1 from Brantley
     (1 in 2013 and 6 in 2012)

--i got my picture taken with 1 player
(0 in 2013 and 3 in 2012)

between game tickets, food, souvenirs, merchandise, and hotel costs, we spent approximately $3700 this year. for the previous 3 seasons, that total was around $2500, so we finally increased our spending. i think that was mainly due to the ticket prices. i had tickets in Row A for every game except the opener and they weren't always the cheapest. in the grand scheme of things, our monetary total probably doesn't do much for the Indians, but i'm always trying my best to help them out.

as i mentioned last year, it is really tough to get player autographs now. it's more up to chance at this point. you can't lure players over to where you are anymore; they either want to sign or they don't. and from my experience this season, no players had any interest in signing in front of my section(s) during warm ups before games.

i sat in Section 171 for every game i went to except one, when i was in 172. 171 is directly behind the tarp on the 3rd base side, and nobody ever came over there. it's like, what, are they afraid of the tarp all the sudden? and it was rare that anyone would go down into the left field corner near Sections 174 and 175 anymore either. from what i observed, Sections 167 and 169 got the most action this season. once in a blue moon, one player would start signing autographs right outside the dugout and then go ALL the way down the left field line, but only if they came out extra early with the intent to sign. players sure as hell can't do that during their warm ups.

the main way i got any autos along the 3rd baseline this year is when i got into the ballpark early and the relief pitchers were all still playing long toss on the field. then, most of those guys, if you called to them, would come sign for you before going into the dugout and doing the rest of their pregame routines. other than that, 171 was a dry area. but i really like that section and don't plan to move if i don't have to, so it's probable that i'm just not gonna get many pregame autos from here on out.

as for the players parking lot after games, it seemed as though only the same people signed every time i went. after i got them once, i didn't need them again unless i had multiple baseball cards of theirs. so i could have gotten a lot more of the same player autographs, but chose not to. and to my disappointment, none of the big name players ever signed when i was there. no Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Bourn, or Corey Kluber autos. Nick Swisher only signed in the parking lot after the season finale, but he didn't sign for everyone and i didn't get his. and Asdrubal Cabrera never signed before he got traded to Washington either.

maybe the lack of autos from all these guys was just bad timing on my part. it's very likely that they signed on the other days i wasn't there. but you'd think i could have got some of them at least once out of 8 i did with Michael Brantley. Michael has never been one to sign autos in the parking lot. however, when he took over Justin Masterson's parking spot in the back corner next to the side gate, he started to sign after games. but he would only sign for like a dozen people or less, so you really needed luck to get him. he signed 4 times that i was there and i got him once, after the final game of the year.

in spite of everything, i think i personally had a good season. i managed to get 6 baseballs this year, which i was pretty excited about. i took a lot of great pictures and have a lot of great moments captured on video. i also got my picture taken with Zach Walters, who's a very nice guy. all of these things will help cheer me up while i'm going through my annual offseason withdrawal and missing my boys terribly. these are all memories that i can treasure not just now, as i'm waiting for next season to get underway, but for the rest of my life. thanks to all the Cleveland Indians for providing me with another unforgettable baseball season and hopefully next year we can get back to the postseason. regardless, you know i'm still Ride Or Die Tribe. always.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Wrapping Up Brantley's 2014 Season

well this is it, my last blog talking about Michael's outstanding season. don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened. that's what i have to keep telling myself, but i'm having a hard time with it.

photo courtesy of TribeVibe
photo courtesy of The Plain Dealer (Chuck Crow)

to follow my previous format of the Brantley wrap up blog, i'll begin by linking all the past monthly blogs here if anyone wants to refer back to them: March/April, May, June, July, August, and September.

now for the last time, here are Michael's final #s for the 2014 season:

Michael had a total of 676 plate appearances and 611 at bats in 156 games (1304.1 innings). in total, he had 200 hits, 133 singles, 45 doubles, 2 triples, 20 home runs, 97 RBI, 5 sac flies, 94 runs scored, 52 walks, 4 intentional walks, 8 hit by pitches, 23 stolen bases, 1 caught stealing, 16 GIDP, 56 strikeouts (38 swinging, 18 looking), 51 first at bat hits, 309 total bases, 211 left on base, 271 putouts, 12 assists, 2 double plays, and 1 error.

2014 season batting average: .327 (200-611)

OBP: .385

SLG: .506

OPS: .890

overall #s while playing the outfield: 271 putouts, 12 assists, 2 double plays, 1 error, 0.996 fielding percentage (1304.1 innings, 147 games)

Michael put together a career year, accomplishing career highs in almost every offensive category as well as setting some new Indians franchise records. he played fantastic defense in both left and center field this season, too. Michael finished 2014 as the only player in the major leagues with at least a .300 batting average, 40 doubles, 20 home runs, 90 RBI, 90 runs, and 20 steals. talk about extraordinary.

Michael played in 156 of 162 games. he had a hit in 123 of 156 games that he played and reached base safely in 139 games, 28 straight from August 28 - September 24.

as usual, Michael had many significant hitting streaks during the year, including two 9-game, an 11-game, a 12-game, and two 15-game hitting streaks. his second 15-game hitting streak occurred in September, which heavily contributed to his .416 September batting average, best in the majors. Michael also had three 5-consecutive multi-hit games throughout this season, along with an 8-game road hitting streak and a franchise record 19-game home hitting streak.

Michael played 147 games total where he was in the outfield for some portion of the game. he started 146 games in the outfield, completing 138 of those games. he left 3 games early with injury after playing a total of 14.1 innings. he was subbed out of 4 games after playing a total of 27 innings. he was lifted for a pinch runner in 1 game after playing 8 innings. he was a defensive substitute into the outfield in 1 game (after PHing) and played 1 inning. Michael started and was the DH for 8 complete games. Michael was a PH in 2 games. he came in to PH in the top of the 8th inning in 1 game, and then played 1 inning in center field as part of a defensive substitution. he also came in to PH in the bottom of the 9th inning in 1 game.

for the third year in a row, Michael finished the season with the highest batting average on the team. he pretty much smoked everybody. there was a short period of time in July where Lonnie Chisenhall gave him a little run for his money once he had enough plate appearances to be a qualifier, but that didn't last long. Michael spent the majority of the season batting over .300 and was one of the most consistent hitters all year, even with 2 slumps in his records. check this out: he had a BA of .300 or better for 119 of the 156 games he played in this year. the only time he was not batting at least .300 was from April 9 - May 20, and on June 8. but after the June 9 game, Michael's BA stayed at or above .302 for the entire rest of the season. and he ended his year at .327, the 3rd highest batting average in baseball. that is remarkable.

Michael's clutchness continued this year, as displayed by his .376 (56-for-149) batting average with runners in scoring position. not only was that the best on the team, but it also ranked 1st in the American League. his ability to hit anywhere and against anyone helped him immensely in this situation. he bat .353 (106-for-300) at home, with 57 RBI, and .302 (94-for-311) on the road. plus, Michael hit .337 (137-for-406) against right-handed pitchers and .307 (63-for-205) against left-handed pitchers. he was always the guy you wanted at the plate in big game situations, and he rewarded those expectations with 28 go-ahead hits--twice as many as last season--and 31 go-ahead RBI. in fact, Michael had an RBI in over 42% of the games he played in this year.

according to, Michael bat .309 in what they consider "late and close" situations, and .304 in "high leverage" situations. he hit .305 against power pitchers and .344 against finesse pitchers. he bat .319 with an .857 OPS against teams with losing records and .336 with a .923 OPS against teams with winning records. oh, and he also bat at least .280 in every inning. (credit to a PD article by D-Man for alerting me to these interesting and incredible stats.)

Michael chose to be more aggressive in his at bats when he needed to be this year, and i quickly learned to stop being so anxious about it. i certainly can't argue with the results; he bat .404 (40-for-99) when swinging at the first pitch and putting the ball in play. some of his other BAs were .435 (27-for-62) in an 0-1 count, .398 (33-for-83) in a 1-0 count, .310 (18-for-58) in a 1-1 count, .316 (6-for-19) in a 2-0 count, and .300 (12-for-40) in a 2-1 count. additionally, Michael hit .179 (5-for-28) in an 0-2 count*, .328 (22-for-67) in a 1-2 count*, .205 (15-for-73) in a 2-2 count*, and .276 (16-for-58) in a 3-2 count* this season. (*these averages do not factor in excess foul balls once he got to 2 strikes in the count.)

my favorite Michael moment of 2014 was probably when he hit the very first walk-off home run of his career. i loved that it came against the division rival Detroit Tigers, too. the game was tied at 4 and there were 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th inning on May 19. Michael became the hero against Al Alburquerque on the 7th pitch of a full count. Hammy went crazy on the computer and i was so proud. then his teammates threw water on him in a home plate mobbing that i will never forget.

Michael had so many other amazing moments this season as well. a few other favorites of mine are his franchise record 19-game home hitting streak, playing in his very 1st All Star Game, and when he passed his father's career high home run total. the amount of times this man put a smile on my face this year are incalculable.

now let's compare his 2014 numbers to his last 3 seasons.
Category         2014       2013      2012    2011

Batting Average         .327       .284      .288    .266*

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

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

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

Innings      1304.1    1297.1      1237     971
Putouts          271        257       336     236
Assists            12          11          5        5
Double Plays             2           1          3        2
Errors             1           0          1        3
Fielding %       0.996     1.000    0.997  0.988

*if he hadn't played injured, i calculated a .281 BA
black bold = i did not document this number then
blue bold = a career high

red bold = he did better last year in that category
purple bold = his career high in that category took place 2+ years ago

as you can see, Michael had career bests in the majority of categories this year. because of that, i can't possibly go through every single one of them in detail here again. (if you would like to re-read my blog about all Michael's career highs, career firsts, and franchise records of the 2014 season, click here.) but i will make a couple of comments and point out a few comparisons.

first, at the end of 2013, i was very concerned about Michael's doubles. i didn't like that he hit 11 less than in 2012. this year, he made huge progress there and it's exactly what i wanted. i don't know if he's going to be able to hit 45 (or more) in the future, but 38-40 per year would be satisfying. hopefully there isn't too much regression next year.

second, i was very pleased with his 11 less strikeouts from last year. he was so close to setting a new career low in that category. but unfortunately, his very last at bat of the season was a strikeout, which tied him to his 2012 career best. if he can now keep his average annual strikeouts in the 50s, that would be tremendous. his 8.3% strikeout rate for the year ranked 3rd best in the American League.

additionally, i love that his walks went up again more towards his total from 2012. he was really close to setting a new career high in that category, too. at this point in his career, he should be drawing a minimum of 50 walks per year because he's got the plate discipline for it. Michael and Victor Martinez were the only players in the AL this season with at least 50 walks and less than 60 strikeouts. not many players can do that, and i think Michael will continue to.

next, i remember how at the end of last season, i wanted to see a substantial increase this year in Michael's OBP, SLG, and OPS. i felt that his OBP should be at least .350, his SLG should be in the .400s, and i hoped that his OPS would fall between .767 and .833 (signifying an above average player according to statistician Bill James). well i definitely got what i wanted and what i knew he could acquire. his .385, .506, and .890 more than met my requirements. awesome.

happily Michael's season was healthy for the most part. although, he did suffer a minor back issue in May while playing consecutive series' on astroturf and had to be removed from a game. then he left a game early in June with what turned out to be a mild concussion. and later in the 2nd half of the season, he left a game early after banging his knee into the center field wall in Cincy. he then dealt with leg soreness on and off for the remainder of the season. but even with all that, Michael still managed to play in 5 more games than last year. #tough

finally, i can't leave out that despite all these career numbers and his phenomenal hitting, Michael struggled through 2 slumps this season (if you can believe it). the first one came towards the end of April, but only lasted a couple days. because it was still early in the season, that gave him plenty of opportunities to get his average up quickly again. his other slump was in August and that one spanned a good 11 games. yet, because this slump came more towards the end of the year, when outs don't hurt the average as much, he managed to stay batting over .300 before he broke out of it. it's kind of amazing. unless you look at the game-by-game numbers and notes, you would never suspect that he had any trouble at all this season.

now how about some thoughts from Michael about his excellent season? every time he was asked, he could not stress enough that he wasn't paying much attention to his stats. and as someone who documented his stats daily, it annoyed the hell outta me lol "i'm not really a big stat guy at all. for me it's just playing every day, hard. at the end of the year, you sit back at home, you can put your feet up and relax and look at the stats. then you can reflect on what you did. for me it's just taking one day at a time, one game at a time, and doing the best i can. i prepare the same way each and every day. there's something to be said about that."

"i just go out there, play the game that i love as hard as i can each and every day and be the best teammate i can every day. i'm gonna try the best i can in whatever i'm doing. my main goal this year when i came into spring training was to get better than last year and i believe i did that and i look forward to doing it again next year. i'm always trying to push myself to see what i can get out of myself and the sky's the limit. i never give up, i always keep climbing to try to get to the top of that mountain."

he said his goal was to eventually develop into this kind of all-around threat. "of course. i want to use every tool that i can and make sure that i continue every day to push myself and continue to work hard. at the end of the year, i'll look back at this and we'll go from there. each and every day, i'm just trying to get better."

even with ambitions to become a better ballplayer, he's still very much a team-first guy. when asked late during the season whether he'd rather make a great catch or get a big hit, he posed another question. "which one is going to win us the game? because that's the one i want to do. i don't care what side of the ball it's on. whatever helps my team win." see, this is what i love and respect about him. he knows there's no "i" in team and he lives that motto. but that doesn't mean he can't continue to be the best hitter on the team lol

so because Michael has always been team-oriented, can he still enjoy the personal accomplishments he's achieved this season? "when i sit back on Monday [September 19], hopefully on my couch, we'll reflect on this year and all the good times and all the bad times. we've just got to make sure we learn from each and every moment."

when asked about placing in the American League MVP voting, he replied, "my job is to take care of what i can do inside those white lines. voting is up to writers. but me personally, i'm just going to do the best i can each and every day." Michael is assuredly going to get votes for AL MVP this year, and i'm excited to find out where he finishes.

after Michael's 200th hit of the season, Francona had this to say about him. "i don't need the stat line. i know that backs up everything, but he has had a remarkable year in every way, shape and form. playing the amount of games he played, he hit 3rd all year, he made an All Star team, he was one of the best teammates you'll ever see, he cares so much, he knows his responsibilities to our team. you're seeing a kid grow up as a baseball player right in front of our very eyes, going from being a good player to one of the better players in the game."

Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti shared that sentiment. "we've always felt Michael was a really good player. he's that guy that's also gotten better each and every year. he came into spring training this year more physical than any year in the past and was really committed to keeping his body strong. in the past, he had a little bit of a tendency, just because of the rigors of a season, to lose a little bit of weight and strength throughout the course of a year. he was pretty determined not to let that happen. he put in the work, going back to last offseason, preparing for the season and he stayed with it throughout the year. it was fun to see his continued development. he's a complete player and we think he's deserving of MVP consideration with the year he had. he was a huge part of our success and we think one of the best players in the American League."

but nobody's perfect. when asked if there were any areas he feels he could get better in, Michael did not hesitate to answer. "every aspect. i'm never gonna sell myself short and not push myself to get better. there's not one area that i wanna get better in more than another. whatever i can improve on, i'm gonna try the best i can and work as hard as i can." 

i like how he constantly wants to do better and that he's not satisfied even after this career year. no good athlete should ever be content with what they've done and settle for just that. one thing in particular that sticks out to me is how Michael seemed to lose a little of his newfound power in the 2nd half of the season. granted, this ability to hit 20 home runs a year is very new to him and he may need another season or two to figure out how to keep that power up from April to September. and that's okay. but it's definitely an area that he can work on for the future while he's still in the prime of his career.

so how is Michael planning to unwind during the offseason? "i'm gonna get on the boat, go fishing for a little bit. go play 18 holes of golf and enjoy some time with friends and enjoy my time with family back home." and that downtime is very well deserved.

before this season began, i blogged about what i expected and hoped to see from Michael in 2014. here is what i predicted:

--Michael managed to get through last year without injury, so first and foremost i really hope he can replicate that in 2014.

--i again want to see Michael get close to a .300 batting average. of course i'll settle with a BA between .295-.300. for the past 2 seasons, he's finished with the highest BA on the team. can he do it a third time? i don't know, but it's an obvious call to say he will remain one of our most consistent and clutch hitters.

--the next category to predict is home runs. ah, my favorite statistic lol because of Michael's style of play, he does not need to hit for power. he hits his line drives well enough into the ballpark gaps and uses all parts of the field to get on base and get guys home. so despite the fans' complaints that Michael is not a big long ball hitter, that is not important. if he can go yard at least 8 times this year, that's more than fine for him.

--assuming Michael has the majority of his at bats in the middle of the order again, he should at least match his RBI total from last year. i'll predict/expect at least 75. as long as the top of the order gets themselves on base so Michael can drive them in, then this is a very realistic prediction.

--stolen bases: 22

--runs scored: 65

--doubles: 40

--triples: 5

--walks: 50

--fielding percentage: .998

so, like last year, i was right about some things and i was wrong about some things. but, unlike last year, i wasn't necessarily wrong in a bad way.

--Michael dealt with a few injuries this year including mid-back tightness, a mild concussion, and leg soreness. however, he only missed 3 games from all that. Francona managed Michael's leg soreness by using him as a DH in a handful of games to keep his legs as fresh as possible. lucky for Michael, none of these issues negatively impacted his play, as he still had a career season and played a career high and team high 156 games.

--as for my hopes about him getting a batting average close to .300, i have to laugh now lol Michael finished 2014 batting .327, his best batting average ever. once his BA stayed above .300 for a couple months, i got excited, believing he could potentially end the year batting over .300. boy did he. and that gives Michael the highest batting average on the team for 3 straight years now.

--this year, Michael's 20 home runs doubled his old career high that he set last season. i would have been happy with 8, but he ended up having the 3rd most homers on the team. now that Michael has this newfound power, i know to make my HR prediction a little higher next year. great job.

--i wanted at least 75 RBI from Michael this year, and he finished with a career high/team high 97. that partially stems from the fact that he bat 3rd in the order for most of the season and had many opportunities to drive guys home. fantastic job.

--i predicted 22 stolen bases for Michael, which would have been a new career high, and he finished with 23. so i was pretty damn close there. his 23 SB was also a team high this season. i'd definitely like to see Michael continue to steal over 20 bases a year from here on out.

--i predicted 65 runs scored for 2014 because that was close to what he had last year, and he finished with a career high/team high 94 runs. take out the 20 runs that he scored as a result of his own home runs, and the rest of the team did very well driving him in 74 times. again, i think it helped that he was batting higher in the order this season.

--i predicted 40 doubles and Michael hit 45, another career high and team high. so not only did he increase home runs this season, but he also increased his doubles, some of which only missed leaving the park by inches. i like that.

--i overshot with the prediction of 5 triples as Michael only hit 2 this year. but i can't complain when his home runs and doubles increased as much as they did. you don't need to hit a lot of triples if you're doing well in the other categories.

--i predicted 50 walks this season and he drew 52, 4 of which were intentional. so that was pretty close and i'm happy with that number. and as i said before, he should be averaging 50+ walks because he's such a patient and intelligent hitter.

--as for the fielding percentage, i allowed for one error with my less-than-perfect .998 prediction. and Michael did have one error this season, regardless of whose fault it really was. however, he didn't have enough putouts to get his total fielding percentage above .996. he played the majority of his games in left field this year, and there were several games where he had zero putouts. had he played more center, he would have had more putouts. and everyone knows putouts are the key to getting that % back up after an error. prior to that mistake, he still set a new franchise record with 247 consecutive games in the outfield without an error. and he's still the best defender on the team no matter what those sabermetrics say, so i'm not gonna nitpick.

looking back on my preseason expectations, i mainly feel silly. i put a lot of thought into them and was admittedly nervous making some of those predictions, but now i see i really had nothing to worry about. he made me infinitely happy this year. and i have to laugh at the person who called Michael "replaceable" before this season started. what a joke, but that's Chris Fedor for you. yeah i heard that live chat, and sorry, i'm not sorry that i'm calling you out on it. who exactly do you think could replace Michael, now a .300 hitter (.327 to be exact)? i've been fighting this battle for 3 years. if i ever hear another person call Michael "replaceable" or overrated again, i might explode. #geteducated

Michael had one of the greatest all-around seasons not only in Indians history, but also American League history. he finally got the recognition i've been waiting for. teams are taking notice of him now and pitchers are starting to dread facing him. he's for sure going to get votes for AL MVP this year and he should be one of the Gold Glove finalists (finally) as well. in addition, Michael has become an integral team leader whom rookies love to turn to and learn from, while his growing professionalism and intelligence continues to impress his manager and coaches, making him a joy to watch and work with.

i think one of the reasons Michael did so well this year was due to him signing a long-term extension prior to the beginning of spring training. it's possible that knowing his future in Cleveland was secure allowed him to relax and just play without worry. although, my readers should recall how i was pretty vocal that his agent undersold him. i wished Michael had played this year out before talking numbers and long-term contracts. had he done that, his future salaries could have been WAY more after having such a career year. while i couldn't have guessed that Michael would have this kind of season, i firmly believed that he would improve from 2013 and be able to earn more if he waited. and what do ya know? i was right.

another reason Michael was able to have such an MVP year is because of his offseason routine. for the first time in a few years, Michael did not need to rehab an injury. that enabled him to do all the offseason training that he wanted. he could take as many swings in the batting cage as he wanted, as often as he wanted, and wasn't restricted in any way. i really believe that factored into his much improved season. and since he again is not going to need to rehab during this offseason, i think that's going to be beneficial to him. we'll see just how much of an impact it has when the 2015 season gets going.

now that Michael has shown he's got some power, he may take that into account and do something different to his offseason routine to help him become even stronger. after the final game of the season, i saw and heard Michael talking about giving Josh Tomlin some muscle milk. maybe that's part of Michael's new strength secret (aside from his new daddy strength lol). if he can add a little more muscle weight to his body, OMG, look out baseball. a little more muscle could go a long way and that might be the key to continue putting up numbers like he did this year going forward.

it's hard to argue that Michael's career year wasn't the best individual performance on the team, except when you bear in mind that Corey Kluber had a Cy Young like season on the mound. still, i would award Michael the MVP of the team honor. call me inequitable, but here's my logic. there were so many games this year where Michael was one of the few hitters who could hit against the opposition. i'm not going to bring up his RISP numbers again, but that is another very strong argument in his favor. yes, starting pitching is imperative to championship caliber teams. but if you don't have anybody driving guys home, then it doesn't really matter how good the guy on the mound is pitching.

maybe some people have just come to expect this consistency and clutch hitting from Michael, so they're a little dismissive of his amazing season. some people might feel like Corey should be the MVP with the way he was able to take over the pitching staff and turn into the ace as soon as Justin Masterson made it known that he had no control over it and then later was traded. i'm not trying to take anything away from Kluber here, but before the season, i don't know how many of us had high hopes for Corey. whereas some of us, especially me, were pretty confident that Michael was at least going to have a solid season. my bottom line on the issue is this: a pitcher could strike out 10+ guys every game and give up between 0-2 runs, but if your hitters aren't doing their part and scoring runs, then it doesn't matter. i'm not on board with this co-MVP shit, i'm giving it to Michael outright. did you expect anything else? ;D

in my wrap up blog from 2013, i mentioned how Michael's mission for this year would be to maintain the numbers of the categories he excelled in. mission accomplished. also in that blog, i was excited to see what new records he might set this season. well let me tell you, my head about explodes when i try to recite all the career highs he had this year by memory without looking at my list lol but it's a welcome challenge. and it only makes me more eager to see what he'll do in 2015. in the meantime, i can continue to bask in and brag about all of his 2014 statistics!

watching Michael go from a rookie to an All Star has been quite enjoyable. his journey in the major leagues so far has certainly had its ups and downs, but he's now coming into his own and i'm so proud of him. the only question left is, what's he gonna do next year? i mean seriously, how will he ever top this season? and the reality is he may not. Michael set the bar and his new career highs SO high that he may not be able to exceed these numbers next season. but honestly, is anyone really going to be pissed if next year he only drives in 95 runs compared to 97 this year? or only bats .370 with RISP? of course not. as long as Michael continues to work hard and do the best that he can "each and every day," he will be a successful ballplayer for many years to come.

personally, i got even more detailed in my Michael documentation this season. i included the counts, innings, and pitcher handedness for all of his PAs and ABs. i also added a section to my notebook containing all his numbers against righties, lefties, and the various RISP situations. that came in very handy when doing monthly comparisons. there were other numbers that i kept track of, too, solely in a Word document and updated them as needed after every game. i haven't decided if i will input those into my notebook next season though. right now i'm not sure exactly where i can fit them in because i really like the way i currently have things set up. but i'll think about it during the offseason. i've got lots of time to come up with something lol ;D

whenever anyone wants to know what makes me Michael's #1 fan, or on the rare occasion that somebody challenges me on it, all i need to do is direct them to this blogspot account. i don't know anyone else who does what i do as far as daily documentation of his numbers. not to mention, i've managed to keep track of everything as the games were going on, and i didn't miss any games/at bats and then need to look at the box score at night. i did everything in real time as it was happening. i've also always kept it real. i know i can be biased towards Michael sometimes, but when he struggled or had bad at bats, i didn't hide or ignore that fact. no player is perfect, no matter how good they are, and that's something every fan needs to accept. i was there for every highlight and lowlight, every career high and franchise record that he set, and i am extremely proud and honored to have been around for it all.

now before i close the book on Michael's year once and for all, i want to thank him for his tremendous season. all i really wanted to see was improvement, but he took it a step further by reaching All Star and MVP status. you might hear me being a little louder now with my infamous "here before the Brantley bandwagon" statement since his popularity has skyrocketed, not only in Cleveland, but all around the league. it's what i've wanted for him for the last couple years, and now that he's finally got it, i just wanna scream, "BUT I'VE BEEN THERE FROM THE BEGINNING, AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT!" lol possessive much? maybe a tad, but i can't have anyone thinking that i didn't know who Michael was back in 2009 before he became a team leader/fan favorite/All Star ballplayer. i did know. and i believed he would become something special. thank you, Michael, for making me look like a genius. =D

i hope he enjoys his offseason and has fun on his fishing trips and golfing. Michael definitely deserves some rest and relaxation after all the hard work of his career year. because before ya know it, training will be starting again and the 162 grind will be back. with another healthy offseason training routine under his belt, he is bound to pick things up right where he left off before this season came to its conclusion. Indians baseball may have just ended, but i'm already envisioning big things from Michael next year. and i'm counting down the days--183--until i get to watch him in action again at the home opener on April 10, 2015. can't wait!

i also wanna do a quick shout out to a few of my favorite Tribe Scribes for their "assists" to me regarding some of the historical statistics i've posted in my blogs throughout the season, as well as alerting me to a couple other stats that i myself did not document and providing me with many, many quotes from and about Michael himself. so thank you very much to Jordan Bastian, Paul Hoynes, Dennis Manoloff, and Terry Pluto--truly inspirational writers. you boys are fuckin' rock stars!

for even more Brantley details, be sure to read my other blogs:
Brantley's 2014 Career Highs, Career Firsts, & Franchise Records
Brantley's 2014 Game-by-Game Numbers & Notes
Brantley's 2014 Batting Order Position & LF/CF/DH/PH #s