with manager Terry Francona at the helm, a continued record drop is certainly not ideal. this guy was brought in here... no, he willingly came here, because it was believed that he could turn things around and get the Indians into the playoffs recurrently again. his track record gave everyone confidence that he was the right man for the job and expectations were high. now with this being his third year here, the results are disappointing. the Indians have only made it to the postseason once, and that was to play the wild card playoff game in 2013, which they lost. so thus far, fans are not getting what they'd hoped for.
and while Tito is not the one on the field playing the games, he can be held somewhat responsible for the product that is out there.
we've all seen times when he favors certain players too much. he's not the greatest at making in-game decisions either. his stubbornness to not play some small ball and his pitching change choices are just a few examples of how he can stress out fans. that's not to say we need a new skipper. i mean, there's a reason that players love to play for him. but with the lack of power hitters he has to work with on this roster, i doubt anyone else would have "the answer" to provide a significant improvement.
real talk though, the opportunity was definitely there for the Indians to try and sneak into that 2nd wild card spot. aside from the first and last series of September/October against the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox, every team the Indians faced in the final month was in their AL Central Division. they did okay, but had they played better, they might have been a wild card team. a 14-12, barely over .500 showing, was not going to cut it. and so they concluded the season 3rd in the division with a grand total of 81 wins. the 2nd wild spot ended up going to the Houston Astros, who grabbed it with only 86 wins. that not being an outstanding total was surely within reach, but the Indians could not capitalize.
|who's laughing now? photo courtesy of @SInow twitter|
what else should they have done? well, it would have been nicer and potentially easier for them also had they played better earlier in the season. as has become a habit, the Indians started slow, going 7-14 in April. they had an overall difficult time versus left-handed starters, and didn't do well with RISP or bases loaded for much of 2015 either. and they never put together any big winning streaks this year. it constantly seemed as though they were battling just to get to .500, as evidenced by the fact that they had a record over .500 just THREE times the entire season, including after their final game. maybe the most unsettling thing that held the Indians back was their poor record against AL Central teams. they were a combined 32-44 against the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, and Chicago White Sox. sigh. sorry to say but a team like that does not deserve to be in the postseason. the Indians need to improve, but the question is how.
part of the answer is by continuing to build on all the positives from this season and carrying them over to next year. to start, the Indians took advantage of an opportunity to rid themselves of some "handicaps." after they traded Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, the team as a whole performed better. making an Abraham Almonte for Bourn swap not only enhanced the center field defense, but it also increased the OBP for the CF in our lineup. Almonte wasn't afraid to run while on base either. he was a welcome upgrade from Bourn all around.
indubitably, the team's defense improved this season especially when contrasted with 2014. besides center field, the D was much better at short, 3rd, and even right field. when Francisco Lindor became our shortstop, Indians fans got to see amazing diving stops by the kid on almost a nightly basis. replacing Lonnie Chisenhall, Giovanny Urshela made several great barehanded grabs and throws at the hot corner. and it turns out that Chisenhall is a much better defender in right field than he ever was at 3rd. who would've known? i'm also going to include Chris Johnson here because when he played games as the 1st baseman, he made some excellent plays that i just don't believe Carlos Santana is capable of making.
so with that refined defense, the other piece of the puzzle is offense. there's no way the front office is going to go out and sign a big free agent to a long-term deal, not after the recent failings of Swish and Bourn. they will probably be largely dependent on the guys we already have progressing and the kids developing into vital contributors.
unfortunately, the Indians dealt with a lot of unforeseen things in 2015 that attributed to their mediocre win total. first off, Swisher began the season still rehabbing. initially he was supposed to be good to go, but his recovery took longer than the doctors thought it would. then when he finally returned to game action, he was basically a non-factor before he suffered another knee problem and went back on the DL.
and then there's Bourn. we trusted that he would raise all aspects of his game because he was actually healthy for once. except, he really became a liability in the Indians lineup, falling off to the point where Francona first demoted him from the leadoff spot, and later couldn't even start him against lefties anymore.
but what may have been the biggest blow to the Tribe this year was key players Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes being stricken with health issues. poor Gomes was injured during Opening Week and went on the DL for 6 weeks with an MCL sprain. when he came back, he was just never himself, bearing virtually no resemblance to the Silver Slugger he was a year ago. our other 2014 Slugger, Brantley, came to camp with a sore lower back and dealt with that, plus some shoulder issues, throughout the entire season. it pains me to think how things would have been different had Michael been healthy. i can confidently surmise that his offensive stats would have been higher, possibly resulting in a few more Tribe wins. just imagine if he wasn't hurt in September and didn't miss that final week of the season... there might have been a Game 162 after all. okay i have to stop before the waterworks start =(
more information will be provided later on in the blog when i do the individual player analyses, but you can already see some particulars that got in the way of the Indians' attempts at making a postseason run.
now i'm going to include some excerpts from my preseason blog (all represented by italicized paragraphs) and compare them with what really happened. and i'm going to begin with the new additions to the MLB rules.
i have concerns about the new pace of play rules that were just implemented in baseball. i don't feel they were enforced at all, especially on the batter's side of things, in spring. and, as with all new rules, there's going to be mistakes made and a big learning curve. i just hope this doesn't negatively affect our players too much. the very idea that a hitter could get an extra strike added to his pitch count for violating a rule is maddening. seems like this is just giving some home plate umpires another opportunity to act "bigger than the game" and make poor judgment calls.
this honestly didn't seem to be a problem at all. at least not for the Tribe. no one ever got called out or penalized for taking too much time in between pitches or not standing in the proper spot in the batter's box. so that was good. but did these changes really speed up the game? i recall many Indians games still going at least 3 hours, which probably had a lot to do with Mr. Francona's love of making numerous pitching changes and playing match-up late in games. basically the Indians said F U to pace of play this year lol
what i did see a problem with were numerous balls called as strikes and strikes called as balls by home plate umpires, an unfair use of "the neighborhood play," and a few replay review calls that weren't correct. so pretty much the usual.
so what is my prediction for the Tribe's 2015 season? assuming all the players play to their maximum abilities and that we aren't hit with too many serious, long-term injuries, i think this team as currently constructed with its 25-man roster can easily finish with 90 wins and make it back to the playoffs. but WILL everyone play up to their potential? probably not. therefore, my actual win-loss prediction is going to be 87-75. and, because the competition in the AL Central Division is arguably going to be some of the best in the league, i think 87 wins could at least land a wild card spot. so there's my bold prediction.
well i see i was a little overzealous with my Tribe wins total, but i was right about not everyone playing up to their potential. i was also correct in assuming that 87 wins could be enough to get a wild card spot, as the Houston Astros took the 2nd spot in the American League with just 86 wins.
do the boys from the Plain Dealer/Northeast Ohio Media Group share my optimism? they've also made predictions that i will keep on record here.
Paul Hoynes: 87-75
Terry Pluto: 87-75, may make playoffs
Dennis Manoloff: 81-81, 4th place in the division
Zack Meisel: 89-73
Bud Shaw: 92-70
every year one writer is way over-optimistic and one is a Debbie Downer. from what i've read and heard in podcasts, i seriously think D-Man is just too on the Cleveland Cavaliers-LeBron James train now and he's become somewhat exasperated with the Indians. idk what it's gonna take to pull him back from the "dark side" besides a future lengthy postseason appearance. my point here is that he wasn't right with his prediction because he made an educated prediction; he just never believed they'd be good, unlike everyone else. i wish they could have proved him wrong. as for the rest, Bud and Z-Mise were really off while Hoynsie and Terry agreed with me. so minus D-Man, we were all wrong. had a few things gone differently for the Tribe though, we may have been right.
some things that might make a difference this year that we didn't have last year:
--a Cy Young Award winner in our rotation
--an MVP finalist in our lineup
--a Silver Slugger behind the plate
--Santana having just one role in the field, playing 1st base
--a much needed power bat (Moss) hitting 5th in the lineup
--Ramirez starting the season at shortstop (better defense and range)
--Carrasco finally getting over his mental issues re: starting and being an asset to the rotation
--Kipnis being healthy and positively contributing in the lineup
--Bourn having worked with a track coach in the offseason and strengthening his hamstrings
let's start with the first 3. Kluber, Brantley, and Gomes all dealt with injuries and regressed from a year ago. Santana was very inconsistent until the end of the season while Moss was the opposite, starting out hot and then fading before he was traded. Ramirez only played here in the first and last 2 months of the season. Bourn's work with the track coach was predominately ineffective since he didn't make much of an effort to steal many bases until a week and a half ahead of his trade. he wasn't doing well in the leadoff spot either and was moved down in the order before April was over. the good news is Carrasco looked like the Cy Young award winner on the team this year and Kipnis had one of the best seasons out of all the Indians regulars.
like always, not everyone survived an entire season with the club. some trades were made before and after the July 31 trade deadline. so let me take a minute here to acknowledge and bid a final adieu to those players who are no longer Cleveland Indians.
David Murphy was traded on July 28 to the Los Angeles Angels for Double A shortstop, Eric Stamets. the Angels had to make room for Murphy on their roster, and to do so, they DFA'd former Indians' reliever Vinnie Pestano. Tyler Holt was recalled from Columbus to take Murphy's spot on the Tribe's roster (for the time being).
Brandon Moss was traded on July 30 to the St. Louis Cardinals for Class A left-handed pitcher Rob Kaminsky, who went to play with the Lynchburg Hillcats.
Marc Rzepczynski was traded on July 31 to the San Diego Padres for Abraham Almonte, who was sent down to Columbus. however, Almonte was brought up to Cleveland soon after Swisher and Bourn were traded.
Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn were traded on August 7 to the Atlanta Braves (along with $15 milllion!) for Chris Johnson, who finished his season in Cleveland.
in case you missed it, i wrote one blog featuring more details about all of these trades entitled Goodbye Brohio.
those 5 weren't the only Indians we parted ways with this season, though.
Bruce Chen was DFA'd on May 16, released on May 18, and then retired on May 26. while he did a decent job as a starter for the Clippers, he started for Cleveland twice and could not get a handle on major league hitters. he was a nice guy, but had no place here.
Anthony Swarzak was DFA'd on May 9, outrighted to Columbus on May 14, and then he signed to play in Korea on June 16. he didn't do that bad as an Indian, but this was really no big loss to our bullpen.
Scott Atchison was DFA'd on June 23, released on June 28, and became a free agent on June 30. the Indians let Atch go because, as i feared, he just wasn't very effective this season. Austin Adams took his place on the roster.
Tyler Holt was DFA'd after the Clippers' season ended on September 23 and claimed by the Cincinnati Reds on September 27. he had 2 short stints with the Indians this year. he was needed more to man the center field position than anything else, as his bat mostly made no impact here.
Michael Roth was purchased from the minors on July 28, then sent back to Columbus on August 2. he was DFA'd on August 5 and outrighted on August 7. he never pitched for the Tribe while he was up here and became a free agent on October 5.
Shaun Marcum was DFA'd on April 14, outrighted on April 15, purchased from the minors on May 20, DFA'd again on June 18, outrighted on June 20, and then spent the rest of the season with Columbus. he became a free agent on October 7. while with Cleveland, he legitimately tried his hardest to take over that 5th spot in the Indians' rotation. he had some incredibly good games but also some bad games. i mean, when he was bad, he was bad. too inconsistent to stay in the majors.
Brett Hayes was purchased from the minors on April 14 to be the backup catcher once Gomes went on the DL with his knee sprain. predictably, he was outrighted on May 26 when Gomes came back. he became a free agent after the season on October 13. he didn't play much but had a couple home runs and RBI.
next it's time to evaluate and analyze the performances of everyone who played for the Tribe in 2015. and because i'm biased, i'm going to begin with the outfielders.
if you want an extremely detailed recap of how Michael Brantley did this season, you can read through all the previous blogs i've posted within the last 3 weeks lol but to give a brief summation, Michael faced injuries all year long (back strain, left shoulder inflammation, right shoulder inflammation), yet somehow still produced and finished with the highest batting average on the team (.310) for the 4th straight season. he also had a team high 15 stolen bases, career high 60 walks, and MLB high 45 doubles. in addition, he hit a very exciting walk-off single in the 16th inning versus the New York Yankees on August 11. he played both left and center field, the latter once Bourn became relegated to platooning, and DH'd quite a bit to ease up on his body. the man busted his ass to stay healthy enough to play as long as he could before being shut down on September 30 and i think he did phenomenal.
Michael Bourn. his legs seem fine and he swung the bat well in spring. but will that hold true and translate to the regular season? will this finally be the year we get the guy that we thought we were getting 2 years ago? he claimed to be saving his stolen base attempts for the regular season, which i found odd. spring should have been the time that he used to perfect his lead off the bag and practice getting his jumps. i can't boast true confidence in Bourn until i see him playing well.
Michael Bourn was finally healthy this season, but wasn't playing very well. he was moved out of the leadoff spot on April 26 because he was not getting on base and setting the table like a leadoff man should. later Francona no longer let him start in games when left-handed pitchers were pitching. he actually played a little better once he was batting in the bottom of the order, but was traded along with Swisher to the Braves a week after the trade deadline. he had a team high 12 stolen bases when he was traded as well, stealing 3 bases in the game versus the Kansas City Royals on July 28, and 3 more before he was traded. funny how he decided to start "turning it on" at that particular time. all-in-all, he never seemed to take to the American League and was probably happy to go back to the Braves.
Nick Swisher's opening the year on the DL because he didn't play enough in spring to be deemed ready for Opening Day. (he only played in 1 major league game.) after having double knee surgery in August, everyone said he would be fine for OD. but the Indians were rightfully cautious with him in spring, slowly getting him back to baseball activities and into games. expect to see him in the Tribe's lineup by May.
another disappointing outfielder that the Indians paid a bundle for was Nick Swisher. Swish returned to the lineup in early May, but didn't stay there long. he went back on the DL in mid-June with knee inflammation. he was rehabbing and just about to join the Tribe again in August, but was traded with Bourn to Atlanta before that could happen. don't expect the Indians to make any big free agent signings for a while now after these 2 seemingly racked up more injuries than stats during their time here.
Brandon Moss. his pop potential is there but will Cleveland be fortunate enough to see a healthy Moss all year? he didn't play as many spring games as other players but when he did, he sure did hit.
the Indians traded for Brandon Moss during the offseason. it was a low risk, high reward deal, and of course the Indians never got the reward. yes, he led the team with 15 home runs before he was dealt to the Cards, but he only hit 2 at Progressive Field. he struck out more than he hit (106 K vs 15 homers and 17 doubles) and seemed to be in a real funk in his last few months, trending downwards. i think they got all they could out of him.
prior to his trade, David Murphy spent the season platooning with Raburn. he got the starts against right-handed opposing pitchers and Raburn played against the southpaws. he did a good job but i question how happy he was being a part-time player. the Indians were not going to pick up his option after this season so it was wise for them to get something in return for him during the season by trading him to the Angels.
Ryan Raburn. he is coming off a terrible season, but for now it looks as though his injuries are behind him. he has fully recovered from his knee surgery in September and is set to platoon in right field with Moss/Murphy. normally a good hitter in spring, he didn't make much contact this year. it would be very beneficial if he can hit lefties well again, like he did in 2013.
how about i get to someone the Indians didn't deal this season? Ryan Raburn. after a poor 2014, Raburn redeemed himself in 2015. but there's a catch. he mainly played against lefty starters which heavily contributed to the great numbers he put up this year. i'm not taking anything away from him but let's make it clear--if he played against right-handed pitchers on the regular too, he certainly wouldn't have finished the season batting over .300 or compiled an OPS over .900. will the Indians still want a part-time OF around in 2016? they have to make a decision on whether to pick up his option 3 days after the World Series ends.
i have to admit, Abraham Almonte was a pleasant surprise. he was acquired at the trade deadline for Marc Rzepczynski and not expected to do much. i didn't even think he'd make it to the big league roster until September. but once Bourn was dealt, they gave Almonte a try. he had an amazing debut game on August 8, going 4-for-5 with 2 doubles and a home run. he stayed with the Tribe for the rest of the season, manning center field and making some great catches and throws. he played pretty well overall, even hitting a total of 6 triples and successfully stealing 6 bases (in 6 attempts). he will undoubtedly be at least a 4th OF on the roster in 2016.
Lonnie Chisenhall. he looked good at the plate in spring, hitting 8 doubles, but made some mistakes on the infield. let's face it, he will never blow anybody away with his defense at 3rd base, but he's really the best option we have there at this time. while he showed some signs of being a productive hitter in the lineup last season, he was not consistent. i am very interested to see how he will do this year, when he's not going to be babied and will play a full season from start to finish.
maybe the most surprising outfielder was 3rd baseman-turned-right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall. i never saw that move coming, but when Chiz was sent down to Columbus on June 8, he suggested playing right field because he wanted to become more versatile. it was an experiment that worked out quite well because when he was recalled on July 30, he was like a new man and became a solid fixture out in right. he, too, made some outstanding catches, even more outstanding because of the fact that he was so new to the position and literally learning on the fly, and he recorded 3 outfield assists in the same game on September 10! his hitting improved a lot in his second go-round as well, though it's probably still not up to par for the amount of time he's spent in the majors. not to mention he still doesn't play much against lefties.
Sands was a guy i knew nothing about but he had a remarkable spring, surprisingly being one of the team's better hitters.
one of my favorite memories from this season was hearing the "Jerry! Jerry!" chants break out at Progressive Field for Jerry Sands. who? lol i know, but he was a nice secret weapon for the Tribe for a while. originally called up from Columbus on April 11 because the Indians were unsure of Brantley's (back) status at the time, he went 3-for-4 with 4 RBI in his Tribe debut. he continued to hit very well in April before being DFA'd on the 29th and outrighted to Columbus on May 3. he was brought up again on May 28 when Santana went on Paternity Leave, then DFA'd for a second time on May 31 and outrighted to C-bus on June 6. he was brought up once and for all on July 31 and played a lot, either full games or subbing in late/platooning with Chisenhall. that's when his bat started to lose its heat, as he hit just .202 in 40 games between August and October. he mostly played in the outfield--both left and right--but also saw time at 1st base. he hit a couple bombs for the Tribe, including a grand slam on August 8, and provided fans with some special moments.
Holt played a lot of games this spring, starting some, and subbing in late in others. no matter because he still did well. he's got some major league experience and that could earn him another shot at the bigs if needed.
we didn't see Tyler Holt play much this season. he went 2-for-20 with 9 strikeouts in 9 games and 2 tours with the Tribe before being DFA'd on September 23 and then claimed 4 days later by the Reds. good luck in Cincy, T-Holt!
that's it for the outfielders so let's move on to the infielders.
Carlos Santana had another maddening season. he led the Indians with 19 home runs, 85 RBI, and 108 walks, but he did not have the best year, batting just .231. he either played 1st base or DH'd this season, which should have helped him produce at the plate, but it didn't seem to matter. first he bat cleanup, then shortly following Bourn's demotion, he began batting 2nd. however, he was never comfortable there and openly talked about that, so he was moved back down to 4th in mid-June. he also bat 5th sometimes. it seemed like the same old problem was prominent again--Santana was always trying to swing for the fences, especially when batting left-handed. he'd use the whole field during batting practice, but not during games. it drove fans crazy. that and his inability to hit off-speed pitches. other than missing a few days when he was out on Paternity Leave at the end of May, he played the whole season and at the end of 2015, he came out and told the media that his back was bothering him all year, hence the decrease in his power. that said, i still think there's a possibly he could be trade bait this offseason.
the key for Kip is going to be staying healthy. if he's feeling good, he should play good. it's really that simple.
no doubt about it, 2nd baseman Jason Kipnis was feeling a lot better this year than last. his comeback season started slow, but after being moved up in the order to leadoff on April 26, he was like a new man. he had an extraordinary May, batting .429 with 51 hits. he constantly got on base and waited for my boy to drive him home lol the Indians' lone representative at this year's All Star game in Cincinnati, Kipnis shortened up his swing and changed his hand placement on the bat. he did go on the 15-day DL in August with right shoulder inflammation and his bat wasn't as hot once he returned, but he still had one of the better years of everyone on the team. some of his team highs included the hits, triples, runs, total bases, and at bats categories. not worried about hitting for power, he finished 2nd behind Brantley with 43 doubles and a .303 batting average. (matter of fact, only he, Brantley, and Santana even played enough this season to be a qualifier.)
the illustrious Lindor had a great spring, getting many Indians fans even more excited about him than they already were. while he will NOT be rushed to the major leagues, i think he will certainly be making his Indians debut sometime this season. and i can't wait. this kid's going to be so fun to watch and root for.
another player who had a stellar season was rookie Francisco Lindor. the Indians brought him up on June 14, six days after they sent Ramirez down to Triple A. everyone knew Lindor was immediately going to positively impact the infield defense. he had so many highlights so soon into his initiation into Major League Baseball, it was almost unbelievable. not only that, but he actually contributed a lot with his bat as well. it didn't start out that way, though. batting 2nd, he struggled at first. it wasn't until around August before he looked very relaxed at the plate, finishing with 40 hits for the month. some of what he did with his bat was rather surprising; the boy's got some power! yet he also displayed unselfishness with his team high 13 sacrifice bunts. in addition, Frankie ended his season batting .313 with 12 home runs and 51 RBI in 99 games and has a serious chance to win MLB's Rookie of the Year award even without being a qualifier.
Giovanny Urshela was called up on June 9 to replace Chiz at 3rd base. like his buddy Lindor, Urshela brought instant improvement on the defensive side. he delivered several of his own highlight reels fielding grounders to 3rd. unlike Lindor, however, he didn't have the best year with his bat. he also didn't have the best year regarding his health. first, he suffered a knee injury while playing ball in the Venezuelan Winter League. then, he injured his back in spring training which caused him to miss time with the Clippers in both April and May. last, he had right shoulder soreness that lingered after the All Star break and really cut into his playing time in September. he ended the year batting .225 with 6 homers in 81 games. it's anticipated that he will do better offensively next season when his body gets back to full health.
Jose Ramirez. he got the 2nd most at bats on the team this spring to give him as much practice as possible. let me just say, this kid has really come to the rescue defensively. his talent and range at short is something the Indians have not been able to rely on for quite some time. he's speedy, can lay down a good bunt when needed, and has the potential to be one of the best base stealers on the team this year as well.
it's possible that Jose Ramirez's slow start was due to the pressure he felt knowing that Lindor was literally just a phone call away. he strictly played shortstop before being sent down to Columbus on June 8. to that point with the Tribe, he played in 46 games and only bat .180. he was briefly called up on July 11, played on the 12th, then sent back down on the 13th. Ramirez was brought back for good on August 3 and that's when he played different positions. he saw time at 2nd while Kip was on the DL, then he played some left while Brantley was recovering from his own shoulder inflammation, and he played a little 3rd as well. he ended up with 6 home runs in 97 games but still wasn't a factor offensively for the Tribe this season. the Indians will most likely try to turn him into the next Mike Aviles utility-type man.
Chris Johnson came to the Indians in exchange for Swisher and Bourn on August 7 and went a perfect 4-for-4 in his first game on August 9. he was primarily a 1st baseman but could also play 3rd. after appearing in 6 games with the Tribe, he got bit by a spider on his left index finger. it swelled up and got infected, so he was placed on the 15-day DL on August 18 and didn't return to the Tribe until September 1. he only played 27 games after being traded to Cleveland, but he bat .289 and played good defense. he's got at least another year as an Indian, so despite the small sample size, it's encouraging that he found some success here.
Aguilar finally showed up to play. he had the best spring he's ever had. now it's just a matter of can he hit comfortably like that in the big leagues. if he can, it will satisfy all the fans who have been begging for a right-handed bat, at long last.
once hoped to be a big right-handed bat for the Tribe, Jesus Aguilar really wasn't given much of an opportunity to prove that he could be that this year. he initially came up to the majors on July 24 but was quickly sent back to C-bus on July 28. they didn't bring him up again until September 23 (after the Clippers lost the Triple A championship game and their season was officially over), but didn't play him until the 30th. in total, the 1st baseman only got 19 at bats in 2 tours and 7 games with the Indians. he did have 6 hits (1 double) and bat .319, but it doesn't seem as though he will be part of the Indians' future.
i left out a couple of guys to this point because they are multi-talented and considered to be utility men.
Mike Aviles probably had the most challenging season out of everyone, as one of his twin daughters was diagnosed with and battling leukemia this year. he was put on the Family Medical Emergency List on May 8, then put on the Restricted List on May 15 before being activated again on May 18. that he was even able to focus on baseball at all shows his true professionalism. the Indians had so much respect and concern for him that they straight up told him he would not be traded during the trade deadline because they knew Adriana was getting treatment at Cleveland Clinic and did not want to disrupt that or worry Aviles about a potential move. he played left field, center field, 3rd base, shortstop, and 2nd base this season. his total stats didn't blow anybody away but his ability to play almost anywhere continued to make him valuable.
Zach Walters suffered an injury early on in spring training and that put him behind as far as getting himself ready for the season. he started it on the 15-day DL, then began a rehab assignment on April 22 before being outrighted to Columbus on April 24. he was recalled on May 8 and went 1-for-17 prior to getting sent back down on May 20. the Indians brought him back up on June 9 but shipped him down again on June 18. when Raburn briefly went on the Bereavement List, Walters came up again on August 11 until Raburn was reactivated on August 15. unfortunately, while playing in a Clippers playoff game on September 17, Walters tore the labrum in his left shoulder while sliding headfirst into home plate after hitting for the cycle. he was put on the Clippers 7-day DL on September 18, effectively ending his season with Columbus, and had surgery on October 2. he had a great year with the Clippers but never found any momentum when he played with the Tribe.
honorable mention: Michael Martinez. he put some great infield defense on display and wasn't bad with his bat either. he's a long shot to get a Cleveland call up, however.
i remember Michael Martinez did really good in spring and was wondering when he might get a call up, but he didn't make his Indians debut until September 4. he saw limited time for the remainder of the season, playing some complete games as well as subbing in late either defensively or as a pinch runner. Martinez did a decent job while here but i'm not sure there's gonna be much room for him with the Tribe going forward.
now i will address our catchers.
Yan Gomes had a tough break this season. in the 5th game of 2015, he suffered a right knee sprain on a play at the plate on April 11 versus the Detroit Tigers. he went on the 15-day DL and was out for 6 weeks. Gomes was never the same after that as far as hitting was concerned. as for his catching duties, however, he was his usual self, getting off many good throws to 2nd base with his strong arm to nab numerous runners. he was also one of the reasons a lot of our starting pitchers came close to throwing no-hitters and threw complete games/shutouts, because he called an excellent game behind the plate.
Roberto Perez. our backup catcher performed well at the plate in spring, ending up as one of the top five RBI leaders, and that arm of his is ready to throw out anyone trying to steal 2nd base. he can call a good game and i think we're lucky to have him.
with Gomes out, Roberto Perez got more of an opportunity to play this season. he was wildly inconsistent with his bat but, like Gomes, also had the ability to make strong throws and threw out 42% of the runners attempting to steal. (the AL average is 32%.) Perez probably played more games this year than he would have under normal circumstances because sometimes Tito preferred Gomes to get extra days off rather than continuously crouch behind the plate for 9 innings. Perez is never going to be a big threat with his bat but he is an adequate backup catcher.
Brett Hayes, another beneficiary of Gomes' injury, was called up on April 14 but didn't see a whole lot of time catching. he appeared in 14 games, acquired 5 hits--3 of which were home runs--and totaled 6 RBI. on May 24, the day Gomes came off the DL, Hayes was DFA'd. he was then outrighted to Columbus on May 26. he refused minor league assignment on October 13 and is currently a free agent.
lastly, Adam Moore was called up from the Clippers on September 23. he caught 1 game on September 30 (the 2nd game of a doubleheader versus the Minnesota Twins) and went 1-for-4 with an RBI.
time to talk about our starting pitchers.
leading the way is our ace, Corey Kluber. Carlos Carrasco has become our #2 based on his stellar 2nd half of 2014. Trevor Bauer, who has shown much improvement, is slotted at #3. that left the 4th and 5th spots open, and by the end of spring it was decided that Zach McAllister and TJ House would be rounding out the rotation, at least for the first month. the Indians' schedule in April contains an almost abnormal amount of off days, which means the team doesn't really need a 5th starter too much in the beginning. this would actually enable McAllister to move back and forth between starting and relieving as needed. sooner or later, someone will officially claim that 5th spot, it just isn't locked down yet. and that could put McAllister in the pen for long relief, which wouldn't be the worst thing. additionally, we've got Danny Salazar, Bruce Chen, and Shaun Marcum as depth in Columbus.
Kluber looked ready to defend his Cy Young title, aside from giving up a few homers.
Corey Kluber didn't start the season out in typical Kluber fashion. he struggled in late April and early May, losing his first 5 decisions, and some attributed that to him not having Gomes as his catcher. but he looked more like his usual self again around mid-May, especially in the May 13 game versus the St. Louis Cardinals when he struck out a career high 18 batters. a lot of games Kluber pitched this year were more than quality starts, yet he would still end up with a loss because the Indians weren't giving him any run support. in fact, he received 2 or fewer runs in 21 of his starts! by September, he experienced a strained right hamstring and was out 11 days before being cleared to play again by the medical staff. for the season, Kluber pitched 4 complete games, the most of any starter, and had 8 double digit strikeout games. he pitched 222 innings in 32 appearances, giving up 189 hits, 22 home runs, and 92 runs. in addition, he struck out 245 batters while walking just 45. his final ERA was 3.49, which is respectable, but his win-loss record was a disturbing 9-16. again, a little more run support and he definitely would have tallied more wins.
Carrasco did well overall and i actually have hope for him this season.
i think Carlos Carrasco may have earned himself a Cy Carrasco nickname after the season he just had. other than a bout with right shoulder inflammation that landed him on the 15-day DL from August 26 - September 8, he stayed in the starting rotation all year. but early on there was fear that he might be out for an extended period of time. Cookie got hit in the jaw in the 1st inning of the game on April 14 against the Chicago White Sox, but didn't miss a start and came back like a boss. he even pitched one complete game shutout in his second to last start on September 25 against the Kansas City Royals, in which he allowed just 1 hit and struck out a career high 15 batters. he had 2 other complete games as well. in total, Carrasco pitched 183.2 innings, giving up 154 hits, 18 home runs, and 75 runs. he struck out 216 batters and only walked 43. he finished with a team high 14 wins, as his record was 14-12, and had a 3.63 ERA.
Kluber and Carrasco, each with over 200 strikeouts this year, became the first Tribe duo to accomplish this since Luis Tiant and Sam McDowell in 1968. (they both did it in 1967, too.)
Bauer continued to work on stuff in his outings and he gave up several home runs and triples. but he only allowed one walk all spring, so there's that.
Trevor Bauer is still a work in progress. he had almost an equal amount of good and bad games. when meeting with the media after a bad game, sometimes the answers he gave made him seem like he wasn't taking accountability. or else he'd simply offer no explanation for what happened. the Tribe moved him to the bullpen on September 17 in order to keep both Anderson and Tomlin in the rotation once Kluber returned from his injury. he appeared in 31 games, starting 30 and only pitching 1 inning out of the bullpen in 1 game. he pitched a total of 176 innings, gave up 152 hits, 23 home runs, and 90 runs. he walked 79 while striking out 170 batters. he finished the year with an 11-12 record and 4.55 ERA. he also pitched 1 complete game. he's young and has a lot of upside, but Indians fans can certainly understand why the Arizona Diamondbacks were eager to trade him.
House had some good and bad appearances, seemingly having 1 bad inning in every game he pitched. Francona does not seem at all worried, however. on the contrary, quite frankly, i'm not convinced he will be in Cleveland for the entire year.
when TJ House made his first start on April 12, he lasted a mere 1.1 innings. he gave up 6 hits and 6 runs, leaving the game with a 40.50 ERA. yikes. he started 3 more games before being put on the 15-day DL with left shoulder inflammation. after he completed his rehab assignment, the Indians decided to option him to Columbus on May 21. his shoulder acted up again and on June 8 he was placed on the Clippers 7-day DL. later, the Indians needed to make room on their 40-man roster, so House was placed on the 60-day DL on September 4. in 4 outings and 13 innings with the Tribe, House allowed 21 hits and 19 runs, but just 1 home run. he had 0 wins and his final ERA was 13.15. it's possible he was hurt all year, so maybe next year he can make a comeback and pitch more like the guy we saw in 2014.
Salazar surprised me, in a bad way. i thought he would break camp with the Indians and that he would be primed for a good year. he struggled in spring, giving up many runs and walks and getting behind in the count, which is concerning because he had been prepping for the season since January 11. i can't figure him out. he's got good stuff, but he's just not consistent. he needs to get it together.
Danny Salazar did get it together and that was imperative for the Indians' rotation this year. he only made a few starts in Columbus but everyone said he looked much better. he was brought up on April 18 and got a permanent spot in the rotation, making 30 starts and pitching 185 innings. he allowed 156 hits, 23 home runs, and 79 runs. he struck out 195 batters, gave up 53 walks, and ended 2015 with a 14-10 record and 3.45 ERA.
Chen decided to stay in the Indians' organization, which i was pleased about. he has been given the option to leave if another big league club takes interest in him, but i think he could be a nice secret weapon for the Tribe on days when we need a spot starter and/or if any of the starting 5 becomes injured for a significant period of time. (knock on wood.)
Bruce Chen got the call up on May 9, and his Indians debut versus the Minnesota Twins was rough. he only lasted 4 innings, giving up 10 hits, 1 home run, 6 runs, and 1 walk. he got 3 strikeouts but left the game with a 13.50 ERA. he made one more start on May 15 and Francona took him out after just 2.1 innings. this time he gave up 7 hits, 2 home runs, and 3 runs. Chen was DFA'd the next day and released on the 18th. he later formally announced his retirement.
Marcum is the dark horse longshot, still trying to come back from his own (arm) injuries. while he may do well in Columbus, i'm not sure he'll see any substantial time at the major league level this year, at least not with the Indians.
with Chen's poor performance and subsequent retirement, the Indians were still in need of a 5th starter. Shaun Marcum was next in line. he was called up for an extended stay on May 20. (however, he was first brought up on April 12 and pitched 5 innings out of the bullpen after House's bad start. he was DFA'd on April 14 and outrighted on April 15.) he made 6 starts before he was DFA'd on June 18 and outrighted on June 20. he was so erratic, with one decent start, then a bad one, then some decent ones, then a bad one. he proved that he could not claim the 5th spot as his own. in 7 total appearances, he gave up 32 hits, 9 home runs, 21 runs, and 11 walks. he also had 30 strikeouts and a 3-2 record but acquired a 5.40 ERA.
after that 5th starter mess, it was Big Country to the rescue! Cody Anderson fully secured a rotation spot when he was called up from Columbus on June 21. in his first 4 starts, he had a 0.89 ERA, giving up just 3 runs. he even pitched a complete game in his 3rd start on July 4 against the Pittsburgh Pirates! on the contrary, in his next 4 starts, he gave up 21 runs and amassed a 10.19 ERA during that span. luckily the culprit was a left oblique strain, for which he went on the 15-day DL on August 8. he was activated on August 26 and looked much more like the guy from his first 4 starts. in total, Anderson pitched 91.1 innings in 15 starts. he gave up 77 hits, 9 home runs (but only 3 after his return from the DL), 32 runs, and 24 walks. he had 44 strikeouts, a 3.05 ERA, and 7-3 record in his major league season debut.
Toru Murata got to pitch 1 game with the Tribe this season because they needed another starter for their doubleheader on June 28. he was added to the roster as the 26th man and pitched the 2nd game against the Baltimore Orioles. lamentably, he only went 3.1 innings, giving up 4 hits, 2 home runs, 5 runs, and 1 walk. he ended his Indians debut with an 8.10 ERA and was sent back to Columbus for good the next day.
Josh Tomlin did a good job in spring, but he complained of some right shoulder pain early in camp, which originated in the offseason. after his last spring start on March 30, he knew something was still wrong, and on April 3 it was announced that he had inflammation in his AC joint. now he's going to open the year on the DL and have arthroscopic debridement of the AC joint. he's expected to be out for 3-4 months. at best, we might see him in Cleveland sometime after the All Star break, but that's a long ways away.
the comeback story of the year goes to Josh Tomlin. he finally began his rehab on July 5, pitching for the Arizona League, the Akron Rubberducks, and the Clippers prior to being optioned to Columbus on July 31. at long last, he was brought up to the Tribe on August 15. Tomlin made 10 starts, including 2 complete games, and pitched 65.2 innings. he gave up 47 hits, 13 home runs, and 22 runs while walking 8 and striking out 57. he went 7-2 with a 3.02 ERA. if he can stay healthy, he should unquestionably own a starter spot next season.
last but not least, Francona's favorite area to stockpile, the bullpen. this season, Indians relievers were directly responsible for 16 of the team's 80 total losses, down from 23 in 2014 but up from 15 in 2013. and this makes sense because a lot of the starters pitched games that essentially took the Indians out of it before the bullpen could even relieve them.
McAllister really impressed me with his breaking ball and ability to strike out batters.
i'm gonna start with Zach McAllister first here. he made one start--the Indians Home Opener versus the Detroit Tigers on April 10--and gave up 13 hits and 5 runs in 4 innings. after that, he was moved to the bullpen to be a long man and that is where he stayed for the entire rest of the season. he had some problems in the beginning coming out of the bullpen too, but eventually he became a reliable reliever. post-All Star break, he had some more struggles, either giving up runs or walking people in non-ideal situations. even so, when all was said and done, he acquired a 4-4 record with 13 holds in 61 appearances. in total, he gave up 28 runs on 70 hits and 23 walks. he also brought his initial 11.25 ERA down to 3.00.
now let's get to our closer, Cody Allen. he earned his first save of the season on April 8 against the Houston Astros, and then blew his next opportunity on April 11, ballooning his ERA from 0.00 to 21.60! but he redeemed himself throughout the remainder of the season. Francona was never afraid to go to him, sometimes calling upon him in the 8th inning for a 4- or 5-out save. overall, Allen gave up 26 runs on 56 hits, allowed 25 walks, and induced 99 strikeouts in 70 appearances to finish with a 2.99 ERA. he also had a career high 34 saves.
Shaw didn't have a very productive spring in terms of numbers, giving up many hits, home runs, and walks. however, he was experimenting with a 2-seam fastball when some of his snafus occurred. Francona assured everyone that once the regular season began, he would be fine.
Bryan Shaw didn't seem as on point as he's been in the past, and that may have been due to the fact that he pitched quite a bit in his 2 prior seasons with the Tribe. there were some games where he looked unhittable, and other games where he looked like a hot mess and couldn't get anyone out. i'll never forget when the Indians had the lead in the game versus the Tigers on September 10 and Shaw blew that lead TWICE. luckily, my boy bailed him out by hitting 2 go-ahead home runs. in 2015, Shaw gave up a total of 59 hits, which has been about his average the last couple years, 8 home runs, 24 runs, but only 19 walks in 74 outings with 4 blown saves and 23 holds. in addition, he struck out 54 batters and ended the campaign with an ERA of 2.95.
Atchison's age makes me nervous. he's another year older, so he may not be as dominant anymore.
yes, sadly Father Time caught up with Scott Atchison this season. he started out pitching very well, maintaining a 0.00 ERA in his first 7 appearances in April. then he became inconsistent in May, supposedly a result of a left ankle sprain, which he was put on the 15-day DL for on May 28. he came back on June 13, pitched in 4 more games and then was DFA'd on June 23. in 23 appearances, he allowed 15 runs on 23 hits (6 home runs), gave out a mere 4 free passes, and established a 6.86 ERA.
Marc Rzepczynski. oh how i will miss spelling out your name lol he didn't necessarily do a bad job this year, but this was Zep's 3rd season with the Indians and the Tribe felt they had better, cheaper lefty relievers in their system. so to save themselves a headache next year when "Scrabble" would be eligible for arbitration, they let him go on July 28 to the Padres. before he left us, he appeared in 45 games, gave up 23 hits--only 1 homer--and 15 runs, and had 24 strikeouts versus 14 walks. he obtained a 4.43 ERA with 12 holds as well.
i don't know much about Swarzak's past, but my god did he look bad in the beginning of spring, only putting together some nice outings towards the end. here's hoping he got all the kinks out and can become a solid long-relief man.
Anthony Swarzak didn't play much with us, pitching in just 10 games. he gave up 18 hits and 9 runs. when he was DFA'd on May 9, his ERA was 3.38. he was outrighted to Columbus on May 14 and then on June 19, he decided to play baseball in Korea. good luck to him.
Hagadone and Crockett both had exemplary springs, especially Hags, who looked equipped to finally have a solid year in the big leagues. Crockett, on the other hand, could be an all year up-and-downer.
Nick Hagadone's season did not go as planned. on July 7, he was put on the 15-day DL for a lower back strain. when he went out on a rehab assignment on July 14, he injured his elbow. he felt discomfort throwing a pitch and it turned out to be a fracture of the left medial epicondyle. consequently, on July 23, he underwent season-ending surgery and the Indians moved him to the 60-day DL on July 28. prior to the end of his year, his total numbers read 36 appearances, 30 hits, 16 runs, 12 walks, 28 strikeouts, and 4.28 ERA with 5 holds.
as for Kyle Crockett, he didn't become a permanent fixture in the Indians bullpen until August 3--his fourth call up. preceding that, he appeared in 9 games and didn't give up so much as 1 run in his first 8. in total, he allowed 17 hits, just 9 runs, 1 home run, and 7 walks in 31 appearances. Crockett also struck out 15 batters. he really only had 1 bad outing, so his final 4.08 ERA is a bit skewed.
Adams made the club. it's no surprise that Francona loves a copious bullpen, but why this kid made the team, idk. he pitched poorly last season when he got the call to the bigs, then continued to give up big hits in spring. he's not ready for an extended stay in the majors and he's the weak link right now, no question. if used, he could possibly be a direct cause of several team losses.
Austin Adams actually didn't do as bad as i thought he would, but he was up and down the I-71 a lot this year. he was sent to Columbus on April 10 before even pitching in a game. they brought him back up on the 12th, then sent him down again on the 18th. he had short stints here from May 16-18 and May 28-June 11, prior to coming back on June 23 and staying through the end of the season. he totaled 37 hits, 15 runs, 13 walks, and 23 strikeouts while giving up only 2 home runs. that was good for a 3.78 ERA in 28 outings.
the Indians signed Ryan Webb as a free agent on April 14 and sent him down to Columbus before calling him up on April 29. he never saw Columbus again and became one of the more dependable arms in our bullpen. he fell off a little towards the end of 2015 though. be that as it may, in 40 appearances, Webb struck out 31 while giving up 46 hits, 4 home runs, 21 runs, and 12 walks to earn a 3.20 ERA.
unfortunately, Lee had a forgettable spring. my faith in Lee is there though because i saw him do some amazing work in Cleveland last year and don't think that was just a fluke. he would be my first choice for a promotion if necessary.
C.C. Lee was shockingly one of this season's bigger disappointments in the reliever department. the Indians didn't feel he was one of their best options, so he spent the majority of his year pitching out of the pen in Columbus. he replaced Adams in the Tribe bullpen on June 11, pitched in the game on June 12, then was quickly sent back down on June 13 when Atchison came off the DL. he didn't get back to Cleveland until September 23 once the Clippers were done playing. between then and the end of the season, he pitched in one game on September 30, striking out 3 and walking 1. overall, he gave up 4 hits and 1 run to finish with a 5.40 ERA.
Manship pitched well in spring but, at this time, i can't confidently say that will carry over to the big league regular season.
it did. big time. Jeff Manship got called up from Columbus on June 18 and that was the end of his time in Triple A. he became the most reliable guy in the bullpen. in 32 appearances, Manship gave up 20 hits, only 1 home run, and just 4 runs while walking 10 and striking out 33! he also had 3 holds and an overall 0.92 ERA. all aboard!
Shawn Armstrong had a brief stint with the Indians between August 8-15. he pitched 2.2 innings in 2 games, giving up 1 walk and striking out 4. he was brought up again when rosters expanded on September 1 to join the bullpen for the remainder of the season. all-in-all, Armstrong appeared in 8 games, allowing 5 hits, 1 home run, and 2 runs. he also totaled 11 strikeouts versus a measly 2 walks. through his first 6 appearances, he maintained a 0.00 ERA, then ended the year at 2.25. not a bad major league debut.
Gavin Floyd. he was brought in for depth, as another probable Tribe reclamation project. Floyd had a history of elbow problems, including Tommy John surgery and a broken olecranon bone. he signed a 1-year deal with the Indians for $4 million, up to $6 million in incentives. i never thought much of this pick up, but i was willing to give him a chance for a month and see if he could actually be a viable arm in the rotation. yet due to the Tribe's track record, i figured he probably wouldn't work out long-term and we'd end up just going with 5 of our own guys from within anyways.
a starter by trade, Gavin Floyd only saw time this year coming out of the bullpen because he was bit by the injury bug once again. everything was looking satisfactory in spring until he felt some general soreness in his right elbow. the soreness didn't go away so he had an MRI that revealed a fracture of the olecranon bone in his elbow. he had surgery on March 17 at the Cleveland Clinic soon after, a surgery he just had a year ago, and started the season on the 60-day DL. it was a long road to recovery for him. he didn't begin rehabbing until August 19 and was activated from the DL on September 1. he was nowhere near ready to start, so he was placed in the bullpen. in his Indians debut on September 2, he pitched 1 inning and didn't give up any hits. his longest outing occurred when he pitched 3 full innings on September 30. for the year, he made 7 total appearances, giving up 11 hits, 0 home runs, and 4 runs while striking out 7, walking 4, and acquiring a 2.70 ERA. he's expressed interest in re-signing with the Indians next season, but will they take a chance on him again?
Giovanni Soto came to Cleveland on September 4. he only pitched 3.1 total innings in 6 outings, but didn't give up any runs and was hit a mere 3 times. it's a very small sample size but that 0.00 ERA sure looks impressive for someone who made his major league debut and pitched in more than 1 game.
and let's not forget about Michael Roth. but maybe you already did. he was brought up on July 28 and sent down again on August 3. he was DFA'd on August 5, then outrighted to Columbus on August 7. he never pitched for the Tribe despite being on the 25-man roster for 6 days.
that's it for the player evaluations. i hope i didn't leave anybody out. now i'm going to recognize some of the star players/MVPs on the team this year. for sure Brantley is my #1. i still don't know how he played as much as he did and as well as he did with the injuries he had all season. Kipnis also had a nice rebound year. Lindor had one hell of a rookie debut as well. as for pitchers, Carrasco had a huge standout season, Anderson was a very pleasant surprise, and Tomlin is definitely the comeback player of the year. and even though his record was abysmal, Kluber still had an important season. Allen was extraordinary out of the bullpen and so was Manship.
normally i also take the time to identify some letdown players, except the majority of those guys were traded before the season ended so they didn't hurt the team for too long. but if you want me to name names, there was Swisher, Bourn, and Moss. maybe i'll include Santana to boot.
and there you have it. the 2015 season and my analysis is a wrap. it's good that the Indians finally recognized some of their "dead weight" and made a move to end its hindrances on the team and in the lineup. they have a lot of positives going for them heading into 2016. nevertheless, and i feel like i say this every offseason, they still need a few more pieces--specifically another big bat (or two) for the starting lineup and another pitcher for depth. (and i will be writing another Looking Ahead blog, just like i did last year, talking about the team's needs for next season. look for that one sometime in November.) but if some players can go into the season healthy, and stay relatively healthy throughout the duration of the season, then combined with the great pitching we've already got, i truly believe we can contend. as of this post, we're only 168 days away from Opening Day to see if my optimism is justified! lol
Go Tribe 2016!
and once again, i want to thank the Tribe writers who informed and educated me all year long through their articles and tweets. they are the reason i, a Cleveland Indians fan who lives in Western New York and can't watch games because the Indians are blacked out on the MLB package, am so knowledgeable about All Things Tribe. to Paul Hoynes, Jordan Bastian, Terry Pluto, Zack Meisel, T.J. Zuppe, and Dennis Manoloff - i thank you very much for providing me with numerous roster moves, health updates, game details, and player quotes this year. through the good games and the bad, you guys kick ass at what you do and your work is greatly appreciated as well as inspiring. i can only hope that my fan blogs are even a modicum as good as all of your writing.