Archive for Cleveland Indians
It feels like the Yankees just got done playing the Indians, doesn’t it? That four-game series ended three weeks ago today with a 1-0 win for the Tribe, but that was a little easier to swallow after the Yankees won the first three games.
What Have The Indians Done Lately?
Their molten hot start is a distant memory, but Cleveland has rebounded to win four of their last six games, all against NL competition (Diamondbacks and Reds) in NL parks. They’re six games over .500 at 44-38, and their +16 run differential is actually one of the better marks in the league.
Indians On Offense
The Tribe were struggling big time with the bats the last time these two clubs met, scoring just nine runs in the six games before that series started. The offense has come back to life though, and Cleveland has scored four or more runs in five of their last six games and five-plus runs in four of six. Travis Hafner is now off the disabled list, and he adds a huge bat (.341/.419/.563) to their middle of their lineup at designated hitter. The Indians lost the underperforming Shin-Soo Choo (.244/.333/.353) to a long-term thumb injury and benched the underwhelming Jack Hannahan (.213/.303/.333), replacing them with a Travis Buck (.272/.312/.398 vs. RHP)/Austin Kearns (.236/.286/.261 vs. LHP)/Shelley Duncan (.241/.293/.389 vs. LHP) platoon and top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall (.300/.300/.400 in five games), respectively. Otherwise it’s the same cast of characters we saw three weeks ago.
Michael Brantley has come back to Earth a bit as the leadoff man (.266/.330/.361), but Asdrubal Cabrera has assumed number three hitter duties and is still hitting the snot out of the ball (.291/.341/.496). Carlos Santana has started to add some power (.352 ISO in his last 15 games) to his OBP skills (16.4% walk rate, third best in baseball), and he’s being protected by the powerful (.222 ISO) but suddenly undisciplined (5.5% walk rate, half his career mark) Grady Sizemore. Those four plus Hafner represent the meat of their order, the guys Manny Acta relies on to produce runs night after night.
Matt LaPorta is on the disabled list, so Santana has been playing first while Lou Marson (.226/.272/.302) handles catching duties. Cord Phelps (.200/.280/.333 in limited time) and Orlando Cabrera (.262/.292/.353) are sharing the second base job. Overall, the Indians are essentially league average with a .319 wOBA, and they rely more on power (.145 ISO) and patience (8.3% walk rate) than speed (just 48 steals). Hafner and Santana are a scary 1-2 punch in the middle of the order, and you can’t ignore Asdrubal and Sizemore either. The other five guys can be pitched to, though.
Indians On The Mound
Monday, RHP Josh Tomlin (vs. A.J. Burnett): The clock struck midnight on Tomlin last month, as he’s followed up the 2.41 ERA in his first nine starts with a 5.86 ERA in seven starts since. The Yankees contributed to that 5.86 ERA by tagging him for six runs and a dozen hits in five innings a few weeks ago, though it’s worth noting he’s allowed just six runs total in three starts since. Tomlin isn’t flashy (88-91 mph fastball with a changeup and curve) and other than his walk rate (1.05 BB/9), nothing about his underlying performance stands out (5.08 K/9, 1.23 HR/9, 37.6% grounders).
Tuesday, RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. CC Sabathia): Carrasco was the author of that 1-0 win three weeks ago, stymieing the Yankees with his four-pitch mix (low-90′s fastball, slider, changeup, curveball) over seven shutout innings. His 3.54 ERA is right in line with his 3.46 FIP and 3.65 xFIP, though his strikeout rate is unimpressive (5.74 K/9) and he gets by on limiting walks (2.20 BB/9) and keeping the ball in the park (0.67 HR/9, 49.8% grounders). Carrasco has a pretty drastic platoon split, especially in terms of strikeouts and walks, and he’s on a nice little roll at the moment (more than one run allowed in just one of his last five starts). Hopefully seeing him for the second time in three weeks gives the Yankees a bit of an advantage.
Wednesday, RHP Justin Masterson (vs. Phil Hughes): Masterson is one guy the Yankees didn’t see three weeks ago, but they’re certainly familiar with him from his Red Sox days. He’s a low arm slot sinker (low-90′s)/slider (low-80′s) guy with a considerable platoon split, and he relies way more on ground balls (55.2%) than strikeouts (6.33 K/9). After a rough stretch at the end of May, Masterson has allowed no more than two earned runs in his last five starts, though high pitch counts kept him from going deep in the game.
Bullpen: Cleveland’s bullpen is sneaky good. Closer Chris Perez is actually their worst late-game reliever (3.64 FIP thanks to a K/BB ratio hovering around 1.00), and they just welcoming him back off the bereavement list. Right-hander Vinny Pestano (2.26 FIP, 12.62 K/9) and left-handed Tony Sipp (7.68 K/9, 4.77 FIP because of homer issues) are death on same-side hitters (.123/.240/.200 vs. RHB and .095/.191/.238 vs. LHB, respectively), and Rafael Perez gives them another solid option against lefties (.219/.250/.250). Side-arming righty Joe freakin’ Smith (.302 FIP) has a fluke reverse split this year (.293/.369/.320 vs. RHB but .138/.212/.172 vs. LHB) that is nothing like the rest of his career. It’s more sample size than anything, he spent some time on the disabled list earlier this year.
The rest of the pen is filled out with righties Chad Durbin (3.93 FIP), Frank “Pee Wee” Herrmann (4.22 FIP), and Josh Judy (just three innings so far). It’s a relief corps best used in matchup situations (especially late in the game) considering the platoon splits that Sipp, Smith, and the lefty Perez are rocking. Pestano is effective against everyone, and the righty Perez is the definition of a cardiac closer.
The Yankees and Indians have some ties, namely CC Sabathia and the 2007 ALDS, but otherwise these are two very different teams. It’s the whole David vs. Goliath deal, the small market club vs. the big bad Yankees, the speedy club vs. the Bronx Bombers, all that jazz. The Yankees and Indians do have one thing in common right now though: they’re both playing terrible baseball at the moment.
What Have The Indians Done Lately?
The Tribe was the surprise, fell-good story of the year early on, jumping out to a ridiculously hot 20-8 start through the first month of the season. The good times didn’t last though. The Indians are just 14-18 since then and they’ve been outscored 153-125 in the process. Imagine if they hadn’t scored 14 runs in two innings off Vin Mazzaro that one game. Cleveland has won just four of its last 15 games, and they’ve scored a total of nine runs in their last six games. Yep, the Indians are who we thought they were. Regression is a bitch.
Indians On Offense
Like I said, they’re struggling to score runs of late, in part because the resurgent Travis Hafner (.409 wOBA) is on the disabled list. That said, the top five spots of their lineup are very, very dangerous. Lead-off man Michael Brantley (acquired in the Sabathia trade) owns a .349 wOBA for the year and a .354/.426/.521 batting line over the last two weeks. Number two hitter Asdrubal Cabrera has been the best shortstop in the AL this year, combining a .395 wOBA over the full season with a .343/.361/.629 batting line this month. Grady Sizemore is now hitting third following his long knee-injury related layoff, and a .366 season wOBA with a .290/.353/.506 line over the last two weeks is reminiscent of the old Grady.
Carlos Santana holds down the cleanup spot and hasn’t been great overall (.336wOBA), but he’s come alive over the last three weeks or so (.317/.434/.463). Shin-Soo Choo has not been himself (.300 wOBA) in part because of his DUI (according to him), though he’s still dangerous and left-handed power in Yankee Stadium plays well. The rest of Cleveland’s lineup is a little hit or miss. Matt LaPorta (.332 wOBA) is the best of the rest (he was another piece in the Sabathia trade), but old pal Shelley Duncan (.270 wOBA), Jack Hannahan (.309), Lou Marson (.248), Austin Kearns (.252), and Travis Buck (.308) aren’t scaring anyone. Prospect Cord Phelps was just called up to take over second base from the punchless Orlando Cabrera (.263 wOBA), and he went hitless in his first and only game on Wednesday.
The big thing to watch with the Indians is that they will run, which will be a problem if Russell Martin‘s still not healthy enough catch and Frankie Cervelli plans on throwing some more balls into center field. Choo, Brantley, and Cabrera all have seven steals or more, and they’re aggressive going first to third and what not. As a whole, the Tribe’s offense is right about league average at a .324 wOBA, but the lineup is very top heavy.
Indians On The Mound
Friday, RHP Fausto Carmona: Fausto is like the sinkerballing version of A.J. Burnett, dude’s just crazy inconsistent. Here’s his runs allowed in his last five starts: 4, 8, 4, 9, 4. He’s also allowed ten runs in a game this year (Opening Day, actually), and also has six starts of two earned runs or less. Good luck figuring him out. Carmona will throw that hellacious low-90′s sinker most of the time, but he can also mix in quality sliders and changeups. They aren’t strikeout pitches, but enough to keep both righties and lefties off balance. A 58.1% ground ball rate with a very good infield defense are the recipes for his success.
Saturday, RHP Mitch Talbot: An elbow injury has cut Talbot’s season in half, but his last two starts have been pretty good (12.2 IP, 3 R) following a disastrous return (3 IP, 8 R). His main weapons are a two-seamer and cutter, both of which sit in the high-80′s. He’ll also throw the occasional changeup and slider, though Talbot doesn’t miss bats (6.11 K/9) and he does walk guys (4.18 BB/9). His saving grace is a fine ground ball rate (50.5%).
Sunday, RHP Josh Tomlin: Oh the nightmare of Josh Tomlin. You probably remember that he made his Major League debut against the Yankees last year, when he held them to one run and three hits in seven innings. He was rocking a sub-2.50 ERA as recently as three starts ago, but it’s now closer to 4.00 after allowing six runs in six innings in both of his previous two outings. Tomlin is a pretty generic right-hander, throwing three high-80′s fastballs (cutters, two-seamers, four-seamers), a changeup, and a curveball. He doesn’t walk anyone at all (1.27 BB/9), but he also doesn’t miss any bats (5.10 K/9) and is a big time fly ball guy (37.4%). Unsurprisingly, he’s homer prone (1.27 HR/9).
Monday, RHP Carlos Carrasco: The prize of the first Cliff Lee trade, Carrasco fits the mold of Talbot and Tomlin (low walks and low strikeouts), just with better stuff. He’ll sit in the low-90′s with his heat and back it up with a changeup and curveball, getting a solid amount of ground balls (49%). It’s worth noting that the scouting report on Carrasco has long been that he struggles with men on base for whatever reason (diminished stuff from the stretch? overly worried about holding runners? who knows), so the Yankees need to make him sweat when guys get on. He followed up a six run, six inning outing against the Rangers with 8.2 shutout innings against the Twins in his last two starts.
Bullpen: The Indians have a really good bullpen, owning a 3.60 FIP and 3.25 ERA as a unit. Closer Chris Perez is flirting with the dreaded 1.00 K/BB ratio (5.01 K/9, 4.63 BB/9), and with a 31.4% ground ball rate, you wonder how long until he blows up. Setup man and great name Vinny Pestano has been fantastic, striking out 11.57 batters per nine while walking just 3.43 per nine. Lefties Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp are holding same-sided batters to .209/.222/.256 and .063/.147/.156 batting lines, respectively. Both hold their own against righties too.
The rest of the relief corps consists of middle man Chad Durbin (3.97 FIP but a 5.47 ERA), mop-up man Frank Herrmann (5.51 FIP and a 7.71 ERA), and righty specialist Joe freakin’ Smith, who naturally has a reverse platoon split (.311/.392/.356 vs. RHB, .100/.174/.150 vs. LHB). The Tribe can certainly protect a lead in the late innings with a lot of guys that have a lot of different looks, but there are some soft spots in the middle innings that can be exploited.