Tuesday, August 23, 2016

September Callups

As we approach Sept. 1st when the major league rosters can be increased from 25 to 40 players, there is always a lot of speculation about who will be recalled from the minors.

There are really three types of teams at this point in the season: teams fighting for division titles, teams fighting for a wild card and teams that are out of the race for playoff spots.

When you are in the latter category your mission is simple: balance your minor leaguers playing in a playoff atmosphere in the minors vs giving them their first taste of the big leagues to get the jitters out if they make the majors the next season.   Teams fall on the either side of that fence even though recently it appears that ML teams value minor league playoff experience over being in the majors with a bunch of guys just playing out the string.   Sometimes teams will hand out 'thank you' callups to veteran minor leaguers who have had good seasons and toiled in the minors for years without getting ANY big league playing time.  

For the other two categories above, the equation is a much different one: which player(s) can we bring up from the minors who will help us win in September and, possibly, help us in the playoffs if we have spots on our 25 man playoff roster due to having guys on the 60-day DL.  For these teams, leaving guys in the minors to get playoff experience is not an issue.  Can you help us?  OK, you are in the majors.

Right now the Indians are in the first category.   They are in first place and, although there is A LOT of season left, they look pretty good to win the AL Central.   So, clearly, they are looking for guys who will be able to help them in September AND in the playoffs.  With that in mind, here is my assessment on which players they should bring up:

Pitchers:

Here is the thinking.  You either bring up relievers already on the 40 man roster to eat innings or you bring up starters and put them in the bullpen if you think there stuff will play up in relief as the league won't have 'a book' on them yet.  I don't think we have any of the latter but we do have some guys with ML experience who are already on the 40-man roster.  Here they are:

Austin Adams
Shawn Armstrong
Joe Colon
Shawn Morimando
Ryan Merritt

My guess is that you will see Shawn Armstrong and Colon in early September and Adams, Morimando and Merritt after Columbus finishes its playoff run.

As I said, I don't see any other pitchers in the minors who we could bring up

Position Players

The same match applies:  Can you help me in September and/or can you help me in the playoffs.  Teams have brought up speedsters and minor leaguers with big time power, thinking that as a pinch hitter they may help as, respectively, a pinch runner or a pinch hitter.  Here are some thoughts:

Giovanny Urshela - He is a plus defender at 3B.   Having him on the roster would increase the size of the rotation for 3B and OF.   Even if he didn't hit he might still be valuable as a late inning defensive replacement. 

Bradley Zimmer -  He has good speed and would be a good pinch runner and defensive replacement.   Of course he is not on the 40 man roster so we would have to remove someone but with Colin Cowgill available to be DFA'd, that shouldn't present a problem.  BTW Zimmer also go a bump in his performance this summer when he was promoted to AAA so maybe lightning can strike here, as well.    Even if it doesn't, Zimmer can still impact the game with his legs and his glove/arm combination.

Erik Gonzalez -  With Michael Martinez in the majors I just think you leave Gonzalez in the minors and bring him up at the end of the season.

Yandy Diaz - Another guy who would require Cowgill to be removed, he might be a good guy to have around when you need a pinch hitter as his glove is suspect but his bat looks good.   He is a GREAT lightning in a bottle guy, someone who could go through all of Sept and Oct. and give you great ABs because the league doesn't know him

Jesus Aguilar - Like Diaz, a guy without a glove who might be a good ML pinch hitter.  Unlike Diaz, Aguilar IS on the 40-man roster AND he has a little big league experience.

Francisco Mejia -  Don't laugh.   He is the classic lightning in a bottle guy.   I don't know his status for the being available for the Rule 5 this winter but, if he is, bringing up now instead of after the season makes more sense.   Of course, he has to be able to throw as his throwing is important if he is going to be the catcher in any games.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Final thoughts on the Olympics

First, baseball and softball in the Olympics?  The only reason I have ever liked those sports in the Olympics is because the US is good at them and it means more medals. 

This Olympics we had almost twice the number of medals as the next country!  So, no, let's not add baseball and softball back in.  I mean, why not just put American football in the Olympics?

One of the reasons that sports are not added to (or are removed from) the Olympics is because too few countries play them.  The US, in this Olympics, won medals in 25 of the 39 sports contested.   That seems about right to me and maybe a tad high.  So, now, we don't need any other sports added that will up our medal count.     

And what about going back to an all-amateur Olympics?  So it won't be the best players in the world at their sports.   It will be the best players who don't make a living playing that sport. 

Look, over 100 countries participated in the Olympics that didn't win a single medal.   Doesn't that seem a bit odd when the US won 121?  It is just more of the haves and have-nots.  Can't we find a way to level the playing field a little bit.

So, while we revel in the success of the good old USA in the Olympics, let's consider measures that open up the field instead of closing it up.   This is not the Olympics of the US amateur hockey players playing against the veteran Russian team that was, for all practical purposes, a professional team.     If it looks reasonable to do, let's think of going back to amateur-only participation.  The only reason I can see not doing that is that maybe there are still a few countries (China? Cuba?) that have state-run programs whose athletes are banned from playing professionally somewhere due to ideological reasons.   However, if that is not true and everyone has and chooses to use the opportunity to play professionally, maybe this should be amateur hour...once again

BTW, except for a wrestler here, a soccer team there and a track relay team that misfired...again,  this was about the most perfect summer Olympics I can ever remember the US having.   The people who were supposed to set records for medals did.   The teams that were supposed to win, for the most part, won.    And there seemed to be many more people the US didn't think were going to get medals who did compared to those who we thought would get medals who failed..some of them old guys like me!   

So, great job USOC and all the NGBs out there.   And thanks to the US athletes who, to almost the last one, showed that ANY kind of medal was a great accomplishment.   That was a refreshing change from past Olympics where, if we didn't win, it was considered a tragedy.  And thanks to all those who showed that the Olympic spirit was not just about medals.  

See you all in 4 years!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Baseball and Olympic Musings on August 11, 2016

Question: Do you think the families of retired baseball players can get the Olympic appeals committee to look at the cases of Pete Rose, Joe Jackson and Mark McGwire for the Hall of Fame?  If they let a Russian swimmer who has been caught using PEDs two times to compete in an Olympics where a lot of Russian athletes have been banned for doping, maybe they can rationalize the above three players being in the HOF.

Here I was really thinking the Indians caught a break when they sent Frazier to the Yankees and then Zimmer got real hot at Columbus.   Until yesterday when Zimmer got hit on the hand trying to bunt.

Sent this question into Paul Hoynes but I don't think he has answered it yet:  Last year Lindor, as a rookie, reached double figures in sacrifices, home runs and stolen bases.   I wonder when the last time that a rookie has reached double figures on these three incongruous statistical categories (i.e., people who hit HRs usually don't sacrifice much).  Also, since Lindor reached those levels in about half a season, when was the last time that people had this high a level of HRs, stolen bases and sacrifices per AB as a rookie?

This has been an incredibly quiet August in terms of waiver trades.   For the Indians, I just don't think there are players out there that they will trade for that (a) will help them win and (b) will be cheap enough (in prospects) to trade for.  Clearly, though, we need some more offense as it now looks like we won't get Brantley back the entire season.  I was holding out hope that he would be back by Sept. 1st and then we could coast to a division win as he got back in shape just in time for the playoffs.   Now it doesn't look like that will happen.

Does it bother anyone else that Francisco Mejia is really playing sparingly during this hit streak?   I know he is battling an injury but his infrequent play looks like the Indians are just playing him at times they KNOW he has a great likelihood of getting a hit and sitting him other games.   Last weekend he didn't play either Saturday or Sunday when they had an off-day on Monday.  If he is truly injured just DL him.  The hit streak stays intact.  If he is healthy enough to play MOST days, then play him most days.   The hitting streak is a novelty.  His development as a player, which comes from PLAYING, is more important.   BTW, I know I have said this before but look at the guys with the longest hitting streaks in the history of the minor leagues.   Most times they don't end up having any impact on the ML team at all. 

We have seen that we can score 4-5 runs a game which is good when our starting pitching is good.  However, when the starting pitching or the bullpen blows up, we don't seem to have the horses to do anything more than get close.   So, we need to get the starting pitching back on track.   We have everything else we need to compete.

Does it bother anyone else that Andrew Miller has been just mediocre since he has come to the Indians?  It is interesting how the Yankees turned on a dime and traded someone who wasn't supposed to be tradeable.  Now I know we overwhelmed the Yankees with our offer but if Miller is really hurt or burned out....um-um-um, will that ever stink!

Finally, in the category of don't EVER do that again, I was watching the end of the women's time trial cycling.   The organizers had set up a covered area with three chairs marked "1", "2" and "3".  From what I saw the current 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishers got to sit in those chairs.   Unfortunately, as riders came in with better times the riders in these chairs were bumped to either lower numbers or out of the chairs entirely if they were currently in the "3" chair.    So the American women, the last rider, won the race.   In this tented area the woman who had been sitting in chair "1" and was so excited she might win a gold medal looked deflated as she had to vacate that top chair.   What is worse is that the women in 3rd place put a towel over her face and dejectedly walked away as she lost her bronze medal and had been bumped down to the dreaded 4th place finish.   The cameras caught all of this for the world to see.   I have an idea for the IOC.   Ban this type of thing.   Everyone knows who is in what place in a race like this, the scenario being played in other summer Olympic sports and a lot of winter Olympic sports.  People don't need to be sitting in chairs signifying the medal they may or may not get.   Everyone knows this, the TV monitors show the current standings.    Let's not embarrass people who just had their dreams smashed, dreams that came out of years of sweat.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

AZL Indians - August 6, 2016

I am up late working and following the game on milb.com

I absolutely LOVE the team that is one the field tonight.   All of these guys have potential to be true prospects down the road.  Here is tonight's lineup

Samad Taylor
Elvis Perez
Nolan Jones
Jose Vicente

All these guys are currently hitting over .300 and all are young.  This is an exciting top 4.

Will Benson
Oscar Gonzalez
Hosea Nelson
Ulysses Cantu
Connor Capel

4 of the 5 of these guys were top 10 round 2016 draft picks and Gonzalez is one of the gems in our system fresh out of the Dominican Republic. While the production may not always be there so far for this group of 5 guys I think there is a lot to dream on.

Pitching tonight was:

Justin Garcia (last year's draft pick coming back from injury)
Francisco Perez (our best starter this year)
Randy Marte

Again, a lot to dream on here with all these guys having upside.

Right now this team is locked into a 1-1 tie after 8 innings.  Is it just me or is this team the most exciting, potential-wise, that we have ever had in the AZL league?

This would be a game I would love to see live.  Do you think MILB will ever broadcast the AZL games live?  I mean all it would take would be a stadium cam.  With the MiLB box scores being updated faster this year than in the past, I wouldn't even need announcers and I could probably follow along with what was going on. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

You know you are an Indians' fan part deux...

Sorry but I am going to rant.   Are you freakin' kidding me?  We trade away four prospects, probably 3 in our top 30 including our top prospect Clint Frazier, to get a reliever who I have already shown is redundant and then we proceed to lose 4 of 5 games getting blown out in each game when our starting pitching just freakin' collapses.    Each game we fought back and each game our bullpen just dug the hole deeper.   Miller has only appeared in 2 of those 5 games, including our only win, 9-2 vs Minnesota on Thursday afternoon.  

It's almost like other teams were just waiting for us to throw our prospects away before yanking the rug out from under us, leaving us wondering what it would have been like in 5 years had we kept those 4 guys.  I know that's not possible, right?!?!?

Hey, I would rather have Andrew Miller than not have him and I suspect that 5 years from now we might not think as highly of the guys we gave up as we do now.    Still, the timing of this swoon could not have been worse.   If they don't turn this around the Miller trade will be wasted, at least for this year.  Those 4 prospects we gave up will have given in vain.

And immediately after we gave them up did we start pitching like crap, making our three-headed bullpen monster almost worthless and, in the process, losing Danny Salazar to an elbow injury.

The whole freakin' roof is caving in around this team.   The timing could not have been worse.   The Indians are starting to draw fans, fans were starting to believe in this team and we were playing well.

For those of us who thought that good fortune was starting to shine on Cleveland sports well it might be that we get kicked in the groin again, except this time when we were least expecting it. 

Finally, for those of you who want a glass half full analysis, here it is, in three parts:

1. We got to keep the prospects we would have lost in the Lucroy trade.  Imagine if we had made that trade, lost all those additional prospects and STILL tanked it after August 1st, again making it seem like we threw prospects away for nothing. 

2. Almost on queue, other prospects like Bradley Zimmer, Yandy Diaz and Giovanny Urshela have picked up their games to re-strengthen our farm system and make us all more convinced that we can weather the indiscretion that is the Miller trade.  They are not the only prospects who have stepped up since the trade but, given their proximity to the majors, we might yet get an offensive (and defensive) boost from those guys this season and the increased production of other prospects gives us hope for the future.

It just sucks so bad to have this happen to the Indians and their fans.   They deserve better than this kind of luck.  I don't know how this team can let this happen.  I just don't know.  Let's hope this is a dream these guys are having and we all wake up tomorrow and watch them play .600 ball for the rest of the season!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

You know you are an Indians' fan when...

...you finally make a blockbuster trade at the deadline and then go 0-2 against the Twins, being outscored like 22-11 and, in the process, lose a guy who is likely your #1 starter.

...you trade for the catcher you need only to have that guy veto the trade

...just when you think you might win the division as the Royals have tanked it, the Tigers get really hot and start making every one of our losses hurt.

Just keep saying to yourself: 'Relax, it's a long season'.

I predicted at the beginning of the season that the Indians would win the WS from a wild card spot.  I stick by that.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Deadline day musings

Have I mentioned that Jonathon Lucroy is an ass?  The worst part is that the Brewers may have made out better in the trade with Texas than in the one with us which is the thing that really hurts here.   Just like most Tribe fans undervalue our players, Brewers' fans overvalue what their players are worth.

Can't really get excited about Brandon Guyer.  I mean the guy is hitting .243.  The guy's age 28, 29 and 30 seasons are his only ones where he has gotten any pro at bats.  Frankly, I am surprised they had to give up two low level minor leaguers for him.  The Indians reverting to their bottom feeding pattern of past years.  His big claim to fame is that he gets hit by pitches at record rates.   Beautiful! 

Now in our OF we have Almonte, Davis, Naquin, Chisenhall and Guyer.  With Ramirez moving to 3B full-time I guess that works.  I guess now that Almonte is hitting a bit we are stuck with him for the remainder of the season.   Too bad.  

So far the best part of today is who isn't with the Indians.

I am glad we did not get Jay Bruce.

I am sorry the Rangers got Beltran.  I am questionably sorry we didn't get him but since he is a right-handed Jay Bruce, I am glad we don't have his defense.  Lucroy plus Beltran really helps Texas.  Actually, just what I didn't want to have happen.  Other team(s) in the AL improving much more than us at the deadline.

Looking at what it cost to get Will Smith, I am glad we didn't go for him.

Probably the biggest news today is that Juan Uribe is gone.   That may be the best news of the day for the Indians.  Again, if you want to send a message to the clubhouse that bad production can't be tolerated, this is as good as any message.

Still, though, that doesn't solve anything.  We still don't have any production out of our catcher and didn't acquire a stud outfielder or third baseman.