Friday, May 11, 2018

When do the Cavaliers open their next series?

The difference tonight was the bullpens.  Hah hah hah hah hah.  You know when some people laugh hysterically without being able to stop because of stress or pain or whatever?  That's me right now.

It is hard to believe that our management bought a Mercedes Benz and put a $10 battery from the Dollar Store in the thing.  Just an analogy, folks, so don't run for your lawyers.  But you get the point.

The FO has screwed us with this bullpen that can't hold a 9-5 lead against one of the worst teams in baseball and an offense that, while they got us the lead, got us nothing afterward when we needed it most.

I called it over the winter and begged them to fix that problem before the season started.   They didn't.
I know, every team has holes.   However, the Indians have a Grand Canyon-sized hole.  

The bullpen is killing this team and now all that is left is to keep throwing stuff against the wall and hope some of it sticks and, as that is not likely to work, WAY WAY overpay at the deadline for quality of players that we could have had for relative peanuts earlier in the  winter.

Again, what time tomorrow do the Cavs play? I need some relief from our relief.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Gio Tracking

Hah!   He begins with a play on words but where will he go from there?

You know, in the old days I would have gone ballistic over the loss of Gio Urshela.   However, with age comes perspective.  So let's think about this.

First, let's look at the negatives:

Last year we DFA'd Jesus Aguilar.  Aguilar has made that move look very shortsighted but look at what we had at his positions (DH and 1B).  Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana.  There was no place for him AND he failed in many opportunities, albeit small sample size opportunities in the majors and he looked like he might be topping out at AAA.

Now we DFA'd Gio Urshela.  Again, the guy had gotten chances in the majors but didn't latch onto them, showing a great, versatile glove but not much with the bat.   Yeah, he could have been a great utility guy but we had one and, with Urshela's hitting woes, it made the choice between him and Erik Gonzalez a difficult one.

What's the bottom line?  Many organizations have guys who just can't make it to the majors as they are not sound enough in all aspects of the game, especially when their hitting or hitting for power is suspect. The term thrown around is AAAA player, not quite good enough for the majors but great at AAA.   I don't think either Aguilar or Urshela are AAAA players.   I think they are major league players for mid- to low-level ML teams.  We are not either of those so if you have to lose Urshela because you can't keep him on your 25, well, then you are destined to lose him.

Could we have done a better job preparing for this and maybe getting something more than cash for Urshela and, before him, Aguilar?  Probably.   However while I would love to have Aguilar and Urshela on the team I still think I would rather have Gonzalez and Encarnacion.

Don't think it stops there, folks.  Yandy Diaz, Yu Chang, etc. are right on the heels of Urshela.  We will have to deal with them next as, hopefully, Francisco Lindor is not going anywhere for a while.  Ditto for Jose Ramirez.

However, unless one of these guys develops into a solid major leaguer, we will lose them, too.  

The goal is to have the fewest Brandon Phillips, Jesus Aguilar mistakes as possible.  I would love to tell you that Urshela won't be successful anywhere else but I think he will.  The goal then shifts to getting something for him, which we didn't do, either.

The point is, Urshela wasn't successful here and we had no room for him and his lack of success made trading him difficult.  In my opinion a great GM gets value for guys like Urshela.   He didn't get any value and Urshela is no longer here.  I hate it but I get it.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Thoughts for a Friday

#stopruiningourstarters: Twice yesterday, trying to avoid using the bullpen, Francona left in starters in a couple of batters too long.   Carrasco was at an even 100 pitches after 5 innings and a lot of those were high pressure pitches as he had given up 5 runs.   Plutko had gone 7 innings and we were comfortably ahead and he was at 103 pitches.   Both times this backfired on Francona as has this tactic almost every time he has used it in his tenure as a manager.

I know Tito says he wants to win every game but, as I said before, if that was true he would stop sending Tomlin out there and stop playing Kipnis.

He is KILLING our starters with this crap.   He just needs to stop.  Yeah, we get it.  Your bullpen sucks and they are losing us games.  Find a way to MAKE this bullpen successful.  STOP ruining our starters.

#whattodowithgio:  I have the solution to the Gio Urshela situation.   Get rid of Brandon Guyer.  Look, Guyer is a good idea just like Abe Almonte was, in a vacuum, a good idea.   But it practice there is a reason that guys like Guyer hang on as 23rd to 25th men and, if they become free agents, are likely to only be signed to cheap contracts or minor league deals.   If he has a minor league option left then use it.  Otherwise, DFA him and bring up Urshela.  Erik Gonzalez can play some OF if necessary as can Ramirez.   Look, Urshela is not going to hit like he hit in AAA but he is a better hitter now and keeps getting a little better each year.  His glove and versatility along with the versatility of Gonzalez gives Francona just what he needs.

#toppropectsslumping:  Francisco Mejia and Bobby Bradley have struggled so far this year (Bradley did break out yesterday).   So what is up?   My feeling is that nothing is up but it is worth watching.  On the same thought Shane Bieber was promoted to AAA and put in a solid start in his first outing.   I wonder, given how bad Columbus' veteran minor league deal starters are doing if Bieber sticks.   I think he does.

#startingpitchingdepth:  Speaking of Bieber and Plutko, they have added some starting pitching depth to the Indians.  I know Francona doesn't like to have a long reliever in his bullpen but how many times so far this year has he needed one and, instead, had to burn through 3 or 4 guys to get the game done.   It may be time to bite the bullet and move Tomlin to the bullpen for the rest of the season and give Plutko his shot.   If he does struggle Bieber might be ready by that time and we can always fall back to Tomlin later in the season.

#bullpensucks:  Hey, it's not like this is unexpected.   Goody and Olson were potential one-year wonders waiting to happen.   McAllister fell so out of favor that he was an afterthought in the playoffs.  The only good thing about the Miller injury is that it kept Francona from overusing  him in the last week or so.    This is what you get when you don't improve your bullpen every year.   It was crazy to lose Shaw and not sign someone else of quality.  Instead we went bottom of the barrel fishing and what we got: Belisle, Belliveau, etc. has actually made things worse.   At this point the only thing left might be to start bringing up minor leaguers and hope that each will be good for about a month before the league figures him out, at which point you move on to the next guy.   One thing is for sure:  what it will cost us in prospects to fix this issue in July will be MUCH worse than what we would have had to spend over budget to fix this issue last off-season.  You don't buy a Mercedes and then replace your blown out left front tire with a repaired tire from Joe's Automart.   That is what we did and now the Indians need to fix this WITHOUT losing prospects doing it.   You know, maybe they should bring in Whitey Herzog as a consultant.  He was great at making a bullpen out of nothing, figuratively speaking.

Monday, April 30, 2018

OK, I've had enough!

Hey, Tito, I know.   Your bullpen sucks.   It stinks.  I know.  Your ownership and GM did a screwed up job getting you enough bullpen depth.   This is puzzling because they know you and know that you will only use players you trust and that you have a very short leash for guys you don't trust.  Your management team should have known this and should have not given you any cause to do screwy things.

But in no way does that give you the right to burn out your starters.

Kluber 116 pitches.  Bauer 122 pitches.  In April?   Really?  Plus Bauer has been allow to throw over 110 pitches in each of his last three starts!

Do anyone remember how Kluber faded in the post-season?  He was beat up physically and, in my opinion, his body just gave out on him.  So we SHOULD be careful with him.  Instead, we let him throw 116 pitches, a number topped only once in 2017.

We are lucky we got him back for this season!  If Francona keeps this up Kluber won't even make it to October before he suffers a season-ending injury.

In my opinion, this is really two-faced of Francona.   He overuses his starters trying to win games but he continues to start Tomlin and play Kipnis, both of whom have cost us multiple games this year.

In my opinion here is what is wrong:

1.  Ownership did not give the Indians the money to build a good team.   That is why we are, as I said since Shaw left, one shutdown right handed reliever short.  Some were available in free agency but we chose not to go for any of them.   We are also one right-handed hitting outfielder short of a good lineup.   This has made the offense anemic which, in turn, has caused Francona to go too long with his starting pitching.  We could have solved these problems over the winter but stuck to our budget.

So, Francona is trying to limit the number of pitchers he has to use because he has no confidence in his bullpen arms after Miller and Allen.  But any of us who watched the postseason the last two years and how he used his bullpen outside of Miller, Allen and Shaw should know this.

But this is killing his starters and his bullpen.   Miller is already down.   Allen is not pitching that well.  And the starters are being abused because Francona can't count on McAllister or Goody for any meaningful innings.

This is how Tito did HIMSELF in in Boston.   He catered to the veterans.  He didn't manage his roster well.   Someone in ownership needs to sit down and have a talk with the manager.   These are valuable assets that he is abusing.   We can't afford this type of abuse to starters who we expect to carry us into October.

Thoughts for a Monday

1. While I may be overdramatizing this, the Cavs win yesterday was huge for the Cleveland sports scene.   Why?   Well, last fall the Indians fell on their faces in the first round of the playoff in a series they were heavily favored in.  It was disappointing.  Then we had the Browns.....and then the Browns draft.   I am not saying the Cavs will go beyond this round (who knows?) but the fact that they made it TO the second round is a good thing and I think it helps shake off the failures last year by the other Cleveland sports teams and makes the Indians' failure last year seem more like an aberration and less like a trend.   Maybe you disagree but this is my thought.

2. Baseball is such a hard game to predict.   Adam Plutko looked like more than a AAAA player after last year.   A guy who was good in the low minors but hit his ceiling with only a ML cup of coffee.  Now it looks like he will be getting a Thursday start against Toronto.   Shades of Ryan Merritt a couple of years ago against Toronto in the playoffs or, digging back to older history, Tom Mastny in the 2007 playoffs pitching an unlikely 10th inning goose egg against the heart of the Red Sox or    While both those guys appear to have hit their ceiling  in their career, we will see about Plutko.  I hope he comes on strong.  What a plus that would be for our starting pitching depth.

At the same time what is there to say about Tomlin and Kipnis?   Fortunately we have the luxury of playing in a weak division so we can keep going with these guys who are stinking it up.     I just hope they can return to good results soon as they appear, at least to me, to be costing us a lot of games so far.

3. Look at the Akron rotation.  Except for Sean Brady who is posting a pedestrian borderline prospect season so far, the rest of the guys look great.    Akron's pitching does, indeed, look special so far with as many as 8 or 9 of the guys having some chance to pitch in the majors and absolutely NO minor league journeyman players.   These guys are all homegrown.

4.  I predict that we will have the BEST crop of kids, both talent and statistically, coming out of our rookie ball (NY-Penn, AZL and DSL) that we have had in quite a few years.   I can see maybe 10-12 of our top 30 prospects next year coming from these leagues.   The statistics may, in fact, be eye-popping for some of these players, something that we don't see a lot of in our DSL affiliate, specifically.

5. To reiterate what I said at the beginning of the year we are short one right-handed hitting outfielder and one steady setup man (to replace Bryan Shaw).  Imagine where we would be without Brantley coming back as strong as he has!

6. The rubber will hit the road soon for Yonder Alonso.  What do I mean by that?   Last year he added power.  That power appears to be remaining this year but will the league make it so tough on him that he turns all Russell Branyan on us?  Don't think it is that out of the question.   As the weather warms up we will have the answer to that....probably by the middle of July at the latest but maybe sooner.

7. Finally, and this is an observation made on an incredibly small sample size, it is a little disheartening to watch the Indians, in games they fall behind early, just fold appear to fold up the tents after about the 6th inning.  In the last two games of the Seattle series they were outscored 6-0 in the last two innings.   I would like to see a little more fight, similar to the way the Mariners fought back on Friday night against Kluber/Allen.   Frankly, I think this is part of Tito's the season is a marathon approach.   He says to the media how important winning games is but if you pull the plug mentally in the middle of a game you fall way behind on, how will you EVER learn how to come back when you need to (say, in the playoffs).  I truly believe this is an environment or a way of thinking that is creeping into the clubhouse and I would like to see it stopped.   Again, just my opinion but teams who are successful have to learn to scrap back in games like this instead of being outscored by an opposition who knows they already have the game won and likely have taken their foot off the accelerator.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Indians are playing tonight but no one really cares!

Actually, I do care.  However, like the lunatic I am, I am repeating a behavior that never has worked in the past and, yet, expecting a different result.

I watched the NFL draft.

This is a Cleveland Indians blog but I couldn't let this draft go without a comment or two.

First, this is the worst couple of draft picks I have seen and, actually, the worst use of a draft since the reinvented Browns first draft where they took all the wrong players at all the wrong times and turned Tim Couch into a target without any protection, shortening his career to a point where we never really knew how good he could have been.   But that's another story.

Mayfield and Ward were by far the worst use of these two picks.  Despite popular belief Dorsey did not inherit a desk in Cleveland with a scrap of paper saying "Mayfield above all else" or something like that.   And the draftniks will not be saying how the Browns sprinkled magic dust on the draft to get these two guys.   The owner will not be waltzing into the post-draft party (assuming, after this, one is even held) and say 'We had a great day'.  Basically, this is not the movies, it is real life.

You know, years and years ago the Bengals did crap like this and no one understood it.   In fact, the year before they went to and went to their first Super Bowl, they mysteriously finished with a bad (losing) record in the NFL when their talent was MUCH better than their record.   They then went out with the high draft picks they earned from that mysteriously poor finish and used them to fill the last couple of holes they had in their lineup.   Then they went to the Super Bowl one year after consecutive seasons of 4-12, 4-12 and the mysteriously bad 6-10.

All I can imagine is that Dorsey is on that same path.  He is putting together pieces for a run in either 2020 or, more likely, 2021.   In the meantime, the goal is to lose as many games as possible to keep getting the top draft pick along with adding pieces who will mature into good players by that time. 

Dorsey couldn't get players who were TOO good or they might have accounted for a win or two.   He had to get guys who, while good players, wouldn't impact the team next year or even, in a large sense, the year after that.  So how did he do this?

He overdrafted Mayfield and Ward.  The really logical picks were Barkley and Chubb.   These guys could have both impacted 2018 and probably would have been worth 2-3 wins between them in how they would have impacted this team's dynamics.   But they would have gotten us less optimal draft picks and a record that, while better, was still like the Indians of the 80s: just bad enough to be terrible but not bad enough to get a GREAT draft slot.

So if I am running this draft I picked Barkley and Chubb.

But if I am Dorsey I draft Mayfield and Ward and allow Hue Jackson to again be so inept that he will certainly get us the first overall pick next year...when we really start drafting guys that make sense.

I never understood the phrase 'He really screwed the pooch on that one'.  However, Dorsey did, indeed, screw the pooch or rather, all the pooches in the Dawg Pound with these two picks because anyone who buys season or even game tickets the next two years is just funding 2020/2021 while throwing away their hard earned money for 2018/2019.   

Look, you can't come into a situation as bad as the Browns have had and do crap that is risky and doesn't make sense.  I would have rather failed with Barkley and Chubb then done the unorthodox and drafted Mayfield and Ward.  At least taking Barkley/Chubb makes sense from a team building perspective.

To me, Dorsey is another in a long line of losers in the front office of the Browns since they reincarnated in Cleveland.   Thank heavens for LeBron and Francona because if we had to hang the sports prowess of Cleveland teams on Dorsey, Jackson and the Browns, we would still be the mistake by the lake!

[DISCLAIMER: I am writing this off the top of my head and my recollection of history may be a little skewed.]

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thoughts for the day

Epic battle last night.   As the announcers said, it is hard to know what is more puzzling.  That Francona asked the players to bunt knowing how bad they were at it or that, in fact, they were so bad at it.   In any case, Kipnis is an average, at best, secondbaseman and his error was not a surprise, although we should never have gotten that far.   Francona putting in Belisle in to save the game was also unexpected.   Goody had looked strong the previous inning.  Why not let him finish?   It's not like he had never gone two innings before in his career.  In summary, the Indians kept trying to give the game to the Twins and, in the end, it worked.

In the minors the teams keep playing and keep putting up results but not a lot of surprises so far.  Here are a couple I have seen:

1. Bieber looks better than I thought he would.  I could see him pitching in Cleveland this year.

2. Mitch Brown seems to have found a niche in the bullpen.  I could also see him pitching in Cleveland this year, especially with my dark horse favorite to make his debut this year, Cam Hill, still on the shelf.

3. Adam Plutko.  Let's face it.  He needed to dominate this year at AAA or he was going to be labeled a AAAA pitcher.   He has dominated his last two times out and that is, to me, unexpected.   Maybe there is something there.

4. Conor Capel.  I have said many times that low A stats can be really misleading.   Guys who turn out to be organizational or AAAA players can look good, even at a young age, in low A.   So far Capel has looked like he is using his year at Lake County last year as his coming out party and is building on it with a solid, all-around start at Lynchburg.  He is hitting for average, power, showing good plate discipline and stealing bases.  Offensively, it's all there and as near as I can tell he is doing it defensively, too.  This guy could really be something if this trend continues.

5.Cal State Fullerton version of Justin Garza.   This guy was once considered a top prospect when he was in HS and college but injuries his junior year clouded that picture making him a lower draft pick.  Injuries also hindered him in his first two years with the Tribe.   His start to 2018 is looking really good as he has dominated high A.   Yeah, he is rather old for being a hot prospect in that league but his dominance is promising and if he DOES get promoted to AA and if he does well there, I could see him breaking the top 10 prospects next year.  He has that much potential.

6. Will Benson.   OK, there are lots of guys in the organization, some top prospects, performing better than Benson.   So why the love for him?  His K rate is down and, as a hitter, he is looking really comfortable and his tools are starting to show through.  He is surprising me with these things and they portend for him having a great year as it appears his maturity as a player is on the steep part of the learning curve and he is moving fast through that curve.

Now, there are many other players who are having great starts to their year. Sam Hentges, Aaron Civale, Oscar Gonzalez, Jorma Rodriguez, Eli Morgan, Ben Krauth and others are doing well.  However, in looking at their histories and taking into account it is early in the year and pitchers are generally ahead of hitters, especially in cold weather and hitters with poor plate discipline seldom succeed long term, I will wait for a while before I get excited about these guys.