Cleveland Sports Insiders

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Oakland Series Sweep In Sonnet Form

Credit: Wikimedia

Sonny Gray

Ol’ Melvin’s club is not a trifling band:
a series sweep by them is not the worst;
Yet Tito’s team a thousand runners strand
and forthwith! Rolls another ball by first.

Kind FIP suggests mere eighteen runs against,
and if one cheers for fWAR it brings one glee.
Yet somber box scores give their grave aghast
reply, “the team still lost by twenty-three.”

One did this D, its fate, long ere foretell
From Soho down to Brighton gappers fall
A single’s ‘seeing’ eye – by sense of smell!
This infield defense plays a mean pinball

On Monday the results be less obscene
When Kluber’s great Society convenes

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The Sunday Drive with Santana, Salazar, Bauer and LeBron James

With Mother’s Day and Easter behind us, and with the Indians’ locomotive heading towards Father’s Day and the hopeful heat of summer, it’s time for me to dust off the trusty old Smith-Corona PWP 5000 Word Processor (look that one up) and start writing about Cleveland Sports again. With the off-season Cavs and Browns actually becoming more interesting than the in season Indians, there’s plenty to talk about in this week’s Sunday Drive.

I really don’t know where to begin with the Cleveland Indians, so I suppose I’ll start with Carlos Santana.  I was all for the Santana experiment when it started. I was excited even more to see Santana start there when the Tribe announced early in Spring Training that he was going to be the starter.

I’m less excited now.

This is when I wish I utilized my brain for my decision-making skills, and not my heart. Look. We all knew that learning the third base position at the major league level starting in December was a long-shot at best. Hell, I would even go so far as to say that it was an impossible shot, from December through March.

Instead, my trust for Francona-decisions allowed my sense and sensibilities to get thrown out the window. Instead, I kept thinking to myself, “Boy, if he gets out from behind the plate, his offense will improve.”

Think about that. On one hand, Santana won’t be catching all those games, so his legs should be fresh. Of course, he’s learning a new position…and third base to boot. I did talk about one offsetting the other, but my blind belief that he could overcome this without physically seeing him or talking with him was simply idiotic. Continue reading

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Nick Swisher’s Zemblanitous Season

S: Wikimedia

The Island of Nova Zembla (Wikimedia)

Located off the northernmost peninsula of the European continent and bisected by the 75°N parallel, the island called Novaya Zemlya – known to the west as ‘Nova Zembla’ – is, neither figuratively nor literally, warmly regarded. Boasting a mean annual temperature of a balmy 23°F and notable for serving as the testing site for the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated, Nova Zembla was regarded so bleakly by British author William Boyd that, in his 2001 book, Armadillo, he coined the term ‘Zemblanity’ as a previously non-existent antonym for ‘Serendipity;’ in contrast to serendipity meaning ‘the unexpected, coincidental occurrence of lucky events,’ zemblanity means ‘the unexpected, coincidental occurrence of unlucky events.’

Zemblanity is perhaps a nearly-perfect word to describe Nick Swisher’s 2014 campaign. Although, unlike the island, Nick Swisher has not been radioactive hitherto in 2014, nevertheless, entirely like the island, Swisher has been below-freezing. Most applicable of all, however, is the actual definition: Nick Swisher’s season has been zemblanitious in the sense that his presently sub-Mendoza batting average is as the result of terrible luck.

While it’s frequently difficult for baseball fans – people, generally – to accept, the fact is that in all things, results can vary widely without regard to its input processes. In sum, a good approach at the plate infrequently leads to great results, frequently leads to good results, and infrequently leads to poor results. This unlikely situation – that Swisher’s approach has been good but yielded poor results – is precisely what has occurred. Continue reading

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Cleveland’s ERA-FIP Gap: The Defense IS That Bad

The ‘Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis’ process is regarded as a central tenet of Western Dialectic; namely, one begins with a thesis, an original assertion, which is refuted by an an antithesis, a rebuttal of the thesis, before finally a synthesis is reached, a combination of the thesis and antithesis, perceived to be the truth of the matter.

In terms of evaluating pitcher effectiveness, the thesis in question is what has been termed the ‘Old School’ of baseball thought – the idea that pitchers can will the ball to be hit harder or softer, that pitchers have control over how hard a ball is hit once it reaches the bat. The antithesis, then, is Voros McCracken’s idea of Fielding-Independent Pitching, the idea that the Three True Outcomes – strikeouts, walks, and home runs, those outcomes considered most within a pitcher’s control – are the only things within a pitcher’s control.

The synthesis of these two, then, has been the advent of derived, or regressed, FIP-like equations, such as SIERA or xFIP. It’s been proven to be the case that pitchers do have control over Ground Ball and Fly Ball rates – Justin Masterson’s sinker, for instance, induces ground-ball contact at an elite rate, but it does not limit the strength of contact that is made with the sinker. Hence, the incorporation of the two pitcher-dependent Batted Ball outcomes – GB/FB – has led to the advent of xFIP, the synthesis between old-school and new-school.

Yet there exists an opinion that the Indians’ pitching staff is not so skillful as their xFIP lets on. In the article ‘The Indians’ Paradoxical Pitching Staff‘ published nearly a week ago, Tony Blengino detailed why he believed the Indians’ pitching staff was better than its below-average ERA but worse than its xFIP. While Blengino has compiled thus far an extremely lucid, intelligent body of work, this particular assertion is very probably incorrect. Continue reading

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Haden Extension Fallout: Patrick Peterson’s Quintuple Factorial Demands

Earlier this morn, after the author had cracked for himself some eggs and roasted up a homestyle country breakfast, the brazen alarum bells of domestic politics sounded. According to Pro Football Talk, the Browns have signed Joe Haden to an extension through the 2019 season, with $22M guaranteed and an additional $23M guaranteed in case of injury – in short, Joe Haden is guaranteed $45M.

In this offseason, the Browns have added substantial help to the secondary, adding, in the first round of the draft, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert and, in free agency, Ohio State safety, known by no one as Margrave Whitner of Hits. At this point, the Browns have – to the shock and awe of all – assembled what is on paper one of the best secondaries in the league in the next several years. And while a great secondary on paper isn’t a guarantee of success, it’s also not the guarantee of mediocrity that the Browns have had for over a decade. Browns fans are allowed to feel #blessed for at least few minutes.

Yet while the move eclipses Richard Sherman’s deal as the most lucrative guaranteed deal for a defensive back thus far this offseason, other premier cornerbacks in the league have their eyes on even bigger amounts. In response to Haden’s extension, Arizona Cardinals’ cornerback Patrick Peterson puts forward his own contract demands – demands not only outrageous, but wholly unprecedented. Continue reading

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2015 Mock Drafts: An Exercise in Antique Vase-Smashing

George Santayana is the only Spanish-American philosopher who has made any advancement into the American consciousness. ‘Any,’ of course, is the operative word in that sentence, given that he’s known for precisely one (1) sentence(s). “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” blithely repeat political analysts. Given that shows involving Charles Krauthammer and others like him are frequently as entertaining as they are incisive, said analysts frequently forget that they had uttered that same phrase only several seconds previous. “Those who do not remember what they said only several seconds previous are doomed to repeat it,” George Santayana never said.

Mock draftists have taken to heart Santayana’s words. With the memory of the 2014 NFL draft vividly implanted in the hearts and minds of America and now formally part of The Past, draft personages wish to ensure that we not only remember the past, but also apply its lessons to the future. Primary among these lessons: “The Draft happened.” Secondary: “The Draft will happen again.” Continue reading


Initial thoughts on the Browns 2014 NFL Draft


Gilbert and Manziel (photo:

There really isn’t anything like the NFL draft if you are an NFL fan. It’s the one day when all teams are truly on an even playing field, and it’s one of those rarified days that could seem like a bust by the end of the weekend, and turn into a goldmine if that fifth round pick pans out.

This year’s draft for Browns fans was something special.

The Johnny Manziel talk had been circulating for nearly a year, and for what seemed like eternity. Would the Browns take him with their #4 pick, as many speculated? We all know how important that franchise quarterback is, and Manziel had the moxie of one, but did he have the skill?

The Browns also had their “Major League” moment, when Kevin Costner’s ‘Draft Day’ came out a month ago, that had the Browns trading up, down and all around to get all the players that they wanted.

It all created buzz that hadn’t been around this team for years.

The Browns even stole the news-worthy stories when Josh Gordon‘s alleged pot outpouring was unearthed on Friday night, Day 2 of the NFL draft.

The Browns, who needed a receiver anyways, now perhaps needed two.

In the middle of this firestorm was Ray Farmer, a well-respected football mind who was running the draft for the first time. Continue reading

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Overreaction Theater: Asdrubal’s inescapable exodus

Perhaps the most discussed topic outside of the Indians early pitching issues has been the shortstop position in Cleveland. The discussion of what to do there is quite polarizing, and can be easily seen in but a few tweets.

The rationally positive, highlighting the league wide dearth at shortstop as well as part of Asdrubal Cabrera’s positive value or semblance of.

Then the unavoidable subjective conclusion which, while drawn from a limited sample of visual experience, when combined with last seasons struggle appears to have some validity.

Cabrera is a relatively complex being or perhaps we have made him so, with some sort of blind commitment to specific approaches to his talents.  While we frequently discuss the idea of five tool players, often overvaluing arm strength for outfielders as well as our ability to measure its impact, with Cabrera we must monitor three “tools”. The three tools or pieces are: the ability to hit for power, the ability to get on base, and the ability to play defense.

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Indians sign All-Star Jason Kipnis to long-term deal

1aThe Cleveland Indians announced this morning that they signed second baseman Jason Kipnis to a six-year contract extension through the 2019 season worth $52.5 million, with a club option for 2020. The deal, according to Jordan Bastian, is worth $52.5 million, and if the Indians nab that seventh-year option, it will wrap up Kipnis through three years of free agency.

That’s moderately shocking.

Bastian and several others reported the news earlier this morning, and throngs of Indians fans on twitter and across Indians message boards and in radio drive time were treated to the added bonus of the signing. It certainly wasn’t a surprise in the grand scheme of things. Most had speculated that the Indians would pull of this deal when they came home for several weeks, and I had even mentioned the deal almost a month ago, complete with the parameters for a potential deal.

Obviously the groundwork had been laid out by the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, who built similar deals for similar players. Kipnis, who is likely a higher value player than both, signed a deal very similar to Matt Carpenter’s six-year deal with the Cardinals, complete with a seventh year added to the team in the form of a team option.

Just a great move by the Indians, who have continued to show their commitment to building a winner since the firing of Manny Acta in September of 2012.

Enter Terry Francona, and if that sound like ‘Enter the Dragon,’ that’s exactly what I meant.

You can argue that Jason Kipnis is a top five second baseman in the league right now. Think about this: he led the Indians runs, hits, RBI and steals, and was top ten in walks and steals in the league. What the Indians are banking on for Kipnis is his tremendous upside. Continue reading