Cleveland Sports Insiders

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Strikeout and Swinging Strike Percentiles: May 26th

Entering the season, Carlos Carrasco’s strikeout rate posed something of a conundrum. Carrasco’s ‘stuff’ going into the year was very good – put less interestingly, his pitch mix induced a swinging rate that was average to above-average for starters. Typically, the meme for minor-leaguers is that they have good-looking pitches but that those pitches don’t translate to whiffs. This was the explanation reflexively thrown out there for Carrasco, despite the fact that his pitches did translate to whiffs. The gap, then, was the dissonance between Carrasco’s Swinging Strike rate and his strikeout rate – in other words, the approach was good, but the results did not follow.

Entering late May, this dissonance no longer exists – Carrasco’s above-average swinging strike rate has resulted in an above-average strikeout rate, as one expects. Raw Whiff Percentage is the leading predictor of strikeout rate, and it does so with incredible reliability. Of course, judging by Carrasco’s exiled last-man-in-the-pen role, Cleveland has the same regard for Whiff%/FIP/xFIP that Poet Laureate Violent J has for Scientists – who should not instruct him De Magnetum Natura – but those of us who harbor the terribly misguided delusion that the Cleveland ballclub has any interest in saber might be interested in the current starters’ Swinging Strike/Strikeout differential. Continue reading


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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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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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500 words or less…on signing Ubaldo Jimenez

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

The Cleveland Indians should sign Ubaldo Jimenez.

Jon Heyman reported on Monday’s MLB Tonight that Ubaldo had dropped his contract demands further and was seeking a three-year, $39 million dollar deal.

That puts Jimenez right in the Tribe’s money wheelhouse.

On October 9th, I speculated that Jimenez would have a floor of three years and $33 million, with a ceiling of three and $39. While there were more years and bigger numbers being discussed by his agent, money expectations for Jimenez had to be tempered a bit because of his overall body of work with the Indians. While he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball last August and September, he was far from it in his previous two seasons with the Tribe.

Jimenez is the pure definition of dichotomy as a starting pitcher. On one side of the coin, he is a flawed pitcher that struggles to throw strikes. On the flip-side, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball when everything is clicking, who works the zone, confuses hitters, and can carry a team. Continue reading


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Trading for Samardzija at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Jeff Samardzija (Morry Gash--MLB.com)

Jeff Samardzija (Morry Gash–MLB.com)

I’m daydreaming again here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

It’s not a hard thing to do when you’re a Cleveland Indians’ fan floating through an offseason, because they tend to be about as exciting as watching the Browns play football, Anthony Bennett set a pick, or perhaps more appropriate to the baseball conversation; it’s been as exciting as watching MLB’s top free agent pitchers sign contracts.

In all seriousness, there’s been a legitimate lack of movement from the Indians this offseason, which truly is the norm here on the North Coast. Now I’m not necessarily knocking the moves that they have made; they’ve been solid acquisitions to be sure. But after the major moves made last year, this one feels a bit like a dud, even if it’s not. Let’s put it a bit in perspective: Continue reading


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Rotational conversation at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Danny Slazar (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

Danny Slazar (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

The holidays have passed, and the New Year is in full bloom here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and I’ve got my thermal underwear, as the temperature is hovering right around zero, with a wind chill somewhere south of that. This is the time of the year that really has me missing baseball.

The freezing temperatures have a chokehold around a Greater Cleveland area that doesn’t have any more football to watch, and has been mesmerized by another basketball season full of more dysfunction than one city should have to endure.

While the hot stove season is still in full effect, this is the downtime that can drive a fan absolutely crazy. The Indians certainly haven’t been stagnant, but after last year’s rapid upheaval of a “thought-dead” organization, the few moves that have been made just haven’t put the wind behind many sails.

It can be utter torture, especially when you watch the spending several other teams have made this offseason, including some small market team located right here in the A.L. Central. Continue reading


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The Spin Cycle: Should the Indians sign Ubaldo Jimenez

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

In this week’s Spin Cycle, we are going to continue to look at the Indians’ starting rotation, as we have the past few weeks. The Indians have been quiet since they dealt Drew Stubbs this past December, because their club as a whole seems to be fairly complete. While the Indians have minor concerns at shortstop and third base, their pitching remains the question mark heading into the 2014 season.

How much of a question mark depends on who’s looking.

Today, we are going to focus the spotlight once again on Ubaldo Jimenez, who remains a free agent in an unknown market for starting pitchers.

Two weeks ago, we took a look at the #5 slot in the rotation, and Carlos Carrasco came out on top with 32% of the vote.

Continue reading


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Freak Finger Injuries: A Retrospective

In July 2010, the Cleveland Indians made the move to trade Jake Westbrook to the St. Louis Cardinals in a three-way trade with the Padres; at the time, the return was nothing if not genuinely saddening. Westbrook’s contract was hardly club-friendly, and his injury issues coupled with eroding performance made his departure inevitable, but it was still disheartening to see the then-longest-tenured Indians starter depart in exchange for a stagnating 24-year-old Double-A pitcher.

Three years later, however, that same fringe prospect, Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber, became a foundation of a budding 2013 playoff run and of a 2014 club intent to return to October. It’s no hyperbole to say that Kluber’s 2013 performance placed him among some of the best pitchers in the league. During the 2013 season, Kluber’s xFIP – Expected Fielding Independent Pitching – placed him 14th among the 187 starters with more than 50 innings pitched; for context, NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez finished the year directly ahead of Kluber, whereas directly behind Kluber were Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole, together with Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. This elite performance contrasted with Kluber’s entirely lukewarm prospect projections would have made the Stetson University alum one of the most compelling comeback stories in the major leagues – were the Indians rotation anything other than a vast library of compelling stories, including Scott Kazmir’s return from Independent Baseball, Ubaldo’s return from replacement-level baseball, and Danny Salazar’s possible return from Olympus astride a 98-mph fastball. Continue reading


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The Spin Cycle: Is Danny Salazar elite?

Danny Slazar (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

Danny Salazar (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

In this week’s Spin Cycle, we are going to continue to take a look at the starting rotation, where the one tangible hole on the 25-man roster remains. While it’s vital that the Indians address the #5 spot in the rotation, what happens in the 1-4 slots may be equally important. While the Indians seem to have those spots locked down with Justin Masterson, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister, there are questions that remain.

Before we get there though, let’s take a look at last week’s Spin Cycle, again, with interesting results.

Last week, we took a look at who the Indians #5 starter would be between Carlos Carrasco, Shawn Marcum, Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer, or by a potential move that had not been made yet. I was purposely vague on what that move might be, thinking that it could either be a big money signing, like Ubaldo Jimenez returning, or another minor league contract.

There was no clear majority, yet again, for the results, but there was a fairly clear cut between what Indians’ fans want, and what they likely don’t want. The top two results garnered 58 ½ % of the total voting, so it’s clear that there’s an arm that most want to see succeed, unless the Indians go about getting another proven arm.

Continue reading