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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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.

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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.

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Resolution dialogue at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Jose Ramirez (photo courtesy of Lianna Holub)

Jose Ramirez (photo courtesy of Lianna Holub)

It’s New Year’s Resolution time here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, as the Cleveland Indians’ enter the 2014 season coming off of a massive rebound during the 2013 season. They made the playoffs thanks in large part to a ten-game win streak to close out the season last September. Their stay in the playoffs was short, but the taste of October was sweet.

I’m ready for more.

I was browsing through my New Year’s piece last year, and it’s always interesting to take a look at what I was talking about. In my piece last year, I was actually focusing on…Shaun Marcum?

Here’s what I said:

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Orbiting Cleveland: The rotation has a huge hole

Josh Tomlin (AP PHOTO)

Josh Tomlin (AP PHOTO)

Where is help when you need it?

That has to be a popular question amongst the Cleveland Indians front office right now.

After going 92-70 in 2013, the Indians are winners. Now how will they find a way to stay winners in the year to come?

That’s not an easy task, and it becomes even more difficult when you realize what the team must replace. They’ve already lost left-hander Scott Kazmir to free agency, and it seems as if there’s a good chance that Ubaldo Jimenez will be gone too.

That’s not good.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Tribe cannot afford to lose Jimenez simply because of his contributions to the team last season. After all, who would want to lose a pitcher who went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA?

That issue is compounded by the fact that the Indians already lost Kazmir, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Oakland A’s this past offseason. Kazmir was no slouch himself in 2013 and went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA.

It’s not easy to replace performances like that, but it can be done, especially if a team has capable replacements available. Yet, that’s where things get somewhat dreary when predicting a forecast for the Indians’ 2014 season —the Tribe has nothing of the sort.
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Orbiting Cleveland: Ubaldo Jimenez will be back in 2014

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Ubaldo Jimenez (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

It may have taken some time, but it appears as if the Indians’ offseason plans are finally becoming a bit clearer.

During the past week, we’ve seen the Indians sign John AxfordShaun Marcum and trade Drew Stubbs to acquire Josh Outman.

None of these moves could be described as big acquisitions, but it does at least signal that the Indians are trying to address their concerns and get… better.

Better — that’s an interesting word to consider.

The Indians won 92 games last season and also earned one of the American League’s Wild Card berths. Knowing that, it’s not going to be that easy for the team to get much better; it’s very difficult to win much more than 92 games in a season.

So let’s consider that word one more time. Has this team actually positioned itself to be better in 2014?

Offensively, it looks as if that may be the case.

A platoon of David Murphy and Ryan Raburn will now replace Stubbs in right field. Murphy is coming off a rough 2013 campaign, but he does seem like a solid candidate for a rebound season.

Also, we know the back of the bullpen was a problem area for the Indians in 2014. They did improve that a bit by acquiring the lefty Outman, and Axford will now be the closer. However, Axford has not been a closer since 2012, and he also has a career average of 4.0 walks per nine innings. Tribe fans can probably expect that Axford has a comparable performance to Chris Perez, and it’s no guarantee that he will offer much more than that.

Also, it appears as if the Indians are banking on offensive players like Michael BournNick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera having much better seasons at the plate. It does seem likely that all three of these players could rebound, but what if then Yan GomesCarlos Santana and Jason Kipnis also have down years at the plate?

In all honesty, it seems fair to conclude that the offense has made a slight improvement with the addition of Murphy over Stubbs, and the bullpen does seem a bit more stable. The team now has two viable left-handers in Outman and Marc Rzepczynski, and that was not the case last season.

But there is one area where the team is noticeably thinner — starting pitching.

As of now, the rotation appears to be Justin MastersonDanny SalazarCorey Kluber and Zach McAllister. The fifth spot in the rotation will likely be decided in a battle between Carlos CarrascoJosh TomlinTrevor Bauer and Marcum.

Sorry, that’s simply just not enough.

The Indians have already lost Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir, who both played integral roles in leading the team to the postseason last year. Do the Indians win 92 games without either of these two guys last year?

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CSI 65: The Rotation

Michael Hattery and Jim Pete discuss the Cleveland Indians’ current rotation of Justin Masterson, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister, and take a close look at the current crop battling for the #5 spot in Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Shaun Marcum.

Here’s the PODCAST:


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