Monday, May 29, 2006

The Answer Man

Memorial Day is generally a point in the baseball season when it’s time to take stock of where your team is and make adjustments, as we’re nearly 1/3 of the way through our 162 game marathon. With that in mind, I thought that rather than simply diagnosing problems or complaining about shortcomings (as is the specialty of the Cleveland media), it’s time to offer some solutions.

With that in mind, this is how I see the lineup for the rest of the year:
Remember that it took a while for the Indians’ lineup to find its identity last year, and this year is no different. You take the first 1/4 to 1/3 of the season to realize what you’re bringing to the war, and adjust your battle plan accordingly.

Sure, Sizemore is probably a #3 hitter stuck in the leadoff spot, but a viable alternative simply doesn’t exist. So, he stays at the top of the lineup. Moving on, who would have thought on Day 1 that I would be proposing moving Casey Blake into the 2 hole and Ben Broussard/Eduardo Perez into the cleanup spot? Not me, but all three players are thriving and it’s time to adjust the lineup accordingly.

With Victor struggling, teams are pitching around Hafner and Peralta is scuffling in the 3 hole, forcing Hafner to press even more. Here’s the solution: let Jhonny work his way out of this from a lower spot in the lineup, where the pressure to perform won’t weigh him down; and ride the hot bats of Benuardo to protect Pronk, while allowing Victor some breathing room.

By the way, despite the fact that Hafner isn’t seeing many good pitches and is probably pressing more than he needs to, he’s hitting .314 with 14 HR and 44 RBI with a 1.072 OPS through 49 games. How do those numbers look projected out over 162 games?

The bottom of the lineup remains weak, with Belliard and Boone, who are both scuffling. Belliard, in particular, seems to have drawn the ire of the Atomic Wedgie and may see less and less of the field if Lou Merloni can be even remotely productive from 2B, as his grittiness and veteran leadership provide something that is lacking in the current Tribe lineup. Allow Michaels to ingratiate himself to the AL from the 9 hole, where he can put his OBP skills to good use, notably to get on base for the maturing SuperSizemore.

Notice that I’m not advocating a Boone demotion, or a new LF, or any major shake-ups; offensively, the talent is there (as evidenced by the fact that 5 of the 9 positions have driven in more than 25 runs - SS, 3B, 2B, and LF being the laggards) – it just needs to be reconfigured to maximize the potential.

On the pitching side of the equation, here’s how I’d like to see the rotation and the bullpen shake out going forward:

Essentially, jettison the dead wood in Johnson and Mota and replace them with your two top performers in Buffalo – Sowers and Guthrie. Sure, Johnson and Mota have each had good outings in their last appearances, but when analyzing a pitchers’ season, one has to look at it like a painting. You can’t simply look at the last few brushstrokes; you have to take in the whole body of work. And, what’s sitting on the canvas right now for those two don’t exactly bring “Starry Night” to mind.

With Sowers and Guthrie waiting in the wings (Sowers is 6-1 with a 0.94 ERA while Guthrie is 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA) in Buffalo, it’s not as if there’s a lack of talented arms ready for action.

Also, in the rotation – if Westbrook can’t turn this thing around (compare his 5.58 ERA to the 5.80 ERA that the much-maligned Johnson is sitting on), flip-flop him with Guthrie, who can serve as the long man until that move is made. If Guthrie struggles in the rotation, move Carmona into his spot.

This team can’t rely on their aCCe, a revitalized Byrd, a currently inconsistent Lee, and hope that Westbrook and Johnson have some sink to their sinkers in an attempt to get back into this race that’s been dominated by the superior pitching of the Tigers and the White Sox.

The bullpen seems to have sorted itself out (as long as Billy Flameout doesn’t show up), so we’ll leave that alone otherwise. I’d like to see Wedge stop using Jason Davis with runners on (he’s allowed all 10 runners he’s inherited to score), and throw him to start an inning. Leave the sticky situations to Cabrera and Betancourt until JD learns how to pitch with runners on. The arm is there with Jason Dangerously, the approach and mindset of a reliever are what’s lacking.

The changes aren’t huge, they’re mainly tweaks for an inarguably talented team that needs a kick in the pants to jump-start their season before the hill gets too steep to climb.


rodells said...

I brought my son (9 months) to his first ever baseball game yesterday at the Jake.

He started clapping alot last night at home for the first time, so apparently he caught onto that towards the beginning of the game. Like when we took the field.

t-bone said...

From Gammons...

We are watching C.C. Sabathia (12-2, 1.69, 8.5-2.1 K-BB ratio since Aug. 10), Brandon Webb, Josh Beckett and Scott Kazmir emerge at ages 25, 27, 26 and 22, respectively, into the class of Johan Santana and Roy Halladay. Sabathia is coming off consecutive dominating complete games and has become, in one scout's terms, "the perfect blend of athleticism, competitiveness and great 95-mph stuff."

Baltimoran said...

nice to see our matchup lefty hiding in bushes at 5 in the morning...drunk

Cy Slapnicka said...

Hello pot, this is the kettle calling.