Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Punched and Punchless

It takes quite a bit for me to leave my perch in the Mezzanine prior to the 27th out being squeezed at a Tribe game. But watching the reigning Cy Young winner giving up 9 ER in 4 IP while seeing a player (who may or may not be The Big Cat) who was traded by the pitching-starved Texas Rangers (for a AA outfielder named Michael Gonzalez in February of this year, by the by) give up 1 hit through 6 innings while mowing through a toothless Tribe lineup swinging early and often?

Yeah, that will get me out of my seat and en route to the Family Truckster. As I post this, the Indians are coming to bat in the bottom of the 9th and let’s just say that I’m opening my 2nd High Life at home.

If it were one aspect of the team, I would say that a problem and solution could easily be identified; but the starting pitching, the bullpen, and the offense have all played a part in this team looking complacent and, quite honestly, very bad. Night after night, opponents are working their way into situations to score runs as the Indians squander opportunity after opportunity. That formula...um, that does not translate to a lot of wins.

At the risk of throwing an irrational overreaction on the stovetop, it’s time for something to happen – whether it be a message sent to the players by way of a player being jettisoned or roles being changed to change the dynamic on this team…which is simply not working at this point.

Perhaps that means the buffet table gets flipped, perhaps that means that Jason Michaels finds a one-way ticket to Seattle (more on that in a couple of days) in his locker, perhaps that means that the 3B-LF situation is finally rectified to find out if Andy Marte figures into the future.

At this point, who the hell knows?

As serial poster minktrapper says, “what is the cut-off for saying, ‘hey, it’s early’”?
Judging by the effort and results that have been put forth by this team since departing for their West Coast trip, it’s coming up on the horizon a lot quicker than I’d like to acknowledge.
While I remain convinced that this team is talented and is scuffling, it’s getting more difficult to believe that brighter days are ahead with each passing game as this team is getting hard to watch.

28 comments:

t-bone said...

Just got back a little bit ago from the other Detroit on Cleveland beating (at the Gund). Was checking score of Tribe game on my phone and stopped doing so probably about the same time you left the ballpark. Didnt win anything at the million dollar fan appreciation night either.

Should have figured what the night had in store for me when my pre-game burger was charred. Hell of a night, eh? As a result, sucking down the Champagne [of Beers] myself.

Halifax said...

The problem is, many of us are disappointed because we are looking at this team like it is GOOD. It's really not a good team. They totally lucked out last year to win 96 games, how do you DO that?

First, remember in July when CC, yes, he of the back to back 9-run implosions, was carrying this sorry offensive team on his back by tossing about 8 games in a row of less than three runs a game? We all thought they were hosed, playing very poorly, not scoring, then all of a sudden they got hot.

Baseball is a long season, and spurts are common for any team, but this offense is especially spotty and streaks together, one direction or the other. That team was carried by terrific and consistent starting pitching and a ridiculously good bullpen last year. The defense was unsteady and the offense very ordinary.

Right now all the flaws are exposed because those two strengths have not been present to hide the weaknesses.

Go around the diamond -- if you're starting up a major league team, who do you REALLY want besides Victor and Grady? Maybe Asdrubal -- at short!

This team is not very good. They rose together as a TEAM last year on the wings of great pitching. Until that happens again, or a deal is made for some offense, they will continue to falter.

Halifax said...

If I'm Mark Shapiro I'm putting Neal Huntington on in my five circle of friends and speed-dial him once a day until he agrees to deal Bay.

Shoppach, Laffey, Francisco

Starting catcher, solid MLB-ready LF to replace Bay and a MLB-ready LH starter.

Deal.

Pittsburgh would get the better end of that one in the long run and it'll help them. But the Indians need a middle order presence right now.

Les Savy Ferd said...

just....


ugh.

Rich said...

Miller High Life?

Why?

Nick said...

Sign Barry Bonds!

Tyler said...

These players are only "ordinary" until you compare them to the rest of the league. The word is "slumping."

That said, there's a greater truth there, which Hamilton alluded to last night (if any of you still had the game on in the 7th): A $70MM team doesn't have a margin for error, especially against well-heeled competition.

Ultimately, I agree that this falls on the offense. Pitching staffs have some rough spells -- bullpens, even great ones, surrender a few late leads. Starters, even great ones, have injuries and dead-arm periods. A lineup doesn't have that luxury. You've got to put up decent ABs, you've got to scratch and claw your way on base, and you've got to put the bat on the ball and hope the runners make it around the bags. Even when the hits aren't dropping. Even when the stars aren't carrying the team.

From 5-10, to win 90 games, the Indians need to play .578 ball from today until #162. Certainly teams have accomplished more in less time. But it's not going to get easier.

Les Savy Ferd said...

is that a Byrd pic in the letters of the banner? has it always been there or does it rotate images?

(this is what I must resort to, for comments. *sigh*)

KonstrucktaTribe said...

yeah that's birdie

before it was cliff lee me thinks

csusi said...

ill tell you whats most painful, is me sitting around for 9 innings like a moron waiting for one of those mid 90's comebacks we used to be famous for. something has to happen and happen quick. i figure if carmona gets busted up tonight and we lose big again, we're in trouble.

last night i was watching the game and they were talking about a leader in the dugout. its obvious its not wedge. but, somebody, (and i thought victor would have already done so) needs to get in the face of everybody and tell them to wake up and get pissed and start playing baseball like a pro.

Cy Slapnicka said...

@csui

"ill tell you whats most painful, is me sitting around for 9 innings like a moron waiting for one of those mid 90's comebacks..."

hilarious

t-bone said...

Les Savy Ferd, you are correct! When we redid the layout last May, the scene of the Jake was inside the header graphic.

Since opening day, been mixing things up in the header. Mainly only after wins, but also if there's another picture out there conducive (height and widthwise) to fitting in The DiaTribe words. Keep an eye on it as you log in from here on out.

I may have to archive them somewhere, and will let you know if/when I do so.

Paul Cousineau said...

WAAAY back to Rich on the High Lifes:
High Life, when fresh and cold, is one of the best, most refreshing beverages I have come across - something I realized on the Miller Brewery Tour with my brother-in-law in Milwaukee some years back. That it was realized on a Tuesday at 10 AM is neither here nor there.

Tyler,
Excellent points, but it is getting tough to keep the faith that the offense can suddenly flip a switch, is it not?

T-Bone,
Great job on the header. I'm always happy when I see that new look at the top.

TidyCat said...

This is beginning to feel a lot like 2006.

Halifax said...

Tyler, This team is ordinary, unless in comparing them to the rest of the AL you're insinuating that they may be slightly INFERIOR.

This team is historically a team that puts up fairly large numbers that have more bark than bite because they come in huge bunches and don't necessarily translate to wins.

They are notoriously streaky on offense, shaky on defense and tend to make mental errors in every facet of the game.

Sorry, that doesn't sound like a slump, or like something a championship team does. It sounds like a team whose mediocrity has been cloaked by exceptional pitching . . . until now.

How else can you explain 2005, 2006, 2007 and now 2008? Good pitching keeps anyone in games, spotty pitching leaves you exposed, poor pitching makes it unbearable.

Paul Cousineau said...

Halifax,
I think that the offensive struggles thus far have made you forget the big picture and how the Indians are built.

The team is DESIGNED to revolve around the exceptional pitching and the linchpins of the lineup that you mention. Sure, it’s a departure from the “All-Star at every position” strategy, but it happened to lead the team to two 90+ win seasons in three years, something only four other teams (BOS, NYY, LAA, CHW) have accomplished in all of MLB.

When the pitching doesn’t pitch as well as it’s supposed to AND the offense struggles to produce runs by getting the timely hit, not much is going to go right for ANY team, regardless of their pedigree.

As for your assertion that the lineup is “inferior” to most AL teams, I would say that most teams would be more than happy to take Sizemore, Victor, Hafner, Peralta, and Garko plus bank on the upside of either Cabrera and Gutierrez (or both) enough to include them in the everyday lineup (particularly with their gloves). So, that would be 6 to 7 spots in the lineup that could play for most (not all, I admit) teams in the league, despite the “deficiencies” that we see day in and day out because we follow the team. The soft spots in the lineup are at 3B and ½ of LF…the rest of the lineup, I’m OK with.

As frustrating as the team has been to watch, I think that the Tribe will pull themselves out of this hole, I just hope they can do it before the number of games they have to win in their remaining games becomes unrealistic.

Halifax said...

OK,

I understand what you're saying. But I haven't lost sight of how the team was built.

If 3B and LF aren't weak spots, then RF and 2B can be as defensive and weak-hitting as you want.

As things are, you have what has become in the AL, four offensive positions manned by four non-offensive players. What makes it especially ugly is that two of the three spots are often thought of as power-producing positions and we are getting almost nothing. I like defense as a part of the game, actually I prefer it, but when you don't get hitting from the clods who are poor defenders you need to really examine where you're at as a team.

That's why I'm ripping on the structure, because that should've been addressed in the off-season and wasn't for whatever reasons, primarily our young talent pool (which we will keep until they have no value in deals) that could bring a reliable bat.

Cy Slapnicka said...

ya know, when i asked that a pitcher someday regret not taking the guaranteed money and risking it all for free agency, i didn't mean i wanted it to happen to cc....

Steve said...

I've decided to have a positive outlook for tonight's game.

This Indians are not going to hit .232 as a team for the entire season. The entire bullpen is not going to be this bad for the entire season. CC and Fausto will not BOTH struggle for the entire season. The LF, 3rd Base, and 2nd Base spots will not remain this unsettled for the entire season. (Throw in the RF spot too, for good measure.)

It will get better.

(Takes a deep breath and crosses his fingers.)

Halifax said...

words of wisdom . . . are you the wise and powerful "Steve" from Over The Hedge?

Seriously, everything you said it 100% true.

Still, these guys (Tribe) cheese me off.

Steve said...

I'm known in some parts as "Steve in Westlake".

Halifax said...

I thought so.

Tyler said...

halifax,

You talk about "scoring in bunches" like it's a bad thing. Are runs worth less after you get five of them? Long rallies and big leads take stress off your pitchers and obliterate opposing bullpens, making it more likely you'll win the close one tomorrow. If your response is that the Indians don't "get them when it matters," we'll have to have that argument in private. Suffice it to say that if clutch exists as you impliedly described it, it's not for sale.

As for the rest of your points -- we don't have a enough production from the corners, we should deal more aggressively from the talent pool, we make too many bonehead mistakes -- well, there's a lot going on there. I think you'll find you're essentially asking for older, more expensive guys. Sure, they're a little more consistent. I don't know what that's worth, exactly, but I know what it costs.

Tyler said...

Paul,

Speaking of bad defense, how long til we see a line-in-the-sand Casey Blake piece? He's been Peralta-esque with the leather. I know that might cause some DiaMaritalDisputes, but even Mrs. C. has got to respond to a .152/.250/.217 batting line, hey?

Also, re: High Life -- I have a theory. That beer's recipe dates to like 1903. That was before modern bottling and canning. So for those of you who doubt the Champagne of Beers, I strongly recommend you find a fresh keg of it, preferably in the greater Milwaukee area. You will be swayed.

Halifax said...

Tyler --

"This team is historically a team that puts up fairly large numbers that have more bark than bite because they come in huge bunches and don't necessarily translate to wins."

Think back to 2006. Remember all the talk of the powerful Indians' offense? How they scored all those runs yet their record was below 5.00 and it was such an oddity in baseball?

That's precisely what I'm talking about.The last four games for example they've lost with 4, 3 & 2 runs, the last coming against a rookie when they almost got a perfect game thrown against them.

Last night they got the hitting fever they get and everybody hits, scoring tons of runs. When this team hits, everybody hits, when it doesn't nobody hits. And it doesn't seem to depend on the opposing team's pitcher.

We'll see how many they score tonight. I'm guessing two or three.

All I'm trying to say is when one looks at the total number of runs scored at the end of the year it's deceiving, because people look at that and think they're a juggernaut. They're not, they struggle quite often and are extremely inconsistent, and when you hit like that and don't do the little things offensively it kills you in wins and losses.

Halifax said...

.500

Tyler said...

I'll toss another argument your way, hal: The Indians have roughly as many good and bad days as any other offense, but their good days are bigger and more memorable. Sound unlikely? That's because both our arguments are anecdotal. We need a statistical distribution to settle this, and I don't know of any place to get one.

You seem a little anti-"take and rake" in general. I stick by my guns here: The Indians can't afford high average hitters like Polanco, Guillen, or OrdoƱez -- just can't. Take-and-rake is cheaper, but it demands patience, good strike-zone judgment, and power -- three things which haven't been on display until last night. If the Indians get back to that pitcher-chewing, walk-taking, fastball-smacking approach of 2007, I don't think you'll have any complaints about our offensive consistency.

Re: 2006, the discrepancy you reference between runs scored and W-L record had a lot more to do with a league-worst bullpen and genuinely atrocious defense than it did with the offense. Not to mention, the second half of the season was just an open audition for 2007. A sample of one aberrant year isn't going to convince me that the Indians as an organization are somehow immune to Bill James's Pythagorean Wins formula, any more than the Indians scoring less than 5 runs on April 18, 2008 should convince you that the season's in jeopardy.

Halifax said...

Tyler,
I'm good with that. Let's see how the season plays out, hopefully for the best.