Monday, May 19, 2008

Doing the Splits

As the Tribe offense remains offensive since the thought a couple of weeks ago was that some of these players (one of these players?) would have to start progressing toward their career numbers, perhaps a new strategy is necessary as each passing lineup card looks like The Atomic Wedgie is grasping at straws and each game ends with the Indians’ offense still mired in their season-long slump. The offense, to this point, remains an all-or-nothing affair with 56 of the 183 runs scored to date (a whopping 30% of the year’s runs) coming in 11 of the 388 innings (just under 3%) that the team has batted in.
Yikes.

Without yet getting into the terrifying notion that perhaps this isn’t just a slump (I’m reminded of the Jack Nicholson line of “What if this is as good as it gets?” in the film by the same name), perhaps the solution lies in simply putting the existing hitters in positions that they can thrive in, carefully picking those spots, as opposed to simply trotting out the usual suspects and hoping for the best. With each passing game, it becomes apparent that at a certain point, no Indians’ hitter has “earned” any kind of right to be in the lineup every day based on anything but performance THIS year or even over the past few weeks (which incredibly does put Hafner in that category), so the time has come to use 2008 as the barometer for success for each of these players and plan accordingly.

Now, with 1/4 of the season in the books, approaching the 1/3 mark, the sample sizes are getting substantial enough (for some) to examine some trends and find out where hitters are succeeding and where they are failing, with the idea of maximizing optimal opportunities for them while putting them in positions in which they can thrive because not much more help is coming from within the organization, other than the BLC or maybe Barfield, that isn’t already here. As much as that elusive “big bat” remains on everyone’s mind, it is still mid-May and not too many teams are looking to shed an established hitter with so little of the season spoken for.

Realizing that the Indians are going to have to play with the hand that’s been dealt to them, what can be done to revive this slumbering offense? I know that you’re not going to want to hear this, but the answer for waking up some of these bats may be redistributing plate appearances based on whether the Indians are facing LHP or RHP…the platoon concept that everyone loves, right?

Whether or not you accept or even acknowledge the usefulness of the platoon or think that anything can be gleaned by looking at individual players’ splits (which is their performance versus RHP and LHP), the Indians’ brass has to figure out how to present a lineup card that at least poses the threat of putting some runs on the board. Obviously, some of these players have very limited plate appearances on which to base OPS, but something is better than nothing. With that in mind, how do the Indians’ current position players stack up in terms of OPS versus RHP and OPS versus LHP?

OPS versus RHP
Martinez - .647
Shoppach - .712
Garko - .660
Cabrera - .554
Carroll - .475
Peralta - .669
Blake - .762
Marte - .174
Dellucci - .705
Francisco - 1.039
Sizemore - .884
Gutierrez - .582
Hafner - .675

OPS versus LHP
Martinez - 1.033
Shoppach - .444
Garko - .994
Cabrera - .351
Carroll - .718
Peralta - .851
Blake - .376
Marte - .933
Dellucci - .200
Francisco - .750
Sizemore - .716
Gutierrez - .683
Hafner - .815
Right now, the only player (yes, that is a singular noun) posting an OPS over .700 against both RHP and LHP with more than 10 AB against both on this team is (yes, again, that is a singular verb)…wait for it…Grady Sizemore with his sparkling .716 OPS against LHP.

Nearly as shocking as the team wide struggles against RHP is the disparity on some of these guys from RHP to LHP:
Martinez - .386 higher versus LHP
Garko - .334 higher versus LHP
Cabrera - .203 higher versus RHP
Carroll - .243 higher versus LHP
Peralta - .182 higher versus LHP
Blake - .386 higher versus RHP
Dellucci - .505 higher versus RHP
Obviously, with a guy like Dellucci you have no expectations of him hitting LHP and don’t put him in that position, but maybe it’s time to employ that strategy for the rest of the lineup.

If Garko isn’t hitting RHP and the LH hitting Michael Aubrey is on the roster, what’s the harm in giving Aubrey plate appearances against RHP while he’s on the team? I know that Aubrey’s ticket to Buffalo when JoeBo returns is probably already punched, but why not keep Aubrey on the roster over little-used Craig Breslow as the offense may benefit more from an extra LH bat than the bullpen may from an extra LH arm?

If Cabrera is struggling against LHP (.351 OPS), give those plate appearances to Carroll every so often to improve the offense without sending Cabrera’s glove to Buffalo. Obviously, you’d like to keep Asdrubal on the field as much as possible, as well as not deterring any adjustments the young player is making to MLB; but with the way things going as they are, perhaps it’s better for him to build his confidence by succeeding in limited playing time to gain momentum as opposed to rolling downhill, as he seems to be doing now.

If Blake is posting a .376 OPS versus LHP, for the love of all that is holy, why is he still in the lineup against them? Given the success of Andy Marte throughout his minor league career against LHP, could he really be that much worse? I know that this subject has been beaten to death and that Andy Marte must have allowed somebody’s house pet out of the front door on his first day of house sitting (how else can you explain his absence in the lineup?), but Blake is posting a .376 OPS against LHP…that’s beyond dreadful.

If Gutierrez isn’t hitting RHP, why doesn’t Francisco become an everyday OF with Grady, switching between LF and RF, with GooLoochi (replacing the famous Dellichaels) alternating based on opposing pitchers? Frank the Tank’s defense should keep him in the mix and his upside garners some patience, but rather than letting him slip into the abyss, allow him to face only LHP to (like Cabrera) get some confidence back in his ability as a MLB hitter.

With all of that in mind, what should these lineups look like?
Versus LHP
Martinez
Garko
Carroll
Peralta
Marte
Francisco
Sizemore
Gutierrez
Hafner

Versus RHP
Martinez
Aubrey
Cabrera
Peralta
Blake
Dellucci
Sizemore
Francisco
Hafner

We’re basically talking about platooning 1B, 2B, 3B, and one OF position to try to take advantage of some desirable match-ups with the roster as it is currently constructed. That may seem like a lot of positions to be in flux and shared between players, but the production (or lack thereof) from those positions (save 1B, where Garko is sitting on a pretty big split) has been the difficulty in the lineup. The Indians actually have started to do this to a certain degree, if you look closely at the last week of games, but at this point it’s time to set some hard and fast rules to try to work some of these younger players in to see if the team can catch lightning in a bottle or to give the veterans every chance to succeed against those whom they are succeeding against this year. Blake, Dellucci, and Cabrera should never see LHP, just as Gutz should never see RHP and Garko should take a break from RHP to clear his head and get some semblance of power back for him.

The overall strategy here would be that, by putting players in situations that they are able to excel in, their confidence (which I think is sorely lacking given the team-wide “slump”) can improve to the point that the principals that are thought to be contributors for this team can get closer to that point, as opposed to sabotaging every run-scoring opportunity that seems to present itself.

Short of a surprising move this early in the season, the Indians are going to be playing the cards that have been dealt to them…maybe it’s time to start stacking the deck.

13 comments:

Ron Vallo said...

I agree for the most part, but Wedge also has to pay more attention to who is hot at the moment and who is batting where in the lineup.

As I've said before, under no circumstances should Perlata ever bat in the No. 2 hole.

Dellucci got hot for four or five games and stayed in the No. 3 hole for a week beyond the end of his hot streak, which ended with an amazingly cold streak - yet he was still batting third.

It seems Gutierrez got his ticket to the bench just as he was starting to show a little spark at the plate.

So while I agree in general with what you are saying (this team clearly has no hope of having a set lineup), Wedge needs to pay more attention to where he is hitting players based on how well they are doing currently at the plate and their overall abilities to accomplish certain task.

Halifax said...

Good insight, Paul. Everyone seemed to think (until recently) that this was just a slump, which it is to a point. But unfortunately, it's the way this team is built and is basically the way they perform.

In the past you had a masher in the middle (Hafner) that changed the entire look of this offense. He was feared, he carried this team for many months over a three year span.

Those days are gone.

Sad to say I think Hafner is done. Whether it is due to the mysterious "big man hits early 30s and diminishing skills" or something more sinister, it looks like Pronk's mashing days are done. That being said, how does one reinvent a team that is built around power that no longer has any? Victor has joined Hafner on the weak-piece list, so what is a good manager to do?

Exactly what you suggested. And here's a few more.

The Aubrey move is great. Here's a young guy with huge upside if he stays healthy, let him play! Since Hafner can't hit, can't field and is untradeable, maybe he's your PH deluxe just like in Cincy. Play Aubrey, a great defender, at first and DH Garko, who would actually make a decent trade chip if he starts hitting. Aubrey must stay.

Play Victor at 1B against LH pitching and other favorable matchups to get Shoppach in the lineup more often. Kelly has good power and improves this team defensively.

Cabrera? He has never shown a great stick outside of last season at Buffalo and Cleveland. It's not that he can't hit, I think he's learned well, but being around this team can't help any. Last year he was brought up because Barfield faltered, it's time to return the favor. No, Barfield isn't tearing it up in Buffalo, but neither was one Ben Francisco and he's our best hitter right now. Let Asdrubal take a hiatus to Buffalo to get away from this mess, inject some new blood in the lineup in Barfield. You never know. Hopefully, that works out, Barfield does pretty well and Cabrera can come back up after he gets his stroke back and you have time to work a deal for Peralta (hopefully, for a 3B). I'd still be kicking the tires on Hank Blalock, who just came off the DL. Barfield and Cabrera up the middle is smooth, and coupled with Aubrey at first and Blalock at third your sinker-heavy pitching staff just got better yet.

Francisco needs to be in the lineup every day and Gutz used as much as possible, especially in late-inning situations as a defensive replacement for the stationary DD.

All in all, these moves could help, but the key is that the Indians have zero pop in the middle of this pathetic offense. Some kind of move needs to be made and unfortunately we can't dump all of our useless parts. A MLB pitcher will have to go (Sowers) and a good prospect or two (Brown, Mills, Crowe, etc.) along with some expendable throw ins (Choo, Marte). I still think Peralta has some value based on his previous body of work, but the longer they wait the less that is and the more his poor range is exposed.

minktrapper said...

Given our current situation...did anyone else get a chill down their spine when they heard about the no-hitter in Boston? Hafner just struck out looking in the first...right down the middle they said....good lord.....
Paul...thanks for the insight and all the stats to go with it this year...really enjoy this blog....

Halifax said...

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Four stinkin' hits! Our starter again gives up two earned runs (two HR)in seven innings and loses 4-1. Nice bullpen effort once again.

Veteran David Delucci runs into an ot after a leadoff double on a grounder back to the pitcher!

It's time for heads to roll -- starting with Derek Shelton. I heard someone on the radio today speaking of this is not unusual for this ugly team.

Make some changes already, this is getting old! That's not knee-jerk either. Tat's four losses in a row, all year long it's been great pitching and STUPID, non-professional hitting and inconsistent bullpen work.

Left unchecked, this team is on a fast road to nowhere.

Les Savy Ferd said...

last evening was the first time all season where I had zero confidence in a comeback. I remember a few weeks ago when these comment threads were loaded with frustration, real gloom and doom, end of the season in April stuff, and i defended the Tribe and told people to be patient.

I'm finding this harder and harder to do. After all of that great success, with the pitching streak and 8 Wins in 10 games, to come back and get swept by Cincy and look completely uninspired when down by a single run, I'm beginning to think the flaws on this team really are fatal.

a) and now Paul Byrd and the baby bulldog must be out stoppers.

b) the homer announcers on tv here in chicago make me want to retch, but they did have a lot of praise when it was applicable, about sizemore and sabathia, etc, but what they said about hafner really rang true.

In his first at-bat, a quality 9 pitch effort, the announcer pointed out that all those foul balls that were tailing away from left field, would have been crushed foul down the right field line 2 years ago, that the guy just seems slower, or less confident. Granted it was the top of the first when the SP's gas tank is full, but I actually agreed with an announcer I cannot stand.

Tonight I am going to put the television on mute. I don't get to see many games here in chicago, c'mon tribe, c'mon Byrdie, give me something to cheer for!

Cy Slapnicka said...

i'm in section 123 tonight behind 1st. none of you will see me on tv though, as that would require a camera to be focused on 1st base. and that would require a base runner. perhaps the camera will focus on me and the announcers will openly mock me and my tribe lid? if shelton comes anywhere near me, i'm going to go whitesoxfan and tackle him from behind at first base. if only i had a meth problem, tatoos, and an illegitimate son to assist me.

fire derek shelton...a change we can believe in.

Charlie said...

Is Wedge even trying anymore? How do you leave the team's top home run hitter on the bench and allow both Cabrera and Carroll to bat, trailing by one run in the 8th inning in a stadium that surrenders a lot of homers?

Halifax said...

Passive/aggressive -- maybe he's trying to force a move . . .

and can we get a little more Aubrey, please?

Joshua Whitman said...

Cy,

Please, for the sake of all Tribe fans, like myself, who are still willing to watch/listen to the game tonight, don't limit yourself to Shelton. Feel free to tackle anyone in an Indians uniform whom you deem deserving of it or is in range. It will at least give us something to cheer about tonight!

No worries, I'll personally head up the charity drive to pay your bail and/or legal fees. Good luck!

Steve said...

...I'll personally head up the charity drive to pay your bail and/or legal fees...
Put me down for ten bucks.

dave said...

why not let crooked cap bat? cant be any worse than whats happening now

Les Savy Ferd said...

ugh.
just... ugh.

csusi said...

we're horrible