Thursday, June 26, 2008

Paradise Lost

Once upon a time, in what feels like a galaxy far, far away, the Indians sat atop the AL Central with a 1 ½ game lead after sweeping the A’s in the friendly confines. The date was May 15th, a mere 6 weeks ago, and some hack decided to look at the upcoming schedule of the Indians, decided that it was relatively easy with the opponents on queue, and made the determination that the 53 games separating mid-May from the All Star Break would be the time that the Indians ran away with the Central by beating up on lesser opponents.

Um…are we playing with mulligans?
While that Indians are still in the midst of that 53 game stretch, the early returns (though the first 37 games) shows that the INDIANS were the lesser competition on the schedule as the Tribe has posted a 13-24 record (a .351 winning percentage) as they have sunk to the bottom of the AL Central, looking up at the (gulp) KC Royals.

So what in the wide, wide world of sports happened here?
The team, as it stood on May 15th, was still with an effective Fausto Carmona and at least contained Hafner and Martinez (however impotent their bats were) in the middle of the lineup as their aCCe showed signs of returning to his Cy Cy form and Cliff Lee and Aaron Laffey were in the process of vying for the AL ERA lead.

Now, six weeks later, the team puts a lineup against the worst (and most overpaid) pitcher in MLB by “featuring” a player (by his own admission) whose best role is that of a utility player in the #2 hole, a player that started the season in AAA in the #3 hole, a #4 hitter with a .719 OPS whose Lasik may or may not have taken, a #5 hitter with a .693 OPS on the season who runs like he has a refrigerator on his back, and a 33-year-old SS who didn’t play in MLB from 2004 to 2007 when he was signed (then cut) by the Rays.
Is it any surprise that Barry Zito shut down the Tribe offense on Wednesday night?

Instead of just focusing on one frustrating game, though, let’s focus on a whole mess of them, starting with the series opener in Cincinnati on May 17th after the Tribe swept the Athletics out of town. Here is how the Indians have performed against the “weak” part of their schedule with the records of the teams at the start of the series indicated:
@ CIN (18-23): 0-3
@ CHI (23-20): 0-3
vs. TEX (24-25): 1-2
vs. CHI (27-22): 1-2
@ KC (21-32): 1-2
@ TEX (29-29): 2-2
@ DET (24-35): 2-2
vs. MIN (31-33): 2-1
vs. SDP (30-38): 2-1
@ COL (28-41): 0-3
@ LAD (34-38): 2-1
vs. SFG (32-44): 0-2*
*sorry, since “There Will Be Blood” arrived via NetFlix today, that’s what I’m watching tonight

Against ONE team (though they faced the White Sox twice) that had a record above .500 when the series started among ten opponents, the Indians have played .351 baseball as they’ve seen their record drop from 22-19 to 35-43 over a course of time that has seen the rest of the AL Central do precisely what the Indians SHOULD have been doing. In fact, here’s how the AL Central has fared since that magical May 15th date, which looks, unfortunately, to be the high-water mark of the season for the Tribe:
CHI: 22-15
MIN: 22-16
DET: 21-15
KC: 17-22
CLE: 13-24
OK, OK…stop banging your head against the desk.
Let’s try to figure out what’s going on here without getting too deeply into individual performances, as that discussion is for another day and another couple thousand words.

Surprisingly, the offense has not been the primary culprit, as anemic as it has looked as they’ve averaged 4.6 runs per game. Not an overwhelming number, but certainly an improvement over the first few months of the season when the Indians were actually winning games due to their pitching. The offense has posted a .739 OPS over those 37 games, which doesn’t remind anyone of the glory days of Jacobs Field, but falls in the middle of the pack in terms of offensive production in the AL. The offense has been fair, if inconsistent, over this stretch that has caused the season to circle the drain with the only stat jumping off the page is the disproportionate amount of K (averaging nearly 7 ½ per game) to the amount of BB (a little over 3 a game).

So, it’s not the offense’s fault on its own…then it must be the bullpen, right?
Over the 37-game stretch, the Indians bullpen has collectively posted 5.48 ERA with a 1.61 WHIP while compiling a 3-14 record with only 4 saves in the 13 wins that the team has won since May 15th. Scary numbers, for sure…so that must be the reason, right? Fix the bullpen and the mediocre offense combines with the strength of the team, the starting pitching, to allow this team to go on a run.

Ah, the starting pitching…
Not using injuries as any sort of excuse as the Indians’ depth at starting pitcher was thought to be (and probably is) the strength of this organization. However, over this 37-game stretch that is under the bright lights of examination, the starters don’t come out much better than the relievers as they’ve posted a 4.90 ERA as a group while allowing 1.49 walks and hits per inning pitched. A far cry from the month of April, when 3 of their 5 starters had ERA under 3.00 (and C.C. and Laffey, the two most consistent starters currently, weren’t among those three), is it not?

And herein lies the rub – its not ONE thing that has caused this team to go belly-up, so it’s not as if ONE thing is going to magically fix what has gone awfully wrong. Would a settled and efficient bullpen help? Sure, but the starters have been as much of a problem as the bullpen over the last six weeks, just as the inconsistency of the offense has been a culprit for the team dropping to the cellar in the AL Central.

One would like to think that this team could tread water until they get healthy, but the fact remains that they haven’t and the stretch of games they’re coming off of gave them what was likely the best opportunity to stick around the .500 and stay in the AL Central mix. If they had even been able to do that and go 18-19 in this 37-game stretch, they’d be sitting at 40-38, a mere three games back in the Central.

I don’t mean to showcase these hard numbers just to ruin everyone’s weekend, I just want to provide some empirical evidence that this team is not one improvement of one aspect of the team from getting back into this race. If adding a big bat would solve all the problems of the team or augmenting the bullpen would settle the whole team, then optimism would still exist. But this team, as it stands right now, is simply not good enough to put together a stretch of wins due to the inconsistency of all aspects of the team and the opportunity that was ahead of them six weeks ago lies behind them with regret being the prevailing feeling that remains.

Ultimately, against the worst of MLB, the Indians have been at their worst, allowing the 2008 season to become a casualty on a road that once looked so full of hope that is now going nowhere.


dave said...

a few more points how many errors do we have ? also isnt anyone better than our designated misser?
how bout barry bonds? I know hes a piece of _____,but he can hit.than we can lead the steroid users

Les Savy Ferd said...

Hope you enjoyed There Will Be Blood. I know people tend to go one way or the other with that movie, but I loved it. it was shot beautifully, and well acted, and wonderfully over the top. I'd much rather my movie be excessive than curbed because an actor/director didn't want to really put himself out there and there is certainly excess there, but the good kind I thought.

For about a solid month I infuriated my fiancee with quotes from the film, and one day the retribution will return tenfold.

As far as the Tribe go, well, I'm not sold they are finished yet. Not sold i tell you! 7&1/2 ain't all that. We'll at least give some of the other teams a good race.

Rockdawg said...

Buster Olney just said that a CC trade "could happen any day."

BTW, props to Minktrapper and his "Wedge/Cousin Eddie" analysis...That is the type of observation I expect from the serial posters.

rodells said...

Well, the longer the buying team has CC for, the better the return should be for us. Teams also might not be bidding against each other so soon, lessening the haul. I don't think it happens before the White Sox series ends, and maybe the Twins series. But that's just my guess.

Back to booing....the Nets just cleared some big time cap room last night for the 2010 season. If Lebron, as close to a hometowner as you can get without growing up in the Cleveland area, bolts for less money (the Cavs can offer more years and money than anyone) to the Nets or Knicks (the only real players imo) before he wins NE Ohio their championship he said he'd bring, then we'll witness something greater than all the past Indians that bolted town combined.

Cy Slapnicka said...

i'm not a fan of the movie. in fact, thinking about it reminded me of this season. i kept watching, as after hearing the hype, i assumed that at some point it would get good and i would stop wondering, "jeez, will it ever end?" unforunately, when it finally ended, i sat there disappointed and wondering, "wow, i can't believe i bought the mlb package in march".

part of me wants to go this week, and part of me is very happy i will be on vacation and will be unable to venture to the cell to watch this team.


Rockdawg said...

Cy, I have been SO happy I purchased it monthly, just for this scenario.

Rodells, I think in the Nets draft room, they probably said the name "Lebron" ten times more than they uttered any other name, including the players they drafted. Bill Simmons is calling it the most under-reported sports story there is right now. From the new Brooklyn stadium, to the Nets moves that are CLEARLY just trying to clear cap room, to numerous private dinners consisting of Lebron and Jay-Z, this is not looking good.

csusi said...

im thinking that the cleveland motto of "theres always next year" is probably in full swing by now. but, i have to say that its yet to come from these lips.

ive played around with quite a bit of thought lately when it comes to the tribe. ive been trying to bring myself to a place of hope. with whatever thought it might take. ive learned from this practice that im probably in the pool with the "glass half full" people. theres probably a bit of denial there, sure. but, its hope that keeps us going right?

my favorite of thoughts lately that spurs on hope is this: if we win 8 straight and the white sox lose 8 straight, we've locked ourselves back up top. [im highly aware that the majority of you reading this probably just muttered "idiot" in your mind or out loud, but listen to me for a bit]

ill make this quick. the twins have won 9 straight. we have a better team than the twins. they really just took advantage of 3 of the more struggling teams out there to get their 9 wins, but if they can do it, i know we can.

when it comes to offensive production in the month of june we have outdone the twins in: RUNS/HR's/TB/RBI's and OBP. and when it comes to pitching, our rotation has quite a bit more threat than theres does.

i just skimmed through our games in the month of june and outside of the texas series that took place at the launchpad our rotation if you take byrd out of it has been ridiculous. remove that series against the rangers and every game where we've had more than 3 runs scored on us fall into the lap of either byrd or the bullpen. cc/lee/laffey and even sowers have done their job and done it quite well. think of things when carmona returns.

sidenote: i go ahead and tell myself when byrd is pitching that if we dont put up at least 5-8 runs, go ahead and chalk up the loss.

anyways. i imagine that alot of this might be pissing off some of the ones that have already thrown in the towel, just because it could come across as me attempting to put myself in a higher place as an indians fan because of this "hope". but, i promise those arent my intentions.

its more of a choice i guess. i just feel that id much rather be in the boat of folks that would stick it out, continue on with the love of the tribe flowing through them with the chance that it might manifest itself into a dramatic comeback. sounds like a much better spot than the boat with those in it that ditch the tribe now but will for sure come out of the woodworks at seasons end all the while exclaiming, "ahh yeah, i knew it was coming" if that dramatic comeback does take place.

listen, we are at the lowest of low with a half of a season left to play. it can only go up from here.

hope- to wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.

im keeping hold of it. come on people. lead this pack PC, cmon bro. it aint over.

Anonymous said...

Geeze csusi.....OK...screw it all...I'm back in...if we get Carmona back soon enough and sit Byrd down...the rest of what you said sounds plausable...Everyone just forget what I said in my last fact, I'm gonna go delete it now.......

csusi said...

minktrapper. my dog. back in it. atta boy. we're whooping some cincy tail right now. cc is mowing em. we're cruising.

is it not insane that grady is one HR away from leading the AL.


here we go fellas.

-cue the gloria estefan
"get on your feet"

Paul Cousineau said...

Trust me fellas, as the captain of this good ship we call "Optimism", there's nothing that I'd rather do than say that everything's going to be all right and that all is not lost.

That's what made this last post so difficult to compile as the Indians' last six weeks WAS the perfect opportunity to tread some water against poor teams until Fausto came back. But all 3 aspects of the team are struggling (take out Byrd's starts over those 37 games and the rotation's ERA is still 4.42) and there doesn't seem to be a magic bullet left in the gun that will fix our problems.

I'm not saying that I'm raising the white flag as divisional games abound prior to July 31st, but the team we've seen since they sat in 1st place in mid-June just hasn't been a very good team, regardless of how good we THINK they are or can be.

By the way, the first comment on this post could go down as the worst comment on a post in the history of this site. Whether the comment was meant as tongue-in-cheek or not, the relevance and the intimation in such a brief comment is so profoundly mistaken that I apologize for anyone that had to read it.

Rockdawg said...

We all know that we don't need to worry about the Twinkies. We should really just concentrate on Detroit (they are 17-8 in June).

I think the worst post ever is when Baltamorian admitted that he went to Brush high school and has never attended a Pearl Jam show.

Byrd vs Cueto tonight, not a good matchup to start a "winning streak".

Can't believe my girl Ivanovich is out...

csusi said...

i know that i take up more space than i should on this blog and i do apologize for that. know that its never my intentions to waste any of you guys time, but i have to share this with all of you. and by doing so realize that i could take the trophy for worst post ever.

me and my wife are youngsters that just bought our first house. my wife was wonderful enough to grant me one room in our house to show my devotion to the indians. shes a good one. its really turned into something special. royal blue walls. my collection of bobbleheads with the likes of john adams/tom hamilton and a nice vintage 1957 indians mascot bobblehead. a series of framed tickets from our last year of glory in 1948. etc. its what carl weathers would call "my happy place".

anyways. i also have a lovable but stubborn as hell basset hound. well, this morning i walk into the tribe room and notice that one of my most prized possessions had been very much so, tampered with. it was my 6 feet by 4 feet indians rug. now, when i say tampered with im talking, destroyed.

now, it takes alot to get me going in regards to aggravation, but this tripped the switch. so, i grab a magazine, grab the dog and drag her to the scene. i quickly let her know that what shes done is nothing short of an actual crime in the k9 world. it was bad. but heres the thing. you know when you get overly pissed and you say things that later you ask, "what did that even mean?" well, in the middle of my fury, i kid you not the words, "champions dont get chewed on" came from my mouth. ummm, what?!?! then as she scampered away, i yelled at her, "i should change your name to guillen". [our chicago culprit]

i heard my wife laugh from the background and that triggered the inside voice telling me, "your a moron".

why i just wrote all this, i have no idea. maybe to let you all know that there was an enemy in the camp and the threat has been neutralized. or maybe cause i thought it was a good story. maybe not though.

remember when i said i never wanted to waste any of you guys time? sorry. really. no more stories, i promise.

looking for 3 in a row.