Tuesday, August 26, 2008


For a moment, let’s take a break from all of the talk of uncertainty about which glove Victor is going to use in the field in 2009 or whether Jenny Lew’s performance over the last few weeks has reduced the need for a closer in the offseason. Those are all topics that can be hit on and debated from today to the end of the Hot Stove Season.

No, today it’s time to (once again) acknowledge and extol the accomplishments of one Grady Sizemore, who blasted his 30th and 31st HR in a game last night in which the scoreboard could have read “Sizemore – 2, Tigers – 1” for a portion of time as Grady’s contributions outweighed those of the entire Detroit club.

In leading the way to another victory, Grady became the 25th player in MLB history to go 30-30, and only the 2nd in Tribe history (Joe Carter being the other) to achieve the feat. The accomplishment in and of itself is a shockingly amazing feat, just by virtue of how rare it is, made even more impressive when you consider that there are 32 games (or about 20% of the season) still remaining on the schedule.

So whatever your preferred method of adulation may be, now would be a good time to get to it:
If you’re a golf clap kind of guy, let’s hear that polite acknowledgement of greatness.
If you’re still in the “Wayne’s World” mindset (that movie was made 16 years ago, people) and prefer the “We’re Not Worthy…” bow at the waist, get those arms up and start bending.
If you’re a bit more subdued and prefer the hat tip, it’s time to raise your thumb and forefinger to the brim of that cap.
If you’re a female and want to pretend you’re at a Tom Jones concert, it’s time to see Center Field at Progressive Field littered with some of Victoria’s Secrets.

However you publicly acknowledge that greatness is present before you or however you show respect, please look towards our Center Fielder the next time you’re at Progressive Field when he hustles out to the green expanse that he occupies and acknowledge away…because he’s earned it.

Because, perhaps not so surprisingly, in a season so full of disappointments and “what-ifs”, where we all focus on the volatile bullpen and the fluidity of the rotation and deal with the inconsistency of numerous position players, Grady somehow flies under the radar as almost a given and most fail to properly recognize it on a regular basis. We take his steady contributions at the plate and in the field for granted because you know you’re going to get maximum effort out of him (the ultimate “grinder” if there ever was one…just with immense talent), solid and spectacular defense in CF, and steady numbers throughout the season at the plate.

As we all sit and wonder who is going to play 3B or RF or 2B in 2009 or whether the team will “sell high” on Shoppach, what becomes overlooked is that Sizemore’s name remains in permanent ink on the lineup card. It’s almost like a discussion of the Cavs’ starting five that either starts with “Well, there’s LeBron…obviously” or LeBron’s name simply isn’t included because there’s such an assumption of his presence and his greatness.

How is the way that Grady is perceived much different?
It could be argued that EVERY single position for next year is in some sort of state of flux…except CF. There’s no debate, there’s no conjecture, there’s no “but…maybe” involved. It’s Grady – every game at full capacity.

Why is it so easy to take what he does for granted?
Consider for a moment his numbers by month:
.847 OPS, 5 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBI

.826 OPS, 5 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 16 RBI

.970 OPS, 8 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 16 RBI

1.115 OPS, 6 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 18 RBI

.778 OPS, 4 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 18 RBI

Until the month of August (which still isn’t over and, if Monday night was any indication, could still be “salvageable” in terms of maintaining his frighteningly consistent numbers), Sizemore has put up steady production across the board, including a July that put him in some pretty rarified air in the AL, made even more impressive by the fact that he’s also contributing SB and Gold Glove defense.

How impressive, exactly, in terms of how he looks against the rest of the AL?
Well, there’s a statistic (invented by Keith Woolner…who happens to now be employed by the Tribe) that is nearly universally accepted by baseball people (at least those that acknowledge the importance of statistics in the evaluation of a player) in terms of putting one hard number on a player and how valuable he is, compared to other players.

It’s known as VORP (or Value over Replacement Player) and is best described here, by the creator. Essentially, it attempts to determine how much a particular player contributes in comparison to an “average player” or “freely available talent”. It assigns a number that is easily comparable to measure a player’s value against other players with one number.

Don’t be, and don’t try to figure out what that number means…just know that people smarter than you and I calculate it and use it to compare and evaluate players using the same criteria and with the same factors instead of looking at 40 different numbers (BA, OBP, SLG, HR, etc.) and attempting to accurately compare players, apples to apples.

Turning off the overhead projector, let’s go back to Grady and compare how Sizemore ranks with other players in the AL in terms of VORP this year:
Alex Rodriguez – 57.6
Grady Sizemore – 57.2
Ian Kinsler – 54.8
Aubrey Huff – 51.0
Milton Bradley – 51.0
Carlos Quentin – 49.2
Kevin Youkilis – 47.5
Josh Hamilton – 47.4
Brian Roberts – 46.8
Justin Morneau – 43.9
What do those numbers mean exactly?
Unless you’re ready to jump into some high-level math, don’t concern yourself with it…just know that those numbers are the ones that decision-makers in MLB look at instead of Batting Average or RBI.
So, according to VORP, Grady’s the 2nd most valuable position player in the AL – behind only A-Rod.

Is your appreciation growing yet?
If you thought he was in some rarified air in terms of July production, how about that list…or how about the fact that he’s accomplishing all of this having turned all of 26 at the beginning of August? And maybe that’s the most impressive thing that Sizemore is accomplishing, as he’s maturing as a hitter to awfully impressive levels at an age when most players are still entering MLB or going through an adjustment period to MLB pitching.

For some fun, let’s see how Sizemore’s career is progressing compared to another LH OF who some people may have heard of:
Age 22
Sizemore - .832 OPS, 22 HR, 37 2B, 11 3B, 81 RBI, 22 SB
Player A - .821 OPS, 25 HR, 34 2B, 9 3B, 59 RBI, 32 SB

Age 23
Sizemore - .908 OPS, 28 HR, 53 2B, 11 3B, 76 RBI, 22 SB
Player A - .859 OPS, 24 HR, 30 2B, 5 3B, 58 RBI, 17 SB

Age 24
Sizemore - .852 OPS, 24 HR, 34 2B, 5 3B, 78 RBI, 33 SB
Player A - .777 OPS, 19 HR, 34 2B, 6 3B, 58 RBI, 32 SB

Age 25
Sizemore - .915 OPS, 31 HR, 28 2B, 5 3B, 81 RBI, 34 SB (stats through 126 games)
Player A - .971 OPS, 33 HR, 32 2B, 3 3B, 114 RBI, 52 SB

Who is Player A, you ask?
Um, that’s Barry Bonds… when he was still playing just a couple of hours southeast of Cleveland and prior to his “unexplained” head expansion.

Forgetting for a moment what transpired with Bonds’ career when the new millennium dawned, let’s remember what everyone has always said about Bonds. All together now…“He was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer before he started (allegedly) juicing.”
Well, Grady’s right with him in terms of progression as a hitter – even distancing himself from Bonds in terms of power at his tender age.

OK, have you ordered that Sizemore jersey yet?
It’s a safe bet to get some heavy use for a good amount of time as, in case you’ve forgotten, SuperSizemore’s club option for 2012 for $8.5M is pretty likely to get picked up…unless the Indians re-negotiate with their young CF to add more years and more guaranteed dollars to his deal.
Even if they don’t…2012?!?
Seriously…can any of us even grasp what he’ll be doing a full FOUR seasons from now?

As if this whole thing isn’t impressive enough, how about the fact that Sizemore has started to assume a leadership role on the team with the likes of Sabathia, Blake, and Byrd donning new polyester? Maybe it’s his quiet demeanor, maybe it’s the way he’s always conducted himself in the dugout, and maybe it’s just pure speculation to think that Sizemore deferred to those veterans in terms of leadership while each was on the team. And I know that this is based on nothing tangible, but this team just FEELS like it’s become Grady’s team – feeding off him, looking for him now in the dugout to be that guy on the top step or having someone’s ear.

For whatever reason though (and with Victor and Pronk also shelved), the Indians have put up these records since moving their veteran players:
Since CC trade: 26-16 (.619 winning percentage)
Since Blake trade: 18-10 (.642 winning percentage)
Since Byrd trade: 9-3 (.750 winning percentage)
Don’t ask me to explain that (and, obviously, 12 games a season does not make), but Grady assuming a leadership role and these young players taking their cues from him and following his example certainly can’t dismissed out of hand.

With the season winding down and Grady’s projected numbers looking like they could enter an even more exclusive club if he keeps up his pace, 2008 will go down as a “lost season” in many aspects of the Indians as a whole...but not for Sizemore.

When it’s all said and done, 2008 will represent the year that “what he could be” matured into “what he is” with room for growth. And that, for Tribe fans, is something that should not be taken for granted or simply assumed. It should be something admired, respected, and enjoyed every night.
Grady doesn’t take a day off or go into cruise control…why shouldn’t your appreciation of him follow his example?


Rockdawg said...

Well done PTC....Well done.

csusi said...

and he's still batting leadoff.

and none of the, "he's producing and we're winning with him in the leadoff spot" cause even in my shallow mind of baseball knowledge i know that any player with 30 or more HR's at this spot in the year shouldnt be batting leadoff.

but, i aint the coach.

eric wedge is.

and eric wedge at one point thought borowski should be our closer.

im just saying.

Ryan said...

I think Grady has four homers this month, not 2. He hit two Monday night, and two 3-run homers in the Royals series. Regardless, Grady is THE MAN.

Paul Cousineau said...

B-Ref must not have updated their numbers when I was putting it together.

RE said...

and an intriguing spelling of "demeanor"

but in all seriousness, I tune in to the Tribe's games in large part to watch Grady play, just as I do here in Texas with Hamilton, Young and Kinsler

those of you young enough will be boring future generations with the fact that you actually saw Sizemore play in person, the same as one hears of Mantle or Musial

csusi said...

does anybody else pee in there pants a little bit with this thought:

we are the hottest team in baseball with 10 straight wins. one more win and our games back deficit will be dwindled to a single digit number.

with that

we go into a 2 game series against the worst team in baseball.

from there into a 3 game homestand with the white sox.

now, do we all have the understanding that IF and i repeat IF, we win these next five games the possibility is there for us to be only 5.5 games out of first. thats with 23 games left to play.

yep, a little pee just came out.

Cy Slapnicka said...

csusi, way to go...i bet you walk up to your buddies at a craps table and say "wow, you guys are doing awesome, i can't believe how hot this table is!" please continue to watch quietly from a safe distance.

thank you

csusi said...

and by watching quietly you mean, "dont speak about the possibilities, because if they dont happen, then you look like a fool".

listen, i aint the brightest, so i aint worried about that.

but if those possibilities do come to fruition, then not a word out of those who chose to "keep quiet" when all your silence was really just an outward showing of the doubt thats going on inside you.

(intentional dramatics going on right now)

i refuse to fall into the pit of cleveland mentality that throws in the towel early and whines the rest of the way. that trash if for cubs fans. i wont do it.

why not be vocal about the excitement. this is what its all about. "the chance" that this whole thing could play out for our benefit. the twins have hit a wall and arent playing the best ball right now. the white sox have a beast of a schedule for the month of september. and we're hot.

i just read a message board filled with laughter from white sox fans who were asked "do the indians have a chance".piss on laying low for the rest of the season and talking about next year. my goal that is slowly turning into a dream would be to buy a ticket to the white sox last game of the year on the 28th of september when they face the tribe. and at the conclusion of our victory, hoist up the grandest size replica i can produce of ozzie doing the choke sign. oh how sweet it would be!

i have hope.

Halifax said...

CSUSI -- I appreciate your optimism, but I don't think the Indians have the starting pitching to sustain that kind of a run.

That scenario sounds like the one earlier this year right before the Tribe went on a 10 game road trip versus the weak sisters that was to decide if they could contend or should pursue dealing Sabathia.

Guess we know how that worked out.

Looking at it from a batting perspective, if a guy goes 18 for 30 he's looking at a 2 for his next 28 coming right around the corner. But who knows? Maybe this team was SO BAD for the entire first half that they have enough packed away for the finish, especially when they're getting a fresh Victor (amongst others) back soon.

Reality says, however, that they don't have the horses on the staff similar to what carried them on a sustained run to the wire last year. Especially to track down not one, but two teams well ahead in the standings.

PS -- I'm all for bugling the possibilities... root on!

RE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RE said...

RE said...
Hope is a good thing; people come from it and people run it out as a campaign slogan.

A dose, however, of reality.

IF the Indians were to win twenty of the remaining thirty games, in other words, play .667 ball the rest of the season (or .750 ball if you count the past ten games)

THEN Chicago would have to lose 20 of its final 29 games

AND Minnesota would have to lose 18 of its 29 for there to be a tie.

If the Tribe only went 19-11 OR if Chicago or Minnesota played better than about .350 ball, it doesn't happen.

RE said...

Even as I wrote that, I could hear Jim Carrey whispering, "So, you're telling me there's a chance!"

Cy Slapnicka said...

i'm not against optimism nor do i have a defeatist attitude. i think i've proven that.

i'm simply saying, don't jinx us. i think my gambling example was clear to anyone that has been at a hot table.

right now, we're rolling numbers and hitting the point. the buzz around the table is growing, people are starting to gather, our trays are filling with chips and the superstitious gamblers know to quietly watch the fun.

get me back up on the 6, double odds on my 9, and a two way hard 10....

Halifax said...

CSUSI - Pee your pants anyway, that's hilarious!

KonstrucktaTribe said...

shoppach article good one:


csusi said...

"so, you're telling me theres a chance"

that was great.

i love that i have the optimism/ignorance of one lloyd christmas.

re- im not gonna lie, your numbers hurt a bit. but, as any brave warrior would do: i have to ignore them.



Rockdawg said...

Time to celebtrate. Andy Marte is officially hitting over .200!!!

rodells said...

For some reason in my mind, the Tigers series was the classic put you back in your place series. Not that the Tigers are good, but I just had that feeling. We handled it in the best possible fashion, so the optimism is peaking, but its gonna take one helluva Sept. Too bad we dug ourselves such a big hole.

And I'm waiting for the first person to say, "imagine if we had CC right now". Maybe tag in there Byrd and Blake too. Don't be that person. Please.