Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tomahawks Flying into the Future

As we admire the glory that is the last couple of days of Olympic Baseball that have included Matt LaPorta hitting a 3-run HR in a USA win against the Netherlands and Nick Weglarz (shown to the right) going 5 for 7 in his first two games for Canada with 2 HR in his 4 for 4 effort in the opener against Cuba, let’s get some Tomahawks flying:

While I did an update already pertaining to the principal horses that figure to be “Jockeying for Position” as the season marches on, I thought that this update would provide more pertinent timeframes and splits as opposed to just examining numbers from strictly July or August.

What I mean by that is picking the specific day when these players started playing every day (or other relevant information) is much more relevant than just picking a random date like July 1 or the All-Star Break that is simply easier to find statistics for.

With that in mind, here are the numbers for the players attempting to work themselves into the 2009 mix with the date that the statistics start indicated:
Kelly Shoppach – Since June 7th (50 games)
.282 BA / .356 OBP / .576 SLG / .932 OPS with 11 HR and 32 RBI in 170 AB
The early June date is used as it marks the beginning of ShopVac behind the dish on an everyday basis and made the dynamite go boom.

Ryan Garko – Since June 1st (56 games)
.258 BA / .307 OBP / .344 SLG / .651 OPS with 4 HR and 36 RBI in 209 AB
OK, so here I’m picking kind of a random day as Garko has really played all season. June 1st was the beginning of Garko filling the #4 spot in the order, a stretch that lasted for about 20 games until he was dropped in the lineup. While random, it does put into perspective how Garko has fared against his “competition” for the C/1B “battle” for 2009 in a relatively comparable timeframe.

Asdrubal Cabrera – Since July 18th (23 games)
.289 BA / .386 OBP / .474 SLG / .860 OPS with 3 HR and 7 RBI in 76 AB
Obviously, the date indicates when he returned from Buffalo and was re-inserted into the lineup. Small sample size to be sure, but so is his first stint this year with the Tribe when he put up a .184 BA / .282 OBP / .247 SLG / .529 OPS line over 52 games.

Andy Marte – Since July 5th (28 games)
.221 BA / .270 OBP / .365 SLG / .635 OPS with 3 HR and 10 RBI in 104 AB
This 28 game stretch that has finally seen Marte get regular playing time has allowed his OPS raise from .373 on July 5th to where it currently sits…at .522. Certainly not enough AB and too small of a timeframe to properly evaluate Marte, but his attempts to kick down the door finally put ahead of him aren’t making much of an impact.

The BLC Splits
.271 BA / .372 OBP / .458 SLG / .830 OPS with 3 HR and 24 RBI in 144 AB
.220 BA / .289 OBP / .341 SLG / .630 OPS with 1 HR and 5 RBI in 41 AB
Since Choo has played pretty regularly since returning from TJ surgery, the more relevant numbers to examine would be his numbers against LHP and RHP as Choo has long posted significantly better numbers versus RHP than he has against LHP, lending credence to the idea that he is a platoon OF or a 4th OF, capable of hitting RHP well. Despite seeing most of his action against said RHP, his 2008 numbers haven’t done much to dispel the thinking in place when the season started.

Franklin Delano Gutierrez Splits
.226 BA / .262 OBP / .323 SLG / .585 OPS with 1 HR and 9 RBI in 195 AB
.217 BA / .273 OBP / .424 SLG / .697 OPS with 4 HR and 15 RBI in 92 AB
Like The BLC, Frank the Tank has often been cast as a player who finds success against one side of the mound…just the opposite of the LH Choo. In his minor league career, he struggled against RHP and hit LHP well, allowing some to cast him (again, like Choo) as little more than a complementary 4th OF despite his tremendous defensive skills. While the hope was that his 2007 was his break-out, the 2008 numbers indicate that his platoon splits may have been minimized…just not in a good way as his numbers are down across the board.

The Ben Francisco Treat – A Tale of Two Bens
From Call-Up to June 4th
.346 BA / .385 OBP / .551 SLG / .936 OPS with 3 HR and 17 RBI in 107 AB
From June 5th to present
.247 BA / .320 OBP / .423 SLG / .743 OPS with 9 HR and 28 RBI in 215 AB
Since The Frisco Kid has essentially played every day since being recalled from Buffalo, it’s better to look at his numbers from the time he joined the parent club in a blaze of glory to what he’s done since. June 4th/5th is a rather arbitrary time to pick, in that the only point of reference is that June 4th represented his high-water mark for OPS on the season (.927). That being said, after his quick emergence, Francisco has settled into average to below average numbers in the 58 games since he crested in early June.

We’re talking about a lot of small sample sizes with most of these players, but most of the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to who figures to play more prominent roles in 2009 and who may find themselves receiving their mail at an address outside of Cleveland, be it in Columbus (next year’s AAA affiliate) or another MLB city.

Not a lot of people remember this, but former Tribe 3B and current Mahoning Valley Scrappers coach Travis Fryman broke into the big leagues as a SS in Detroit. Baseball Prospectus’ David Laurila asked him about that transition in a recent Q & A he conducted with the manager of the Tribe’s Rookie League affiliate.
It’s not a premium article, so here’s the link and Fryman’s thoughts on the transition he made from SS to 3B as a member of the Tigers:

David Laurila: What was your transition like for you going from shortstop to third base?

Travis Fryman: Well, mine took place in the big leagues. I never played a day at any position other than shortstop until my second day in the big leagues. That’s when they asked me to play third, so I learned on the job. Again, I think you learn patience from your coaching staff, and looking back now, I made a lot of mistakes as a young player. But I was allowed to make them, and I was expected to learn from them. I don’t ever remember a time when a coach expressed negative feelings toward me because of my mistakes; I just think they were very patient with me. But third base is a pretty difficult position to learn, and it’s a position that’s unique. There are things that everyone needs to do, and do well, to play third, but I don’t think there’s just one way to play third in order to do it successfully. You need to give people time to get a feel for the position.

David Laurila: A lot of people probably don’t realize that you played more games at shortstop than at third base your first four seasons in Detroit. Do you feel that you could have remained at the shortstop position?

Travis Fryman: You know, I could have. In my mind, when I think about the game, and positioning, and where you go, it’s always from the perspective of a shortstop. When Sparky moved me the last time it was because I had intentionally put on a little bit of weight to get a little stronger and try to hit for more power. That affected my defense a little bit, and I had made more errors than you’d like to see a shortstop make in the first half of that particular year, which was 1993. He moved me after the All-Star break, but I could have leaned out a bit more and picked up the foot speed that I would have needed to be more than adequate at short.

Fantastic insight from Fryman…and that’s only answering a few simple questions from a writer.
Wait a minute – a coach in the Indians’ organization with experience moving from SS to 3B at the big-league level, with little to no experience at the hot corner…having to learn on the fly?
Where does Fryman live in the offseason?
What about Jhonny?

Back to the Land of Small Sample Sizes, Anthony Reyes has put up a nice line in his first two quality starts for the Indians:
2.19 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 4 K, 3 BB in 12 1/3 IP

Two starts certainly doesn’t guarantee anything more than a slap on the back and by no means should be taken as any sort of indication that Reyes definitely will be a part of the 2009 rotation…but it’s a nice start.

Rey-Rey, at first glance, looks like a decent back-of-the-rotation option for next year if he’s able to continue his current rate (though missing more bats would be nice) of success as a Tribesman. It would appear that in addition to sorting out the arms in the bullpen, the race for the middle-to-back of the rotation, where Reyes figures to be in the mix with a whole slew of LHP, should have no shortage of contenders with hopefully enough emerging for the Indians to go 7 or 8 starters deep next year.

Since now the virus that has infected the bullpen seems to have extended to The Scarecrow (3 H, 4 R, 3 ER in 0 IP) on Thursday, let’s go back to a place in world where the sun is shining for Tribesman – the Beijing Olympics.
To end on a happy note, here’s LaPorta rounding 3B after his bomb in China:

Somebody get me to 2009 already...

Finally, I did a radio show with Tribe minor league guru Tony Lastoria on Thursday night, a podcast of which can be found here. We hit the high points and Tony had some nice insights on some youngsters, including his relaying that Weglarz's HR in China hit the top of some light pole and was estimated to travel some 470 feet.


Rockdawg said...

While looking at these stat-lines, my first reaction, time and time again, is "Get this guy outta here already." But lately, I have been noticing a growing list of former Tribsman that we gave up on too quickly, and now they are above average players, all-star candidates, even legitamate MVP candidates.

PTC, you are more versed on trades and releases than I, so if my facts are off, feel free to correct...But it seems to me that we have recently parted ways with:

RYAN LUDWICK - (.304/30 HR/90 RBI)
JEREMY GUTHRIE (who was given ONLY ONE ML start while with the Tribe) - (3.18 ERA/1.15 WHIP)
JODY GERUT - (.289 AVG/.822 OPS)
MILTON BRADLEY - (.320 AVG/1.035 OPS/20 HR/63 RBI)
JOE INGLETT - (.293 AVG/.348 OBP)
CHAD DURBIN - (2.15 ERA/1.19 WHIP)

These players are not all All-Stars, but that is A LOT of production that we have let go, and these are just names off the top of my head (not the stats though, that would be crazy).

Now, I lose track of what we got for certain players as compensation, but from what I can tell, the return we got for these players is:

PTC...or anybody, PLEASE tell me that we got a better return than this. If this is correct, is it a case that we weren't patient enough? Were these players not properly coached in Cleveland? Is Shapiro and company really not THAT good at evaluating future talent?

C'mon Browns....Let's get this mother started atlready!!!

Paul Cousineau said...

You’re not off on what the overall net return is for those players, but look at the transaction logs for the players you list and count how many teams’ hands some of these guys passed through AFTER leaving Cleveland:

July 18, 2003: Traded by the Texas Rangers to the Cleveland Indians for Ricardo Rodriguez and Shane Spencer.
December 14, 2005: Signed as a Free Agent with the Detroit Tigers.
December 18, 2006: Signed as a Free Agent with the St. Louis Cardinals.

June 27, 2002: Traded by the Montreal Expos with Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Lee Stevens to the Cleveland Indians for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.
April 7, 2006: Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named later. The Cincinnati Reds sent Jeff Stevens (minors) (June 13, 2006) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade.

June 3, 2003: Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 6th round of the 2003 amateur draft. Player signed June 3, 2003.
November 8, 2006: Traded by the Cleveland Indians with Andrew Brown to the San Diego Padres for Josh Barfield.

June 4, 2002: Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 1st round (22nd pick) of the 2002 amateur draft. Player signed October 3, 2002.
January 29, 2007: Selected off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles from the Cleveland Indians.

June 2, 2001: Traded by the Colorado Rockies with Josh Bard to the Cleveland Indians for Jacob Cruz.
July 18, 2005: Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Chicago Cubs for Jason Dubois.
July 31, 2005: Traded by the Chicago Cubs with cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Matt Lawton.
March, 2007: Released by Chicago Cubs.
January 21, 2008: Signed to Minor-League Contract by San Diego Padres.

July 31, 2001: Traded by the Montreal Expos to the Cleveland Indians for Zach Day. April 3, 2004: Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later and Franklin Gutierrez. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent Andrew Brown (May 19, 2004) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade.
December 13, 2005: Traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers with Antonio Perez to the Oakland Athletics for Andre Ethier.
June 29, 2007: Traded by the Oakland Athletics (after being DFA’d on 6-21-07) to the San Diego Padres for Andrew Brown.
December, 2007: Signed as a Free Agent with the Texas Rangers.

June 5, 2000: Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 8th round of the 2000 amateur draft. Player signed June 9, 2000.
September 15, 2007: Selected off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays from the Cleveland Indians.

May 19, 2004: Sent by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Cleveland Indians to complete an earlier deal made on April 3, 2004. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent a player to be named later and Franklin Gutierrez to the Cleveland Indians for Milton Bradley. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent Andrew Brown (May 19, 2004) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade.
November 8, 2006: Traded by the Cleveland Indians with Kevin Kouzmanoff to the San Diego Padres for Josh Barfield.
June 29, 2007: Traded by the San Diego Padres to the Oakland Athletics for Milton Bradley (minors) and cash.

February 17, 2003: Signed as a Free Agent with the Cleveland Indians.
August 31, 2004: Selected off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks from the Cleveland Indians.
December 23, 2004: Signed as a Free Agent with the Washington Nationals.
November 14, 2005: Signed as a Free Agent with the Detroit Tigers.
December 30, 2007: Signed as a Free Agent with the Philadelphia Phillies.

It’s true that Phillips, Guthrie, Kouzmanoff, and Inglett are all on the same team that they joined immediately after the Indians, but the way that those 3 players (I’m not counting Inglett because he is what he is and there’s no use giving him a second thought) left, and under what circumstances has been covered ad nauseum.
Not given enough chances (Guthrie), possible misevaluation coming back (K2), personality clashes (B-Phil)…they’re gone.

The rest of those guys are on their 3rd or 4th (!) team AFTER leaving Cleveland, so it’s not as if the Indians are the ONLY team to “miss” on these guys. For various reasons (injuries with Ludwick and Gerut, clinical insanity with Bradley, etc.), these guys moved around quite a bit before finding some success this year. More power to them, but lamenting the loss of some of these guys is bordering on the irrational, particularly when you go back to what was thought (by almost all of us) when these moves were made.

It’s tough watching Gutierrez and Marte struggle through the year, but thinking that Ludwick (a solid FIVE years after he left) or Durbin (FOUR years and FOUR organizations later) are “ones that got away” isn’t a fair assessment of how decisions are made, particularly at the time they’re made.

The truth is that most teams could do this with the players that they’ve lost, just based on the sheer volume of players that pass through organizations every year and those that have that one comeback or magical season that gives their career a pick-me-up.

I think if there is one problem that needs to be rectified, it would be a better evaluation of certain players’ ceilings. That is, if Franklin Gutz or Garko has a great 2007 and his trade value is high – the Indians need to sell high on those guys, as opposed to getting pennies on the dollar for them if the prevailing thought is that players aren’t going to progress much more.

Does this affect a guy like a Shoppach or Francisco for the offseason?
They sure sold high on Blake and I wouldn’t be surprised if they used some of their new-found depth at the upper levels to be more active in the trade market to plug holes that way instead of venturing into FA.

Sorry if that got long, but the PD had something they printed a week ago called “The Ex-Files” that really riled me up about this topic as it took such a one-sided approach (not that you did, Rock) that it seemed to purposely paint the organization as idiots without including all of the pertinent information.

Rockdawg said...

Didn't see the "Ex-Files" article, I just decided to do some research (albeit not much) into the situation, b/c I got sick of seeing some of these guys winning games for teams in pennant races on SC every day. I guess my point was to not "give up" on some of the guys we have now just yet (Marte, Garko, Gutz) even though instinct says to do just that.

I agree with selling high on a guy like Show-Pac, but I would consult the Baltamorian before moving Francisco, as the B-Morian is rooting for him as if he were Sandy Alomar(?)

Paul Cousineau said...

I'm right there with you in the frustration and realizing the importance of taking the time to take that step back.
Didn't mean to look like I was pouncing.

Rockdawg said...

Not at all PC...the more insight the better.