Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tomahawks Rounding Third and Heading for Home

With the Indians gently sidling up to measured mediocrity and only about two and a half weeks left in the 2008 Indians’ season, let’s loose the tomahawks in the direction of October and beyond and let ‘em fly:
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While I have done a few updates already pertaining to the principal horses that figure to be “Jockeying for Position” as the season marches on (crazy how that piece is now almost two months old), I thought that it had been about a month since last we saw these numbers and that we would stick with the more pertinent timeframes and splits as opposed to just examining numbers from strictly July, August, or September to date.

Just as a friendly reminder, 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 (71 games)
.287 BA / .364 OBP / .598 SLG / .962 OPS with 18 HR and 47 RBI in 244 AB
Those numbers have been posted in less than ½ of a season of games and have actually IMPROVED since this little exercise was conducted. Is there any question that Mr. Show Pack is an everyday MLB catcher in anyone’s mind? While his production since hitting the everyday lineup befits that of an All-Star (which he may or may not be able to sustain), Shoppach has established himself as a bona fide option at C for 2009. The question now becomes…for what team?

Ryan Garko – Since June 10th (70 games)
.245 BA / .313 OBP / .334 SLG / .644 OPS with 4 HR and 38 RBI in 257 AB
Again, I’m picking a fairly arbitrary date if only to show how he’s compared against his “competition” in the C/1B battle…which is not good for the man who runs like a refrigerator is attached to his back. Garko’s season has been mired in a level below mediocrity since…well, since the end of May as his OPS hasn’t sniffed the north side of .800 since April 24th. When your Slugging Percentage is a poor number for On Base Percentage and your overall line approaches the “Jason Tyner Line” (higher OBP than SLG…hat tip to Steve Buffum), you should make sure that your affairs are in order. Suffice it to say, a 27-year-old base clogger who is a defensive liability who made it to MLB on the basis of his high OBP in the minors, then posts an OPS of .693 from a corner infield position is not long for an everyday job in MLB.

Asdrubal Cabrera – Since July 18th (47 games)
.310 BA / .395 OBP / .448 SLG / .843 OPS with 3 HR and 22 RBI in 145 AB
Welcome back to the parent club’s plans Asdrubal…if you ever really left them. Nice to see this rebound since Cabrera spent an extended period of time, particularly when the timeframe nearly matches the 52 games he spent topside before being sent down at the beginning of June. Compare the numbers above to what he contributed prior to his demotion (.184 BA / .282 OBP / .247 SLG / .529 OPS line over 52 games) and realize that the stint in Buffalo seems to have done the trick to allow Asdrubal to get past that “adjustment period”.

Andy Marte – Since July 5th (45 games)
.236 BA / .281 OBP / .369 SLG / .650 OPS with 3 HR and 13 RBI in 157 AB
Andy…um, I guess it’s been nice knowing you. When the GM of the Indians says that the team’s greatest need (beyond the bullpen) is an infielder and mentions, specifically, the position you play as a team weakness – that’s a pretty good indication that you are not in the team’s plans going forward. So, if you haven’t gotten the clues from being pinch-hit for at EVERY possible moment or that you lose playing time to Jamey Carroll, count Shapiro going on the record (with no surprising news, just definite statements) that 3B needs to be addressed as the nail in your coffin as an Indian.

The BLC Splits
Vs. RHP
.303 BA / .399 OBP / .547 SLG / .946 OPS with 7 HR and 37 RBI in 201 AB
Vs. LHP
.276 BA / .354 OBP / .448 SLG / .802 OPS with 2 HR and 8 RBI in 58 AB
Again, 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. And here’s where we get to the most promising part of the exercise as The BLC’s numbers against LHP (though admittedly in a small sample size) have merited a discussion to be started if Choo is the everyday RF next year, regardless of which arm the starting pitcher throws with. Given the lineup’s relative lack of LHP (it’s Grady and Hafner), and particularly at the bottom of the order (yes, I know Victor and Asdrubal are switch hitters), Choo’s presence in the everyday 2009 lineup is looking more and more like a certainty. When you factor in that he’s still not that far removed from TJ surgery, Choo is the player (along with Shoppach) who has taken this “audition” and run with it. Now if he could only take better routes to balls…

Franklin Delano Gutierrez – The Two-Term OF
Opening Day to July 18th (76 games)
.215 BA / .263 OBP / .313 SLG / .576 OPS with 3 HR and 18 RBI in 214 AB
July 19th to Present (40 games)
.266 BA / .327 OBP / .483 SLG / .810 OPS with 5 HR and 20 RBI in 143 AB
Since his splits are equally lousy (.644 OPS vs. RHP, .754 OPS vs. LHP), we’ll at least try to make something positive out of Frank the Tank’s year and pick the date when his OPS began a slow climb to relative mediocrity. July 19th is that day as he has seen his OPS rise from the low-water mark of .576 prior to that day to where it sits today at .670. What are we to make of him suddenly hitting at respectable levels after miring for nearly half the season? Mainly that counting on him to be an everyday OF for next year would not be a good idea as his usefulness may be best served as a 4th OF/defensive replacement or as trade bait to a team that needs a phenomenal (and I do mean PHENOMENAL) defensive CF, but is able to put up with what will amount to his maturation as a hitter or accepting him for what he is as a fixture in the lineup.

The Ben Francisco Treat – A Tale of Two Bens
From Call-Up to June 4th (29 games)
.346 BA / .385 OBP / .551 SLG / .936 OPS with 3 HR and 17 RBI in 107 AB
From June 5th to present (78 games)
.253 BA / .322 OBP / .416 SLG / .738 OPS with 11 HR and 34 RBI in 293 AB
Again, 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 76 games since he crested in early June, which leads me to believe that the second set of numbers are a better representation of what the Indians could reasonably expect from Francisco for 2009. Whether those numbers merit a spot in the everyday lineup is certainly up for debate, but one thing isn’t – if you see BenFran in the #3 hole in 2009, something has gone horribly, inexorably wrong and I’ll be writing the exact same piece at this time next year.

Things are starting to sort themselves out and the waters that once looked so muddy are beginning to clear as some players (Shoppach, Cabrera, and Choo) have thrust themselves into the mix for 2009 while the future of others (Garko, Gutierrez, Marte) are on much more tenuous footing than when the season dawned.
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After watching the brilliant debut of Scott Lewis last night (a night after watching some guy in a Jeremy Sowers uniform baffle Baltimore hitters), is anyone else blown away by seeing these young guys effectively make use of the “Cliff Lee Playbook for Success”?

Locate your fastball, change speeds, change eye levels, and throw in the occasional breaking ball to keep hitters guessing…am I missing anything? We’ve now seen THREE guys who top out in the low-90’s with their fastball (and I don’t think Lewis touched 90 MPH last night) pitch effectively in the past week.

Obviously, we’ve seen Lee do it all year – just putting the ball where he wants to – but Scott Lewis throwing 8 innings of shutout baseball? Who saw this one coming? And is anyone else a more than a little surprised by what seems to be a stable of LHP on the cusp for the Tribe?

Add Scotty Lew (or would it be “Hang On, SLewi” to play off of his OSU affiliation) to Sowers, Aaron Laffey, and Dave Huff as fodder for the back end of the rotation next year. Throw in the intrigue of the excess of what seem to be similarly skilled pitchers into the mix and a couple of bargaining chips for the offseason may be emerging.
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To that end, did anyone else dream a little dream like I did regarding a fictional conversation that could (hopefully) have taken place between the tempestuous Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos, Orioles’ President of Baseball Operations Andy McPhail, and Orioles’ Executive VP of Baseball Operations Mike Flanagan after Wednesday’s game:

Angelos: “Who are these two lefties with this great control rolling through our lineup? Why do you two only give me guys that you say have ‘great arms’ but end up leading the world in HBP?”
McPhail: “That would be Jeremy Sowers on Tuesday and Scott Lewis on Wednesday…they’re young, soft-tossing LHP who figure to be back-end-of-the-rotation pitchers for the Indians.”
Angelos: “Back-end my eye, those guys could front any rotation in the League for the next 5 years. In fact, let’s make that rotation ours…get these two in Baltimore for next year. We’ll be set up like we were in the 1970’s and 1980’s with pitching. Remember those days, Flanny?”
Flanagan: “I do, sir, but you’re overestimating the value of these two. And it’s not like the Indians are going to want to part with two young pitchers for nothing.”
Angelos: “Then give them Markakis. He’s had a good year…sell high on him, right?”
McPhail: “Sell high? You’re not serious are you, sir?”
Angelos: “Damn right I am…I need these two arms in our organization, whatever it costs us?”
Flanagan: “But, sir…”
Angelos: “That’s not a suggestion, that’s an order from the Greek god himself. Oh, and see if they’ll throw in that Garko kid. I read in The Sun this morning that Millar is a Free Agent after this year and I like the cut of that Garko kid’s jib.”
McPhail: “Sir, maybe you should sleep on this…”
Angelos: “To hell with that, you always say that…I want these three players. Dangle Roberts out there for them – that should get it done.”
Flanagan: “Wait, Markakis AND Roberts for Sowers, Lewis, and GARKO?!?”
Angelos: “From your lips to me reading it in The Sun at some point this winter online aboard my yacht in the Mediterranean, Flanny. In fact, I’m off to The Motherland right now to soak in that Grecian sun until Spring Training starts. I’m not going to be reachable, so let’s make this deal the centerpiece of our offseason.”

And…scene.
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Apropos of nothing Tribe-related, with the TV Fall Season on the horizon, I thought I'd do a little DVReview to share with people I assume to be very similar to me to see what I’m missing out on and to get the DVR rolling. That is to say, here are the TV shows that are on “Record on This Channel at Any Time” that are scheduled to start soon or have started recently:
The Givens
Entourage
The Office
30 Rock
How I Met Your Mother

Have Been Told to Give Them a Shot
Chuck
Life (a t-bone fave)
Fringe (anything with the words “from the BLANK that brought you ‘Lost’” gets a look)

The DiaBride’s List
Grey’s Anatomy
ER
Brothers & Sisters
House
(She loves her some medical dramas, doesn’t she?)

Now, among you folks that love dry humor and intelligent storytelling while despising formulaic shows and being confused by CBS’ success (more specifically, the “CSI” phenomenon), let’s hear it…what am I missing?

Because right now, it looks like the “Arrested Development” DVD’s are going to get a work out awfully soon after the end of baseball season.
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Finally, a while back I professed that I was looking for a smart looking jersey to sport to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario and (despite my proclamations otherwise) I do not have a closet full of “THE BLC” or “FRANK THE TANK” or “LE PRONQUE” or “FAUSTASTIC” jerseys.

I do, however, have this one thanks to The DiaBride being the best in the biz:
Boom.

While an 81-81 season certainly isn’t what most of us had in mind when the season started, it’s a far cry from the days of 16 days below .500 with your aCCe headed to Wisconsin. The race for .500 is on…something to shoot for, I suppose.

8 comments:

Les Savy Ferd said...

I'd much rather be discussing how the following two weeks bodes for the tribe jockeying for high-end play-off positioning but failing that...

how'd you like Fringe, Paul? I wasn't blown away or anything but found the premise/cast fairly likable and I'm definitely game for another episode or two. It's a far cry from the amazing Consistency of Awesome that was the first 12 episodes of Lost, but few shows have struck me as forcefully as Lost, well, in a long time. (i'm watching it on DVD so the missus and I are way behind)

anyhow, go tribe.

Cy Slapnicka said...

feel free to have the diabride drop hints to my wife that i'd like one of those....

Deaner said...

Great jersey!

I'll be sporting my 1997 model jersey to the game on Saturday night.

Paul Cousineau said...

LSF,
Fringe is still sitting on DVR as Freaks and Geeks arrived from Netflix this week and we're rolling through that right now.

I'm right there with you on Lost...hopefully Fringe is even a fraction as good.

Rockdawg said...

I am captivated by Heroes, Dexter, The Amazing Race, Lost, Curb Your Enthusiasm (although I'm not sure it's coming back) and The First 48 on A&E, in addition to the four that you listed. I know most people don't get Showtime, but Dexter is worth renting the DVD's for. My Name is Earl is also a SOLID comedy. Yes, I watch too much TV.

Out of all the improvements to some of these players, I think that of Drooby-Droob-Droob's has to be my favorite. He is so slick defensively, it is great to see that he is not one-dimensional (at least for now).

Good call on Franklin DELANO Gutierrez, I have to say that none of the shows that have been mentioned are close to the best ever. "The master of the house, the keeper of the key..."

m.inktrap.per said...

Hey, did you guys catch the cattle auction on RFDTV last week? Man, my DVR ain't big enuf to record all that good stuff.

t-bone said...

Freaks and Geeks is the bomb diggity. Cool to see where the caset has gone from there, in hindsight.

Paul Cousineau said...

RD,
I tried to watch Heroes, but ended up feeling like George Costanza watching "Home Alone 2". I was lost because I had missed the premise.
CYE is a DVD staple with Arrested.
My brother-in-law was hyping The First 48 too...I'll have to check it.

Freaks and Geeks is GREAT.
We watched an episode last night that started with two friends mixing a digusting concoction of nasty ingredients into a blender that their buddy would drink for $10.
Memories...