Monday, May 18, 2009

Coming Clean

It’s time to come clean on something.
(Deep breath)
I hate this team.

I hate watching the games in agony, waiting for the bullpen take over for a starter fully aware that the implosion is coming.

I hate watching the offense score a bundle of runs for a Reyes start like clockwork in vain, only to be silenced for a CP Lee start when only one run is needed.

I hate the feeling that all of the levers are being pulled to put a different, better team on the field and still seeing the same tired names being trotted out there in the lineup.

I hate the feeling that everything could have gone against the team this season has, and that a good portion of it is the fault of the team.

I hate watching them take issue with a perceived slight by another team a full three days after said slight and only when their closer came into a game that they were losing, taking their frustration out on an opponent only so they don’t start turning on themselves or Wedge, assuming he’s around for the team to turn on.

More than anything, I just hate the losing and the feeling that the winning streak or winning stretch that is necessary to put this team into the AL Central isn’t going to come around because the problems.

I hate it all and the trouble is that with each passing game, the sense that this “tinkering” to find a solution is actually doing more damage than anything for the team. Say what you will about how it doesn’t matter what reliever enters a game because the song remains the same, but consider for a moment that there have been three combinations of the starting lineup that have been together for more than two games – one for six games, one for three games, and one other starting lineup for two games.

We’re not talking batting orders here, where players may move around the different spots in the batting order; we’re talking about nine players playing the same position on a team. I’m all for versatility and at one time was fully behind the thought that finding the right mix was still possible by utilizing the versatility of certain players on the team; but at this point, the Indians are just picking names out of a hat…and I don’t mean in terms of who’s batting where. The team is playing guys at the wrong positions and the net result has been chaos.

Want a crazy idea in an attempt to get some stability to the team?

How about some stability in the lineup?

How about saying, “These are the nine most talented position players on the team, and they’re going to play the positions that suit them the best every day”?

How about filling out the lineup card in permanent marker one of these nights and letting it ride for a while to end this chicanery that has ensued in the determination of who plays where and when?

I’m all for making a change to this team to get it jump-started…but not the drastic change that you’re thinking of – how about making a change of setting a group of regulars from the players on the roster and…I don’t know, play them for consecutive days.
You know what…make it two weeks and see what happens.

Throw this out there and see what sticks:
C – Shoppach
1B – Martinez
2B – DeRosa
SS – Cabrera
3B – Peralta
RF – Choo
CF – Sizemore
LF – LaPorta
DH – Garko
There…there’s your lineup for the next two weeks, come hell or high water.

Put them in the batting order however you want, but play them at those positions nearly everyday with Martinez catching Carmona being the only exception to this combination of players. If you want to move Valbuena or Carroll in there for a sporadic start so DeRosa can move to 3B, LF, or RF to give one of those guys a day off, fine. If Hafner returns before those two weeks are up, he takes over the DH spot being spelled occasionally by Garko, who is relegated to the bench otherwise.

Otherwise, go with this lineup for two weeks…after two weeks, see where we stand.

I’m not saying that The Atomic Wedgie should pull a Norman Dale and play short-handed, telling us in some grand statement that he’s fed up with some of the guys in the clubhouse to the point that “his team is on the field” down a player; rather, I’m saying that there is talent in this lineup, but it’s being grossly underutilized as Wedge as tried too many combinations of players, many of them in positions that are foreign to them or players that simply don’t merit an everyday look in MLB at this point in their careers.

Looking at the bench players in this arrangement, can anyone make a compelling argument that any of these guys should be playing even close to everyday ahead of one of the names listed above?
Dellucci – Age 35 – career 98 OPS+
Carroll – Age 35 – career 82 OPS+
Francisco – Age 27 – career 99 OPS+
Valbuena – Age 23 – career 63 OPS+

Valbuena? Maybe at some point in the future…but right now, if he’s not playing everyday, why not just send him to AAA to get everyday AB to be ready to play 2B every day, allowing Barfield can become the designated pinch-runner on a team of base cloggers while not worrying about him not having to bring his bat or his glove for road trips.

We don’t need to “find” AB for the rest of these guys, including Garko if Hafner comes back. They can fill in to give regulars a day off now and again, but this constant motion around the diamond and in and out of the lineup is making me nauseous with seasickness and the playing of these guys out of position further exacerbates the problems on this team.

At this point in the season, the Indians are fighting for what’s left of 2009 (if it’s even salvageable) and it looks like they’re going to need all the offensive firepower they can muster to overcome the holes in their rotation and the gas cans that trot in from the bullpen. If that’s the case, let’s go with the best players available to fill the lineup…every single day…at their best position.

Maybe employing such a novel concept will restore my faith and, perhaps, my love for this team – because right now, I have neither.

31 comments:

Vince said...

I vote Cousineau for manager. I've never thought Wedge was any good, even when we were playing well in 2005 and 2007, and now he's causing more problems with his same tired routine (which is a lack thereof).

t-bone said...

Amen, hallelujah.

Jeff said...

Disappointing. Why spend the latter half of the piece harping on an offense on pace to score 840-850 runs? Do you really believe that a more static lineup would turn this into a 1000 run team? A 900 run one? An 875 run one? How many runs has this gross underutilization cost?

Is this team so emotionally fragile that DeRosa's 6 games away from 3B leads to "chaos"? Or were Garko's 14 innings in the OF the backbreaker? Playing multiple positions certainly hasn't seemed Cabrera's run production, nor Victor's. (And is the latter really "best suited" for 1B?)

Also, why forgive LaPorta his 55 OPS+ while indecisively consigning Valbuena first to the bench, then to Columbus? Isn't condemning indecision your thesis?

Above all, why dismiss a historically bad bullpen with a blithe "say what you will"? A decent pen doesn't turn 9-0 leads into nail biters. It doesn't blow 7-0 leads. It allows you to give your 8 figure closer something to close. It lets you limit Reyes to twice through a lineup. It eliminates the need to shuttle random arms between AAA and the majors, between starting and relieving.

Put simply, it doesn't initiate a chain reaction that can destroy a season.

All in all, this post seems oddly out of place in a blog that just last week raised fresh, cogent, well thought out points about organizational shortcomings evaluating pitchers' roles. If your aim is to attract readers from cleveland.com (Welcome, and dig into the archives for some of the best Tribe writing on the Internet- and no I don't work for the Indians or care much who's walking to the mound to bring in Greg Aquino), I'm afraid you're about to succeed.

minktrapper said...

what front office position do you hold Jeff? it's a bad time to be looking for a new job, especially with your track record....

John said...

Paul this is the best article I have read. You really have the pulse of what is happening on this team. Pretty said that the manager and GM doesn't. I would hire you to manage this team in an instant. Why is the management of this team so poor. I am petrified to see the line up for tonight's game as I am sure that not only will Peralta be back at SS, but I am sure Delluci and Carol will be back in there. I think this season is harder to watch than 03 Indians. At least I got to have some fun watching Jody Gerut via for rookie of the year.

Awful! Absolutely AWFUL!

Joshua Whitman said...

From indians.com:

MEDIA RELATIONSJeff Sibel - Manager, Media Relations

SPRING TRAINING/ARIZONA OPERATIONSJeff Sipos - Manager, Equipment Acquisitions

TICKETS & PREMIUM SALESJeff Stocker - Account Executive

Jeff Wallace - Premium Seating Account Executive

MERCHANDISING AND LICENSINGJeff Edwards - Summit Assistant Manager

DELAWARE NORTH COMPANIESJeff Dubin - Director of Operations

Jeff Jones - Assistant Commissary Manager

Paul Cousineau said...

Jeff,
You’re right that this post does seem oddly out of place among basically everything else that I’ve written in the past year (and probably longer), most of which basically goes along with everything that you write here – the bullpen’s the problem and the offense and everything else needs to be optimized to make up for those shortcomings that don’t seem to be easily fixed.

However, after watching Sunday’s game in which Dave Huff (in his MLB debut) had Garko playing LF and DeRosa playing 1B, with both of their deficiencies at those positions playing a role in the loss (DeRosa’s botched pick-off of Upton in the 1st, and Sonnanstine’s 2B over Garko’s head), the feeling that’s been festering had to rear it’s ugly head.

This team is awful to watch and, you’re right to say that it is the bullpen that’s killing the team. But if the bullpen is out of the control with no obvious solution, how about putting the best foot forward in areas that aren’t related to the bullpen to see if the Indians can just bludgeon their way out of this self-inflicted mess?

Will the offense (as you say on pace to score 850 or so runs) in a more settled manner make that much of a difference?
Who knows…but you know what?
It couldn’t hurt and I’m tired of seeing the team look for answers by tweaking instead of just saying these are our best players in the one area that they can control and where they seem to have the most talent – among position players.

As for why LaPorta and not Valbuena in terms of the lineup for everyday use, it has more to do with the options ahead of them at this point than anything else. Neither has proven anything in MLB and both are still just prospects, but unlike Francisco (the LF ahead of LaPorta), Mark DeRosa has earned every day AB…which, at this point precludes Valbuena from the lineup I put out there and why I stated that Valbuena’s probably better off in AAA to get ready for the day that he IS the answer at 2B.

I’m not trying to attract the cleveland.com (far from it) and if you’ve been here for any period of time, you’d know that I’m the last guy on that ledge and usually play the role of designated apologist and resident optimist to the point that the “you’re the mouthpiece of the organization” tag somehow applies to me…you know, sitting in my parents’ basement in my pajama pants.

But this is all too much, even for me…and, frankly, I’m tired of posting what the WHIP of the bullpen or why The Looch is unworthy of a plate appearance at any time.

If it comes off as if I’m grasping at straws in an attempt to find an answer, suggesting that a few more runs a game from a settled lineup is going to solve the problems of this team…I’m not alone in my grasping.

kingdiesel said...

Very Very good piece Paul. If Jhon doesn't like it at third-- TOUGH.

Adam said...

I like this Paul, but I might disagree on one thing. As part of our lineup stability, I'd like to see us putting our best defense out there whenever possible as a way of supporting the pitching staff. For that reason, I wouldn't like to see Valbuena get demoted, but I would like to see him playing more regularly at 2B, with Cabrera at SS, and Peralta at 3B. I see DeRosa as occupying the position that makes him so valuable, his ability to serve as a "super-sub" playing 4-5 games a week between 3B, 2B, 1B, corner OF, and DH.

Baltimoran said...

best decision i ever made was to NOT purchase extra innings or mlb.tv for the first time in 4 years, but seeing what appeared to be a routine fly sail over garko's head...i'm with you on a stable lineup...seems like Pluto has the same opinion (todays infield article), not surprising as you two are usually in the same ballpark (one of logic).

thankfully cavs play tomorrow

Joel said...

Paul, I think hate is too strong a word but it's understandable to overreact given recent performances. Your frustration is forgiven. I don't hate the team nor do I hate the versatility. What I hate, and what you point out as well, is what seems to be, ironically, the lack of a 'plan' as it relates to the daily lineup. I posted this yesterday on the Cleveland Fan forum:

"Rather than this constant tinkering every night, play this lineup in this order at least 5x a week for three weeks:
L - Sizemore - CF
S - Cabrera - 2b
S - Martinez - C/1b
R - Peralta - SS
L - Choo - RF
R - DeRosa - 3b
L - Hafner - DH (assuming he returns this week)
R - Garko/Shoppach - 1b/C
R - LaPorta - LF
--Keep Valbuena up or replace him with Barfield or Crowe...Don't really care. Let that guy and Carroll and Francisco PH and start only 1x a week right now (day game after a night game or whatever). Cut Dellucci when Hafner returns. But for God's sake, quit tinkering with the lineup, moving people up and down, in and out, desperately trying to find the right mix. Stand up and say, 'You are my guys and this is what it is. Now go make it happen.' And let these guys just go out there and play. My ass tightens up just watching them and that's how they've been playing. "

By June 11th we'll have our answers about this team. I just find it strange that an org that values stability so much would allow 35 different lineups in the first 39 games. Wedge and Shapiro may not be able to 'fix' the bullpen given the inherent unpredictability but they can certainly alleviate the instability of the lineup and let the best players play in their best spots and allow them to find a groove. If that doesn't work after the next 20 games/3 weeks THEN you can move the puzzle pieces around again, including perhaps replacing the manager and trading/replacing some players.

s_bricker said...

yikes.

CKTribe said...

Paul,

I imagine your goal of this blog (and in life) is to appease readers of cleveland.com. Maybe they can hire you and you can do a video podcast interview with the owners of Christie's and ask them why the Indians love coming to their establishment. Or maybe you site unnamed sources and report that the Tribe is looking to possibly maybe trade Grady Sizemore someday.

Chris Tribe Times

Cy Slapnicka said...

applause.

hate is far from being too strong a word and i too am glad i didn't purchase extra innings this year...had planned on waiting til the break. The only part of this team that makes me happy anymore is Tom Hamilton.

How can I not hate a club whose mission statement is, "To sustain a championship caliber team that competes -- passionately, relentlessly and professionally -- and in the process make a positive statement about its collective vision and core values", and then goes out and plays and acts like this?

Professionalism and positive statements? Really? Jhonny crying about 3rd base? Wow, so nobody is crying to the media about losing, but Jhonny is crying about 3rd base? And the topper for me is Victor crying about the opponent stealing when the Indians are up 7 runs? And even worse, we bring in Wood to throw at him 3 days later...when we still have a shot at winning the game? We are throwing at their biggest base stealing threat and trying to put him on base to send him a message?

Are you F-ing serious?!?! Our management and front office had sat quietly while all this has happened? As of Sunday, I am embarrassed to be an Indians fan this year.

I can watch a team grow and can watch a team struggle and can even watch a team regress. I can somehow accept a terrible pitching staff that hacks away at my will to watch this team. I am happy to have my pitchers pitch inside and even retaliate when necessary.

However, I cannot and will not watch a team that goes after another player for playing how they should be playing. For playing how they used to play, with the fight and passion that I used to enjoy as an Indians fan. And then complains to the media after said attack that this opponent should not be playing with such passion. They should roll over and give up, much like we have done. And this is being said by our team's leader. And the rest of our team appears to happily go along with this line of thinking. And nobody from the organization says a word.

Pathetic. Chris, Grady is probably asking for a trade.

Joshua Whitman said...

"...NOT purchase extra innings or mlb.tv"

How about those damn fools who bought season tickets for the first time this year because the Indians were giving them away at 1/2 price. Seems the ticketing department knew something we didn't.

Cy Slapnicka said...

at least with season tix you can go heckle the players. hell, if something doesn't change, by the break you'll be able to sit behind home plate all by yourself. luckily, that will enable you to give victor a heads up when someone is stealing on us when they are down by 7 runs. not so he can throw them out, so he can get angry with them.

Joshua Whitman said...

Heckle, maybe.

At this point I'd be worried about someone going all "Joey Belle" on me.

Jeff said...

Paul:

Thanks for your thoughtful response. Kinda sticks out like a sore thumb here. (Scanning a website for my name? More than a little creepy. I haven't gotten any checks from the Tribe, but then again Dolan is cheap.)

Let me get this out of the way first. Good point about Garko and DeRosa costing runs on Sunday. Of course, you realize that with your optimized positional set, Francisco and his four RBI don't play in that game.

Anyway, I think we agree on more than you realize. For instance, it's past unpleasant watching this team now. Not because they're not living up to their ISO 9001 business plan, or because I live in mortal fear that Kelly Shoppach will be penciled in at SS, or because we shoulda brought back Omar, or because platoons and versatility are inherently bad.

It's simply because they're losing way too many games they should win. It's not about "optimism" or "pessimism." It's about pragmatism. How do you solve this current problem?

I refuse to accept that this is a "Strange Brew" situation where the bullpen is (brakes are) out and there's "no point in steering, then." You're not going to outscore this epic fail. You have to fix it. The Laffey move, out of character for this organization, was a good start. The cascade of pitching moves reaching down to AA is an interesting line of attack that may reap dividends.

I still think they have to explore trading possibilities, maybe involving someone from "the core," to bring in another arm or two and reduce the overall comfort level of the roster.

But doing all that involves attacking the real problem, not using the current woes to grind some rusty old axes or scapegoat your best player. Nor does it involve worrying about largely peripheral positional issues.

Now, if your point is, optimize your defensive efficiency because the offense can only do so much to counteract a soul-crushingly bad bullpen, I'm right there with you. If it's "I'm annoyed because the manager is moving guys around on the field even though it has nothing to do with Lewis, etc. playing "Home Run Derby," you've lost me.

Joshua Whitman said...

Stick around...

It's only going to get creepier...

Jeff said...

Good points, Joel, even though I don't totally agree. One question: why three weeks?

And CKTribe: hilarious! The real answer, of course, is that readers of Cleveland.com can't be appeased.

Paul Cousineau said...

Jeff,
I think we do agree more than I previously thought as I KNOW that the bullpen is the issue and that's why they're losing a lot of games, but at least they're being pro-active with attempting to find a solution.

Plus, I don't think I can devote another 5,000 words to how awful the bullpen has been without my eyes bleeding.

That being said, I think that the idea that you pick out your best players and play them in the best defensive alignment is something that they can do...but they haven't.

If the best alignment is (as Adam says) to put Valbuena there and let DeRosa move around to make your "best 9 players" closer to "your best 10 players", so be it...but show me that there's a plan in all of this and not just moving things around for what looks to be the sake of moving pieces around.

The happy medium is out there as the Indians CAN put their best offensive face forward WHILE playing these guys in a defensive alignment to "counteract a soul-crushingly bad bullpen" and that's what I'm hoping the team will do to overcome (as much as possible) "Lewis, etc. playing 'Home Run Derby,'" in a bullpen that doesn't seem to have an easy solution.

Joel said...

Why three weeks, Jeff? I realize it's a bit arbitrary but it takes us to the beginning of interleague play (6/12). In these next 23 games, it's an even split of home (11)/away (12) and we'll have played KC, CIN, TB, NYY, MIN, CWS,and KC again. If we can't win more than 60% of those games (and really now we need to win 70%) against our main AL competitors other than DET, then what's the point for this year? If we still haven't shown signs of life by then, presuming by my theory that a more stable lineup will help, we will be 62 games in and needing to almost certainly win 70%-75% of our remaining game just to get to 85 wins or so. Highly unlikely. If they step up right now and get a little momentum before mid-June,get closer to .500 with Hafner back and with both Laporta and Huff contributing, well they may actually find a way for '09. If, however, they continue to win 3 or 4 out of each 10 the next 3 weeks, then I say start playing for '10: Move Peralta to 3b permanently, move Sizemore down in the lineup, look to move DeRosa and some other spare parts to contenders and, above all, bring in a new manager.

Rockdawg said...

Forget, just for a moment, about everything statistical. Stats aside, Wedge has changed and rearranged the lineup and positions more times than some females I know trying to pick out an outfit for a Friday night..."I think I'll match this shirt with these boots and...no wait a minute...I think I like these pants with this scarf..."

My point in all of this rambling is that, stats aside, it seems like he can't make up his mind. I believe this shows that he either has no faith to let his players get settled into a role, he actually CAN'T TELL which player is best used in a particular position and slot in the batting order, or, he is in panic mode. I'm all for a little tinkering when a player needs to be motivated or a lineup gets a little stagnant, but...

And yes, I am well aware that none of this effects the bullpen, which is still obviously our biggest issue.

minktrapper said...

NOW THAT WAS F--KING CREEPY!!!

csusi said...

that does it for me. see ya fellas next year.

A.G.B said...

This was your "I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking it anymore" moment. And judging by the comments, the people have responded.

I just wish Kerry Wood did as well.

Not the best $20 million bucks ever spent.

Les Savy Ferd said...

I watched one inning last night. One inning. Came home after walking along the Chicago waterfront with my wife while the sun set on an absolutely gorgeous day. Turned on my MLB.tv (which I purchased for the first time this year) and watched one inning.


Any guesses on which inning that might have been?

Rockdawg said...

I cannot beleive I actually complained that the NBA playoffs take too long...Any chance they can extend them until August?

Alex said...

I think we should trade DeRosa and be willing to trade Peralta for the right package. We should attempt to resign Lee right now (the Indians could use the Dan Haren extension as a model). We could give Lee an extra 2 mil in both 2009 and 2010 and 12.5M in 2011 and 2012 (we could pay for this by using the Westbrook money coming off the books after 2010). If he doesn't accept this (it is a hometown discount) we should trade him for top-end pitching prospects (Philadelphia looks like a good fit). We should keep Martinez until the completion of his contract regardless because he's the team's leader and important to the development of Latino players like Fausto. Just throwing some ideas out there.....

minktrapper said...

resign Lee? WTF makes you think he would want to stay in Cleveland? and if I was Grady, my agent would be looking right now and demanding a trade. it's all his fault ya know....

Tribe said...

First time commentor. (Ya-hoooo-ooo)
The multiple lineup changes absolutely do affect the team.

Wedgie with his "I don't care where they play, as long as they can make the play" attitude is a terrible approach to developement.

He doesn't realise, with everyday play at SS-Droobs, (and just for the helluva of it, I'll add Jhonny at 3rd base) he has the opportunity to develope some possible AllStar talent there if their allowed to master it.

He's short changing these players.

But, as we know, with Wedgie and lineups, it's the SOS.