Thursday, June 04, 2009

Tomahawks Still Looking Up

Well, starting a crucial 9-game set against divisional foes with a 1-2 record is not ideal and watching the player that many identified as the key to the season in Fausto Carmona likely headed to the minors to see if he can find our beloved Focused Fausto somewhere between his ears.

Nevertheless, it’s time to watch those tomahawks fly…
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Watching Jeremy Sowers and Dave Huff log their most successful starts of the year to date with some guy with a fantastic beard behind the dish, I thought it might be interesting to see how all of the Indians’ starters are faring with different catchers calling the games for them.

Obviously, Lee always uses Shoppach and generally Carmona always uses Vic as their personal catchers; but did anyone realize that Shoppach has caught every one of Pavano’s innings this year as well?

I sure didn’t…and digging deeper, there may be something that these numbers tell us that foretell what the arrangement at C and 1B may look like for the foreseeable future. Here are the opposing hitters’ batting lines for each pitcher currently residing in the Indians’ rotation with the respective catchers calling their games through Wednesday’s game:
Lee
To Shoppach - .292 BA / .329 OBP / .375 SLG / .704 OPS in 349 plate appearances

Pavano
To Shoppach - .292 BA / .332 OBP / .452 SLG / .784 OPS in 268 plate appearances

Carmona
To Shoppach - .400 BA / .500 OBP / .867 SLG / 1.367 OPS in 18 plate appearances
To Martinez - .266 BA / .374 OBP / .399 SLG / .773 OPS in 259 plate appearances

Huff
To Shoppach - .333 BA / .350 OBP / .487 SLG / .837 OPS in 40 plate appearances
To Martinez - .412 BA / .487 OBP / .853 SLG / 1.340 OPS in 39 plate appearances

Sowers
To Shoppach - .188 BA / .381 OBP / .188 SLG / .568 OPS in 21 plate appearances
To Martinez - .298 BA / .375 OBP / .579 SLG / .954 OPS in 64 plate appearances

Noticing anything about those last two?
Now, how about the player that might re-enter the starting rotation once he’s healthy?
Laffey
To Shoppach - .258 BA / .303 OBP / .290 SLG / .593 OPS in 33 plate appearances
To Martinez - .255 BA / .375 OBP / .340 SLG / .715 OPS in 112 plate appearances

Yes, these are based on wildly small samples and how much of this is the pitcher or how much of it can be attributed to the match-ups in each game is up for debate, but there is an interesting trend that is obvious in these limited samples.

That is that Lee and Pavano always use Shoppach and, while the sample sizes may be small, here are the differences in OPS Against for the young LHP, whose numbers are better when throwing to ShopVac:
Laffey - .122 OPS Against lower with Shoppach as C
Sowers - .386 OPS Against lower with Shoppach as C
Huff - .503 OPS Against lower with Shoppach as C

Think now about Laffey coming back with the very real possibility that Carmona does go down to AAA to work on his mechanics – isn’t there a greater possibility of Show Pack catching more frequently with Victor at 1B more often if Shoppach has better results with Lee, Pavano, Sowers, Huff, and Laffey?

Remember how Sowers said that he felt comfortable throwing to Sal Fasano last year?
Maybe there’s something to this whole “personal catcher” thing as Show Pack’s season behind the dish for CP Lee’s Cy campaign could have taught him something about calling a game for a LHP who throws in the low-90’s. It stands to reason that Shoppach could find himself getting everyday starts as Catcher, depending upon what the Indians do with Carmona, which would then move Martinez into a full-time role at 1B and decrease any…and I mean ANY chance that El Capitan would join the other players on the DL by having him shed the tools of ignorance for an extended period of time.
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But wait, you say, if Vic’s going to be relegated to 1B, where does that leave our RBI hero, Ryan Garko…Polo?

Since we’re working on batting lines, how does this strike you?
Garko vs. LHP
.344 BA / .432 OBP / .594 SLG / 1.026 OPS in 37 plate appearances
Garko vs. RHP
.217 BA / .321 OBP / .337 SLG / .658 OPS in 110 plate appearances

Now if this discrepancy was unusual for Garko, you give him more AB against RHP given that the lineup is awfully thin these days. But the fact of the matter is that Garko’s career OPS against RHP is .756, while his career OPS against LHP is .906, meaning that this isn’t a new development.

With the lineup pretty decimated, Garko still probably merits a start or two until Hafner is ready to come back, regardless of pitcher; but once Hafner makes his way back from the DL, wouldn’t the perfect arrangement be to give Hafner a day off to rest his shoulder from time to time against LHP, let Garko DH for him when they face a LH pitcher?

Please notice that the intimation was that Garko should DH…not play 1B, not play LF, not play RF…no, DH.
Garko hammers LHP and struggles against RHP…Hafner needs days off from time to time to rest his shoulder.
Two birds, one stone.
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Seeing Josh Barfield make his way back to Cleveland after posting a line of .220 BA / .239 OBP / .266 SLG / .505 OPS at age 26 in AAA, cementing his status as a non-option for a start, I thought I'd take a look down at that Columbus roster…and I think I have some exciting news.

What if I told you that there’s a player in Columbus who has posted a line of .328 BA / .359 OBP / .519 SLG / .878 OPS for the Clippers, all this at the still-relatively young age of 25 who seems to have overcome a slow April (.742 OPS) with a strong May (.904 OPS) and has seen his success continue into June (.923 OPS)?

Now, what if I told you that he plays 3B, which would look to be a position of need with Peralta back at SS and DeRosa moving around the field prior to (hopefully) netting a young arm for the team?

Excited yet?
What if I told you that we’re talking about Andy Marte?
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Keeping the gaze fixed on the capital city, watching Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp return from Columbus with some of the kinks (hopefully) worked out, does anyone else wonder why these guys are able to go to AAA and “figure everything out”?

If that’s the case, what’s being done in AAA that isn’t being done in Cleveland…is it just pitching in lower-pressure situations or is it getting more work?

We saw Stomp Lewis come back from Columbus like a house afire last year and, thus far, the results have been positive for Perez and Sipp since their return. Seeing as how a good portion of our bullpen has now spent some time in Columbus before coming up and finding some semblance of effectiveness, what’s going on here?

Could it have something to do with this little nugget, buried in a Ken Rosenthal piece about the new Tigers’ pitching coach and the difference between him and their old pitching coach, Chuck Hernandez?
The Tigers lead the American League in ERA after finishing 12th in pitching last season. Their improved defense is one significant difference. Knapp, it stands to reason, is another. Chuck Hernandez, the team's previous pitching coach, was stronger than Knapp at developing game plans, one Tigers official says. Knapp is stronger at fixing pitchers' mechanics.

Is this an indication that Hernandez struggles at fixing pitchers’ mechanics?
Isn’t this the same Hernandez that sits out in the Indians’ bullpen and watches these guys before they come out?

Obviously, a bullpen coach can only truly do so much since he is…you know, the bullpen coach; but the performance of young relievers after going to AAA to “right themselves” and the rebound of the Detroit pitching staff without Hernandez definitely raises some eyebrows.
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The AL Central race continues to see some teams limp along, where the Twins are suddenly 2 ½ games out despite being 1 game under .500 and where news that Miggy Cabrera has tweaked a hamstring comes on the heels of a Boston sweep of the Motor City Kitties.

Up next, the White Sox then the Royals…not so coincidentally the two teams ahead of the Tribe in the Central standings.

9 comments:

Brad said...

Good comparison - makes me wonder where this team would be if Shoppach had been traded last offseason (probably same record with different issues). I think the decision on what to do with Victor Martinez and his next contract may have the largest impact on this franchise for the next 3-4 years, and feels eerily close to the Thome situation. The Billy Beane in all of us would be shopping him this summer while his value is high, but trading V-Mart might be the largest nail in the coffin for attendance this year and next year.

The thing I'd also love to know right now is how this Shapiro/Antonetti arrangement plays into these near-future decisions. Even if these guys are cozy together does this arrangement really make it through three more years (or however long Shapiro's extension lasts)? And is this change in philosophy this year with "the plan" more to save Wedge & Shap's job?

So many variables in play this season...

Les Savy Ferd said...

Interesting article that certainly makes a good case for Kelly getting more starts behind the dish. But will the beard enhance his mystical control over Clifton and Carl?

I get a chance to see him and Pavano tonight at the Cell since I'm going to be out of town for the Cubs series and had to find another suitor for those tickets. Perhaps unsurprisingly it was not difficult to obtain white sox tickets this year...

Anyhow, just thought I'd add that I'm reading all of these posts, if not commenting all the time. It is becoming increasingly difficult to post as the season goes on. The old 'my mama told me not to say anything at all' routine. Besides I love baseball too much to gripe. Much.

Cy Slapnicka said...

les, i believe i'll be in the front row just up the 1B line. I may even wear Fausto's new Arizona League Indians jersey if I can get one printed up in time.

Alex said...

Any word on Rondon's injury? I think that he might merit a couple of spot starts in Fausto's place until Westbrook returns. The worst that could happen is that Rondon pitches lousy..... Also, when can LaPorta be safely recalled without him being a "Super Two"? If Sizemore is out for an extended period of time this lineup needs some firepower. With LaPorta back in the bigs playing left, Francisco can man center field with Crowe spelling him once a week or so. This makes DeRosa expendable and I hope we can trade him for some young pitching soon.

Hyde said...

Can I just say that this entire question about whether or not LaPorta is a "super two" strikes me as really irrelevant? Since the Indians' policy has always been to sign their core young players to long-term deals so as to eliminate the risk of arbitration, why is everyone so concerned about when LaPorta might be eligible for arbitration?

One more thing on LaPorta: I'm trying to think of the last time someone the caliber of a CC Sabathia (the reigning Cy Young winner) was traded for a group of people who were all still in the minor leagues 11 months later. Compare to the trade of Rick Sutcliffe, who wasn't even having a very good season when he was dealt, 25 years ago this month. Two players acquired in that trade moved right into the Tribe's major league lineup. And yet a last place team is still waiting on LaPorta.

Alex said...

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/03/boras-on-long-t.html

"All teams are instructed to take their premium players and do their best to remove them from the arbitration market. It's good business for them to receive premium talent for a grossly devalued cost."

~Scott Boras, Matt LaPorta's agent.

I doubt we'll be able to sign LaPorta to a cheap, long term contract.

Paul Cousineau said...

Alex,
Nothing new on Rondon's injury. Tony Lastoria said that his velocity was way down on a particular pitch, after which he was pulled, and that he hopes it isn't anything more than just some soreness, but we'll see. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him at some point this year; but at this point, they'll need about 3 starts from Ohka until Jake comes back because of the off-days with Laffey (allegedly) on his heels.

LaPorta's Super-2 thing (which is important because, regardless of a long-term deal, affects the year after which he becomes a FA...by a whole year) actually is probably pretty close to being safe for him to come back up and play in Cleveland.

Also on the Super-2 thing, there was a long debate on this a while back and if the Indians DO sign LaPorta to a long-term deal, the service time difference of a Super-2 player versus a non-Super-2 player in negotiations generally averages out to a $10M difference over the course of about 4 years. For two examples of this, look at Peralta's deal (would not have been Super-2) and Carmona's deal (would have been Super-2) for how much difference those extra service days mean.

As long as that Super-2 thing is "safe", he should be up to the parent club immediately...and this time, should be playing everyday, no exceptions.

Have fun at the Cell tonight guys, beware of the Mad Max cops on ATV's...if they're still doing that.

J-MART said...

Great article. Real interesting to look at when you break it down.

Rockdawg said...

Anyone else notice the Tribe's run differential is ever-so-slowly creeping back to zero? And the Sox, Royals and Twins differentials are slowly creeping the other way....I can't believe we are only 6 back...Gotta love the Central.