Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tomahawks Hitting the Bases

Outside of watching the bullpen blow a couple of games against the South Siders and making sure that my Carlos Carrasco jersey (he’ll still wear #59, right…where can I get a confirmation on this) arrives in time for his Wednesday start, there is not much happening at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. Nevertheless, there’s a number of links with quick thoughts that I’ve been meaning to get to, as well as a bit of a final look at some of the numbers for the Minor Leaguers as those seasons are nearing their ends.

With that in mind, let’s get a few Tomahawks in the air, if only to remove the taste of the Tribe’s recent performance from my mouth…

Just to put a bow on the idea (from the weekend) that the Indians were unable to sustain the success that 2005 and 2007 seemed to promise, there’s a fascinating piece in the print version of SI, where Tom Verducci takes a look at the “surprise” teams in MLB this year. He points out that “in the 15 seasons under the wild-card format, 30 teams—one of every four playoff teams, including seven World Series clubs—have made the postseason a year after a losing season”, but lays the sustainability idea out with the numbers to back it up, starting out with a terrific quote from a GM:
“There are surprise teams that are built on high draft picks and planning,” says one G.M., “and others that just have a special year. I love San Diego, but it could be one of those special years. Like the Brewers [in 2008], most of these teams get one year, then it’s five or six waiting for another window. Don’t kid yourself. The large markets still have a huge advantage. The small markets can’t sustain it.”
Of the 30 teams that morphed from losers to elite, only six returned to the postseason the following year, and those six were flush with money, ranking no worse than ninth in payroll.

Check this line again - “Most of these teams get one year, then it’s five or six waiting for another window” because “the small markets can’t sustain it”. Can somebody check to see if this “one GM” is coming to you live from the corner of Carnegie and Onatario…

As for that “sustainability”, with the Minor League seasons finishing up, now might be a good time to take a look at the composite leaders in the Indians’ organization. Realizing that many of the farmhands end up playing on multiple teams at multiple levels, here are the top OPS for players on the farm for the Indians, with their age indicated appropriately.

For the purposes of my sanity, I’m including only guys above Lake County:
C) Carlos Santana – Age 24 – AAA/MLB - .967 OPS
OF) Jerad Head – Age 27 – AA/AAA - .919 OPS
C) Chun-Hsui Chen – Age 21 – A/A+ - .918 OPS
IF) Jared Goedert – Age 25 – AA/AAA - .909 OPS
OF) Nick Weglarz – Age 22 – AA/AAA - .893 OPS
IF) Jason Kipnis – Age 23 – A+/AA - .893 OPS

Those are the players with OPS over .850 and, while extenuating circumstances apply for a lot of names that you don’t see here (like The Chiz, who battled through an injury), you can see which of those players are the most exciting and figure most prominently as potential impact players in Cleveland.

While we’ve all seen Santana in Cleveland (and hope to see him again very soon), Weglarz putting up that line in Akron and Columbus as a 22-year-old and Chun-Hsui Chen thriving in Lake County and Kinston as a 21-year-old are head and shoulders above the rest, in terms of age and advancement. Kipnis comes in as a close third while Head (as a 27-year-old who spent time in Akron) is far from a prospect and Jared Goedert has been discussed in most corners, particularly given the…um, issues at 3B for the parent club.

If you’re looking for impact position players for next year, Weglarz, Kipnis, and Chisenhall (.797 OPS in Akron) FAR outpace any other position prospect in Columbus or anywhere else, based strictly on age and advancement. Given that the aforementioned troika figures in at LF/DH, 2B, and 3B, any or all of them may find themselves on the fast track to Cleveland at some point in 2011.

As long as we’re taking that look down on the farm, how about the arms that have limited damage in 2010, with the EXTREMELY unscientific (and perhaps useless) metric of OPS against being used to measure what pitchers experienced the most success in 2010.

Again, age and level of advancement are indicated and I kept it to pitchers at Lake County or above, with at least 40 IP on the season as the only other requirement…as much as I wanted to include Jason Knapp’s .448 OPS against because he’s only pitched 24 innings. Regardless, here are the pitchers who have started more games than they’ve relieved, even if Hagadone has been moved to the bullpen:
SP) Joe Gardner – Age 22 – A/A+ - .584 OPS against
SP/RP) Matt Packer – Age 22 – A+/AA - .591 OPS against
SP) Alex White – Age 21 – A+/AA - .625 OPS against
SP/RP) Nick Hagadone – Age 24 – A+/AA - .658 OPS against

That’s it for “starters” with OPS against under .675 (which IS an absurdly low number), but interestingly the two 2008 draft picks (Gardner and White) have moved quickly and have thrived in their first professional year, but the lack of names on this list goes back to the idea that the Indians are going to have to sort through a number of arms who are already in Cleveland, or who are not far away, in 2011 as they attempt to build this rotation from within as well as they can. Gardner and White may get looks at a certain point in mid-to-late 2011, depending upon what happens with each, but the likes of Masterson, Carrasco, Gomez, Tomlin, McCallister, Kubler, and (even) Huff are going to get extended looks before the Indians dip this deep into their pitching depth.

Moving on, AC had this suggestion for a possible solution for 3B in Cleveland next year in most recent Minutiae…Omar Vizquel:
Though the Indians weren’t able to woo Vizquel last winter, they’d be remiss not to try again this offseason. He’d be a practical addition to this team, particularly now that he’s proven himself to be an asset at third base, too. And not that people come to ballgames to see utility infielders, but at least Vizquel would provide some measure of marketability in what should be another tough year for attendance.

I can’t believe I’m saying this as a staunch believer that this organization should be looking forward and not back (and trust me, I’ve sat at the ballpark and had to endure “conversations” in my section about how the team should see if they could bring Wayne Kirby back), but…I think I can get behind this.

Perhaps part of it comes from the fact that I’d be rallying for support of Brooks Robinson’s return to MLB if it meant that I wouldn’t be subjected to the 3B-butchery that we’ve seen all year…and particularly recently, but Vizquel is actually a compelling option. He’s put together his best offensive season since 2006 at the age of 43 (yeah, really) and while that equates to a .701 OPS being his best offensive season, I can’t get the idea of Vizquel and Cabrera patrolling the left side of the infield in front of Carmona and Masterson out of my head.

Obviously, it takes two to tango and the Indians were rebuffed in their attempts to add Omar last off-season while Omar continues on his voyage around the league, charming as many Hall of Fame voters as possible before he finally hangs them up, but the premise of Vizquel playing 3B (even if it is just for the first half of the season) certainly has merit.

Given what we’ve seen (or rather, haven’t seen) at the turnstiles this season, perhaps the Indians do pursue Vizquel…for more than Box Office reasons, but to play a competent 3B and to return to the place of his greatest glory. While the 2011 Indians may not offer Vizquel the chance to play on a contender or to meet and greet with more HOF voters, if the Indians are looking for a defensive-centric 3B to serve as a stop-gap in 2011, they could do a lot worse than Vizquel.

Now, about that Manny as DH complement to Hafner idea…

Finally, I may be late on a couple of these, but for your entertainment, here is a conversation between Chris Perez and his Twitterian alter ego as well as Cleveland Frowns hilariously (and accurately, I think) taking aim at the only Sports Radio in town, something I can only speak to marginally as I've long since moved on from the blood pressure-rising level of rhetoric that pollutes the airwaves in our fair city...but Frownie nails it.


Anonymous said...

What do you think of Pluto's third base pick, Inge?

Paul Cousineau said...

I'll stand by what I wrote last week on Inge when I broke down the 3B conundrum:
"While Brandon Inge presents a name of some interest, one would think that Inge is going to generate some interest from some corner on the FA market, something that the Indians likely aren’t going to be able to compete with on the open market."

I don't know if the right approach is going after a stop-gap, given what we've seen can go wrong with prospects, but I get the sense that whomever they get to play 3B in 2011 (and it could be Nix) is just keeping the place warm for Chisenhall.

Signing a guy like Inge to a one-year deal is great in a vacuum but ultimately unlikely, given the demand for 3B in places like StL and SF.

Maybe I'm wrong and they go after a guy on a multi-year deal (and, by all means, Inge is at the top of that list), but I think they go with a seat-saver to start 2011 instead of a permanent fix because of the presence of Chisenhall.