Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Paging Captain Popov

Back in college, my buddy C-Badd would (after a few drinks) get a little chirpy and turn into his alter ego, Captain Popov. Partly because it was inspired by a couple of bowls of loudmouth soup, and partly because he would simply “pop-off” on people - when Captain Popov came out, it became quite a scene. Never an ugly or uncomfortable scene, Popov just said what needed to be said, no matter what anybody thought.

With the Sons of Geronimo getting swept (SWEPT!) by what is essentially a AAA baseball team, it’s time to turn Captain Popov’s gaze to the Tribe:

Aaron Boone is a disaster at the plate. After leaving 6 men on base on Monday, he’s now sitting at .241 with an abysmal OPS of .683. His performance has nothing to do with an injury, a rehabilitation, or an adjustment – this is Aaron Boone. He is a liability offensively and will continue to be that until he is mercifully removed from the everyday lineup. If Andy Marte were doing anything remotely productive in Buffalo, he’d probably already be here. Even if Marte continues to struggle, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marte gets the call at the end of May, moving Boone to the Utility spot. That would solve two problems in getting Boone out of the lineup and Vazquez (who has an OPS of .404?!?) off of the roster.

On the topic of Vazquez, since it was in vogue for a while to decry his roster spot because Brandon Phillips was the second coming; it seems that “The Franchise” has come back to Earth. In his last 8 games, Phillips is 4 for 27 (a .148 average) with 0 HR and 3 RBI. Oh, and his average has dropped 65 points during that stretch to .291 while his OPS has dropped 112 points to .791. I’m not putting that in to justify Shapiro moving Phillips (because he got nothing for him); but I’m just saying – he’s not the second coming - of an All-Star, or even an everday Major Leaguer, for that matter.

Back to the Tribe - not that the lineup is hurting, but has anyone else thought that the 3, 4, 5 spots might look better with Hafner, Martinez, and Peralta being reshuffled to bat in that order? That would put Hafner (the team’s unquestioned best hitter) up to bat right after the “table-setters”, and ensure him hitting in the 1st inning, rather than potentially leading off the 2nd inning. It’s a little thing, I know, but it would also space the lefties and righties out a lot better (L, R, L, S, R, Benuardo). We all feel great that Peralta thrived in the 3 hole late last year, but let’s do what’s best for the team and return Hafner to where he belongs.

Or how about (and this is going to sound crazy, particularly from someone who dubbed the RF Kasey because he struck out so much last year) moving Blake to the 2 hole and moving Michaels down to the 8 hole? If Casey is going to hit, and make contact (only Victor and Bellliard have less K’s of the regulars), why not take advantage? He’s apparently choked up on the bat to give himself better bat control. And the result has been phenomenal (he’s hitting .368); so why not ride the hot hand? If he reverts to Kasey, you can always move him out of that spot. The move would also allow Michaels to continue his adjustment to the AL and to being a regular without the pressure of hitting between Sizemore and Peralta.

Would someone please let that windmill that stands in the 3rd base coaches’ box (Jeff Datz) that the idea is to get the runner there before the ball? How many times has the opposing catcher been standing at home plate, with the ball, waiting for the Indians’ baserunner? I never thought I would long for Joel Skinner’s decision-making, but that’s where we’re at.

Jake Westbrook, Paul Byrd, and Jason Johnson all look like the same pitcher right now – and that’s not a good thing. They’re all pitching to contact, and those balls are getting hit hard. Consider this: each is averaging less than 6 innings a start, each has an ERA over 5.00, each is allowing the competition to hit over .335. Miraculously, all at or above .500. This portion of the rotation (#3, #4, and #5) needs to perform better or changes will be made.

How’s this for an option? Move Westbrook to the bullpen, where he can work his way through a few innings (ever notice that he struggles the second or third time through the lineup, not the first?) without getting blown up. Promote Jeremy Sowers to see how he can handle pitching at the ML level (his 1.40 ERA in Buffalo is a good indication that he’s ready or VERY close to it) in his spot to give the rotation 3 lefties that can be separated by Byrd and Johnson. Desperate times (I know, we’re not there yet – but, we’re close) call for desperate measures. Byrd and Johnson certainly haven’t outpitched Westbrook, but maybe Jake needs to get his confidence back with some solid outings out of the pen.

If Johnson continues to struggle, send him packing and get Fausto Carmona back up here. If given the choice of those two pitchers, I’ll take Carmona – growing pains and all. Jason Johnson’s record prior to coming to the Tribe has served as a better indication of the type of pitcher he is…not his “stuff”.

My understanding of a matchup lefty is that they come in to face a LH batter (usually a good hitter in a precarious situation) with the idea that they have a better chance of getting said LH batter out than a RH pitcher. That’s the idea, right?
Well, here are the Indians’ matchup lefty’s numbers against LH batters:
Not real impressive, eh? How’s this?
In games that Scott Sauerbeck has pitched in, the Tribe is 5-10.
In games that Gas Can Graves has pitched in, the Tribe is 5-8.
When both have pitched, the Tribe is 2-7.
Essentially Scott Sauerbeck has replaced Gas Can Graves (who is not out of the woods by any measure) as the principal antagonist in the bullpen. The whole bullpen is a mess, but let’s prioritize things.

If I hear one more manager’s press conference that includes the phrases “grinding it out”, “making adjustments”, or refer to “the approach”, my ears may start bleeding. I’m not saying I need a Piniella-Dibble clubhouse brawl or a Hal McRae desk clearing out of the Atomic Wedgie, but a little bit of emotion would suffice. This vanilla, cliché-driven approach is wearing on me.

Shake it up, make some changes, put a little of the fear of God into this team. If you have to make an example that you’re in charge and that nobody is untouchable, so be it.

What I’d like to see is Wedge flipping over the buffet, hollering that something’s gotta give here, or as Dick Vernon would say, “The next time I come in here, I’m cracking skulls.”

Just a few thoughts, some more rational than others. But one thing is clear: this has to be turned around, and fast – before the White Sox mount a huge lead in the Central, with the Tigers in tow.

How they decide to do that is not my job, but I’m ready to see some heads roll. Until that happens, I suppose I'll keep skulking around the house, cursing like a sailor.


popov said...

Excellent comments, you should be a writer for the horrible fish wrap they call the PD. To me, the majority of your anger should be focused on the pitching staff. If the offense scores more than 6 runs per game, you should be winning a lot of games. If the pitching staff can't handle the worst team in MLB, that's a huge problem. Where is Bob Howry when you need him. Maybe the staff just needs to find themselves and things will come around, let's hope so. I agreed with you, in that I need to see Wedge start getting pissed. He needs to show me that the twitch he has is an angry twitch. I would love to see a buffet splattered all ove the floor. Wedge's thing is, "they are professionals, they go about their business day in and day out, blah blah." A little emotion would be nice, at least show me you kind of care. As far as the White Sox are concerned, they are going to walk away with the division, I say by at least 10 games.

t-bone said...

Set your DVRs now, Lenny Barker's perfect game is going to eb played on STO throughout the weekend... allegedly.