Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Closing the Book on 2011

The 2011 season is officially in the books and, though the obits were written weeks ago (as we’ve all been enjoying our Sawxenfreude since then), it bears worth looking back at the individuals and units that made up the 2011 season if only to take one last look behind us before focusing on what lies ahead. As exciting and hopeful as the 2011 season has been, the team was ultimately done in by injuries and a lack of talent as they had their opportunity to stand up to the Tigers and summarily dispatched into 2nd place. Again, there’s no question that injuries play a role here, in that if a player was injured and it contributed to a disappointing season but…well, it’s still a disappointing season as the Indians started out so fast and were unable to stay afloat once the ship began taking on water.

But that’s the overview and perhaps it’s more interesting to look at the 2011 Indians’ players and units individually. Though I generally loathe the “Report Card” approach to any particular sports team and their season, it is worth examining the various pieces and parts of the 2011 Indians to see the positives, the negatives, and the aspects of the team that represented a mixed bag. For my own sanity, I mainly focused on the players that played a vital (or semi-vital) role in the season, so you won’t find another shovelful of dirt being heaped on Austin Kearns, nor will you find an analysis of the contributions of Kosuke Fukudome and Jim Thome. Though both in-season acquisitions certainly played a role in the season, neither figures to be back nor their additions felt like “too little, too late” when they arrived…and that’s exactly what they were.

That said, there’s plenty to get to and we’ll start off (as always) on “The Bright Side of Life”…
Bright Spots
Justin Masterson

Coming into the season, there was more than a small contingent of “experts” (Tribe-related or not) that thought that Justin Masterson was simply biding his time in the Indians’ rotation before he moved back to the back-end-of-the-bullpen, a role he played to some critical acclaim in Boston. Now, 216 innings later, Masterson finishes his 2011 season having established himself as a bona-fide front-of-the-rotation innings eater whose numbers hold up well against the majority of AL starters. His ranks among AL starters in ERA (10th), FIP (10th), HR/9 (1st), GB% (2nd) and even the not-as-applicable to the sinkerballing Masterson K/BB (23rd) provide some hope that Masterson has found his groove as a Starter. Whether the adjustments he made were mechanical or mental, since the beginning of August 2010 he has a 3.14 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP over his last 272 2/3 IP as a starter. Though his total inning count in 2011 ended a little too high for my comfort level – in terms of an increase over his 2010 total, though he is a little older than most SP breaking into the rotation as he’ll be 27 next March – he certainly has the look of an innings-eating horse that the Indians can factor in at the top of the rotation for the foreseeable future…and hopefully past that.

Asdrubal Cabrera
Speaking of guys that I’d like to see stick around past the foreseeable future, Asdrubal Cabrera’s 2011 was the leap forward that we had all been waiting for since his 2007 season. He was (largely) injury free as he tallied nearly 600 PA and, while his pace at the plate slowed as the season went on (probably because his shoulders were sore from carrying the team), he showed the all-around ability that he had only shown in glimpses prior to this year. While there is some concern that this year will be the outlier in his career, with Asdrubal healthy and effective in the middle-of-the-diamond and at or near the middle-of-the-lineup, the Indians need to ensure that Asdrubal sticks around past his age-27 season, as his current club control currently runs through. From his highlight-reel defensive plays and his proficiency at the plate (2 fewer HR than Adrian Gonzalez), Cabrera finally broke out in 2011 with the hope that he’s just now scratching the surface not being an outrageous thought.

Carlos Santana
As fantastic as Cabrera’s season was and as much as Asdrubal’s 2011 felt like it was just a harbinger of things to come, how about a 27 HR, 34 2B, .810 OPS season for the 25-year-old Santana in his first full year in MLB? Given that Victor Martinez had a 23 HR, 38 2B, .851 OPS season as a 25-year-old in his first full year in MLB in 2004, the start of Santana’s career certainly causes optimism for The Axe Man. While people can moan about Santana’s BA, know that Santana’S .264 BABIP was 8th lowest AL (which can affect BA pretty profoundly as BABIP is the acronym for Batting Average on Balls in Play), which means that your precious back-of-the-baseball-card number will rise for Santana going forward. It is true that Santana struck out too much last year – which is odd because of his sterling K/BB numbers in the Minors and even as a member of the Tribe last year, when he walked 37 times and struck out 29 times in 46 games in 2010 – but it is easy to forget that Santana still has fewer career PA than Matt LaPorta and Mike Brantley…just to name two players. Though Santana’s defense (wherever he plays) is a…um, work in progress, his bat has continued to thump as advertised. For a team in need of middle-of-the-order presence going forward, Santana figures to settle into the lineup and provide the same stabilizing force that another Venezuelan catcher who also wore #41 did in the last incarnation of a contending Indians team.

Jason Kipnis
From the moment that Jason Kipnis arrived in Cleveland, you could see that he was a special player. From his bat control to his hustle to his power (.532 SLG) to the infectious energy that he brought to the field and the basepaths, Kipnis stood out as a prospect whose hype seemed to be justified. With Kipnis unfortunately missing some time with his side issue that kept his plate appearance total down, Kipnis ranks 16th in the AL in OPS with players accumulating more than 125 PA. His .857 OPS puts him just ahead of Michael Young and Dustin Pedroia on the AL leaderboard and, while those two established veterans had more plate appearances, isn’t that the kind of rarified air that seems possible for Kipnis? Sure, his defense may still be a bit of a work in progress (not that he’s alone in that regard on this team), but his bat has come as advertised as he knocked out XBH in 12.1% of his plate appearances. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything to you, but realize that only Adrian Beltre (12.4% of his PA resulted in an XBH) and Brett Lawrie (12.3% XBH/PA) bested Kipnis in the AL among players with more than 125 PA. It’s certainly possible that Kipnis experiences the same second-year struggles that befall so many MLB players, but Kipnis’ emergence from the Minors gives hope that the revolving door that has been 2B just stopped spinning.

Bullpen Bridge – Pestano, Sipp, and Smith
This has been written about before in this space, but the 7th and 8th inning arms that provided the bridge between the starting pitchers and the 9th inning probably kept the 2011 Indians in more games than any team in recent memory. Paced by Pestano, Sipp, and Smith, the Indians’ success in the bullpen was largely paced by the ability to keep the opposition at bay while the Indians’ offense was given the opportunity to cobble together enough runs for a win. Starting with Vinnie Pestano, who struck out ONE OUT OF EVERY THREE batters he faced and who ranked 4th in the AL among relievers with a 12.02 K/9 rate, which is actually the highest rate ever recorded by an Indians pitcher (minimum 50 innings), the Indians FINALLY had a homegrown late-inning reliever who performed over the course of a whole year (sorry, Jensen Lewis) that potentially projects as a possible closer. All three relievers (Pestano, Sipp, Smith) rank among the 18 lowest relievers in terms of WHIP in 2011 and Joe Smith’s .521 OPS against put him 4th among AL relievers with more than 40 IP. Tony Sipp proved himself to be much more than a LOOGY or match-up LHP as he was equally effective against hitters regardless of which side of the plate they stood on (.665 OPS against vs. LH, .664 OPS against vs. RH), giving birth to the idea that the Indians could perhaps use this trio as the backbone of the back-end of their bullpen for a while. Certainly, the inning counts for each were high and relievers are volatile from one year to the next, but each proved themselves as worthy of consideration for 8th and 9th inning roles in 2012.

Bench Bunch – Hannahan, Donald, Duncan, and Marson
After suffering through off-season after off-season combing through the scrap-heap pile of 4th OF, RH bats for the bench, and Futility IF, could the Indians finally have succeeded in filling out the final spots of their roster internally? While I’m not going to fall victim to the idea that any of these guys should be handed a starting spot in 2012 (Duncan had a .728 OPS on August 31st and The Lesson of Karim Garcia applies) as each has their strong points (notably defense for Hannahan and Marson) and weak points (defense for Duncan) that need to be considered. But after living through Sal Fasano (not that I minded Sal), Mike Rouse, Tony Graffanino, and the like, it was comforting to see this quartet step into roles (adequately) when injuries or the ineffectiveness of others necessitated their use. Truthfully, I’mot sure if all of these guys come back, depending upon what the Tribe does this off-season, as Hannahan and Donald are somewhat redundant in the positions that they play if varying in their skill sets and I’m interested in finding a 4th OF who does not have a “C” an “R” and an “E” in their last name (in that order), but the Indians FINALLY have some players that can fill out their bench without a massive drop-off in production and without having to unnecessarily spend money on auxiliary parts.

A Little Good, A Little Bad
Josh Tomlin
As much as I’d love to put Tomlin in that first grouping, I’m not as enamored with the Quality Start Streak as some seem to be and see Tomlin’s season as a whole as a success, but not one without red flags. Obviously, Tomlin is a great story – a largely-overlooked late draft pick that moved his way up the system who achieved success in his first go-around in MLB, last year and (more acutely) to start this year. He arrived to the All-Star Break with a 3.81 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP, and a 4.64 K/BB ratio, mentioned in a Sports Illustrated article about the emergence of the cut fastball, and riding high in the Tribe rotation. Unfortunately, Tomlin’s first-half success would not continue into the second-half as his 5.26 ERA reflected his propensity for the long-ball with 9 HR allowed in his final 8 starts. That’s not to say that Tomlin will never achieve the success that he did to start 2011…it just may never be that level of success. He’s not going to stop his approach of pounding the strike zone and, as the league adjusted to him, it is now on him to continue to adapt and evolve as a pitcher. Whether he has the repertoire to succeed as he adapts remains to be seen as he could easily settle into a Paul Byrdian role on this team around some other hard-throwers in the rotation…and there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that. If Tomlin is filling out the Tribe rotation and throwing quality innings and challenging hitters, he’s a tremendous find and a needed surprise for the Indians. As long as the assumption doesn’t exist that he’s going to be a sub-3.00 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP (as he was for the first 2 months of the season), I’ll take Tomlin – warts and all – in the Tribe rotation for 2012 and beyond.

Fausto Carmona
Since any talk of Carmona is going to center around his option, here’s the piece that I wrote on the options for Carmona (and Sizemore), with this passage from that piece being applicable in the review of Carmona’s season:
April 7th through May 8th - 7 starts
2.22 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 30 K, 14 BB with a .541 OPS against in 48 2/3 IP

May 13th through June 26th – 9 starts
7.99 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 26 K, 18 BB with a .927 OPS against in 50 2/3 IP

July 18th through August 22nd – 7 starts
2.49 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 26 K, 13 BB with a .673 OPS against in 47 IP

August 27th through Tuesday – 6 starts
7.23 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 21 K, 14 BB with a .866 OPS against in 37 1/3 IP

Again, that doesn’t include the game in Cincinnati on July 2nd as Carmona went 2 scoreless innings before belly flopping his way to the DL. However, it does certainly bring into focus why calling Carmona’s season “uneven” or “inconsistent” is about as accurate as it gets. When he’s good…he can be very good. When he’s bad…oy.
That, unfortunately, is Fausto. Love him or hate him, just get used to him for another year.

Carlos Carrasco
Lest you forget, back before Cookie was buzzing towers and going under the knife, he was putting together a break-out season in the starting rotation. At the end of June, he had a 3.54 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP, and was holding opposing hitters to a .660 OPS. Those numbers were propelled by 5-game stretch in which Carrasco allowed only 4 ER in 36.2 IP (0.98 ERA), striking out 28 and walking only 5 in that stretch, which included a 7-inning outing in the Bronx. Prior to that stretch, Carrasco had already spent time on the shelf with arm issues and he would find himself there again, eventually making his way onto the Tommy John hospital bed as his age-25 season will involve nothing but rehab in 2012 with an eye towards 2013. If there is a great disappointment in 2011, it is Carrasco’s injury as he was starting to show signs (at age 24) of being the top-to-middle-of-the-rotation starter that the Indians envisioned when he was the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee deal. While Masterson took the leap into the top-of-the-rotation, Carrasco’s path there (and he did seem to be on that path) was interrupted by the injury as the Indians lost not only one of their most promising young arms, but had their immediate depth in the rotation compromised almost immediately as Carmona’s option became a necessity and as the likelihood of adding a veteran starter grew exponentially. Now, the hope with Carrasco is that he can do what so many pitchers have done before him – emerge from Tommy John surgery and achieve success. The answer as to whether he can do that or not however, is not one that’s going to come anytime soon.

Chris Perez
Want to know what’s tough about being a fan of a baseball team?
Sometimes it’s hard to separate personal feelings from actual feelings on a particular player and Chris Perez in 2011 is a great case study of that. After years of enduring Bob Wickman and the cast of characters that tried their hand at pitching the 9th inning for the Indians, C. Perez came in and stabilized the back-end-of-the-bullpen in a way that has been lacking for too long. Finally, the Indians had an answer at closer that projected a hell, fire, and brimstone attitude from the mound (and on Twitter) that was both endearing and exciting. With his hair flying and his with his steely glare, Perez had the look and feel of a lockdown reliever that we all wanted to believe that he could be. The problem is…in 2011, he just wasn’t. Yes, he saved 36 games (and I’m going to put aside my vitriol for the “save” as a “statistic”) and his presence in the 9th inning allowed the rest of the bullpen to slot into roles, in which they flourished. But he also only struck out 39 hitters all season in 59 2/3 IP and had the 2nd worst K/BB ratio on the pitching staff, “bested” only by Mitch Talbot. That’s not to say that Chris Perez was not effective at times as he finished the year with a 3.32 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, and a .648 OPS against. Those are all great numbers, but his peripherals took a tumble this year and perhaps you’re in the camp of “all that matters is getting those final 3 outs”, but you can’t tell me that Perez’s 9th inning affairs were…um, adventurous at times. For as much as all Indians’ fans want Perez to be that lights-out, shut-down 9th inning presence, Perez simply wasn’t that this year and, with him about to make a salary between $4M and $5M in arbitration, the Indians need to ask some hard questions on whether Perez ever will be the lock-down closer that we want him so badly to be.

Rafael Perez
Anyone remember that Rafael Perez had a 1.12 ERA in late June, with a 1.09 WHIP and a.523 OPS against in 32 IP?
If you don’t, it’s probably because (other than not giving interviews and not really embracing the bullpen persona that the rest of the relievers did) he has a 4.99 ERA, a 1.40 WHIP, and a .779 OPS against since that time. That’s not to say that Perez was not an effective reliever, but he struck out 13 hitters in his final 30 2/3 IP and walked 8 in that same stretch. A K/BB ration around 1.00 over a three-month timeframe is not something that elicits a lot of confidence, particularly when the pitcher is only striking out a batter about once every three innings pitched. Given that Perez is due another pay raise in arbitration and with Nick Hagadone ready in the wings, this may be The Quiet Man’s last stand in Cleveland (regardless of what Acta says publicly) as he is still an effective reliever whose value to the organization may be greatest in terms of what he could provide as a return in a trade.

Lonnie Chisenhall
Yes, his final line will say that he posted a sub-.700 OPS in more than 200 plate appearances this year, but for a 22-year-old getting his first taste of MLB…what The Chiz was able to show (albeit inconsistently at times) puts him in this category. That age is a MAJOR factor here as only 8 players that were 22 or younger compiled more than 200 PA this year and the fact that Chisenhall held his own at the plate is reason for optimism. One factor that is often forgotten about Lonnie’s season is the pitched ball that bounced off his face about a week-and-a-half after his arrival to the parent club. At that point, Chisenhall had already accumulated 4 XBH in his first 9 games and, while the beanball would take some of the steam out of his engine (he had a .579 OPS in the 5 weeks after getting hit), the extra-base machine has returned with a vengeance down the stretch as he’s posted an .858 OPS in the last 3 weeks. While September numbers should be taken with a GIANT grain of salt, the talent certainly seems to be there with The Chiz, if the confidence looked shaky at times this season. While it is true that he looked lost at times, he was surprisingly adept in the field, and Chisenhall now has a base to build upon and some momentum to go into the 2012 season as the starting 3B for the Tribe.

The Damaged Duo – Hafner & Sizemore
What can be written about these two that hasn’t been written in the past year, the past two years, or even the last three years? When healthy, these two can hit, something they proved once again at the beginning of 2011…problem is, they weren’t healthy.
On May 10th, Sizemore had a .974 OPS and Hafner had a .916 OPS as the Indians got out to their hot start. Grady went down first (and second) and Hafner held on for a while longer, with a .994 OPS as late as July 7th. But, as has been the case for the past few years, both would encounter injuries that would linger…then linger some more. With news that Grady’s heading off to have his right knee examined by the same doctor who performed microfracture surgery on his left knee, it is sad (if not fitting) to see the Indians’ careers of these two – once thought to be the linchpins that would carry the offense to success past 2007 – slowly wind down, with barely a whimper. Depending upon what Dr. Steadman has to say about Grady’s right knee, I’d still hold by what I wrote last week (and Steadman’s diagnosis may affect Grady’s willingness to do a re-structured deal that may not have existed before) in that Sizemore’s talent shouldn’t be summarily dismissed. However, 2011 felt like the last few years have for these two – glimpses of what used to be barely visible between the reality of what now is.

Back-End Rotation Arms
Truthfully, not much more is known about the troika of Jeanmar Gomez, Dave Huff, and Zach McAllister than was known when the season started. There have been positives such as Gomez’s recent stretch before greeting the Tigers, Huff upon being recalled, and McAllister’s 2nd and 3rd starts. Of course, there have been negatives to go with those, like Gomez’s still-paltry K/9 rate, Huff’s freefall after his relief appearance, and McAllister’s 1st start. So what do the Indians have in these three? Right now, they look like back-end-of-the-rotation/swing-man fodder as you’re going to always get positives and negatives from pitchers like this. Gomez and McAllister are young enough that they can perhaps carve a niche out for themselves and maybe (just…maybe) Huff can finally turn that corner that he’s been chasing since arriving to MLB, but the greater likelihood is that these guys represented the starting pitching depth in 2011 and will continue to do so for the next couple of years. Perhaps McAllister can break out and become a Westbrook-esque innings-eater, but he’s going to have to take major steps (just like Westbrook did) to get to that point.

Dark Clouds
Ubaldo Jimenez

While it may be acceptable to judge players like Tomlin and Carrasco (and even Carmona) on the basis of an X-game stretch or over the course of a couple of weeks, that simply does not apply for a pitcher that was acquired to front the Indians’ rotation – with the Tribe paying a hefty price to add him. Brought in to pair with Masterson at the top of the rotation, Jimenez was erratic, at his worst at the worst possible times, and looked nothing like the Cy Young contender that he has been in the past. For the Indians’ sake, they had better hope that he was tipping his pitches or that a full off-season of health and work with Tim Belcher on his mechanics can fix him, because a 5.10 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP over 65 1/3 innings and 11 starts is not anything close to what should be expected from Jimenez. Trust me, I know all about Jimenez’s peripherals that say that his K/9, BB/9, and K/BB are virtually identical to his 2010 season, but at a certain point, Jimenez needs to execute and limit damage and go deep into games. If one “key for success” for the 2012 Tribe season needs to identified today, it is unquestionably Jimenez recapturing his 2010 form (or something close to it) because with the Jimenez that was on display on the mound in a Tribe uniform, the Indians’ rotation won’t keep the team in enough games to win consistently, much less win an AL Central crown.

Matt MaTola
Look, I’ve already piled on MaTola enough in the past two months to re-hash anything new here. The bottom line with LaPorta is that 2011 was the year that he needed to show that he at least had the potential to be the RH bat he was supposed to be when he arrived in the CC deal and, as an about-to-turn-27-year-old with a career OPS around .700 with nearly 1,000 career PA, that just didn’t happen. The Indians should – and will – make plans at 1B this year that don’t involve LaPorta as Plan A or even Plan B as he’s likely to start to 2012 season in Columbus to see if he can evolve as a hitter and even provide the RH pop off the bench that is likely to come from Shelley Duncan for the parent club in 2012. Ultimately, the Indians needed LaPorta to show some signs of hope or some progression in 2011 and he never displayed it…which is a shame, because the RH bat that MaTola was SUPPOSED to be is exactly what the 2011 Indians needed.

Shin-Soo Choo
Speaking of what the 2011 Indians needed, how about the guy that put up these frighteningly consistent lines during the two years prior to this one:
BLC 2009
.300 BA / .394 OBP / .489 SLG / .883 OPS with 38 2B, 20 HR, 21 SB in 685 PA
BLC 2010
.300 BA / .401 OBP / .484 SLG / .885 OPS with 31 2B, 22 HR, 21 SB in 646 PA
Then, 2011 rolled around and Choo came in, fresh off of his first arbitration case, looking to make his move into the upper echelon of players and (to borrow Choo’s “frog” analogy), he got splattered across the street – Frogger-style – a couple of times. First, there was the slow start, then came the DUI, then the HBP, then the oblique, and finally…the oblique again. The “hits” never stopped coming for Choo, and unlike what we saw since he returned from his TJ surgery in 2008, these consistent “hits” were not ones that anybody needed to see. Perhaps Choo simply puts 2011 in the rearview mirror and moves back into the middle-of-the-lineup in 2012 and resumes the steady path that he was following prior to his unquestioned lost year in 2011.

Mike Brantley
He has a .316 OBP in 972 MLB plate appearances and had a .318 OBP in 2010 as a 24-year-old. The hope that he’s going to turn into the on-base machine that he was in the Minors is starting to dissipate and the idea that he’s ever going to develop power seems laughable at this point, with his career .359 SLG. As much grief as LaPorta gets, LaPorta has a career .700 OPS in 1,001 PA and Brantley has a career .675 OPS in 972 PA. Yes, age plays a role here, but Brantley is only two years younger than LaPorta (27 this offseason) as Brantley will turn 25 next May. Perhaps you could say that positional value comes into play (LaPorta is expected to produce more as a 1B), but if what Pluto wrote a couple of weeks ago that the Indians “believe Michael Brantley is -- at best -- average in center field. They’d rather play him in left, where he grades high defensively”…well, then you’re talking about a LF that didn’t really get on base and doesn’t really project to have power. Maybe you want to talk about his “bat-to-ball” ability (despite that he’s middle of the pack in the AL in K%) and love his speed (he had 13 SB this year) and athleticism, but Brantley needs to take a MAJOR step in 2012 to not become a poor man’s version of Coco Crisp…another player mistakenly labeled by many as a “core” player in the mid-2000s who found ultimately his way out of Cleveland after a career year in 2005.

Middle Relievers
With the caveat that I don’t really care about middle relievers/mop-up guys, the guys that filled that role for the Indians were pretty bad this year as Durbin and Herrmann both posted an ERA over 5.00 with WHIP’s to match. Hitters posted an .872 OPS off of Durbin and Herrmann (.810 OPS against) wasn’t far behind as only Mitch Talbot (a eye-popping .933 OPS against) “bested” them in terms of posting the highest OPS against on the pitching staff among arms with more than 20 IP. Truthfully, these guys serve a role to simply come in and eat innings in which the Indians are likely already losing (each has quite a bit more IP than G), but if the Indians are going to continue to build their bullpen from within, these spots need to start going to pitchers that are arriving in Cleveland with the potential to move further up the “bullpen ladder” into the 7th or 8th innings. Maybe Herrmann was that kind of guy or maybe Josh Judy (1.061 OPS against) or Zach Putnam is or could use the middle reliever opportunity to parlay into a more meaningful role, but the failure of the Indians’ middle relief corps all season long was disappointing, if not par for the course for middle relievers around the league.

At the end of the day, 2011 was full of positives and building blocks (in important places, like at the top of the rotation and the middle of the lineup) that should form a foundation going forward. Now, it’s time for the Indians to build up from that foundation to create something that lasts.


Jay said...

Beautifully summed up as usual.

It's fair to call Tomlin's season a success, and it's equally fair to call it a fluke.

The only real "red flag" is that he's Josh Tomlin, and I choose not to deny him any credit for what he improbably produced this season.

Anonymous said...

I'd be pretty down on Brantley as well, but my expectations are more along the lines of Devon White circa 1991-1993 than Grady Sizemore circa 2005-2007.

Not expecting power, rather the generation of trouble on the base-paths on a consistent basis, with a minimum of strikeouts, and good (not great) fielding abilities.

(Of course, one has to have some hope his base stealing abilities improve - substantially.)

Since his fielding stats show him to be as good as (if not better than) Grady in CF, not to mention his paucity of strikeouts (and better OBP) in comparison to The Face at the plate, I can't understand why the Front Office - or you - would feel the way they do.

Then again, we were also told Ubaldo was going to be our new No. 1 starter by this same F.O....

Halifax said...

Not giving up hope on Ubaldo, but my confidence has been severely shaken.H E needs to get back to throwing strikes. Speaking of which, he strikes me as someone who needs a certain level of comfort, as he lived nearby, with his family, Colorado's stadium and really didn't want to leave. He threw much better at Progressive Field and perhaps the off-season will allow him to become acclimated to the area and the team and his pitching will reflect that fact. In a nutshell, he needs to THROW STRIKES!

Same goes (haven't given up) for LaPorta and Brantley. But sometimes it just takes awhile for players to mature.

MVP of the season may have been Cabrera, but it's the BULLPEN that won them all those games, especially early. That late-inning trio shut down the opposition so often that it allowed the Tribe to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat quite often in the first half of the season. Many a game was won in the latter innings at Progressive.

Oh, and I ask again, how does Tony Sipp get anyone out?

Paul Cousineau said...

Thanks Jay, and I think that I share the concern over Tomlin's ability to replicate his 2011 success over the long-term.

If Brantley can turn into Devon White, I'd do backflips, but he really didn't get on base and he didn't really show much speed on the basepaths. I'm not giving up on him developing those skills as part of his game at the MLB level...I just would have liked to have seen them this year.

I've given up on LaPorta as I just don't see any signs that he'll mature into what we hoped he would be. As for Sipp, he struck out 22% of the hitters he faced (below only Pestano on the team), so that's a pretty good start in getting people out.

Adam said...

Great column as usual Paul. I totally agree on all of your assessments in the “report card” except Tomlin. However, on Tomlin I strongly disagree. I actually felt that Tomlin was the best story of the year. Your point is taken as far as his inferior stuff and his high HR rate, but I just can’t get over the way he poured strikes in there and at times looked flat out dominant (specifically the one game against the Yankees where I believe he took a no-hitter into the 7th?). There was also another game in Oakland where he looked dominant and I think one more against the Red Sox if I’m remembering correctly.

Now maybe this is just a case of cherry picking from the best of his performances, but the thing that grabs me is the fact that the guy just simply knows how to pitch and at times has precision-like command and at other times at least very good command. And what about the record-setting streak of consecutive starts? In my book that’s a pretty impressive record! After all, that’s the goal of any starting pitcher – to keep his team in the game and give them a chance to win. And the fact that the guy is an “out of nowhere” surprise makes his story even sweeter. Anyway, just throwing my two cents in. Great job with the column this season and I look forward to all of the off-season hot stove stuff!

Halifax said...


Ok, let me rephrase the question..."Can anyone tell me how Tony Sipp strikes anyone out?" His average 90mph fastball and mediocre curve seem to be primarily what he throws, yet he still gets people out, and strikes them out! He reminds me A LOT of a LH Jensen Lewis.

Anyway, my LaPorta confidence is wavering quite a bit as well, but I'm trying to be optimistic here.

Concerning Tomlin, he will give up many HRs due to his tendency to pound the zone and his lack of dominant pitches. But he'll be a great five because he's a competitor and refuses to give in to hitters. He doesn't give up free passes, and as a result of his accuracy tends to have a lively defense behind him. So you can always count on being in the game, and what more can you ask of a 5th starter? Now, if they could only find a #1 and a #3.