5/20: Indians vs. Royals

It’s Weather Education Day at Progressive Field, which means we’ve got thousands of screeching kids in the stands for the nooner with the Royals. Always nice to feel surrounded by fellow Justin Bieber fans.

Today’s game is on STO and WTAM. 

Here’s the link to today’s notes.

cle5.gifINDIANS (15-23): CF Crowe, SS Donald, RF Choo, DH Hafner, 3B Peralta, 1B Branyan, LF LaPorta, 2B Valbuena, C Marson. RHP Mitch Talbot (5-2, 3.23).




kc6.gifROYALS (16-25): LF Podsednik, 2B Aviles, RF DeJesus, 1B Butler, DH Guillen, 3B Callaspo, CF Maier, SS Betancourt, C Kendall. RHP Luke Hochever (3-2, 5.86).



Classic Justin Bieber reference! Will be fun to see what JD (Can I call him that?) can do in the 2 spot.

Has Acta named Sipp his closer yet?

Well, we got Donald and we have to wait for Santana, so should we start the “Frank Herrmann” chant now?

“We’re in the top three [in the league] in strikeouts, and we’re dead last in home runs. We’re going to have to go back and revisit our hitting approach immediately.”

As I mentioned last week, doesn’t this reflect poorly on Jon Nunnally?

One comment about Talbot: couldn’t we be seeing the league getting a more detailed scouting report on this guy now that he’s at the ML level? Is this an isolated outing or a league-wide adjustment coming?

I think it’s a reflection of our line-up. If you look at it, guys like Choo, Cabrera, Kearns, and now even Hafner are hitting. It’s the young guys who aren’t.
I mean, I guess it could be Nunnally, and the veterans just aren’t listening to him while the rookies are. But they’re still rookies, so it’s hard to say it’s Nunnally and not just the fact that they’ve never faced big league pitchers before.
I’m going to go with optimism on this one and suggest that Talbot had an off night. The Royals have never faced him before, so at the very least we know they didn’t make adjustments based on actually facing them. Could they have based on film? Sure, I guess, although given their record it doesn’t seem like something they’re particularly good at doing.

I will say that Nunnally has done well with Hafner. He was outspoken about Nunnally getting the job in Cleveland. Hafner has shown that he is willing to take what the pitcher gives him. He’s using left field quite well. Sooner or later pitchers will have to come in one him. At that point he will be able to turn on those pitches. I’d suspect that his HRs will come… and come in bunches.

From your comment to today’s game, AM. It’s going to be interesting to see where Pronk is at the end of the year. He seems to be a work in progress that’s starting to settle in to his new mode of hitting.
I realize Marson leaves a lot to be desired, but it was nice to see one theoretical fill-in guy (Crowe) drive in another fill-in guy (Marson). And I can’t imagine Choo NOT batting second again tomorrow after this.
They really, really need to send LaPorta down already, particularly with Crowe up and doing well (enough) so far.
While I would never wish Sizemore or Cabrera hurt, it’s fun to watch guys like Crowe and Donald get a shot.

Our “closer” has an ERA of nearly 17.

Josh Tomlin was quite complementary of Carlos Santana’s gameplan. There’s a nice story on the minor league affiliates page. It’s good to see Carlos growing into that role. “I’ve worked with Carlos all last year and this year, so I really enjoy throwing to him, and not only because he bats in the lineup,” Tomlin said. “He’s caught against this team for three days now, [so he had knowledge].”

Speaking of Tomlin, it sucks that he’s the only one doing well at all in the Columbus starting staff, and he’s not really supposed to be very good. Pino and Carrasco have been rocked their last few games out. Rondon’s not even on the radar anymore … I don’t think it’s fun to see Donald get a shot in this manner at all. Because we’re stuck with Valbuena –what is wrong with that guy? I saw him play last year and at times he looked very good. He struggled sometimes too, but he always seemed to make consistent solid contact. I figured .250 with a lower slugging % than he had last year was worst case. Hitting .148? And .077 in May? That’s unbelievable. Maybe if they’d sent him down at the beginning of May like the entire fan-base suggested he’d have gotten himself into a bit of a groove in AAA and come back up and actually been able to get a hit now. Maybe not. And his platoon mate Grudz still doesn’t have an extra base hit. Which in its way is about as amazing as Valbuena’s batting average. In both cases, you’d think just by luck that Valbuena could get more than 2 hits in May, and Grudz could get a double. Pathetic … oh well, I’m not going to bother to watch another one of their games at least until they call Santana up, then I might tune into a few. I’ve got to say that with the universal awfulness of their young hitters so far this year, I don’t see contention at any point in the foreseeable future for this team. That could change, if Laporta, Santana and Sizemore get in the lineup and start hitting, but right now they appear to have Choo and a bunch of nothing

And to keep with the optimistic mood of my last post, isn’t in awesome that our second best prospect is on the DL with a shoulder injury, after putting up a .650 OPS so far in Akron? What are they going to do with third base next year? Pick up Peralta’s option? Marte? … I would still like to see what Marte can do. He’s another one who it seems Nunnally may have been able to get through to. More walks than Ks so far this year, a small number of at bats, but good to see from a guy whose plate discipline had previously fallen off a cliff from where he was his first few years in the minors.

I think you and I had different expectations going into this year, ST. I like seeing our youngsters get a shot. Donald’s debut was great to watch — it’s one of those few bright spots in a hard season. It’s also great to see a guy like Crowe, who was basically named the 4th oufielders of the future, do well enough in spring training to get sent to Columbus so he could get regular ABs, having lifted the 4th outfielder tag. And now he has a chance to prove he belongs in the majors.
Weglarz got promoted to Columbus today. Is it me, or have we seen a LOT of movement in the minors pretty quickly this year? I think the front office is just as worried about our future as we are.
I’m not overly concerned about our rotation yet. Most of those guys are going through their first year in AAA and most of them have high ceilings — they just have to get there (okay, Carrasco has a high ceiling).
Third base is the other reason I think they need to send LaPorta down. At the very least, that would give Marte (when he’s back) more ABs at first and hopefully the odd start here and there at third.
At the moment, I’m more disappointed in the fact that our trade pieces are losing value like crazy. Hopefully, Jake has better starts in the future, but Wood looks like a lost cause. I don’t know how much interest Grudz will generate, but Kearns, at least, will probably land us a few decent prospects.

I have always figured the trade value of Westbrook, Kearns, Branyan, etc is virtually nothing. Last year they needed to stock the farm system and could use players like Barnes, Graham and Pino, but now they have no need for more prospects on that level. Even if Westbrook starts pitching great and Kearns gets out of his slump and keeps hitting above .300, they aren’t going to get a top position player prospect for those guys, which is the only type of prospect they need. Stupid things like trading a Carlos Santana for Casey Blake, Hafner for Einar Diaz, don’t happen often, especially now. Wood I always figured they could at least offload to get salary relief, but now he’s completely useless and they’re going to be stuck with the whole $10 million or close to it, even if they do find someone who wants to give him a try …I expected this team to be entertaining, and to see some positives from their young players like Laporta, Brantley, Valbuena and Marson (not all of them necessarily, but figured odds were good that at least half of them would do well), and to see a healthy Sizemore bounce back. If you expected Valbuena, Laporta and Sizemore to all have a .550 OPS, and Cabrera to have a .690 OPS before breaking his arm, I’m not sure why you tuned in to the games–the team has been beyond boring and frustrating, and watching those guys flail cluelessly at the ball definitely calls into question the entire rebuilding strategy. They’ve been worse than the worst pessimist expected–there was no reason to expect this team wouldn’t hit, and lately the starting pitching has been more like what we DID expect–bad. Right now it looks like they bet on all the wrong players. Major regression across the board, as far as the lineup’s concerned, from everyone but Choo, who has done as well as last year, though not better. Things could change, but 1/4 of the way through the season, the future is looking gloomy

ST… I love the fire, hate the way you twist in the wind at the smallest of things. You flip-flop more than John Kerry on the campaign trail. Saying that Rondon is “not even on the radar anymore” (after ~7 weeks of the season no less) might be YOUR personal opinion but it simply is not a reasonable reaction b/c the guy struggled early in the season. Scott Lewis isn’t on the radar anymore, neither is Jeremy Sowers. There is a difference.

ANY scout will tell you that they would PREFER to see a prospect struggle at some point in the development b/c high ceiling prospects have practically dominated all levels their entire careers. They want to see how the kids RESPOND to adversity and failure.

Additionally, you wanted Donald promoted but ONLY at the expense of Luis Valbuena? You’re not happy he’s here b/c Cabrera got hurt and LV is still topside? The only rationale for that statement is wanting to see the Cabrera-Donald tandem. And FYI, Grudz has never been an extra-bases machine, but he does have a career .299 average which I figure that you know already.

You’ve been on a terrible complaining streak lately.

ST, this organization can always use prospects on that level. The more solid prospects we acquire at any level, the greater the chances that some of them break into the majors in a real way.
One of the things I couldn’t help but notice over the off-season from our esteemed blogger, AC, is that he made a concerted effort in his entries to downplay the effectiveness of our youngsters. He was always, it seemed, in favor of single year deals made to protect those guys. In fact, he generally maintained that LaPorta would start the season in AAA and often hinted at the same fate for Brantley while most of us clamored for those guys to start the year in Cleveland.
But I think AC has looked at it from the right perspective the whole time. These guys are young players and we shouldn’t expect them to play at a major league level right away — or even two months in.
There’s a great column over on Let’s Go Tribe about Marson that points out, among other things, that he’s the youngest every day catcher in baseball (he’s younger than Santana) and that any other organization would still have him in AAA, particularly given that he’s never spent an entire year there. We have a lot of guys who still need more time and it’s showing, but I don’t see why that’s so bad.
As for the regression of our offense, that’s not entirely true. Both Hafner and Peralta are (sadly) on a pace to hit their ’09 percentages, although Hafner is obviously going to pass his RBI. Grady’s actually in the same boat. I think that’s the other problem — not only were most of us overly optimistic about our young players, we seemed to get selective memory on how awful our returning players were last year, aside from Choo and Cabrera.
I DO think Valbuena would be best served by time in AAA, but right now it’s not an option, nor do I think it will matter, since I’m sure there’s a team out there that would like a utility guy like Grudz in their clubhouse. At some point, Donald and Valbuena will be our middle of the infield…which is an absolutely unreal thing to type!

Why in the world would I be happy that Donald’s in Cleveland because Cabrera’s hurt? That’s insane. The rationale for promoting Donald was always NOT wanting to see Valbuena, and that Valbuena needed to go to AAA to hopefully get his head/bat straight, and that Donald would perform better than Valbuena (because it was impossible to not perform better than Valbuena has) and would hopefully show that he’s a legitimate candidate for 2b next year. Which he can still do, but in the meantime we have Cabrera to wonder about and still have the automatic out Valbuena in the lineup … Actually Hafner had 49 RBIs in 338 at bats last year, 13 in 123 is a lower rate. He’s gotten on base, and sadly, Hafner’s been their 3rd best hitter, but it’s not like he’s been great. Not as good so far as he was last year, .825 OPS to .789 this year … As for flip-flopping, yes, nothing can get me to change my mind like actual evidence — .211/.271/.560, .213/.275/.551, .148/.296/.555 — 1/4 of the way into the season, not like two weeks. Those aren’t your garden variety slumps. If those numbers don’t make you rethink the future of this team, I don’t know what will. If they are going to have success anytime in the future they 100% NEED Laporta and Sizemore to hit like we thought they could. Prior to this season, the evidence pointed towards them being able to: Laporta put up solid number last year, especially the second time he came up, Sizemore we had 4 years, and the fact that he hit .250 with 18HRs with a bad elbow and groin injury. Now, his ’08 season looks like an aberration in what has otherwise been a steady decline in performance … Rondon certainly isn’t on the radar for this year, being that he’s on the DL and all, and that he gave up 12 HRs in 31 innings when healthy. (and he has yet to develop a good secondary pitch, relegating him more to decent bullpen prospect status) Injury and ineffectiveness: the recipe for a successful pitching prospect? Now Scott Lewis isn’t even on the team, or in baseball as far as I know, so yes, he is less on the radar than Rondon. But I can’t say that I’m eager to see them drop Westbrook/Huff/Masterson, because right now there’s no one who’s deserving of replacing them

Actually, ST, go look at LaPorta’s numbers from last year. He basically had one unbelievable month (August). In September — a month where he was facing call-ups and playing against teams that were out of contention — his number dropped an awful lot. He really doesn’t have a track record of being able to perform at this level, not yet, at least. The potential? Sure, but I wouldn’t call what he did last year evidence, given how his number plummeted after August.
The reason I said Hafner is obviously going to pass his RBI number is because, at this time last year, he was out of the line-up again. It would be reasonable to suggest he’ll get more than 338 ABs this year.
I still don’t understand the concern over Rondon. He had a solid run last year in AAA, but it was only 12 starts. Heck, he just turned 22. He’s going to have growing pains. Pino, on the other hand, is bit more problematic, given his age.
Would I like to see guys start to perform how we think they’re capable? Of course. But I’m not going to get too upset if it doesn’t happen yet. I’ll be a bit more concerned if we don’t see any glimmers by the end of the year, but for now I’m willing to sit back and watch things play out.
It’s much easier to sit back and let it go than to get upset every time it does go as we’d planned/hoped.

I’m guessing you either forgot about him or you’ve changed your mind, ST, but you didn’t mention Laffey as a replacement for Westbrook/Masterson/Huff. Sure, he’s had a few bad outings lately, but I can’t help thinking that giving up 2 runs in an inning is awful for a guy who only pitches 1, but is perfectly fine if that’s all he gives up over 6. I’ve always been a supporter of the choice to move Laffey to the ‘pen because I feel like he gives us something we’re missing (thank you, R. Perez), but as of late I have to wonder if he has the make up for it. He seems like more of a big picture pitcher, and I would be shocked if only getting an inning’s worth of work wasn’t driving his competitive side insane. From the few interviews I’ve seen, I’m guessing that after a bad inning all he wants is to go back out there, something he doesn’t really get the chance to do being in the bullpen.
Granted, adding Laffey to the rotation could just make things worse, given that Valbuena could be somewhere up the middle.

I’m fine with Laffey as a starter, but I was referring to things to be interested in for the rest of this year. I’m not really interested to see what Laffey can do as a starter. We already pretty much know, at times good, at times bad. I’d be interested to see what Pino can do except he’s been getting beat up in AAA … Laporta put up a 1.015 OPS in August last year, and a .712 in September. That level of “struggle” is a far cry from his .550 over 100 at bats. It’s abnormal for an actual good prospect to struggle as much as Laporta has this year, over this long of a time period. Other evidence that Laporta would do well is his minor league numbers in relation to other prospects. This is a guy who consistently hit 25+ HRs a year. The ZiPS projection on him this year was a .754 OPS, with 11 HRs in 313 ABs. A reasonable expectation.

No, I would not suggest that you’re happy about Cabrera’s injury. Just saying that we were clamoring to see Donald (when he was hot) and now that he’s here you’re upset b/c unfortunately it came at the expense of an injury to Cabrera.

Yeah, but that big of a decline from month to month indicates he just had a fast start and was coming down to earth. And I don’t think it’s remotely abnormal for a good prospect to struggle like he has, particularly given his lack of consistent playing time. It was more abnormal for him to hit as well as he did last August.
Carrasco had a good outing last night, as did Jensen Lewis in relief. Jess Todd has been a bit disappointing since we got him.

Carrasco has been okay. His 20 walks and 34 Ks in 46 innings not a very good ratio though.

Here’s my completely biased, uneducated, wild suggestion for what they should do in the next few weeks:
When Marte returns, send LaPorta down. Send Masterson down as a starter to see if he can do anything even against AAA lefties. Replace him in the rotation with Laffey. Leave Huff in there to see how he does. Call up Sowers to replace Laffey in the bullpen to see how that experiment plays out. And hold that formation until we close in on the trade deadline.
By that point, we’ll see if Masterson has any hope of improving. We’ll see if Sowers is a viable bullpen option. We’ll see if Huff can be a reliable 4th or 5th starter and if Laffey is the 3rd/4th starter he seems like he could be. We’ll also give LaPorta a few months of regular ABs in AAA as well as Marte semi-regular ABs at first and third in Cleveland. Then, when we start unloading guys or releasing guys or sitting guys because they have no future on this team, we can start plugging players in. I mean, really, what do we have to lose? And these moves will give us some info for the future.

And to continue with my wild ideas, after the trade deadline we’d have Marte at third, assuming he’s shown us something with his more frequent ABs, we’d call up a renewed LaPorta for first, a renewed Brantley in the OF, and hopefully a renewed Masterson to replace Westbrook in the rotation. Santana would replace Marson, who can head back to AAA, Jensen Lewis would take either Kerry Wood’s open spot or Jeremy Sowers’ if he bombed, then we can look at a guy like Frank Herrmann, too, assuming Laffey doesn’t get sent back, in which case we could call up Carrasco, assuming he’s still trending up.
I like to daydream, what can I say.

All of those idea make sense, which is why very few of them will actually happen. How bizarre is it that around the time where we started commenting on how Laporta really, really should be sent down, he wasn’t sent down, but he has basically not played at all either. I don’t get that one. What happened to, “Brantley and Laporta will play every day, somewhere”, which actually makes sense? Also, since I started saying Valbuena needs to go down, like the end of April, he has 2 hits and has also received sporadic playing time, even after the Cabrera injury. Again, it’s like the Indians are following the blueprint on how NOT to develop a young prospect. Let’s call it the Andy Marte Process. That .140 batting average has to be weighing on Valbuena’s mind. He should STILL go to AAA, clean the slate, try to get straightened out for the second half… Acta made some comment about how Valbuena hit a line drive at someone the other day, and that showed he wasn’t overmatched. Hmm, what about the 33% K rate? The 47% ground ball rate? The 2 hits in the entire month of May? I guess the one line drive makes up for it … I don’t know that there’s reason enough to send Masterson down right now, though. He’s been bad, but really no worse than Huff. And they would need to get Laffey stretched out in AAA first. Which is why when they sent Lewis down, I said it should have been Laffey. The way the progression has gone so far this year, I don’t see how Laffey is anything but a starter next year. A lot of bullpen guys have done well, Sipp and C Perez appear to be for real, and Herrmann, Putnam, Pestano have done well in the minors, while none of their upper level starting pitchers have (other than Tomlin, who isn’t considered to have good stuff). You throw Masterson into the bullpen, and it’s probably pretty solid for the near future. Masterson, Sipp and C Perez are the big guns, and they should be able to find some decent complementary guys out of Jensen Lewis, Ambriz, Joe Smith, Herrmann, Judy and Pestano. No need for Laffey there … The starting rotation, on the other hand … Before this season, I thought it might be smart to re-sign Westbrook for next year, depending on how he does, whether they trade him or not, but unless they see some major progression from the offense the rest of this year, I doubt they’ll be signing anyone significant again next year. So Laffey will almost certainly be needed in the rotation

That bullpen sounds good, ST. I think 3B is going to be a real issue, too, because I think it’s a real possibility that they’re going to have to go sign a starter with the money they’ve saved. If they can get someone to pick up Wood, that would be huge. I mean, both the Red Sox and Yankees are having closer issues all of a sudden, so if Wood could actually perform over the next few weeks, there are teams out there who could take on his contract.
I’m not overly concerned about getting good pitchers in our rotation. My big concern is our lack of an ace of any kind. While I much prefer Fausto 6.0 to Fausto 5.0 or Fausto 4.0, he’s clearly not the dominate force of Fausto 3.0, and that’s fine. But I don’t even see anyone on the horizon before possible Hagadone that even has the make-up, and having at least ONE ace seems to be essential these days.

Yeah, ST, the addition of Shelly Duncan has made it even more insane for LaPorta to stick around. When was the last time he got a start in the OF? It doesn’t seem like they want to play him out there, which is something I’m completley fine with, but that means he’s basically a platoon 1B with a guy they’re paying actual money for.

Not to mention that the guy who he’s “platooning” with can’t hit left handed pitching, and Laporta has a .156 average against left handers himself … I was looking at Masterson’s numbers this year, and they really don’t make much sense. He’s increased his K rate, to above 9 per 9 innings, he’s inducing ground balls at a better rate than he ever has in the past, 62.3% to his career 55.3% number, but he has a 5.65 ERA, which is much worse than in previous years. His walk rate is up to 5 per 9 innings, but it was above 4 the past 2 years. You would think striking out more guys while inducing more ground balls and fewer fly balls would equal better ERA. As much as he has obvious issues against left handers, if he could just control his pitches better I have to think he’d start putting up some decent numbers. He has a high BABIP right now too, .399, should be more like .320 .330 with his line drive and ground ball rates, so it looks like he’s been somewhat unlucky.

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