"Grab your ticket and your suitcase"
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
As a thank you for sticking with me and this blog throughout a long and difficult Cleveland Indians season, I have a special announcement to make to all of you Castronauts out there.
We’re going to Australia!
We’re going to Australia!
We’re going to Australia!
Oh, no. Wait. That’s Oprah’s audience.
Sorry for the confusion.
Forget Australia. Let’s just go to the Minutiae.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- The Indians were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention last week. To soften the blow, there’s good news tonight — the release of the 2011 schedule! Yes, it’s time for renewed hope, reborn optimism, visions of a healthy Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana and, most importantly, three more games against the Pirates to look forward to.
- The big news is the Indians opening at home for just the third time in the last 14 years, and that opener (Friday, April 1, against the White Sox) will be earlier than usual, with the bulk of teams starting their season on Friday as opposed to the usual Monday. It’s the first time since 1905 that the season, by and large, will begin on a Friday. MLB pushed it up to avoid World Series games in November.
The aforementioned Pirates have become an annual Interleague foe for the Tribe, much like the Reds have been since 1997. The Pirates did not have a natural AL rival built into their yearly schedule the way most teams do and they pushed MLB to make the Cleveland-Pittsburgh series a regular feature. It seems to have been good for attendance in both cities when the Indians and Bucs play each other.
- So ,why were the Indians mathematically eliminated this year? I don’t have enough gigabytes to get into all the grim details. But to break things down as simply as possible, Manny Acta believes that to be a viable playoff contender, you must score 800 runs, have an on-base percentage of .340 or higher and have an ERA of 4.00 or lower. There are exceptions, of course, but those are his basic benchmarks. The Indians, in case you’re now wondering, have an OBP of .320, a team ERA of 4.32 and are on pace to score just 635.5 runs. How they’re going to get that last half a run is beyond me.
- Obviously, the losses of Sizemore and Santana (and Asdrubal Cabrera for two months) contributed to that run total (which, at 561 coming into the night, is third-lowest in the league). But when evaluating what went wrong with this team in 2010, Acta looks no further than these two numbers – 521 and 106. Those are, respectively, the number of walks issued and the number of errors made by the Indians this season.
- Consider this: The Twins, on their way to winning the AL Central title (they can all but wrap it up with a three-game set against the Sox this week), have walked 319 guys and made 61 errors. So the Indians have let somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 extra men on base (depending, of course, on the nature of the errors) when compared to the Twins. That’s, uh, going to lead to a run or two.
- Here’s what Acta had to say about the long-term outlook for the Tribe: “In order for us to turn things around here, we’re going to need some pitching. The depth here, with the way [Josh] Tomlin, [Jeanmar] Gomez and [Carlos] Carrasco have thrown the ball, is better. That’s a key for us. Bullpens are unpredictable, and they’re easier to put together than a starting rotation. I think we’ve made some progress [in building starting depth].”
- Jason Donald is out at least a week with a bruised tendon in his right index finger, which is why Drew Sutton (known to some of you as “Who?”) was summoned from Triple-A Columbus today. Obviously, Sutton is pleased to be here, though he was pulled away from the Governor’s Cup against Durham, which began tonight. He’ll help out at second, third and short, if need be. Luis Valbuena will see the bulk of the time at second.
- As of this writing, the Indians are still getting a read on whether Mitch Talbot’s shoulder inflammation will prevent him from making his next scheduled start, Saturday in Kansas City. Acta said the injury did not appear serious. If Talbot can’t go, Justin Masterson will take his turn. If Talbot can go, then Masterson’s season is likely over, because the Indians don’t want to push his innings total (currently 173) any higher if they don’t have to.
- Hard to know what to make of Masterson’s season, though he’s certainly shown improvement and reasons to believe in August and September. There were times this season when his spot in the rotation appeared tenuous, at best, but the Indians, it appears, never seriously considered removing him from the rotation (until he reached his innings max, of course), in part because of his performance but also because there simply weren’t other intriguing options to turn to. The Indians hope their patience has paid off and that something clicked for Masterson in the second half, and I don’t foresee a scenario in which he’s not in the Opening Day rotation.
- In case you missed it, here’s the latest Indians Inbox.
- I’ll be part of the panel for the Tribe Social Forum, taking place here at Progressive Field on Thursday at 5:45 p.m. (doors open at 5 p.m.). General manager Mark Shapiro will give some opening remarks before the panel on how social media is changing the way we communicate. The $50 ticket gets you access to the discussion, a buffet meal with drinks and a spot in the Champions Suite for the Indians-Angels game at 7:05 p.m. More details here.