Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians (Round 2)

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (18-19) @ Cleveland Indians (21-14)

The Twins struggled through another week losing two of three to a couple of AL Central opponents at home. This series marks the beginning of a nine-game road trip for the Twins which will take them to Milwaukee and Texas. The Indians got off to a scorching April, reviewed here, before their recently finished road trip against the Orioles, Angels, and A’s in which they lost six of ten including a heartbreaking walkoff loss on Sunday to the A’s. The Indians are currently second in the division, one game behind the Tigers and four games ahead of the fourth place Twins. The Indians have won nine of their last ten at Jacobs Field, and are 11-3 as the home team (9-2 at the Jake). The Twins are 8-6 on the road so far this season.

This marks the Twins first journey to Jacobs Field this season. It’s always been a fan favorite, as this review of the stadium experience shows.

On to the Indigenous Peoples:

Once again, I bring you the Cleveland Indians roster as Homestar Runner characters. I don’t know why I find this fascinating. I just like any system that equates Grady Sizemore and Jason Grilli through a character named Pom-Pom.

The Indians front office, led by GM Mark Shapiro, has long been in the sabermetrics camp. They cemented that reputation by the hiring of Baseball Prospectus’s Keith Woolner, the inventer of the VORP statistic, as their Manager of Baseball Research and Analysis. Shapiro’s sabermetrics influence can be seen in the team’s emphasis on on-base percentage over batting average. Speaking of Shapiro’s fingerprints, here are rundowns of his best moves as a GM, and his worst moves as well.

Indians trivia: Grady Sizemore recently appeared solo on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Before him, who was the last Cleveland Indian to be afforded that honor? (+10 to the first provider of the correct answer)

That cover, and a couple of player ranking articles released recently have occasioned some comment in the Indians blogosphere. Here’s a look at the AL Central team’s showing in those rankings. Of course with the drafting of Brady Quinn by the Browns, there are a couple of dreamboats on the Cleveland sports scene. Depending on who you ask, there are plenty of good-looking ballplayers on the Indians alone.

Pitching for the Indians this series will be Paul Byrd, who hasn’t allowed more than four runs in his last five starts, Carsten Charles Sabathia, who lost his first decision of the season in the Oakland series, and Fausto Carmona, who has been the surprise of the Indians team so far this season. Carmona has gotten an extended look due to the abdomial injury to Jake Westbrook, and he has certainly made an impression. In fact, when Westbrook returns, the Tribe will have to decide which of their young starters to send back to AAA. The other candidate for demotion is Jeremy Sowers, who has struggled after a breakout season last year. Here’s some analysis of what’s going wrong this year. It seems like a classic case of a low strikeout pitcher whose batted balls aren’t finding gloves at the same rate.

The bullpen has been very much improved over last year, in fact, as of May 9, they were ranked in the top ten of baseball by Beyond the Box Score. Of course, they’re still trailing two other teams from the AL Central, including the Twins. Not everyone in the bullpen has found their way however, Jason Davis was recently designated for assignment and traded to Seattle for the infamous Player to be Named Later (that guy just can’t stay on one team!). This marks the end of the road for a pitcher whose upside never really materialized in Cleveland.

For a team that has been labeled as “up and coming” for a couple of years, it’s satisfying for their fans to finally see the team living up to those expectations (at least for a month and a half). They’ve faced some adversity from the beginning, from snowouts in April to the bizzare situation where the umpires put a run on the board two innings after it scored. Some think that adversity has worked to bring the clubhouse together. Others point to veteran leadership of the sometimes unsung heroes. Others point
to the
scuffle with the Blue Jays. Regardless of what caused it, you can’t say the Indians have had an unevenful beginning to the 2007 season.

Finally, I found several references to some terrible Indians commercials which are dominating the airwaves in Ohio. Here are some better ideas, many of which got a genuine chuckle out of me.

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