Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians

My word is this team bad on the road. Just think if the Twins had an experience like the Yankees in Cleveland and got kicked out of their hotel.  Half the team probably wouldn’t even make it to the ballpark.  Gardy would have to send Justin, Jason, and the three Joes to rescue all the lost utility infielders.  At least we don’t have to worry about that for this series as the Indians come to Minnesota for three games. The Indians are at 22-31, 8 games behind Detroit, in last place in the AL Central. They are 10-17 on the road, only winning one road series all season (v. the Royals two weeks ago). The Twins are a different team at home, going 10-3 in their last four home series.

First off, blog entries concerning the Indians were few and far between recently. Apparently the city’s focus was on some basketball tournament. I’m not sure if the Cavaliers exit from the NBA playoffs is responsible for the general malaise evident on some sites, or I guess it could just be the default setting for Cleveland sports fans, watching teams go down in flames, just to see them burn, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is too excited by the team on the field (but Rick Vaughn bobblehead night will always bring a crowd).  That’s partly due to the fact that the guys who are supposed to be carrying this team aren’t on the field (the Indians disabled list is starting to read like Robot Santa’s naughty list).


Slowey v. D. Huff

Swarzak v. C. Lee

Baker v. F. Carmona

The starting rotation has been the cause of a lot of the problems for Cleveland.  Of the three starters the Twins will face, only Cliff Lee has pitched consistently well.  Injuries have been an issue for the starting staff as well, which is part of the reason that Huff and Carmona are still in the rotation despite a series of rough outings.  Cleveland has usually had a pretty good staff in recent years, but it seems like the plan to have young arms come in and pick up for the veterans that inevitably leave, hasn’t quite panned out the way it was supposed to.

Series Preview In Blog: Cleveland Indians

The Twins try to wash the taste of that Yankees series out of their mouth with a three game set in Cleveland this weekend. The Twins enter on a four game losing streak, 2.5 games back of the White Sox in the AL Central.

Sometimes I think the Twins feel a bit overmatched in Yankee stadium.
(from Daniel Dociu)

The Indians return to Cleveland after a 3-3 road trip to the west coast, they took 2 of 3 from Seattle and 1 of 3 from the Angels. It has been a long and frustrating year for the Tribe, but even with a 44-56 record and position at the bottom of the AL Central, some fans still can’t quite bring themselves to give up on the season. To give the impression that all Indians fans are holding out some wild hope of a second-half surge would be misleading, plenty of fans have turned their attention to more important things (keeping a close eye on the ketchup in the condiment race), or to dissecting what caused the 2007 division champs to fail so spectacularly (One theory: missing Hafner and Martinez didn’t help). However I found more than one post by people who hadn’t thrown in the towel just yet. The reason I point that out is this gem in the comments:

The Seven Stages of Indian Fandom

  1. Irrational Expectiations
  2. Discouragement
  3. Rationalization
  4. The Search for Meaning
  5. Adoration of the Unworthy
  6. Acceptance of Abject Failure
  7. Planning for the Future

Check it out for some shots directed at the Cleveland equivalent of the STrib commenter.

Livan v. Cliff Lee

Cliff Lee has been great this year, and is certainly in the running to be the second consecutive Cleveland pitcher to win the Cy Young award. The Twins are the only AL team to saddle Lee with a loss this season (the other blemish on his 13-2 record came against Cincinnati). He, along with Grady Sizemore, have been the bright spots for Indians fans this year. In addition to pitching very well, Lee has been a workhorse. He has only had one outing this season in which he threw less than 95 pitches.

Baker v. Fausto Carmona

Carmona comes off the DL in this one, making his first start since May 23. His return to form is certainly something Indians fans are hoping for and monitoring closely.

Blackburn v. Jeremy Sowers

Sowers has struggled this year. He picked up his first win of the season in his last time out, against the Mariners. In his 10 starts this year, he has averaged 5 innings pitched and has taken a lot of pitches to get through those innings (average of 91 pitches per start).

All of these pitchers will most likely be pitching to Kelly Shoppach who (in my personal opinion) is 0 for 2 on choosing a halfway decent song for his introductory music.

Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians (4/18-4/20)

I love the dingy lucky hat. (from Left of Center Photo)

The Indians come to town for a weekend series after trading blowouts with the Tigers over the last two days (an 11-1 win yesterday, and a 13-2 loss on Wednesday). The Tribe currently sit at 6-10, with a 2-4 record on the road. One might be tempted to blame Cleveland’s slow start on the fact that they were resting on their success of last year, when they nearly made the World Series, and maybe just didn’t want these early games as much as their opponent. Thankfully, Mistake by the Lake has run the numbers on “wanting it more” and found that baseball is the sport that actually shows the least correlation betwixt the team that wants it more, and the team that wins.

Continue reading

Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians (Round 4)

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Minnesota Twins (67-63) @ Cleveland Indians (72-57)

The Twins come off their four-game sweep of Baltimore heading into Cleveland to face the first-place Indians. The Indians just finished a 6-3 road trip, winning two of three from Tampa, Detroit, and Kansas City. Recently the Indians have struggled a bit at home, going 7-14 since the All-Star Break at Jacobs Field, losing six of their last eight. Still the Indians remain comfortably over .500 at home with a 38-26 mark. The Twins, with their six-game road winning streak, have approached the neighborhood of .500 again, with a 32-33 mark away from home. The real difference betwixt these two teams is in their success against their own division. The Indians boast a 31-20 mark, while the Twins are struggling with a 21-26 record against the AL Central. Those records pretty much represent the difference in the standings coming into this series.

The struggles of the Twins offense have been well documented and discussed. But, in reading some of the Indians blogs, I began to feel like they were stealing all of our complaints. Read this entry and you have to admit, if the word Cleveland Indians were replaced by Minnesota Twins and some names switched around, then it certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place on any Twins blog as recently as a couple of weeks ago. The Indians offense has also been struggling of late, and it has lead to a few members of the team taking some heat from the fans (Casey Blake has an OPS of .622 in August, his only sub-.700 month of this season). The offensive struggles have lead to some new blood in the lineup, and some of the youngsters have stepped up and contributed immediately. I understand the temptation to switch up the roster when it seems like your team is struggling to score runs, but Cleveland had better be careful or they might do something that they will regret (I know the entry is from almost a month ago, but I couldn’t resist). Manager Eric Wedge has let his frustration be known, threatening to shake up the lineup and bench those players that don’t produce. Some people think it’s a little late in the game for Wedge to start playing the fiery motivator role, and so are a little skeptical of these reports.

In the first game of the series Carlos Silva will pitch against Paul Byrd. The Twins will be facing Paul Byrd for the fourth time. Hopefully the fourth time is the charm, because Byrd is 3-0 against the Twins this year with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. Of course, the Indians have scored 29 runs in those three games, so it would help if the Twins limited the tribe’s offense a little more effectively. Silva is the exact opposite of Byrd, as he has gone 0-3 against Cleveland with an ERA of 5.00.

Boof Bonser will pitch against Jake Westbrook who has been hot of late. In his last five starts he has allowed only 6 earned runs in 36 innings for an ERA of 1.50. That is the lowest ERA of any starter in their 5 previous starts that the Twins have faced this season. This doesn’t bode well for the Twins offensively; five other times the opposing starting pitcher has had an ERA below 2.00 in their last five starts and the Twins have been shut out twice and only managed 4 runs in 35 innings while going 1-4.

Interesting (to me) Trivia note: Of the 17 opposing starters not to allow a run against the Twins, which one had the highest ERA over their previous five starts?

In the finale, Johan Santana will pitch against Carsten Charles Sabathia. Like Byrd, the Twins will be facing Sabathia for the fourth time. However, they have managed to take one of the previous three games against C. C. who has posted a 1.66 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP to go with his 2-1 record against the Twins. This will be the fifth time Santana has pitched against the Tribe, he has posted a 3.67 ERA in his four starts but doesn’t have any wins to show for it. Meanwhile Cleveland has handed Johan 3 of his 9 losses this season.

I don’t know what it is about the AL Central, but with Palehose 7’s documenting the White Sox search for pie, and the Indians apparent exuberance for pie, you have to wonder at what point the Twins will start having clubhouse bake-offs (my money is on Punto, the man apparently makes a mean slushee, and it’s only a small step from there).

Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians (Round 3)

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Minnesota Twins (51-50) @ Cleveland Indians (59-43)

The Twins look to notch their first win this season against Cleveland in a three game weekend series on the road. If they don’t get that elusive win this season, it doesn’t matter too much. First of all, the Twins have essentially played themselves
out of the playoff picture, going 2-7 over their last three series including sweeps at the hands of Detroit and Toronto. Secondly, they will get plenty more chances against this Indians team. In fact, their next 14 games, and 26 of their next 45, (58%) are evenly split against Cleveland and Kansas City. So get used to these guys, because we’re going to see a lot of them. The Indians have been playing .500 since the break, losing 3 of 4 in their most recent series against Boston to start their current homestand. They remain in second place in the AL Central, 1.5 games back of Detroit. They have been very good at home, only the Angels and Brewers have fewer home losses than the Indians 35-18 record. The Twins, meanwhile, need a weekend sweep to get back to .500 on the road from their current 23-26 mark.

If you happen to be reading this in Cleveland, and are planning on going to the games, you need to read these first. Mistake by the Lake has all the info you could want on the parking and concessions at Jacobs Field. I love the scatterplot breakdown of parking price versus walking distance. If you’re looking for something to do after the game, if you can somehow make your way into the clubhouse, you could participate in a baseball video game tournament. Alternatively, you could befriend Grady Sizemore and tag along on his trips to Las Vegas. If you’re more laid back than that, you could just ask Sizemore where to find the local whiffle ball games. The commercials here aren’t quite awkward enough to be uproariously funny, but I did enjoy the argument about ghost runners.

The Indians have been very proactive this season in signing their big-name free agents before they hit the open market. Manager Eric Wedge and designated hitter Travis Hafner are the most recent to sign extensions. After signing his extension, Wedge went right out and gave an exciting preview of what to expect in years to come. With Hafner in place, here’s a look at what the Indians of the future will look like. Actually, they look an awful lot like the Indians of right now. Knowing that Democrats are much more likely to favor the designated hitter rule, wouldn’t it have made more sense for Hafner to sign in a blue state (preferably one that doesn’t have an AL Central team)? On the flip side of the coin, could there be the possibility that Twins fans, soured on the DH concept by the likes of Jason Tyner and Garrett Jones, will exhibit a swing to the conservative side of the political spectrum?

While we’re on a political note, I found it interesting that the Indians developmental academy in the Dominican Republic has began to require that its prospects attend a secondary education program and pursue high school degrees. Even more interesting is that Cleveland is one of the first organizations to do so.

From the future of the Indians to the past, here are a couple of stories. One concerns the career of Larry Doby, the first African American player in the American League. The other is a real interesting story about former Indians oufielder Dave Gallagher’s debut playing behind his idol Steve Carlton.

Lastly, with the Twins falling out of the race, if they don’t turn things around this weekend, I may find myself joining the fan-club with the most ingenious nickname I’ve heard in a while. That’s right, I may become one of R-Gark’s Aardvarks.

Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians (Round 2)

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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.

Series Preview in Blog: Cleveland Indians

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 (11-7) v. Cleveland Indians (8-7)

The Twins return home after a 4-2 road trip to Seattle and Kansas City. The Indians are finishing a road trip that began with a sweep by the Yankees in New York as A-Rod had 3 HR and 8 RBI (that guy’s just on fire). This weekend, Cleveland rebounded by winning two out of three from the Devil Rays in Tampa. The Indians are 4-5 on the road thus far this year, the Twins are 6-4 at home.

At the somewhat pessimistically titled blog God Hates Cleveland Sports, A-Rod’s walkoff homerun (which capped a six-run ninth inning) on Thursday inspired a list of the most devastating losses for the Indians since Jacobs Field opened in 1994. Twins fans will be happy to note that #3 is the infamous Corey Koskie “chair game”.

On to the Tribe:

Indians fans provide my absolute favorite Ozzie Guillen image ever

Twins fans often debate what kind of fan reaction former Twins should get on their return to the Metrodome (see: Piersynski, A. J. and Mientkiewicz, Doug). In that same vein, when the Indians hosted the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen took issue with fans booing Jim Thome. Here’s an explanation of why one guy did it, and here’s the back story on how Thome ended up out of Cleveland.

There were also some rumblings about Cleveland’s participation in the Civil Rights Game as their mascot is seen by some to be a racist caricature. On the other side of the race issue, the Indians are looking into honoring Larry Doby in a similar fashion to the tribute to Jackie Robinson earlier this month.

The Twins will face Jeremy Sowers and Fausto Carmona, both have had one rough start this year, Sowers against the Yankees last week, but he has had two other good starts. Carmona struggled against the White Sox in the first week of the season, but handled the Yankees, allowing 2 runs in 6 innings. The rest of the rotation consists of Carsten Charles Sabathia, Paul Byrd, and Jake Westbrook.

Westbrook recently signed a three year extension worth $33 million. Coming into spring training, fans were thinking extensions for Westbrook, Hafner, and Sabathia, but it looks like negotiations have stopped for the latter two for the remainder of this season. The analysis of Westbrook’s contract, however, is just beginning. Some people like the move, while some think that this bodes ill for Sabathia staying in Cleveland. There is also a review of a Wall Street Journal article, which holds up the contract as an example of the Cleveland front office’s business strategy (wins = $$$$). While this contract may or may not be money well spent, the Indians seem to be rolling in dough, since they’re giving money away (literally).

The bullpen was the glaring weakness last year, and it has been made over this year with new faces Joe Borowski (closer), Aaron Fultz (lefty), and Roberto Hernandez. Despite these changes, some remain unconvinced. The remainder of the bullpen consists of Tom Mastny, Jason Davis, Rafael Betancourt, and Fernando Cabrera. The bullpen has allowed 20 runs in 45 innings thus far this year. No word on whether Charlie Sheen has been contacted to reprise this role.

Six of those runs came in one inning against the Yankees, when Borowski entered with a 6-2 lead in the ninth and finished with a walk-off homerun by Alex Rodriguez. Needless to say, this was a hard loss to take. Lest you think that the blame rests solely on Borowski, there was plenty to go around. (By including this link I am trying to further the rumor started within that Mark Shapiro kidnapped a platypus)

On offense, the Indians still have Travis Hafner as their DH, I doubt the Twins will employ the same shift as the Devil Rays against Hafner, but it’s something to consider. Grady Sizemore (the bio here is lots of fun), David Delucci, Trot Nixon, and Jason Michaels make up the outfield. The infield of Casey Blake, Josh Barfield, Jhonny Peralta, and Andy Marte has struggled thus far (BA ranges from .156 to .213), Ryan Garko has been decent at first base, as has Victor Martinez. The offensive struggles of those players have led to Indians fans to express their frustration in haiku.

Finally, it happened a while ago, but the big story of the early part of the season was the Indians being snowed out of Cleveland, having one series cancelled (with the Mariners), and another moved to Milwaukee (against the Angels).

The Indians succumb to an April blizzard

By all accounts, the fans in Milwaukee were very gracious hosts. Here are a couple of entries about the experience, one from some Indians fans, and one from a neutral observer.