Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here are this week’s Indians highlights:
The front office has to stay on the move, maximizing potential and selling high. And in keeping Cabrera this long they might have already missed that chance on a guy who wasn’t even all that heralded out of the minors for much besides his glove. The best time to trade him would have been after the 2011 season: His stock was through the roof after he’d hit 25 homers with a .792 OPS. His on-base numbers have been fading a bit, from a .361 peak in 2009 down to .338 last season, but that’s more than average and he’s had an OPS+ over 110 every year save 2010 when he broke his arm.
Lewie recapped some Indians-related highlights from last week’s SABR Analytics Conference:
Cleveland Vice President of Marketing & Brand Management Alex King gave a fascinating presentation Friday morning (along with Damon Ragusa from ThinkVine) about how the organization has completely revamped its approach to promotional schedule and targeted advertising. Using a more complex “agent-based model” (rather than traditional econometric regression) the Indians feel they have a much better handle on how best to spend their marketing resources. The number that shocked me: the team recouped about a 5 percent return on investment from money spent on promotions in 2012, but the Tribe expects a whopping 75 percent ROI from giveaways in 2013.
Jeff isn’t so sure that the Indians should move Nick Swisher to first base:
Another reason to make Swisher the DH has to do with roster management. If Swisher is the DH, he could also be the fourth outfielder. Since all three outfielders are versatile, Swisher could play outfield once or twice a week and Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, or Drew Stubbs could slide to DH for a semi-off day. Given the platoon differentials of Brantley and Stubbs, a fourth outfielder stands to get significant playing time, and the switch-hitting Swisher would be ideal in that situation, with any of a number of players filling in at DH.
In this week’s Wroundtable, we debated whether or not the Indians should open the season with a 13-man pitching staff:
Jeff Mount: I can’t envision any circumstance where a thirteenth pitcher is worth having. The reality is that you are choosing between an eighth reliever and a fourth bench player. If Aviles and Marson are guaranteed roster spots and you go with eight relievers, then only one guy from Giambi, Raburn and Ezequiel Carrera will make the team. I would rather have any of those guys than an extra pitcher.
Evan is impressed with what he’s seen from Cleveland’s pitching this spring:
While you can argue that spring statistics aren’t a good indicator of success, the hitters are hitting well and showing great discipline and the pitchers are hitting their targets and pitching well. If they break camp doing the same thing, there is reason for hope over the entire season, even if that hope is founded upon statistics that some consider useless and unreliable.
Jeff offered some thoughts on how the Tribe’s batting order should look this year:
I have always had certain theories about batting orders, which have probably come from the teams I have watched. None of these theories would stand up to deep analysis, but they seem to have worked, and there were reasons behind them that make sense.
However, from watching the games the Dominican Republic has played, I can’t help but feel that Carlos Santana is gaining more from the camaraderie with his fellow countrymen than from his actual reps on the field. He’s having fun and legitimately enjoying himself and the game. Anyone who has watched him slump over the past two seasons and squeeze every bit of sawdust out of the handle of his bat could see that Santana just wasn’t having fun. This environment, surrounded by players like Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes, and Fernando Rodney, might just be what Carlos Santana needs to finally relax and let the game come to him rather than trying to make something happen with every at bat.
Steve looked at how the Indians will use smarter baserunning to their advantage in 2013:
The Indians will use speed and more aggressive baserunning to try and manufacture more runs but at the same time they will also focus on cutting down on some of the absent minded baserunning gaffes that short-circuit rallies and cost the team victories. Not only did the Tribe pick up speedy baserunners in Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs they also added smart baserunners like Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn to the mix—so look for them to be hustling on the basepaths this year.
Jeff wondered how baseball fans should come to terms with the realities of the steroid era:
Steroids have made all of those judgments suspect. There will never be another “top 100” list that comes without questions or asterisks. Do we take the statistics of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Alex Rodriguez at face value and rank them accordingly, or do we ignore them altogether?
Lewie continued his 2013 Player Preview series with Mike Aviles:
Key factor: Defense. Despite his reputation as a strong fielder, Aviles’ track record in the field is far from solid. FRAA saw him as merely an average defender in 2012; UZR and DRS were far more optimistic, but this followed three straight years of negative ratings. It’s possible that he’s simply more comfortable at shortstop than at second or third base, but that wouldn’t bode well for a utility infielder. What Aviles’ true defensive talent really is will be the difference between his being a true asset off the bench or just a run-of-the-mill replacement.
Key factor: Ability to face left-handed hitters. Like virtually every pitcher, Masterson has an easier time facing same-handed hitters, and after making some substantial strides in that regard in 2011 he regressed in a big way in 2012. Southpaw hitters hammered Masterson to the tune of an .826 OPS against; relatedly, he walked more than one out of every 10 lefties he faced. He’s never going to look like an ace against left-handed hitters, but his 2013 season will ride on whether he can learn to get them out at all.
What to expect: The basic principle of regression to the mean suggests Jimenez wasn’t really as bad as he looked last year, and that Callaway seems to have some specific ideas of what his pupil should work on is somewhat encouraging. Look for another year of close to 200 innings with an ERA in the high-4.00′s—a serviceable performance for a back-end starter, but a supreme disappointment to a team that was counting on him as their No. 2 man.
Key factor: Strikeouts. A decline in strike threes has been characteristic of the last few years of Myers’ career, but seeing his K/9 rate drop into the fives is troubling for a pitcher on the wrong side of 30. Especially troubling is that moving to relief is supposed to have the exact opposite effect on pitchers (that’s why I’ve suggested moving Ubaldo Jimenez to the bullpen)—if he can’t get strikeouts when he comes into the game for one inning at a time, how will he be able to do it when he has to pace himself for seven?
Key factor: Keeping cool. I didn’t know where to look this up so I ran the numbers myself, and it turns out Zach McAllister led all of baseball with 19 unearned runs in 2012 despite his taking a full half-season to earn a one-way trip to The Show. It’s an interesting bit of trivia, but it also fits in quite well with what most Clevelanders have probably observed about McAllister: when he’s on he’s on, but once something goes wrong he has trouble limiting the damage. Every pitcher deals with that to some extent, but him moreso than most.
Finally, Merritt offered a list of 10 irrational reasons why the Indians will win the pennant:
To celebrate that which cannot be foretold, I’ve put together this definitely non-definitive list of irrational reasons why the Indians are going to win the pennant this year. I picked the pennant rather than just reaching the playoffs or winning the World Series because it’s ambiguous yet descriptive, and a great way to describe your accomplishments. Plus it sounds neat. And shoot, even Wild Carders can win a pennant. Besides, in a list like this, who needs a reason?