This Week on Wahoo’s on First: Scott Kazmir and Bullpen Chatter

Here are the highlights from Wahoo’s on First this week:

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Brian looked at how Scott Kazmir has turned the fifth starter competition into a coronation:

That brings us back to Kazmir. Not only has he put up the stats to warrant an Opening Day promotion to the parent club, but the way he is getting it done has been even more impressive. Scott Kazmir looks like the Scott Kazmir of old. He is regularly hitting the low 90′s with his fastball and, more importantly, hitters are swinging and missing. His control issues also seem to be a thing of the past. When you put it all together, Kazmir looks confident. He looks like a pitcher who has all but won the fifth and final spot in the rotation.

Evan argued that Lonnie Chisenhall could be poised for a breakout season:

There are several reasons that Chisenhall has what it takes to be an asset for the Indians. First, he raised his average .064 points in 14 days before his forearm was so rudely broken by a Troy Patton pitch on June 29 of last season, going 11-for-31 with four extra-base hits and six RBI while posting a 2:1 K:BB over 33 plate appearances. Was he on his way to breaking out then? Maybe he’ll be able to pick up where he left off.

Steve did some digging and found that Indians pitchers have substantially greater success at Progressive Field than on the road:

In fact, the Indians had far much more success at home than on the road in 2012. The Indians home ERA was a respectable 4.13, which ranked seventh in the American League, but the road was a nightmare—the staff was completely battered to the tune of an MLB-worst 5.52 ERA.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In this week’s Wroundtable, we debated who should make the Tribe’s 2013 bullpen:

Nick Houghtaling: The bullpen is obviously going to include Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano, and Joe Smith—three guys who have been staples of the Indians’ bullpen for the last few years. And based on the buzz around Spring Training, I would guess that Nick HagadoneMatt Albers, Cody Allen and Rich Hill will end up with the rest of the spots. Allen showed definite promise last season, and hopefully we’ll see some more development there. Hill will be a player to watch closely—he’s played sparingly in a reliever role, but has been relatively successful in that time.

Katrina profiled recent bullpen addition Cody Allen:

Allen began pitching for the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers in June 2011, and by mid-July 2012, he was throwing his first pitch off the mound at Progressive Field. He started off his major league career by pitching over 13 innings before giving up an earned run, and finished the year with an ERA+ of 106—not a bad start for someone who was the 698th overall pick the previous summer. Few players can boast such a speedy trip through the farm system, but the Indians had good reason to put Allen on the fast track.

Meanwhile, Steve argued that Cleveland should put Chris Perez on the disabled list to start the season:

Despite Perez’ desire to be with the team on Opening Day the organization should err on the side of caution and take advantage of the strength in numbers in the bullpen. Use the extra time to make certain that Perez’s shoulder injury is fully healed and protect Chris Perez from himself.  The Tribe has a lot invested in their closer and rushing him back to action could have serious consequences for the rest of the season.

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Jeff compared the 2013 Indians to the 2013 White Sox:

Comparing the offenses is easier. One could simply expect the projected starters to duplicate their 2012 stats; if that occurs the Indians have significant advantages at catcher, second base, and shortstop, and a big disadvantage in right field. The other positions are close enough to be considered tossups, although the inconsistency of both designated hitters, Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds, makes that position completely unpredictable. The ZiPS projections for 2013 paint a similar picture.

Nick looked at the impact of the Terry Francona culture on the clubhouse:

While baseball is won and lost on the field, Francona’s laid-back, winning attitude will pay dividends in the clubhouse. It is something that is tough to quantify in any useful manner, but the impact a manager like Francona has cannot be understated. He has proved an ability to bring this team together, as player testimony and videos like the Harlem Shake prove.

Geordy continued his Indians top prospects countdown with No. 9: Ronny Rodriguez:

If I told you that the Indians have a shortstop with 20/20 potential, you would get excited right? Then if I told you the Indians have a top prospect who could potentially hit .230/.290/.450 you would wonder how the hell that guy is a top prospect, right? That’s what I see in Rodriguez: An athletic shortstop who would be lucky to get an OBP over .300, but has the ability to hit 20 home runs and swipe 20 bases if given a full-time job.

And No. 8: LeVon Washington:

Washington has plenty of speed to spare, and he has the plate discipline to be the perfect leadoff man Cleveland had lacked for awhile before signing Michael Bourn. But he just keeps making me look bad again and again.

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Lewie continued his 2013 Player Profile series with Vinnie Pestano:

Key factor: Can he close? Chris Perez might not be back for Opening Day, in which case Pestano will get the chance to step into the closer’s role. If he succeeds, he could be there for a while—Perez is getting expensive as he goes through his arbitration years, and he could fetch a strong return from a contender in need of bullpen help at midseason. If the Indians were truly shopping Perez he’d presumably be gone already, but that doesn’t mean they won’t listen to offers in the coming months.

And Joe Smith:

Key factor: Batting average on balls in play. Sabermetric theory suggests that most of what happens once the batter makes non-home run contact is out of the pitcher’s control, but Joe Smith is one of the modern game’s biggest apparent exceptions to that rule. While the league average BABIP has hovered around .300, Smith’s hit rate has been below .275 five years in a row and below .260 three years in a row. That’s what happens when you get batters to beat the ball into the ground—but how much of that is really sustainable skill?

And Cody Allen:

Key factor: Controlling the walks. Like the inverse of Lonnie Chisenhall, Allen went from incredibly stingy with free passes in the minors to struggling to avoid them in the majors—he walked 15 batters in 29 MLB innings after giving up only 23 in 98 MiLB frames. It was a small sample size and even if he doesn’t improve with experience he still gets enough strikeouts to be an effective pitcher, but controlling the zone could be the difference between Allen being a solid middle-relief guy and a legitimate high-leverage setup man.

And Rich Hill:

Key factor: Health. Hill threw only 19.2 innings in 2012, and that low total was more than he pitched in the majors than he did in 2010 and 2011 combined. There are a number of unknowns that make forecasting Hill’s 2013 season difficult—his propensity to give up walks and his newfound strikeout stuff come to mind—but there’s simply nothing as important as whether or not Hill will be able to make it out to the field.

Topics: Cleveland Indians

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