Looking At MVP Candidacy Of Ramirez, Lindor.

The Indians and Red Sox are playing a four game series in Fenway Park this week, which is a matchup of two teams who will be playing in October.

However, a secondary battle will be going on, with four big time candidates for the American League MVP on the field, Boston’s Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, and the Indians’ Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.

The quartet are all in the league leaders in WAR, as well as ranking high in all of the traditional statistics too.  Betts currently leads in WAR at 8.3, with Ramirez 3rd, Lindor 4th, and Martinez 8th.

In terms of offensive WAR, Ramirez is 2nd, Betts 3rd, Martinez 4th, and Lindor 6th.  Betts is regarded as the best defensive rightfielder in the sport, but Lindor actually has a higher defensive WAR because he plays a more important defensive position.

In runs created, the four rank in the top five in the AL.

We aren’t going to comment on the two Boston players candidacy, but needless to say, both are great players and would be worthy winners of the MVP.  But we think the two Indians have a better case, and here’s why.

The Tribe is third in the American League in runs scored despite no one besides Ramirez and Lindor having an OPS over 850 among players with over 100 at bats.  Michael Brantley, having a solid season, is third in this statistic at 823 currently.

By contrast, two other Red Sox are over that figure–Xander Bogaerts at 875 and Andrew Benintendi at 877.  Boston leads the AL in runs scored, and you can see why with four outstanding hitters in their lineup every day.

We have been saying this all season long, but the Cleveland attack is very often dependent on the two players manning the left side of their infield.

Really, who else is contributing on an every day basis offensively?

Edwin Encarnacion has dropped off from a year ago, his batting average down almost 30 points, his on base percentage down 60 points.  Over the last month, we have seen opposing teams pitching around Ramirez in key situations to get to the veteran slugger.

Yonder Alonso has done well in maintaining the power spike he had a year ago, already setting a career high in RBIs with 70, but he hasn’t had as good a season as Carlos Santana had with Cleveland a year ago.

Yan Gomes has slumped after the All Star break, so Terry Francona isn’t really getting good hitting out of centerfield, catcher, rightfield, and second base.  That’s almost half of the batting order.

Yet, the Tribe is scoring more runs than anyone in the Junior Circuit save for Boston and New York.  That’s how valuable the duo of Ramirez and Lindor have been.

And it hasn’t been just this season either.  Ramirez, of course, finished third in the voting a year ago, and Lindor has finished in the top ten the past two seasons, 9th in 2016 and 5th last season.

We also have to remind everyone again, that Ramirez won’t turn 26 years old until next month, and Lindor won’t be 25 until November.  They are still getting better folks.

Right now, Betts has the WAR lead, and that goes a big way in determining the MVP, and we understand that.  But if the word “valuable” is considered, keep in mind that the Indians’ offense is being carried by the duo of Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.

That’s our case for both of them.

MW

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What Have We Learned About Browns Thus Far?

The Cleveland Browns have played two exhibition games, this means the “dress rehearsal”, which is what the third practice game has been called will take place Thursday night, against the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Unfortunately, that’s really no longer the case, the starters usually only play maybe a half of the penultimate exhibition game any more.

What have we learned, if anything, about this year’s edition of the brown and orange.

The Browns have professional play at quarterback.  Compared to last year’s forcing of rookie DeShone Kizer, who made a ridiculous amount of mistakes, with a pair of second year passers in Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler as his backups, having Tyrod Taylor, Drew Stanton, and rookie Baker Mayfield as QB’s is a monster upgrade.

We understand and support the decision to start Taylor.  After all, when you are 1-31 over the last two seasons, there is no reason watch a rookie go through growing pains in regular season games.

That said, it would be nice to see Mayfield get some time with the starters, against the Eagles’ first team defense.  That’s the next step in seeing how the first overall pick has developed thus far.

We have also learned that Todd Haley won’t abandon the running game.  Last season, Hue Jackson would tell everyone every week that he wanted to run the ball, and when they feel behind in the first half!, he would start throwing the ball on virtually every play.

Haley came out Friday night running and Carlos Hyde gashed the Buffalo defense.  However, what we more telling was staying with the run in the opener even though it wasn’t really successful.  That was a good thing to see.

Remember, the Browns are still missing starting guard Kevin Zeitler, who hopes to be ready for the Steelers in week one.

Defensively, the Browns’ first unit looks to be the real deal, and if that’s true, it is amazing how having solid play at cornerback makes a defense look a heck of a lot better.

We have always believed you should learn from history, and the Browns’ best stretch in the last 35 years was fueled by having Hanford Dixon and Frank Minniefield at the corners.

This isn’t to say Denzel Ward and Terrance Mitchell are the caliber of the leaders of the “Dawg Pound”, but it makes stopping the run easier and it will make Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah better pass rushers.

GM John Dorsey must believe cornerbacks are similar to pitchers in baseball, when you think you have enough, you go out and get some more.  We agree.  In today’s NFL, slowing down the passing game is paramount.  That’s why pass rushers and corners are at a premium.

The one problem we still see is depth, which is understandable for a young football team.  We see a tremendous upgrade in talent on the first unit, both because of Dorsey’s acquisitions and the development of the draft picks from the previous two drafts.

However, there seems to be a big drop off when the subs play.  Again, that’s natural, the Browns are still building, but it does mean we will probably see a lot of roster changes when the teams around the NFL cut down to the 53 man limit.

 

 

 

Tribe Still Needs To Help OF, Bullpen Before September.

It has long been said that the Major League Baseball season is a marathon not a sprint, and certainly playing 162 games over a six month period is not an easy task.

(FYI, if the schedule would be shortened in the future, the only acceptable length to us would be 154 games)

Over that length of time, there certainly is a physical toll on the players, and the Cleveland Indians have been reminded of this over the past two weeks.

First, DH Edwin Encarnacion went on the disabled list with a left bicep issue which may or may not have resulted from changing his swing after he was hit on the hand by a pitch during the last game before the All Star break on July 15th.

Then, the Tribe’s best pitcher this season, Trevor Bauer, was hit on the ankle by a line drive Saturday night, and has a small stress fracture, an injury that will put him on the shelf for awhile.

So, with the August 31st waiver deal deadline coming up, we were wondering what Chris Antonetti can do to put the finishing touches on the Indians’ roster before the end of the month.

Offensively, because of Leonys Martin’s unfortunately health issue, the Tribe could still use another bat and/or glove in the outfield.  Greg Allen has done okay since recalled to take Martin’s spot, but he still should be in AAA learning.

His platoon partner in CF, Rajai Davis is better once he’s on base than getting on base, with a .294 on base percentage and 604 OPS.  His OPS vs. lefties, against whom he gets the bulk of his playing time, is just 544.  Not exactly what you would call a platoon advantage.

In rightfield, Brandon Guyer has started hitting southpaws like he did when he came to Cleveland in 2016, but his partner, Melky Cabrera, has become a singles hitter who plays poor defense.  If Terry Francona has the lead after the 6th inning, Guyer goes in for defense.

Certainly, Lonnie Chisenhall’s return would help, but that seems unlikely at this point.

Remember, that the front office picked Coco Crisp and Jay Bruce in the past two seasons in August, and both made an impact down the stretch for the Tribe.

The other area we would like to see an addition is in the bullpen because you can never have enough good relief arms in the post-season.

Right now, with the game on the line, Terry Francona feels very confident in Brad Hand.  Andrew Miller still isn’t the Miller we came to know in 2016 and early ’17, but that may be a matter of building up arm strength.

Cody Allen is still having control problems, not walking people as much as falling behind hitters, and gives up too many home runs for our taste.

Oliver Perez has been very good in his loogy role, but it doesn’t seem like Francona has figured a role yet for Adam Cimber.

Neil Ramirez helped when the relief corps was really scuffling, but lately has had issues keeping the ball in the park.  And Dan Otero can get a key ground ball, but this year has given up a lot of hits, and more homers than usual.

Getting another reliable arm would seem to limit the use of the latter two pitchers in high leverage situations.

The recent past says the front office will do something to bolster the roster heading down the stretch.  Just exactly what will they do?

MW

In Pro Sports, Consistency Is The Key

In the social media era, opinions on players and teams can change on a daily basis, particularly in baseball and basketball, where games are held often, in baseball, pretty much every day for six months.

So, when a much maligned player has a good game, his supporters are very proud to point that out.  Really, the opposite doesn’t happen much, because guys like LeBron James, Francisco Lindor, or Jose Ramirez are universally regarded as among the best players in their sport.

In professional sports though, consistency is the best talent you can bring to the table.

Think about it, if you are talking about a professional athlete, they have enough ability to get to the highest level of the sports in which they play.  This means they are very capable of getting four hits in a baseball game, scoring 20 points in an NBA game, or catching eight passes in an NFL contest.

The problem is what happens the next night.

Back when Danny Ferry played for the Cavaliers, let’s just say we weren’t a fan.  We discovered early he was a “tweener”, too small to play power forward, and not quick enough to play small forward.  In spite of this, he became something of a crowd favorite.

A Ferry fan asked us why we were critical of the player the Cavs gave up Ron Harper AND two first round draft picks for (the worst trade in NBA history in our opinion).  Our explanation was simply this–we would give the fan $5 every time Ferry played a good game, and he would do the same if he played a poor game.

Naturally, the fan turned down our request.  Point made.

The sports landscape is filled with outstanding performances by average or below average players.  This past NBA season, Trey Burke scored 42 for the Knicks, and Alan Crabbe had 41 for the Nets.

Burke averaged 12.8 points per game, and Crabbe 13.2 this season.

Look at the Browns.  How many wide receivers have flashed by having a good game here or there?  Then, defenses pay more attention, and they can’t get open any more.

Remember a Tigers’ hitter named Chris Shelton?  He ended April 2006 with a .326 batting average, 10 home runs and 20 runs batted in.  He did have a decent 2005 season too.

The rest of that season, he hit six homers and knocked in 27.  The following year, he was back in the minors, and played just 50 more games in the big leagues afterwards.

That’s why you need to see sustained success before you should be excited.  Take a guy like Jason Kipnis.

First of all, we don’t root against him.  We would love it if he got hot and started to hit like he did in 2016.  He got off to a horrible start in 2018.  However, over the last 14 days, he’s hitting .243.

The last 28 days?  If you said .243, you’d be correct.

He’s had one full month (June) where he hit above .237, although he is hitting well to start August.  But, you have to maintain consistency.

These guys are professional athletes, and you don’t become that without talent.  There is an old adage that it is tougher to stay in the big leagues than it is to get there.

When you are consistent, the coach or manager can rely on you.  That’s why sometimes Terry Francona gives veterans who have performed for him the benefit of the doubt.  They’ve earned it.  (There is still a fine line between patience and stubbornness).

It’s what every professional athlete strives for.  In the case of Lindor and Ramirez, it is consistent excellence.  For others, it’s being a guy who can be trusted.

MW

 

 

 

Tribe Needs Encarnacion, Alonso To Be Productive In October

We have been talking about the Cleveland Indians’ offense for over a month now and how strange it is that the Tribe ranks 3rd in the AL in runs scored per game with really only three players having above average seasons.

We will point out again that Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are having arguably two of the five best hitting seasons in baseball, because if they weren’t, the Cleveland offense would be in big trouble.

Can they win in the post-season with only three players carrying the load at the plate?

Terry Francona’s squad ranks 4th in the American League in on base percentage, despite having only those three hitters above the league average in that category (.317).

Yes, Erik Gonzalez and Lonnie Chisenhall are higher, but they have limited plate appearances.  Edwin Encarnacion sits right at the league average, while Yonder Alonso is just below at .314.

Alonso has an OBP of .365 in 2017, and his career mark is .336, so he is well below both of those marks.  Encarnacion was at .377 last season, his highest mark since 2012, mostly because he reached a career high with 102 walks.

This season, his walk rate is down, and so is his batting average, down to .229 currently after hitting .258 a walk ago.

Here are the other on base percentages for the players who get the most playing time for the Tribe:

Yan Gomes                 .300
Jason Kipnis               .307
Brandon Guyer         .284
Rajai Davis                 .296
Greg Allen                  .264
Roberto Perez           .247

The Cleveland attack is inconsistent because of it.

Among the teams with the highest run scoring totals in the AL, it was surprising to see the Indians ranking only behind Boston and New York in terms of number of games scoring three runs or less.  The Tribe has done this 43 times, compared to 30 for the Yankees and 34 for the Red Sox.

By contrast, Houston has scored less than four runs 47 times, Texas 50 times, and Oakland 51 times.

The Indians do rank behind only Boston in number of games with 10 or more runs, having done that 14 times (Red Sox 17).

The concern for us is how this will work in the playoffs.  The other teams are going to go out of their way to not allow Lindor or Ramirez to beat them, so it is important that someone, anyone, steps up.

It won’t be unusual to see managers pass Lindor to get to Brantley, and/or skip Ramirez to get to Encarnacion.  Really, who else is going to hurt them the way the lineup is currently constructed.

The point is someone else has to step up or the front office is going to have to get another bat.

Leonys Martin looked like he could help vs. right-handed pitching, but he looks like he may be out of the lineup for awhile with a non-baseball related issue.

Will Chisenhall be able to get back in the lineup, and even if he does, can he stay healthy for the post-season?

We would say at this point, neither Martin nor Chisenhall will be useful come playoff time.

So, can the offense be more consistent and efficient unless changes are made?  We’d say the most likely scenarios would be Encarnacion or Alonso getting better because they were better a year ago.

Gomes is who he is, and Kipnis hasn’t been good at the plate since the World Series in 2016.  That’s a long slump.

Until then, we are officially worried about the hitting come playoff time.  That’s the problem relying on two players, no matter how good they are.

MW

 

Don’t Forget, Dorsey Is Human

Tonight, the newest edition of the Cleveland Browns take the field in an exhibition game (we refuse to call them pre-season) against the New York Giants.

We really aren’t going to pay attention to the final score (it doesn’t matter) or get overly enthusiastic about the performance of players because we don’t know how the two head coaches are playing the game.

That is to say, are they playing a vanilla defense (probably), how much will the starters play (not much), and are they forcing things for different players, mostly guys on the bubble, to see how they handle it?

Remember, the Cleveland Browns, 0-16 in the regular season in 2017, went 4-0 in exhibition games.

If that’s not Exhibit A in making the argument that these games don’t matter, then nothing is.

However, the Browns were in the news this past week, because of the debut of Hard Knocks on HBO, and because their wide receiving position came under scrutiny.

GM John Dorsey traded former first round pick WR Corey Coleman to Buffalo for a 7th round pick in 2019.  We don’t understand this move at all, but our reaction to the media’s coverage was interesting.

Why not keep Coleman around during the exhibition season to see what he can do?  Coleman battled injury issues in both of his seasons with the Browns, playing in just 19 of 32 games, catching 56 passes with five touchdowns.

Did he deserve his draft status?  No, but to be fair, he’s been injured.  We agree that availability is an ability, but it’s also not as though the Browns’ wide receiver room has a plethora of talented wide outs.

We don’t know what Coleman is like in the locker room, and for all we know, he’s a giant pain, which may be the reason he was moved early in training camp.  But the fact that not many reporters really took task with the GM about the trade shows the sheep mentality of the people who cover the Browns.

We get the feeling that Dorsey could deal Myles Garrett for a fourth round pick and he would get support.

This isn’t an indictment on Dorsey, even though we didn’t like the move.  However, Dorsey will make mistakes, and it is alright for the media to disagree with him.

Remember, many of them clamored for a “football guy”, and they got him.  We guess that means they have to follow in lock step.

The GM’s gamble to draft WR Antonio Callaway may also be coming back to haunt.  Callaway had a boatload of issues in his career at Florida, and had a diluted urine test at the NFL Combine.

No doubt he has a load of talent, but is he worth the potential headaches he might provide.  The first headache is already here and we haven’t even played the first practice game.

Perhaps this will be the last time Callaway ever has a problem.  However, it’s not a good look for a new GM trying to change the culture in Berea.  The Browns have had a bunch of craziness at the wide receiver spot over the last several years.  Jarvis Landry can change all that, Callaway continues the problem.

No matter, Baker Mayfield will probably play well tonight, and we can start the fans and media alike clamoring for him to play right away.

Don’t get hooked.  The best thing for the first overall pick is to watch and learn.  Somehow, we think logic won’t get in the way for the people who watch.

JD

 

Cavs Focusing On Youth and Athleticism

The rebuild of the Cleveland Cavaliers continued in the past week with the acquisition of two more young players.  And they also continue to add wing players, which should make for great competition during training camp.

Last week, they signed David Nwaba, who played for the Chicago Bulls a year ago, as a free agent.

Nwaba is 6’4″ and will start the season at 25 years old.  He averaged 7.9 points per game playing 23.5 minutes a night, including 21 starts.  He also gathered almost five rebounds per game, and was one of the Bulls’ better defenders.

On Sunday, GM Koby Altman traded a trade exemption to the Los Angeles Clippers for former first round draft pick Sam Dekker, who is 6’9″ and just 24 years old.

Dekker, who played the first two years of his career in Houston, saw a loss of playing time with LA, dropping from 18 minutes per game with the Rockets, to just 12 with the Clips.

His three point percentage also dropped from 32% in 2016-17, to just 16% last season.

He is certainly worth a gamble, especially because the Cavs gave up nothing to take a look at him.

These pick ups are just an example of the wine and gold collecting a bunch of young players and hoping at least a few of them will become the core of the next playoff team in Cleveland.

They have surrounded Kevin Love with a bunch of athletic players in their mid-twenties. In addition to Nwaba and Dekker, you also have rookie first round pick Collin Sexton (19), Larry Nance Jr (25), Cedi Osman (23), Ante Zizic (21), Rodney Hood (26 at the start of the season), and Jordan Clarkson (26).

And don’t forget another rookie in Billy Preston (21 shortly after the season starts).

Coach Tyronn Lue has always talked about playing faster, but the Cavaliers ranked 12th in pace this past season and they were 15th the previous season.  When your roster is headed by a superstar in his early 30’s, and he is surrounded by veterans, it is tough to play fast.

That will no longer be a factor in this season.  Our guess is that this season’s edition of the Cavs will feature pushing the ball at all times, looking for easy baskets.

It will be a season of learning and judgment for the coach and GM, trying to figure out who has a future with the Cavs and who won’t be able to fit in with Lue and Altman’s vision.

Make no mistake, there are more roster moves coming.  There are rumors that Altman is shopping two more veterans.  Kyle Korver, still a threat from long distance, but now 37 years old, is rumored to be heading to Philadelphia, and JR Smith, who will turned 33 years old next month, has been talked about in a deal with Houston.

We also would not be surprised if Tristan Thompson is elsewhere when the season opens in mid October, but only if another big man comes in return.

Don’t forget, they have Love, Frye, Nance, and Preston who can play the four, and we are sure they want to get Zizic more time at the five.

On the other hand, they may pair Thompson with Love/Frye, and team up Zizic with Nance.  Our guess is Preston plays a lot in Canton.

If nothing else, this year’s Cavs will be interesting to watch at the start of the season.  The question is, will they win enough early on to stay interesting.

JK

The OPS Debate

Right before the Major League Baseball trade deadline, the was a lot of talk about the relative value of players, and of course, statistics were brought up.

At this point, we would like to point out that we regularly purchased and read Bill James’ Baseball Abstract and found it fascinating, a different way of looking at the game and the players on the field.

So, we understand many of the sport’s new statistics, like OPS, and we usually list a player’s OPS when discussing his offensive prowess.  We also look at WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in terms of a player’s profile, but our opinion is it is biased toward middle of the diamond players, Jose Ramirez’ current season notwithstanding.

By the way, that’s our opinion, so save the anger.  But when Matt Chapman, third baseman from Oakland (we know not a middle infielder) measures to have the fifth highest WAR this season, it raises an eyebrow.

This isn’t to say Chapman isn’t a good player.  He has an 830 OPS and is a great defensive player.  He isn’t the 5th best player in the sport this season, and for that matter, Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain isn’t 6th either.

Let’s get back to OPS though.  James’ original premise was a batter who had an on base percentage of over .350 and a slugging percentage over .450, therefore displaying an ability to get on base and drive the ball, is a very good offensive player.

Today, there seems to be a group of people who value players who have high OPS due to dominance in the slugging area, leading to players who have low batting averages/on base percentages getting a lot of playing time.

The players who has the highest OPS with out being over the .350/.450 threshold in each category are as follows:

Javier Baez               914 OPS (.333 OBP/581 slugging)
Khris Davis              863 OPS  (.326/.536)
Gregory Polanco     862 OPS  (.344/.517)
Xander Bogaerts     855 OPS  (.342/.513)
Joey Votto                 852 OPS  (.425/.427)

Out of those players, which one would you like to have?

For us, it would be Votto, who by the way, also has the most distinguished career out of the group, although to be fair, he’s also the guy who has been around the longest.

One thing we would like to point out about the on base percentage and slugging percentage.

A player with a 1.000 on base percentage never makes an out, while a player with a 1.000 slugging percentage can arrive at that figure by going 1 for 4 with a home run.

And we would also add is making outs is the only way “time” is measured in a baseball game.  A team only gets 27 of them, and players who make them frequently shouldn’t be as valuable.

Look at the strikeout to walk ratios of the first four players–

Baez             101 K/17 walks
Davis            116 K/38 walks
Polanco          91 K/48 walks
Bogaerts        72 K/31 walks

In watching these guys hit, our feeling in watching them against the Indians is that in a tight situation, you can strike Baez and Davis out.  They swing at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone, and if we can see that, we are sure major league pitchers know it too.

We noticed in this summer’s amateur draft, the Indians went for players with good contact rates, that is to say, they didn’t strike out much.

This could be due to the success of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, players who are good hitter, and can develop power later.

A look at the bottom ten teams in MLB in on base percentage shows nine teams not in the post season picture (Arizona is the lone contender).  As for slugging percentage, there are three teams above .500 (Giants, Phillies, and Rays) in the bottom ten.

What does it all mean?  We believe many people look at the statistics first in making judgments about players, and they value the total OPS.  We believe you have to see how the stat is compiled to determine the value of the player.

Just something we wanted to get off our chest.

MW

The Yandy Question.

One of the great conundrums of this baseball season is the Cleveland Indians’ offense.  The Tribe ranks 3rd in the American League in runs scored, yet it seems like it could be even better.

Part of that feeling is well documented on this site, the offense is very top heavy.  Jose Ramirez may just be putting together an MVP season, and no doubt Francisco Lindor will be in the top ten, and maybe top five as well.

Ramirez is threatening to put together the greatest season ever by a major league third baseman.  Think about that for a second.

As great as that duo has been, and they have been supported by Michael Brantley, and to a lesser extent, Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso, the bottom of the order can have either three or four hitters who are struggling.

The need for another solid bat makes the handling of Yandy Diaz more curious.

In the minor leagues, Diaz has been an on base machine, a .454 figure last season at Columbus, followed up by a .414 figure this season.

Unfortunately, the Indians’ organization has pigeonholed him as a third baseman, and as we already mentioned, that spot is being manned in Cleveland by perhaps the AL most valuable player.

Diaz doesn’t fit the new hot thing in baseball today, which would be launch angle.  Although he hits the ball as hard as many in the sports, but he doesn’t hit it in the air, and that results in very few extra base hits.  His slugging percentage is at .392, down from last year’s .460.

So, why the Joey Gallo’s of the world are thought to be good hitters, Yandy Diaz is not.

While Diaz doesn’t hit with power, what he doesn’t do is make outs.  He gets on base over 40% of the time, and even last year with the Indians, he had an OBP of .352 in 2017.  That figure would rank behind only Ramirez, Lindor, and Lonnie Chisenhall on this year’s roster.

Remember, when Cleveland had their 22 game winning streak in 2017, Diaz was basically the regular third baseman because Jason Kipnis was hurt, and Ramirez was moved to second.

The big question for us is with the issues the Tribe has had in the outfield this season, why didn’t they move Diaz to RF and work with him in spring training.  He played 27 games there in 2016 and nine games in 2017.

Couldn’t he play the position at least as well as, let’s say, Melky Cabrera?  No one expects him to be Roberto Clemente out there.  What we’ve seen of him at the hot corner doesn’t suggest that he’s a butcher in the field.

It would seem to us that his bat could help the big club.  He takes walks, makes contact, and when he was called up for four games right after the All Star Game, he went 7 for 14 with the Indians.

Diaz’ offensive prowess is being wasted because he will be 27 years old in a few days (August 8th to be exact), but for some reason, the organization doesn’t seem anxious to find a way to get his bat into the lineup.

A lineup that needs a boost.  A lineup that is short on players who can get on base.  A lineup that lost one of its best on base percentage guys last off-season in Carlos Santana.

What is the organization’s problem with Yandy Diaz?  Instead of looking for a way to get his bat in there, there seem to be burying him.

MW

 

 

Tribe Makes A Solid Move In Getting Martin

It wasn’t a splashy trade deadline for the Cleveland Indians, but since play resumed after the All Star Game, there is no question the front office tried to address the Tribe’s weaknesses.

Getting Brad Hand and Adam Cimber helped the bullpen for sure, and in fact, with Cody Allen struggling a bit, it seems like Terry Francona is reshuffling the deck with how he uses his relief corps.

Yesterday, the Tribe improved their centerfield spot by trading for Leonys Martin, getting him from Detroit for SS Willi Castro, who was playing at AA Akron.

Martin replaces Tyler Naquin, who isn’t really a centerfielder, and Greg Allen, who was being rushed to the majors.  Since Naquin was getting the bulk of the playing time, the defense also gets a boost.

A left-handed hitter, Martin was batting .251 with 9 HR and 29 RBI (731 OPS) with the Tigers, but vs. right-handed pitching, he’s hitting .275 with a 783 OPS.

We say center isn’t totally improved because Martin is a platoon piece, and against lefties, Rajai Davis, with an OPS under 600 against southpaws, will still be out there.

While Martin isn’t a “big name”, he definitely improves the Cleveland roster.  The acquisition reminds me of getting Brandon Guyer at the deadline in 2016.  That move wasn’t greeted with enthusiasm either, but Guyer was a big factor in the Tribe’s march to game seven of the World Series.

The front office made a rare trade of minor leaguers too, getting OF Oscar Mercado from the St. Louis Cardinals for Connor Capel, who was at Lynchburg, and Jhan Torres, who is in rookie ball.

Mercado was ranked the Cardinals’ 8th best prospect by Baseball America in their mid-season prospect ratings, and the report is he has developed a short quick stroke with power.  He is regarded as a very good defensive outfielder and top flight speed.

At 23 years old, he is playing at AAA Memphis, hitting .285 with 8 HR and 42 RBI (759 OPS) and 31 stolen bases.

If he doesn’t get called up before this season ends (he likely will be after September 1st), he could be a candidate for a starting job next season, particularly with Bradley Zimmer possibility out until the all star break next season with a shoulder issue.

We would have liked to see another bullpen arm, especially with Neil Ramirez leaking oil just a bit, but Andrew Miller could be back as soon as next week, and as we all know, that could be a gigantic piece if the big lefty is back to form.

And while Martin does help, it would have been nice to have an everyday guy in centerfield instead of a platoon piece.  Terry Francona is a master at using the platoon advantage, but we are sure he would like to do that on a limited basis.

Right now, we still think the batting order is one hitter short of being elite.  There are too many games where the bottom of the order is contributing only a couple hits.  That puts a lot of pressure on the top of the order, and with Michael Brantley struggling since the break, the offense isn’t clicking.

Leonys Martin isn’t a flashy name, but he’s a solid defensive centerfielder and can be a good bat against righties.

The Indians roster is better today than they were yesterday morning.  That means the front office did their job.

MW