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The Glass is Half Something—Random Thoughts from the Month of April

The Glass is Half Something—Random Thoughts from the Month of April

| On 27, Apr 2013

As the Indians complete their first month of the season, many mixed emotions can and should be felt about this team.  We have all seen the bright spots and the low points, but I always feel like it is good practice to point out the obvious anyways.  First things being first, Major League Baseball issues should probably take precedence over Cleveland Indians issues.

TERRIBLE UMPIRING

How bad are the umpires this year???

As a person who has spent over a decade involved with high school baseball, I am accustomed to bad umpiring…but at the Major League level?  This is embarrassing for baseball.

Calls of strike three are getting called in the opposite batter’s boxes.  Players are getting called safe when throws beat them by 10 feet.  Pitches right down the middle are being called balls.  I know that umpires have always gotten calls wrong but I’ve never seen it this bad.

This is becoming a big problem across the sport and it was at its most notable when the Rangers beat the Rays on April 9Joe Nathan got his 300th career save on a terrible full count strike call that was not only low, but nearly a foot outside.  I understand that this is just one call, but it lost Tampa Bay the game.  The other terrible ones just aren’t as headline worthy.

Major League Baseball has a huge problem with umpiring and they are either hesitant or way too slow to expand instant replay.  The bottom line is that the call should be right, regardless of how long it takes.  With basketball’s officiating problems and the possibility of fixing games becoming such a topic of interest around the sports world, it would be wise of baseball to fix this problem before it becomes an epidemic.

STARTING PITCHING

Speaking of huge problems…

The Indians couldn’t have pictured their starters performing much worse, could they?

Besides Justin Masterson (4-1, 1.85) and Zach McAllister (1-3, 3.52) the starters have been a nightmare.  The “big two” are the only two starters with an ERA under 5.00 and the only other one with an ERA under 8.00 is Trevor Bauer (0-1, 5.40), who walked seven Rays in his only five innings of work this season.  The rest are a giant cluster of sadness with Brett Myers (0-3, 8.02) actually being the next most effective.  Ubaldo Jimenez (0-2, 10.06), Scott Kazmir (0-0, 16.20) and Carlos Carrasco (0-1, 17.18) take home the bronze, silver and gold medals for awfulness thus far.

So what’s next?

Well, I guess Corey Kluber (1-0, 1.80) is next.  When Myers went down with an elbow injury last week, Kluber’s card got pulled and the right hander will try his hand in the woeful rotation.  If Kluber can pitch effectively, like he did in his four shutout innings against the Astros last weekend, then he could very well pitch his way into the rotation for the remainder of the season.  If not, however, the Indians will just keep rolling the starting pitching dice until they find a winner.

STARTING PITCHING, MORE SPECIFICALLY

While Masterson and McAllister find themselves among the “nice surprises”, the two biggest flops thus far sandwich themselves between the Indians version of the M&M boys.  Jimenez and Myers have been terribly disappointing, posting a combined record of 0-5 with an 8.92 ERA.  Each pitcher has given up 19 runs in four appearances but in completely different fashions.  Jimenez has not really been hit all that hard, as he has allowed only 16 hits in 17 innings.  The problem has been his terrible lack of command, as he has walked 11 batters as well.  Jimenez’s problems have well documented as even in his “good outing” last Sunday in Houston he gave up four runs in five innings.

Myers, on the other hand, has been blasted around in nearly every appearance, allowing an incredible 10 homeruns through his 21.1 innings of work.  Twice Myers has been shellacked for seven earned runs in a game and gave up important homeruns in the others.  Myers put up decent in his last two starts, but gave up two big flies to Houston last Friday and a two-run blast to Paul Konerko five days prior.  Myers seems like a pitcher who will survive when he can control the long ball, but will die when he can’t.  So far, he can’t control them at all.

SPEAKING OF KONERKO

When the Tribe was playing the White Sox this week, a hot topic for the announcers was Konerko’s career numbers against the Indians.  For his career, Konerko has batted .277 against Indians pitchers with 47 homeruns and 174 RBI.  The latter two stats are career highs against any other opponent and they made me wonder if perhaps Konerko was perhaps the biggest Indian-killer of all time, or if he was even close.

Just in case anyone else was wondering…the answer is no.  Not even close.

That honor belongs to Babe Ruth—and I’d bet the Indians aren’t the only team that he is on the list—as the Bambino batted .357 with 92 homeruns and 278 RBI against Cleveland in his career.  Other big time power numbers come from Ted Williams (79 homeruns), Lou Gehrig (73), Jimmie Foxx (67) and Mickey Mantle (65).  After five players had crushed Konerko’s total I felt no need to look any further.  It is now clear to me that Konerko is not the biggest Indian-killer of all time, just the biggest one that I can remember.

GOING BACK TO PITCHING

What is wrong with Carrasco?

The guy just got off of suspension, gets shelled in his first outing back in two years, then throws a pitch at Kevin Youkilis’ head.

That.  Is.  Bush.  League.

With his cowardly move, Carrasco has made himself virtually useless to the Indians this season, unless one of the goals is to make the other teams AAA batters black and blue.  Carrasco was suspended for eight more games, making it seemingly impossible for the Indians to bring him up until the All-Star break—if he served the first four games before the break and the last four games after—or possibly even until September when the rosters expand.

Smart move Carlos.

IN THE BULLPEN

So far, so good with “Bullpen Mafia version 3.0”.

A pretty amazing stat that is too overlooked is that the Indians have six relief pitchers with an ERA under 2.00.  Only Cody Allen has really looked “bad” at times, but he seems to have righted the ship and currently has a 1-0 record with a solid 3.00 ERA.  Rich Hill (3.86) and Matt Albers (5.40) sport the highest numbers, but both relievers’ innings have been limited thus far.

Limited only begins to describe Chris Perez’s role on the team so far, too.  When Perez converted a classic-Bob-Wickman save last Sunday, it looked like he hadn’t pitched in a save situation in nearly three weeks.  The reason probably was that, in actuality, Perez hadn’t pitched in a save situation in nearly three weeks.  I actually forgot that Perez was on the roster, as teams whose starting pitching has been horrendous and offense has been feast or famine don’t normally get a lot of save opportunities.  For the season, Perez has converted three out of his four chances with a 1.29 ERA.  The only two blips on the radar so far this season have been a homerun that Jose Batista—who may be the best hitter on the planet—hit and when Perez crossed up Carlos Santana and blasted him in the wrist with a fastball during the home opener.  This freak accident came only days after backup catcher Lou Marson was trucked at home plate and proved that thus far Indians catchers are clearly snake-bitten.

YAN, WE HARDLY KNEW YE

Amidst all of the injuries with the catchers on the team, we got a glimpse of new offseason acquisition Yan Gomes.  Gomes was impressive, hitting two homeruns and a triple, throwing out two of two base stealers and posting a 3.52 catcher’s ERA in his limited time with the club.  Gomes is now back in Triple-A Columbus where he will be able to catch every day, but the 25 year old who can also play first and third base looks like he is definitely worth another look.

STOCK UP

Gomes is only one of the offseason acquisitions that looked good in the month of April, as most of the new guys have performed as or better than expected. The most obvious names of those who impress include Santana, Masterson and Mark Reynolds, who have exceeded even my high expectations thus far.

Despite missing a week, Santana has been a monster.  He is batting .352 with four homeruns and nine RBI through 15 games.  To be even more impressive, Santana has blasted a team high seven doubles and has walked eight times compared to only 10 strike outs—pretty good for a power hitting, free swinger.

The word monster can’t be used without mentioning Reynolds too, as the big right hander has taken Cleveland by storm.  Through 18 games, Hurricane Reynolds has hit .286 with seven bombs and 19 RBI.  If he keeps up even close to this pace, Reynolds will post some scary-good numbers.

Other “Stock Up” guys include Bryan Shaw (0.87 ERA in 10.1 innings), Jason Giambi (2 HR, 6 RBI), Gomes (2 HR) and Michael Bourn (.333, 2 HR).  Nick Swisher’s first base glove also deserves to be on this list, as the former Buckeye has been very impressive with his leather around the bag.

While Bourn has missed more than half of the month with a finger injury, he was even better than advertised when he was playing.  He is an exciting player to watch and will be widely considered to be the best player on the team throughout the season.

STOCK DOWN

I hesitate to put Asdrubal Cabrera on this list because he is a proven veteran with a track record, but his .156 average is too hard to ignore.  I guess that Cabrera’s stock has fallen somewhat, although I expect the two time All-Star to turn his season around shortly.  On the other hand, I am starting to doubt some others, including his double play partner.

Jason Kipnis has been nearly as bad as Cabrera, but when 2012 is taken into account, Kipnis has been bad for much longer.  Kipnis is now approaching four months of futility and has had his stock plummet in my book.  I am no longer über-excited about Kipnis’ chances of being a star and I don’t believe that Kipnis will have the huge turn around that I think most Indians fans are expecting.  I hope I’m wrong, but Kipnis has yet to prove that I am.

Other “Stock Down” guys include Kazmir, Myers and Albers.  Lonnie Chisenhall also probably deserves to be on this list, although Chiz seems to be improving of late.

Jimenez is left off of the list because it’s tough to keep digging once you’ve hit rock bottom.

Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer