Friday, August 7

Even Steven

With today's trade of Carl Pavano to the Twins, the Indians have now dealt 7 players since they first started selling off spare parts in June. The move is pretty universally hailed as representing a write-off of the 2009 campaign and quite possibly 2010 as well. I'm not disputing this, but I nevertheless decided it was worth looking at the numbers to see just how much the moves, particularly the high-profile moves of Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, have actually changed our club (other than making it more affordable).

Admittedly, I did this a few days ago, but I don't think the results are any less valid. As usual, I pulled all my data from Baseball Reference.

Let's look at the hitters first. A point I've tried to make several times throughout this season is that, although the Tribe is a lousy team, (albeit one that has won 10 of 15 games and is now up 3-0 on the ChiSocks) they really aren't a bad hitting club. They sport a team OPS of .773 (OPS+ of 100), an OBP of .347, and have scored 553 runs, good for 7th, 5th, and 5th in the AL, respectively. So how does the team, as currently constructed, stack up against the year-to-date performance? I added the numbers so far for the twelve players who figure to get the most at-bats over the next two months: Sizemore, Cabrera, Choo, Peralta, Hafner, Crowe, LaPorta (maybe?), Marte, Gimenez, Valbuena, Shoppach, and Toregas, and compared it to the current all-team season total. Some of the newbies represent small sample sizes, for sure, but those mostly will be washed out by the players who've compiled the most plate appearances.

Those 12 player have, thus far, posted an OBP of .349 and OPS of .779, slightly better than the overall club's year-to-date performance. A few things make this analysis somewhat non-rigorous; pitchers batting drag down the YTD numbers, I might have made a mistabulation here and there, I left Jamey Carroll out of my 12 since he shouldn't be playing anymore, I didn't use park factor (though Progressive Field is exactly neutral for the year), and the contributions of the new guys are underweighted. But it's hard not to at least see the central conclusion: after dealing Garko, Francisco, DeRosa, and Martinez, the Indians for the moment don't appear appreciably worse as an offensive club. As much as I and everyone else loved Victor, if we get some MLB-caliber pitchers out of the trade, we'll easily come out ahead, considering the catching/guitar playing depth we have in the organization.

Regarding my comment on Carroll - it's not that I don't appreciate his contribution this year. I just think they need to give more young guys time, since Carroll isn't a long-term solution for the Tribe. Your everyday lineup should be this:

CF Sizemore
SS Cabrera
RF Choo
3B Peralta
DH Hafner
LF LaPorta/Crowe
1B Marte/Gimenez
2B Valbuena/Donald
C Toregas/Shoppach

It's time for me to single out Choo for praise once again: the dude is getting on base at a .401 clip, hits for power, makes the league minimum (next year too!) and does about everything you'd want a baseball player to do. He just hit a triple and scored, as a matter of fact. 4-0 Tribe! Anyway, let the players who figure into 2010 play every day and see what they got. For that matter, our rotation should be pretty obvious:


Bring up Rondon and Carrasco if they're ready, otherwise let these 5 ride out the year. I'm not even going to bother with the bullpen, except to note that it actually has provided a bit of stability, especially Sipp, Smith, and Wood at the back end.

And with that we get to the pitchers. For the year, the Tribe has a dreadful 86 ERA+ - better than when I last wrote about the club (and better after some strong pitching over the past 4 games), but still dead last in the AL. Losing Lee (ERA+ of 144) is obviously a big blow; losing Pavano (84), not so much. Anyway, I recalculated with the guys who figure to pitch the rest of the year (which included Pavano and I don't have a calculator with me nor the inclination to redo it): Huff, Sowers, Carmona, Laffey, Wood, Lewis, Smith, Chris Perez, Ohka, Sipp, Veras, and Masterson. The same caveats apply as with my batter analysis, but we arrive at 82, somewhat lower than without Lee. Four points here is not insignificant - we are clearly worse off without the Phifer, certainly more so than without Victor, but not devastatingly so.

The main point is that yes, we lost some key players, but for the moment, we don't really look to be a worse baseball team, both on paper or on the field, where our lead has been cut to 4-2. Go Tribe!

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