Friday, July 16

The Indians at the break

After 88 games, the Indians stand at 34-54 and 15.5 games out of the AL Central, and if that wasn't depressing enough, the Tribe are 14th of 14 in AL attendance. So, during the All-Star break and before the FCF Tribe Weekend arrives, I felt I should do a general Q&A regarding the Indians' performance after these first 88 games.

What has been the biggest surprise so far in 2010?

JHH: My biggest surprise is that the pitching isn't the liability I thought it was going to be. Some of that might be due to the offense being so bad at times, but major injuries all around hasn't helped that either. Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona, and Mitch Talbot are OK in the starting role. Of course our team OPS+ sits at 94, which in the AL only bests Oakland's 92 and Seattle's 79 (Ouch!) while the team ERA+ is 86 which is tied for last with Baltimore. David Huff's 66 probably isn't helping out there.

Andy: Asdrubal Cabrera: out two months. Shin-Soo Choo: out two months. Grady Sizemore: out for the year. I really thought this club was going to score some runs - who on Earth could have predicted we'd lose our three best regulars for extended periods of time? No team can withstand that sort of punishment, especially a team like Cleveland who was shaky to begin with.

Figgs: Carlos Santana. I'm surprised it took the Tribe so long to bring him up, and surprised that he has made such an immediate impact.

Nick: I'm with John - it's definitely been the stability of the rotation. Mitch Talbot has been a Godsend so so far, and although it's questionable whether he sustain this success, if he can just settle in as a consistent #4 or #5 he will still be a cost-controlled mainstay in the rotation for several years. Carmona has bounced back, even if he's only about 75% of his 2007 version. Westbrook has brought a veteran presence and has provided something of a stabilizing force. Masterson is the wild card. He's come around, but he's still been very inconsistent. Masterson is the only starter other than Carmona with top-flight stuff, so if he can find a way to get lefties out, the Victor Martinez trade becomes a huge coup for the Wahoos.

What player is your first half Indians MVP?

JHH: I dare anyone to say Carlos Santana, though his 174 OPS+ leads this team followed by Jason Nix's (at least he's serviceable) 143, and Shin-Soo Choo's 139. Choo is my pick at MVP and too bad he got hurt. He easily carried this team offensively through the first third of the season despite many teams having no reason to pitch to him.

Andy: Fausto Carmona was our All-Star, therefore: Fausto Carmona. I kid, I kid: it's definitely Rusty Branyan. Alright, enough shtick, focus, Andy. Baseball-Reference says that Choo's WAR (Wins Over Replacement) is 3.3, almost twice as much as the next-highest Indians position player...yep, Carlos Santana (1.7). Therefore, I'm making the same call as JHH and giving the award to Choo. FYI, Rusty was at 1.6, Jhonny Peralta sits at 1.5, and Austin Kearns is at 1.3, making them the only Indian regulars who are more than a win better than a replacement-level player. In case you're interested, Justin Morneau leads the AL to this point with 5.3 WAR, Zack Greinke led the league at 9.0 a season ago, Albert Pujols has topped the NL six straight years, and Barrold Bonds broke the 12 mark during a couple of his steroid years. On the flipside, Michael Brantley is last at an almost incomprehensible -1.3, with Grady Sizemore not far off at -0.9. Goodness. On the chucking side, Fausto leads the Tribe staff at 1.9, followed by Talbot at 1.3 and Chris Perez at 0.9, so you could at least make a case for the Faustastic One. But I'm not going to.

Figgs: Since Andy took my Rusty joke, I guess I'll just go with everyone else and say Choo. Although Kearns was crushing it at the beginning of the year and I do love Santana.

Nick: I'm tempted to buck convention and select the Mitchman, but I'll stay away from a cute pick and go with Choo.

How do you rate Acta's performance as a manager?

JHH: Manny Acta's team current sits at two games behind their Pythagorean record which actually isn't too bad for an Indians team. I like Acta. Did he suicide squeeze with Travis Hafner on third for a go ahead run? Yes, yes he did. Does that make him a smallball manager? I don't think so; I suspect he is mainly interested in winning.

Andy: I don't think managers matter much. We'd be pretty much where we are under Wedge, Charlie Manuel, Joel Skinner, Mike Hargrove, Jerry McNamara, you name it. I do enjoy Manny's interviews, though, so he's got that going for him. And as long as you're mentioning "smallball," let's take a minute to remember the late, great FIREJOEMORGAN.COM, which dismissed that approach to the game as "outball."

Figgs: I'm also with the opinion that managers don't have too much effect on the game, unless they are especially good. I think he's done an OK job, but is nothing special. Knowing the longevity of MLB managers, he'll probably be gone by mid-season next year.

Nick: We needed a charismatic and intelligent captain to lead us, and I have complete confidence than Manuel Elias Acta is that hero.

Which Indian will be traded next?

JHH: Kerry Wood. Austin Kearns is nothing but a 4th OF to other teams so I doubt we'll get much above a bucket of balls there. I'm hoping Jake Westbrook sticks around just to have a person on this team my Grandma recognizes. Wood has some value as a reliever and has shown signs of improvement at times. That and I imagine there are a few stupid and desperate GMs willing to part with some mid-level AA prospects for Wood. Oh, and maybe some cash since those empty seats at Progressive Field aren't helping the bottom line.

Andy: Peralta. Someone will be intrigued by his ability to play multiple positions (even though he is a poor shortstop) and the power he's displayed in the past, and will take a flyer on him, thinking that maybe he just needs a change of scenery. Which could, actually, be correct.

Figgs: Andy, Peralta is clearly going to be an Indian for life. We will never be able to get rid of him. I'd say Kearns, even though we probably won't get much for him.

Nick: Peralta. Like Andy said, he actually has some value even with his mediocre production the last few seasons. He also comes at a more attractive price point than a $10M/year closer who can't close.

Which Indian will get hurt next?

JHH: Did you know Jhonny Peralta has played over 141 games each season since 2005?

Andy: Slider, if JHH has anything to say about it.

Figgs: While Santana is batting, a random hawk will swoop down and peck him in the eye, blinding him for the next six months. He will lose control of his bat, where it will fly into the dugout, taking out Matt LaPorta. Simultaneously, Carmona and Talbot will be eaten by Tyrannosaurus Rexes.

Nick: The smart money is on Hafner sustaining some type of vaginal injury.

How do you think the Indians' second half will turn out?

JHH: I suspect not well. I don't see Karim Garcia coming out to hit 52 RBI in 51 games in August and September. The hard part about being 20 games below .500 at the break is that it is hard to see this team playing even .500 ball through the season. Surely some of them will start slacking off and not trying as hard. Heck, Luis Valbuena started the season like that. I predict a final record of 57-105.

Andy: I think they'll continue on their current Pythagorean pace, while some young players will develop enough to turn a couple of their rough early-season losses into W's. 66-96.

Figgs: I think we'll play a little better in the second half than we did in the first, which won't be too difficult. Hopefully Choo will come back and Santana will continue to roll. We'll see how trades may affect the lineup and game outcomes. 64-98, stay away from the 100-loss mark!

Nick: Ready for a bold prediction? .500 ball the rest of the way to finish 71-91 and climb out of the AL Central cellar. Cue the "this team is coming together" montage!

Go Tribe!

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