Sunday, September 19

Downtown Report, headed into Autumn

Guess what? I still live in Downtown Cleveland, OH, and I'm still a fan of the local sporting clubs. Thus, you get my über-insightful perspective from what Tom Hamilton might call the corner of Chester and E 12th as we transition into the best months of the year in Northeast Ohio.

Yes, they are still playing baseball games here in town, though I admit I haven't been to as many contests at Progressive Field recently as I'd like to. The Wahoos aren't playing terrible ball, having moved out of the AL Central cellar with Friday night's win over Kansas City, even though they're not going to remind anyone of the '01 Mariners. Yeah, people always say "'27 Yankees" in that particular cliché, but I don't know anything about the '27 Yankees and I hate the Yankees. I just looked it up - 2001 Seattle had a better regular-season winning percentage than 1927 New York. Suck it, Yankees. Also, Yankee fans are criminals. Can you believe over a quarter of all MLB merchandise is NYY rubbish? Unreal.

Somehow, this turned into a Yankee-bashing post, which is almost as easy to let happen as a football piece turn into a rip-on-Michigan session, but let's focus on the 2010 Tribe. There's been talk in recent weeks about whether this year's Wahoos can avoid 100 losses; at 61-86, there's little doubt they'll avoid that ignominy. But look further - with 15 games left, they need only go 5-10 to eclipse last year's 65-win campaign. When you consider the incredible run of bad luck endured by this club, the injuries, the fact that Russell Branyan is STILL only one home run out of second place on the club, it's amazing that they will likely manage to better their 2009 season. Hell, maybe they'll even get on a roll with continued good starting pitching from Carrasco, Carmona, Masterson, and the like, and hit 70 wins. Why not?

The Indians continue to struggle at the plate, with their team 94 OPS+ placing them above only Baltimore, Oakland, and the historically inept Seattle Mariners, currently sitting at an almost unthinkable 79. Yes, that number is even adjusted for spacious Safeco Field. And given all that, BBWAA members might deny Felix Hernandez the Cy Young Award he deserves just because he has the equivalent of an entire roster of Trevor Crowes (OPS+ of 79) scoring 3.2 runs per game for him? Do you realize F-Her's WHIP is below 1.0? But no, he can't be the best pitcher because he's only 12-11, and wins are the most important thing in baseball, isn't that right, Sports Columnist Who Can't Be Bothered to Incorporate Statistics or Logic Into His Thinking? I'm thinking here of Paul Hoynes, who wrote this painfully misguided article recently about how wins are the most important thing and criticizing those who favor statistics that actually indicate how well a pitcher performed. Just because you can't take 30 seconds to understand WHIP doesn't mean it isn't a useful indicator of a pitcher's value.

Well, at least the BBWAA got rid of that horrible neon green website they used to occasionally maintain in favor of a new, less-ugly one that they rarely maintain. Man, I can not stay on topic here.

Alright, back to the Tribe offense, where Hoynes and his ilk would probably reject a stat like WAR even though it's supposed to quantify Wins, which they consistently and helpfully remind us is the most Important Thing in baseball. Here's my question: does anyone realize how good Shin-Soo Choo is? After last night's three-home-run barrage in KC, his WAR of 6.2 currently puts him third among all American Leaguers, trailing only Evan Longoria and Miguel Cabrera. He leads the Indians in OPS+ with a sparkling 140 (trailing only that one fun month of Carlos Santana (142) and with Rusty (126) next on the list), and by WAR, the best outfielder in the AL. Shin-Soo Choo is by far the best player on the Cleveland Indians...and we're paying him $450 000 this year.

The rest of the Indians hitters? Eh. LaPorta's boosted himself up to OPS+ of 84, but never seems to develop real consistency at the plate. Cabrera is still floundering at 83, Nix and Donald have performed well enough to merit serious looks for next year, Luis Valbuena is a personal insult to me, and...I can't do anymore of this. But before I end this discussion, a word on two Indians who have been more productive in recent months.

Travis Hafner
I know, he's a shell of his former self, can't play every day, and his contract is an albatross. Believe me, I know these things. But he's not totally without value as a hitter, as his .913 OPS since the All-Star break will attest.

Michael Brantley
Brantley started the season horribly, but since his August 6 recall, his on-base percentage is .333. He's here to get on base and be fast, and now he's doing these things. His hit streak is nice, but getting on base is the key.

Pitching-wise, we're also still near the bottom of the league at a team ERA+ of 92, edging Baltimore and comfortably ahead of poor Kansas City. The story out of the bullpen continues to be the dominance of Chris Perez, who's lowered his ERA to 1.81 and become a real lockdown closer. Here's how many games since June 27 in which Perez has allowed a run: one.

The rotation has also shown signs of improvement, with youngsters like Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, and Justin Masterson providing decent starting pitching to support Fausto Carmona, enjoying a bit of a career renaissance this season. In the off-season, maybe JHH and I will look at what the 2011 Tribe will look like. For now, let's see if we can't finish strong and notch 70.

Last year, during our NFL Playoff Picks, I went on and on every week about how winning and losing in the NFL is all about turnovers. I know this is super-obvious hack broadcaster stuff, but by the same token, it might not be appreciated just how large of a role it plays in comparison to, say, establishing the run, or avoiding penalties.

If it wasn't clear enough, I hope Jake Delhomme's horribly ill-advised pass at the end of the first half in Tampa Bay put things into even greater focus. If that doesn't happen, I really believe the Browns win that game. The back-foot INT he tossed in the second half was pretty bad too, but more the product of bad mechanics than bad decision-making, and the latter concerns me a lot more. Hopefully Seneca Wallace does a better job protecting the football against Kansas City - if he does, the Browns will even their mark at 1-1.

And hopefully Eric Mangini realizes that pulling a quarterback who is visibly injured is not something that leads to a "quarterback controversy." Yes, I know the DA/Brady thing last year was unfortunate, but you can't let that dictate your decisions going forward. If a guy gets hurt, you replace him - that shouldn't be a difficult move to explain to the fans and media.

You know what I'm looking at right now as I glance over my laptop monitor? A television that is currently powered down, because I shut off the Buckeyes game at halftime with OSU up 34-0. Absolute domination. It really wasn't interesting anymore, but it's good to know that OSU's focus has been sharp this season even against subpar opponents. Well, except for that ghastly interception Terrelle Pryor threw into the end zone at the end of the first half, that is. I see the score is now 43-7; I'm glad Ohio got on the board for the Bobcat players' sake.

Far more exciting, obviously, was last weekend's impressive 36-24 win over 12th-ranked Miami (FL), already recapped by Figgs. I'm not sure everyone sees the game as being as lopsided as I do - Miami scored 24 points, but only via two kick returns for TD's and a late garbage-time score. Ohio State controlled the entire game offensively and defensively, harrassing Miami (FL) into turnover after turnover and moving the ball al day long. Bring on the Big Ten.

The kick return didn't look as bad to me as the punt return, which was totally inexcusable. There were three Buckeyes in position to make the tackle, and all three simply sprinted past the return man as if he'd called for a fair catch. There's no reason that fellow should have gotten more than five yards on that return.

Also, Ohio State defeated Miami in 2 OT in the Fiesta Bowl for the 2002 National Championship, in case you had forgotten. We also haven't lost to michigan in seven years.

The only other notable part of this contest was this piece of human garbage inhabiting Pacer's, where I went to watch the carnage. Last Saturday was the long-planned Scorchers reunion, getting the old crew back together for some cheap beer, "hot, greasy meat," and weird characters. Check on all three front. There were two losers sitting at the bar watching other, inferior games. One of them had on this ugly michigan jersey, and the other guy next to him a blue-on-blue striped shirt. The latter was rooting aggressively for Miami (FL), almost entirely to be a dick and get attention for himself. Look, loser-boy, you can't just show up at a bar in Ohio and root against the Buckeyes just because you think you're cool without even being a real fan of their opponent. Why would you want to even be that person? He left at halftime - I guess it wasn't as fun when Ohio State went up big and people stopped paying attention to him.

While I'm touching on michigan, allow me a few chuckles at the school up north. Apparently, I'm supposed to think they're really good because they have a fast quarterback who had a good game against Notre Dame and doesn't tie his shoelaces. Yeah, I'll get right on that. I'm shaking. Somehow they've got themselves ranked all the way up to #20, which is going to make it all the more amusing when Ohio State batters them for lucky #7 in a row in the Horseshoe this November.

It's kinda sad how news of former Cavalier L. James (I've decided to never use his first name again) still dominates my thinking on the Cavs, but that's the way it is, especially since Cavalier basketball is still a few weeks off, even for the preseason. I was delighted to read about James' precipitous drop in Q Score since The Abomination. He's now the 6th-most unpopular sports figure in the nation, trailing only this select list of gentlemen:

Michael Vick
Tiger Woods
Terrell Owens
Chad Ochocinco
Kobe Bryant

Anyone get a sense of "one of these things is not like the other"? Let's consider the Top 6, shall we? Vick organized dogfights and had some of the dogs killed; Woods banged about 1000 women while married and earned the enmity of every female in America, Owens is a locker-room cancer who destroys every team he goes to, and Bryant was on trial for rape not long ago.

So what has Ochocinco done to merit inclusion here? It's possible he's earned some negative perception from his reality show, but he's never done anything criminal like so many pro athletes, and even when his relationship with the Bungles went sour he mended fences with the team and the city. Weird. I can think of dozens of players who deserve worse Q Scores than Ochocinco - I think the guy's funny and likable - including a certain AFC North murdering linebacker.

1 comment:

Figgs said...

- I just can't get in to the Tribe while football is going on.

- Thank God we play the Bills this year, so we can go 1-15.

- michigan started 4-0 last year, and still didn't make a Bowl. I'm not worried.

- I really like Ochocinco. Yes, he's irrogant, oh well. He's also really entertaining.