Cleveland Sports Insiders

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Overreaction Theater: Asdrubal’s inescapable exodus

Perhaps the most discussed topic outside of the Indians early pitching issues has been the shortstop position in Cleveland. The discussion of what to do there is quite polarizing, and can be easily seen in but a few tweets.

The rationally positive, highlighting the league wide dearth at shortstop as well as part of Asdrubal Cabrera’s positive value or semblance of.

Then the unavoidable subjective conclusion which, while drawn from a limited sample of visual experience, when combined with last seasons struggle appears to have some validity.

Cabrera is a relatively complex being or perhaps we have made him so, with some sort of blind commitment to specific approaches to his talents.  While we frequently discuss the idea of five tool players, often overvaluing arm strength for outfielders as well as our ability to measure its impact, with Cabrera we must monitor three “tools”. The three tools or pieces are: the ability to hit for power, the ability to get on base, and the ability to play defense.

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Indians sign All-Star Jason Kipnis to long-term deal

1aThe Cleveland Indians announced this morning that they signed second baseman Jason Kipnis to a six-year contract extension through the 2019 season worth $52.5 million, with a club option for 2020. The deal, according to Jordan Bastian, is worth $52.5 million, and if the Indians nab that seventh-year option, it will wrap up Kipnis through three years of free agency.

That’s moderately shocking.

Bastian and several others reported the news earlier this morning, and throngs of Indians fans on twitter and across Indians message boards and in radio drive time were treated to the added bonus of the signing. It certainly wasn’t a surprise in the grand scheme of things. Most had speculated that the Indians would pull of this deal when they came home for several weeks, and I had even mentioned the deal almost a month ago, complete with the parameters for a potential deal.

Obviously the groundwork had been laid out by the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, who built similar deals for similar players. Kipnis, who is likely a higher value player than both, signed a deal very similar to Matt Carpenter’s six-year deal with the Cardinals, complete with a seventh year added to the team in the form of a team option.

Just a great move by the Indians, who have continued to show their commitment to building a winner since the firing of Manny Acta in September of 2012.

Enter Terry Francona, and if that sound like ‘Enter the Dragon,’ that’s exactly what I meant.

You can argue that Jason Kipnis is a top five second baseman in the league right now. Think about this: he led the Indians runs, hits, RBI and steals, and was top ten in walks and steals in the league. What the Indians are banking on for Kipnis is his tremendous upside. Continue reading

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Salazar and Kipnis at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Progressive FieldSomething is afoot here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and for once I’m not talking about March Madness, fired coaches, former players returning for retirement parties, or anything that’s remotely close to happening at the Circle K.

The 2014 season is officially underway, and I’m as giddy as a school-girl.

The Indians started off the season with a 2-0 victory against the Oakland A’s, and while it’s only one game in the grand scheme of 162, it’s always good to set things off on the right foot.

What does that one game tell us? If we’re to use it as a blue-print, not a whole lot, to be honest.

Justin Masterson looked fantastic in his first start, and it does leave us to ponder whether or not our staff “ace” is about fully entering his prime with a chip on his shoulder. No, I don’t think he has a ceiling that Cliff Lee had, but I do believe there is more than just a “two-pitch” pitcher with no plus offerings. He understands the game, and when he is slotting that arm in a repetitive manner, he can be pretty special because of the way he can move the ball in the strike zone. If he had a solid fielding infield, he could be that much more special. Continue reading

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Deluded Ralph Individually Flips Each of His Shits About Kluber

Patience is a virtue instilled in each of us from a young age. From the outset, it is poured into us by parents (or in the case of Tarzan, benevolent gorillae) like waffle batter, and very much like waffle batter, it is surveilled thereafter to determine whether the batter of knowledge has blossomed into the waffles of patience.

And if patience is a waffle, I am IHOP: I, RalpHOP , begrudgingly serve patience, but I don’t openly advertise it, and moreover, I typically only converse with the intoxicated. Yea verily, I am presently impatient and conversing with the intoxicated as we speak - ‘we,’ of course, refers tautologically to the aformentioned drinkyfolk - ‘as we speak’ only incidentally occurs at the time of writing; this account’s writing, whimsically, happens to occur inside an International House of Panc#DIV/0!

Yet for Zion’s Eggnog Pancakes’ sake, I shall not be silent – and I sound the trumpets of Cincinnatus! Cleveland must be defended! Patience must be discarded like a former NCAA football player, and we must declare that the future of the Cleveland Indians’ rotation does not lie with Corey Kluber. Continue reading

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Mock Drafts

Jeff Ellis, our resident Draft Expert will be creating the mock draft portion of our website, and you may also see some of us foray into it as well. Every time we update the Mock, we’ll throw up a quick post to let you know. You can find them by clicking the Mock Draft drop-down menu at the top of the page.

Right now, we currently have posted Jeff’s current NFL Mock. We will update as Jeff updates!

You can find his first Mock Draft here:

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CSI 75: The end of the Spring Training soap box

It’s a special day in the land of Cleveland Indians’ baseball.

It’s Opening Day eve, and the Cleveland Indians are rolling into San Francisco in preparation for their opening day tilt against the Oakland Athletics, a game in which we’ll get to see our old friend Scott Kazmir in his first official start with the A’s. While we can start looking forward to the interesting match-ups on a day-to-day basis, the CSI crew got together for the first time in weeks to talk about some of the Spring Training news, and began to look forward at the season, as well as at the Indians signing philosophy after they allowed two starters to walk away, then passed on extending Justin Masterson.

Two hours after we recorded the pod, the Indians then signed Yan Gomes to a long-term deal out of the blue. While we didn’t discuss that specific deal, we did talk about the Indians plan going forward.

Here’s the rundown:

2:40–The concern of the starting rotation

3:15–Carlos Carrasco has concerns, regardless of your belief in his upside

6:00–While there’s a body of work, there are questions about each spot in the rotation, especially Carrasco and McAllister (his label forever–upside)

7:10–Mike seems to have a moderate fanboy crush on…

7:40–Francona made some definitive statements about Carrasco

8:30–Carrasco has no foundation to support folks that talk massive upside

9:20–The #5 starter will be fluid

9:50–Carlos Santana moves to third base, and Steve’s face is frozen

12:50–Mike talks Santana concerns, especially considering the weak defense

14:45–Lonnie Chisenhall is now just a back-up

18:00–Carlos Santana has so much offensive plus

22:30–Steve begins his 2014 predictions: Can he match 2013?

26:15–A lot of talk about Francisco Lindor

32:45–Francona has earned the type of trust to move Lindor in the lineup without an injury

36:50–Lindor could play his way onto this team

38:12–David Murphy—get excited

40:00–Steve hates on Murphy and makes everyone sad

41:45–David Murphy or Eddie Murphy?

At this point…Orbanek goes off…Marco Polo…Rob Lowe and Eddie Murphy…

45:15–Mike loves right field, even though it’s not as sexy as Rob Lowe

48:15–The Indians model of signing free agents, and the issues.

52:00–Masterson would have been an investment

55:00–Jake Westbrook Rule

55:30–The Indians need to lock up young pitchers to long-term deals, and players in general…like John Hart

59:00–Salazar needs signed long-term

1:02–Mike the narcissist, and Jim gets him to say pooh-pooh

1:08:40–Mike talks Trevor Bauer and his new, moderate man-crush, and an old fanboy discussion on middle infielders

1:10–Michael Bourn watch

1:10:55–The plugs


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Audacity: Gomes extension a coup

Yan Gomes belts a homer (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Yan Gomes belts a homer (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

I am writing right now without a traditional sense of objectivity, which is any time one reacts immediately to a deal, there is a tendency to display immense polarity. This is, in many ways, a disclaimer before I lavish much praise upon the Indians’ front office.

As spring training began to wind down and the inability of the Indians to extend both staff ace Justin Masterson and all-star second baseman Jason Kipnis began to weigh on Indians’ fans, Tribe GM Chris Antonetti found a way to blindside the fan base with a move on the eve of opening day. Blindside seems to be fairly appropriate, as there was no hint or foreshadowing any interest of the Indians in extending Gomes this off-season.

This is not to say that Gomes is not deserving of such an extension, but even for myself, a vociferous supporter of buying out arbitration years and tacking on club options, I had not considered such an offer for Gomes prior to this season.

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Deluded Ralph Concedes Dave Dombrowski the Tactical Victory

As I sat plainly at my desk (the desk of the High Minister of ‘High AF’ Ministries of the Republic of Sealand), I received an important telegram, conscientiously transcribed by my secretary dolphin, telling that Detroit Tigers Dave Dombrowski has executed a masterstroke of capitalist brilliance and signed Miguel Cabrera to a long-term deal that would catapult the former Miami Marlin into the forefront of the league’s plutocracy.

As a minister of Sealand, my concern is justified – not only is Miguel Cabrera’s extension several hundred million times the GDP of This Proud Island Nation, but he was once a Marlin: to see a Sealand expatriate, be he a Marlin or a Devil Ray, turn his back on his country extracts a single patriotic tear.

Nationalistic fervor stirred and subsequently shelved, it was clear that Dave Dombrowski was the architect of this new geopolitical superstructure that keeps Miguel Cabrera in Detroit through 2025 – and a cunning edifice it is. He has turned the league upon its head, using the forward-looking, innovation-stuffed strategy of using record contract extensions as spoils of past MVP awards. It’s ideal.

You see, the Cardinals congratulated themselves for not signing Albert Pujols to a ten-year contract despite his three MVP awards. If Dave Dombrowski had helmed the Spirit of St. Louis that fateful offseason, he would have steered that ship into a future anchored by Albert Pujols – not merely a ten-year deal, though. Given the 5:1 ratio Dombrowski has ingeniously manufactured, Pujols would have received a 15-year deal worth $360M.

Barry Bonds? With his 7 MVP awards, his 35-year-contract would have kept the ageless son of Darius the Great playing baseball until 2042, at an AAV of All The Gold In The Roman Emperor’s Treasury.

Dombrowski’s move is just the most recent in a string of shrewd moves to keep the Tigers at the top of the AL Central. Doug Fister – I’m sorry, how many MVPs has he won? Talk to me when he trades someone of value. Results are what matter here in Sealand; perhaps you Americans take a different approach to things. Given the criticism of the Fister trade, it seems that American GSM Gulfstream Media writers don’t care much about the bottom line.

With Dombrowski’s recent acquisition, I must now beat him to the punch. He’ll soon be going after another MVP, a proven hitter. I must sign Jason Giambi to a five-year, $150M deal before Dombrowski gets the chance. Stealing his next target before he has a chance to should serve as some poetic justice.

I must prepare contingency plans, however. If Giambi refuses his post as Executive Cabinet Minister of Orca Training, I should prepare to execute a trade with the Holy Gold’s Gym Empire. Since Giambi is a former Athletic, Gold’s Gym should be pleased to see one of its own heroes back in the fold.

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Opening the Plexiglas Door

The Plexiglas Principle states that a team that unexpectedly breaks out one year should be expected to decline the following year; rather than continue improving, one should expect that team to decline from their previous year’s success.

Regression to the mean is the basis of this principle. Not only should one expect luck-based statistics like BABIP to return to the mean, one should also expect skill-based statistics to regress toward the mean. Expecting Raburn’s or (pre-injury) Kluber’s exceptional skill-based statistics to hold steady or improve is an unreasonable expectation, but that does not mean that the odds-on likeliest possibility is an almost total return to the mean, but merely a regression toward the mean: excellent performances, ones that exceeded projections, are much more likely to be ‘good’ rather than ‘excellent,’ but they’re also unlikely to return to being merely average. Continue reading

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Foul Ball Rates: Danny Salazar and Projections

Tuesday last, Danny Salazar took to the raised mound at the center of the base-ball diamond for the first time in Spring 2014. While Salazar’s own performance was rather overshadowed by the much-discussed outing of Trevor Bauer, Salazar’s own performance was less-than-inspiring, inducing only three whiffs over the course of his 42-pitch outing, for a Swinging Strike rate of 7.1%, according to my own personal collection of spring training statistics. This should neither surprise anyone nor be cause for concern: spring training means little, and the first start of spring training means even less.

Yet one trait in particular was gripping in Danny Salazar’s outing against the Angels: he induces a great many foul balls. While Tuesday was only one spring training game, it was wholly reminiscent of his 2013 outings wherein his pitch counts ran extraordinarily high – not because he was walking batters, but because batters were making such frequent foul contact. In 2013, Salazar Foul-Per-Contact rate was 55.6% – substantially above the league average of 48%.

Foul contact rate, as illustrated by this well-aged article from 2008, is a fairly unequivocal good for pitchers. It correlates positively and (pun incoming) strikingly with K rates, and correlates negatively with all manner of ‘batting-against’ statistics. Foul rates correlate positively with positive pitching traits and negatively with negative pitching traits. If one is a major-league pitcher who both wishes to succeed and who has an abiding admiration for the aesthetics of ten-pitch at-bats, high foul rates are a way to combine these two, and to varying degrees normal, desires.

More remarkably, it’s true that Foul% also negatively correlates with HR/FB rate – meaning, in short, that given Salazar’s high foul rate, his HR/FB rate should have been average-or-below. In the particular case of Danny Salazar, this leaves one with decided optimism. By far the most prominent criticism of Danny Salazar in the aftermath of his 2013 campaign was that he had trouble with the long-ball, which is certainly true: his HR/FB rate was well above league average. However, HR/FB has been shown to be one of the least stable year-to-year statistics, so simply because HR/FB ratio is high one year, there’s rarely reason to believe it will be high the following year. In Salazar’s case, his extremely high Foul/Contact rate indicates that not only should his HR/FB rate be merely league-average going forwards, there’s reason for Cleveland fans to believe that his true talent level on HR/FB rates should actually be better than league average; in short, Salazar’s home run rate, so problematic in 2013, may turn out to be one of Salazar’s strengths in 2014.

The correlation between Foul% and HR/FB is a weak one, to be sure, but Foul% is the stat that correlates more strongly with HR/FB rate than any other. The idea that Danny Salazar has a home run problem, the idea that his fastball is too straight to not result in large amounts of home runs, is one that’s understandable: last year, after all, his fastball was straight, and he gave up many home runs. There’s little reason, however, to believe that his fastball was a causative factor in his home run rate. A pitcher is extraordinarily unlikely to throw fifty-two innings of transcendent baseball if he has a glaring, fatal flaw. The HR problem he supposedly exhibited in 2013, then, was very likely mere statistical noise.


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