Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Profile: Cleveland Indians

It's fun writing about my own team, but probably pretty boring to read. Instead, I'm going to go through and profile each of the AL teams. (If hatt wants to do something similar in the NL, that'd be cool.) Today, I'll kick things off with the Cleveland Indians:

Steady As She Goes
The philosophy for whboone and the Indians, from Day 1 of the GAP on, has been consistency. With payroll budgets of $83m, $80m, and $83m, the Indians refuse to sacrifice the future to win now. They've been able to make the moderate payrolls work, with two AL East titles in two years. All the while, they've been commiting millions to scouting, training, and medical, ensuring that the pipeline that is the minor leagues will continue to fill future openings.

Over The Hump
84-78 got it done in a weak division in S1, so the first-round playoff exit was no surprise. But in S2, the Wahoos put up an impressive 101-61 mark, winning the division by 31 games. They earned a bye, but the en fuego Texas Rangers bumped them off en route to a World Series appearance.

Cleveland has started out slowly this year, at 7-7. However, the division appears to remain weak, and they are just one game out after two weeks. Could this be the year Cleveland gets over the hump and wins a playoff series, or more? Let's take a look....

Any discussion of the Indians' personnel has to begin with one LaTroy Franco. The 31-year-old lefty from Texas has two All-Star appearances, two Silver Slugger awards, and an S1 MVP. In his MVP season, he put up a .312/.400/.740 with 62 HR, (121 XBH), 179 RBI, and 35 SB in just 40 attempts. He slipped a tad in S2, down to a 980 OPS with 50 HR and just 94 XBH, and 22 steals in 33 attempts. Is this the beginning of the end for the Cleveland LF? He's got 6 HR in 14 G this year and 6/6 SB, with a 1007 OPS, so while he may not return to MVP form, he remains a formidable keystone in the lineup.

Order of Protection
Don't think Franco has to carry his lineup, however. The Cleveland batting order brings plenty of protection for Franco. Yorrick Rowand, Dario Selby, and Raul Carrara all do their share of damage on offense. Rowand, a 30-year-old CF, is not a slugger (17 HR in 1256 AB) but has stolen at least 70 bases in each of his first two seasons. Selby, 31, has played a little RF, 1B, and DH in his three seasons, and is one of the most underrated players in the GAP. He ripped 55 HRs in S1, and then led Cleveland with 56 more dingers in S2 when his power rating peaked at 101. He's off to an even-better start this year as his career OPS of 942 is dwarfed by the 1119 he has in the early going in S3.

Carrara, meanwhile, is one to watch. At just 21, he is in his third ML season, platooning in RF. He mashes RH pitching, but struggles against the lefties. After two solid seasons in the low 900s (OPS) and an average of 27 HRs, he is out to an 1119 start, 6 HRs in just 43 ABs.

Eminem Probably Hits Better Than MM
Michael Martin is another one to watch, but for a different reason. whboone seems committed to this guy, with 361 ABs last year and all 14 starts at 1B this year, but he just can't get it going. He has solid ratings (55 58 56 64 63), but his 789 career OPS leaves a lot to be desired, especially from a first baseman. Even worse is the 747 he has this year, .245/.339/.408. For a first baseman. Ugh.

GAP Greg Stewart or Real-Life Dave Stewart?
Ace Greg Stewart was the highest-ranked pitcher (#3 overall) on jakaitis' S2 GAP Player Ratings. Along with that accolade, Stewart has two all-star appearances and the S2 AL Cy Young Award. He's 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA already this year. His 0.85 WHIP is jaw-dropping, and his 26 K in 29.1 IP is impressive as well.

Let's compare his Cy Young S2 to the RL Dave Stewart's best year (1990):

Record - Greg 25-4, Dave 22-11
ERA - Greg 2.90, Dave 2.56
WHIP - Greg 1.13, Dave 1.16
IP - Greg 245, Dave 267
K - Greg 237, Dave 166

Greg holds up pretty well. The GAP's best Montanan is worthy of taking on the nickname from his namesake, so we'll call him "Smoke" Stewart from now on.

Smoke and Mirrors
The rest of the Indians pitching staff leaves a bit to be desired. SP/LR Lonny Lowry is off to a nice start, posting a 1.47 ERA through 18.1 innings, and setup man Del Nakajima has been solid again, with a 1.25 WHIP in 7 appearances. But 37-year-old Yorrick Brand, who took over closing duties last year, has struggled mightily. He converted 28 of 31 opportunities in S2, with a 2.16 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. This year, in his last three appearances, he has failed to retire a batter while giving up 5 earnies. He has an ugly 45.00 ERA and 7.00 WHIP.

Hitch Up the Wagner?
The Indians and whboone have to be anxious to let Kevin Wagner loose. In over a thousand MILB ABs, the 22-year-old RF has an OPS of 1095. He might not be quite ready (939 OPS in AAA last year, 833 out of the gate this year), but it won't be long. He hits lefties well, so he could be a platoon answer to Carrara for a long time.

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