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Cleveland Indians & MLB

Two Schools Of Thought

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Two Schools Of Thought

Unread postby swerb » Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:58 pm

Regarding the 2007 Indians, and their chances of winning the division.

1. The Indians are in the best division in baseball, and will need to win an additional 16-20 games in '07 to win the Central. They haven't done enough this off-season to accomplish that.

2. The Indians were statistically one of the best hitting and starting pitching teams last season. If the bullpen can go from bad to above average, they will be one of the best teams in baseball in '07.

I'm not sure where I stand on this yet. I will say this. The things that concerned me most with last years team have not yet been upgraded to my liking.

The manager is still Eric Wedge, who I feel is one of the worst in all of baseball.

Peralta and Victor still are big liabilities defensively, at 2 of the 3 most important defensive positions on the field. Honny has no range, Victor has a rag arm. The two people most mention as the guys that will help this teams defense (Marte and Barfield) are both just 23 years old.

The team still is slow, though Barfield helps. And theres no reason to think these guys will be any better fundamentally in 2007.

I guess what Im saying is this: it's easy to look at blown save stats (misleading) and a bad bullpen and say that upgrading that will be the difference because we were statistically impressive a season ago as hitters and starting pitchers.

Theres alot to be excited about with this team. Great young stars, positioned well financially going forward, a good core in place. But right now I got this team at about 85-90 wins ... and that ain't gonna be nowhere close to enough.
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Unread postby cweiz32 » Sat Dec 16, 2006 9:13 am

Good observations man. I'm with you on most of this. If the Indians played in another division, I would like our chances, but we need to contend with 3 teams that can bring it every year while we still have some glaring issues to contend with.

Plus, the team has never figured out how to get it done down the stretch. Until they can learn how to rise to the occasion, there's another thing to worry about. Until they prove otherwise, I won't have confidence if they're actually in a race in August or September.
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Unread postby consigliere » Sat Dec 16, 2006 9:24 am

Well, you know I am down with #2.

Hitting:

You can't assume anything, but when projecting where your team will be pre-season, you have to make some assumptions. The assumptions here, are hitters like Grady, Pronk, and Victor will continue to improve. Victor not so much, but Grady has just scratched the surface, and Pronk has too. So, at C, CF, and DH I expect some improvement in performance offensively.

If we can get Barfield to repeat his 2006 season, I'd be very happy, but I believe that getting him out of Petco, even though he is switching leagues, he will improve this year offensively. He'll be at worst a slight upgrade over Belliard offensively.

I also believe a platoon of Michaels/Dellucci will be MUCH more productive in LF than what we had in just Michaels out there last year.

Blake? I expect an average of his last three seasons: .263/23/71 with an .806 OPS. So, maybe the status quo with him in the lineup, which is not that bad.

Marte? At worst, he has to be on par with Boone offensively. I expect him to struggle somewhat offensively, but the defense will be what helps this team. He'll likely hit 8th or 9th, so I am not too concerned with the offense at least in 2007....but I expect him to show more pop than Boone, and hit somewhere between 15-20 HRs next year....but struggle with the average somewhat. I'm seeing a 2005 Casey Blake like year offensively of .241/23/58, and I could live with that.

The key, as Shapiro has pointed out, is Peralta. If he performs as to what was expected of him going into last season, this offense could be the best in baseball. Even if he does struggle, the offense will be very good....but I think Peralta is the key to making this offense one of the scariest in the game.

Only at 1B do I see a dropoff in production, which is to be expected since the Benuardo combo there last year was incredible, and only really beaten in production by Pujols. If Garko gets a chance to play everyday and he hits like he did the last two months last year, he would go a long way at equaling that.....but I can't expect that from him.

SO, to me, we'll have improved production (even if slightly in some cases) from 6 guys in the lineup: Sizemore, Pronk, Victor, Barfield, Dellucci/Michaels, Marte. One guy at the same level: Blake. One dropoff: the spot in the lineup Benuardo had last year, which will be taken by Choo or Garko. And one big question mark: Peralta.

Rotation:

Better than the one we opened with last year. This team started to get on a roll when it was CC, Jake, Cliff, Paul and Sowers. CC finally became a #1 starter, Sowers emerged, and the other three of Byrd, Jake and CLiff remain consistent. Plus, we have Carmona and Miller about ready to fill in if needed. This rotation is deep. It is the same as the one that ended the season, but better than the one pre-July, which is when the Indians had most of their problems.
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So, while the offense and starting rotation were our strong point last year, I still feel they even will improve somewhat.

The there are four keys to me. Rich pointed out three: defense, the bullpen and the manager. THe fourth to me is team speed.

Speed:

I think the team speed is a lot better than what it was for the first half of last season. With guys like Barfield and Choo now set to play regularly, that should be a big help in adding some stolen bases, but most importantly this team's ability to put pressure on the defense by going 1st to 3rd or 2nd to home. Just being more aggressive on the bases period. With Sizemore, Barfield, and Choo, we have three good abover average speed guys. And, with Michaels/Dellucci and Blake, we have two other athletic guys on the bases. I mean, think about it, Barfield and Choo essentially are replacing Belliard and Broussard/Perez in the lineup....that is a pretty nice incease in speed and athleticism.

Defense:

The outfield defense should be about the same, although I don't believe it was much of a problem to begin with. Dellucci will help improve LF slightly....and Choo out there a little more may help. Victor is still a question mark behing the plate, but if he gets back to 2005 levels (which is what he played at the 2nd half last year), he is fine there. No one complained about him in 2005 defensively. The big key, as everyone knows, is the infield defense. Marte is a huge upgrade over Boone. Huge. Barfield will be an upgrade over the 2006 Belliard (Belliard was one of the worst defensive 2B in 2006). Blake at worst will be a slight upgrade defensively over what we had at 1B last year.

The key, once again, is Peralta (maybe Shapiro does not always spin things). If Peralta can play SS like he did in 2005....we are golden. If he plays like he did in 2006....it will be an achilles heel for us. At worst, we need to have him split the difference between 2005/2006.

All that said, the infield defense has improved. And, I think Shapiro is wise to try and go out and find a defensive minded utility guy, which should also help.
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So, offense, rotation, team speed, and defense improved......damn we look like world beaters!

Not so fast. While Peralta is a huge key to the points laid out above.....the biggest key to the success of the 2007 Indians is: THE BULLPEN and ERIC WEDGE. And, they still are huge question marks.

The Bullpen:

This team is loaded with talent in the pen. The problem, is getting them to funnel this talent into results. Guys like Cabrera, Davis, Mujica, Perez, Sipp, etc all have tons of talent to help this bullpen in 2007 and beyond. But, the problem to date has been our ability to get them to stay consistent (Cabrera and Davis) or give them opportunities (Sipp, Perez, Mujica, Mastny,etc). A few of these guys likely will make up 2-3 spots of the 7-man bullpen.

Rafeal Betancourt is the bully's most consistent reliever, and when used properly, is one of the better middle relievers in the game.

With that said, what were our biggest issues in the bullpen last year? The closer was a problem the last half after Wickman was traded, but the problem all year were the relievers in front of the closer that tried to get the game to the closer. Our 7th/8th inning setup was awful. Also, we had no reliable left-handed relief for late inning matchups.

To me, the additions or Roberto Hernandez, Aaron Fultz and Joe Borowski will go a long way at correcting the late inning relief issues.....but I still have some concerns. I LOVE the idea of Borowski as a setup man, with Betancourt/Hernandez in a 7th inning and occassional 8th inning role, and Fultz as the late inning lefty with potentially Perez/Lare as a 2nd lefty to use earlier (Sipp is already ticketed for Buffalo).

But, as it stands, it looks like it will be a combo of Hernandez/Betancourt/Cabrera for 7th/8th inning duty and Borowski closing. I am fine with this....but to me, if they are able to find one more good arm for the backend, preferably at closer, this bullpen will be drastically improved from last year. At least that is how it appears, because as we know bullpens are so volatile. We won't know how effective this bullpen will be until we get the season going.....
______________________________________________________

All that said.....with the talent on offense and in the rotation.....the improved defense and team speed......an improved bullpen......this team to me is a 95-win team +/- 5 wins. Easily.

But, that would be easy if Leyland, Cox, or LaRusso were the manager on this team.

Which gets me to my final point.....the BIGGEST influence on this team will be Eric Wedge. Sure, Peralta can breakout or slump....the bullpen can flourish or cave....but to me, the single person that can affect this team is Wedge.

With Wedge as our manager, this team goes from a 95-win team with a +/- 5 wins to a 95-win team with a -12 in wins depending on what Wedge does. Do you follow me? Basically, manager aside I think this team's target for wins is 95, and depending on how they perform, they could win as much as 100 games on the high end, or 90 on the low end. But, when including Wedge in that equation, the team's target is still 95....but that is their ceiling. Every bonehead move he makes or any other Wedge criticism that was mentioned in the past that resurfaces will detract from this team.....which is why he has a possible -12 effect. Meaning, this team on talent alone should win 90-100 games...but with Wedge as manager should win between 83-95 games.

So there you have it. Feel free to disagree.

(hell, maybe I should have made an article out of this)
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