Some people hand out grades or awards when recapping a season.
I feather people.
So it is a silly play off the fact that the logo for my blog is a feather (because these are the INDIANS afterall, right?) but it basically is grading every player and coach on a scale of one to five.
If you want to get fancy, it's like me rating a movie five stars. I don't split my feathers in half though, you either get a full feather or not feather at all.
The ones that don't get a feather are not bad, but rather players with inconclusive results to their 2010 season. I use the simple standards of 150 at-bats for position players and 30 innings pitched for pitchers. I'll also consider anyone with half a season played, but that loophole doesn't come up often.
My scale sort of looks like this. Five feathers means you pretty much did everything expected of you and had a fantastic season. You can already tell by that, not many people are getting five feathers. Four feathers is sort of above average or slightly above expectations, three is right in the middle, two is below average or below expectations, and one feather is just summed up in one word. Bad.
I take expectations highly into account in determining this system that isn't very complex and judge all around performance. I do lists basic stats, but what I've seen, defense, and just other random specifics are taken into account.
At the end of it all, I hand out two very special awards, the Golden and Silver feathers. The Golden Feather is simply Shin-Soo Ch, I mean the Team MVP and the Silver Feather goes to the person on the team that I felt was crucial to the squad, but may not get the recognition for it. Essentially, they are the unsung hero of the Cleveland Indians.
Yes, I realize it is hard to be much of a hero, much less an unsung one on a team with 69 wins.
Without need for further explaination, here are my End of the Year Feathers for the 2010 Cleveland Indians.
Five Feathers - Gee, Aren't You Special?
Shin-Soo Choo - .300/.401, 81 R, 22 HR, 90 RBI, 22 SB
Last Year: 5
It was last year that I gave two Indians the honor of receiving five feathers. This year, I've done the same and for the second straight year, Shin-Soo Choo is a five feather player.
As if there was any doubt. Choo missed a small portion of the season due to an injury to his thumb that was originally expected to claim a larger portion of his season. However Choo managed to make his stint on the disabled list a short one and came back to have a season for the record books offensively. His line is one that no other Indians player has ever put up.
Only seven players put up a .400 on-base percentage in the entire game and Choo was one of them. Only five players also hit .300 and Choo was again, one of them. Those numbers show Choo's value to an Indians lineup that didn't have much to support him.
Meanwhile there was only one other player in the American League that was able to steal 20 bases and hit 20 home runs, that player would be Bobby Abreu. Several players did in the NL, but you could probably say that Choo is one of the most versatile players in the American League.
Not only did he show that all-around ability at the plate and on the base paths, Choo led all outfielders in the majors in assists with 14. His aggressiveness sometimes led to issues, but you save runs when you take runners off the bases in that manner.
We know Choo is the all-around player that any team would love to have. It's just good that he put up All-MLB caliber numbers to prove it to the rest of the game.
Chris Perez - 2-2, 63 IP, 23/27 SV, 9 HLD, 1.71/1.08, 61 K
Last Year: 3
Have the Indians found themselves one of those closers capable of going out there and shutting the opposition down a good percentage of the times he walks out to the mound? It sure does look like it. Chris Perez started the season as the closer because of an injury to Kerry Wood but he finished the season as the closer because he simply knows how to get the job done.
After the All-Star break, which is around the starting point where Perez was the guy, very few closers had better numbers. Perez was 16-for-17 in save opportunities with a 0.63 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. He was bested by Rafael Soriano and Neftali Feliz in the WHIP department but no one who had 15 saves in the second half had better numbers than that.
In the brief period he wasn't the closer in the first half of the season, Perez settled into the set-up role. His first stint as closer was a feeling out process that was marked with inconsistent opportunities and some struggles. You almost got the feeling that he could get the job done, but with sporadic chances and the bottom line fact that he wasn't the "true" closer, things just weren't right.
When Wood was dealt, things were right and Perez showed it. The Indians should feel really good about the back end of their bullpen going forward with Perez as the closer.
Four Feathers - Good, But Not Quite Good Enough!
Travis Hafner - .278/.374, 46 R, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 2 SB
Last Year: 4
I know I'll catch flack for this and I probably should have caught flack for putting him in the four-feather category last year. But the fact of the matter is Travis Hafner produced. A lot of the feathers are based off expectations and I'm telling you right now, if you are expecting 30 home runs and 120 RBI from this guy, you are expecting too much.
Hafner hit fewer home runs and knocked in fewer runs than I expected him to, but he got something back that took me by surprise. His batting eye has returned and with it the avoidance that some pitchers have when pitching to Pronk. His high OBP is good news for the hitters around him because it not only gives them more RBI opportunities, it means Hafner is getting walked and pitchers are deciding not to pitch to him.
Not only that, Hafner seems to be adjusting his game. I think he knows he can't hit 30 home runs again and he's stopped trying to. Hafner compromised a lot of the success with getting on base and hitting for three more home runs last year. Granted he had more at-bats, I don't think he played as consistently as he did this year.
I think we've seen a pattern or at least a routine in terms of Pronk's playing time. Set your expectations lower for what he gives and while I know that is hard with the money he is getting paid, it is the only way you are going to be positive about what are actually decent numbers that he puts up. Are they MVP numbers worth of a guy who is just paid to basically hit? No, but they contribute and that type of production is valuable to the team and the hitters around him.
Carlos Santana - .260/.401, 23 R, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 3 SB
Last Year: NF
It may be crazy and almost too hopeful to be giving four feathers to a guy who had just 150 at-bats this season. But those 150 at-bats were incredible. Look at what he did in those 46 games he played in. Throw in what he did at Columbus (and it was overly dominant) and there is reason to believe this guy is as-advertised.
Four feathers to Santana because he lived up to the hype, albeit briefly, Santana not only produced, he brought a swagger to this team. Look beyond what he did at the plate and look at what he did behind it. His first two games were probably two of the better pitched games of the season for Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona. His first opportunity to gun down a runner was successful and he threw out 35% of would-be base stealers.
If anything, let me give one number: 37. That is the number of walks that Santana had in his 150 at-bat. Of the 12 players who had more at-bats than Santana, he had more walks than nine of them. Only Choo, Hafner, and LaPorta had more walks than Santana on this team and he played considerably less than a lot of them. That is how good this kid is.
Fausto Carmona - 13-14, 210 IP, 3.77/1.31, 124 K
Last Year: 1
Fausto Carmona is Exhibit-A when it comes to proving a turnaround is possible. This is what I said about Carmona last year when I gave him one feather.
"What has happened here is an absolute train wreck. He's gone from deer in the headlights closer crawled up in the fetal position of the clubhouse after being exposed to the Boston Red Sox, to Cy Young contending tamer of the bugs and the New York Yankees in the ALDS, to awful starting pitching exiled to Arizona."
And if that run on sentence didn't sum things up, I don't know what would. Let me continue.
"Carmona was awful and at one point it felt like the Indians had no clue what to do with him. I think it was at that point they threw their hands up and said, 'alright let's just start over.'"
That is exactly what happened and by golly it worked, at least it worked better than I think we all hoped it would. Carmona has come back to more than a semblance of a decent starter. Did he show that he could be a lock down number one ace of a starting rotation? No, but he's pretty damn close, if not a great number two.
It now remains to be seen if the adjustments that he made in the second half of the season (he's trying to develop a changeup) will take him to yet another level.
I also said the Indians were transitioning him into an actual pitcher. Carmona looked like an actual pitcher this past season and with that skill-set, he's less-likely to implode. Carmona only had five starts out of 33 in which he gave up five or more earned runs. Two of those games marked the only two times he wasn't able to go at least five innings in a start this season. He failed to go five innings five times last year and only twice did he go at least seven innings in a game and both times he only went seven.
He's going deeper into games and we all know a lot of that has to do with the fact that he isn't walking hitters like crazy. Carmona didn't go a start last year and not walk someone. Did it four times this year and only walked more than four hitters on four occasions. Only did it 3 times last year but he had nine less starts in 2009 and only two less walks than he did this season.
The point of the matter is that he is become much more efficient and much more controlled. His WHIP lowered from 1.76 to 1.31, back closer to what he was doing in 2007. He also led the AL in ground ball double plays, which signifies more than anything that he's closer to 2007 than he is to 2009. Carmona had an incredible turnaround and let's hope that it isn't quite finished yet.
Mark Shapiro - Signed OF Austin Kearns, OF Shelley Duncan, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, RHP Jamey Wright, RHP Saul Rivera to Minor League Deals, Signed C Mike Redmond, and 1B Russell Branyan Traded for RHP Mitch Talbot, Traded OF Austin Kearns, 3B Jhonny Peralta, 1B Russell Branyan RHP Kerry Wood, RHP Jake Westbrook, Claimed 2B Jayson Nix off Waivers
Last Year: 2
Like with Hafner, people will probably groan seeing Mark Shapiro's name under the four feather grouping, but last year proved I can knock Shapiro down a few pegs.
Next year Chris Antonetti gets feathered as he takes over as General Manager, but for this season, we still hold Mark Shapiro largely responsible for what went down. As you can see, Shapiro signed a few minor league free agents that contributed and even netted the Indians a prospect in Zach McAllister, as well as traded enigmas such as Jhonny Peralta and Russell Branyan.
After he signed Russell Branyan of course.
I give Shapiro high marks for what he did this season and past offseason. He traded Kelly Shoppach, someone the club didn't need for a pitcher that played a part in their rotation. The Kearns signing was brilliant not just because he got something in return for a minor league signing, but Kearns was one of the two players offensively contributing at one point early in the season.
Like last year, it's hard to judge him on deals like Peralta and Westbrook because we not yet know what we have in those players in terms of the major leagues. But like we do with all the feathers, we judge based on expectations and perception and I think Shapiro did good in this little window.
Last year, I really knocked Shapiro down for trading Franklin Gutierrez for Joe Smith and Luis Valbuena. That was after he signed Carl Pavano. This year he made not just one brilliant minor league addition in Kearns, he picked up a guy like Shelley Duncan who contributed and made a great low-risk trade for Mitch Talbot. Not to mention he claimed Jayson Nix off the trash heap and he traded someone he foolishly signed for not one, but two prospects.
I also liked the short-term signing of Mike Redmond as the backup. An above-average year for Mark Shapiro in his final run as GM of the Indians.
Tim Belcher - 4.30 ERA (25th), 1.43 WHIP (27th), 967 K (30th)
I think if I just put up Tim Belcher's name and didn't attach those statistics, you'd agree with me. But even I doubted myself when I attached those stats. But let's take a step back and remember what this is about. This is about expectations and I think everyone and their mother expected the Indians pitching staff to be abysmal. They weren't stellar by any means and collectively the numbers are near the bottom where they were expected to be.
But there are some real positive individual cases and if you look at how well they progressed in the second half (3.89 ERA, 13th in the majors and 1.34 WHIP, 19th) then I'm really pleased with the job Tim Belcher did.
More than anything, I love the philosophy that both he and manager Manny Acta have not only preached, but have strictly enforced. Throw strikes and throw them early. It clearly started to take with this club as over time, they started doing so and started getting results.
You look at Carmona and Talbot, some of the progressions Justin Masterson made. You look at young guys like Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin, and Carlos Carrasco, guys who are green and more easily to influence early on and the job Belcher has done with them.
Let's also consider this. 110 errors and a .982 fielding percentage (20th in the MLB). I think the defense might have actually been worse than those numbers indicate, which would probably mean the pitching was better than the numbers indicate.
Three Feathers - You Serve A Purpose, I Promise.
Asdrubal Cabrera - .276/.326, 39 R, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 6 SB
Does everyone realize that he hit .308 last year? Look, I'm not going to complain if he ultimate hits upwards of .280 because I had the original opinion that if he just hits a little and plays amazing defense, that would be good enough for me.
Yet I go back to the recurring them of expectations and the expectations for Cabrera were a little higher both offensively and defensively. Now he broke his arm, or I should say, Jhonny Peralta broke his arm, so he gets a little slack. But he got injured last year and still put up 52 extra-base hits as a part of a stellar season.
I think his offense will come back around. Not sure if he really is a .300 hitter, but again, he doesn't have to be. If he's getting on base (or better yet, if the Indians play him up there and expect him to do so) then he doesn't have to be a .308 hitter. But he needs to play better defense. If this guy is going to be the man in the middle that controls the infield, he has to set the example. I just brought up defense and how the pitching may have suffered because of it. He needs to be this club's standard in that aspect.
Cabrera's fielding percentage last year was .972. That's below even the Indians team average and stellar defenders like Jhonny Peralta and Luis Valbuena. I'm not going to bother digging or flashing the sambermetric fielding stats because I quite frankly don't understand them. I watched just about every game and I know that Cabrera didn't look like the same shortstop he has in the past.
His range wasn't as good, he made some flashy plays, but also made some head-scratchers.
The overall package just wasn't what we thought it would be. He maintains an average rating because he still contributed and I'm taking the injury heavily into consideration, but we need better from Cabrera.
Jayson Nix - .234/.283, 29 R, 13 HR, 29 RBI, 1 SB
Nix had just one home run with the Chicago White Sox. What ever got into him when he arrived in Cleveland was probably an effort you won't see from him on a consistent basis, but I think there is a happy medium in there somewhere.
Ultimately when this guy arrived, I think people were puzzled. This isn't a contending team, why not get a guy like Josh Rodriguez up here if there is a need in the infield while Cabrera is out? Shapiro and company saw something though and made the claim and I think they deserve some credit for it. Now obviously, if he continued to clunk around and not be of any contribution, Shapiro would have continued to get blasted, rightfully so.
But Nix did more than we thought and I think for that, you have to tip your hat on the pick-up. Now the plan seems to be for Nix to be a potential answer at third base. The club has multiple second base options in Jason Donald and Luis Valbuena, as well as a duo in Columbus that both seem to have some high upside. Nix was part of the three-headed monster (and it was a monster) that took over in place of Peralta and none of them were good defensively.
But Nix was the best offensively and probably the fact that he is above average or at least average at second in terms of defense gives the club hope he can adapt. He'll be in Puerto Rico playing third and if things go well, the Indians might have themselves an internal option.
Ultimately I don't think anyone could have asked for more than what Nix did when he came over. I don't think many people actually wanted Nix to do what he did when he came over truthfully, but the fact is he did.
Shelley Duncan - .231/.317, 29 R, 11 HR, 36 RBI, 1 SB
I think the original thought here was that the Indians were signing a former Columbus Clipper who has had incredible success at the Triple-A level to compliment a bunch of young options and help guide a club to a successful season.
Well the Clippers had a successful season long after Duncan was called up and Duncan had some success as well. Like it is with most players in Duncan's position, I think the expectations for Duncan in Cleveland was that of a short stay. That short stay turned into a call-up that lasted all season.
Not only was Duncan a nice source of power and the go-to-guy for pinch hitting, he was a great veteran presence down the stretch after the club had traded their other veteran players. Duncan is a guy who's had to work hard to get to the major league level and he's also had the rare experience of being around success in addition to that with his time in New York.
If the Indians want to keep Duncan around for next season as a bench option, under the right circumstances, I wouldn't put up a fight. He was a good piece of this team.
Jason Donald - .253/.312, 39 R, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 5 SB
I had this kid pegged from the start of spring training. He was diving all over the place in the spring making all sorts of good defensively plays. The thing about Jason Donald is that he's one of those guys that makes up for whatever he lacks in hard work. The thing is I don't think he has to make up for a lot of things. I said that the Indians would be starting Jason Donald at second base sooner rather than later and I'm proud to say the fall of Luis Valbuena is one of the things I nailed.
Thank god Jason Donald was there. Yeah he hit .253 and made some mistakes at shortstop. But he's a second baseman and he was a rookie. Remember how he lit it up in Columbus? Now that he's healthy, I think full-speed ahead for Donald.
Only three players had more than 19 doubles on this team and they all had more at-bats. Donald is not a power hitter, but you have to love the way he hits those gaps. I love his defense at second and if this is his ceiling (which I don't think it is) I think its more than good enough as a utility player. Let's be honest, if Jason Kipnis is the answer (and I think we all hope he is), Donald is probably the odd man out. But for now, I'll ride the train.
Justin Masterson - 6-13, 180 IP, 2 HLD, 4.70/1.50, 140 K
I might be as shocked as you are that I was able to give Justin Masterson an average grade. Perhaps a full-season with a few weeks to digest the entire season has done some good in regards to Masterson.
Let me start with the good. The 140 strikeouts. This team lacked a dominant starter in terms of being able to strike someone out other than Masterson. Yes as they say, strikeouts are sexy but as long as you are getting outs, does it really matter?
I'll get to the rest of the good in a second, but might as well touch up on the bad. His 1.50 WHIP was sixth highest in the majors among qualified starting pitchers. His percentage of quality starts was the lowest in the majors at 41%, tied with Jeremy Bonderman and Scott Baker. His pitches per inning was at 17.2, second most in the major leagues.
What do all these numbers equal? The strikeouts are awesome, but when you have a guy who strikes out a lot of hitters, but is throwing 17 pitches per inning because he's walking a lot of people in addition to, he isn't going to get deep into games.
And that was the overall problem. He wasn't going deep into games. A big reason for that was his tendency to walk left-handed hitters. Versus the lefties (in which he had 79 more at-bats against), he walked 46 hitters. Compared to 27 walks against the righties, is a big difference, even with the small gap of at-bats. To further that point he only struck out 58 left-handed hitters to 82 right-handed ones.
I could go on all day about Masterson. It seems him more than anyone was someone I kept up with in terms of the numbers because they were that eye-opening. The fact of the matter is he has an issue getting out the lefties and that leads to him having to use more pitches and not go deep into games. There was a point early in the season that you could tell Oakland caught on because they stacked their lineup with left-handed and switch hitters.
If you look at his pitch selection thanks to FanGraphs, he threw his changeup just 3.5 percent of the time. His changeup, or at least a changeup from him, is what is going to get the left-handers out and it's either something he doesn't feel comfortable throwing, or simply is something he hasn't developed enough.
Back to the good, because it is ultimately why he gets an average feather count. His August and September months.
August: 6 GS: 35 IP, 3.28 ERA, .235 AVG Against
September: 2 GS, 6 G, 20 IP, 2.25 ERA, .236 AVG Against
His last eight starts of the season were very encouraging and very productive compared to the rest of his season. It was almost as if things started to click a little bit. In fact, in his last eight starts (counting the Twins game as a start and discounting the Royals game because of the rain), he went at least five innings in all of them, in his last six he went at least six innings.
I see some sort of progress there, where as after July I was ready to banish him to the bullpen for good.
Mitch Talbot - 10-13, 159 IP, 4.41/1.49, 88 K
In a way, Mitch Talbot is a big reason for Masterson getting an average feather count, because Talbot was just as cringe-worthy in the peripheral department as Masterson was.
He doesn't qualify for leaders because of his missed time and ultimately he only threw 159 innings. But his 1.49 WHIP was just as bad as Masterson's. The problem there is that Talbot can't strike anyone out at will like Masterson can.
His first half was great. I don't think anyone could have asked for a better surprise than Talbot fighting his way through a good first half. Things looked horrible in that first outing early on, but it was almost as if when he turned around that start against Detroit, he set the tone for what kind of pitcher he was. He doesn't have the best stuff (but he, unlike Masterson does have a great changeup) but he battles and he makes you earn what you get.
I think the common argument for Talbot going forward is that he had a good first half (17 GS - 3.99 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) but an injury in addition to fatigue got to him in the second part of the season. I think that is a sound argument considering he was coming off an injury last season (and just 68 innings pitched). You throw in the adjustments that the league surely made and I think that is a reason for the leveling off.
And that's why I level off his performance. Throw in the low expectations I personally had for him, I think the three feathers is justified.
Josh Tomlin - 6-4, 73 IP, 4.56/1.25, 43 K
The thing I'm working with in terms of the two rookie pitchers in Tomlin and Gomez is the fact that I expected neither to contribute a single inning this season.
If I had to pick one to be more impressed with, it would probably be Josh Tomlin. Not just because of what he did at the big league level, but the way he really took a huge step in Columbus. Here's the thing. You can only find so many flashy studs like CC Sabathia and hopefully we've found one or two that can lead the rotation in Pomeranz or White.
But a rotation needs a guy like Josh Tomlin. What I mean by that is that every rotation needs someone who just gets the job done and Tomlin is that type of pitcher. He is the guy that I'd place money on in terms of winning the fifth rotation spot next year because he does EXACTLY what Tim Belcher wants and he gets results.
He throws strikes. His WHIP is far better than Gomez's and while you are researching, do me a favor and check out Tomlin's game log. In his 12 starts with Cleveland he went five innings in all of them. That is including a game in which he went off three days rest.
That game was his first road start in addition to it being his second game.
That's some tough stuff right there. That's someone who just gets the job done.
Jeanmar Gomez - 4-5, 57 IP, 4.68/1.65, 34 K
I think ultimately, Jeanmar Gomez has a little more upside because he has a little more talent, but he has things to work on.
The defining moment for Gomez though is the fact that he used the call-up he wasn't supposed to get to turn his season around. He was having a tough time adjusting to the Triple-A level, but after he made that start at the big leagues, things sort of turned around and he used that as a confidence builder.
I like the mental part of that. I like the fact that he can use such a thing to build off of.
Again though, I didn't expect either Gomez or Tomlin to be here. So when you boil everything down, the fact that they both came in and did just remotely well is enough for three feathers.
Carlos Carrasco - 2-2, 44 IP, 3.83/1.37, 38 K
Carlos Carrasco only pitched in September, but he reaches my requirements and I think a lot of people were tuned out by the time he did what he did.
Carrasco made five starts last year and he was absolutely blasted. Again, I don't think people realize how bad he was. He gave up 22 earned runs in 22 innings. Who is that bad?!
This year, so much better. He made seven starts, went 2-2 with a 3.83 ERA in 44 innings. I think the expectations for him coming up this September were ones of cautious optimism. He did well in Columbus and seemed to take to the changes that Charlie Nagy made to his mechanics.
It would have been kind of hard to not improve from last year's stint, but not only did Carrasco look better, he looked like a different more confident thrower. Carrasco looks to have all but cemented himself into the rotation next year and he can do what he did, if not better, over the course of more than seven games.
Rafael Perez - 6-1, 61 IP, 13 HLD, 3.25/1.59, 36 K
Exhibit-B in amazing turnarounds, Rafael Perez was horrendous last season. Downright awful. So much so that some had wondered if the ship had sailed on the slender left-hander and if we should just cut ties all together.
The start to his season only amplified the chatter of releasing Perez or even trying to sneak him through waivers and send him to Columbus. Remember how I asked, "Who does that?" in regards to Carrasco giving up as many runs as innings pitched. Well Perez almost did it in 2009 over a longer course, giving up 39 runs in 48 innings.
This year, not only was he able to return to work-horse form in tossing 61 innings, Perez seemed to get his groove back. Here is one underlying concern though.
The WHIP is a little inflated compared to where he was in '07 and '08. That has to do with him giving up a few more hits and walks in less innings, but that isn't my primary concern.
What happened to the strikeout artist that we've become accustomed to? He struck out 86 hitters in 2008 and 62 in 2007. The past two years he's in the 30's. He can live off those walks he gives up, but he has to strike hitters out. The only thing I can think of is hitters laying off his incredible slider.
That's his money maker, the way he gets so many hitters to look foolish. In his good years, '07 and '08, he was throwing his fastball nearly or just about half the time. The slider was making up for just under half or even half his pitches.
The past two years there's been a perplexing swing. Last year he threw his fastball way too much and I think that goes hand in hand with his struggles. You can only throw your fastball so many times before hitters get the picture and catch on.
This year his fastball not only dove way below what he did last year, it dove way below what hes done every other year. Perez threw his fastball 33% of the time and his slider only gained a little more favor. What he started incorporating this season was a changeup, which he threw almost 21% of the time.
I'm not sure if this is helping him (it has about the same speed as his slider, probably with less break, which if hitters are laying off, could be a good thing to utilize.) but I'd venture to say it may be his answer in terms of making adjustments.
What ever he did, I'd venture to say he should continue down the path considering he managed to turn his season around and put himself back into the set-up equation.
Tony Sipp - 2-2, 63 IP, 15 HLD, 4.14/1.38, 69 K
The reason that so many players fall in this average middle ground can probably be best explained by the fact that Tony Sipp and Joe Smith drive me crazy. I fully expected more from Tony Sipp and way less from Joe Smith. Yet how can I in good faith give Joe Smith more feathers? In that turn, Joe Smith wasn't horrible, so how can I in good faith give Tony Sipp more feathers?
That's why they are earning the same amount. Let me talk about Sipp though. He struck out more hitters on this team than any other reliever, including Chris Perez. He clearly has the ability and from the left-side is a valuable piece to the bullpen.
Early he was as good as you could have asked for. Then he hit a wall in New York and his season sort of took a turn. The good news is that Sipp bounced back. Now it would seem that all that is left for him to do is put it together for consistency's sake.
Joe Smith - 2-2, 40 IP, 16 HLD, 3.83/1.35, 32 K
Joe Smith made me want to pull my hair out. Then the Indians optioned him to Columbus and I pretty much threw a party. Smith pitched well enough to earn a return trip and I can't take credit away from a guy who earned it. Smith was significantly better in his second go-around.
Pre All-Star in just 15 innings, he was 1-1 with a 5.17 ERA and a .237 average against. Post All-Star and in his return his ERA drifted down to 2.96 with a .188 average against. A big part of that probably had to do with the fact the Indians pretty much gave up letting him face left-handed hitters. Let's face it, they crush him. In 38 at-bats, lefties had 13 hits and he walked nine hitters. Against right-handers in 106 at-bats he gave up 17 hits and walked 15. The averaged drops from .342 to .160 and the OBP drops from .479 to .264.
Let's not fool ourselves. Joe Smith is what he is, a right-handed specialist. If the Indians use him in that role, the odds of him being successful go way up.
Frank Herrmann - 0-1, 44 IP, 7 HLD, 4.03/1.28, 24 K
I was campaigning for Frank Herrmann last year towards the end of the season. After the ridiculous start he got off to in Columbus this year, there was no reason to hold him back any longer and the Indians called him up.
Herrmann made his debut in June against Chicago and he came out of the gates with his hair on fire. In his first two months he was a big help to the bullpen, picking up a save in 22 innings and surrendering just seven runs. He struck out 13 hitters and walked five and recorded four holds.
Herrmann's stuff really plays up in the bullpen and he can really put some heat on his fastball, some heat he probably can't put on as a starter. I don't think people realize he can bring the power and he's often overlooked in terms of the whole bullpen mix.
His last two months were a little rough and really his numbers are probably inflated by a five run bashing at the hands of Baltimore. But he did have some issues and perhaps had some adjustment problems.
I'd put Herrmann in the mix net season for a bullpen spot and see how he can do from the get-go. He's done it at the Double-A and Triple-A levels as a reliever and I think there is every reason to believe he can do it at the major leagues.
Jensen Lewis - 4-2, 36 IP, 1 HLD, 2.97/1.29, 29 K
I'm not sure what Jensen Lewis is doing wrong to make the entire world hate him. His final numbers don't look that bad, in fact they make you wonder why exactly he was making the constant Columbus-Cleveland road trip. Here are his four different stints.
April 5th to May 4th: 11 G, 11.1 IP, 3.97 ERA, 9/8 BB/K
May 30th to June 24th: 10 G, 10.2 IP, 5.06 ERA, 4/5 BB/K
July 17th to August 4th: 5 G, 4.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 3/4 BB/K
September 1st to October 1st: 12 G, 10.2 IP, 0.84 ERA, 2/11 B/K
Now his best stint was obviously his last one when he was called up when rosters expanded. While his first stint, in which he won the final bullpen spot out of spring training, wasn't bad, it wasn't good enough to keep him around. Point blank he wasn't throwing as many strikes and was having an issue with the walks.
Second time around, he just didn't have the results. By the time he got his third shot, he was the designated "warm body" in case the bullpen was overworked or the Indians were making a move and were positioning themselves to carry an extra reliever for a few days.
Jensen was fantastic in Columbus and in his final stint he was clearly in command. He's out of options and quite frankly, I'm not sure the organization is all that high on him anymore. He voiced frustration about being in Columbus over Twitter during the course of the season and has been very open about how happy he was that the season ended. It wasn't so much voicing frustration with the Indians, but perhaps the situation he's been in this year.
I respect what Lewis had to go through though and I think he's worth keeping around for a spring training battle.
Manny Acta - 69-93 (4th Place, 26 GB)
I have a tough time summarizing the season for Manny Acta because I know if I start getting into details, I run the risk of talking too much.
Rather than get into the good and the bad that I saw from Acta, I think I'll sort of sum up the reason I gave him three feathers.
Injuries, his positive attitude, and the way he actually made the young talent at the end of the season watchable. There was times last year that this club was unwatchable and a lot of it had to do with the sloppiness of youngsters getting their first opportunity at the big leagues and the lack of discipline.
The defense was a disappointment and throughout the year, there were some things that made you shake your head. But I think for the most part, this team played with some sound discipline more times than not. I was really impressed with the way that Acta was able to get this young team to buy into his vision and his words. We know the guy is an expert communicator and it seems as if he has a head start in molding this team in his likeness because of it.
There is a lot to be hopeful of in terms of talent in this organization, but there is even more reason to be hopeful with this guy leading that talent in my opinion.
Second Feather - At Least You Aren't Hector Ambriz!
Matt LaPorta - .221/.306, 41 R, 12 HR, 41 RBI, 0 SB
It was last year that Matt LaPorta got a break for how he was, in a way misused in terms of playing time. When he played, he looked good and showed promise.
I think in addition to the injuries though, we forget that LaPorta was really in his first full-time starting gig at the major league level, and even that was unsteady.
Yet we are still at a point where we are "hopeful" with LaPorta and despite hitting 12 home runs and showing some of that flash, he needs to be knocked down a peg. This next season we are going to be hopeful that he needed an offseason to get in shape and recover from his numerous injuries.
His swing looks out of whack at times and you can't help but think that part of the reason is the aftermath from his injuries. Has it made him adjust his swing to the point he's getting into bad habits? A confidence boost in Columbus was nice and he came back up and continued to carry that hot play at the major league level, which was refreshing.
But he sort of did hit a wall at one point. Let's go back to the hope factor and hope for him to finally go upwards and show that promise we all have in him.
Michael Brantley - .246/.296, 38 R, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 10 SB
Brantley didn't get feathered last year, but he gave us some high hopes after what he did in September. Here is the problem.
I sort of expected him to struggle, even more so when the Indians toyed around with his role and were not committed to him from the get-go. It wasn't until they were committed to him that he was able to relax and play his game. I've toiled over this fact time and time again, before, during, and after what he did when he replaced Austin Kearns.
He became too concerned with hitting for power and pulling the ball early on. He got away from what makes him a unique weapon and I think that is the main reason that I'm going below average. I love what he did post-return (for the final time), but the early season struggles were kind of souring.
Trevor Crowe - .251/.302, 48 R, 2 HR, 36 RBI, 20 SB
If I could give Trevor Crowe negative feathers I would. But I can't bash Trevor, because he didn't put himself in the lineup as much as Manny Acta did.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Acta played Crowe as much as he did, because that is what this season was about. The Indians needed a definitive answer as to what Trevor Crowe is and I think they go one. Unfortunately I think they liked what they saw and are fully prepared to move forward with him as a bench player.
Now I agree, Crowe is a bench player, but the thing is I knew this a long time ago. His numbers are that worthy of a bench player and there is nothing wrong with that. We need players like that. The problem is I think we can do a whole lot better in terms of a reserve outfielder with all the options in this system. For one, I think a reserve outfielder should at least be above average defensively and Crowe is not that.
I've complained about his defense before, but really, he takes horrible routes and sometimes looks like a confused squirrel in the middle of four lane highway.
Offensively, he's probably below average there as well. Here's the thing though. Half his RBI came with runners in scoring position and two outs. For awhile he was a bit of a clutch hitter. Ultimately I think that statement can be equated to me saying that was a flash in the pan, but it is interesting.
I'm not the biggest Crowe fan. Manny Acta is and that makes me scared, but there could be worse things in the world, I guess.
Aaron Laffey - 2-3, 55 IP, 5 HLD, 4.53/1.62, 28 K
Have we seen the end of Aaron Laffey? Like Jensen Lewis, Laffey seems to be one of those players that the Indians have had around for awhile now that they just use and abuse. Laffey has been moved between the bullpen and the rotation in the past few years more times than I can really recall.
This year alone he was moved from rotation to bullpen back to starter and eventually back to bullpen. I think we can easily underestimate how difficult that can be for a pitcher, especially one who's spent his career in one role.
I give credit to Laffey for being a good organizational soldier and rolling with the punches, but ultimately he struggled and I think it would also be reasonable to believe the constant switching helped bring on his arm fatigue.
I feel like I've said some of this before and I did, last year. The bottom line is Aaron may be damaged goods. All of it through no fault of his own, part of it through injuries and another part through the Indians own doing. For one, the Indians need to decide what role they want Aaron to have and stick with it. If they want him to be a swing-man, they should prepare him as one.
Jon Nunnally - .248 AVG (23rd), .322 OBP (18th), 646 Runs (26th)
A lot of the two feather hand outs are one of sympathy. It seems like a majority of things that happen to the players and people I give two feathers are out of their control or they just stumbled into some rough luck.
Jon Nunnally is tough for me. Last year I gave Derek Shelton one measly feather. His reward after getting fired was getting hired by the team that would go on to win the AL East. The proof is in the pudding though, the Rays were horrible offensively. They got worse in on-base percentage and how many playoff teams do you know score 800 runs despite hitting for a mediocre average? Two, Tampa and Philadelphia and the Phillies do it because they have guys like Ryan Howard.
It looks as if to me that some of the same principles that Derek Shelton instilled in some of the players that were here are fading away, but I have yet to pinpoint what kind of hitting instructor Jon Nunnally is. Look Cleveland obviously fell in all the categories I listed next to Nunnally's name.
But I attribute that to the lame talent the guy was handed. When you get to some of the disappointments in the next section, add in injuries to the likes of Cabrera and Sizemore, and the overall disappointment of guys like Matt LaPorta. I can only discredit Nunnally so much.
More than anything, the approach looks to be improving. I think the overall problem is the youth and that is extremely hard to deal with, especially for someone in his first stint at the major league level. Sure, he's dealing with youth at the minor league level and that's what he's been accustomed to, but you are walking into unknown territory with guys getting their first taste of major league pitching.
It will take time. I give Nunnally time and for the most part, a pass for this season. But I still can only give him two feathers.
One Feather - If You Aren't Hector Ambriz, You're At Least In His Company.
Lou Marson - .195/.274, 29 R, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 8 SB
I feel legitimate... what's the word I'm looking for here? I guess I feel legitimately bad for having to give Lou Marson just one feather.
Yeah it wasn't until May 9th, yes MAY 9TH, that Lou Marson finally knocked in a run, but the guy was defensively good. The sad thing is that you'd expect that from a backup catcher, but Marson wasn't a backup. Mike Redmond was and not only did he knock in his first run a month earlier, he had THREE before Marson even had one.
That just tells you what kind of start Marson got off to at the plate. His defense behind it was rough early too and he was held largely responsible for the wildness of both Jake Westbrook and even Rafael Perez.
But here is what impressed me about Marson back there. Aside from the fact he threw out the second most runners caught stealing in the AL (31) and did it with 30-to-40-plus games less than most of the other catchers.
He adapted. The second time around when he caught Rafael Perez, he realized how he had to catch him and started setting up where he knew the ball was going to go. He was on the ground before the ball was and he showed the ability to adapt and anticipate.
That was impressive. But perhaps it is the only reason he even gets one feather. His hitting was that bad. I really wish I could give him more.
Luis Valbuena - .193/.273, 22 R, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 1 SB
I sort of had this feeling that Luis Valbuena was hardly capable of what he did last year.
But this is ridiculous. Luis Valbuena was awful not just with the stick but with the glove. He made it clear he couldn't play shortstop worth a lick and that really hurts your value to a team when that's something they thought you could do, at least capably
Not even that Valbuena was fifth on the team in errors with 10.The problem is that two of the people ahead of him in errors played more innings than he did.
It's almost an injustice that he and Lou Marson get the same amount of feathers considering Lou Marson was at least good in one aspect of the game.
Luis Valbuena was bad in all aspects of the game. The defense was less than stellar and if it's possible, his offense was far worse.
Andy Marte - .229/.298, 18 R, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 0 SB | 0-0, 1 IP, 0.00/0.00, 1 K
I know, I can't believe Andy Marte got three feathers last year as well. But Marte produced off the bench and set a standard. The problem is he can't sit the bench and come off it cold and perform. He just isn't that type of hitter.
That's ultimately is a failing combo. A guy only capable of bench numbers who can't come off the bench and produce those numbers. I feel bad for Andy because I think he's got a good glove when he has consistent time and is at his sharpest.
Sadly, the party may be over. But at least we have that pitching performance to forever remember him by.
David Huff - 2-11, 79 IP, 6.21/1.69, 37 K
I might be able to write half a book on the season of David Huff. I'll skip detailing it all and just mention the essentially insanely weird things he was involved in.
He was hit in the head by a line drive, only to return for his next start. He was going to get called-up, but when his twitter account announced the news that the Indians specifically told him not to announce, his start was taken away. He lost 11 games after winning that amount as the team leader last year. It took Manny Acta saying Carlos Carrasco was in the rotation competition with Huff to actually light a fire under him. He won a bunch of games at Columbus, despite being pretty average and he started the National Championship game for them.
The end result of all of that and what he did on the mound though is a nice stay in Acta's dog house.
Huff doesn't do what Acta and Belcher want on a consistent basis and he more than anyone has suffered the consequences. Does he do it on purpose? I doubt it, but some people are stuck in their ways and Huff is almost defiant in the way he pitches. It's almost as if he doesn't care about pitching bad, as long as he isn't doing what he's told.
Whatever he's doing, his results justify this position. Hopefully Huff comes back next season with a new perspective, because his talent would be an unfortunate thing two waste.
Hector Ambriz - 0-2, 48 IP, 13 HLD, 5.59/1.76, 37 K
How bad was Hector Ambriz this season? So bad he had a perfect fielding percentage. Why is that an indicator of how bad he's been? Simple, he had eight total chances because everything was hit over his head.
Alright that was a lame joke and plenty of relievers had less chances at fielding balls than Ambriz (Chris Perez just struck everyone out though) but the point is that Ambriz was very bad.
Acquired from Arizona in the Rule V draft, Ambriz was converted from starter to reliever just this season to fit into the Tribe's bullpen. He started the year on the disabled list "with an injury" and pretty much made an immediate rehab assignment in Columbus.
In the end, he stayed on the roster all season and therefore is now property of the Indians and can be optioned down to the minor leagues. But guess what. Ambriz ended the season with an elbow injury and he'll probably miss next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
In a way it is disappointing because it would seem as if maybe the elbow issues helped contribute to his struggles and it was his first full year not only as a reliever, but in the majors. Bottom line though, Manny Acta couldn't use him on a regular basis because of his constant struggles.
The Golden Feather
Previous winners of the Golden Feather for Team MVP include Cliff Lee in 2008 and Asdrubal Cabrera in 2009. Is there any more obvious choice than to give it to Shin-Soo Choo this year? Really, this was a no-brainer for me, so I don't have much to say. Who is going to argue anyway? This guy was the lineup and he put up all-world numbers despite the thumb injury. Without Choo, this club would be doomed.
The Silver Feather
Previous winners of the Silver Feather for Unsung Hero include Jamey Carroll in 2008 and Travis Hafner in 2009. Like last year, this was a tough decision because of the team's struggles, there wasn't anyone that really stood out. Ultimately this goes to someone on the team that had an unheralded type of impact on the team and I decided to go outside the box with Tim Belcher. Remember I gave him four feathers for his work with the pitching staff and at the end of this season, it was the starting pitching that was better than we expected. I think the credit should go to Belcher for that and the overall outlook of the Indians pitching staff.
You can follow Nino on Twitter @TheTribeDaily where he often tweets about his parties with Andy Marte and sometimes about the Cleveland Indians.