I know most of you have probably started looking forward to the offseason, heck the Indians have already started it. That's probably the first time that has happened in a long time. But I'm a little more deliberate when I thrust myself into the offseason. I take my time, let the dust settle from the World Series, then start recapping the season.
And if I can use a baseball metaphor for a second, I touch every base when I do so. Go ahead and check out my blog for season recaps of every affiliate, as well as a fun little starter that I've done three years in a row now, The All Daily Team.
If you are just a main club kind of person though, I guess you can start and end here. This is something I do every year. Instead of the mundane grades or reviews, I write over 5,000 words about everyone that played a part in the 2011 season for the Cleveland Indians. And I grade them using feathers. So this is your fair warning. I've divied it up into two posts for you here at The Cleveland Fan, because I know reading the entire thing in one sitting might make you want to slap yourself. It made me want to punch myself just writing it.
After this though, I move forward, full-speed ahead for the offseason. You need to put 2011 to bed properly before you can move on, right?
My feathers go on a five scale rating and we incorporate everyone who had a significant role in the team. If you get five feathers, you done good. If you got one, you didn't. Three is average and that would lead you to know what four and two mean.
And as always, two special feathers are given out at the end, a Gold Feather for the team's most valuable player and the Silver Feather for the team's unsung hero. I will also formally give the Golden Fedora out to the reader's choice of Team MVP/Best Player.
Also you should probably know I incorporate nicknames and sometimes things get really weird or very serious. But you probably knew that by now.
As you need to know, here are the requirements for being considered for and statistics used and the brilliance that is our end of the year feathers. Traded players (sorry Orlando Cabrera) don't qualify as usual.
Asdrubal Cabrera - .273/.332, 87 R, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 17 SB
Last Year: 3
Well well well. The Asdrubal Experience returns to the category of five feathers. Cabrera was clearly the most consistent offensive threat this team had all year. He won several games with some clutch hits. Overall it was a good year. Not only did he bring the lumber with his power, he boosted the steals number and just overall put together a real solid year. Add in some good defense and there is a no-brainer here.
The question now becomes: Will Cabrera get an extension? He's proved that when healthy, he is one of the best players this team has. Add in the fact that he's really become a leader as he's matured and become one of the longer tenured members, he certainly deserves it. He's also getting closer and closer to free agency, so a deal for Cabrera could be something that is explored this offseason.
Justin Masterson - 12-10, 216 IP, 3.21/1.28, 158 K
You could not ask for another more from Justin Masterson. He really became this team's ace over the course of the season and it started from the get-go. He had a great April and then continued to show he was no longer someone who should be pushed into the back end of the bullpen, he's a starter and a damn good one. Masterson had many strides, but none was better than his improvement against left-handed hitters. In 2010 left-handers hit .290 with 10 home runs off him and he walked 46 hitters. A year later, he gave up one less home run and the average virtually stayed the same. The big difference was the fact that he walked just 27 hitters in 475 at-bats compared to the 46 in 389 at bats in 2010. He faced more lefties, walked significantly less and is a big reason for the turn around in success with Masterson.
Joe Smith - 3-3, 67 IP, 16 HLD, 2.01/1.09, 45 K
I'm not the biggest Joe Smith fan, but what a year he had. The biggest difference from the past two seasons and 2011? Health... Many thought that in 2008 with New York, the Mets ran him into the ground. In 2009 and 2010 he had issues, 2009 being a year he could never get fully healthy. In 2011 he was just that and from the start he showed it. He did start on the disabled list, but in the past the injuries were ones that had lingered. In 2011 he came right in and did his job.
Smith's most impressive feat was his scoreless run from May 12th to July15th, spanning over two months in which he did not give up an earned run and carried a .193 average against in 25 innings. Smith's success may also be attributed to the fact that he was mainly a righty killer and the Indian shied away from asking him to take on lefties as much. He faced just 90 left-handed hitters compared to 177 right-handers and the ones he did face, he held them to a .152 average. Add in the fact he gave up just one home run all year and you got yourself a incredibly reliable reliever who had a fabulous year.
Vinnie Pestano - 1-2, 62 IP, 23 HLD, 2.32/1.05, 84 K
Last Year: NF
What more could you ask from from Vinnie Pestano in his rookie campaign? He just kept getting better. Keith Law says he can't have success just throwing fastballs, well uh, I'd say a 3.32 ERA through 62 innings and being one of Acta's most trusted arms late in the game is pretty good. Pestano's key to success involves his deceptive and quick delivery. It catches up on hitters pretty quick and that's something that will be tough to adjust to. Some hitters, the really good ones, may be able to figure him out, but it isn't likely that Pestano regresses much from here on out. And if he does, he's a smart enough pitcher to make the adjustments himself.
Tim Belcher & Scott Radinsky - 4.23 ERA (23rd), 1.34 WHIP (21st), 1024 K (29th)
I did not include Scott Radinsky last year and instead of separating the two, I grouped them together and gave it a collective five feathers. Here's the deal, Radinsky has just as much to do with the bullpen, if not more, than Belcher does. And the bullpen was the most consistent and dominant portion of the team last year. Throw in a rotation that did way better than anyone could have ever expected and you have yourself a great pairing. It is a shame that Belcher stepped aside, but Radinsky should be fine stepping up and filling his shoes.
Belcher received the Silver Feather last year for all his work with a rotation that was not very good coming into things. He deserves even more praise for overseeing the emergence of Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin and the work he did with Carlos Carrasco. It will be a shame he won't be around to help Ubaldo Jimenez through this turnaround, but there is no doubt Radinsky can take that task under. Of course he also has to try and help put Fausto Carmona back together, once again.
Let's be honest. He didn't qualify, but it just seems right. Thanks for everything Jim.
Travis Hafner - .280/.361, 41 R, 13 HR, 57 RBI
Last Year: 4
I mean, year after year I've given Hafner this four feather status and it mainly has to do with the expectation. Everyone has begun to expect nothing from the guy and this year he not only produced a little more than last year, he helped others produce. The OBP really started to get back up there and you started to see Hafner become more of the Hafner of old in terms of plate discipline and working the walk. He's also started going the other way with the ball to raise his average up back to the levels we are accustomed to. The power is there, it will never been 40 home run power again, but its power nonetheless. Another injury (unrelated to shoulder thank you very much) put a mark within his season, but it's good to have a little bit of the old Hafner back.
Jason Kipnis - .272/.333, 24 R, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 3 SB
Jason Kipnis technically did not meet requirements, but he put up numbers better than some of the people who did, and I said I'd talk about him. Kipnis established himself as the second baseman of the future with very little doubt. Kipnis did so good in his short stint that I'm just going to give him four feathers. Thanks for coming.
Carlos Santana - .239/.351, 84 R, 27 HR, 79 RBI, 5 SB
Ayeee Vamanos! The only thing keeping Carlos Santana from five feathers was the smidge of disappointment in him not coming through with a little more consistency. Point blank, Santana put up a fabulous year. He gets on base, knocks in some runs with some real majestic shots out of the ballpark. But he needs to get more consistent. His bat can carry a team, but when he goes through cold streaks (and he does by evidence of his .239 average) he can hurt the team. His defense is sub-par at the catching spot, but you know he has a good relationship with some of the pitchers.
Carlos can be an MVP candidate if he can put it all together and be consistent. I mean, he nearly hit 30 home runs this past year and had a OBP over .350. Just imagine if he could get a few more hits under his belt.
Josh Tomlin - 12-7, 165 IP, 4.25/1.08, 89 K
You can try and get rid of him, but he just keeps coming back. Well no one tried to get rid of him or anything, but the sentiment is that Josh Tomlin is not a major league starter. Well foo on you if you think that because Tomlin just proved he is over the course of a full season. He's of the ilk of a Greg Maddux, someone who will just out-pitch you and rely on his control rather than trying to do too much or strike someone out. He wants contact, his goal is to get you out as soon as possible. Tomlin cannot go deep into the pitch count, as we've realized, so the fewer pitches he throws per pitcher, the longer he is able to go. And that's been a formula for success for him as he continued his streak of games pitched having gone at least 5 innings all the way until his final start of the season against Seattle when he fell an out short.
This past season he walked just one hitter or less in all bit three games, two of them coming in his first two starts when he walked three in each game. If that does not tell you the type of control the guy has, nothing will. That's his game and that's what he used to find success this season. Respect.
Chris Perez - 4-7, 59 IP, 36/40 SV, 3.32/1.21, 39 K
Last Year: 5
I was almost ready to give Chris Perez five feathers, but the way Pestano and Smith pitched in the pen, it did not seem right to put them on the equal level. Look though, Chris Perez was good. He blew four saves, but he did end up losing seven games, which means he did not do as good in terms of some of the games he came in and it was tied. If that's the only complain with Chris Perez, then, you'd take that, right?
Chris was down in his strikeouts, oddly, like really oddly. Way down. He struck out 61 hitters in 63 innings last year. His number was cut down quite a bit. But Perez walked a little less and still managed to do his job more times than not. It's good to have a reliable closer, ain't it?
Rafael Perez - 5-2, 63 IP, 12 HLD, 3.00/1.24, 33 K
It sure is good to have Rafael Perez back. We're not talking 2007 dominance, come in with the bases loaded and no outs and get out of it Rafael Perez, but we're talking serviceability, more than capable left-handed reliever who does not strictly face the left-handers, but also can pitch multiple innings, even on back to back days if needed. You need arms like Rafael Perez, especially when they are capable of being as good as Rafael Perez is capable of being. In 2010 he had his return, completely changing his whole outlook around. This year he improved even more and started to get back onto that level we became accustomed to seeing in 2007 and 2008.
Tony Sipp - 6-3, 62 IP, 24 HLD, 3.03/1.11, 57 K
Another left-hander who just does not get the left-handers out. That's what is so great about this bullpen. They've got all the pieces they need and Tony Sipp is a real integral part. Really, it may have varied at points, but Tony Sipp is the guy that Manny Acta probably trusts the most when it comes to the eighth inning. If the situation is right, Sipp is the guy that you probably want out there more times than not. He proved that this year as he too had a bit of a bounce-back. He had some issues last year, some ups and downs, but largely was impressive in his first full season. This year he took another step and was really good at times. This bullpen can hopefully stay together for some time and if that is the case, Sipp will continue to be a big part of it.
Manny Acta - 80-82 (2nd Place, 15 GB)
I mean, do we have ourselves a winner or what? I'm not sure what to really say about Manny Acta. He's molding this team in his own and in just two years, he's made so much progress with this club. I'll make this brief. We've got ourselves a manager. Could you feel confident about Eric Wedge in saying "This guy can not only take us to the World Series, but win it."? I know I couldn't. With Manny Acta, I can envision him standing up there with the Commissioners Trophy. I just can.
Part Two, Feathers 3-1 and Awards to Follow