Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Phoning It In: Five Years Ago

Sorry gang. I took advantage of yesterday's wonderful weather to have a date with The Voice of Reason. Pracna on Main, the Stone Arch Bridge, the New Guthrie - it was a helluva night to be out. Welcome back Spring.

So, anyhoo, I'm phoning it in, and I thoght I would just print whatever I did from five years ago, just for a little perspective. There isn't a ton there, but I do note that Joe Mays elbow started hurting. I think this was the first in his series of injuries...

The Tribe's Hot Start


ESPN's lead article on the MLB page yesterday was about Cleveland's 11-1 start, and how they were overlooked by a lot of analysts. I mentioned a few weeks ago that if Cleveland's young pitching developed, the Central division would be a three horse race. But Cleveland's hot start hasn't convinced me that they'll be a contender come the all-star break, let alone on Labor Day. To be fair to them, I didn't get to watch much of the series where they swept the Twins, but the concerns I have about that team haven't faded:

1) Their Starting Pitching other than Colon and Sabathia
This is probably the biggest concern. Their starting rotation consists of the best 1-2 combination in the AL Central, followed by a ton of question marks. Ryan Drese has an 8.40 ERA. Baez has a shiny 3.38 ERA, but has walked twice as many batters (10) as he's struck out (5). The big question is whether 39-year-old Chuck Finley can stay healthy enough to post numbers like he did in 2000 (218 IP, 4.14 ERA) or whether he'll have a year like last year (113.2 IP, 5.58 ERA). And even if he does stay healthy, they need one of the two youngsters to pitch consistently well.
2) Age
I thought we might hear during spring training that Travis Fryman had retired. Honestly. And Ellis Burks, who is sporting a 1203 OPS* right now, will almost undoubtedly need some extra time off this year. And unfortunately for North Coast fans, the replacement for both of them is Brady Anderson, followed by Will Cordero. This is still a pretty old team, and while that might mean something in terms of experience, it can also mean something in terms of productivity and health.

3) Their Schedule
This is dangerous ground, since the Twins have had a similarly easy schedule, but the White Sox have been at ANA, at DET, vs. MIN and vs. KC. The only really impressive series in those four was against the Twins, who have a history of struggling in Cleveland, were at the end of a very long road trip and looking forward to their home opener. This week the Tribe faces the White Sox and the Twins on the road and we may get a better feel for their true level of play.

4) Some Guys Are Hitting Over Their Heads
This is also dangerous, since some of their guys are hitting below where they should as well. But consider:

Certainly, Gutierrez should start doing a little better, and it's conceivable that Milton Bradley, at just 24 years old, will breakout this year to post a 850+ OPS. But there are some guys in that lineup who are off to amazing starts and neither recent history, career numbers, or age dependent projections anticipate that they'll keep it up. Sometimes a guy pulls a Bret Boone and keeps it up for the entire year, but I have trouble seeing that happening to anyone with the possible exception of Lawton.

So, I'm not writing them off, and it should help make it a more exciting race, but the hot start hasn't really answered any of my questions about this team. Of course, it's not like your average Cleveland Indians fan would start checking the mail for their playoff tickets anyway. I mean, after all, these are the Indians and they seem to exist strictly to break their fans' hearts. But if you're an Indians fan, for now, dream a little dream. After all, there was a team last year who rode two very good starters and an over-the-hill lineup to a championship....

Twins Takes
Joe Mays is hurt. It's "just" a sore elbow, so they're not planning on placing him on the DL and he'll only miss one start. They'll juggle the rotation a bit and give Tony Fiore, who was excellent in relief last night, a start. According to Gardenhire, he'll have 13 days between starts, so I have to wonder why they wouldn't place him on the 15 day DL, but maybe they'll do that only if they run into a roster crunch or need to replace Fiore with another reliever. Both situations are somewhat likely, with Buchanan possibly coming back soon and the starters continuing to melt down.
There was a lot of talk in spring training about the wealth of young pitching the Twins had, so you would think maybe Kinney or Santana might be called up if Mays needs to be out for an extended period, but none of the AAA prospects have done terribly well their first week.

That's after only 1 or 2 starts, so we certainly shouldn't read that much into those numbers. But we'll keep an eye on how our AAA starters are doing, partly because one of them could be needed to replace Mays, partly because I would love to see one of them replace Reed, and partly because the more chips Terrry Ryan gets to have at the trade deadline, the better the Twins chances of landing an impact player for the pennant race.


Anonymous said...

One name sticks out in that AAA list. :)

-- SBG

DrJubal said...

I saw Joe Mays last week pitching for the Las Vegas 51s (Dodgers AAA). He took the loss but pitched ok.

5.0 IP, 6H, 5R, 2ER, 1BB

Just a 'where are they now' update.