• The Turnaround in Cleveland

    The Cleveland Indians are in Minneapolis, ready for a four-game, season-ending series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Twins watched the Oakland A's celebrate winning the AL West Division title last weekend. Last night, they watched the Detroit Tigers win the AL Central for the third straight year. It is possible that the Twins will also watch Cleveland celebrate a playoff berth this weekend.

    With four games to play, the Indians are currently one game ahead of the Texas Rangers for the second wild card position in the American League. They are one game behind Tampa Bay for the #1 wild card spot. While Cleveland gets to play the Twins, the Rangers will be hosting the Angels for four games.

    In 2012, Cleveland finished 68-94 after a massive second-half collapse. This year, they are 88-70 with four games to play and a playoff spot well within their grasp. I thought it would be interesting to check out the Cleveland roster to see how this team came together. It was quite interesting to see how they acquired their key 2013 contributors.

    DRAFTED:
    2B Jason Kipnis - 2nd round in 2009
    3B Lonnie Chisenhall - 1st round in 2008
    RP Cody Allen - 23rd round in 2011
    RP Vinny Pestano - 20th round in 2006

    VIA TRADE:
    RF Drew Stubbs (12/11/12 - acquired from Cincinnati for Shin-Soo Choo in 3-team trade)
    IF Mike Aviles and C Yan Gomes (11/3/12 - acquired from Toronto for Esmil Rogers)
    SS Asdrubal Cabrera (7/30/06 - acquired from Seattle for Eduardo Perez)
    LF Michael Brantley (10/3/08 - acquires as the PTBNL from Milwaukee in the CC Sabathia trade)
    C Carlos Santana (7/26/08 - acquired from the Dodgers for Casey Blake)
    SP Justin Masterson and RP Nick Hagadone (7/31/09 - acquired from Boston for Victor Martinez)
    SP Ubaldo Jimenez (7/30/11 - acquired from Colorado for four players including Matt White and Drew Pomeranz)
    SP Corey Kluber (7/31/10 - acquired in 3-team trade from Padres. Cleveland sent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis)
    SP Zach McAllister (8/20/10 - acquired as PTBNL for Austin Kearns from Yankees)
    RP Chris Perez (6/27/09 - acquired with Jess Todd for Mark Derosa from Cardinals)
    RP Joe Smith (12/11/08 - acquired as part of 3-team deal from Mets)

    FREE AGENTS:
    11/19/12 - signed former Twins OF Matt Carson to a minor league deal (OK, not a significant contributor throughout the year, but since his recall in late August, he is 7-10!)
    1/4/13 - signed 1B Nick Swisher to a four-year deal
    1/8/13 - signed SP Scott Kazmir to minor league contract
    1/21/13 - signed IF Ryan Raburn to a minor league contract
    2/15/13 - signed OF Michael Bourn to a four-year contract
    12/18/12 - signed IF Mark Reynolds
    1/1/13 - signed Brett Myers
    2/19/13 - signed Jason Giambi



    STAT PACK:

    Here is where Cleveland ranks in the American League in the following statistics:


    • Runs Scored - 6th (717)
    • OPS - 8th (.734)
    • ERA - 7th (3.84)
    • Strikeouts - 2nd (1,331)
    • Errors/Fielding Percentage - 11th (99, .983)


    The offense has just two players (with enough at-bats to qualify) with an OPS over .800. Carlos Santana's OPS is .824, and Jason Kipnis's OPS is .804. Nick Swisher (.758) and Michael Brantley (.730) are the only others with an OPS over .700.

    All five starters who have made at least 23 starts have ERAs between 3.38 and 4.14. Four of the five starters have struck out at least 8.3 batters per nine innings.


    • Justin Masterson's 2012 ERA was 4.93, and it dropped to 3.52 in 2013.
    • Ubaldo Jimenez's 3.38 this season is impressive, especially considering it was 5.10 in 2012.
    • Scott Kazmir pitched in the independent leagues in 2012 after making just one big league appearance in 2011. He had a 5.94 ERA for the Angels in 2010. The last time he was a solid MLB pitcher for an extended period before this year was 2008.
    • Corey Kluber posted a 5.14 ERA in 12 starts in 2012 before posting a 3.61 ERA this season.
    • Zach McAllister dropped his ERA by nearly a half-point from 2012 to 2013.
    • Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, Joe Smith and Matt Albers did very well in extensive relief duties.


    So, if you're looking for the reason that Cleveland will win 20-plus more games in 2013 than in 2012, look no further than a pitching staff that went from worse-than-the-Twins to league-average.

    Oh, I nearly forgot...

    On September 27 of last year, Cleveland fired manager Manny Acta. Sandy Alomar finished the season, but in early October, Terry Francona left his ESPN gig to be the team's new manager. Mickey Callaway was named the team's new pitching coach. Ty Van Burkleo was named the hitting coach.

    Summary

    Cleveland made several changes to their roster from 2012 to 2013, but the most significant difference between the two seasons was the performance of their pitching staff. That can't be over-emphasized.

    They signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to four-year contracts. Swisher has always been an on-base machine who provides power. He is an Ohio native who played his college ball at Ohio State. Bourn was a Boras client who didn't have as many teams interested in him as they had projected. He was available to Cleveland, in part, because the Twins traded Denard Span to the Nationals and Ben Revere to the Phillies.

    Mark Reynolds was a nice signing, for the season's first month, and Brett Myers was hurt most of the season. However, they got lucky with the minor league contracts of Scott Kazmir and Ryan Raburn. Jason Giambi provides value off of the bench.

    The team's core came via trade. Jimenez had a successful run in Colorado. Masterson had done well in the Red Sox bullpen. However, guys like Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister all came to the organization as minor leaguers.

    It will be a nice story if Cleveland is able to get to the playoffs in 2013. It's fun to see a team make that kind of improvement from one season to the next. The Twins will come from different direction with so many potentially high-impact minor leaguers on the horizon. Maybe in 2015 the Twins will be able to make a 20+ game improvement and contend for a playoff spot.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Turnaround in Cleveland started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 29 Comments
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Nice piece of work. Up all night? Usually you post around midnight
    1. Chance's Avatar
      Chance -
      It appears to me the biggest difference was new coaches..... Fire everyone! Just a joke, but I do believe that a new staff could make a huge impact. With that said, I don't believe that Ryan is the kind of GM that will hire a new coaching staff that doesn't believe in what he believes. Basically, what Ryan believes is what Gardy believes; so, I believe that Gardy will still be around, or his replace will be Gardy number 2. Therefore, no big cellar dweller to playoff contention for us, I'm afraid.

      Good for Cleveland, though!
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      So basically, NOT built through the draft. A third of the roster is FAs.

      They basically did not punt on the season, and tried to get better. They got lucky, and it worked. Sometimes all you have to do is try.

      Oh, and get a new manager.
    1. Blackjack's Avatar
      Blackjack -
      Good article Seth!!! Gives Twins fans some hope!!! Also shows that sometimes you need some luck.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      So basically, NOT built through the draft. A third of the roster is FAs.

      They basically did not punt on the season, and tried to get better. They got lucky, and it worked. Sometimes all you have to do is try.

      Oh, and get a new manager.
      Half of the free agents were minor league or low risk contracts. Of the other half, Myers has not contributed much this year, Reynolds was released in August.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      So? The point was, the team was NOT built through the draft. Like it or not, there is not ONE RIGHT WAY. That's the point. Pursue ALL avenues of acquiring talent.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I've said before that I didn't actually like the Swisher and Bourn signings as I thought the players were overrated but I liked that Cleveland's management made an effort. I think that effort has made a difference, it demonstrated to the fans, and more importantly the players, that they were making a commitment to turning things around. I think signing a big time manager showed the same commitment. I'm a science and stats guy but I totally think attitude and atmosphere help dictate results even if they cannot be measured.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      "The Twins will come from different direction...." I believe this to be 100% true.

      It was interesting that in the summary there is no mention of the manager and coaching changes. Seth is that becasue you don't think a manager and coaches have a big impact?
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Since 2006 (first year a current player on this team was acquired) the Indians have had 3 years of .500 or above baseball and 5 years under .500 with 3 90+ losses seasons. The 3 90+ lose seasons all happened in the past 4 years. While the front office did a great job this off season I don't think long term this franchise has been saved. They had a ton of lucky breaks on lottery tickets/players having career years.

      As I say this, I wouldn't mind the Twins getting a new coach and adding a "big" FA or two, but I don't think it is fair to say our franchise is worse off than theirs. All teams go through down cycles. We have no bad contracts, an owner (at least publicity) saying he is willing to spend, the All-Star game, and one of the most exciting farm systems in baseball. Losing sucks but it makes it all that much better once we start winning again.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I'm not sure anyone said Cleveland was better long term.....I didn't. They are better this year because they got lucky and because they pursued all avenues of adding talent. The Twins could add the FA contracts Cleveland did, and still not hamper their long term budget. And be more likely to be good next year.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      So basically, NOT built through the draft. A third of the roster is FAs.

      They basically did not punt on the season, and tried to get better. They got lucky, and it worked. Sometimes all you have to do is try.

      Oh, and get a new manager.
      Mike,
      You don't have to try to turn every thread into an anti-Ryan/anti-Gardy thread. Since that seems to be your plan, it would be better if you picked better examples than Cleveland. Since the early 2000's they have largely followed the Terry Ryan blueprint of doing things. Build through the draft, make shrewd trades, use every avenue except spend wildly on expensive free agents. The only problem is, they weren't nearly as good at it as Ryan was.

      Now they have a good year, largely because every starting pitcher on their staff is a whole point lower on their ERA from last year. You try to turn it into anti Twins management rant. Let's just be happy for Cleveland's success this year. If it turns out to be a long term run, well maybe we can learn something from it.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      If you pitch well, you can be competitive.
      Buxton, Sano, and the other hitting prospects will be fun to watch, but unless the pitching comes through, the teams won't be in the playoffs.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      You don't have to try to turn every thread into an anti-Ryan/anti-Gardy thread.
      Moderator comment: It's preferable to not turn comments so directly personal. And in a thread that invites comparison of another team to the Twins, it's not surprising if someone brings their long-held views to the party. That said, the discussion here seems to be good and if we address the points in the article and avoid rehashing familiar material it will remain good.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      Mike,
      You don't have to try to turn every thread into an anti-Ryan/anti-Gardy thread. Since that seems to be your plan, it would be better if you picked better examples than Cleveland. Since the early 2000's they have largely followed the Terry Ryan blueprint of doing things. Build through the draft, make shrewd trades, use every avenue except spend wildly on expensive free agents. The only problem is, they weren't nearly as good at it as Ryan was.

      Now they have a good year, largely because every starting pitcher on their staff is a whole point lower on their ERA from last year. You try to turn it into anti Twins management rant. Let's just be happy for Cleveland's success this year. If it turns out to be a long term run, well maybe we can learn something from it.
      I was really surprised that only two players on their roster were high picks from within the organization.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Cleveland is a great example of what an overhaul at the management level can do. I don't expect them to be as competitive next season as they have been in 2013, but they wont roll over either. They've done a great job turning their roster into a playoff caliber team. What they did is what many have been clamoring to see from the Twins in the offseason. Take some risk with moderate to high upside guys (as well as turn the coaching staff over).

      Long term, I think Cleveland might be a team that is in the mix. When you make smart baseball decisions in the offseason and put together a roster that belongs in the MLB good things can happen. Banking on prospects developing is not smart. KC has been failing at that for 2 decades. Improvement at the MLB level takes more than just having some great prospects. I don't have faith that Terry Ryan can integrate the type of approach seen by Cleveland. It is too far out of his box.
    1. LastOnePicked's Avatar
      LastOnePicked -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      Let's just be happy for Cleveland's success this year. If it turns out to be a long term run, well maybe we can learn something from it.
      I understand that those of us who want changes in the managerial and FO staff have been banging our drum pretty loudly lately, and I apologize if I've put people off with my comments. But I'd just respectfully ask why we can't learn from Cleveland's turnaround right now? Badsmerf's comments about KC's failures by trying to build primarily through prospects seem really important, and I don't think that the word that best describes what's happened in Cleveland this year is "lucky." If anything, Cleveland's had to contend with a stronger Tigers team and a fairly competitive Royals team.
    1. ltwedt's Avatar
      ltwedt -
      Any one in the Twins front office paying attention? No - I suspected not.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I want to apoligize to Mike. I don't want to be personal.

      This turnaround was basically caused by what the Indians decided to do 5 years ago. They had a nice home grown core of players, Martinez, Sabathia, Lee, Sizemore and others, but they weren't winning. Instead of trying to keep the core and build around it, they traded most of them away for young prospects. So in a way they built through guys they had drafted. They also punted away 5 years and got back lesser talent than they had. It worked, this year anyway, because the starting pitching came together. They really don't have much of a core group of players. I think Masterson is a front end starter, maybe one or more their young guys will be. Some of their position players are nice, but I am not sure any are all that special.

      Now, I am sure Francona and the new coaches deserve credit for this year, but really Masterson is just pitching back to what he has done before. So is Jiminez. The young guys are perhaps finally maturing to their talent. Maybe it happened because of Francona maybe it happens anyway.

      I am also having a hard time seeing how this is all that different from what the Twins have done. The Twins turned Cuddyer and Kubel into extra draft picks trying to get more talent. They traded Span and Revere for potentially high end pitching. The Twins have acquired a lot of young talent, (thru the draft,trades and internationally) probably or at least potentially, better talent than Cleveland. The Twins are just not as far along the rebuild as Cleveland.


      Now as I said in the earilier post, I am happy for Cleveland. I don't think they have a strong enough foundation for this rebound to be continue for a long period, but I could be wrong. I just don't think anything Cleveland has done to this point, is really anything that they the Twins should model themselves after.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      I want to apoligize to Mike. I don't want to be personal.

      This turnaround was basically caused by what the Indians decided to do 5 years ago. They had a nice home grown core of players, Martinez, Sabathia, Lee, Sizemore and others, but they weren't winning. Instead of trying to keep the core and build around it, they traded most of them away for young prospects. So in a way they built through guys they had drafted. They also punted away 5 years and got back lesser talent than they had. It worked, this year anyway, because the starting pitching came together. They really don't have much of a core group of players. I think Masterson is a front end starter, maybe one or more their young guys will be. Some of their position players are nice, but I am not sure any are all that special.

      Now, I am sure Francona and the new coaches deserve credit for this year, but really Masterson is just pitching back to what he has done before. So is Jiminez. The young guys are perhaps finally maturing to their talent. Maybe it happened because of Francona maybe it happens anyway.

      I am also having a hard time seeing how this is all that different from what the Twins have done. The Twins turned Cuddyer and Kubel into extra draft picks trying to get more talent. They traded Span and Revere for potentially high end pitching. The Twins have acquired a lot of young talent, (thru the draft,trades and internationally) probably or at least potentially, better talent than Cleveland. The Twins are just not as far along the rebuild as Cleveland.


      Now as I said in the earilier post, I am happy for Cleveland. I don't think they have a strong enough foundation for this rebound to be continue for a long period, but I could be wrong. I just don't think anything Cleveland has done to this point, is really anything that they the Twins should model themselves after.


      I have a vastly different read on the situation in Cleveland than what you've come up with here.

      Management at Cleveland has inextricably linked itself with Terry Francona. If he goes, they go, if they go, he goes. It's much akin to Hernando Cortez burning all of his ships en route to conquering the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. And the Dolans are like the Spanish King, not much to say in the matter except signing off on it, they made the conscious decision of being one step removed and isolated from the decision-making and empire-building. They're all....all in, dedicated to one grand purpose. Personally I like and appreciate the sentiment and commitment, and the players have bought in, big time, too.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      What the Indians did to get here was show aggressiveness in FA and in trades. That's not something we've seen from our club for basically two decades. What this shows, more than anything, is that aggressive attempts to improve your club can pay off positively and isn't so certain to fail as we, as a fanbase, are lead to believe.
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