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  • 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. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      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.
      Wow, really. The common complaint has been for "big name FAs" That is not at all what has lead to Cleveland's success. They got a bunch of very cheap FAs. It’s called dumpster diving when the twins sign anyone who is not a marquee name.

      Kazmir … $1M
      Rayburn … $1M
      Hill …………. $1M
      Giambi … $750K

      Capps ……. Minor leauge / Not on the roster
      Franciso …. ? Minor Leauge / Not on the roster
      Hermida … Minor Leauge / Not on the roster
      Santos …… Minor Leauge / Not on the roste

      They did sign two relatively big names, three if you want to count Meters given they paid $7M/1YR for him. He has pitched 11 innings and is off the active roster. Bourn has stunk it up. The other (Swisher) is doing a pretty good job but he is played a modest part in the turnaround of this team. None of them got the 5+ year contracts required to get the players many feel are the only difference makers.

      The pitcher in their starting rotation acquired via FA (Kazmir) got by MLB standards got the bare minimum for a FA SP. ($1M) Had the Twins acquired just Correia and Kazmir the complaining would have been as rampant as Pelfrey / Correia. Masterson was traded for back when he was establishing himself. He is pitching above his career levels. Of course, he is in his prime so this is what you hope for. Jiminez was a shrewed trade. He was acquired when he was really inconsistent. Of course, he has good stuff and has developed consistency. McAllister came up through their system. Nothing to do with FA. They set a plan in action when they were bad to rebuild over the course of a few years.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      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.
      I'm not going to repeat post #10, but I wouldn't want to wait that long. Congratulations to the Indians, but I like our future much better.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I find a couple of things interesting.

      1) Most of their FA signings are exactly the types of signings that Ryan would make. Low budget, FA scrap type guys. The big difference is that it clearly worked for them.
      2) Their pitching staff made some massive strides forward. We should hire their pitching coach.
      3) They made quite a few trades. More so than I thought.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      I'm not going to repeat post #10, but I wouldn't want to wait that long. Congratulations to the Indians, but I like our future much better.
      I never suggested we shouldn't be hopeful for more about our future. But the narrative that aggression doesn't work as a method just isn't true. Some teams/GMs can, and do, pull it off.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Not sure why everyone is so upset with me pointing out that they are not built through the draft.......and that teams should pursue all avenues of getting better. No place did I say anything other than that in this thread. A team should try to get better every year.
    1. Teflon's Avatar
      Teflon -


      You cannot discount the change in management and pitching coach for Cleveland's improvement since it's primarily the same starting staff as last year putting up significantly improved results. With over 6,000 batters faced in each of the two seasons by the Indians pitchers, the dramatic change in numbers transcend any effect of just luck.

      Cleveland pitchers struck out 6.8 batters per 9 innings last year and 8.5 this year while hits per 9 have dropped from 9.4 to 8.5. Justin Masterson had a K/9 rate of 6.9 last year and 9.1 this year. Ubaldo Jimenez was at 7.3 last year and is at 9.3 this year. Corey Kluber improved from 7.7 to 8.3. Only Zach McAllister had a fall-off in K-rate (7.9 to 6.8) but his hits per 9 dropped as did his home run rate.

      Mickey Callaway is obviously doing something impressive with this staff.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      As a former history teacher, I rather appreciate the reference to Cortez and the Aztecs. I don't know that it fits the point being made that well, but I appreciate it. I understand the love being given Francona. He has done a good job so far in Cleveland. He also has some warts. Some of his Boston teams seemed to underperform their talent, and I really do believe he deserved some of the blame for allowing/not stopping/not being able to stop the unprofessional behavior going on in his clubhouse. He is certainly knows his baseball and his players like him, which probably isn't as important as some think but at least that usually means he won't be an excuse for the players not to perform well.

      I guess I am not too fond of GM's who seem to make managerial changes every year or 2. I rather like continuity and expect there is more advantage to that then constant change. While it can be true that a change like Cleveland made can energize the franchise for awhile, that is usually a shortlived thing, unless there is a strong foundation there.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      As a former history teacher, I rather appreciate the reference to Cortez and the Aztecs. I don't know that it fits the point being made that well, but I appreciate it. I understand the love being given Francona. He has done a good job so far in Cleveland. He also has some warts. Some of his Boston teams seemed to underperform their talent, and I really do believe he deserved some of the blame for allowing/not stopping/not being able to stop the unprofessional behavior going on in his clubhouse. He is certainly knows his baseball and his players like him, which probably isn't as important as some think but at least that usually means he won't be an excuse for the players not to perform well.

      I guess I am not too fond of GM's who seem to make managerial changes every year or 2. I rather like continuity and expect there is more advantage to that then constant change. While it can be true that a change like Cleveland made can energize the franchise for awhile, that is usually a shortlived thing, unless there is a strong foundation there.
      Francona managed the Red Sox to two W Series championships and was fired/not renewed after his team ONLY won 90 games in the toughest division in baseball. In his eight seasons with them they won 90 or more games six times (again, in the toughest division in baseball). They won 95 or more games five times under him (once again,toughest division in baseball) Talk about a scapegoat.
    1. notoriousgod71's Avatar
      notoriousgod71 -
      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.
      If every pitcher in our rotation lowers their ERA by 1 run I bet we still finish under .500.
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