Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Add "BaseballDigest Online" Contributor to the list!

A couple weeks ago, Bill Ivie of BaseballDigest asked for folks to submit a "Report Card" for their favorite team(s).  I volunteered to take an honest, hard look at the Indians.  Let me assure you, it may not be easy reading if you are the type of fan who only sees the team through red-and-blue-colored spectacles.

The Indians finished 2nd in their division in 2011, which is great.  But, they also finished just south of .500, which is basically average.  Well, in my book, it is average.  Mind you, the writers were not given any kind of rubric with which to base their findings, so I made up my own.  Namely, I see a .500 season as "average."  After all, a 1.000 season would be an A+, a .750 would equal a "B", a .500 is a "C", a .250 a "D" and anything short of .250 is failing.  I may very well be the only writer to evaluate their team that way, but, as I said, I made it up.  Feel free to agree or disagree.

So, overall, the Indians were a "C-/D+" team in my opinion.  And, after reading about injuries and lack of player continuity at just about any given position, hopefully you will see why I graded the way I did.

I love the Indians, and have for a long, long time.  I outgrew the "blinders-on" fandom back in the 80's.  I want to see the Indians do well, play hard, stay healthy, and make good, solid management decisions.  Looking back on a season with extreme highs and devastating lows, I believe I have provided a solid representation of my beloved Indians in 2011.

And so, without further delay, I present my 2011 Cleveland Indians Report Card:

NOTE: Thanks to the WayBackMachine, I was able to find the original article. It is posted here for your perusal:

Note from the editor: When Baseball Digest first started in 1944, the magazine gathered writers from all across the country to provide insight to the teams that they covered on a regular basis.  This provided content and coverage that was in depth and more insightful than having national writers cover teams and players that they barely knew. aims to keep up that tradition.  This season, we bring you a Report Card on each team in Major League Baseball from writers that cover that team directly.  At the bottom of each write up, you will find the writer’s name, website, and any other pertinent information.  

The Indians started off slowly with two losses but then the Tribe surprised much of the baseball community by becoming the best team in the league for quite a stretch.  Much to the chagrin of its fans, however, the league-leading days were numbered and the Indians found themselves quickly far behind the Tigers in the AL Central.  They did manage to maintain second place in their division, mainly because the season came to a gracious end.

Between injuries and awful performance, this hard look into the Indians of 2011 will not be pretty and will not even have sugar-coated sprinkles on it.  Though, even with the bitter flavor of the past season, there were some nuggets of sweetness.  Unfortunately, those nuggets provided very little reprieve.

Rotation: C

The Indians biggest failure belonged to the players who couldn’t stay healed enough to play.  From Sizemore to Hafner to Chisenhall, the Indians had to make the best of the players who could actually serve in the rotation.  Though some fans might say the rotation is a “B” considering what the team had to work with, the fact that the Tribe had trouble actually keeping a working rotation knocks them down to simply average.  There were a few stand-outs in Asdrubal Cabrera (who secured a Silver Slugger award), fan favorite Jack Hannahan, and Travis Hafner (when he was healthy).  In fact, the Indians only had four players to play in more than 100 games during the season.  Of course, much of the rest of the regulars on the team shared rotation duties.  Seven players rotated through 60 or more games during the 2011 season.

Bullpen: C

Chris Perez stood out as the Indians closer-to-beat.  He pitched in 64 games and managed end with a 3.32 ERA despite an almost perfect distribution of runs, earned runs, and walks (24, 22, and 26 respectively).   Fausto Carmona started the Indians off with the worst ERA in history for an Opening Day, allowing 10 runs and generating a 30.00 ERA before getting pulled.  Fortunately, the Indians found a groove to lead the league before allowing the team to slip into second place in the AL Central. Other notable pitchers in Ubaldo Jimenez (who was brought in to save the Tribe from themselves, but found himself failing to do so – ending with a 5.10 ERA and leaving Indians fans scratching their heads), Justin Masterson (12-10, 3.21 ERA), Rafael Perez (5-2, 3.00 ERA), and Josh Tomlin (12-7, 4.25 ERA).  Tony Sipp was something of a surprise, finishing out with a 6-3 record and a 3.03 ERA.  And Joe Smith had a very impressive scoreless streak from May to July, mainly due to his facing twice as many righties as lefties.  Still, a great highlight in the Indians season.  Alas, once the team lost its rhythm, none of the mound masters could not save the team from itself.

As for starters, there was none better than Justin Masterson.  His 12-10 record coupled with a 3.21 ERA demonstrates the tip of the iceberg.  He let up only 11 home runs (though, admittedly giving up 77 earned runs) and struck out 158 batters in 216 innings pitched.  Of the runs scored against him, 55/77 came from lefties and 9/11 homers were hit by left-handed batters.  Even that, though, was an improvement over his 2010 lefty stats.

Catchers: C

There are two words that come to mind when thinking about the Indians catchers: Carlos Santana.  He had a great start to the season (taking part in a triple play on April 3, then hitting a grand slam later the same month).  Unfortunately, he had a rough time defensively.  He ended up 4th overall in errors by a catcher.  Granted, he had to split his time between catching and 1B after Matt LaPorta’s meltdown.

Infield: D+

There is no easy way to say it: The Indians bombed defensively in 2011.  Sure, the Indians has moments of greatness (like the above-mentioned triple play) and sometime made the “Top 10″ plays of the week on a particular sports network, but when taking the season as a whole, the Tribe ended up as the scum on the bottom of the barrel.  Orlando Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Matt LaPorta, and Carlos Santana (among the other players the Indians threw in to try to save the team) simply looked like a B-Movie version of “Major League.”  And not the second half of the movie, either.  This was a “Back to the Minors” season for sure.  The bright spot defensively came from Jack Hannahan.

Offensively, Asdrubal Cabrera earned himself a Silver Slugger award, batting .273 on the year with over 600 at-bats producing 87 runs on 165 hits, 32 doubles, 25 homers, and knocking in 92 RBIs.  No one else on the team came even close, regardless of position. Well, okay, Santana came close.  He had just over 550 at-bats, scoring 84 runs on 132 hits, 35 doubles, 27 homers and 79 RBIs.  He ended the season with a .239 batting average.  Looking at the numbers, the Indians appear to have done pretty well offensively which accounts for the great early to middle-of-the season record for the Tribe this past year.  In fact, it is the offense that saved the Indians from receiving a flat-out F in the category.

Outfield: F

Here’s a quiz: Name the Indians outfielder with the highest fielding percentage who played in more than 100 games. Oh, wait, there was only one player to play in more than 100 games: Michael Brantley.  How about more than 90 games? The same. More than 86? The same. Drop the threshold to 85 or more and Shin-Soo Choo appears on the list. In order to see anyone else, the appearance number must drop to 64 (Carrera).  It is not until we drop the threshold to 50 or more that we see the “I thought these guys were going to be great/used to be great” additions of Kearns, Sizemore, and Fukudome.  Between injuries and a general head-shaking collapse of the entire outfield, the Indians simply could not pull together any combination of players to bring the team out of its downward plunge.  What saved the team?  The huge jump they had at the start of the season.

Offensively, the outfield wasn’t abysmal, but weren’t very good overall, either.  Sure, Brantley, Duncan, and Choo all batted better than .250, but aside from Sizemore, they also led the team in strikeouts.  Duncan led the Tribe with 11 home runs. Yes, you read that correctly. Sizemore hit 10 and Brantley had 8 homers.  The Indians outfield was just about as invisible at the plate as they were in the field.

Top Offensive Player

It is no wonder Asdrubal Cabrera secured a Silver Slugger Award in 2011.  In the list of Indians appearing in at least 100 games, he led in at-bats, runs, hits, RBIs, stolen bases, batting average, and slugging percentage.  Take into account the entire team, and he led in at-bats, runs,  hits, RBIs, and stolen bases.  Take out Tomlin, Kipnis, Duncan, and Thome (who were all non-everyday batters anyway) and Cabrera leads in slugging percentage as well.  Overall, he was Top 5 in nearly every offensive category for the Indians in 2011 and receives my vote as the top offensive player.

Top Pitcher

While many Tribe fans would undoubtedly choose Chris Perez as having the greatest impact on the team from the mound in 2011, Justin Masterson served as the leader in the middle of the diamond.  As stated above, he made a vast improvement over 2010 against lefties.  Masterson proved to the team that he no longer deserved to be relegated to the back of the rotation.

David “Tribecards” Henderson

Tribe Cards


1 comment:

  1. Look at you, playing nice with the big boys. Congrats. Happy Thanksgiving.