I promised a few weeks ago I’d rehash the 2011 season and arbitrarily pick out some best/worst moments. Now is as good a time as any! (Translation, I had a spare bit of free time to put this together). I figured I’d start with the bad moments and follow with a post on the high points tomorrow. Feel free to share your own in the comments. (Disclaimer: I’m probably more heavily influenced by moments from games I attended in person. I feel you should be made aware of that bias ahead of time. This will probably come out more in the positive moments, as my worst moments are larger themes from 2011).
The Ubaldo Jimenez trade. There are varying opinions on this trade, some of which exist in my own head. (Spoiler alert – this is the one moment that makes both the “best of” and “worst of” lists for different reasons) The Indians gave up two top prospects for Jimenez in Alex White and Drew Pomeranz (along with Matt McBride and Joseph Gardner), although it’s obviously too early to see how balanced/unbalanced this trade will look to future versions of ourselves. The one thing that can’t be denied is that Jimenez didn’t exactly pitch like an ace when he arrived in Cleveland – more like a #4 or a #5 starter. You hope deep down that he comes to town and vaults the Tribe ahead of Detroit in the standings…unfortunately that didn’t happen. He was 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA after the trade, well above his career average of 3.76 ERA. It looked like he had turned things around until his last start of the season, where he surrendered six runs and nine hits in five innings, as the Indians lost to the Tigers 14-0.
Shin Soo Choo has an all-around bad season. Everyone expected big things from Shin Soo Choo this year, but a mixture of struggles at the plate, bad luck, and bad decisions meant that fans had less of a reason to yell CHOOOOOO at Progressive Field this season. First the bad decisions – Choo had too much to drink and got behind the wheel of a car in May; this led to his arrest on a drunken driving charge. He mentioned at one point during the season that the incident stayed with him, and his guilt led to his poor performance on the field. In 2010, Choo batted .300 and had a .400 on base percentage, with 90 RBI and 22 home runs. In 2011, he hit .259 and had a .344 on base percentage, with 36 RBI and 8 home runs. He sustained several injuries throughout the season – including a broken hand from a Jonathan Sanchez pitch in San Francisco. I was actually at that game and it was pretty terrible; it looked initially like he was hit in the head. Even though he thankfully was not, trainers still needed to cut the batting glove off of his broken hand to avoid further injury.
Every time you turn around, someone else is on the DL. The Tribe seemed to have extremely bad luck with injuries this season, particularly to marquis players. Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Shin Soo Choo, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and Josh Tomlin all spent time on the DL (and some a significant amount of time). There’s hope that all of these players will make a full recovery by next season, with the exception of Carrasco; he’ll miss the 2012 season because of Tommy John surgery.
Problems against the central. The Indians went 12-6 against the Kansas City Royals and 11-7 against the Minnesota Twins this season. However, I should point out that Minnesota had the worst record in the American League at 63-99 (2nd worst in all of baseball), while the Royals had the 4th worst record in the American League at 71-91. You really hope to find success against sub-.500 teams, particularly when those teams are some of the worst in the game. When it came to the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers though, the Indians seemed to hit a brick wall. They were 7-12 against the 79-83 White Sox, and 6-12 against the AL Central Champion Detroit Tigers, who finished the season 95-67. The Indians had pockets of success against both teams, but those seemed to coincide with the fortunes of the White Sox and Tigers. When the Tigers struggled early in the season, the Indians went 5-3 against them. When they really hit their stride in August, the Indians went 0-9 against them; swept in three straight series. Even though the Indians improved upon their 1-7 start against the White Sox, by the time they found success against Chicago, the White Sox were experiencing struggles of their own. The Tribe needs to be more consistent within their own division, particularly against relative equals like the White Sox.
Offensive struggles. I think what drove me nuts about the slide after the 30-15 start was the poor offense. Obviously, there were injuries to take into account. On the other hand, there were a lot of bad at-bats, and a lot of disappointing performances. Matt LaPorta was the centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade because he was supposed to be a star first baseman. He hit .247 with .299 OBP and .412 slugging, with 11 home runs and 53 RBI and was even sent to Triple-A Columbus near the end of the season. LaPorta’s only 26, so there’s time to turn things around. However, like several other players on the Tribe, people expected big things from LaPorta, only to be disappointed. Every player has some ugly slumps throughout the season; it just seemed that many people on the Tribe’s roster had many of them – often at the same time.
Fausto Carmona. I feel like I could more accurately predict Fausto Carmona’s performance in any given game if I just rolled a pair of dice and guessed on the potential outcome. Carmona has to be one of the most maddeningly inconsistent pitchers I’ve seen over the years. I think he frustrates me, because I believe he honestly has great stuff. When working correctly, that sinker is just nasty. The problem is, will it work today? Will he even use it? Will he have a complete meltdown if people reach base? This season, batters hit .100 points higher when Fausto Carmona was pitching from the stretch. So as long as the bases were empty and there was no pressure, no problem! The Indians hold a $7 million team option for 2012, which would have increased to $8 million if Carmona would’ve finished in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2010-2011 (obviously not an issue). It’s unclear what the Indians will do at this point, but many people anticipate that they will pick up his option. Here’s a post I wrote earlier in the year about Carmona and his various inconsistencies and struggles.
Getting no-hit by Ervin Santana – The way the Indians’ offense was going throughout much of the season; it almost seemed like a matter of time before they were no-hit. It wasn’t even a shutout, but the Indians were hitless over 9 innings as Santana surrendered one unearned run. This isn’t to take credit away from Santana, who pitched a phenomenal game. It’s just to say that I wasn’t surprised to see someone no-hit the 2011 Indians.
What are your thoughts on the low points of the 2011 season?