Note: I am not an actual doctor. I merely play one on the blog.
You know, things are pretty good in Tribeland right now: the team has won eight straight Cactus League games, no one has been seriously injured since the team set up camp in Arizona, presumptive Ace Justin Masterson is seeking a (gasp!) reasonable contract extension that he’ll probably get, Danny Salazar is getting national press as “the next big thing,” and Lonnie Chisenhall is a BASE-ON-BALLS MACHINE.
I know it’s only March 8th, but I haven’t been so encouraged by a Spring Training performance since Jake Westbrook didn’t allow a run in 2008. As we all know, Jake used that Spring performance to propel himself into a record-setting regular season, when he allowed only 13 runs all season–
–Okay, I’m being told that Jake Westbrook only made five starts in 2008 due to injury. Probably not the best example. Oh well.
Anyway, we’re getting to that part of the Spring when the reality of BASEBALL SEASON starts to really set in (well, that and the fact it actually kind of feels like Spring). Baseball is coming, and it’s coming really soon, and this team is looking to be every bit as exciting as we all hoped when the 2013 campaign ended after the Wild Card game. The team has lost some pieces, to be sure, but the depth of the organization is beginning to shine through as new faces take up new roles.
As we head into the season, I thought I’d don my white lab coat and issue some prescriptions for Indians personnel for the upcoming season. I believe this team can be something special this year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t significant things to work on. Let’s get started:
CF Michael Bourn
Prescription: An autographed copy of Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 album “Born to Run”
In this first season on the North Coast, Bourn did not look like he was “Born to Run,” instead he looked like a shell of the player that had stolen an average of 50+ bases over the previous four seasons. Bourn managed only 23 steals, and was caught 12 times (for comparison, he was caught a career-high 14 times in 2011, but he had 61 steals to go with it). His OBP of .316 was 54th best in the American League, behind such on-base machines as Salvador Perez, Elvis Andrus, and some poor sap named “League Average.”
This season, Bourn needs to get his legs under him and run. More importantly, he needs to run well. The Indians aren’t predicated on stealing bases, but it certainly helps, and it’s the biggest skill Bourn brings to the table. When Bourn is operating at peak efficiency, he can be a terror in the field and on the basepaths for opposing teams, and the 2014 Indians are paying a lot of money to see more of that player.
3B Lonnie Chisenhall
Prescription: Patience, patience, and more patience
Last season, I wondered if Lonnie Chisenhall was a broken player who would never live up to his potential. In May, I was ready to give up, and I was relieved when the Chiz Kid was sent down to AAA. When he came back up, however, I started to believe again. The stat line wasn’t great (.225/.270/.398 with 11 HR) but his September stats certainly looked a little promising (.270/.325/.595) and he was the only Indian to show some offensive chops against Alex Cobb in the Wild Card game.
The biggest problem for Chisenhall has always been walks; he simply doesn’t provide enough value when he can’t post an OBP of at least .300. Last year, Chisenhall walked 16 times in just over 300 plate appearances. The league average for 300 PAs was 24.5 BBs. If Lonnie can add those walks to his total, and his BABIP rebounds (.279 career BABIP versus .243 in 2013), all this Carlos-Santana-as-3B talk will evaporate. I believe in you, Chiz Kid, one more time.
2B Jason Kipnis
Prescription: (1) Starman — yes, literally, this thing from the Mario franchise.
Last season, Kipnis was an All-Star, and one of the best players in the American League. This season, at age 27, he needs to make the leap. This is the season (most likely, based on history) where he prove he is a star in this league, or merely be someone who is very good. I believe Kipnis is a star, and I believe he’s going to prove it this year.
And yes, I’d be very amused if someone would make a montage of Kipnis doing things to the Star theme from Mario.
DH/Assistant Coach (*Wink Wink*) Jason Giambi
Prescription: Find the Fountain of Youth
No, no, no, I don’t mean Giambi needs to go on a mission like Juan Ponce de Leon to find that mythical fountain. Last season, Giambi was the poster boy for the mythical “clubhouse guy” who helped build this group of guys into a team and kept them from collapsing when losses started to mount in July and August.
He also did this, which requires no introduction or explanation. You know very well where that link goes.
In 2014, Giambi needs to keep drinking from that fountain, and come up with a few big hits every once in a while. I don’t care if he hits .050 on the season, Giambi’s intangibles and clubhouse presence are that important, and I don’t even believe those things have value!
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
Prescription: Reminder that this is a contract season
Chances are, Asdrubal Cabrera doesn’t need any reminders that he’s playing for a contract in 2014. The shortstop will make $10,000,000 this season, and if he hopes to earn more than that on the open market, he’s going to need to play a lot better than he did last season. He still posted an OPS+ of 98 (which means he was a league-average hitter, which is pretty decent from a shortstop), but this team will need more than that from him.
We all know there’s virtually no chance Droobs is on the Indians in 2015, and I think we’re all ready for that (because it means LINDOR TIME is here), but we still need him to play well if we’re going to make another run at the postseason.
SP Justin Masterson
Prescription: One extra-large Chill Pill
Justin, I have to give you credit. I never thought you would submit an offer for a contract that approximates your fair market value, especially given your battle around arbitration and what I’ve heard about you in the past. You seem like a truly great guy, but I can’t begrudge you for wanting to get paid. That said, I’m really impressed and really humbled that you put your foot down and said you would take a discount to stay here in Cleveland. It means a lot, and I hope you do get your deal (though I think it’s a fair price and not a discount, we won’t quibble over that).
Right now though, Big Guy, I need you to just relax. The contract talk is out of your control now, and we need you to pitch like the Ace you believe you are. Go out there, lead this team every 5th day, and be the guy we know you are. Put the team on your back, and everything else will come. Put the contract talk aside and focus on that golden trophy — if we’re going to get there, we’re going to need you.
That’s all! Hope you enjoyed. Leave your thoughts and comments below.