The Sunday notes are back. It was an interesting week across baseball, although this week’s notes focuses almost entirely on the AL Central. There’s lots to review, so settle in with your Sunday coffee and let’s talk baseball.
The Week Ahead
@ Kansas City Royals (Monday thru Wednesday)
31-30, 3 GB of Cleveland
Depending on what happens in Sunday’s action, the best the Royals could do is sweep the series and tie the Indians for first in the Central. The Indians and Royals still match up nine more times this season, including a season ending series on 9/30-10/2 that may end up being very decisive.
Projected Starting Pitchers
Monday, 6/13,8:15PM ET – Carlos Carrasco (2-1, 3.48) vs Edinson Volquez (5-6, 4.25)
Tuesday, 6/14, 8:15PM ET – Josh Tomlin (8-1, 3.48) vs Chris Young (2-6, 6.37)
Wednesday, 6/15, 8:15PM ET – Corey Kluber (6-6, 3.65) vs Ian Kennedy (4-5, 4.06)
Chicago White Sox (Friday thru Sunday)
31-31, 3.5 GB of Cleveland
The White Sox led the Central by as many as six games on May 9th and enjoyed a first-place ride for 47 days so far this season. But then they lost seven straight to finish May and are 3-6 so far in June. More below in the White Sox capsule.
Around the AL Central
Kansas City Royals – Faceplant Central
On June 1, the Royals finished off a six-game winning streak and came to Cleveland up two games in the Central. Then, at Progressive Field, Josh Tomlin kneeled behind the Royals and Corey Kluber pushed. KC went over backwards and hit the ground harder than expected, losing eight straight beginning in the CLE and tumbling three back of the Indians. Hey, it was all in good fun, Ned!
What happened? Well, the offense did a complete 180 once they hit the 216. The Royals had averaged seven runs a game in their winning streak, which was even more impressive as they were without three injured starters – Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez.
Then the Royals scored just thirteen runs total in their eight losses, and nine of those in just two games. That’s baseball. One minute you’re rolling, the next you can’t figure out how to scratch out a single run. Fortunately, the Indians took advantage, going 6-2 in that stretch and created a little distance in what is still a long pennant race this summer. If the Indians were to improbably pull off another sweep in KC this week, they could do some serious damage to KC’s division hopes, though.
Chicago White Sox – Pitching, Pitching Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Drink
The White Sox continue to have problems with the back-end of their rotation, and their shiny new acquisition did not help in his first time out.
+ James Shields’ was booed by the home crowd in his Chicago debut. The numbers: two innings, eight hits, seven runs, three home runs allowed. Shields has allowed 17 runs over his last two starts while retiring just 14 batters. Ouch. He’ll get another chance at home on Monday night against the Tigers.
+ The Sox have released two pitchers this season that make more money than the Indians’ entire rotation. First they cut John Danks, who makes $15.75 million, after four starts and a 7.25 ERA. Then they cut Mat Latos last week. Latos was signed on a one-year deal for $3 million, but posted a 4.62 ERA and was sent packing. The Indians current five man rotation makes $13.68 million according to baseball-reference – Kluber ($4.7m), Carrasco ($4.5m), Tomlin ($2.25m), Trevor Bauer ($1.6975m) and Danny Salazar ($536,200, the league minimum).
Detroit – Interesting Pitching Problems
The Tigers, like the White Sox, are having some rotation problems as Mike Pelfrey (1-6, 4.68) and Anibal Sanchez (3-6, 6.30) have struggled mightily. The Motor City Kitties seem to have immediate young help on the way, though, including 23-year-old Michael Fulmer and Matt Boyd, the 25-year-old lefty acquired in the David Price at last year’s deadline.
+ Great article in the Detroit Free Press today about Fulmer who was acquired from the Mets straight up for Yoenis Cespedes last July. The auther, Jeff Seidel, has some fun with comparisons to a young Justin Verlander and even Mark “The Bird” Fidrych.
The 21-year-old Fidrych, more rock star than professional baseball player, set the American League on its head in 1976 going 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA. Unfortunately, Fidrych never topped 81 innings in his remaining four seasons and was out of baseball at 25. He died in 2009 at 54 years old in an accident at his farm. Mental note – find a good biography on The Bird. There must be at least one.
Anytime you’re compared to Verlander and Fidrych, you’ve just made the top five on my MLB TV required viewing rotation – the list that includes, off the top of my head, The Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard (Matt Harvey has recently been demoted from the list, unfortunately), and Clayton Kershaw out in LA. It’s good to have an American League entrant.
Minnesota Twins – Still Very Bad
The Twins should consider applying for a mulligan on 2016. Perhaps they can petition the commissioner to just start over at 0-0 and try again? The Twinkies have given up 33 runs in the last three games and are 16 games out at 18-43 (fun with winning percentages – the Twins are currently on pace to lose 114).
Unfortunately, the Twins have terrorized the Indians this season. The Indians have a reprieve from the Twins until mid-July. Perhaps Indians’ fans should hope for a Twins hot-streak to reverse the voodoo?
More Carl Crawford
The Boston Globe has a good read on the Carl Crawford situation. Crawford should pass through waivers any day now and the article speculates that the Giants could be interested now that Hunter Pence will be out of action for awhile. The article mentions that Crawford seemed to prefer to be out of the spotlight in Tampa Bay and faded under the pressure in Boston, becoming “one of the least accountable people I’ve seen come through Boston in the 32 years I’ve been around the team” according to Nick Cafardo.
Would Crawford experience a bit of a dead-cat bounce in the quiet market of Cleveland? The article goes on to mention that some evaluators feel Crawford is just cooked, so maybe it’s best not to find out firsthand. Johnny Damon, anyone?
What I Learned Whilst Casting My First Votes for the All-Star Game
+ Ryan Howard is hitting .150 with a .559 OPS and nine home runs in 52 games. It’s truly a shame that Philadelphians will have such a negative lasting impression of Howard. This is Howard’s fifth consecutive season of below-average production, which is a far cry from his heyday between 2006 and 2009 when he led the league in home runs twice, led in RBI’s three times, was Rookie of the Year and MVP, and helped the Phillies to two World Series, winning one.
Choo is expected back tomorrow from a long stint on the DL for a hamstring strain. He’s had just 24 plate appearances in 2016, batting .188 without an extra base hit.
Peralta, who tore a ligament in his hand in Spring Training, just returned and is hitting .368 with a home run in 22 plate appearances this season for St. Louis. He should at least provide some extra depth on the Cardinals infield as they look to overtake both Pittsburgh and Chicago in the NL Central this summer.
+ I don’t like the voting layout on MLB.com. As an example, here’s how the AL third baseman are presented:
I’d suggest something more like AVG/HR/RBI/OPS/WAR. Here’s how those three would stack up in that scenario:
Beltre – .271, 10, 40, .786 OPS, 2.2 WAR
Castellanos – .309, 12, 36, .894, 1.3
Donaldson – .253, 14, 36, .872, 2.8
Now before any old-school anti-WAR folks jump on me, let’s just try to remember that every statistic is just an attempt to answer a specific question. I’m not suggesting we just pick the player with the highest WAR, but it could be instructional if we could sort by WAR to see who’s at the top.
Castellanos’ higher batting average doesn’t make him a better hitter than Donaldson, just that he’s gotten more hits (of any sort) than Donaldson per at bat this season. But Castellanos’ OPS of .894 is only slightly ahead of Donaldson’s .872, indicating Donaldson makes up for his poorer average with more total extra base hits, which have more value than singles. WAR also factors in defense, suggesting a rather large defensive preference for Donaldson over either player.
+ That being said, I don’t think All Star voting is merely “which player has had the best first half in 2016”. It’s for the fans, after all, or at least it should be so I’m sticking my head in the sand and voting accordingly.
How I do it – I just pull out my fan card and try to balance good starts to the season (sorry Shin-Soo Choo) in a complicated mental formula that also values players that I just enjoy watching (like Josh Harrison and his high socks in Pittsburgh) as well as players that I just think are institutional All Stars. For instance, I say that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper need to be All Star starters for their entire career regardless of how their season matches up with three other outfielders until their skills begin to permanently erode.
That being said, here’s my first round of voting, submitted just this very morning from my favorite coffee shop in Cleveland Heights:
Three Pirates. Weird. Speaking of which….
Pittsburgh Doubleheader at PNC Park
This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to take in the Pirates traditional doubleheader against the New York Mets at PNC Park. Monday’s rain-out led to a 4pm start time on Tuesday with the second game immediately to follow and one ticket was good for both games. Free baseball!
I was astounded to see over 26,000 fans in attendance on Tuesday night. It apparently wasn’t a doubleheader fluke either as the Pirates drew over 28,000 the next night.
I point this out as the World Series runner-up Mets also visited Cleveland in mid-April on the first warm days of 2016, but attendance topped out at 20,165 on Saturday’s game. On a weekend, no less.
Yeah, I know, Cleveland’s just waiting for the Cavs to be done with the Finals. I guess Pittsburgh doesn’t care that the Pens have a chance to win their fourth Stanley Cup tonight?
More On Attendance
The first place Indians currently rank dead last in attendance at 15,451 and trail 29th Tampa Bay by over 1,000 per game. And personally, I don’t think I buy a single excuse that I’ve heard recently:
+ It’s been cold – yeah, it’s been cold all spring all over the Midwest. The terrible Twins average over 8,000 more fans per game.
+ It’s too expensive – it’s no cheaper in any other Major League ballpark. Is Cleveland really that financially depressed? More than Detroit?
+ The stadium stinks – Go see some other ballparks. Tampa Bay’s and Oakland’s stadiums are dumps in areas that are very difficult to get to in terms of traffic. Regardless, I’ve been to over 20 current ballparks and the Jake easily ranks in the top five.
+ The team stinks – No, perhaps you’re confused with the other Cleveland sports team that is setting historic marks for futility over the past 17 years.
+ The Indians trade away their best players, so why bother – The discussion of Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia an interesting and complicated one, I agree, but the fact remains that the Indians have locked up this core for years to come at rates far below market value. (Also, Lee and Sabathia combine to make $37.5 million this season, even including the fact that Lee has been retired for two years. How would that have helped the payroll?)
+ Baseball is boring – Well, I’ll clearly disagree with you there, but I get that baseball has decreased in popularity over the decades. Has it decreased the most here? And if so, would MLB someday find a market that has more interest?
Point is, I can see any of these reasons applying to many individual fans, but the fact remains that the entire local fan base turns out for baseball consistently less than any other fan base in the Major Leagues. Why is that? Ideas in the comments below would be interesting to see.
Sunday Night Matchup in San Francisco
The Giants and Dodgers finish the week with a a Sunday night matchup on ESPN tonight. Dodgers’ 19-year-old phenom Julio Urias (0-1, 6.94 in three starts) gets his first crack at the Giants as he squares off against veteran Jake Peavy (2-6, 6.41).
I’ve been watching a few Giants games recently as I’ll be in San Fran in a few weeks and I can’t wait to see how AT&T Park compares to Pittsburgh’s waterfront beauty. Both are ideal settings that do a great job of incorporating the ballpark into the city.
So far I’d say my favorite two stadiums in the majors are Pittsburgh for the setting and Wrigley for the pure baseball experience. I have not been to Fenway yet, though.