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3.01.2010

Lead-off comparisons and addressing Choo's horrifying agent switch

Nino Colla | Monday, March 01, 2010 | | | | | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips
Manny Acta, you sly dog you.

According to Anthony Castrovince, the new Tribe manager said he had this move of Grady Sizemore to the two-hole since he took over.

News broke to Matt Underwood from Grady Sizemore that he'd moving down the lineup. It was then confirmed on Saturday to the media and Acta even unveiled the top four of his lineup. With that, Asdrubal Cabrera will take over the lead-off spot, Shin-Soo Choo will hit third and Travis Hafner will be the cleanup hitter. Thoughts from Acta and Sizemore.
Acta: "These guys don't need to change their approach," said Acta. "They should be concentrating on getting on base and doing their thing for Choo, Hafner, [Russell] Branyan and (Jhonny) Peralta and the guys that follow so they can drive them in."

Acta: "This is a lineup capable of scoring runs," he said. "It goes out of that mold of a so-called American League lineup. We do have some guys who can run, some guys who can pop balls out of the ballpark, some guys with high on-base percentage in the middle of it. I think we're going to score a lot of runs."

Sizemore: "It's fine," Sizemore said. "I've always said I don't really care where I hit in the lineup. Manny wanted my opinion on it, and I said it's fine. I just want to do what's best for the team. This is what he believes and what we feel is going to be what's best." 
And now my thoughts...

I was sort of taken aback by the move as was everyone else. I think in order for the move to be successful, it is more dependent on the people around Sizemore, rather than Sizemore. I think it's more dependent on Asdrubal Cabrera being successful as a lead-off hitter.

In 32 games last year, Cabrera had a .301 average and a .340 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot. His full 2009 season stats in those categories, .308 average and a .361 on-base percentage. Now let's remember something that I think people forget. You really only guaranteed one leadoff at-bat. Sure they'll have more, but let's look at Cabrera's stats in that instance, leading off an inning: .277 AVG, .344 OBP

Let's compare those small-sample sizes with some of the other leadoff hitters in the American League. I'll limit it to the AL based off the fact there is a DH. First two listed are batting first in the order, the second set listed are how those hitters do leading off an inning.

Asdrubal Cabrera (32 G / 119 PA) - .301 AVG, .340 OBP / .277 AVG, .344 OBP
- Comparison -
Derek Jeter (147 G / 264 PA) - .336 AVG, .409 OBP / .389 AVG, .415 OBP
Jacoby Ellsbury (118 G / 244 PA) - .300 AVG, .347 OBP / .264 AVG, .316 OBP
B.J. Upton (98 G / 237 PA) - .241 AVG, .316 OBP / .244 AVG, .300 OBP
Marco Scutaro (144 G / 266 PA) - .282 AVG, .379 OBP / .251 AVG, .361 OBP
Brian Roberts (150 G / 271 PA) - .283 AVG, .355 OBP / .257 AVG, .339 OBP
Denard Span (145 G / 260 PA) - .311 AVG, .392 OBP / .287 AVG, .369 OBP
Curtis Granderson (130 G / 264 PA) - .241 AVG, .319 OBP / .245 AVG, .311 OBP
Scott Podsednik (121 G / 233 PA) - .303 AVG, .355 OBP / .335 BA, .391 OBP
David DeJesus (96 G / 210 PA) - .306 AVG, .378 OBP / .247 AVG, .329 OBP
Grady Sizemore (77 G / 167 PA) - .245 AVG, .340 OBP / .225 AVG, .341 OBP
Chone Figgins (158 G / 299 PA) - .298 AVG, .395 OBP / .275 AVG, .358 OBP
Ian Kinsler (110 G / 226 PA) - .249 AVG, .320 OBP / .240 AVG, .314 OBP
Adam Kennedy (94 G / 207 PA) - .287 AVG, .341 OBP / .271 AVG, .338 OBP
Ichiro Suzuki (146 G / 287 PA) - .352 AVG, .386 OBP / .348 AVG, .366 OBP

The thing that sticks out, obviously is that Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki are the gold-standard and Scott Podsednik had a fantastic season when he lead off an inning. Denard Span did pretty damn good himself.

But look at Cabrera's numbers for leading off an inning. sure his Plate Appearances are only half of what everyone else on this list pretty much had, but his average was higher than 10 of the 14 players listed there. His OBP is higher than 8 of the 14 players listed there.

I'm pretty cool with Cabrera being the guy up there. Those stats are a little eye-opening because a guy like Ian Kinsler, obviously has great numbers, but when he's leading off the inning, very mediocre. Aside from Upton, Kinsler, Ellsbury, and Granderson, normal lead-off hitters, worst up there.

As for Grady being in the two-hole, logic makes sense. In reality, you can hit Grady in any spot between first and third and I'd be okay with it. I think Shin-Soo Choo is a capable player for the three hole and until we get that prototypical leadoff hitter (Brantley, cough) in place and contributing consistently to the point where we can count on him, I'm fine with this. Ideally, it would be nice to have Cabrera in the two-hole and Choo cleaning up, but right now, this is fine. They are essentially combining the idea of getting Sizemore more RBI opportunities, yet still holding that Derek Shelton philosophy of having him get as many at-bats as possible. The two hole mixes that.

As for Hafner in the four hole and Choo batting in front of him. I'm good with that. One of Choo's best games last year came with him in that spot after Hafner scared the living daylights out of Trevor Cahill. If Pronk can at least be the muscle behind Choo, then he's going to have a good year. I know Hafner isn't the same guy he used to be, but he can still strike the fear of God into pitchers on a given day.

And if Choo does have a stellar year.. Which would be fantastic, but...Uh...Oh.

I mentioned the tweet that said Shin-Soo Choo would be switching to Scott Boras on Saturday. Well the media got their shot to talk to Choo about his horrible mistake...because you know... Scott Boras sucks.

Anyway, Choo said he was happy with Alan Nero of Octagon World Wide (Another extension candidate, Cabrera, also has Nero as his agent), but made the decision to go with Boras because it was the best decision for his future. He talked to his wife, family, and fellow players about it. I'm sure Matt LaPorta talked to him about it as he is the other Indians player represented by Boras. Choo also talked about how he likes Cleveland.
"I really want to stay long term," Choo said. "I have good teammates here. A good team. Everything I like. I feel at home here. I like the Indians."
Here is the biggest issue here however. I immediately panicked because I'm thinking long-term and thinking worst-case scenario. Well that's concerning, but I think Paul Couisneau of The DiaTribe brought up a huuuuuuuge point that I didn't even know about arbitration in general.

Boras foils the Indians arbitration ways. He makes his money in free agency and he has absolutely no desire to get contract extensions for players in arbitration. He would rather go to arbitration and get his players signed to one year deals. Paul explains better.
Mainly because Scott Boras has never had a client who chose to give a “hometown discount” in signing away his arbitration years (much less a year of Free Agency) for the security of a long-term deal, something that the Indians likely hoped to ink this Spring with Choo’s former agent Alan Nero, who signed a deal with Indians as Victor Martinez’s agent in 2005 and as Rafael Betancourt’s agent in 2008.
As a quick aside here, Nero remains Asdrubal’s agent…

Yes, Prince Fielder (a Boras client) signed a two-year deal with the Brewers, avoiding the arbitration process, but it didn’t come with any “hometown discount” and it certainly didn’t forfeit any of Fielder’s FA years, where Boras will be looking for a huge deal for Fielder on the open market. With Boras in the fold, it’s likely that the Indians are going to have to go from year-to-year with Choo contractually, facing off with Boras and his portfolio of data that says that only 6 players in MLB have outpaced Choo in the last 2 years in OPS (Pujols, Berkman, A-Rod, Teixeira, Youkilis, and Holliday) in all of MLB and ask for the moon in each arbitration year for The BLC. If I can find that out in a quick OPS search, what else do you think Boras is going to arm himself with to look for a huge amount of money for Choo in each of the three coming off-seasons?
Why do you think the Indians always sign players to those extensions, buying out salary arbitration years and a few free agent years? Because of people like Boras and their desires to get as much in free agency as possible. They know they can't handle it. Now we're going to find out where Choo's loyalties lie and if Boras is willing to break code for what he usually does with his clients.

So not only is arbitration going to be concerning, being able to get Choo inked to a long-term deal is going to be even more of a headache. Cleveland hasn't gone to arbitration in a long time and a big reason for that is, they've never really dealt with a Boras client and they've always signed their big players before they even reach arbitration.

Paul did an excellent job with that point and it's one I admittedly overlooked initially. It has me a lot more worried now going forward.

Random Link Time... The young catchers, specifically Wyatt Toregas are excited to be learning from one of the greats. Toregas recalls his memories of Sandy Alomar Jr., from his mother seeing him play and playing against him in Double-A one time. Toregas talked about what Alomar brings to the table.
"He's seen everything 100 times," Toregas said. "I can't wait for these days coming up. I feel like I'm going to learn a whole lot. You get to a point where you've learned a lot and things start to come slower to you, whereas early in your career you're taking in a lot of things fast. But I feel like I'm starting over again. I can tell he sees things I don't see, and he knows how it's going to work out before it happens." 
Alomar's catching program is conditioned based, getting his guys lose before they go out to catch and getting them prepared for the rigors of a long season. Hey, the guy knows what he's doing, look how long he played at the catching position.

Even Mike Redmond has great things to say about the benefits of having someone of Sandy's caliber in the dugout and overseeing things.

The Plain Dealer has several videos out from the past few days: Matt LaPorta, Jake Westbrook, Charles Nagy, Tim Belcher, Chris Perez, Shin-Soo Choo, Fan Fest.

Former Indian Time... One of these links is one that Paul found in his Lazy Sunday post I mentioned earlier. The other is one I found when I did my usual morning paper browsing. I've got the RSS feeds for each local paper for MLB teams in my Google Reader and I just go through it every morning and read what's up. Anyway, one is eye-opening and one got me thinking.

Kelly Shoppach told the Boston Globe the following.
“We had three years to win,’’ he said. “They put a team out there that could win, and we didn’t get it done. We have nobody to blame but ourselves.’’
This was the worst part about losing Shoppach. The bright side is, this organization is always bringing in team-first guys, so I don't expect the attitude to change, but Kelly wasn't a phony. He was a good clubhouse guy and his effort on the field mirrored that. He didn't shovel the blame off like some people did and he took responsibility for what happened as a player.

I was done with Jose Veras and I think most of everyone else was to. But it wouldn't shock me to see him catch on with the Marlins and have a good year, leaving us in yet another state of "How the hell did this happen?"
``My body was real tight,'' said Veras, who added more than 10 pounds of muscle to his frame before the `09 season. ``I was too strong in my chest and not flexible enough in my arm. When I lost some weight around June and I did a lot of stretching with our trainer, that's when I found my release point again. I was able to control the ball the way I wanted to control it. Like they say, you learn from your mistakes.''
Veras said he "has control of his body again" and in 9 innings during the Winter League season, he gave up a grand total of ZERO runs. He walked three and struck out seven. Not fantastic, but still.

Sometimes this happens with players. Hey he showed some flashes with New York before 2009. Then things fell off the wagon a bit and now he thinks he's regained control of things. I'm not going to be shocked if he does well at all. He has the stuff, it's just that he never really did it here for whatever reason.

All the talk about the batting order up there, I failed to mention the impact of having those two three left-handed hitters in a row with Sizemore, Choo, and Hafner. If you put Branyan behind Hafner, that's four in a row. I think Acta however is leaning towards putting Jhonny Peralta in there to split the lefties up, follow with Branyan and then probably right-handed Matt LaPorta. So now, Peralta becomes really important so you don't have constant left-handers in the middle of the lineup.

Speaking of importance, Fausto Carmona would qualify as an important piece to this puzzle. Tim Belcher and Manny Acta talked about Carmona and what he needs to do.
"The biggest hurdle for him is getting over having a couple of bad years and psychologically and mentally regain the confidence that he can do it," said new pitching coach Tim Belcher. "No one is asking him to be what he was in 2007. But certainly we don't want him to be what he was in 2008 and 2009. He's got to be better than that."
Today... The second day of hitters actually swinging at pitches will occur. About 30 minor leaguers will be reporting early and taking physicals. Yesterday was picture day at the ballpark and if you want a gallery of 35 pictures of up-close shots of Brian Buscher and Saul Rivera, visit this zimbio gallery.

Friday is the first Cactus League game between Cincinnati and Cleveland and it will be on Sportstimeohio at 1:00 PM ET. It will not be an STO feed, rather the Reds feed. Justin Masterson will get the start for the Indians. Go Mastard Go!


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