6.28.2010

Hiatus and a bit of an announcement

I'm sorry for my abrupt absence other than the Russell Branyan trade post.

I have some news...

For one, I won't be posting anything until the end of the week due to work and other stuff going on. That's one.

But the big news is that I've been brought on at The Cleveland Fan to write about the Indians on a weekly basis.

This means nothing in terms of the blog, because I was basically doing this at Bleacher Report, but now I get to do it for a great site like TCF and with some absolute awesome people like Tony Lastoria, Paul Cousineau, and Steve Buffum, who's blogs are all linked on the side there.

I have stepped down as a Featured Columnist at B/R and will be shifting all my Indians article focus over to TCF. I'll still do what I can here when I'm not working with series recaps, minor issues, notes and quotes and everything else you've come to know and love from the blog. But now I'll add my voice to TCF.

My first piece will probably come up this week. I'm in the process of writing it now as we speak, sort of part of the reason for my hiatus.

This is a great opportunity and I'm pleased to be joining the folks over at TCF. Likely if you read this blog, you read or have at least heard of The Cleveland Fan.

6.27.2010

Russell Branyan Traded to Seattle

This has been a horrible weekend for me, somewhat.

So the news that Russell Branyan has been traded was kind of uplifting.

Literally in the middle of the night, Cleveland traded Russell "The Big Time Sexy Muscle" Branyan back over to Seattle in exchange for two minor leaguers.

Wait what... How did they get something for this guy?

The deal will include the Indians either paying off the rest of Branyan's salary or trading a player of their own to Seattle. I think they'll end up choosing the player, especially given the log jam they now have in Triple-A with outfielders.

The two players the Indians have acquired are Ezequiel Carrera and Juan Diaz.

Tony at IPI has a great background on the two players the Indians are getting if you want to know more about them. I'm without my BA prospects book so I don't really have a reference right now..

Carrera is currently injured, so for right now it won't really create any issues in Triple-A. However you have to wonder what the club will do with Michael Brantley and Jordan Brown and Nick Weglarz when Carrera comes back. Maybe by then Kearns will be traded and someone will get their shot in Cleveland.

What I immediately thought about when I saw Juan Diaz was a High-A shortstop was the fact that Ron Rivas can no longer destroy Kinston pitching. So good news on that front. It is an interesting group the Indians pulled in, but I'm shocked they got players these worthwhile for Branyan. I'm shocked the Mariners even want him with the position they are in.

Another note, Carrera was already in a deal involving the Indians. He was one of the pieces the Mets sent to Seattle in the JJ Putz-Franklin Gutierrez deal.

Anyway the main thing this does is clear a path for Matt LaPorta to get his ass back to Cleveland. It's time to get this train rolling.

I have a site announcement/update/things to say post coming up tomorrow morning. But I had to jump on this news this morning. I wonder who's going to go next?

6.23.2010

Minor Issues: Caps help East Division to win; Chen and Chiz to Futures Game

What's the News?

Both the Kinston Indians and Lake County Captains are on their All-Star Breaks and last night both the Carolina League/California League All-Star Game and Midwest League All-Star Game took place.

Lake County's Eastern Division All-Stars won 6-2 over the West. Bo Greenwell was 3-for-4 with two runs scored, a stolen base, and a RBI. Chun Chen was 1-for-2 and Nick Sarianides struck out the only hitter he faced. Greenwell was not named MVP because Jerry Sands also had a good game.

Kinston and the Carolina League All-Stars fell to the California League by a score of 4-3. The K-Tribe's lone representative, T.J. McFarland got the starting nod and went two innings, striking out two but giving up an unearned run off one hit.

One last bit of All-Star note... Congrats go out to Chun Chen again for making the MLB XM Futures Game. That's a big honor for Chen being a catcher at the Low-A level. Also congrats to Lonnie Chisenhall, who is more of a no-brainer pick, but still honorable just as much. The Futures game is played on the Sunday right before the All-Star break.


COLUMBUS

The Clippers doubled up on Rochester last night, winning 10-5 in support of Yohan Pino's 7th win.

Michael Brantley hit his third home run, also doubled with two RBI. Jared Goedert added his fifth for Columbus and he is now hitting .345. Cord Phelps and Jose Constanza had three hits each, and Lou Marson added two.

Constanza had quite the night in addition to his three hits. He stole two bases, scored three times, had two triples and knocked in five, yes five, runs.

Josh Rodriguez went 2-4 and is now hitting .329 himself at the top of the Clippers lineup. I'd start thinking about the possibilities of giving him a shot over Luis Valbuena.

Yohan Pino went five innings and gave up five runs, but the offense was enough early to give him the win. Josh Judy and Vinnie Pestano with scoreless frames to close it out.

AKRON

With Eric Berger scratched due to his back, Kelvin De La Cruz stepped up to make the start and while he's getting better, he's still struggling. The Aeros lost 6-2 to Richmond.

De La Cruz went five innings and gave up four runs off six hits and three walks. Omar Aguilar pitched two great innings with a strikeout and Shane Lindsay even pitched well, cleaning up for Chen in the eighth and pitching the ninth with three total strikeouts.

Carlos Rivero hit a solo home run, his third of the year and second in as many games played. Lonnie Chisenhall knocked in run number 27.

MAHONING VALLEY

Mahoning Valley may not be very good this year, at least in the start of the season until some of these higher rated draft picks sign, if they sign in time. The Scrappers were shutout yet again and one of their higher picks, Jordan Cooper, struggled in his first start.

Cooper went just 3.1 innings and gave up four runs off five hits and a walk. Takafumi Nakamura had 3.2 innings of impressive work, giving up just two hits and a walk while striking out five.

The club's four hits were collected by Andrew Kinney, Giovanny Urshela, Moises Montero, and Brian Heere.

AZL INDIANS

The A-Tribe fell to 0-2 after a 7-6 loss to the Brewers yesterday.

Joel Torres hit a solo home run and Jesus Aguilar had two hits and a walk. Draft pick Nick Bartolone scored twice and stole his first base.

 Felix Sterling is a name to watch, but he struggled in his first outing, going four innings and giving up three earned (four total) off five hits and two walks. Ryan Morris has reappeared for his rehab stint with the AZL club and he gave up two earned (three total) off six hits in three innings of work.

6.22.2010

Series #24: @ Philadelphia 6/22-6/24

Cleveland Indians @ Philadelphia Phillies
June 22nd - June 24th: 3 Game Series
Tuesday - 7:05 PM* / Wednesday - 7:05 PM* / Thursday - 1:05 PM*
*-STO #-ESPN/ESPN2 %-Fox

The Scene
Cleveland (26-42) - Philadelphia (35-32)
Standings: 5th AL Central
Streak: Lost 2
Visitor: Lost 2

The Latest

6/22: Joe Smith has been recalled from Triple-A Columbus to take the roster spot of David Huff. Smith will be with the team until at least Friday. The club will have to send someone down to Triple-A come Friday when they promote either Aaron Laffey or Carlos Carrasco to start. There is no guarantee they send down Smith.

Random Notes: This is the first time the Indians have played in Citizen's Bank Park. The all-time series between these two teams is at 3-3.

Tribe Injuries
Grady Sizemore (60 DL - Knee Surgery)
Asdrubal Cabrera (60 DL - Broken Forearm)
Anthony Reyes (60DL)

Game 1
Mitch Talbot Vs Jamie Moyer


Indians Vs Moyer
Moyer: 10-7, 28 GS, 3.92 ERA
@ Philadelphia: 25-17, 52 GS, 4.83 ERA

AB H HR RBI BB SO
Austin Kearns 16 7 0 2 3 1
Travis Hafner 13 2 0 0 1 5
Anderson Hernandez 13 5 0 2 0 3
Jhonny Peralta 10 5 1 1 1 1
Mike Redmond 3 2 0 1 0 0
Russell Branyan 1 0 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/22/2010.

Talbot in Interleague
Talbot: 0-1, 1 GS, 12.71 ERA
2010 Road: 4-2, 6 GS, 2.56 ERA

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG missYr
Juan Castro 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0

Total 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/22/2010.

Recap
CLE 1 | PHI 2

W - Jamie Moyer
L - Mitch Talbot (7-6)
7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 K
S - Brad Lidge

Story.. Mitch Talbot pitches well... Old as dirt Jamie Moyer pitches better, gives up a few hits..

JC Romero puts two on, Brad Lidge comes on and strikes two out.

Rusticle Branyan hits home run.

Uh Kerry Wood randomly pitches the eighth... What if the Indians came back in the top of the ninth and needed a closer in the bottom of the ninth? That's my puzzling question.

But that is the story. Moyer gave up a walk and two hits. Mitch-sir didn't pitch bad, pitched well actually...

Ya win some, ya lose... lots.

[BOXSCORE]

Game 2
Jake Westbrook Vs Kyle Kendrick

MLB.com Preview

Indians Vs Kendrick
Kendrick: 1-0, 1 GS, 4.50 ERA
@ Philadelphia: 16-8, 33 GS, 4.58 ERA

AB H HR RBI BB SO
Austin Kearns 11 2 0 0 0 4
Anderson Hernandez 6 2 1 2 0 1
Travis Hafner 2 0 0 0 1 0
Jhonny Peralta 3 1 0 0 0 0
Justin Masterson 2 0 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/22/2010.

Westbrook in Interleague
Westbrook: 6-7, 16 GS, 3.40 ERA
2010 Road: 3-2, 8 GS, 4.50 ERA

AB H HR RBI BB SO
Raul Ibanez 24 8 1 3 2 1
Placido Polanco 24 7 0 1 0 2
Juan Castro 14 5 0 2 0 0
Ross Gload 11 4 0 1 3 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/22/2010.

Recap
CLE 0 | PHI 0

W -
L - 

Game 3
Fausto Carmona Vs Joe Blanton

MLB.com Preview

Indians Vs Blanton
Blanton: 2-5, 8 GS, 4.30 ERA
@ Philadelphia: 10-6, 28 GS, 3.99 ERA

AB H HR RBI BB SO
Jhonny Peralta 23 9 2 2 1 4
Travis Hafner 19 3 0 1 3 4
Austin Kearns 8 2 0 0 3 1
Anderson Hernandez 8 2 0 1 1 1
Mike Redmond 6 3 0 2 0 1
Andy Marte 3 1 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/22/2010.

Carmona in Interleague
Carmona: 3-3, 7 GS, 2.62 ERA
2010 Road: 4-2, 7 GS, 3.00 ERA

AB H HR RBI BB SO
Ross Gload 17 5 1 3 1 1
Placido Polanco 16 3 0 1 1 1
Raul Ibanez 8 2 0 2 0 1
Dane Sardinha 3 0 0 1 0 0
Brian Schneider 3 1 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/22/2010.

Recap
CLE 0 | PHI 0

W -
L -

We Owe Ya One - Series MVP


Looking Ahead
@ Cincinnati 
TBA Vs Sam LeCure
Justin Masterson Vs Aaron Harang
Mitch Talbot Vs Mike Leake


2010 MLB All-Star Game Ballot - BBA

This year the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has decided to cast votes for their All-Star team. Here is my ballot. I'll provide more details on the actual team when the BBA announces it.

American League

C - Joe Mauer
1B - Miguel Cabrera
2B - Robinson Cano
3B - Evan Longoria
SS - Elvis Andrus
OF - Josh Hamilton
OF -Magglio Ordonez
OF - Alex Rios
DH -  Vladimir Guerrero
SP - David Price

Toughest decisions came at Catcher, Short and Outfield. I picked Mauer over Martinez by a small margin and Andrus over Jeter, mainly because I don't like Jeter. Hey it's my damn ballot. Anyway Andrus plays stellar defense, steals some bases and can hit as well. Jeter is good, but give me some new blood. There are always multiple outfielders you can put in, unfortunately for Torii Hunter, Delmon Young, and Carl Crawford, I like the ones I voted for a little better.

National League


C - Miguel Olivo
1B - Albert Pujols
2B - Chase Utley
3B - David Wright
SS - Troy Tulowitzki
OF - Jonny Gomes
OF - Andrew McCutchen
OF - Andre Ethier
SP - Ubaldo Jimenez

I almost picked Martin Prado over Chase Utley, but like Mac, I send love letters to him, stickers and all. Troy Tulowitzki may be hurt, but I like his performance up to this date better than anyone else and Hanley Ramirez soured me when he pulled that stunt a month ago.

The Problem: Luis Valbuena's struggles

The Problem has returned and this one is a doozie. In fact it is much more than a problem. If a headache is a problem, then this is a migraine.

THE SUBJECT - Luis Valbuena, also known as Baby Louie.

THE PROBLEM - Just about everything offensively.

Luis Valbuena has been downright atrocious this season. Offensively he's been anemic with the bat and defensively he's had his issues, especially when called upon to play shortstop.

But even recently his defense at second base has fallen off. Still the defense you could live with because he does make his fair share of decent plays and he's far from a huge liability at second base. When Asdrubal Cabrera went down, Valbuena was called-upon to start at short and the results were less than stellar. So when Cabrera broke his arm and was placed on the disabled list, the Indians called up Jason Donald to get the regular starting nod at shortstop and Valbuena would split time at second with Mark Grudzielanek.

While his second base defense is somewhat tolerable, his offense, regardless of position, has been horrific to watch. There are players getting called up that are approaching his statistical totals in a shorter span and he isn't getting any better.

This presents us with a huge problem. Luis Valbuena is killing the bottom of the order and has been for the entire season. 


THE EVIDENCE - Numbers that are important

Luis Valbuena Ratio Statistics

Year PA HR% SO% BB% XBH% X/H% AB/SO AB/HR GO/AO IP% LD%
2009 398 2.5% 20.9% 6.5% 9.6% 41% 4.4 36.8 0.96 70% 21%
2010 167 1.2% 22.2% 12.0% 4.2% 29% 3.8 70.5 1.36 62% 13%
3 Seasons 619 1.9% 21.2% 8.1% 8.1% 39% 4.3 46.5 0.98 68% 19%
MLB Averages 2.6% 17.8% 8.8% 7.8% 34% 5.0 34.0 1.07 69% 19%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/19/2010.

His extra-base hit percentage is higher than the average for his career and it has a lot to do with last year, where it was abnormally high. However this year is incredibly low. He was also hitting a homer every 37 at-bats, where he's up to one every 70 at-bats this year.

Last year his percentage of hits that went for extra-base hits was at 41% while this year he's dropped to 29%. The pattern here is obviously the fact that he may not be as a much of a prolific extra-base hit machine that we thought he could be.

Luis Valbuena 2009 and 2010 Comparison

Year PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 398 368 52 92 25 3 10 31 26 83 .250 .298 .416 .714
2010 167 141 12 24 5 0 2 14 20 37 .170 .279 .248 .527
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/19/2010.

Luis Valbuena had a career year regardless of level last year. It was the most home runs he's ever hit in a season and ten of them came at the major league level, the most he ever got was 11 for the Mariners Double-A club. He also had the most doubles he's ever had in one year. He fell short to his RBI number, but matched his 2007 year with 44.

Left-Right Splits 2010

Split PA AB H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
vs RHP as LHB 138 118 17 4 1 10 14 32 .144 .243 .203 .446
vs LHP as LHB 29 23 7 1 1 4 6 5 .304 .448 .478 .927
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/19/2010.

One of the problems with Luis Valbuena coming into the year was the idea of him facing left-handed pitching. Well they've done their best to shield Baby from the lefties, but when he's gotten the small opportunity, he's actually come through. It may be a very small sample size against the left-handed pitching, but if you project those numbers out to how many times he's faced right-handers, he's doing a great job in this instance. In a way it is a bit puzzling, regardless of sample size, to see him hit lefties like this. He had just eight hits in 39 at-bats against left-handed hitting in 2009, so he's definitely made some progress there.

THE SOLUTION - Yikes!

Is there really a solution to this mess of a hitter?

One thing that really stands out to the naked eye is the fact that Valbuena's average is still under .170 despite it being June. Even Lou Marson was creeping up to .200 before his demotion. Valbuena has just been downright awful.

It appeared that he might start to erase his first two months with a decent June, but he's not getting regular enough playing time to do so. His bat has been so bad, it hurts to put him into the lineup.

We might as well start with the most obvious reason he's struggling. Maybe he's just not that good. Maybe 2009 was a bit of a fluke, has that struck the minds of anyone? Now is Luis Valbuena .167 average bad? I don't think so, but I don't think he'll ever do what he did in the second half of 2009.

Valbuena only hit .250, so he's not going to hit for a high average. The most remarkable thing he did in 2009 was hit 38 extra-base hits, 25 of them doubles, 10 of them home runs, and three of them triples. I don't think he ever has it in him to hit 30 extra-base hits in a season, mostly because that's what he's trying to do.

If Luis would concentrate on just trying to make contact and hit like a second baseman should, he may not be in the rut he is now. It's obvious to anyone who watches him hit his goal is to hit the ball as hard as he can and that just shouldn't be his game.

Lou Marson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Grady Sizemore all have more extra-base hits than Valbuena in less at-bats and they are all either injured or in Triple-A. Trevor Crowe and Jason Donald both have more extra-base hits and they've been here for less time than Louie.

It took Carlos Santana all of one week to match Valbuena's totals in doubles and home runs.

When players who have been here way less than you have started matching the statistics you were depended on, there is a bit of a problem.

The only solution, if there is a solution to this problem, is to send Luis Valbuena to the minor leagues, a place he can do no damage to the big league club. The problem is with Asdrubal Cabrera on the disabled list, they don't really have someone to be the backup at short and second if they start Anderson Hernandez regularly and send Valbuena down.

So Valbuena has to remain on the roster, at least until Cabrera is ready to return to action. The club could call up Brian Bixler, but they would have to create a 40-man roster spot for him and the Indians probably don't want to do that until they have to, which is when Cabrera is due back.

Essentially then, the club is stuck with Valbuena getting some meaningful playing time at the major league level to try and end this hard skid he's in.