A deeper look into the numbers for the Indians
Despite missing the playoffs the Cleveland Indians made some great strides in 2014 and have expanded on an already promising young core of players.
I wanted to dive deep into the numbers to find out where the Indians can improve knowing they have limited money to work with. With arbitration cases and natural raises the Indians will be on the books for somewhere between $70-75 million for next year before they even spend a penny this offseason. With the 2014 payroll close to $84 million, the Indians will have to be wise where they allocate their money.
(Courtesy of teamrankings.com)
- Runs Scored: 4.13 (11th)
- Batting Average: .253 (12th)
- On Base Percentage .317 (11th)
- Hits per game: 8.71 (10th)
- Home Runs per game: .88 (14th)
- Slugging Percentage: .389 (12th)
- Walks per game: 3.11 (9th)
- Strikeouts per game 7.34 (10th)
- Stolen Bases per game .64 (9th)
Areas of Improvement:
- Runners left on base per game: 3.60 (23rd)
Many fans who watched the Indians in 2014 would be shocked to see the team’s offensive numbers ranked in the top 15 in all of Major League Baseball. Believe it or not the Indians grade out as an above average offense that is surprisingly balanced and versatile. They enter the 2014 offseason with no pressing needs in the positional player category. Of course everyone would love to see a power bat added to the lineup but with limited resources it seems unrealistic.
Rather than again telling you how great Michael Brantley is, I wanted to focus on where possible improvements can come. Considering they got almost nothing from Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Jason Kipnis, they could actually improve upon these numbers in 2015.
Swisher, coming off two knee surgeries will likely be relegated to being a full time designated hitter which hurts the teams versatility. If Swisher doesn’t have to play the field we can only hope that he can hit close to his career 162 game average of .251, 21 home runs, 70 RBI, .353 OBP, and .806 OPS.
Bourn also had a dismal season hitting .257 well below his career average of .269. He stole only 10 bases and was caught 6 times. At this point in his career even 25 stolen bases would be a pleasant surprise. My main concern with Bourn is his plate discipline which has gone from bad to abysmal. He struck out 144 times in 444 at bats.
Kipnis is still just 27 years of age and has a career OPS of .736. He has stolen 22 or more bases in each of the past three seasons. The Indians desperately need him to return to the 2013 all-star form when he compiled a 5.9 WAR.
A more consistent season from Lonnie Chisenhall could also go a long way. Chisenhall hit .332, 9 home runs, 41 RBI before the all-star break, but after he managed just a .218 average, 4 home runs, and 18 RBI.
- Earned Run Average: 3.57 (14th)
- Strikeouts per 9 innings pitched: 8.89 (1st)
- Home runs per 9 innings pitched: .83 (12th)
- Walks per 9 innings pitched: 2.84 (10th)
Areas of Improvement:
- Hits per 9 innings pitched: 8.57 (18th)
The Indians pitching staff as a whole had a very strong season in 2014. Their 1,450 strikeouts set a major league record for the most in one season. I love the idea of having a staff with great stuff that can get out of high leverage situations with a strikeout.
The bullpen was solid but I’d like to see them add another arm at the back end to solidify it. I wish the Indians had given Joe Smith the $4 million they gave John Axford because to me he had a far more consistent track record. Scott Atchison had a phenomenal season in 2014 but much like 2013 Ryan Raburn, I’m not sure is repeatable. Bryan Shaw is a solid set up man but he is not elite. Signing a late inning reliever is a realistic option in my opinion because typically pitchers of that caliber command somewhere in the range of $4-6 million.
The starting rotation appears to be set with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, andT.J. House. Signing a starting pitcher on the other hand is not realistic unless they are a buy low candidate like they did with Scott Kazmir and Shaun Marcum. Expect the Indians to go out and sign some cheap veterans to add depth to the rotation. As we all saw in 2014, you can never have enough starting rotation depth. The Indians could even explore an extension for ace Corey Kluber who is under team control through the 2018 season.
- Errors per game: .72 (LAST)
- Yan Gomes defensive WAR 12.4
- Jose Ramirez defensive WAR 10.7
- Roberto Perez defensive WAR 5.8
- Tyler Holt defensive WAR 2.6
- Everyone else
I’ll start with the positives because regarding the defense there were not many. Jose Ramirez 10.7 defensive WAR and his 7.0 UZR would have ranked him 6th in all of baseball among shortstops. Fangraphs ranked Yan Gomes as the 8th best defensive catcher in 2014. Every other regular on the team graded out with a negative UZR.
- Carlos Santana: (-.5)
- Nick Swisher (-5.8)
- Jason Kipnis: (-8.0)
- Lonnie Chisenhall (-10.7)
- Michael Brantley (-5.7)
- Michael Bourn (-9.4)
- David Murphy(-10.4)
This is concerning because the team figures to put out the same position players in 2015. Antonetti and Francona have stressed the importance of defense, but there is only so much they can do. The Indians simply have to play a cleaner brand of baseball next season.
Chisenhall stands out the most because not only was his range well below average but he also led the team with 18 errors. Bourn’s negative UZR is shocking considering it was 23.3 with the Braves in 2012 when he was Gold Glove caliber. Bourn’s hamstring problems have significantly reduced his range, but if healthy in 2015 I believe he can grade out as at least average in center field.
Kipnis has never been stout defensively and his strong bat has a lot to do with him playing second base. He did manage a 2.2 UZR in 2012 but has since regressed to -6.3 and -8.0 in the past two seasons. To me, he makes the routine plays, and if he hits the way he is capable of he can be an all-star at the position.
Santana took over at first when Swisher’s knees caused him to be alarmingly bad at first base. He did an admirable job and was clearly an upgrade over the aging Swisher. Murphy’s -10.4 UZR was well below average which is cause for concern. He typically played left field in Texas so perhaps a year of familiarity with the position and ballpark will help him improve in 2015.
In the end, I don’t see any drastic positional changes barring a major trade. I expect Jose Ramirez to do an excellent job at shortstop until Francisco Lindor is ready to assume that role. But what changes the Indians do from there to supplement the lineup and improve the defense will be the biggest thing to follow this offseason.
Now infield- Chiz at third base, Lindor at shortstop, Raminez at second base and Carlos Santana at first base with Gomez - catching.
DH - Adrain Beltran, can play third base or first base in relief of starters.
Bench -Walters, Holt, Urshela, and Perez , catcher.
What to do with Swisher, Rayburn, Aviles and Murphy?
With both knee surgery, Swisher should retire to hitting coach and we have already paid him for the next two years and I think he would do well.
Trade Aviles and Murphy to Yankees since they need a short stop/second baseman and throw in Murphy or Rayburn. Get some young players in the move for farm club.
With all that said, he's an intriguing power prospect with an impressive OBP (.382) but he's going to need to spend most of the year at triple A for some seasoning against more age appropriate competition (2015 will be his age 25 season, yes i know he was blocked in the Cardinals organization, just stating facts here)
1. We trade Murphy for an equal RH bat and that RH bat platoon with Chiz in RF or
2. We count on Murphy in RF and we trade value for value at 3b where we convert the LH Chiz ro a RH someone.
The team needs two RH bats. Where they come from is the mystery of this off season.
Good information GSon.....for starters, I didn't know that these metrics are based on samples, rather than the entire year's worth of defensive chances at each position. What did Dave Cameron say about how any of the defense you see on the field is translated into UZR?
You can take solace in one aspect of defensive metrics..the ones current being used to evaluate players, are the best ones going..
...Isn't that a sad commentary?....
Swish's contract is too big to let him sit so yes, he is the DH. How about platooning Bourne and Ramsey in CF, and trading for Scott van Slyke and platooning him with Murphy in RF (assuming we can't move Murphy)?
Ramirez can be a utility player and give Lindor a rest at SS in come in at 2B as a late inning defensive replacement.
Chis I have no more confidence in.....many chances and only one brief period of success. I will be surprised to not find Urshela brought up and Chis given less playing time about 6 weeks into the season.
I'm surprised Brantley grades out negative, given all his assists from the outfield....didn't he lead the majors?