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Ranking the 2013 Cleveland Indians' roster at the quarter-mark

Masterson's maturation, powerful offense lead Cleveland in first fourth of season

Ranking the 2013 Cleveland Indians' roster at the quarter-mark
(Photo: Yahoo!)
May 20, 2013
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Expectations were high heading into 2013, with general manager Chris Antonetti blazing a new course with real free agent signings and manager Terry Francona at the helm. At the quarter-mark of the season, expectations remain high as Cleveland sits two games up in the division and owns the fifth best record in all of baseball.

How did the team reach that height? Well, it is once again time to rank the roster and break down each player's contribution to the team. This piece is long enough already, so let's just dive right in.

#35 Carlos Carrasco, RHP (Previous Rank: UR)

2013 Stats: 1 GS, 0-1 W-L, 4.91 SO/9, 4.91 BB/9, 17.18 ERA, 11.47 FIP, 5.96 xFIP, -0.2 fWAR, -0.3 rWAR in 3.2 IP

No matter how successful Carrasco has been at Triple-A in his first full season since Tommy John surgery, it is hard not to have a bad taste in your mouth after his ill-fated start early in the season. Carrasco has a lot of work to do to erase his hothead persona and will probably get the chance sometime this season. With the starting rotation pitching much better of late, though, I would expect him to be brought up as a September callup in order to burn his suspension while not making the team play with a 24-man roster.

#34 Omir Santos, C (Previous Rank: UR)

2013 Stats: 1 G, 0 HR, 0 R, 0 RBI, 0 SB, .000/.000/.000 line, .000 wOBA (-100 wRC+), 0.0 fWAR, 0.0 rWAR in 1 PA

Santos fulfilled his #1 goal this season: serving as depth when Carlos Santana and Lou Marson were both injured at the same time. The catcher did not get into much action -- which is good as he is not really a major league option -- but he was there just in case. He is biding his time in Columbus right now in case he is needed to fill in again.

#33 Ezequiel Carrera, OF (Previous Rank: UR)

2013 Stats: 2 G, 0 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 0 SB, .500/.500/.500 line, .442 wOBA (185 wRC+), 0.0 fWAR, 0.1 rWAR in 5 PA

The organization tried to sneak Carrera through waivers when it designated him for assignment before the season but the Philadelphia Phillies claimed him. Cleveland then returned the favor when the Phillies did the same thing. The front office then immediately tried to sneak Carrera through waivers again, succeeding this time. In the meantime the outfielder got some limited time at the major league level, but now he is now serving as outfield depth down in Columbus.

#32 Cord Phelps, INF (Previous Rank: UR)

2013 Stats: 3 G, 0 HR, 0 R, 0 R, 0 RBI, 0 SB, .000/.000/.000 line, .000 wOBA (-100 wRC+), -0.4 fWAR, -0.3 rWAR in 8 PA

I continue to be baffled by the way Phelps cannot find success at the major league level. Phelps should find his stroke at some point in the future, but his destiny in the major leagues is likely as a utility player. The switch-hitter is working on that in Triple-A right now and should find himself with another shot in Cleveland in 2013. He is too good to keep being this bad.

#31 Scott Barnes, LHP (Previous Rank: UR)

2013 Stats: 3 G, 0-0 W-L, 9.00 SO/9, 4.50 BB/9, 4.50 ERA, 6.52 FIP, 4.71 xFIP, -0.1 fWAR, 0.0 rWAR in 4.0 IP

Barnes is bouncing between the majors and the minors so far in 2013 as he continues to put polish on his game. The left-hander will probably have a place in the majors for a long time as he, well, throws the ball with his left hand, but he needs to gain a little consistency in the bigs. Cleveland is blessed with a good number of left-handed bullpen arms, so Barnes will have to wait his turn. I expect him to get plenty more shots, however.

#30 David Huff, LHP (Previous Rank: UR)

2013 Stats: 1 G, 0-0 W-L, 10.80 SO/9, 0.00 BB/9, 0.00 ERA, 0.63 FIP, 0.63 xFIP, 0.0 fWAR, 0.1 rWAR in 1.2 IP

Assuming that Huff pitches in more games at the major league level, we will finally see if my long-asked for plan of moving the left-hander into the bullpen pays any dividends. It is clear at this point that Huff is not a starting pitching option, but what if his stuff plays up enough in the bullpen to have some use? We will soon find out if that is the case as he serves as the long reliever, at least for the time being.

#29 Brett Myers, RHP (Previous Rank: 18)

2013 Stats: 4 G (3 GS), 0-3 W-L, 5.06 SO/9, 2.11 BB/9, 8.02 ERA, 8.69 FIP, 4.90 xFIP, -0.6 fWAR, -0.6 rWAR in 21.1 IP

The raw stats are simply ugly. The implication that Myers was simply pitching through an elbow injury is encouraging, since it gives a reason for the terrible results. The fact that Cleveland's $7 million pitcher has an elbow injury does not bode well for his contributions for the rest of the year. Myers may end up being alright and eat innings once he is back from his injury, but this is certainly not what the front office was looking to get out of their offseason pitching acquisition.

#28 Lou Marson, C (Previous Rank: 20)

2013 Stats: 3 G, 0 HR, 0 R, 0 RBI, 0 SB, .000/.400/.000 line, .276 wOBA (73 wRC+), 0.0 fWAR, 0.0 rWAR in 5 PA

Marson's injury luck simply has not been good in 2013 as he spent most of the season on the disabled list with a cervical neck strain and a shoulder injury. More concerning for Marson is the development of Yan Gomes as a major league option at catcher. Many expect Marson to be let go at the end of the season in favor of Gomes, though it was expected that Marson would last the season. Now, however, it is much easier to see a scenario in which Gomes manages to Wally Pipp Marson much earlier than expected.

#27 Matt Albers, RHP (Previous Rank: 22)

2013 Stats: 12 G, 1-0 W-L, 8.03 SO/9, 6.57 BB/9, 4.38 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 4.50 xFIP, -0.1 fWAR, 0.0 rWAR in 12.1 IP

Albers is a veteran reliever, but if the right-hander keeps walking batters at this rate, he will soon find himself out of a job. One of the organization's big strengths is its right-handed relief depth, meaning that pitchers like Matt LangwellPreston Guilmet, and others are all pushing for the spot that currently belongs to Albers. Even though he has only thrown 12.1 innings -- far too small of a sample to draw conclusions from -- the early returns on Albers are not good.

#26 Jason Giambi, DH (Previous Rank: 26)

2013 Stats: 15 G, 2 HR, 8 R, 12 RBI, 0 SB, .188/.293/.375 line, .293 wOBA (84 wRC+), -0.2 fWAR, -0.1 rWAR in 58 PA

The old man in the clubhouse is not hitting consistently, but that is not really what he is here to do. While there is no real way to measure it, I am sure that Giambi's presence in the clubhouse and in the dugout is helping players even if his performance on the field leaves something to be desired. There is some pop left in his bat, however, and he can be counted on to go full out when he is in the lineup. Like the time he dove headfirst into first base.

#25 Trevor Bauer, RHP (Previous Rank: UR)

2013 Stats: 3 GS, 1-2 W-L, 6.06 SO/9, 8.27 BB/9, 2.76 ERA, 5.23 FIP, 6.12 xFIP, 0.0 fWAR, 0.3 rWAR in 16.1 IP

There is little doubt that Bauer will be a factor at the major leagues for years to come, but for right now, the right-hander is still working on refining his mechanics. Bauer said in spring training that he is reworking his neuromuscular programming, fancy terms for overhauling his pitching motion. I expect the changes will help him long-term, but in 2013, it is leaving him very susceptible to walks. Bauer will get more chances this year due to the lack of pitching depth in the organization, but overall he needs more time to work on things down in Columbus.

#24 Nick Hagadone, LHP (Previous Rank: 19)

2013 Stats: 13 G, 0-0 W-L, 10.80 SO/9, 9.00 BB/9, 7.20 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 5.06 xFIP, 0.1 fWAR, -0.4 rWAR in 10.0 IP

As overpowering and live as Hagadone's raw stuff is, until he can consistently throw it over the plate, he will not have a secure job in the major leagues. The left-hander has real talent and, in my opinion, still belongs in the bullpen, but he is being bounced between Columbus and Cleveland for a reason. Hagadone will rein in his ability at some point, and when he does, watch out. He will be a strong member of the Bullpen Mafia before too long.

#23 Rich Hill, LHP (Previous Rank: 25)

2013 Stats: 16 G, 0-0 W-L, 9.26 SO/9, 5.40 BB/9, 3.09 ERA, 5.00 FIP, 4.99 xFIP, -0.1 fWAR, 0.0 rWAR in 11.2 IP

Hill has not been perfect so far this season, walking too many batters, but the strikeout stuff is there. Pitchers like Hagadone and Barnes were thought to be the left-handed options in the bullpen this year, but Hill's performance -- even if underwhelming at times -- has given the team some leeway. With only 11.2 innings under his belt, Hill's walk rate may stabilize as the year progresses. Even if it does not, Hill is a decent left-handed option in the bullpen; those have value.

#22 Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (Previous Rank: 15)

2013 Stats: 26 G, 3 HR, 7 R, 11 RBI, 0 SB, .213/.253/.351 line, .265 wOBA (65 wRC+), 0.1 fWAR, 0.1 rWAR in 99 PA

Everybody's breakout pick after his strong showing in spring training serves as a yet another example of how useless spring training statistics are. Chisenhall's struggles with drawing walks, limiting strikeouts, and getting on base were in full effect before his demotion and bleeding into his game on defense. Francona says that he still believes Chisenhall is a building block for the future, but 473 plate appearances into his career, the results are not encouraging (.250/.286/.406). In fact, that is Matt LaPorta circa 2011 production.

#21 Bryan Shaw, RHP (Previous Rank: 23)

2013 Stats: 16 G, 0-0 W-L, 9.31 SO/9, 3.26 BB/9, 1.86 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 3.85 xFIP, 0.3 fWAR, 0.3 rWAR in 19.1 IP

The other reliever brought over in the Shin-Soo Choo/Trevor Bauer trade, Shaw has outperformed the more experienced Albers and established himself as a main figure in the Bullpen Mafia. Though a blown save by Chris Perez or struggles from Vinnie Pestano can mask it, Cleveland has a very deep and very strong bullpen that Shaw really adds to. His numbers are due for a little regression, but overall I expect Shaw to keep being a positive in 2013 as he locks down the middle innings.

#20 Yan Gomes, C (Previous Rank: UR)

2013 Stats: 16 G, 2 HR, 8 R, 5 RBI, 0 SB, .271/.280/.521 line, .335 wOBA (112 wRC+), 0.5 fWAR, 0.6 rWAR in 50 PA

A trade of Mike Aviles for Esmil Rogers would be an easy win for Cleveland; the addition of Gomes to that mix just is not fair. The Brazilian catcher has impressed in limited time with the big league club and just might have stolen the backup catcher job from Marson. Now, he is not walking enough (2.0 BB%) to have a strong on-base percentage, something that will hurt him as his power regresses a little. Still, Gomes is making an impression in Cleveland and was a great addition this past offseason.

#19 Drew Stubbs, OF (Previous Rank: 17)

2013 Stats: 41 G, 3 HR, 15 R, 12 RBI, 5 SB, .250/.303/.379 line, .299 wOBA (88 wRC+), 0.8 fWAR, 0.9 rWAR in 153 PA

We all know Stubbs' flaws: he strikes out a lot, his power is not really there, and did I mention he strikes out a lot? What is more important, however, is that what Stubbs brings to the team on defense and in the field has real value. He may not be a consistent contributor at the plate, but the overall package he brings actually makes him an average to above-average player. As strange as it seems and as frustrating as he can be to watch, Stubbs is a positive addition to the team.

#18 Vinnie Pestano, RHP (Previous Rank: 7)

2013 Stats: 9 G, 1-0 W-L, 9.00 SO/9, 5.00 BB/9, 2.00 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 4.46 xFIP, 0.0 fWAR, 0.3 rWAR in 9.0 IP

The injury and relative struggles of Pestano in the early going is a cautionary tale about pitchers. Pestano has great stuff and is typically one of the better relievers in baseball, but one injury can change all of that. Luckily he is back from the disabled list and should be fine. As Pestano throws more innings I would expect his walk rate to stabilize a bit, but for now, Cleveland's eighth inning man has not pitched up to his usual standard. It happens, though, as relievers are always dealing with small sample sizes.

#17 Corey Kluber, RHP (Previous Rank: UR)

2013 Stats: 6 G (4 GS), 3-2 W-L, 7.94 SO/9, 1.91 BB/9, 5.40 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 3.49 xFIP, 0.5 fWAR, -0.1 rWAR in 28.1 IP

Kluber is widely viewed as pitching depth and not a quality major league starting pitcher, but he is doing his best to shed that view so far in 2013. The right-hander does not have a good ERA in 2013, but that is hurt by a high .360 BABIP and low 65.2 strand rate. Both of those numbers are likely going to move in positive directions, which will help Kluber, though the right-hander has struggled with those numbers in the past. Time will tell if Kluber can turn himself into a solid major league option, but at the very least, he is off to a decent start in 2013.

#16 Scott Kazmir, LHP (Previous Rank: 21)

2013 Stats: 5 GS, 2-2 W-L, 9.95 SO/9, 2.84 BB/9, 5.33 ERA, 5.60 FIP, 3.89 xFIP in -0.1 fWAR, -0.1 rWAR in 25.1 IP

Everyone's favorite comeback story in 2013 is Kazmir, as the left-hander is succeeding in the major leagues for the first time since 2008. Of course, his overall stats are still lagging behind due to a few bad outings, but the fact that Kazmir is pitching at all is an achievement. If the left-hander can continue to progress with his regained velocity and strikeout stuff, then there is a real chance the Cleveland will find enough pitching to truly contend. That still is not a guarantee, but it is much closer to happening than anyone thought this past offseason when Kazmir signed a minor league deal.

#15 Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP (Previous Rank: 16)

2013 Stats: 8 GS, 3-2 W-L, 9.74 SO/9, 4.20 BB/9, 5.31 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 3.44 xFIP, 0.2 fWAR, -0.1 rWAR in 40.2 IP

Ah, the great enigma that is Jimenez. The strikeouts and stuff just might be back for good, the xFIP points to a pitcher just waiting for a bigger sample size to fix his inflated ERA, but this is Jimenez we are talking about. I find it very hard to buy into sustained success from Jimenez because he has given us years of data to say he is incapable of it. Assuming the right-hander can manage to keep up this decent success, Cleveland will take it; after all, they just need decent pitching. But will Jimenez keep pitching well? Who knows.

#14 Chris Perez, RHP (Previous Rank: 9)

2013 Stats: 15 G, 2-0 W-L, 6 SV, 9.60 S0/9, 3.00 BB/9, 1.80 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, -0.2 fWAR, 0.5 rWAR in 15.0 IP

Back to the small sample sizes inherent in relievers, Perez's stats looked significantly better before his two-home run blown save on Saturday. Overall, the closer remains a solid relief pitcher, even if he can be frustrating at times. Cleveland is firmly in the playoff picture right now and teams that are looking to contend do need good closers. The issue of what to do with his large salary next year does not matter right now -- maybe in July, but not now. In the short-term, Cleveland is much better off with Perez holding down the back-end of the bullpen and serving as the kingpin of the Bullpen Mafia.

#13 Cody Allen, RHP (Previous Rank: 13)

2013 Stats: 17 G, 1-0 W-L, 1 SV, 11.17 SO/9, 2.79 BB/9, 2.33 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 2.98 xFIP, 0.3 fWAR, 0.3 rWAR in 19.1 IP

Allen raced through the minor leagues in 2012 and became the second member of the 2011 draft class to make it to the majors (only Bauer beat him). The talent that propelled Allen to such a meteoric rise is still shining in 2013 as the right-hander has established himself as a legitimate major league pitcher. The 24-year-old has a bright future and should serve as a back-end option in the coming years as pitchers like Perez and Joe Smith become too expensive and likely phased out of the bullpen. No matter how it plays out, though, Cleveland is in good shape with Allen.

#12 Joe Smith, RHP (Previous Rank: 11)

2013 Stats: 16 G, 1-0 W-L, 1 SV, 9.00 SO/9, 2.40 BB/9, 0.60 ERA, 2.03 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, 0.4 fWAR, 0.7 rWAR in 15.0 IP

Is Smith's 0.60 ERA sustainable? Of course not. Is the sidearmer once again serving as a lynchpin of the Bullpen Mafia? Yes he is. Smith is not usually this dominant, but the 29-year-old has always been steady as they come. He does not have a below-average ERA in any season in his career and he just gets the job done. Relievers fight an uphill battle in rankings like these due to the low inning totals, but if you pitch like Smith, you push your way up.

#11 Ryan Raburn, INF/OF (Previous Rank: 24)

2013 Stats: 26 G, 4 HR, 11 R, 11 RBI, 0 SB, .298/.359/.512 line, .377 wOBA (140 wRC+), 1.1 fWAR, 0.8 rWAR in 92 PA

Raburn in 2012: .171/.226/.254 line, -1.5 fWAR.

Raburn in 2013: .298/.359/.512 line, 1.1 fWAR

The real Raburn lies somewhere between those two wild extremes and his success in 2013 is far from sustainable (he currently owns a .375 BABIP). They key thing to remember about Raburn's massive hot streak, however, is the timing. Raburn got hot when he was truly needed and filling in for numerous dinged up and injured starters. His stats will regress as time goes on, but no one will be able to take away the games he helped Cleveland win during that time. After players like Aaron Cunningham made up the bulk of Cleveland's bench recently, it is nice to have someone like Raburn actually contribute something to the team when he is called upon.

#10 Mike Aviles, INF (Previous Rank: 10)

2013 Stats: 27 G, 3 HR, 12 R, 14 RBI, 1 SB, .292/.316/.472 line, .334 wOBA (112 wRC+), 0.6 fWAR, 0.7 rWAR in 79 PA

Between his flexibility and his solid bat, Aviles is of vital use to the team. It is easy to look at his place on the roster before the season as blocked since he did not have an everyday job, but the baseball season is so long. Injuries -- both minor and major -- will force a team to use its depth every time. That is a big part of why Cleveland fell apart in 2011 and 2012. Need I say Aaron Cunningham again? Right now, with players like Raburn and Aviles, it looks like Cleveland's depth is stronger and will help carry the team through injuries and ineffectiveness from starters.

#9 Michael Brantley, OF (Previous Rank: 6)

2013 Stats: 41 G, 2 HR, 20 R, 19 RBI, 2 SB, .301/.357/.392 line, .330 wOBA (109 wRC+), 0.6 fWAR, 0.9 rWAR in 168 PA

There is no denying that Brantley's swing is one of the sweetest on the team and his approach is top-notch. He is currently hitting over .300 and putting up good at bats. Unfortunately, as an overall package, Brantley is not much more than an average player. His bat is not really strong enough in left field, he does not hit for much power, and he (strangely) struggles to steal bases. Despite these negatives, however, just being an average player at the big league level has a ton of value. Brantley is a great player to have on this team and is a big part of Cleveland's three-center fielder outfield.

#8 Zach McAllister, RHP (Previous Rank: 14)

2013 Stats: 8 GS, 3-3 W-L, 6.00 SO/9, 2.47 BB/9, 2.65 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 4.51 xFIP, 0.6 fWAR, 0.9 rWAR in 51.0 IP

Give the front office credit; they absolutely can find huge success with minor deals. The Austin Kearns-McAllister trade is a guaranteed win for Cleveland already, plus the right-hander is still getting better. While there are differing opinions of McAllister's ultimate ceiling, at the very least he is an innings-eater who shows flashes of more. The 25-year-old is providing Cleveland another reliable starter to pair with Justin Masterson and gives the team a strong 1-2 punch. It is not Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, but it is good enough to give Cleveland a chance.

#7 Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (Previous Rank: 4)

2013 Stats: 39 G, 4 HR, 20 R, 19 RBI, 2 SB, .245/.305/.430 line, .319 wOBA (101 wRC+), 0.4 fWAR, 0.4 rWAR in 165 PA

Cabrera spent each of the past two seasons establishing a pattern of success before the All-Star break and struggles after it. Naturally the shortstop flipped the script in 2013, failing to do much of anything on offense until recently. Now, Cabrera is probably just fine; slumps happen and we tend to put way too much stock into players who struggle out of the gate. He is rounding into form and should be a big part of Cleveland's push for contention throughout the summer. Plus, with the offense doing as well as it has without much help from Cabrera, think of what it could be capable of with Cabrera starting to fire on all cylinders.

#6 Michael Bourn, OF (Previous Rank: 2)

2013 Stats: 19 G, 2 HR, 13 R, 3 RBI, 5 SB, .321/.369/.487 line, .372 wOBA (137 wRC+), 0.9 fWAR, 0.8 rWAR in 84 PA

In half the games, Bourn has a higher fWAR than Stubbs and Brantley. Those two outfielders are good players, but this really underscores what kind of talent Bourn is. Bourn has been pretty lucky on his BABIP (.404) and will see some of those balls turn into outs in the weeks ahead, but his speed and defense combination will carry him through the hard times. Cleveland has a true star at the top of its lineup in Bourn and hopefully he will be able to stay healthy for the rest of the season and avoid any more freak injuries.

#5 Mark Reynolds, DH/1B (Previous Rank: 12)

2013 Stats: 41 G, 12 HR, 24 R, 37 RBI, 1 SB, .261/.345/.563 line, .384 wOBA (146 wRC+), 1.0 fWAR, 0.7 rWAR in 165 PA

The legend of Reynolds has grown to mythic proportions after his hot quarter-season, one in which he is on pace for nearly 50 home runs and is striking out less than any point previously in his career. Now, the time will come when the strikeouts come back and are hard to watch, but there is no denying that the power is real. Now, if Cleveland allows him to keep playing third base, he will give back most of the value he gives on offense. Hopefully someone else will be given the third base job in the near future. Reynolds is not a third baseman.

#4 Jason Kipnis, 2B (Previous Rank: 3)

2013 Stats: 34 G, 7 HR, 21 R, 24 RBI, 8 SB, .257/.321/.500 line, .348 wOBA (121 wRC+), 1.1 fWAR, 1.1 rWAR in 157 PA

Remember how the fanbase got really worried about Kipnis when he slumped out of the gate? Small. Sample. Size. Especially early on in the season you cannot read too much into the data. Kipnis had a horrible first few weeks, sat out for a bit with an elbow injury, then came back healthy and ready to go. He is showing the same combination of hitting, power, and speed that made Cleveland fall in love with him and has some pretty good numbers even with his slow start. Kipnis is reason #12,304 that you cannot judge anyone by their April numbers, though I'm sure that lesson will once again be forgotten come 2014.

#3 Nick Swisher, 1B/OF (Previous Rank: 5)

2013 Stats: 39 G, 6 HR, 23 R, 16 RBI, 0 SB, .268/.375/.486 line, .371 wOBA (136 wRC+), 1.6 fWAR, 1.5 rWAR in 168 PA

What Swisher brings to the team goes beyond snappy sound bites and Ohio State lovefests. Swisher's combination of power and walks supports his strong overall line and really makes the offense run. He does not have the gratuitous power of Reynolds, but he gets on base and just does things to help the team win. He also has done quite well defensively (with the small sample size caveat attached) and his ability to play first base or right field lets Francona adjust his lineup when needed. The Swisher signing was huge, and outside of signing Myers, it is hard to find an offseason move from Antonetti that has not paid off.

#2 Carlos Santana, C (Previous Rank: 1)

2013 Stats: 37 G, 7 HR, 24 R, 16 RBI, 1 SB, .300/.409/.554 line, .411 wOBA (164 wRC+), 1.7 fWAR, 1.3 rWAR in 154 PA

He may have cooled of late, but Santana remains the highest rated position player thanks to his amazing bat. He has the same combination of power and walks as Swisher, but Santana has added more hits to the equation. Now, some of that comes from his BABIP (.344), but the catcher is also hitting for more power (.254 ISO). Santana also is getting better reviews for his defense behind the plate as he develops into one of the best catchers in baseball. Catchers take longer to develop than other prospects, and right now, Cleveland is reaping the benefits of patience with Santana. 

#1 Justin Masterson, RHP (Previous Rank: 8)

2013 Stats: 10 GS, 7-2 W-L, 9.13 SO/9, 3.34 BB/9, 2.83 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 3.57 xFIP, 1.8 fWAR, 1.9 rWAR in 70.0 IP

Heading into 2013, starting pitching was the one weakness of this team, headlined by questions surrounding the nominal ace. Well, Masterson is putting those questions to bed as he has dominated in his first 10 starts. He is striking out batters and getting groundballs, and while he is walking a few too many batters, Masterson is making it work. From all accounts he is finding ways to harness his insane raw stuff and channel it into results. Masterson is not at the level of a Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw, but right now he is someone who belongs at the top of a major league rotation.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

Rich S.
May 20, 2013 - 11:14 PM EDT
Biggest disappointment thus far is Chisenhall. Best surprise performance is Gomes, although there are plenty to choose from. Overall, much more positives than negatives.

Previous years' good starts were more smoke and mirrors. I believe this team has sustainability and is legit.
Canadian Joe
May 20, 2013 - 7:02 PM EDT
All academic now Jim. Kipnis is back. Thought Calloway and Van Burkleo should have got some mention here. They have both done a great job. Starting pitching, at least to date, has been far better than expected, and the work with Jiminez so far has been great. The hitters are doing a great job working in to counts, and hitting with two strikes.Today's game is a prime example. Have certainly kept the strikeouts down as well. There is certainly a lot to like with the Indians so far. If only the fans would buy in and start coming out.
Jim Piascik
May 20, 2013 - 6:50 PM EDT
The end of last year was rough for Kipnis, but that always seemed related to wearing down under the pressure of his first long season and trying to do too much with the team collapsing in August. Or at least that's what I remember reading at the time. I chose to treat those struggles and this year's a two different cases.

I get the concern for Kipnis' first few weeks, but I was willing to wait longer. Especially once he took time off for the elbow injury, things seemed to get better. Injuries (obviously) affect players and he has come around since then. Or at lest that was my rationale.
May 20, 2013 - 4:44 PM EDT
I agree that people tend to pick arbitrary start/end points for stats, which is questionable at times as they are just trying to defend/make an argument that works how they want it. That having been said, it is common for teams to look at stats on a first half or second half basis. Those are common start/end points widely used in the industry. And a lot of teams like to use last 30 days or month to month....not one day to another order to eliminate bias. I'm glad to see Kipnis rebounding, because he had a very poor second half last year, a poor spring training, and was off to a very slow start the first 2-3 weeks of the season. More than enough of a sample size there, especially considering how short his career has been in the bigs.
May 20, 2013 - 4:44 PM EDT
I certainly understand your criticism about the tone. I never intended to defend the tone of the comment, nor any of the previous articles you're citing. I don't write for the site, and I don't speak for anyone who does. I think if you'll look back at my comments, I've stated only 2 things: A)that 330 AB is not a large enough sample upon which to base predictions, and B) that choosing July 13, 2012 and April 30, 2013 as endpoints was arbitrary.

As for A: I respect that you have a PhD in Statistics. That is certainly far more expertise in the field than I have, although I am familiar with Central Limit and most basic statistical theories regarding standard deviation and variance. However, I also know that the sabermetric community has more or less settled on 500-550 PA as the minimum sample at which performance becomes reliably predictable. Now, if you have done research or are familiar with research in the field that states that far fewer PA is reliable, I would be very interested to read that information in the spirit of furthering my understanding of baseball stats. I am nothing if not intellectually curious. Here's a study on the 500PA standard, for example. (

On B: I misunderstood your original comment and I will concede, that if you were stating concerns on April 30, that April 30 is not an arbitrary endpoint, as it is the only logical endpoint. However, July 12, 2012 is still a completely arbitrary endpoint, unless you're aware of some significant injury, mechanical issue, or similar that I'm not aware of that occurred on or around July 12. There is no legitimate reason to use stats from July 12-April 30 rather than, say, April 30-April 30, unless you are selectively choosing an endpoint which justifies a conclusion you'd already reached.
Jim Piascik
May 20, 2013 - 4:34 PM EDT
And also, picking the most recent 330 at bats is getting into recency bias.
Jim Piascik
May 20, 2013 - 4:28 PM EDT
You can talk about others, but I'm not Tony. I was never off on Kipnis. Maybe some concern was warranted, but 330 at bats is half of a season. You can't just select those without a reason. If the reason Is that's when he started struggling, that's arbitrary.
May 20, 2013 - 4:24 PM EDT
You guys don't believe me? Check it straight from Tony Lastoria regarding Kipnis and his performance since the 2012 All-Star Break. Tony is like as big as Jesus Christ when it comes to the Indians, so you all enjoy reading this...

Check. Mate.
May 20, 2013 - 4:14 PM EDT
Matthew, I've got a PhD in statistics. Don't tell me I don't know sample sizes. Look up the Central Limit Theorem, son. I mean business and I'm right.

The tone of the writer is what got to me. It's all snarky -- "Small. Sample. Size." I mean, come on. You can say this after the fact, but this site was LITTERED with concern about Kipnis and how bad he'd been since the All-Star break last year. I can probably find half a dozen IBI articles saying the same thing. Perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black. Holla atcha boy.
May 20, 2013 - 3:46 PM EDT
Hi Southwest. You're wrong. 330 AB is small sample, regardless of endpoints, and the endpoints were indeed arbitrary. Based on your tone, I don't think anything I say will convince you, but again, you are wrong.
May 20, 2013 - 3:06 PM EDT
May 20, 2013 - 3:02 PM EDT
It's not picking arbitrary points. It was based on his most recent 330+ at bats in the major leagues. Why not ? Because pitchers adjust to rookies. Good hitters adjust to how they're adjusted to, but after an entire off-season to adjust and he hadn't. Even Tony and other IBI writers had concerns about Kipnis after April b/c he sucked after a bad start last year.

First, this word followed up period follow by word and another period is tired. It's stupid and "small.sample.size" is wrong b/c it was nearly 3/4 of an entire season's worth of mediocrity. NOT SMALL SAMPLE SIZE AND NO SOUP FOR YOU!
May 20, 2013 - 2:17 PM EDT
Yeah, very first thing I thought was McCalister shoud be number 2. Joe Smith might be number 4, If Shaw can blank them today he should move a little higher as well has been huge for this bullpen.

I agree Reynolds shouldn't see too much time at 3B. Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes can all play there. He should see sometime there though as the Tribe rests guys at DH and allows Santana to rest and Gomes to get the at bats he needs to continue to develop.

Pestano will move up that list as the season goes on and I can't wait until Ascab starts to really get going that will change this offense. Giambi brings leadership and I see him put up good at bats in important situations. I have see him take walks with the game on the line or hit a flyball to the outfield to drive in a run. He just brings a proffesional pinch hit.

I think as times goes on Brantley will continue to improve his power and stolen bases numbers. If he can hit 14 homers and steal 17-20 stolen bases he will be a well above average player.
May 20, 2013 - 1:34 PM EDT
I can't justify having Asdrubal higher than Brantley at this juncture. It makes little to no sense to me.
Jim Piascik
May 20, 2013 - 12:00 PM EDT

It's hard to balance overall value and value in a single game. Relievers are largely fungible in the big picture, but when Cleveland needs one win, that Allen-Smith-Pestano-Perez combo is deadly.

I'm glad to see Smith performing really well. Most of the other relievers have struggled from time to time, but he has been solid throughout.
May 20, 2013 - 11:57 AM EDT
Pretty good list. The fact that you dropped our bullpen guys means our starting pitchers must being doing a better job, which they are,but I just can't imagine they can keep it up. I think all of Perez, Pestano, and even Smith (who you correctly ranked the highest imo) should be ranked higher. They will be key come July and August.
Jim Piascik
May 20, 2013 - 11:24 AM EDT
Matthew has it right on the head: you can't just choose endpoints randomly: there has to be some significance. And I agree that the end of last year could easily be stamina/fatigue and the beginning of this year injury/a simple slow start.

But I don't think those 330 plate appearances should outweigh the other 650. That's an entire season's worth of plate appearances.

As for McAllister, I have no problem putting him higher. I try to weigh my preseason ranks into future ones -- as to attempt to not put too much emphasis on 40 games -- and I had McAllister lower before the year.

I'm probably too low on him, but that's what's fun about these rankings: no one person is absolutely right. It's an opinion.
May 20, 2013 - 11:09 AM EDT
May 20, 2013 - 11:08 AM EDT
I'd actually have McAllister #1, to be honest. While Masterson is much more dynamic, and the clear ace of the staff, McAllister is a lock for 6+ innings, 100 or so pitches, and 3 runs or less. He's only given up four runs or more once this year, and hasn't given up more than three earned yet.

and before he gets labeled only "consistent," that's consistently brilliant.

As. per. the. small. sample. size. comment. I have no problem with that. My guess here is that the slump at the tail end of the 2012 season was based on stamina and injury, and the slump at the start of 2013 was something else altogether...just a slump...

If you want to connect them and make them problem with that.

If you want to disconnect them into two different things problem with that either. There's validity to both takes.

Yo Jim, you're Dad posted! Awesome!!!
May 20, 2013 - 11:06 AM EDT
Actually, you need to get above 500 plate appearances before metrics like the triple slash line become reliable, so 330 AB's is still a small sample. You're also choosing arbitrary endpoints (second half 2012 thru April 2013) rather than taking the sample as a whole. Taking the sample as a whole is always more reliable unless you have non-arbitrary endpoints such as a significant injury. We now have a sample of roughly 1000 PA's which tell us that Kip is a .260 hitter with good pop, good speed, and decent on-base skills. At 26 years old, we might see some incremental improvement, but this is probably what he is. An above average hitter at a position of value, roughly 4-5 WAR per season. In other words, a borderline all-star candidate.
May 20, 2013 - 11:02 AM EDT
I love lists and rankings as it always makes for discussion and varying viewpoint. My only question here is how the heck McAllister is so low. Me personally, I have him 2nd or 3rd with Reynolds or Santana in the other spot (Masterson #1).
Jim Piascik
May 20, 2013 - 10:59 AM EDT
Then you're getting into arbitrary endpoints. If we're counting some numbers from last year then why ignore the first half of the season?

The main point is that he was never as bad as those first few weeks. Overall, he's an above-average second baseman at worst. I think he could be more -- I've always been high on him -- but his floor is pretty high.
May 20, 2013 - 10:42 AM EDT
Regarding Kipnis and the "Small. Sample. Size." comment. Check Kipnis' numbers in the second half last year.

Sample. Size? Not. So. Much. Try 330+ AB's, son.

All he needed was for Tony to imply he should go to the minors ala Cabrera in 2008 because that seemed to be the inflection point.

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