Second Thoughts Game #115: Tigers 10, Indians 3
Breaking down how Detroit is just a better team than Cleveland
The Indians are a contender. Yes these last four days have been as long and torturous as a Jean Claude Van Damme movie, but they are behind the Indians. Yes the Tigers are clearly the class of the AL Central and this is true for a few different reasons: Miguel Cabrera (really just the middle of the order in general), the consistency of their rotation, and shockingly their bullpen.
Yes a bullpen we decried from early March as being our strength and their Achilles' heel. The Tigers bullpen has an ERA of 3.84 a FIP of 3.38 and increased stability since the deadline.
Whereas, the Indians is one that is competing for a bottom five ranking with an ERA of 4.01 and a FIP of 4.02 (as of Thursday night at 10:30).
Middle of the Order
In reality this is probably the most frequently highlighted differentiation between the two ball clubs and it has some validity, depending on your thoughts surrounding lineup depth versus top-heavy talent.
To date the middle of Detroit’s order has far outperformed the Tribe’s because of a collection of things, but mostly it starts with having the best hitter in baseball. The second is that their lineup construction,while not particularly brilliant, is more simplistic and effectively managed than the Indians'.
Yes Tito, I am talking about your fascination with Asdrubal Cabrera as a cleanup hitter. Digressing, the Indians have really been searching for stability in the lineup specifically towards the top of the order, and while Bourn and Kipnis have provided it, there are concerns.
In some ways, I understand Francona’s dogged confidence in Cabrera in the four-hole as a mechanism of stability but he is simply the wrong guy, which we will get to in a bit.
A case could be made that for the remainder of the season, the Indians will have a far deeper lineup, which can make up ground because of OBP’s effect on run creation.
Especially considering the loss of Jhonny Peralta, who was performing at an elite level, a near-four win player with 50 games to play (of course Biogenesis, rather than Lasik surgery, probably had a tangible effect on his production).
Touching upon it quickly, the Detroit bullpen has stabilized as Benoit has really strengthened the back-end of late.
The Indians, however, are far from such stability, which has caused Francona a lot of problems as he attempts to manage late game situations. We saw this most recently in Danny Salazar’s start. Obviously Danny had early success against Cabrera, but if Terry Francona had Joe Smith or Vinnie Pestano in their regular form I doubt that he would leave Danny out there.
In fact, the most stable piece has been Chris Perez, even with the blown save -- and an immature approach to bearing responsibility -- he has performed reasonably well. Of course FIP and other factors suggest regression and he is a non-tender candidate, but in terms of his role has been acceptable.
The crux of the matter being that assembling bullpens is an incredibly tricky matter and maintaining bullpen success over several seasons is even harder.
WAR production of AL Central shortstops:
Jhonny Peralta: 3.7
Alexei Ramirez: 2.0
Pedro Florimon 1.6
Alcides Escobar: 0.4
Asdrubal Cabrera: 0.1
Alright so WAR has its flaws and it leans on mediocre defensive metrics too heavily, which is where some of the shortstops derive most of their value, specifically Florimon, Escobar, and to some extent Ramirez.
However, Asdrubal’s absolute lack of production coupled with his mediocre at best defense has the Indians anxiously awaiting 2014 or the summer of Lindor (not the summer of George).
It seems clear that the Indians missed an opportunity to ascertain reasonable value from Cabrera at multiple points and now will be managing a quickly deflating asset. While Asdrubal’s two double, two RBI performance Thursday night was encouraging there are too many negative peripherals that suggest an increasingly flawed player (^K-Rate).
Up Next: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Cleveland Indians. 7:05 PM ET
Impressive Indians lefty Scott Kazmir faces off against Angels ace Jered Weaver. Kazmir gets an opportunity to shut down a team that released him when he hit rock bottom. The inevitable comeback player of the year has been impressive and will try to be the stopper the Tribe so desperately needs.
Interact with Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MichaelHattery
Pal, I don't know what race you are & don't care. It's a free country, for the moment anyway. You're free to give every penny you have to "disadvantaged kids" if it makes you feel better. Just don't expect others to apologize for their existence.