Second Thoughts Game #151: Indians 2, Astros 0
Carlos Carrasco one ups Corey Kluber
On Tuesday, Corey Kluber struck out a career high 14 Astros over seven innings. It was yet another outstanding performance by one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. However, it’s Carlos Carrasco, not Kluber, who has been the team’s best pitcher since August.
Carrasco had the best game of his career on Wednesday. He gave up two hits, two infield hits at that, and 12 more Astros went down swinging. It was the second best pitching performance by an Indian this year, behind Josh Tomlin’s one-hitter in June. On an even larger scale, using Bill James’ game score system, Carrasco’s outing was tied for the sixth best by any pitcher all year.
Facing the Astros helps, but the biggest thing I noticed from Carrasco in this game versus others was how effective his changeup was. He already has one of the best sliders in baseball. Carrasco also throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball in the high 90’s, with great control. What’s been missing in previous years has been a second effective off-speed pitch. I’ve noted before that he struggled in the past against left-handed hitters. Part of the reason for that was his changeup and curveball were never more than average offerings.
That doesn’t look to be the case anymore. Carrasco doesn’t throw the curveball much anymore, but his changeup is generating a very respectable 15% swinging strikes and gives him a legitimate out pitch against lefties. One of the big things contributing to his success is how much more he’s throwing that slider (21.6% versus 8.6% in 2013) than ever before. When he gets a right-handed hitter behind in the count that’s the pitch he goes to, and he’s getting 25% swinging strikes.
It’s hard not to dream what a Kluber-Carrasco one-two punch will give the Indians in the seasons to come. These are two pitchers who have the rare ability to rack up large strikeout and groundball totals, with a walk rate of less than 2 BB/9. If you really break the two pitchers down, they’re very similar. Kluber has a deeper and more consistent arsenal of secondary pitches, but Carrasco has the better fastball. Both mix a four-seam and two-seam fastball (though Carrasco throws the four seamer more, and Kluber the two seamer more) with a slider, curve, and change. They’re even close in age and years of control.
The point is, we’re going to see a lot more of these mini-competitions between Kluber and Carrasco in the future, and the Indians are going to be much better off because of it.
Is it 2015 yet?
Looking Ahead: Undercover Needs
The point of this section is to look ahead to the 2015 roster and identify some needs that might not seem important at this present time. The obvious needs for the Indians in 2015 is an offensive facelift. Not only do they need more impact bats in the lineup, but the team’s roster construction needs to be analyzed as well. I won’t delve into those issues much.
The first thing I’ll bring up is something I touched on in Tuesday’s Second Thoughts column. The Indians have very little pitching depth available. In the last two years the Indians have needed to go all the way to their eighth starter in the first two months of the season. They’re lucky that those two starters just happened to be Corey Kluber in 2013 and T.J. House in 2014. At this point, the Indians don’t have someone who could be considered a capable eighth starter for 2015. The depth after Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer, Salazar, and House consists of just Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin, two pitchers who struggled in their opportunities this season. Unfortunately, no other pitcher in Columbus or Akron looks poised to make the jump to Cleveland by early next year.
That means the Indians are going to need to bring in starting pitching depth during the offseason. They’re going to need to target guys they have a chance of keeping in Columbus. The team has done a decent job of identifying these types of players in the past. Bringing back Shaun Marcum could be a possibility. Chad Billingsley is an interesting name that will surely be available on a minor league deal. He’s someone who might not be ready for Spring Training, which means they’d likely be able to negotiate a deal with a later opt-out date. Others like Joe Saunders, Wandy Rodriguez, Chris Capuano, and Scott Baker are other names to remember.
On the higher end, pitchers like Brett Anderson, Gavin Floyd and (yes) even Justin Masterson are available as high upside signings at a negligible cost. Still, we’re probably talking about guaranteed money for that group and that may necessitate bumping T.J. House to the minors to start the season.
Another interesting player that I’ll mention is Carlos Villanueva. For the majority of his career he’s bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen with decent numbers. His ERA this season is a bit higher than normal, due to a .340 BABIP, but this is a guy the Indians could sign fairly cheap to fill a void in middle relief. Then as he’s done in the past, he could fill in as a starter if needed.
The bullpen is another area that won’t get a lot of attention as a need this offseason. Still, it shouldn’t be ignored. It’s tough to imagine where the pen would be without Scott Atchison this season, but it’s even tougher to imagine relying on Atchison to be this good again next year. I’m not sure any young reliever outside of Kyle Crockett has earned a spot in the pen next season, which means there’s not a lot behind Bryan Shaw and Atchison should one struggle. I think this team should explore signing another right handed set-up man. This would reduce the reliance on Atchison, and protect against injury/inconsistency from Shaw or Cody Allen.
Another issue that will need to be resolved is the number of left-handed relievers the team is going to keep on the roster. Marc Rzepczynski has been steady as the team’s top lefty, but he’s also due for a raise in arbitration. Behind him in the pecking order is Kyle Crockett and Nick Hagadone, who is now out of options. I doubt the team keeps three left-handed relievers on the opening day roster. Do they cut Rzepczynski loose and bank the $2+ million he’ll be due to make? Do they try to trade Hagadone? Do they stash Crockett in Columbus to keep Hagadone and open up space for another right-handed reliever? That’s something we’ll need to monitor.
- I cringed when I saw Jesus Aguilar removed for J.B. Shuck late in Tuesday’s game. I just don’t understand the infatuation with Schuck. Then I cringed again when I saw the lineup for this game. Chris Gimenez, the .213 career hitter and catcher by trade, playing first base instead of Aguilar. The amount of at-bats given to sub replacement level players this September has been frustrating. At least a player like Aguilar comes with some upside, but Francona doesn’t seem to care much for it.
- The Indians will send Danny Salazar to the mound in the final game of their four game set against the Houston Astros. He’ll face off against Scott Feldman, who will be making his first appearance against the Indians this season.
Beltre is no longer in his prime- we're not talking about a premium player anymore like a Trout, Stanton, even a Cabrera or Victor Martinez. You guys are talking like Beltre is one of the top 10 players in baseball (he isn't). When he was with the Dodgers five years ago or even a few years ago, you might have been able to make that argument, but he's on the wrong side of 35 in 2015 and there is already some offensive decline, never mind the fact that he would be moving to more of a neutral-hitting ballpark, and as someone pointed out, unless you have great right-handed power, you don't usually hit a ton of HRs at Progressive Field. Beltre has solid power, but I wouldn't call it 30 HR power; you'd be lucky to get 20-25 from him., and being he only hit 18 in 2014, he might only hit 10-15 in 2015.
Also, if Ramirez wasn't a Top 100 prospect, why would he be so valuable and so wanted by Texas for such a "great" player like Beltre? (Note I put great in quotes because I don't think he's a great player anymore- I think he's still a good player and would be a good fit for the Indians). Case in point, Ramirez fits perfectly at 2B both offensively and defensively; just because they made a likely mistake by signing Kipnis to that long-term deal, they shouldn't compound that by trading a guy who can outdo him in every way, allowing Kipnis to move to LF where he should be and where should be able to adapt being that he played OF at Arizona State.
Leaving Kipnis on the infield is not going to help the defense regardless if Lindor is playing SS or not and/or if Beltre is playing 3B. Kipnis is arguably the biggest weakness on that INF, with Chisenhall right behind him. Adding Beltre in place of Chisenhall would be an upgrade, but does nothing to address the biggest weakness on that infield. If Ramirez is traded, who plays 2B? Kipnis? Aviles? Walters? FA? Ramirez is better than the first three, and likely better than any FA you can get. Plus, he's cost-controlled, he's young and improving, and he fits quite well in the 2-spot (better than Santana, as someone suggested. Santana's power would be more wasted in the two spot, never mind the fact that Santana fits more as a middle-of-the-order hitter. Maybe not as a cleanup hitter, but certainly a 5 hitter, definitely more so than Kipnis).
Adding Beltre would be a positive if it doesn't hurt the ML team. Leaving Kipnis at 2B isn't an option, not if you want a better defense to support this young staff. Ramirez is the best second baseman you got defensively, and better than virtually any other option you can realistically get. Plus, he's probably the best option for the 2-hole, as evidenced by the speed, bunts, contact ability and sacrifices he's had in the short amount of time he's been there. I don't think some of you guys are giving enough consideration to the fact of the impact it will have on the Indians of removing Ramirez from this lineup and from the field. He's been one of the key cogs in this late run, as the infield defense has been steadier and the top of the order has been a little more productive. I think the impact of trading Ramirez will be greater than what you guys are thinking, which will largely negate how much positive impact Beltre will have, especially if Kipnis remains the second baseman on this team. The defense won't be improved that much- the biggest infield issue in my mind is Kipnis, not Chisenhall, being that Kipnis plays up the middle. Lindor and Beltre are not going to impact that, and even if Kipnis was that bothered by his injury, he's never been a great second baseman- he doesn't hold a candle to Ramirez defensively, and quite honestly, he's not better offensively either (not just in 2014 either- Kipnis has definitely been overblown offensively).
Heck, the Tigers gave up next to nothing for Price (Smyly is a mid-rotation starter at best, never mind the fact that Detroit's pitching prospects are always overblown- Andrew Miller, Jacob Turner, Rick Porcello- all of them touted as frontline starters, traded as such, yet none of them are aces, with only Porcello remaining a decent/solid starter, with Smyly still to be determined). Our farm system had and still has more depth and probably more impact players than Detroit's- I can't believe we couldn't acquire Beltre who is no longer in his prime in some other way, being that we have a good amount of quality depth, especially midfield depth.
I personally wouldn't be that eager to give up Ramirez. We have a hole at 2B- Kipnis is NOT the answer long term regardless of his contract, and Aviles or Walters isn't the answer either. As I said, I'm really not wanting to break up any part of the ML team for Beltre, with the possible exception of the five starter- Tomlin, McAllister, even both, along with two to three prospects for Beltre and maybe a young Minor Leaguer or AA/AAA long-shot or organizational depth prospect. Yes, I'd include a Lee or someone out of the bullpen, since he's not really part of the bullpen yet- same with Adams, even Price or Sturdevant (not Crockett or Hagadone, though- see them as part of the bullpen moving forward).
Amazing that Shuck once again was in the lineup....
It's a new experience for the Indians, and especially for Francona, but they have to rely on the young talent to help carry this team- it won't improve sitting on the bench. That's why I think as well it's unfortunate Aguilar isn't getting more playing time and Urshela isn't up here and getting playing time. I mean- Shuck, Giambi, Gimenez, Dickerson? The youngsters can do at least as much, if not more, than these guys. And, the youngsters will almost certainly get better. Will those four guys I mentioned? Uhh... no.
And, again, why is Kipnis in the 5-hole? He is NOT a middle-of-the-order hitter, never was, and very likely never will be in terms of talent. Why is he there? Gomes and Chisenhall are better fits 5 and 6, and Murphy can outhit Kipnis. Baffling, and maybe Francona's biggest weakness as a manager- sticking with middling veterans and keeping them in the lineup and at very inopportune places in the lineup- Kipnis should have been removed from the middle of the order 3 months ago, shortly after he returned and showed he was not going to hit. Heck, he admitted himself he wasn't hitting HRs in batting practice- he has no business in the middle of that lineup- none.
Some ideas as basis for discussion....
I'm thinking big trades like going after Josh Donaldson from the A's. Maybe something like Lonnie Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin, Erik Gonzalez, and Austin Adams for Donaldson and Ryan Cook.
Anthony Rendon from the Nationals. Maybe something like Danny Salazar and Francisco Lindor for Anthony Rendon and AJ Cole.
Another 3b I'd like to to see the Tribe get is Kyle Seager (or his brother Corey) from the Mariners, but he's another LH hitting bat so he really wouldn't fit the lineup.
While Texas may think they can contend next year, they have a lot of issues, not to mention they likely will finish behind the Astros this season. While they might be able to jump the Astros, it likely won't be a cakewalk to jump Seattle, Oakland, and LAA, even if they are healthy, in 2015. Never mind the fact that rotation and bullpen are erratic. Plus, they have a good amount of inconsistency in that offense (Andrus is not a great hitter, Moreland is erratic, the OF is iffy, including Choo, especially without Cruz. Prince can help, but he can only supply so much power, and he's quite streaky himself, prone to peaks and valleys. Even with that short RF porch, good pitching can keep him contained more times than not- he's not Cabrera or Victor Martinez when it comes to batting average capability).
Really, I think even if healthy, they will be longshots to contend next year in the West or for the Wild Card. Even if teams such as Oakland (whose weaknesses are becoming more apparent) and KC (especially if they lose Shields) fall off in 2015, the Rangers will still have a hard time contending next year, even if Prince stays healthy and has a big bounce back year. You still have three teams in the West, two to three, maybe four in the Central (whether KC stays in contention and either Chicago or Minnesota surprises), and four to five teams in the East (really, all five could be in play next year, and I would think at least NYY, BOS, and BAL at a minimum would, with both TOR and TB both having the ability to surprise).
If the Rangers realize this, they might be more willing to trade Beltre, especially since a lot of their young talent (including Gallo) is a few years away, right when Beltre's contract expires.
Remove Ramirez from that list, and I'd be open to any of the others, including adding Cody Anderson into a package for Beltre.. However, trading Ramirez would be quite bad, since that essentially means Kipnis remains your starting second baseman - ugh! Yes, he might have that contract (the ions bad contract extension out of the ones the Indians signed- have no problems with Brantley, Santana, or Gomes).
As I said, any of our rotation, Lindor, and Ramirez need to be off-limits. Anyone else, I'll consider.
If you're going to spend that money on Beltre, and give up prospects, why not just go after Victor Martinez in free agency?
Or, while Stanton is not going to happen, but maybe they could work out a mutually beneficial trade with the Marlins for Ozuna. The Marlins need infielders, the Indians have spare major-league ready infielders and the Indians need an outfielder. Offer Frazier and Ramirez, could throw in a McAllister, or that Ramsey guy.
I'm a spec nerd too, but not only will some of the top guys fail, the system is simply stacked and there are blocked guys everywhere, from bullpen arms to CF to SS. The most blocked player in the org is EGonzalez. I also happen to think that he's overrated a bit around here and probably among scouts. He's not better than JRam, let alone Lindor, so that pretty much makes him a trade chip.
That said, I'd start any offer for Beltre with EGonz, then one of House or ZMac, a ML ready SP will have to go too. Plus probably a Naquin or Aguilar, as the Rangers both need OF and a 1B. That should get their attention. If push comes to shove, I'd also include Frazier, but would exclude at least House then. If they accept Frazier, EGonz and Aguilar with maybe some AA/AAA arm (Colon, Roberts) or ML bullpen guy (CC Lee, Hagadone), I would probably do that
If I'm giving up one of my prime prospects it's going to be for a guy who isn't 36 years old and could be on the downside... Sorry, I can't make that move. Now if Cincy came to me and said I'll give you Todd Frazier for Lindor then you have my attention. You might be thinking that the Indians only have a couple of years to contend which isn't true if you are thinking this
I absolutely don't understand the reluctance to part ways with Frazier for that deal. Frazier is an exciting prospect, but Beltre is an elite contributor and bolsters the actual contention window that the Tribe has.
My only concern about that deal is that I can't see the Rangers dealing him. He's an excellent player and they're going to try to compete next year. They're not entering a rebuild; they have a roster that, if healthy, will compete for a postseason berth next year.
no way would I do that deal... Agree to disagree
If you mean by cagey as more major league experience than the answer is yes. However from the playing time that Francona has given him, he is working his way of being DFA of the 40 man roster this off season.
it would depend on what they wanted for Beltre
that's fine but I know he's had a down year this year in terms of Power but in previous years like last year his .260, 22-70 would look good. IDK, what you have in mind in terms of middle of the order but I have an Idea that it's going to be expensive in terms of money and/or players. In some degree in could be unrealistic too.
No problem with Tito on a personal level but I do think he gets away with making really bad in game decisions, poor lineup construction and is too loyal to bad veterans. Instead of being open minded giving someone else a chance he would rather ride it out with Raburn, Giambi, Swisher, Kipnis and others who simple didn't produce this year and that's what I have an issue with. keeps throwing shaw out there and he's in the middle of blowing games... Why not give Adams a chance to see what he can do??
What is your beef with Francona? I cant figure it. Any other manager the way this team has played so inconsistent would be in last place. He did start a rookie last year in the one game playoff against Tampa Bay. Shy comments hits it right on the head regarding Aguilar. Never know he might become a better option next year for the Indians or becomes a important trade chip this off season.
I understand to a degree where you're coming from but to make a long story short, I think you're reaching at this point with the Aguilar thing.
Looking at the free agents that can help the Indians the #1 guy that I think that can help this team next year is JJ Hardy. I would put Hardy at 3B and move Lonnie to RF
Then all the Indians would need to do is tighten up the bullpen and add pitching to AAA
It's just a different situation with Aguilar right now. It's one thing when someone like Cabrera or Kipnis are blocking you from playing.....it is another when Chris Gimenez, Jason Giambi and others are blocking you. Last night against a lefty they put Gimenez out there.....all you need to know. Actions speak louder than words. It happens all the time with prospects, and often times with players at the big league level too.
I see your point but the overall thing with Tito is that he doesn't trust rookies right away to throw them in. Similar to what he did with Ramirez last year he did to Aguilar this year. When Swisher went down initially he moved Chisenhall to 1B and played Aviles at 3B. It's not that he doesn't like him, he's not apart of the "plan" it's that he doesn't trust rookies. Cabrera wasn't better than Ramirez this year and probably wasn't last year but because Tito doesn't "trust" young players you would've never known. Don't see how you can see Cabby was better than Ramirez last year when he did the same thing he did this year.
Anyone could be traded but I wouldn't look to trade him because he could be invaluable considering the issues Swisher is having with the injuries. I need someone I can count on to hit a couple of HR's or more and contribute down the stretch . Don't need Manny or Albert Pujols. If you trade Aguilar and Swisher goes down then good luck in trying to trade for someone to fill in because it's going to cost you and arm and a leg.
The bigger issue is that Tito needs to be spoken to about his disdain for young players. This isn't Boston where you can go out and just get proven vet talent at any cost. Indians/Dolans should be doing more but they must rely on young players a bit and he simply doesn't seem to get that message
.160 BAA (8-50), .372 OPS, 1:19 BB:K
Only leadoff hitters have an OBP over .300 and OPS over .700 against him (.350/.768)
As for SP depth, look for a LHP. I've always liked Capuano and Wandy. Wade Miley could be available via trade. Getting pitching depth seems to be easier now than a good bat. The league has changed and so will the market I suppose
I would like to see Walters and Aquilar play each day once we are out.I would also like to see McAllister get a couple of more starts. Austin Adams some PT as well.
Are you suggesting that JB Shuck is some kind of cagey vet?
In the case of Aguilar, the Indians are playing the likes of Chris Gimenez, Jason Giambi and J.B. Shuck instead of him. That's a completely different animal than Lee and Ramirez who had superior players playing in front of them (yes, for all his flaws, Cabrera was a superior player to JRam last year). With Swisher out it opened the door for Aguilar to get more playing time.....but instead that time went to Walters and others. It is very interesting and goes beyond Tito just not liking young players.
I too am fine if Aguilar is just Triple-A depth at first base next year and fills in if Swisher or Santana gets hurt. But I would certainly look to deal him in the offseason as part of a package for an upgrade. He apparently does not seem to be much of a fit with the Indians either because he has no open position to play or role to play because the Indians don't have a lot of faith in him.
don't see how you can judge anyone off 28 AB's when they play once every two weeks. I mean this is MLB 101. Stunned by some of the things that I'm reading with you guys
As for Aguilar. I wouldn't deal him and if he's nothing more than a depth option for Nick Swisher I'm fine with that. Considering the two years the Indians have had Swisher he's been injured with significant injuries. You need an option in case this happens. All in all, It's Tito being Tito with young players. Aguilar can help this team if given a chance. Not going to ask him to be a big time run producer but at the very least be someone that can give you some production from the right hand side and with that being so scarce it would be foolish to give up on someone like this so soon. Especially, when considering the the things I mentioned before.
I think ppl are trying to take something and make it into something else when it has been a obvious pattern with Tito from day one. So of course Tito doesn't like the guy so let's trade him. This type of thinking is very flawed, IMO
The big key now will be supplementing the bullpen, fixing the infield defense (which will only make our starters better) and getting at least one legit bat. Those are still some considerable needs....but they need to do whatever they can this offseason to address those needs. Go all in. And saying that doesn't mean spending ridiculous money....it just means to be aggressive in the deals they make.
What is the point of having Aguilar on the roster if they are not using him ? I just hope they don't deal him, and he comes back to haunt us.
I think the player that could bring most up-side in a trade in the offseason is Jason Kipnis. If we want to change lineup construction and go for something bigger, he is the guy we can move and get the most in return.