It is a holiday weekend and I am still living quite a few hours in the future, so this week's edition of Early Weekend 6-Pack will be very early (with appropriately chosen beverage below).
1. Eric Wedge is in Hall of Fame company
In 2007, Eric Wedge coached the Indians to an impressive .593 winning percentage. Going into Thursday night’s game, the 2009 Indians are winning games at a less impressive .388 clip. If that .200+ drop-off in win% in a 2-year span seems impressive, that’s because it is. I looked at managerial records over the past 50 seasons, and it turns out this feat has only been equaled once. This is obviously a difficult list to get on, because as that gap might suggest, you have to go from coaching a very good team (~.600) to a very bad team (<.400) in a short amount of time. Given roster sizes and player movement restrictions, even in the era of free agency there tends to be a lot of continuity on a roster from one year to the next, so such a rapid change doesn’t often overcome the forces of inertia. Quite a few managers have come close. Dusty Baker did it in three years between 1993 (.636) and 1996 (.429) with the Giants. Phil Garner did it in three with the Astros, 2004 (.649) to 2007 (.443). Cito Gaston did it in three following the Jays last WS title in 1992. Tony LaRussa is good enough to have had such a drop over a 3-year time span twice, one with the White Sox in the mid-80s and again with
2. But maybe the best is yet to come...
The Indians have over the past two decades had a tendency to be a strong second-half team. Indeed, 2007 (.595) and 2008 (.588) are the 12th and 13th best back-half W% for the team since WWII. And 2005 (.622) is actually 7th on that list. As you go through the years, those ‘80s teams were generally awful, first half and second. The ‘70s teams were not great, but tended to have decent second halves. The ‘60s teams, which were better, were strikingly bad late season teams and had a few epic fades (e.g. 1965 - tied for 1st on the 4th of July, 14 games over .500, played below .500 the second half of the season and fell to 5th place). And the golden era teams, 1948-1954, were just awesome all around. Here’s the complete top 10:
3. More Matt LaPorta please
Speaking of records – here is the team’s record when different individuals have appeared in the game. The "best" record goes to Matt LaPorta, who in his brief stint in
4. The defense rests
It’s only the half-way point, but at least according to UZR, the Indians defense is on pace to being 51 runs worse than last year, helping make Cleveland one of the most underperforming teams in baseball. According to the numbers, these are the four biggest culprits:
- Ben Francisco -6.9
- Luis Valbuena -6.1 (split between SS and 2B pretty evenly)
- Shin Soo Choo -3.6
- Mark DeRosa -3.1 (although about +3 in the outfield, -6 in the infield)
The Indians best defenders so far; Jamey Carroll (+3.8) and Jhonny Peralta (+2.9). Note: This is just one metric for measuring defense and half a season, and for many of these guys less than that, is generally not considered a large enough sample to be particularly reliable. I'd be interested how these numbers match up with people's perspectives...I haven't seen enough games live to say.
5. Can I get two Wegz with that LaPorta?
The Indians full-season minor league teams all have three full months in the books. Matt LaPorta had the team’s best month of April (1.103), while Nick Weglarz beat off some stiff competition from a number of players to claim the best May (1.055) and June (1.007). There are a number of other high performers, of course. Carlos Santana has been steadily good all season. Jordan Brown and Andy Marte both had big Mays. Abner Abreu screamed back from a terrible April with months of May and June not far behind Weglarz before separating his shoulder. Lonnie Chisenhall has been solid.
6. The future looks different when you get there
One of the things Baseball America does every year when it produces its organizational top 10 lists is put together a mock-up of what the team’s lineup might look like 3 years in the future. Here is what, in November 2006, they projected as the Indians 2010 lineup:
Catcher – Matt McBride SP #1 – CC Sabathia
First Base – Victor
Second Base – Josh Barfield SP #3 – Jeremy Sowers
Third Base – Andy Marte SP #4 – Cliff Lee
Shortstop – Jhonny Peralta SP #5 – Jake Westbrook
Left Field – Trevor Crowe Closer – Tony Sipp
Center Field – Grady Sizemore
Right Field – Shin Soo Choo
DH – Travis Hafner
Ahh...back when the Indians future was so clear. I actually think they did a pretty good job with this. They correctly predicted Victor’s transition to first base, while being surprisingly optimistic about Jhonny staying at SS. They got the easy ones of course, Grady in center and Hafner at DH, but also pegged Choo in RF. McBride as catcher was obviously a fail...why people love that guy is something I don’t entirely understand. Barfield did, coming off a
great good rookie year in
It’s hard to pretend I don’t know what has happened since November 2006 and try to compare how good I thought this team would have been versus how good I think our projected 2010 team currently looks. It’s probably impossible to match my view of the above projected starting rotation (it is truly a dream world where Jake Westbrook is our #5 guy), but I think I like our offense better. Put LaPorta in for Crowe, Santana (at least by the end of 2010) in for McBride, shift Jhonny left and put Droobs and Valbuena up the middle...and I like that lineup a lot. The pitching, though...