Saturday, February 28, 2009

Adam Miller Gives Spring Training the Finger

Long time top prospect Adam Miller has been sitting out of Spring Training practice with a sore finger.

Yes, it's the same finger as usual.

We will keep you posted with any updates...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Grady Sizemore injury

No need to worry about the Tribe's star player getting injured in the World Baseball Classic.

Girls all over the Greater Cleveland area are holding their breath, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports that Grady Sizemore will miss the WBC with a strained groin muscle. With Grady out, Curtis Granderson and Ryan Braun will likely handle the majority of center field for Team USA.

This sort of injury is not very serious, and Grady's withdrawal is likely a precautionary measure. Barring any complications, there is no reason to think that anthing more than a little rest will be needed to have him ready for opening day.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kerry Wood injury?

Reports are rolling in from Arizona about a sore back that is bothering $20 million closer Kerry Wood.

Eric Wedge broke the news following the Tribe's opening game of the spring training season, stating that Wood has not thrown since last weekend.

According to Bud Shaw of the Plain Dealer, Wood attributed the soreness to not having worn spikes all winter, and that he has experienced such pain the last few springs. That's fine, and it may be nothing, but Wood has logged one full season out of the last six. In baseball terminology, "soreness" has a funny way of turning into something more serious (see Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook, and Anthony Reyes, for starters).

Hopefully it is nothing, but this is something that The Chubby Indian will be monitoring closely.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The 2009 Starting Rotation Part 3B: Jake Westbrook

For the last few seasons, Mark Shapiro's luck with big contracts has been pretty dismal.

$12 million for 3 years of David Dellucci gave him a batting average hovering around .230, a total of 15 HRs in two seasons, and half of an outfield platoon (along with Jason Michaels) that embodied the thought "if you have two guys playing a position, you have none". All of this from a guy with a SLG of over .500 the previous two years.

$24 million into Travis Hafner's $57 million deal , and he has 29 HRs, an OPS of bairly .800, and a mysterious injured shoulder to show for it.

$6 million for two seasons of "Borowski insurance" from supposed Japanese fireballer Masa Kobayashi bought a 4.52 ERA, 6 saves in 9 chances. He lacked the endurance to make it out of August.

Add once-reliable starter Jake Westbrook onto this list. After putting up 210+ innings for three straight seasons, with a total of 44 wins, Jake was awarded a 3 year, $33 million deal. He then went 6-9 in 152 innings in 2007, an oblique injury taking him out for two months. In 2008, he only pitched 34 innings, contributing 1 win. He missed an early part of the year to an abdominal strain, and then suffered an elbow injury which required Tommy John surgery. In September, he added hip surgery for good measure.

While Carl Pavano is supposedly "keeping the seat warm" for Westbrook, the notion that Jake will return is anything but a sure bet. He's scheduled to begin pitching simulated games in April, putting him on a timetable for a July return. However, returning to MLB form a year after after Tommy John surgery is no sure bet. While the surgery is not quite the kiss of death it once was, pitchers usually require of few months of in-game pitching to get back to form. Look at Francisco Liriano last season. He came back early on, and walked 13 in 10 innings. The Twins sent him down to AAA, and he didn't see the mother club again until August. A 2010 return to form for Jake is a much more realistic scenario.

Of possible benefit to Westbrook's rebound is his pitching style. He just lets his sinker do its thing low in the zone, and trusts his defense. Despite developing a good change that can be an "out" pitch, he has never been a strikeout pitcher. He's a contact pitcher, so as long as he can keep his sinker down, he should be alright. We can be optimistic and assume that he's not going to have the "high in the zone" control issues, like Liriano had, that result in a lot of walks. All of this, however, is being pretty optomistic.

Chubby Indian Says:
65 IP, 3-5, 5.19 ERA, 20K and 20 BBs. The Indians give Jake enough innings to evaluate a 2010 contract. He performs about as well as you could hope.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Goodbye Andy Marte, Hello Juan Salas

The Indians designated one time top prospect and long time disappointment Andy Marte for assignment yesterday, making room for reliever Juan Salas, acquired in a trade that sent minor league utility man Isaias Velasquez to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The release of Marte was not a very surprising move, as he has used up multiple opportunities, showing nothing that would make anybody believe he can hit at the major league level. He burned through all of his options in the last 4 years (between ATL and CLE), and was left in a position where even a great spring would be unlikely to get him a spot on the roster. The odds of finding a trading partner for him are about the same as Rickey Henderson finding himself a spot on an MLB roster, so he will probably wind up on waivers. If no other teams claim him (given his youth and supposed power, it's hard to imagine that nobody will), he will wind up back in Spring training and find his way onto the bench in Columbus.

As for Jaun Salas, he's a 30 year old righty with a good cutter, and no secondary pitches. He will most likely wind up in Columbus, as he has one option left, and be one of the first pitchers in the mix to get a Cleveland bullpen spot at some point in 2009. It is hard to imagine him having much of an impact, being a 30 year old with a one pitch arsenal.

The 2009 Starting Rotation Part 3A: Carl Pavano

Mark Shapiro felt strongly enough about Carl Pavano's chances for a rebound year that he included in his modest $1.5 million deal a guaranteed spot on the MLB roster, provided he makes it out of spring training in good health. Given his history, that's really not much of a guarantee.

Pavano is considered, very deservedly, one of the great free agent busts in recent history. A $40 million contract gave the Yankees 9 wins and 145 innings over the span of 4 years. Teammates and managers alike questioned his work ethic, and his willingness to work through injuries. Fans booed him walking off the mound with a trainer last season. The media blasted him for refusing a move to the minors late in 2007, to make room for another player on the Yankee 40 man roster, in the heat of a pennant race. He has started a total of 9 major league games since June of 2005.

On the other hand, Pavano is a guy who went 420 innings and won 30 games for the Marlins from 2003-04, including 3 postseason wins, helping bring home the world series win. Yet even before that, injury problems plagued the once high-powered righty. Age, injury, and atrophy have worn down his million dollar arm, and now he relies on control to get outs with a fastball that has fallen into the low 90s. A good slider and change remain in his arsenal, and while he can hit all corners of the strike zone with all of these pitches, none of them are really "elite" pitches anymore.

It's hard to expect much of anything out of Pavano. One can't imagine a 33 year old getting back into the form that had him 6th in Cy Young voting in 2004, especially one coming back from Tommy John surgery. It's hard to imagine he even has the endurance left in his arm to start a whole season, after missing so much time with injury. The best one can realistically hope for is that he can hold down the #3 spot until Jake Westbrook can return mid season, or a strong early performance by some of the tribe's younger arms can push him off the roster. At least it is a low-risk one year deal, based heavily around incentives (it can total out at around 6 million if he starts 35 games and 235 innings). He can be cut loose at any time. Barring a slow prolonged recovery by Jake Westbrook and an abysmal AAA performance by a majority of the Tribe's seven major league ready arms, Pavano will be on a pretty short leash. We would love nothing better than to be proven wrong on this one.

Chubby Indian Says:
85 IP, 3-4, 5.30 ERA, 45 Ks, 30 BB. Pavano does a serviceable job as a starter, but finds himself either out of a job or in a long relief role by the All-Star break.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The 2009 Starting Rotation Part 2: Fausto Carmona

While he probably provided the highlight of the 2008 season, Fausto Carmona sending a glassy eyed Gary Sheffield back to his dugout propped up by his teammates is not exactly the lasting image that fans were looking for. Fausto spent two months on the DL with a strained hip, and the rest of the season he was plagued by control problems. These manifested themselves in his 70 BB in 120.2 IP, compared to 58 Ks.

It's a testament to his abilities that, despite those abysmal numbers, he managed to scrape together an 8-7 record , finishing with a 5.44 ERA. A K/BB ratio of .82 is atrocious for Fausto, considering that he posted a 2.25 in that same category last season. Not even a league leading 2.96 ground/fly ball ratio can get you out of that. What happened to the man who finished 4th in Cy Young voting in 2007, his first full season as a starter? Early on, opposing batters simply weren't biting on his powerful sinker, which seemed to fall consistently below the strike zone. He still managed to get himself out of jams, prior to his injury, posting a 3.10 ERA up to that point. As the season wore on, he seemed to lose confidence, posting a 7.61 ERA and averaging just a hair over 5 innings per game in 12 games, after coming back.

The problem, it seems, was a classic case of a young player over-pitching. Carmona uses a high right leg kick in his delivery, and while trying to get more power on his sinker, increased the kick, throwing off his balance. This resulted in losing control, and his pitches sailing out of the strike zone. This manifested itself whenever he got behind in the count. When pitching from a 1-0 count, he walked 57 and fanned 14. Compare that to 47 BB and 46 Ks last season. Even worse were his 26 BBs and 4 Ks from a 3-2 count. He could start off well enough, throwing 240 first pitch strikes compared to 163 balls, but he simply wasn't finishing guys off.

What to expect in 2009? There's a lot of reason for optimism. His mid-90s sinker is a rare pitch that is on par with a CC Sabathia slider, or even a Mariano Rivera cutter. It travels almost as fast as his 97 MPH fastball, except that it drops about two feet. When those two pitches are on, they are an un-hittable tandem. The only real problem was his control, and that was mostly mental. A defensive upgrade at third in Mark DeRosa should be a big help to a ground ball pitcher like Carmona, and an offense that (hopefully) doesn't start the season in a slump will take a lot of pressure off his arm. It's hard to bet against this kid.

Chubby Indian says:
210 IP, 17-4, 3.50 ERA, 130 Ks, 60 BBs. A determined Carmona bounces back in a big way and puts himself right in the Cy Young mix.

The 2009 Starting Rotation Part 1: Cliff Lee

That Cliff Lee owns the top spot in the Tribe's rotation should be obvious to any fan who was conscious during the 2008 season. Lee guaranteed himself the opening day start by becoming the Tribe's first 20 game winner in over two decades, while bringing the club their second Cy Young trophy in as many years. Cliff's ability to repeat his 2008 numbers, however, is anything but guaranteed.

With countless awards on his mantle, it's easy to forget that he is the same pitcher who went 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA in 2007, walking 36 batters in 97 innings on his way to Buffalo. He proceeded to walk 25 more batters in 41 AAA innings, winning the right to watch his team lose the ALCS from home.

Forced to battle with Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers for the 5th spot in the Tribe's 2008 rotation, Cliff pulled off possibly the greatest turnaround in baseball history. He went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA, with 34 BB and 170 Ks. He improved his ground ball % by almost 10 points, while adding 1 K/9 and subtracting a HR/9 from his previous year's numbers.

The secrets to his success, which he tells all who will listen, were confidence and command. Cliche'? Probably. Effective? The results speak for themselves. Can he keep it going in 2009? While it is unlikely that he would revert to his disastrous 2007 season, it remains equally unlikely that he will keep his ridiculous 2008 numbers going. The AL is too tough of a league for a guy who lacks the "stuff" of a CC Sabathia or Johan Santana to repeat such a performance.

Chubby Indian Says:
200 IP, 15-5, 4.10 ERA, 135 K, 42BB. Probably not Cy Young numbers, but a damn fine season.

Spring Training Questions

In The Chubby Indian's eyes, these are the key questions to be answered coming out of Spring Training 2009:

1) The Starting Rotation. Who wins the 5th spot in the rotation? How will the top two starters rebound from their 2008 seasons? What can we expect from Anthony Reyes and Carl Pavano?

2) The Bullpen. Who is the best candidate for the final spot? Who will get the first crack at the 7th and 8th innings? Who is most likely to fall apart? And who will be waiting in Columbus to make an impact?

3) Ryan Garko/Kelly Shoppach. They are less competing with Victor Martinez for the C/1B spots, and more competing with each other (and likely Travis Hafner) for at bats. Who is most likely to come out on top?

4) The Final Bench Spot. Will Josh Barfield show that he deserves a place in Cleveland? Will Trevor Crowe make his long awaited debut? Can anything Andy Marte does in Spring Training get him a spot in Cleveland, since he is out of options?

5) Who is next in line for OF/1B/DH in Columbus? Who will get the first crack at Cleveland between Matt LaPorta, Jordan Brown, and Michael Aubrey? Can long time AA favorite Trevor Crowe hold off rising star Michael Brantley to win a shot at the majors?

6) Will there be contract extensions for Jake Westbrook, Cliff Lee, or Victor Martinez? All will be entering their (club) option years, in 2010. What money will they command, when will be the best time to offer money, and are they worth bringing back?

Stay tuned to The Chubby Indian in the upcoming weeks, as we will be conducting an in depth analysis of each question.

Spring Training Roster

With pitchers and catchers reporting yesterday, the inaugural spring training season in Goodyear Arizona is officially underway.

The (semi official) Spring training Roster:


*Aquino, Greg RHP
Betancourt, Raphael RHP
*Cassel, Jack RHP
*Chulk, Vinnie RHP
Carmona, Fausto RHP
*Edell, Ryan, LHP
*Herges, Matt RHP
*Huff, David LHP
Jackson, Zach LHP
#Kobayashi, Masahide RHP
Laffey, Aaronn LHP
Lee, Cliff LHP
Lewis, Jensen RHP
Lewis, Scott LHP
Meloan, John RHP
Miller, Adam RHP
Mujica,, Edward, RHP
*Ohka, Tomo RHP
Pavano, Carl RHP
#Perez, Raphael LHP
Reyes, Anthony RHP
Rondon, Hector RHP
Rundles, Rich LHP
*Saarloos, Kirk RHP
Sipp, Tony LHP
Smith, Joe RHP
Sowers, Jeremy, LHP
Westbrook, Jake RHP
Wood, Kerry RHP


*Espino, Damaso R/R
Giminez, Chris R/R
Martinez, Victor S/R
Santana, Carlos S/R
Shoppach, Kelly R/R
Toregas, Wyatt R/R


*Aubrey, Michael L/L
Barfield, Josh R/R
*Brown, Jordan L/L
Cabrera, Asdrubal S/R
*Cannizaro, Andy R/R
Carrol, Jamey R/R
#DeRosa, Mark R/R
Garko, Ryan R/R
*Head, Stephen L/L
*Hodges, Wes R/R
Marte, Andy R/R
*Merchan, Jesus R/R
*Mills, Beau L/R
#Peralta, Jhonny R/R
Valbuena, Luis L/R
*Valdez, Wilson R/R


*Brantley, Michael L/L
#Choo, Shin Soo L/L
Crowe, Trevor S/R
Dellucci, David L/L
Fransisco, Ben R/R
*LaPorta, Matt R/R
#Sizemore, Grady L/L

Designated Hitter:

Hafner, Travis L/R

* Designates Non-Roster Invitee
# May miss time due to World Baseball Classic