Yesterday, Matthias and I were interviewed by Lewie Pollis, the Senior Editor at Wahoo’s on First, Fansided.com’s Cleveland Indian blog. In preparation for Seattle’s upcoming series against the Tribe, Matthias and I returned a couple of questions and gained some insight into the Indians, their probable pitchers, and their future. Here are Lewie’s answers.
1) We get to see Jimenez in the first game of the series. Most of the Ms have only faced him once (with the exception of Brendan Ryan when he was a Cardinal). Jimenez is not the same pitcher that in 2010 put up a 2.88 ERA and 3.10 FIP pitching for Colorado, of all teams.
What’s wrong with him? What can we expect to see from him the first game of the series? Do you think he’s going to bounce back?
You know that kids book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”? It’s a lot like that. When your fastball loses more than 3 mph of average velocity over the course of two seasons, it doesn’t work as well. When your fastball doesn’t work as well, you’re forced to rely more on his lackluster secondary pitches — which, thanks to the drop in his fastball velocity, are now less effective than ever. When your pitches aren’t very effective, you’re forced to nibble at the corners and pitch defensively. And when a pitcher who’s made a living out of being aggressive and blowing batters away has to start pitching defensively, things don’t go very well.
The line I like to use here is that Jimenez has gone from “effectively wild” to just plain wild. The basic principle of regression to the mean suggests that we should see some sort of rebound from Jimenez, but while he’ll turn in maybe one really good start a month I don’t think there’s any hope of him regaining his old form. The only real hope for him is that he can adapt to a more pitch-to-contact approach to limit the walks, but so far he hasn’t been able to do that.
2) Cleveland got off to a hot start, leading the division as late as June 23rd. Is this still the same team? Were they overperforming then? or underperforming now?
Both. I said at the beginning of the year that this was a good team but not a great team, a fact that was reflected in the Tribe’s less-than-stellar run differential even as they held onto first place. (Of course, the Indians wouldn’t have had a chance at all if not for the fact that they’re in the worst division in the game.) But the miserable stretch of baseball we’ve seen over the last month-and-a-half?
There’s no way they’re that bad. I ran the numbers on it earlier this month, and for a team to have a statistically significant chance of going 0-11 in a given 11-game stretch (as the Indians did a couple weeks ago) they would have to be worse than the 1962 Mets. So yeah, you probably call that a fluke.
3) Ok, I’ve been pretty negative. Tell us about Asdrubal Cabrera…you know…to make us feel bitterer.
He’s still around Cleveland for at least two more seasons. How important has it been to the Tribe to have a offensive weapon at short?
It’s been incredibly important because of the lineup’s other deficiencies. First base, third base, and left field are
traditionally three of the most offensively inclined positions in baseball, and the Indians have gotten sub-.700 OPSes at each of them. You have to make up for that somehow. Cabrera’s defense leaves something to be desired and his impatience at the plate can be frustrating, but he’s a huge part of this team.
4) Can you give a quick preview of the pitchers Seattle will see this week?
First up is Ubaldo Jimenez. I’ve already talked quite a bit about him, so suffice to say you guys should enjoy this one. Expect a lot of walks, a big inning or two, and an easy win for King Felix.
Next you’ll draw the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona. The newly christened Roberto Hernandez looked pretty bad in his first start back after getting busted for using a false identity, and there’s no reason to expect much better on Tuesday. He seems to have maintained his worm-burning skill (15 of the 26 batters he faced hit grounders), but he failed to record a single strikeout. Tribe fans would be ecstatic to see him pitch just a quality start.
Finally, you’ll draw Zach McAllister. He’s been the Indians’ best started through 14 MLB starts this year, mostly because he’s leading the rotation in both strikeout rate (8.0 K/9) and walk rate (2.3 BB/9). He’s got a nice and shiny 3.64 ERA, but that’s somewhat deceptive as he’s allowed 18 unearned runs in 84 innings pitched. When he’s in his groove he’s lights-out, but things go downhill pretty quickly when the other team starts to put together a rally.
5) Will you discuss the perception of the Seattle Mariners in Cleveland and “that part of the world?” (Its not really east coast but its not mid-west either.)
I don’t know that I’m qualified to speak for all of Cleveland, but I think the general perception of the Mariners is that they’ve got a couple really special players but no one to back them up, and we’re pretty accustomed to seeing you somewhere near the bottom of the AL West standings. Also you’re a great trading partner for us—you’ve already mentioned Asdrubal Cabrera, but Shin-Soo Choo and Ezequiel Carrera were both plucked right out of your farm system. Thanks!
6) The Indians are a promising young club, but do you think that they will be able to compete with divisional power houses like Detroit and Chicago in the next few seasons? Especially considering your significantly lesser payroll.
That was the plan, but this year’s collapse seems to have changed things. Most Cleveland fans saw 2013 as a more realistic playoff ETA than 2012, but at the very least this was supposed to be a stepping stone between last year’s just-under-.500 finish and next year’s anticipated run at the division title. But with so many core players disappointing (Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana…need I go on?) and a truly mediocre supporting cast, it’s starting to sink in that this team isn’t built to compete. There’s a good chance the rebuilding process will start all over again this winter.