Tag: Matt LaPorta

Cleveland Indians: Does Matt LaPorta Deserve Another Shot?

For a while at least, Matt LaPorta is back playing for the Cleveland Indians.

He was called up from Columbus when Johnny Damon went on paternity leave. So the question is: will LaPorta stay with the team when Damon returns?  With the team struggling against left-handed pitchers, wouldn’t his bat be a big help in the lineup?

LaPorta was originally drafted by the Brewers as the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft. He then came to The Tribe in the trade involving C. C. Sabathia.  He played in over 100 games for The Tribe in each of 2010 and 2011, but this year, Casey Kotchman essentially took his place on the roster.

His career average in the majors is .238 with a home run every 30 at bats. In the minors, his career average has been .299 with a home run every 15 at bats.

The expectation is that both Damon and Kotchman will be gone next year, so perhaps 2013 is when LaPorta would become a permanent fixture on the team. So maybe the decision will be made to place him where he can get the most playing time this season.  But will The Tribe use the Damon and Kotchman salaries during the offseason to acquire another batter instead?

LaPorta was smart enough to turn down two draft selections before 2007 so that he could get his college degree. That might have been a great career move, given his less-than-stellar performance with The Tribe.

With another win over the Tigers tonight, you all should be in a good mood to talk about the Indians.

Do you think LaPorta should stay up here now? Do you think he is The Tribe’s first baseman of the future?

Drop a comment and get the discussion going.

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Cleveland Indians: 5 Reasons the 2011 Defense Is Significantly Improved

During the 2010 season, the Cleveland Indians defense was one of the worst in the major leagues.

A combination of injuries and poor play were the main reasons for the terrible infield defense. Add a poor defense to the fact that the majority of the Tribe rotation is made up of ground ball pitchers and you have a recipe for disaster.

Once the Indians’ front office traded third baseman Jhonny Peralta, the position became a gaping hole that none of the Indian’s options were able to fill successfully.

Improving the infield defense became a priority for the Tribe brass during this past offseason. So far, their moves have paid off and the Indians now have one of the most solid defenses during the early days of the 2011 season. Here are 5 reasons for that dramatic improvement.

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Cleveland Indians’ Tribe Talk: Holy Hot Streak, Batman!

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week, we mull over whether the Tribe’s hot start means they could be a contender in the AL Central this season, discuss whether Matt LaPorta’s time to prove himself is running out and take our best shot at predicting AL division winners for the end of 2011.

I would like to thank this week’s participant Lewie Pollis for his contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!



1. Holy hot streak, Batman! After dropping their first two games of the season to Chicago, the Indians went on a seven-game winning streak, sweeping Boston and Seattle in the process.

It seems that all of a sudden, the Indians are in first place. For now.

Most of us Tribe faithful would be lying if we said that at least some small part of us wasn’t entertaining the idea that this just might last.

Whether you’re playing good or bad baseball, chances are the first week of the season is never going to be enough to make you or break you for the season. Unless by some chance, it isn’t just a streak, but rather a sign of things to come.

So, what do you make of the Indians’ red hot start? Legitimate or lucky? Long-lasting or a flash in the pan? Do you think this is an indication that the Indians are a far better team than most people thought they would be?

And then the real test: care to revise your prediction on where the Tribe will finish in the Central, or even who will win the Central?


Lewie Pollis: I don’t think this really changes anything going forward. The pitching’s been a little fluky, but the Indians really are a good offensive team. 

Cabrera and Hannahan have been playing over their heads, but look at the success the Indians’ lineup has had while Choo and Santana have been struggling.

When they start to pick it up and Sizemore comes back, it’ll help balance out the effect of the others’ regression to the mean. 

The only real impact this has on my projections is that the Indians have outperformed expectations for their first 12 games; I’m not changing my mind much about the last 150.

I’ll say the Tribe wins 79 games and at least challenges for third place in the division.


Samantha Bunten: I’d call the Indians start both legitimate AND lucky. They’re playing better baseball than they should be, but that doesn’t mean it’s all just luck.

The Tribe has won dominantly in a number of games this season. Their victories didn’t come on lucky breaks, and many of them weren’t even close in score.

The offense has more than proven they’re a legitimate threat, and the defense has been pretty stellar. I’m not sure the pitching is quite there yet, but it’s certainly been far better than we expected. 

I wish I could say I’m revising my prediction for the division and that I think the Indians will come out on top at the end of 2011, but they would need to keep this up at least through May for that to be worth considering. 

It’s certainly possible that they could pull of a miracle and come out a winner (remember 2007? No one thought they’d win the Central that year either), but for now let’s just enjoy watching the Tribe play good baseball and wait and see before we start making predictions of huge success.



2. In a few weeks when players like Grady Sizemore, Joe Smith, and Jason Donald start coming off the DL, the Indians are going to have a bit of a problem on their hands: How are they going to create roster spots for them?

Granted, it’s a lovely problem to have: players who have been subbing for the injured as well as backup and bench players have all played exceptionally well so far. But who will get the boot anyway?

Which outfielder will be sent packing to make room for Sizemore? Which bullpen pitcher will be out of a job when Joe Smith returns?

And what of Jason Donald? His situation is a bit different: is it possible that Jack Hannahan has played well enough at third that Donald doesn’t have a job opening to come back to? Any chance he bumps Adam Everett out of the utility spot?


Lewie Pollis: I’d say Shelley Duncan is the obvious choice in the outfield, based on how little playing time he’s gotten. Kearns’ signed a major-league free agent contract this winter so I don’t see him getting demoted anytime soon.

There’s a chance Buck could be sent down, but my money’s on Duncan.


Samantha Bunten: In the outfield, I’m guessing that Travis Buck will be the first to go. Kearns has struggled as well, but he seems to be coming on more lately, signed a major league contract before the season started and was unquestionably designated the fourth outfielder for after Sizemore returns.

Shelly Duncan is also a possibility for demotion, but I see him as more versatile than Buck and therefore a more attractive candidate for sticking around. 

The bullpen is tougher to predict because the relievers who seem to have struggled the most are the long relief guys (Germano and Durbin) and they’re not exactly interchangeable with a guy like Joe Smith.

As for third base, the job is Hannahan’s to lose. He’s SO good defensively and his bat has been far better than we imagined, so I don’t see any sense in bringing in Donald unless that changes.



3. In a surprising turn of events, every starting pitcher on the Tribe roster has now pitched a great game. Some of them (Masterson, Tomlin) have even pitched two.

With all the problems the rotation had last season, and the bad start it got off to in the first two games of 2011, this has been a bit of a shocker.

One of our Tribe Talk panelists has been predicting this for Tomlin since Spring Training. Another panelist has been promising Masterson will deliver like this since early last year. Is there a chance this is legitimate, and not just a fluke of a good start for both pitchers?

How about Carrasco? He bounced back nicely after a disastrous first start, but can he keep that up?


Lewie Pollis: The thing I like about Carmona’s start to the season is his increase in strikeouts. His 7.6 K/9 rate is almost a 50 percent increase over last year, which is why he has a 3.61 xFIP. Small sample size caveat here, but it’s a reason to be optimistic. 

Same goes for Talbot, but I’m not confident that he can keep his K/9 rate above 8.0 when it was below 5.0 last year.

Carrasco has been better than he’s looked while Tomlin hasn’t been quite as good. Actually, Tomlin reminds me of Talbot this time last year—great ERA, miserable peripherals.

Based on his track record I think he’ll be able to at least get the walks under control (pun intended), but at this rate he’s in for some major regression. 

Finally, there’s Masterson. There’s a lot I could say about how he’s been lucky (even so, he’s got a 2.61 FIP), but instead I’d prefer to bask in the glory of saying, “I told you so!”


Samantha Bunten: I’m not sure I completely trust either Masterson or Tomlin just yet, but I do think they’ve both given us a good reason to think they may just be able to stick it out. 

It’s not so much about the wins (though those are nice, obviously). Mostly I like what I see because both pitchers have excelled in doing what they do best.

Masterson has been overpowering and missing opposing bats, and Tomlin has done a pretty nice job finessing his pitches. 

Carrasco probably concerns me more. He’s done a nice job so far (aside from that first outing in Chicago), but I’m still seeing a lot of control problems.

He’s young and still learning, so I expect he’ll improve further throughout the season, but at the moment, he’s not my favorite guy to see out there on the mound. 



4. Just like the Indians’ pitching, the Tribe’s offense has also gotten off to a torrid start, with almost all of the starters contributing greatly to the offense’s overall success.

Well, with the exception of two people. Let’s go ahead and assume Choo will be fine. There’s no reason to think, for a player like that, that he won’t turn it around quickly, as he’s starting to do already.

That leaves Matt LaPorta as the only starter who looks like he may be an ongoing problem for the Tribe’s offense. It’s early, but LaPorta is still struggling at the plate the same way he did last year, and others who struggled in 2010 seem to have already turned it around.

Do you think this is an indication that it’s finally time to give up on LaPorta? How long do you think the Indians should give him before they throw in the towel? Remember that LaPorta is 26 years old and has just one option left.

If you are in fact entertaining thoughts of pulling the plug on LaPorta, how do you think the Indians should handle the first base spot going forward?


Lewie Pollis: I reject the premise of the question. He’s got an impressive 11.9 percent walk rate and a fantastic 1.000 Power Factor

The problem is his .192 BABIP. If we replace his BABIP with his previous-career .260 mark (still probably quite unlucky), his batting line improves to .236/.332/.472. If we use a league-average .300 BABIP instead, he jumps to .265/.371/.530. 

And we’re really talking about pulling the plug? http://www.wahooblues.com/2011/04/14/cleveland-indians-matt-laporta-is-better-than-you-think.html/


Samantha Bunten: I’m still not entirely sure what to make of LaPorta. I want to like him, but he’s still having a lot of trouble with consistency. 

I’d be very hesitant to give up on him because he has so much power and his plate discipline has definitely improved from 2010.

Still, I’m looking for a much higher average than .189 and a much, much higher OBP than .295. Unless he hits 40-plus homeruns, he better be hitting at least .270. 

Granted, LaPorta has had some bad luck on some well-hit balls this season, but if your luck is so bad that it keeps your average below the Mendoza line, maybe you’re just too unlucky for the team to risk sending you out there.

I’m not ready to say I’m giving up on LaPorta just yet, but he’s going to need to get it together in a hurry. At the moment, he’s being far outperformed by the other guy who came over from Milwaukee in the CC Sabathia trade with him, Michael Brantley. 



5. Fun Question of the Week: It’s time for Tribe Talk panelists to take their first pass at predicting division winners across the league. We’ll make our picks for the AL this week, and next week take a shot at the NL. We’ll also revisit the question at a few later intervals throughout the season.

Lewie Pollis: East: Red Sox Central: White Sox West: Rangers Wild Card: Yankees 

The only change here from my preseason picks is dropping the Rays from the Wild Card—with Longoria injured, Manny gone and the disadvantage of a miserable start, my sleeper team looks like a failure. 

As for the pennant, any prediction is meaningless because anything can happen in five- and seven-game series. But I’ll take the Red Sox, just because I still think they’re the best team.


Samantha Bunten: East: Yankees Central: White Sox West: Rangers Wild Card: Indians. 

Ok, Ok, I’m kidding about the Wild Card. Sort of. Let’s call it possible but highly unlikely. I like Toronto and Oakland as Wild Card candidates as well. 

The AL pennant is tough to predict at the moment; I don’t see a single team who is playing like they deserve a trip to the World Series. But of course as Annie Savoy once said, “it’s a long season and you gotta trust it”. 

For now my pick is the Rangers, IF they can stay out of the trainer’s room. And you should never, ever count the Yankees out, because the second you do is always when they sneak up behind you and drop the anvil on your head. Be warned.

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MLB Opening Day 2011: 10 Things We Learned About the Cleveland Indians

The Indians honored the memory of Bob Feller before their Opening Day game today.

If only they had honored it with their play as well.

It was a rough game for Tribe fans, as the Indians fell to the White Sox 15-10 on a frigid Opening Day. I was afraid for a while that I might actually get frostbite on my toes. The Indians came out cold, allowing 14 runs to the White Sox in the first four innings. Despite the late comeback, today’s game still counts as a loss in the standings and wasn’t the beginning any Tribe fans were hoping for. We watched the White Sox get encouraging signs (Buehrle’s effective work, Dunn fitting right in) while we watched our team get destroyed.

It may be just the first game, but there was plenty to draw from the game today. Here are 10 things we learned about the Indians today on Opening Day 2011.

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2011 Cleveland Indians Preview: Hope and Potential but Will the Tribe Contend?

It has been almost four years since the Indians last finished a season with record of .500 or better. The last time, in fact, was 2007, when the Indians won the AL Central with a record or 96-66. Since that time it has been all down hill for the Tribe,  81 victories in 2008, 65 in 2009, and 69 in 2010. Had it not been for a hot 7-3 finish the Tribe would have finished in the AL Central basement for the second consecutive season.

Bad news for Tribe fans: this season may not be much better than any of those.

Gone are the Cy Young Award winners and the sluggers of yesteryear. They have been replaced with the words; hope and potential.

The hope is that the potential will finally show this season.

Players like Matt LaPorta, Justin Masterson, Mitch Talbot, and Carlos Carrasco all have unlimited potential, but have only shown it in spurts.

LaPorta has been the most disappointing thus far in his short career. The key player in the CC Sabathia deal, LaPorta in 162 games as a pro (52 in 2009 and 110 in 2010), has hit 19 home runs with 62 RBI while hitting a lowly .232.

Masterson, who was the key to the Victor Martinez deal, is entering his second season as a full time starter, and has shown that he can be a very good starter at times though his 7-20 record with the Tribe would show otherwise.

Talbot and Carrasco will enter this season with a chance to prove that they belong as they will be full time members of the rotation.

There is hope though as players like Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, and especially closer Chris Perez have shown the ability to be all-star caliber cornerstones.

With that here is a look at the way this 2011 campaign may go for our Tribe.

Projected Rotation

1. Fausto Carmona (2011 projection 14-15, 3.89 ERA)

2. Justin Masterson (12-15, 4.60 ERA)

3. Mitch Talbot ( 11-12, 4.01 ERA)

4. Carlos Carrasco (9-12, 4.55 ERA)

5. Josh Tomlin (10-12,  4.20 ERA)

Overview: The starting rotation may be the weakest part of the club. Carmona, the veteran of the group, may also be the most speratic of the bunch. After having a great 2007, where he went 19-8, he followed with 13 wins in the next two seasons combined. Last year, the 6’4” righty bounced back having a very good season, despite finishing with a 13-14 record. Masterson, as I stated earlier, is a wild card. He is very capable of establishing himself as a quality starter in this league, he just hasn’t quite figure out how to do it consistently, yet. Talbot began last season strong with a 3.99 ERA in the first half of the season, but was much less effective the second time around, with a 5.29 ERA in the second half. Carrasco, who was acquired from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee deal, will be given his first opportunity to be a part of the rotation for a full season, along with fellow righty Josh Tomlin who looked impressive at times with the big league club last season.

It seems that the key to improving the weakest part of the club is maturity, and with maturity, let’s hope consistency isn’t very far behind.

Closer: Chris Perez (2011 projection 4-1, 1.89 ERA 35 Saves)

Overview: Perez was lights out last season finishing with a 1.71 ERA. To put that into perspective, The Sandman, Yankee closer Mariano Rivera finished with 1.80 ERA. Perez has the ability to be a dominating closer in this league for years to come. He has the moxy, the make up, the insanity, and the arm to be a great closer in C-Town, and I project this will be a huge breakout year for the big righty out of The U.

As for the rest of the bullpen, Vinnie Pestano will be given his first chance to be a quality contributor to a major league squad, and will join Frank Herrman, Rafael Perez, and Tony Sipp in what could be a very good bullpen for the short and long term.

Projected Lineup

1. Grady Sizemore, CF (2011 projection .270 12 HR 50 RBI)

2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (.310 9 HR 44 RBI)

3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF (.320 26 HR 95 RBI)

4. Carlos Santana, C (.299 27 HR 93 RBI)

5. Travis Hafner, DH (.266 19 HR 63 RBI)

6. Orlando Cabrera, 2B (.289 8 HR 45 RBI)

7. Matt LaPorta, 1B (.240 20 HR 60 RBI)

8. Jason Donald, 3B (.273 12 HR 59 RBI)

9. Michael Brantley, LF (.287 9 HR 41 RBI)

Overview: The lineup has many spots that, if potential is filled, can give the Tribe a formidable lineup for years to come (or until there is a good time to trade them). Sizemore and Donald will begin the season on the DL, and when they come off will immediately make the team better. In Sizemore’s absence Brantley will play CF, and hit lead off which will mean Austin Kearns will begin the season most likely in RF. Donald was well on his way to being the Indians opening day 3rd baseman (though prospect Lonnie Chisenhall outplayed him) during spring training only to have a hand injury shut him down for the immediate future, in his spot journeyman Jack Hannahan will get the reps at the hot corner. The 2-3-4 hitters, Cabrera, Choo, and Santana are the heart of the lineup with each player showing that he is highly capable of hitting over .300, while Choo and Santana have shown the power to hit 25 homers or more. The wildcard’s in the lineup are Hafner and LaPorta. Hafner who in 2006 hit 42 homers and had 117 RBI, has not come close to those numbers in the past few seasons, due to injuries and loss of bat speed. LaPorta, as I stated earlier, could break out this season, and the Indians are hoping that is the case, but he just has not shown the consistency to make me believe that will happen. The more I see LaPorta the more I believe he is AAAA player. The type you see who kill AAA pitching but struggle in the big show.

Season Projections:

  • Carlos Santana will pick up where he left off and have a very productive season
  • Santana and closer Chris Perez will be All-Stars
  • Hafner will start slow but then show improvement down the stretch
  • Prospect Lonnie Chisenhall will start at 3rd for Tribe by August
  • Sizemore will look like the Grady of old, but not until late in the season
  • The team will finish 76-86, fourth in the AL Central

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Bryce Harper For Albert Pujols: Would You Pull The Trigger?

Before anybody gets excited here, this is just a hypothetical situation. 

It’s a situation created in order to prove a point, and to create an awareness of the value of top prospects.

But are they really worth the insanely high price tag placed upon them?

That’s what I hope to accomplish with this article. 

By the time you are done reading this, I want you to question the train of thought of general managers around the game when they deem a minor league kid untouchable. 

That’s probably a good place to start—deeming minor leaguers untouchable.

General managers always declare their first round draft choices untouchable. With all they hype surrounding the “future star,” teams hope to bank in on the potential of their newest player. But “potential” is clearly the most important word here.

Prospects like Matt Bush (2004), Brien Taylor (1991), Bryan Bullington (2002), Jeff Clement (2005), and Eric Munson (1999) were all number one overall picks in their respective drafts. They all failed to be quality Major League players. 

They were all untouchable.

Teams rely heavily on their farm system. Whether they actually depend on it for talent, or for exploiting the other team’s desire for prospects, is a question that will continue to be asked for as long as prospects have value in the sport.

The high tier prospects who aren’t untouchable, though, are often shipped off to other teams for established Major Leaguers.

Oftentimes, these deals leave me utterly confused. 

For example, when the Brewers received several months of CC Sabathia for “the next great power hitter” in Matt LaPorta, I was left speechless. Sabathia went on to pitch absolutely lights out, leading Milwaukee to the playoffs, and LaPorta has still yet to make anything of himself in the bigs.

It happens every trade deadline. Countless prospects are shipped out to bring in veterans who already have a good reputation around the league.

This is my question for the teams giving up the established talent: why would you ever do such a thing?

Sure, sometimes GM’s are so enticed by the hype that they salivate when another GM offers their top prospect for a veteran player on their team. But, come on.

Who would you rather have, the player who has actually hit 30 home runs in each of the past three seasons, or the player who has the potential to hit 30 home runs for several years to come?

By now I’m sure you can all tell what my answer is, but think about it. 

What do you think?

So herein lies the question—if you are Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, and Nationals GM Mike Rizzo were to offer you his best prospect, 18-year old Bryce Harper, for the decade’s best slugger, Albert Pujols, would you make the deal?

Harper has been compared to the second coming of Jesus Christ, and everyone in the baseball world expects him to be the next Babe Ruth.

Pujols, on the other hand, is arguably the best player in the game today. He’s already being considered one of the greatest first basemen of all time, and he still has several years ahead of him.

Harper may very well turn out to be the games next legend, but he isn’t one yet— but Pujols is. He is every bit one of the best players this game has ever seen.

So, the game’s best prospect for the game’s current best player. 

Would you pull the trigger?

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2011 Cleveland Indians Season Preview: Tribe Goes With Youth Movement

Three years ago, the Cleveland Indians were one win away from appearing in the World Series before the Boston Red Sox came back to win the 2007 American League Championship Series, four games to three.

In subsequent years, the Indians unloaded their potential World Series roster with a series of blockbuster trades.

Over the next two seasons, the Indians traded away starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee, third baseman Casey Blake and starting catcher Victor Martinez. In exchange, Cleveland added a wealth of young prospects, the likes of which may not be felt for this year, but at some point down the road.

Through their trades, the Indians added outfielders Matt Laporta and Michael Brantley as part of their deal with the Milwaukee Brewers for C.C. Sabathia. Laporta, the seventh overall pick from the 2007 Major League Draft and the No. 1 rated prospect for the Milwaukee Brewers at the time of the draft, is expected to start at first base this season, allowing Travis Hafner to start as the designated hitter.

In dealing pitcher Cliff Lee, who was coming off of a Cy Young season the year before, the Indians added the Philadelphia Phillies top prospect at the time, pitcher Carlos Carrasco.

As part of the Casey Blake deal to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Tribe added stud-catcher Carlos Santana (no relation to the musician), who entered the 2009 season as the Indians No. 1 prospect in the minors.

The Santana deal allowed the Indians to trade away their best player, catcher Victor Martinez to the Boston Red Sox. In that exchange, the Indians ended up with hard throwing pitcher Justin Masterson.

In two season, the Indians unloaded most of their best players, electing to hold onto Gold Glove outfielder Grady Sizemore and first baseman Travis Hafner, who from 2004 through 2007 batted in over 434 runs.

Since then however, Hafner has just 123 RBIs in the following three seasons.  

Sizemore, who was considered by many to be one of the best young players in baseball hasn’t been healthy the last two seasons, only playing in 33 games in 2010 before a knee injury ended his season.

The Indians middle infield is solid as Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena return for their third season together.

With injuries and unproven young stars, the Indians best player may be outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who last season homered 22 times and drove in 90 runs while hitting .300 in 144 games. Choo has batted .300 or better each of the last three seasons.

The ace of the Tribes pitching staff, Fausto Carmona, who last season was awarded with his first All-Star appearance, was the subject of heavy trade rumors and may be again this season.

The rest of the Indians staff remains young, full of potential, and for the most part, untested. Masterson, Carlos Carrasco and a combination of Aaron Laffey, Mitch Talbot, David Huff and Josh Tomlin all could push for the fifth spot in the rotation.

After coming off of a 34 save season in 2008 for the Chicago Cubs, the Indians signed Kerry Wood to a two-year deal. Halfway into his second season with the Indians, Wood was traded to the New York Yankees. In a season and a half with the Indians, Wood managed just 28 saves.

This year; however, the Indians will enter with Chris Perez as their new closer. Last season, Perez finished with 23 saves and gave up just 12 runs in 63 innings of work, good enough for a 1.71 ERA, third best in the league for players with over 20 saves.

The 2011 Cleveland Indians are young, talented and unproven, yet the the Tribe have some good reasons to look toward the future.

From 1994 to 2001, the Indians made the playoffs six times and appeared in the World Series twice.

After a rough rebuilding period, the Indians were one win away from making their third World Series appearance since 1995.

If history has shown us anything, it has proved that the Cleveland Indians will once again be contenders in the near future.

It’s only a matter of time.

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2011 Cleveland Indians Lineup By the Book

Last year, Manny Acta made a splash by dropping Grady Sizemore to second in the batting order.  This year, he’s considering moving him back to leadoff.  Is either the right move?  And how should the rest of the lineup look?

The Book, one of the best sabermetric books you can find, did extensive work on lineup construction.  Their main conclusion was that lineup order didn’t matter too much, but it can be optimized for marginal gains.  The Book‘s findings are summarized very well in this Beyond the Boxscore post.

To get the stats for Cleveland’s upcoming season, I used the Cairo Projections, which are described (and available for download) here.  The nice thing about version 0.5 of this years Cairos is that they include lefty/righty splits.  It uses wOBA, which is described in detail in the new Frangraphs library. As you can see, wOBA is scaled to be comparable to batting average, with a .321 wOBA being the league average in 2010.

First, here’s how the Indians lineup should look against lefties.  I took the top nine players in terms of wOBA against lefties, and fortunately things worked out nicely in the field.

order name pos wOBA
1 Shin-Soo Choo RF .343
2 Matt LaPorta 1B .351
3 Shelley Duncan LF .332
4 Carlos Santana RF .346
5 Austin Kearns CF .342
6 Jayson Nix 3B .327
7 Asdrubal Cabrera SS .326
8 Travis Hafner DH .326
9 Jason Donald 2B .325

The glaring omission, of course, is Grady Sizemore.  Cairo projects Sizemore to have a wOBA of only .309 against lefties.  But if you insist on playing him (both in the name of fan interest, and so Kearns doesn’t have to play center), you can remove Hafner from the lineup, DH Duncan, and move Donald up to eighth with Grady batting ninth.

Some other items of note:

  • Everyone in this lineup is projected to hit above a .321 wOBA.  That’s nice, but .321 was the average in 2010 against all pitchers.  The average against lefties in 2011 may be higher or lower.
  • Indians fans should be especially pleased to see such a nice number for Matt LaPorta, especially after his struggles at the plate these past few years.
  • LaPorta and Santana have very similar numbers, but Santana has a slight edge in power, giving him the fourth spot over LaPorta.  While Choo also has very good power, his on base percentage is just too good to put anywhere but first.

Now, the lineup against righthanders.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take just the best nine hitters this time.  Michael Brantley and Travis Buck both rated ahead of Jack Hannahan.  Brantley, Buck, and Duncan all rated ahead of Nix and Donald as well.  But somebody has to play second and third base.

order name pos wOBA
1 Shin-Soo Choo RF .390
2 Carlos Santana C .359
3 Matt LaPorta 1B .332
4 Grady Sizemore CF .363
5 Travis Hafner DH .342
6 Austin Kearns LF .322
7 Asdrubal Cabrera SS .318
8 Jack Hannahan 3B .309
9 Jayson Nix 2B .307

If you don’t think Jack Hannahan is going to break camp with the Tribe, feel free to move Nix up a spot in the order and plug Jason Donald’s .303 wOBA into the nine hole.

Notes on this lineup:

  • Choo blew everyone away in both on base percentage and slugging.  But I chose to hit him leadoff, just to give our best hitter as many at bats as possible.
  • Believe it or not, Sizemore is expected to have better slugging numbers than Santana, and Santana better on base numbers than Sizemore.  That’s why Grady is hitting fourth and Carlos second.
  • Cabrera, Nix, and Hannahan/Donald will need to be good with the glove to make up for their below-average projections.  Other than that, though, this isn’t too bad a lineup.

Finally, for those interested, here are the numbers for a few key players who failed to crack either lineup:

name wOBA vs L vs R
Michael Brantley .310 .291 .316
Travis Buck .306 .288 .312
Luis Valbuena .300 .286 .302
Trevor Crowe .289 .283 .290
Adam Everett .268 .282 .264


This article originally appeared on Kanka’s Sports Page

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Hope in Cleveland? Five Players Who Could Step Up For Tribe in 2011

Its no secret that the Cleveland Indians have some work ahead of them in the rebuilding process. But with such a deep farm system and many former All-Stars being dealt, Tribe fans are anxious to see something come from the plethora of young talent the Indians are supposed to have.

The Minnesota Twins have become more of a large-market team with a new stadium and the ability to keep their talent around, while the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox have spent a lot of money in the offseason to make a once seemingly winnable AL Central a very formidable one. 

Heck, even the Royals made a splash by dealing Zack Greinke for a good haul of prospects to add to their strong farm system. Yet the Tribe has decided to rely on in house options to start contending, but time is running out.

There are young players such as Carlos Santana with flashes of greatness in 2010, but there are many more players in Cleveland, young and old, who need to have good years in 2011 to try and prove the theory wrong that God hates Cleveland.

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Cleveland Indians: Could Matt LaPorta Be the Next Carlos Gonzalez?

I know what you’re thinking: How can Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta, a player who hit .221 last season, become the same type of power hitter as Colorado Rockies outfielder and NL MVP candidate, Carlos Gonzalez? 

Well, the answer to this question can be seen easier when breaking down both ballplayers.

When the Tribe traded ace C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008, they received four prospects: RHP Rob Bryson, LHP Zach Jackson, OF Michael Brantley and 1B/OF LaPorta. 

Of all four players, LaPorta was deemed by far as the key and deal breaker to the blockbuster trade. 

The former seventh overall pick by the Brewers in the 2007 MLB draft though has been anything but the type of player the Indians thought they were getting two seasons ago. 

In 376 AB’s in 2010, LaPorta hit a dismal .221 with 12 HR and 41 RBI in 110 games. This came was after he soared at the AAA level in the 2008 and 2009 seasons, hitting a combined .289 with 39 HR and 134 RBI in 194 games.

Gonzalez, like LaPorta, was also a part of a blockbuster trade in 2008, being traded to the Rockies along with RHP Huston Street and LHP Greg Smith for All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday.

He, unlike LaPorta, was one of the most productive hitters in 2010. In 587 AB’s, Gonzalez hit an NL leading .336 with 34 HR and 117 RBI in 145 games.

What if I told you 2011 could be different for LaPorta?

Different in the fact that LaPorta’s numbers would be similar to that of Gonzalez’s. That he would indeed become the type of power hitter the Tribe has been searching for since the departure of fan favorites Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.

Let’s start by comparing the stats of both ballplayers.

LaPorta has just two big league seasons under his belt while Gonzalez has three seasons. Both players though were named by Baseball America in 2008 as the top prospects in their respective organizations (LaPorta with the Brewers and Gonzalez with the Athletics). 

In order to see the comparison between both hitters, here are LaPorta and Gonzalez’s career stats through their first two MLB seasons:



174 G, 580 ABs, 84 R, 152 H, 36 2B, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 41 BB, 151 SO, .263 AVG, .313 OBP.


162 G, 557 ABs, 70 R, 129 H, 28 2B, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 58 BB, 119 SO, .232 AVG, .307 OBP.


When comparing both players through their first two seasons in the big leagues, one can easily see that LaPorta is not far off the track of Gonzalez, as he has even hit more home runs and drove in more RBI in less plate appearances. 

Does this automatically mean that LaPorta will become the type of hitter that has Gonzalez turned into? No. But one has to wonder when looking at these numbers, if 2011 will in fact be a breakout year for LaPorta and the Indians.

Now I am not saying LaPorta will be a .336 hitter and be in the running for the AL MVP, what I am saying is maybe we haven’t simply given LaPorta his time to fully develop. 

Power hitters aren’t born as soon as they reach the big leagues. Baseball fans have seen this through many players over the last few seasons, with Gonzalez and Toronto‘s Jose Bautista being just two of them.

Baseball is a game based on numbers and stats. Sure, anyone can say a .221 AVG is below average, or driving in just 41 runs in over 100 games is not productive when just glancing at a few baseball statistics. 

It is when you actually go behind the numbers that one really get a sense of what a player may or may not become. Comparing LaPorta to Gonzalez does show a different side of what many fans do not see.

It should be interesting to see if LaPorta does in fact breakout in 2011, as there are just 97 days until we find out what the 2011 season holds for LaPorta and the Indians.

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