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Cleveland Indians

The Hidden Factor in a Jonathan Lucroy Trade

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As the MLB trade deadline quickly approaches, there have been numerous rumors involving the Milwaukee Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy. The strongest ones involve a potential trade to the Texas Rangers or the Cleveland Indians.

Both teams make sense as a Lucroy landing spot for a handful of reasons. First, each club leads their respective division and should be considered legitimate World Series contenders. They also would each have the necessary talent to offer back to the Brewers.

Texas has the deeper talent pool and lauded farm system, but Cleveland has a few highly-touted kids that would do the trick if the Indians were willing to part with them.

Both teams also have lackluster offensive catchers – and that may be putting it mildly.

Indians’ catchers collectively reside at the bottom of MLB with the bats, dead last in OBP (.211) and OPS (.511) – that’s an OPS an abysmal 60 points below the next worst group of catchers. They also own the league’s lowest numbers in advanced stats like weighted on-base average (wOBA) and weighted runs created (wRC).

And this was mostly with starter Yan Gomes healthy. He’s going to be missing a month or two with a separated shoulder. Gomes is currently batting .165 with a .198 OBP and 69 strikeouts (compared to just 9 walks).

The Rangers haven’t been quite as bad as a group, although none of their backstops have done much at the plate consistently. Of the three who have played in at least 30 games, no one has an OBP above .292 and they’ve combined to hit .233 with 75 punch outs.

Robinson Chirinos has hit well since the break, but he entered the 2nd half of the season with a .197 average. His two home runs on Thursday helped boost his OPS to .833 on the year. However, that’s terribly deceiving since he has fewer than 100 plate appearances.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s All-Star catcher owns a .361 wOBA and an .854 OPS, both good for 2nd at his position. His improved power thus far has been a nice addition, posting a .492 slugging percentage thanks to 12 HR, just 6 shy of his career best.

Benny Sieu, USA TODAY Sports

Benny Sieu, USA TODAY Sports

So it’s clear to see the immediate offensive value Lucroy would bring to either club at a premier position. Both teams are in the bottom half of overall OPS+ in the American League, so despite their success, a cliff could be looming.

The next question would be, how would Lucroy impact each team defensively?

From a pure skills standpoint, Lucroy is one of the best at framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt. That increases his stock, benefiting any club that would swing a deal.

He doesn’t have the greatest arm, but he has quick feet and gets rid of the ball well, helping him to a 38% caught stealing rate this year. That ranks 8th in MLB (minimum 30 games) and is better than Texas and Cleveland have done.

All this may lead one to wonder what the Indians and Rangers are waiting for. Sure, Brewers’ GM David Stearns is asking for the moon right now (which he should), so that could be giving the teams pause for concern. They may be hoping that the price drops a touch as the deadline gets closer as well.

But still, whoever gets Lucroy will gain an edge over the other team in their race to the AL pennant.

Here’s where the hidden factor could come into play when determining who may actually make a deal. The problem is this factor is something that’s difficult to measure. Will changing catchers in the middle of a season hurt the pitching staff?

We hear constantly how catchers must know their hurlers inside and out, even getting credit for “handling a pitching staff.” They work tirelessly throughout Spring Training to ensure the relationship creates the ultimate performance over the course of the season.

Perhaps this is seen more so with a young staff, but the chemistry and understanding between the battery mates does seem to be an essential part.

Of course, that’s not something even advanced metrics can put a number on as it is mental or psychological in nature. In theory, there could just as easily be a positive impact as a negative one, depending on the circumstances of each team and the makeup of the players involved.

Overall, the Indians have better pitching. It’s really not that close, either. Cleveland’s hurlers lead the AL in ERA at 3.62, while Texas owns a 4.53 staff ERA, 13th out of 15 clubs. Or take the FIP statistic (fielding independent pitching) and you’ll see the Indians with the 2nd-best number in the AL (3.86) with the Rangers 2nd-worst in MLB (4.85).

Cleveland may look at this and believe another catcher could disrupt the chemistry of their high-quality pitching staff, creating more problems than benefit in the long run. This could be causing the Indians to drag their feet or feel the asking price is too high in terms of prospects, simply due to the greater risk.

Texas, however, may see this as a “what have we got to lose” situation. Lucroy’s bat and defensive skills are obvious improvements, and maybe he can lift up the struggling pitching. There’s no guarantee, but they can’t get much worse, so his value may even be elevated some more.

While there are always a number of factors teams will consider before swapping players – especially some of their better assets – sometimes it’s one of the considerations further down the list that makes or breaks a potential deal.

With a player like Lucroy, the well-defined positives are easy to spot. In the end, it’s this hidden factor that will ultimately swing the pendulum one way or the other…or hold it still until the offseason.

 

Tim Muma has written about the Milwaukee Brewers for nearly a decade and has covered a variety of sports for radio and television.

Cleveland Indians

Indians Retire Jim Thome’s Number 25

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The Cleveland Indians have officially retired the number 25 worn by Hall of Fame slugger, and franchise career home run leader, Jim Thome on Saturday.

Thome was honored in a pregame ceremony, prior to the Indians game against the Baltimore Orioles, who Thome also played for during his long career, in which they lost 2-1.

During the ceremony, Thome took his familiar home run trot around the bases one final time, this time accompanied by his son, Landon, and was mobbed by his former teammates as he crossed home plate.

Thome’s retired jersey number will now be permanently displayed in the upper deck of Progressive Field between fellow Hall of Famers Bob Lemon’s 21 and Larry Doby’s 14.

Thome mashed 337 homers to become Cleveland’s career home run leader, and it will be fun to see if any player can catch, or surpass Thome’s number, making it fun for betting sites, such as bettingsites.ltd , to track in the years to come.

Many of Thome’s former teammates and managers were on hand for the celebration, including Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Charlie Manuel and Mike Hargrove.

Current Indian players also paid homage to Thome, by wearing high socks that mimicked Thome’s look during his playing days.

“To have my jersey retired gives me the chills,” Thome said, according to ESPN News. “To see my number hanging in the rafters in the company of Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Jackie Robinson, Mel Harder, Larry Doby, Earl Averill, Bob Lemon and Frank Robinson, I don’t really know what to say. That’s some ‘Field of Dreams’ stuff right there.”

“To this day, these guys are my brothers, and I’m so touched that you all would take the time to come today,” Thome said.

Thome, who spent 13 years with the Indians organization, batted .276 and hit 612 home runs, eighth on the all-time home run list, during his MLB career.

“The ’90s were exciting times in baseball, and there was no place better than the corner of Ontario and Carnegie,” Thome continued. “This organization from top to bottom is first-class all the way. I was so proud to go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Cleveland Indians.”

Additionally, Thome is the Indians’ career leader in walks (1,008) and is second in career RBIs (937).

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Cleveland Indians

Winsanity: Cleveland Indians Win 21st Straight Game To Set American League Record

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First there was Moneyball in 2011.

Now, you gotta believe there’s a sequel in the works.

The Cleveland Indians won their 21st straight game Wednesday afternoon, completing a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field with a 5-3 victory. The win set a new American League record, exceeding the Oakland Athletics’ 20-game run in 2002—which of course was the subject of Moneyball.

Take a listen to the memorable call from Indians play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton as history unfolded:

With 21 wins and counting, the Indians are tied with the 1935 Chicago Cubs for the second longest win streak in Major League Baseball’s modern era (since 1900). The 1916 New York Giants hold the record with 26.

Fellow Cleveland athlete and superstar LeBron James took to social media to praise his hometown Indians:

Tristan Thompson was also pretty excited:

During their 21-game win streak, the Indians are outscoring opponents 139-35 and hitting .305 (226 for 741) as a team with 97 extra-base hits. They’re also pitching out of their minds. Of course you can pretty much assume that with 35 runs allowed in 21 games. Duh. Get this—starting pitchers are 19-0 with a 1.70 ERA (132 IP, 25 ER) during this historic run. Insane. Relievers have also been lights out, posting a 1.26 ERA. All without Andrew Miller too, arguably the best left-handed reliever in baseball. Imagine when he gets back.

Overall, the Indians have a 1.57 ERA during the streak. That’s the fourth best mark for a team in a 21 game span in the divisional era (since 1969). They also have seven shutouts during the streak. That’s more than 14 teams in the majors have all season.

Emerging AL Cy Young favorite Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, and Carlos Carrasco have led Cleveland’s rotation during this run. In 12 starts between them (four each), they’ve combined to go 11-0 with a 0.85 ERA (84 2/3 IP, 8 ER).

What about the offense?

Shortstop Francisco Lindor and third-baseman Jose Ramirez have been the Indians’ hottest hitters during their streak. Lindor’s batting .370 (30 for 81, .790 slugging %) with nine homers and 19 RBIs, while Ramirez’s batting .388 (26 for 67, .910 slugging %) with eight homers, nine doubles, and 14 RBIs.

Other notable offensive players during Cleveland’s streak are designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (.574 slugging %, five homers, 15 RBIs), first-baseman Carlos Santana (.357 batting average, five homers, 13 RBIs), and catcher Roberto Perez (14 for 37, four home runs, 11 RBIs).

This article provides some additional facts about the Indians’ torrid run, my favorite one being that they’ve hit more home runs (41) than allowed runs (35) in the 21 games. I’m not even sure if that’s possible to achieve in a video game.

Here’s a graphic per ESPN Stats & Info that compares Cleveland’s first 20 games of this streak to Oakland’s 20-game tear in 2002:

What an unbelievable story. The Indians have polarized Major League Baseball with their streak and are looking like the team to beat in the playoffs each time they win. They’re a young group clicking on all cylinders and playing with the highest level of confidence, and that should be a problem to whatever team(s) they face in the postseason.

Since the beginning of the streak, Cleveland has gained 9.5 games on the Houston Astros to overtake them as the team with the AL’s best record. Houston’s currently down 8-0 in the fifth inning to the Angels, so if that holds up, the Indians will have gained a full 10 games since August 24 and will have a 2.5 game edge in the AL’s best record race.

Coming off a World Series loss last year to the Chicago Cubs in seven games after leading the series 3-1, you gotta believe the Indians are a hungry team. Hungry as ever. Their last championship was 1948, and it looks like they’re on a mission to end that drought.

It also doesn’t help when you’ve got this guy running things:

Image result for terry francona

Why’d you have to let him go, Red Sox…

The Indians (90-56) will look to extend their historic streak as they begin a four-game home series against the Kansas City Royals beginning Thursday night.

(Update: Cleveland lost to Kansas City on September 15, snapping their 22-game win streak.)

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Indians Set New American League Record With 21st Consecutive Win

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The Cleveland Indians are not messing around. On Wednesday afternoon, they defeated the Detroit Tigers and set a new American League record in the process.

Wednesday’s game between the Tigers and Indians at Progressive Field was not your average September weekday afternoon game. It ended up having historic significance, as the Indians beat the Tigers 5-3. This was the Indians’ 21st straight victory, which means they now have the longest winning streak in the history of the American League.

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but the Indians responded quickly in the bottom frame. Newly acquired slugging right fielder Jay Bruce hit a three-run home run, putting the Indians ahead 3-1. They did not relinquish the lead after this.

Going into the ninth inning, the Indians had a 5-3 lead. Closer Cody Allen came in to finish the job. With two outs and nobody on base, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler hit a line drive to left field that was caught by a sliding Lonnie Chisenhall. This final out sealed the victory for the Indians and put them into the American League history books.

With the win, the Indians officially passed the 2002 Oakland Athletics for the longest winning streak in AL history. That Oakland team won 20 straight games. Their streak ended with a 6-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins on September 6, 2002.

As far as the longest winning streak in MLB history goes, the Indians are now tied with two teams for second place on that list. The 1880 Chicago White Stockings and 1935 Chicago Cubs both won 21 straight games. The longest winning streak in MLB history belongs to the 1916 New York Giants. That team technically won 26 consecutive games. In the middle of their streak, they actually tied a game. However, the game was replayed and the Giants won. The tie was never recorded.

One of the reasons that the Indians have been so hot lately is their pitching staff. As reported by ESPN Stats & Info, Cleveland has a team ERA of 1.57 during their 21-game winning streak.

Perhaps the most remarkable stat about the Indians historic winning streak is that they have outscored their opponents 139-35 over the 21-game span. A tweet posted earlier by MLB Stat of the Day really sums up all of the unbelievable numbers surrounding Cleveland’s amazing run.

The Indians have really been able to accomplish something incredible over the past three weeks. If they win five more games in a row, they will be tied with the 1916 Giants for the longest winning streak in MLB history. Should they break that record, the 2017 Indians will be regarded as one of the greatest regular season teams in the history of baseball.

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