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The 2013 Indians lineup: Predicting the punchouts

The 2013 Indians lineup: Predicting the punchouts
February 18, 2013
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Cleveland Indians fans will be urged to dress warmly when attending games this season at Progressive Field.  Strong gusts of wind throughout even the summer months may cause unseasonably cool temperatures in Cleveland. National weather pundits will flock to cities featuring the Cleveland Indians as Windstorm Wahoo sweeps across the nation, from Cleveland to Seattle to Miami.

What’s the cause of this windstorm? A 2013 Tribe lineup that could potentially put up historic strike out numbers.

Of the nine players projected to start in Cleveland’s lineup next year, six struck out over 100 times last season (Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs, Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis, Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana) while Asdrubal Cabrera struck out 99 times. Lonnie Chisenhall only had 151 plate appearances last year, but his strikeout rate of 17.9 percent suggests he would strike out right around the 100 mark if he had played a full season.

Out of those six players who struck out more than 100 times, the bottom two were Kipnis and Santana with 109 and 101, respectively. The next closest was Swisher with 141. In other words, the bulk of the 2013 Indians’ strikeout woes will come from their new additions.

To try to determine just how much this Cleveland lineup may strike out, I decided to do some projections based off of their 2012 strike out rate. I projected each starter to have 650 plate appearances; some will have more than that, some will have less.  There’s obviously no way of predicting injuries, so this clearly is not an exact science, but it gives an idea. I’m going to project 550 plate appearances for Chisenhall and Stubbs, as I think those two will get spelled most often. Here’s what I came up with for the 2013 line up:

 

2012 K%

PA

Projected 2013 Ks

Michael Bourn

22.0%

650

143

Jason Kipnis

16.2%

650

105

Asdrubal Cabrera

16.1%

650

105

Nick Swisher

22.6%

650

147

Carlos Santana

16.6%

650

108

Mark Reynolds

29.6%

650

192

Michael Brantley

9.2%

650

60

Lonnie Chisenhall

17.9%

550

98

Drew Stubbs

30.5%

550

168

That comes out to a grand total of 1,126 strikeouts, just out of the projected starting lineup. That number would have been the ninth most in the AL last season, and again, that’s just from the starting lineup.

To get a projected grand total of team strikeouts, I did my projections for the four bench players as well. The four players I went with were Mike Aviles, Lou Marson, Ryan Raburn and Jason Giambi. Yes, Jason Giambi.  I, myself, do not believe Giambi should make this team, but listening to Francona talk about him, it sure seems like he has a legitimate shot. Plus, Giambi played in the Bigs last year and Chris McGuiness did not, so I’m going to project Giambi.

I gave each player the number of plate appearances that I think they may see this upcoming season. They’re just my prediction, and injuries will always come into play.

 

2012 K%

PA

Projected 2013 Ks

Mike Aviles

14.1%

450

63

Lou Marson

18.7%

250

47

Ryan Raburn

23.9%

300

72

Jason Giambi

21.2%

200

42

The bench players project to 224 strikeouts, which brings the whole team total to 1,350 strikeouts.  Indians.com beat writer Jordan Bastian recently did his own projections and had the Indians striking out a total of 1,373 times this season. Those 1,350 punch outs (or Bastian’s 1,373) would have ranked second in the AL last year behind Oakland’s 1,387. Yes, I know, Oakland was a playoff team last year, but the A’s also had the second best team ERA, which is something Cleveland almost surely won’t have.

The 2011 Indians finished second in the AL with 1,269 strike outs.  That team had fans irate at how often Indians’ players swung through pitches, and their total was 81 less than my projected total for the 2013 season.

The one “upside” to striking out as frequently as the Indians will is that they will run an opposing pitcher’s pitch count up, because they’ll have to see at least three pitches to strike out.  Plus they should also draw their fair share of walks.  But is that really much of an upside? Today’s bullpens are full of flame-throwing strike out pitchers, so would getting to them early really be THAT much of an advantage for this strikeout-prone team? I guess we will find out.

Another thing to remember is how effective just putting the ball in play can be during a baseball game. A grounder to second moves a guy from second to third, a relatively deep fly ball scores a run from third, a tapper to third gives a guy the chance to sprint in safely at first.  Hit and runs could also be out of the question with several players in this line up.

There’s no debating that on paper, the 2013 version of the Cleveland offense has the potential to be much better than the offenses we’ve seen in recent years.  There is serious speed and some good power on this team that will surely help score more runs.  So, here’s to hoping that those home runs come when men are on base, and the strikeouts come when the bases are empty.  But if it’s the other way around, it could be painful to watch.

User Comments

Rocky55
February 19, 2013 - 7:10 PM EST
The team speed which has been mentioned will probably help loewr the K rate. Speed on the bases=more fastballs=fewer K's.
Andy
February 18, 2013 - 10:50 PM EST
Honestly the only reason I just stuck with 2012's K rate instead of the last 3 years is because that's exactly what Jordan Bastian did, and I didn't want to do the exact same thing as him. I used only last year because it was obviously the most recent. I agree that this team will walk a ton. This article really wasn't meant to diss on the entire offense, but to point out their one flaw. That's why strikeouts was really all that was talked about. I actually think the strikeouts won't be as a big of a deal as it may be for other teams, because of how often they walk and the power and team speed. This was more to show that their is a flaw in this offense that could be exploited.
Discollama
February 18, 2013 - 10:45 PM EST
Also, using your K projections, and my own BB projections, the Indians would have a .47 BB/K ratio, which would have ranked 3rd best in the AL and MLB last year (the Indians ranked first with a .51 BB/K ratio last year), I really have zero concerns about this team and it's K's because they'll find their way on base regardless.
Discollama
February 18, 2013 - 10:02 PM EST
One thing I don't like about this projection is that it goes strictly off of the player's 2012 K%, which isn't fair to them, we should be using at least a three year sample size, and though you admit that there will be a lot of walks, you didn't really look at the walk rates these guys would see. Last year they walked at a 9% rate, which was good for 4th in the majors and 3rd in the AL.

Using a three year sample size (2010-2012) we see the following BB%'s and projected BB's based on the plate appearances you used.

Santana 15.4% 100
Swisher 12..1% 79
Kipnis 9.5% 62
Chisenhall NA SSS
Cabrera 7.1% 47 (I expect his BB% to be closer to 8.5%)
Brantley 7.6% 50
Bourn 9.0% 59
Stubbs 8.8% 48
Reynolds 15.5% 101

Bench:
Aviles 4.3% 19
Giambi 14.8% 30
Rayburn 5.8% 17
Marson 10.7% 27

That's a total of 639 BB's, which would have lead all of baseball last year by 68, that projection would have the Tribe walking at a 9.3% rate, which would have tied the Braves for 2nd in the league last year (and this is all without looking at Chisenhall because we don't have enough information on him yet).

Using a three year sample size (when available), these guys managed a .408 SLG, last year the Indians posted a .381 SLG. That .408 would have been good for 14th best in the majors and 8th best in the AL. Last year the Indians ranked 25th and 13th respectively. Consider now that the Indians K% last year was the 3rd lowest in MLB and the AL while three of the top 4 teams in the AL saw post season berths or won 90 games, when you look at K% in all of MLB, six of the top 10 teams made it to the post season or won 90 games.

While this team doesn't have the pitching that the Rays or the A's had (the the Orioles staff was pretty miserable), they have an offense that should rival the product that those three put out on the field. Given the insane amount of flexibility that they have, this team could really take advantage of platoons, not just your standard lefty/righty platoon, but defensive ones (ie sit Stubbs and play Swisher in RF vs RHP's when Masterson starts) and have some quality bench bats that they can work with.
Big Picture
February 18, 2013 - 9:24 PM EST
Strike outs are just outs. No need to analyze beyond that.
Rich
February 18, 2013 - 6:21 PM EST
Probably if K rate goes up amount of double plays will go down, especially when considering added speed of lineup. I'm just glad as Indians fans we can strain to find the one flaw in lineup as opposed trying to justify Duncan, Cunningham, Damon, Delucci, Michaels, Garko etc in left field and other glaring flaws the Indians have had in the past. At least we won't have Jose Lopez hitting cleanup anymore.
Jwahoo
February 18, 2013 - 5:39 PM EST
yeah but I think we are going to see better seasons from alot of those players.

I think Brantley, Bourn, Asdrubal, Chiz, Kipnis, Stubbs and Reynolds could all have better seasons then last year. So, I am not sure they will strike out AS much as you would think. Plus, the either bring power or speed or both to the plate as well. I see a team full of guys who have the talent to improve their numbers from last year.

In regards to Giambi. If it came down to him and McGuiness I would go with McGuiness but if we could trade for McGuiness I think Giambi has a legit shot at making this team. I think being able to DH sometimes and not always coming into pinch hit VS. a tough bullpen guy throwing gas will help. Plus, he is one of those guys who brings alot more to the table then his skills on the field. He is a pefect veteran leader which will help this team have the mentality of a winner. With Francona, Swisher, Giambi, Bourn and Meyers thats alot of leadership we have brought to the club. Another thing to keep in mind is that in just 2011 Giambi if playing a whole season, Giambi was on pace to hit around 30 homers. The guy also has a very good eye at the plate and will get pitchers pitch count up. So, I would not count him as "dead" yet. A player that brings that type of leadership, will take alot of walks and could have hit around 30 homers in 2011 is not bad for a guy who is basically back up DH and a pinch hitter.

One other thing. A team that strikes out alot is also going to make the pitchers pitch count go up and up. Being able to work a pitcher is a huge advantage for a team and even more so when you look at all the speed we have on this team. If Bourn can get back to basics, and Brantley and Kipnis can improve I still think were looking at one of the best offensive teams in the league. I mean if Stubbs and Chiz can surprise our offense could be crazy good. It should also be noted that Reynolds had a down year last year. He is a guy who could put up 34 homers from the DH spot in a good year. If we can get improvement from those guys and Giambi hits more like 2011 then 2012 we could have such a good offense.
Dave
February 18, 2013 - 4:09 PM EST
How about diving in further and seeing how many of those K's were looking? That might tell a different story?
Andy
February 18, 2013 - 2:17 PM EST
The last two sentences are the most important part of my article, in my mind at least. Obviously this team is going to strike out a lot, and obviously they will hit more homeruns than we're used to seeing. We just don't know when either of those are going to happen. So the timing of those strikeouts and homeruns will be what decides whether this offense becomes one of the better offenses in the AL or not, I think.

And I guess this article came out a little more negative than I originally anticipated haha. I guess being a lifelong Cleveland fan has a way of doing that to you. But don't get me wrong, I'm as excited as anyone for what this offense could do. I just wanted to take a look at the one negative.
Tony
February 18, 2013 - 1:01 PM EST
I agree with Rocky. These guys will strike out a good amount of time, but what is important to note is that a lot of these guys also bring a lot more to the table with power, defense, speed, etc. That should help balance out the frustrations from the strikeouts. There are going to be some nights where they strikeout 15 or so times, but the hope is that they also crush 2-3 homers those nights or steal 2-3 bases or play good defense behind their pitcher.
Jack
February 18, 2013 - 12:53 PM EST
Rocky, I believe (hope) that Bourn's spike in Ks was a result of his working for the max contract he could get by adding power to his game. Now that he's got his contract, hopefully, he will go back to being a contact hitter.

As far as Giambi is concerned, I hope to hell that he never wears an Indians uniform outside of ST. God I hate that washed up old base clogging jerk. They'll be far better off using the rotating DH role from within.

I also think we're going to finally see what we have been expecting from Santana since he donned an Indians uni. He now has a rock solid lineup around him and he's no longer expected to be the man.

I don't like K's either, but clearly I'll take a lineup full of K'ers than a lineup full of out makers.
Rocky55
February 18, 2013 - 12:18 PM EST
First thing, I hate K's. As you mentioned, putting the ball in play is almost always better than striking out. As far as the team's prospects for the year goes, I have hopes for a slightly better result than the projections. Supposedly Drew Stubbs has seen the light & made some changes. Someone needs to take Michael Bourn aside and tell him we'd be happier with more contact & no HR's from him. He had a little spike last year & some have inferred that it was contract-year-itis. I expect Chiz to improve in all phases just by finally getting some experience. I wouldn't mess with Swisher and Reynolds is probably a lost cause. All of that said, we'll strike out a lot as a team because we went out & got players who strike out alot. Thank God they bring some other things to the table to lessen the impact.

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