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Tribe Happenings: Issues starting to surface two weeks in

Tribe Happenings: Issues starting to surface two weeks in
Asdrubal Cabrera and several Indians players are off to a tough start this season. (Photo: AP)
April 14, 2014
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Some news, notes and thoughts from my Indians notebook….

Note, things are finally back to normal here at the IBI. This column had to go on the shelf for a few weeks while I feverishly worked to finish the new 2014 prospect book in between three baseball trips and the start of the season. This should once again be a regular Monday column, plus you will also begin to see many of my other regular daily minor league reports kick up this week.

Up and down two weeks

We are now two weeks into the season and the Indians stand at 6-7 after a tough 4-3 loss on Sunday when John Axford blew a much needed game to ensure a series split with the White Sox.  But while the outcome of that game is disappointing, it is still very early to get over dramatic about tough losses or exciting wins.

I wanted to take a few moments to kind of review some of the early performances and note any concerns or nice surprises. Obviously, until the Indians hit somewhere around the 40-game mark it is still too early to get a good feel for all of the components of the team and the players themselves, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have an opinion on how things are going in the early going.

If you want to look for some good performances to date, they have been few and far in between for the Indians. To think they are 6-7 at this point is amazing considering how bad the starting pitching has been in the early going and how much the lineup has struggled.

The Indians sport a 5.19 ERA and .297 batting average against from their starters, which both rank 27th in all of baseball.  They also have 28 walks which is the 5th highest total in baseball, though have been saved somewhat because of their 76 strikeouts which is tops in the game.

They are actually 4th in the American League in runs scored (61) and on-base percentage (.331), but the bats have been inconsistent thanks to a .245 team batting average (8th). The low numbers offensively are just a continuing trend in the game where teams just don’t put up anywhere close to the offense that the game once saw 5-10 years ago.

With the lack of good starting pitching and a mediocre offense, the Indians are 6-7 at this point largely because of the stellar work of the bullpen. Even with Axford's unfortunate outing on Sunday, the Indians 3.27 ERA from their bullpen ranks 9th in all of baseball (4th in the AL), they are 5th in batting average against (.197) and 7th in K/9 (10.6). That said, the one concern is the heavy workload they have had to endure as their 44.0 innings rank 3rd most in baseball. If the starting pitchers don't begin to pitch deeper into games the bullpen is going to get worn down and lose some of its effectiveness.

Offensively, Nyjer Morgan has been a presence at the top of the lineup and played very well. In nine games he is hitting .348 with 4 RBI, and he also has an exceptional 7 walks to 4 strikeouts ratio which has him at a near .500 clip that he is getting on base (.484 OBP). Obviously his numbers will normalize over the course of the year, but he’s been the Indians best hitter in the early going and been the biggest surprise to date and more than filled in for the injured Michael Bourn.

David Murphy is off to a nice start hitting .297 with 2 HR, 11 RBI and .920 OPS in 11 games, though just about all of his production has occurred in three games meaning he has had eight games where he virtually did nothing at the plate. The overall numbers are great, but hopefully he can be a little more consistent going forward as this lineup is not built for such big peaks and valleys from any player.

Michael Brantley has been Michael Brantley as he is doing nothing flashy but has been his steady self hitting .292 with 1 HR, 10 RBI and .787 OPS in 13 games. And even Lonnie Chisenhall is off to a solid start going 6-for-15 (.400) in limited time.

But the biggest disappointments in the lineup in the early going has been the middle of the order. When your number two-hitter Nick Swisher is hitting .185, your number three-hitter Jason Kipnis is hitting .234 and your number four-hitter Carlos Santana is hitting .186, you are not going to have very many rallies and score many runs as a team. Now, I will be the first to tell you that their batting averages are of secondary importance to me as they are drawing walks at a good rate to drive up their on-base percentages to a good level (Kipnis .362 OBP, Santana .386 OBP). That said, especially for guys like Kipnis and Santana who are your three and four hitters, you want to see more production and bat-to-ball so they can drive in runs rather than set the table for the bottom half of the lineup.

As for Asdrubal Cabrera? He’s off to another treacherous start hitting .188 with 1 HR, 5 RBI and .618 OPS. He has struggled in RBI situations and has inexplicably been used as the team’s leadoff hitter against most left-handed pitching. Those two things combined have not helped matters offensively, and with Francisco Lindor off to a good start at Double-A Akron it is only a matter of time before the “trade Cabrera” chants begin.

The rotation has been a mess. Aside from Trevor Bauer’s nice spot start last Wednesday (6.0 IP, 1 R (0 ER), 8 K) all of the starters have lacked consistency in the early going. After a nice opening day start. Justin Masterson has followed that up with two poor outings. Danny Salazar is striking out the world, but his command has been off and he is not going to be of much use if he can’t regularly get to and go past five innings. Carlos Carrasco has been his same old inconsistent self two starts into the season where he flashes good stuff yet continues to lack with the results. Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber have actually pitched well of late after getting roughed up a little in their first outings of the season.

In the bullpen Cody Allen has been exceptional tossing 5.0 shutout innings with 11 strikeouts. Scott Atchison has had one of the more surprising performances in the early going with 6.1 shutout AND hitless innings of relief work, and Marc Rzepczynski has thrown 6.2 shutout innings of relief though has four walks.

Things have definitely been more bad than good in the early going for the Indians, so while the 6-7 record is surely disappointing, it could be worse based on their play to date. The other thing of note is the extreme parity in the league through the first two weeks of the season as an amazing 19 of 30 teams either have six wins or seven losses.

Roster decisions looming

The Indians are enjoying a much needed off day today as they get set to play the Tigers for a three-game set in Detroit that begins on Tuesday.  With the off day it will give the Indians a chance to re-evaluate the roster through the first 13 games and also decide how they are going to add both Michael Bourn and Jason Giambi back to the roster.

Bourn looks to be finished with his rehab assignment in the minors as he came away healthy and confident in his hamstring. While the actual performance on a rehab assignment usually means nothing, it is not comforting to see a 3-for-20 line from him with five strikeouts in five games. Even so, he is expected to be activated from the disabled list in advance of Tuesday’s game in Detroit.

As to who will leave the 25-man roster when Bourn is activated is up for debate as there are certainly several candidates, but the obvious ones who appear to be in roster danger are Blake WoodC.C. Lee and Elliot Johnson. The prevailing thought was that when Lee was called up last week that he would be immediately sent back down upon the activation of Bourn, but from where I sit I think he stays and Wood goes down. This should not be a DFA situation as Wood has an option remaining, so the Indians can easily just option him to Triple-A and re-consider him later in the season when a need arises.

Wood has been rather inconsistent and very ineffective sporting a 9.64 ERA in five appearances, and most concerning is the seven walks in 4.2 innings. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw, if you can’t throw strikes and avoid a high amount of free passes you are not a reliable pen option and the team has to go in a different direction. Lee on the other hand has no walks in two outings covering 2.1 innings and looks to have both the stuff and command to be a reliable, consistent middle relief option for Terry Francona.

The big question is who gets sent down when Giambi is activated. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on Tuesday as well, and while he may be activated along with Bourn, it is possible the Indians wait a few more days before making a decision on him in order to get him another game or two in the minors before adding him to the roster. He has played two games on his rehab assignment and is 0-for-6 with three strikeouts, so an extra game or two would not do him any harm.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Giambi was not activated until Friday when the Indians return him to play the Blue Jays.  A delay in his activation would allow the Indians to get a few more looks at both Nyjer Morgan and Lonnie Chisenhall over the next three games against the Tigers, two players who could very well be on the chopping block once Giambi is activated.

Most people will point to Elliot Johnson as the one that should be replaced, but he is a guy the organization likes and who can fill so many different roles. His ability to switch-hit, play anywhere on the field and provide speed off the bench makes him very attractive as the 25th man on the roster – even with poor numbers at the plate. Plus, I don’t believe the Indians rostered him with the idea that they would DFA him two weeks later.

No, to me one of Chisenhall or Morgan go when Giambi returns. With Bourn and Giambi being left-handed hitters, it already adds to a crowded roster full of left-handed hitters which means the at bats against right-handed pitching will be limited. Francona has shown in the early going that he is only going to matchup both Morgan and Chisenhall against a right-handed pitcher, but with Bourn returning and taking over center field full time the only opportunity for the hot-hitting Morgan to play regularly will be as the designated hitter (or in some four-man outfield rotation where one of the outfielders is the DH against a right-handed pitcher). Obviously, Chisenhall has been the primary DH against right-handed pitching so something has to give there.

What it comes down to is how a player fits on the bench, and Morgan offers much more versatility as a guy who can play anywhere in the outfield and offer up some late inning speed off the bench. Chisenhall is a third baseman only and is not a pinch-running option, so his only true value is as a left-handed bat off the bench – but Morgan and Giambi also provide a left-handed bat option off the bench so you can see where the bench is crowded with lefties and that all three of Morgan, Giambi and Chisenhall can't be on the team as bench players.

In the end, unless an injury crops up and saves him, I believe Chisenhall will be optioned out to Triple-A Columbus. Some will say he has nothing to prove in Triple-A, but that is not true at all as he can go there to continue to work on his approach against left-handed pitching and getting better defensively at third base. Most importantly, it may also provide the Indians an opportunity to experiment with him at first base and/or left field in order to add some versatility to him so that he can be a true bench option for them. Plus, had Bourn not gotten hurt, he was probably destined to open the season in Columbus anyway.

Lefties don't have rights

One glaring concern with the lineup in the early going is the Indians struggles with left-handed pitching. They are 5-2 when a right-hander starts against them, but are just 1-5 against when a left-hander starts. Against right-handers they are hitting .266 with a .775 OPS, but against left-handers they are hitting just .215 with a .623 OPS.

Early season small sample size be damned, this is concerning to me. I am well aware that the Indians had success against left-handed starters last season going 36-20 against them and hit .271 with a .766 OPS; however, it is the construction of the lineup that I do not like and there is way too much being banked on role players to once again be run producers against lefties – something that happened last season but is rather tough to expect to happen again.

When a lefty is on the hill, the Indians sport three left-handed batters in the everyday lineup with Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis. That’s not much of a problem as all three are core pieces to the team, but all three hit in the top five spots in the lineup and also see their numbers sharply decline when they face a lefty rather than a righty. Bourn owns a career .277 batting average and .721 OPS against righties and .253 batting average and .644 OPS against lefties, Kipnis hits .275/.807 against righties and .259/.710 against lefties, and Brantley hits .286/.743 against righties and .256/.643 against lefties.

To combat this decline in offensive production from three key pieces in the lineup, the Indians need to rely on the other six pieces of the lineup. At the moment those other six pieces are made up of three switch-hitters in Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera and three right-handed hitters in Ryan RaburnYan Gomes andMike Aviles.

Again, the problem is not so much the switch-hitting trio of Cabrera, Swisher and Santana as they more than hold their own there. Against lefties in their career, Swisher is a .272 hitter with a .847 OPS, Cabrera a .286 hitter with a .766 OPS and Santana a .278 hitter with a .838 OPS. All three are decidedly better performers against lefties than righties, so in a way they help balance out the decline experienced from their three lefty hitters Bourn, Kipnis and Brantley.

The problem with the lineup against lefties is the right-handed bats the Indians are using are role players. There is not one bona fide right-handed bat that is reliable and one that can be counted on to produce in the top half of the lineup. The trio of Raburn, Gomes and Aviles were effective bench players last season, and while Gomes is no longer a bench player and Raburn is getting more regular playing time, their warts are starting to show a little more now that they are playing more regularly.

Also, all three of the right-handed bats hit at the bottom of the order against lefties. Without a productive true right-handed bat to use anywhere in the top five spots in the lineup and three lefties who see their performance plummet when facing a lefty, it is no surprise that they have had the early season struggles they have had against lefties this season.

Aside from the starting pitching concerns, the lack of a true right-handed bat is something that I think is going to prove to be more and more of a need as the season progresses. The Indians have the space on the roster to add a right-handed bat via trade as the DH spot against lefties is wide open, in fact, the DH spot period is wide open. So whether such a player is regular or a platoon player, they need to find someone with a history of success as a right-handed hitter to add some punch to the lineup against left-handed pitching.

One name to keep an eye on is first baseman Jesus Aguilar who is currently at Triple-A Columbus. Through 10 games he is hitting .417 with 3 HR, 8 RBI and 1.266 OPS, and he has the power and production ability to be the impact right-handed bat they desperately need. There are concerns about how his swing and approach will translate to the Major League level, but there is no denying the impact he could bring if the transition goes well.

Parting shots

Carlos Carrasco is available as a bullpen option for the Indians Tuesday and Wednesday, another sign that the Indians will probably option out a reliever when they activate Bourn from the disabled list. If Carrasco is not used either of those days he will throw a bullpen session as normal to get ready for his next start on Saturday. … The Indians pitching staff is second in all of baseball with a 10.2 K/9. … Through the first two weeks of the season the Indians are dead last in attendance ranked 30th in average fans per game (17,498).

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

Hermie13
April 15, 2014 - 2:57 PM EDT
Here's one thing that hasn't been mentioned in regards to Chiz...

He started the year year with 2.027 years of service time. If he does end up getting sent down...and spends a month in the minors...the Tribe would potentially end up getting control over Chisenhall for an extra year. If he remains in the bigs this year he'll be eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. If he is sent down for a month or two....the Tribe controls him thru 2018.

He would still be arbitration eligible (assuming he does come back) as he'd probably still be a Super Two guy (only needs about 90 more service days this year to get there). I do not think this extra year will be "the" reason the Tribe sends him down or even one of the main reasons...but if you're trying to find reasons to hang on to Johnson and sending down Chiz....you could add this to the list. Obviously could be a giant moot point if Chiz just never develops but something to keep in the back of your mind...
A jewel encrusted pencil case stuffed in large organic turkey
April 15, 2014 - 2:21 PM EDT
Giambi and Johnson.... I agree with Hermie, if Johnson isn't coming in as a late inning defensive sub or pinch running for one of the slower guys, he needs to go. He should never bat lead off! Giambi .. It is too bad he will be "forced" to retire instead of leaving the game gracefully... Perhaps he will get a month or 2 to put up respectable(that is subjective) numbers. I think there is a possibility that we will see Chisenhall and Giambi battle it out for that final DH spot. Besides no one is gonna care in a couple of months when our every day Dh is gonna be a fella named Jesus Aguilar.
Seth
April 15, 2014 - 1:48 PM EDT
Regarding Chisenhall's development, if Cleveland did not hope to contend this year, then I'd put more value in that. The focus right now shouldn't be on his development, it should be on putting the best team on the field. If you think Chisenhall will be more valuable with his bat off the bench than Giambi and/or Johnson, then you go with Chisenhall. Similar to last September, he didn't get a lot of at bats, but he performed well and helped them win when he was in there.
Jay
April 15, 2014 - 11:33 AM EDT
@ Hermie13

I agree, Francona probably would bat ACab lead-off in that situation even with a lower OBP. But I just think it's because he has limited options. Santana and Swisher aren't providing much (and Kipnis isn't helping much either) so you need Brantley to provide some chance for driving in a run.

Over his career Brantley has a .317 OBP vs. lefties while Cabrera has a .337 mark. So throwing out the small sample size doesn't really help clarify things.

Unfortunately this problem doesn't go away when Bourn returns but he makes too much money to bat anywhere but lead-off.

Hermie13
April 15, 2014 - 10:33 AM EDT
@Jay

Aviles has a .389 OBP vs lefties and Brantley ha a .417 OBP vs lefties. Either guy should be in the leadoff spot over Cabrera who has 0 walks against LHP this year.

In any case...can't imagine Francona is really making his lineup up based on how a guy has hit a certain handed pitcher this early in the season....so what, after the next game a lefty pitching and someone like Raburn (same OBP as AC) or Kipnis pass him does he change his lineup?

Personally think Cabrera, Morgan, and Johnson have hit leadoff because Tito sees them as up the middle types with some speed and he doesn't want to change where Brantley hits knowing Bourn will be back soon. Think Cabrera could have a .200 OBP vs lefties and still would have hit leadoff. Love Tito...but think his lineup management is just terrible.
Justin
April 15, 2014 - 10:00 AM EDT
I don't understand why Giambi needs at bats, if Giambi's at bats would cut into Chiz' then don't give him any, I would rather see Chiz against righties or lefties than Joihnson or Giambi, I don't care if Johnson can play every position and umpire at the same time.
Jay
April 15, 2014 - 9:56 AM EDT
@Hermie13

Sure a .292 OBP is ugly but they don't have too many options. Brantley and Aviles are the only hitters with a better OBP versus lefties. (I'm not counting Morgan's .500 OBP since he has only two plate appearances).

This is all just illustrating everyone's point, this team stinks against lefties right now.
Hermie13
April 15, 2014 - 9:18 AM EDT
@Rich

"Agree with James - neither Johnson or Giambi has any value. A guy who hits .190 and can play 6-7 positions has little value, IMO, unless he's a Gold Glove shortstop who can come in for Asdrubal as a late inning defensive replacement."

This is the thing that gets me...Johnson actually COULD come in as a defensive replacement for Asdrubal. He is a better defender at SS. Maybe not GG good but a lot better. Yet we never have seen that. If you're not going to use Johnson as a defensive replacement or as a pinch runner late in tight games....seriously why keep him around?

If Johnson was coming in for Cabrera in the 8th and 9th or pinch running for Santana in the 8th then that'd be one thing...
Hermie13
April 15, 2014 - 9:15 AM EDT
@Tony

I get what you're saying about Chiz and do agree somewhat. But another part of me wonders if the Tribe is just at that point where they need Chiz to just be in the bigs. How much more can he show them in the minors?


Here's another scenario I wouldn't mind seeing though...wouldn't hate seeing Chiz sent down as I do think he should be playing 5+ days a week (should be at the big league level but that doesn't happen). If Chiz is sent down, still would like to see Johnson DFAed and Kottaras added to the roster. Not as verstile as Johnson but his ability to catch and keep Santana from having to do it anymore IMO is way more valuable. Also a much better hitter and can be used a pinch hitter. You'd still have Morgan as defensive replacement in the OF if needed and a pinch runner. Aviles still is there to fill in on the infield.

Give me Kottaras over Johnson. Has an opt out here in about two weeks...
Rich
April 15, 2014 - 9:11 AM EDT
Agree with James - neither Johnson or Giambi has any value. A guy who hits .190 and can play 6-7 positions has little value, IMO, unless he's a Gold Glove shortstop who can come in for Asdrubal as a late inning defensive replacement.

Chisenhall needs to stay at 3rd base. We have Brantley and Swisher under contract for several more years, so there are no openings there even if Chiz could play one of those positions. We have no 3rd basemen in the minors that look like future major leaguers that I'm aware of.

Chiz hit well last September and he's hitting well now. He's no longer chasing bad pitches early in the count. It looks like he's finally "getting it". So now we send him down again to create a spot for Giambi and make sure we can keep Elliot Johnson on the roster?

The only argument for sending Chiz down is to give him the chance to hit against left-handed pitching and develop that skill so that he won't spend his entire ML career as a platoon player. He can't do that in Cleveland because it would hurt the team. Not that Aviles is lighting up lefties...

I think Giambi is toast. He hit below .200 last year and didn't even make it out of spring training this year without getting hurt. And he was certainly allowed to get ready at his own pace.
Hermie13
April 15, 2014 - 9:08 AM EDT
@Jay

A .292 OBP vs lefties....is not what you want in the leadoff spot...
Willie
April 15, 2014 - 7:53 AM EDT
The Tribe has Justin Sellers just a few hrs away, why keep Johnson?

I actually like Johnson's versatility and speed off the bench, but at this point the Tribe doesn't need another clone of players they have around in abundance. Maybe they can flip Johnson for a low level prospect.

As for Lonnie Chisenhall, he's become lost in the numbers chrunch. He is too young and too good to be written off, IMO. I think he could be trade bait later, but his value is down. Ultimately I think he gets sent to AAA to play everyday.

Nyjer Morgan has earned a spot on the roster with his production early on. Sad to say this, but he looks like a better signing than Bourn right now. Easy to be a critic, but I was for that signing.

Jason Giambi is with the team for his presence at this point. That means, they need to bring him on as asst. coach. IMO, he likely will be on the Tribes bench in some fashion. At this point he looks like his playing days should be over.
pathofkindness
April 15, 2014 - 1:15 AM EDT
I predict that they don't send Chisenhall down. Myself, I would take Chisenhall over Johnson any day of the week, and over Giambi at this point as well. I think that Johnson is gone when everyone is healthy. They still have a problem against RH pitchers, but Johnson isn't going to be any help there (and either is Giambi).
Tony
April 14, 2014 - 11:46 PM EDT
Again, for me it comes down to roles. If Chisenhall is only going to play 1-2 times a week and get 200-250 at bats on the season, I'm not interested in letting a young guy like him rot like that. This is why while Chisenhall may be a "better" player than Giambi or Johnson, the others are probably better fits because of the limited roles they play. If you can guarantee me that Chisenhall plays 4-5 days a week, I'm all for him staying in Cleveland....but I don't see that as a possibility. Now, mind you, they may indeed keep Chisenhall and let Johnson go, but I'm one that will not support keeping Chisenhall around only to play on a limited basis. Will be interesting to see what happens.
matt underwood
April 14, 2014 - 11:21 PM EDT
why do we need giambi? honestly, why?
Dr. Silverman
April 14, 2014 - 10:30 PM EDT
Giambi is being selfish by not realizing he's not good anymore and is hurting the team by insisting on taking up a roster spot
Walter
April 14, 2014 - 9:36 PM EDT
What would this forum would be saying tonight if this was Sizemore instead of Morgan. Would Bourn be out of a job?

Current stats 343 avg 2hr 4 rbi's ops 966
James
April 14, 2014 - 9:08 PM EDT
Chisenhall can only play 3B and is a lefty? Giambi can't even play third! AND Chisenhall is a better hitter. Giambi has no value to this team as a player. And Johnson? Yeah he can play a lot of positions, but poorly. And he can't hit, and he can't bunt, and I haven't seen any speed out of him. The problem isn't that there isn't room for Morgan and Chisenhall, the problem is that Francona is stubbornly sticking with Giambi and Johnson, neither of which is a useful player. DFA Johnson, and make Giambi a coach.

And if they wanted Chsnehall to play 1B and OF, why didn't they experiment with him there in spring training like Santana. Why wait until now and then be like "huh, guess we'll send him down." Its a waste of resources for a team that can't waste them. So frustrating.
Jay
April 14, 2014 - 8:40 PM EDT
It's sad that those numbers are one of their best hitters versus lefties but that's the reality.
Jay
April 14, 2014 - 8:39 PM EDT
They are batting Cabrera lead-off against lefties because he's one of their best bats versus lefties right now. Cabrera's splits this year:

Vs. L – .292/.292/.625
Vs. R – .0.83/.241/.083

The problem isn't that he is batting first against lefties, it's that he is even sniffing the field against righties.
Hermie13
April 14, 2014 - 8:36 PM EDT
@Mike

It's one thing to play all the bench guys in a double header...it's another to take the worst guy on the field and hit him leadoff.


@TheMaven

Still don't see the need for Morales. Chiz has been more than fine as the DH. Morales wouldn't be hitting better than him. Rather keep our 1st round pick and not overpay an overrated player in Morales.

Hell, still would rather have Drew than Morales (though not saying we should sign Drew).
Seth
April 14, 2014 - 8:26 PM EDT
If they are playing Nyjer Morgan at DH instead of Chisenhall, there is something wrong. I do think they should keep Morgan, because they likely can't DFA him without losing him, and that would leave them exposed if Bourn gets hurt again, but the guy shouldn't be getting at bats at DH. This is where I think they're really screwing themselves this year if they go with Giambi. There just isn't room for him. And he's striking out half the time against AA pitching, so far. If Giambi's replacing Johnson, that's no loss. Giambi replacing Morgan or Chisenhall, major downgrade
martyinnewyork
April 14, 2014 - 7:09 PM EDT
I think it may be a problem if our clean-up hitter has 1 RBI thus far. I know that RBI's are a flawed stat, but still...
Mike
April 14, 2014 - 6:43 PM EDT
Hermie it was game two of a double header in April. They need to use the entire bench so they aren't killing guys.
Tony
April 14, 2014 - 5:45 PM EDT
I don't think it is hate with regard to Chisenhall, it is just rationally looking at how he fits on the team right now. Look, if Bourn returns and Morgan slides to a bench role, it is a pretty safe bet that Morgan and Giambi are going to tear into most of Chisenhall's at bats as the DH against right-handed pitching. If the Indians keep him around then great, but I just don't see it based on history and with the makeup of the roster. I also don't think it makes much sense to bury him on the bench and play 1-2 times a week if that when he can play everyday at Columbus and be on hand when needed to fill a more regular role (and at the same time potentially work on adding that versatility).
Seth
April 14, 2014 - 5:29 PM EDT
Hermie, there is a lot of Chisenhate on this website that I don't get. I've always thought he's been a pretty average defender with upside there, as most of his defensive issues are of the mental variety: rushing throws, etc. And even though he's been disappointing to date, he's still been a better hitter than Aviles and Johnson, and is better than the 43-year-old version of Giambi

Chisenhall career vs. R: 101 wRC+ vs. L: 66
Giambi 2013 vs R: 88 2012 vs R: 62
Aviles career vs R: 88
Johnson vs R: 65 (63 vs. L)

As you said, as bad as Chisenhall is against lefties, Johnson's been no better, and Giambi's likely just as bad
Hermie13
April 14, 2014 - 4:19 PM EDT
One more time to drive home the point...

Chisenhall's career line vs LHP:
.194/.225/.387/.612....he's so "bad" Francona won't play him vs LHP

Elliot Johnson's career line vs LHP:
.195/.276/.307/.583....apparently he is worth keeping around...and not only that, he starts vs LHP...in the LEADOFF SPOT!!

Chisenhall has a career OPS nearly 30 pts higher vs lefties than Johnson...let that sink in....hopefully no one ate before reading that....
Hermie13
April 14, 2014 - 4:12 PM EDT
I don't have an issue with all the lefties given our struggles against RHP last year. Plus the bench if you get rid of Johnson is actually 2 RH bats and 2 LH bats when a RHP is on the mound....Raburn, Aviles, and two of Giambi, Chiz, Morgan (one starting at DH). Seems very balanced to me.

Against a LHSP you would have 3 lefties on the bench (maybe 4 if Aviles is starting) but who cares? You then have some good bench bats for when a RH reliever comes in to face one of the RH bats you inserted.

Plus...Elliot Johnson may be a switch hitter, but in his career he's actually hit better as a lefty....though has been terrible no matter what. OPS vs RHP (so him batting LH) is .590 (actually his OPS as a LH is .595). His OPS vs LHP (so him batting RH) is .583. Career batting average as a RH hitter is a mere .195.

Honestly I'd rather see Morgan, Giambi, or even Chisenhall batting vs lefties.

Only thing Johnson brings is defense...yet we never see him as a defensive replacement late or a pinch runner...which we also hasn't seen much of. Should never start no matter what type of pitcher is on the mound.
Walter
April 14, 2014 - 3:49 PM EDT
I think the Indians made the mistake letting Francouer go. He could have been the other right bat instead of having Johnson.

Sometimes I wonder if Chisenhall could probably play first base better than Swisher who has already made few mental errors at 1B.
LeaguePark
April 14, 2014 - 3:47 PM EDT
I object to keeping Bourn and Giambi on the roster. Morgan is just as good for a fraction (1/16?) of the price. Giambi needs to retire and can be added to the coaching staff.

Elliot Johnson is also expendable. Jose Ramirez can help this team and should be called up. CC Lee is a quality P and should stay.
Themaven
April 14, 2014 - 3:40 PM EDT
Tomorrow the Tribe starts a run of 16 straight games without a day off.I expect to see a lot of pitchers coming and going for a game here or there if the starters keep giving the team 3 or 4 innings per outing.

Elliot Johnson needs to be gone now,I'd rather see Matt Carson or Aguilera getting ABs against lefties than Johnson......Kendrys Morales would look pretty good right now wouldn't he?

Chisenhall at short?He can't play third how is he going to play short...he's got first basemen written all over him
Tony
April 14, 2014 - 3:37 PM EDT
That's the thing is I can't see three lefties in Morgan, Chisenhall and Giambi all on the bench. It's why one of Morgan or Chisenhall are likely gone - and why to me Chisenhall is the poorest fit right now. Once Bourn is back Morgan might take a lot or all of Chisenhall's at bats against right-handed pitching. Just way too many lefties on this roster for my liking.
Hermie13
April 14, 2014 - 3:36 PM EDT
@OhioBaseball

I think Chiz would do just fine in the OF. Not a burner but much better athlete/runner than some give him credit for.


I don't see any issue with using Lindor at SS next year unless he just absolutely bombs the rest of the season. His defense along would make him more valueable than Cabrera. Simmons couldn't get his OBP over .300 last year and was still one of the best SSs in baseball. And when Lindor may reach free agency is a bit of a moot point at this point. Tribe has never let a guy like Lindor reach free agency their first chance. Guys like Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome were extended when young. Guys like Victor, Grady, Peralta, etc were. And we've seen Santana, Kipnis, Gomes, etc here recently. If Lindor comes up at 21 and performs....he'll get an extension behind his free agent years. Would bet my life on it.
Hermie13
April 14, 2014 - 3:26 PM EDT
Really don't see any benefit to Johnson...

4th string 3B at the moment...(Santana, Chiz, Aviles)
3rd string SS at the moment...(Cabrera, Aviles)
4th string 2B at the moment...(Kipnis, Aviles, Raburn)
3rd string RFer at the moment, though likely 4th once Bourn is back...(Murphy, Raburn...and eventually morgan probably)
4th string LFer at the moment (probably 5th once Bourn is back)...(Brantley, Raburn, Aviles, and probably Morgan)


As far as speed....was a great basestealing in 2013 but two years prior not as much and was terrible this spring. And is he really any quicker/better on the bases than Morgan?

Johnson is a waste of a roster space. Don't need 10 guys that can play multiple positions. Give me guys that can actually contribute, not just fill a spot.

If you cut him now...I can't imagine he's picked up. You probably stash him at AAA (maybe he leaves but o well). If you cut Morgan several teams would probably be jumping to grab him with the injuries out there (Angels are supposedly looking at Sam Fuld).


I suppose you could option Chiz to AAA and keep both Johnson and Morgan....Giambi will likely cut into some of Chiz's playing time at DH. Would rather see Chiz playing everyday than twice a week.
Seth
April 14, 2014 - 2:54 PM EDT
The way Gomes has played defensively, it almost makes me wish for Carlos Santana behind the plate. His defense has cost them a couple games, which is puzzling. Maybe he IS Shoppach, 1/2 of a good year and the nothing.

I think it's a very bad idea to add Giambi to the team at all. He is done, and the best scenario would be that he retires and is added to the coaching staff in some capacity, as I know otherwise they won't just release him. They could use his lefty bat off the bench last year, but with the additions of Morgan and Murphy, that is no longer the case. Chisenhall is a better hitter than Giambi. Probably a much better hitter at this point. Probably lose 2 more games if Giambi's on the roster instead of Chisenhall.
OhioBaseball
April 14, 2014 - 2:43 PM EDT
Tony, agree SS is a long shot and if you've got Santana at 3B, you probably don't want Chisenhall at SS but his bat at SS could make offset some of that weakness.

Agree that the Indians should at least try him at corner outfield or 1B. I don't think he's a particularly good runner, however, so that range in the OF probably won't be good. To my knowledge, he's never played OF either so

The Indians need to give Carlos Carrasco some more starts. We need to see if he can be a MLB SP and he showed some promise there in 2010-2011 before getting hurt. Bauer may not be ready for prime time just yet, so let's be sure on Carrasco before he's cast off to the bullpen. Sorry for all of the posts. I'm done now!
OhioBaseball
April 14, 2014 - 2:37 PM EDT
Maybe the Indians just see Chisenhall as insurance in case Santana doesn't work at 3b, but still it just seems like Chisenhall is very underutilized. They've got to get some value out of him. Sending him to Triple-A to play 3B doesn't prove anything; we all have seen him rake there before.

I just think he's too good of a player to do nothing with.
Tony
April 14, 2014 - 2:36 PM EDT
I agree that the Indians should do something with Chisenhall, but don't believe shortstop is a good fit. There was a reason he was moved off the position in the first place (limited lateral range, among other things)...but I think exploring the possibility of playing another position makes sense, which is why I suggested first base and corner outfield. If he could play either of those spots then he suddenly becomes more usable off the bench rather than a third base only guy - something that few if any team keeps on their bench.
OhioBaseball
April 14, 2014 - 2:32 PM EDT
I don't get why the Indians are so sour on Lonnie Chisenhall. Let's not forget this organization selected Chisenhall in the first round in 2008. That was years ago (things can change), but all of their actions say they have grown to dislike him. The guy has a good bat and I don’t think has really been given that significant of an opportunity in MLB as a full-time regular. He’s 25 years old and should be entering the prime of his career, so why cast him to the side?

I know this is a low probability of success event, but the Indians moved Carlos Santana to 3B – why not at least give Lonnie Chisenhall some reps at SS during spring? Yes, it’s a stretch but he played SS in JC and at the low levels of the minor leagues so it’s not foreign to him. With Asdrubal Cabrera in the last year of his deal, there’s no clear SS option for 2015. Save the Francisco Lindor talk – I’m as big of a fan of him as anyone, but he’s only 20 years old and only has 130 AB’s of Double-A experience. I’m sure defensively he’s ready, but he won’t hit a lick and using him at age 21 (burning a service year) only means that he’d be eligible for free agency at 27 years old, which is right in the middle of his prime and that’s not attractive for Cleveland. I’m anxious to see him in Cleveland, but not if he’s going to hit .220.

Chisenhall at SS likely won’t work, but what do you have to lose? They Indians are basically pissing him away anyhow; why not send him to Triple-A to play some games at SS (Jose Ramirez at 2b and 3b, and some SS when Chisenhall is off)? Chisenhall just seems like such an underutilized resource and his trade value probably isn’t high. The guy can swing the bat well; why not try to do *something* with him?!?
Tony
April 14, 2014 - 2:16 PM EDT
Anything can happen Walter, but I highly doubt the Indians make a change to the rotation this soon. Just as it is way too early to give up on Carrasco after two starts it is also way too early to have confidence in Bauer after two starts. Now, 2-3 weeks from now? i could see a Carrasco move to the pen occurring if he continues to struggle....
Walter
April 14, 2014 - 2:12 PM EDT
Is there a chance this scenario could happen.

Wood/Lee/Chisenhall to Columbus

Giambi/ Bourn activated

Carrasco to the bullpen and Bauer replaces Carrasco in the rotation.

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