Continuing on D-Town Baseballs look at AL Central teams off season moves today we will look at what has been happening in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cleveland could very well be the team to put up the biggest fight against the Tigers in ’07. They have also been the busiest AL Central team this off season. The Tribe started off last season with very high hopes with many choosing them to win the AL Central. In addition more than one Cleveland player was picked pre-season to take the AL MVP (Grady Sizemore/Travis Hafner), but we know now that all these were very wrong. The Indians ended the season with a disappointing 78-84 (.481) record finishing fourth in the division.
It wasn’t all bad for Cleveland as their powerful offense, led throughout the year by Travis Hafner and his 6 grand slams, ended the year second in overall run production behind the Yankees. Their starting pitching was not a major weakness either ending the year with a 4.21 ERA amongst starters all of whom the Indians have locked up next year as well. The same cannot be said for thier bullpen which lost many games for Cleveland last year. This is where much of their off season activity has been focused. Below is a list of notable off season roster moves:
- Indians sign Keith Foulke to a one-year $5M contract to be their closer. Foulke has historically been plagued by injuries but hopes are rising.
- Joe Borowski signed to one-year $4M contract. Likely to be used for late-inning relief, Joe is 35 and a good pitcher but as with Foulke he is injury prone. Borowski was thought to be the closer when he signed and could give Foulke a run for his money for the spot.
- Outfielder David Dellucci signed for 3-year $11.5M contract. Dellucci, formerly a Phillie, is a lefty hitter hitting a respectable .292/.369/.530.
- Infielder Kevin Kouzmanoff and reliever traded to the Padres for second baseman Josh Barfield. Cleveland certainly looks like they got the better end of this bargain.
- Cleveland signed Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Fultz to one-year deals. Hernandez is a veteran right hander and Fultz is a lefty. Both are headed for the bullpen where Hernandez will likely pick up a spot as on of their top relievers with Fultz being a lefty specialist.
- Trot Nixon signed to a 1-year $3M dollar deal. This signing did surprise me as Cleveland was already heavy in the outfield. Nixon will likely take the place of Choo who batted .280/.360/.452 in his first season. Choo gives them a good replacement option should any of their outfielders get injured.
These moves look pretty good on paper, enough so to get on Lynn Hennings list of top 5 Tigers concerns. Cleveland certainly spent some money this off season and most of it on one-year deals. This shows their belief that they are a contender as well as faith in the youngsters in their farm system and current roster.
Now lets take a bit deeper look into each aspect of the 2007 Indians and what this could mean for Detroit.
Cleveland’s starting rotation will likely remain intact and this is not a bad thing for them. Below is splits of Cleveland’s rotation overall and against Detroit.
|Starting Pitcher||Overall Record||Record vs Tigers||Overall ERA||ERA vs Tigers|
Fausto’s numbers are a little off as he started the year as a starter and was moved into the bullpen later so 6 of the losses came as a reliever.
All of the Indians regular starting pitchers ended last year with winning records but only one had a winning record against the Tigers. This really doesn’t mean much as their overall ERA’s were still respectable (outside of Westbrook) and in four cases better against the Tigers than the rest of MLB. In fact, the Indians posted the best team ERA against Detroit for all AL Central teams with a 3.61 team ERA.
This is a pretty stable crop of pitchers, most of which were brought up in the Cleveland organization, that will start next year. This doesn’t mean that Cleveland is just sitting back as they aggresivly perused Mark Mulder though it isn’t known who’s spot he would have taken. They ended up loosing out on Mulder due to money but you can expect the Indians starting rotation to pose a real challenge next year for the Tigers.
Cleveland has spent the off season adding experience to their tattered bullpen. The ‘pen was the largest area of trouble for the Indians last year which was largly comprised of young rookies. This mixture can certainly cause problems for other teams as the Tigers proved last year with Rogers and numerous rookies in Verlander, Zumaya, etc. It also brings about many question that Tigers fans posed last off season around injuries. As Indians beat reporter, Anthony Castrovince, put it:
Well clearly… the Indians are trying to lead the league in Advil.
The Indians bullpen currently is comprised of:
- K. Foulke (CL)
- J. Borowski (CL)
- R. Hernandez
- R. Betancourt
- A. Fultz
- F. Cabrera
- J. Davis
- M. Miller
- E. Mujica
- R. Perez
- J. Lara
Jury is still out on how this lineup will perform but it is safe to say it will be improved upon last year and that is all they need.
Not too much can be added about Cleveland’s offensive machine. They are just that and most of them will be back. They finished 2nd in overall runs scored in 2006 with 870; ending the year with a team .280 batting average (4th overall), .349 OBP (4rd Overall). Six players ended the year with an OBP above .350, the Tigers had two.
The Indians numbers were mixed against the Tigers. They ended with a lower batting average of .254 but worked Detroit for 63 walks ending up with a .353 OBP.
The Indians have an impressive battery and we can expect the same next year. Some have questioned the Indians health but they are overall healthy and Travis Hafner’s fractured hand that left him out all of September is not indicative of any lasting condition. This will all make for a good match up of Cleveland hitting vs Detroit pitching.
Cleveland has made some very good strategic moves this off season picking up veteran pitchers to fill their biggest holes in their bullpen. Late inning relief was their downfall last year, one they shored up nearing the end of the season by a few late season call ups but not in enough time. The biggest question left is whether these moves will pan out as many of the players acquired are injury prone, barring that Cleveland will make a serious run to be AL Central champions.
The Tigers play Cleveland 18 times in 2007.
|May 25||7:05pm||Comerica Park||Jun 3||1:05pm||Jacobs Field||Aug 21||7:05pm||Comerica Park|
|May 26||7:05pm||Comerica Park||Jul 3||7:05pm||Comerica Park||Aug 22||7:05pm||Comerica Park|
|May 27||1:05pm||Comerica Park||Jul 4||7:05pm||Comerica Park||Aug 23||1:05pm||Comerica Park|
|May 31||7:05pm||Jacobs Field||Jul 5||1:05pm||Comerica Park||Sept 17||7:05pm||Jacobs Field|
|Jun 1||7:05pm||Jacobs Field||Aug 14||7:05pm||Jacobs Field||Sept 18||7:05pm||Jacobs Field|
|Jun 2||7:05pm||Jacobs Field||Aug 15||7:05pm||Jacobs Field||Sept 19||12:05pm||Jacobs Field|
Tigers win season series 10-8