Monday, March 31, 2008

The Opener: A Spaghetti Western

The Good: Everyone in the starting lineup made a contribution (hit, run, or RBI). Some contribute more than others. Franklin Gutierrez was 3-3, 3R, 3RBI, 1BB, and 1HR. 10 runs. That is good.

The Bad: Every pitcher contributed to the Sox scoring. 8 ERs ick.

The Ugly: Victor Martinez pulls up with a bad hamstring. I like Kelly Shoppach, but there is no replacing Victor Martinez.

Oh Nooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!

Victor Martinez pulled his hamstring. I was thinking that he could be a MVP candidate this year. Not good news. He walked off the field under his own power. This will probably take 5-10 days. The big worry is that it is an injury that lingers.

UPDATE: The strain is apparently minor and Martinez is day-to-day. Expect Shoppach today.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Roster Set

Don't worry Ben Francisco will be with ttfc . . . at some point in the season. For know here is the 25 man roster:

63 Rafael Betancourt R/R 6-2 200 04/29/75

47 Joe Borowski R/R 6-2 215 05/04/71

58 Craig Breslow L/L 6-0 185 08/08/80

36 Paul Byrd R/R 6-1 190 12/03/70

55 Fausto Carmona R/R 6-4 230 12/07/83

44 Jorge Julio R/R 6-1 225 03/03/79

30 Masahide Kobayashi R/R 6-0 195 05/24/74

31 Cliff Lee L/L 6-3 190 08/30/78

50 Jensen Lewis R/R 6-3 210 05/16/84

53 Rafael Perez L/L 6-3 195 05/15/82

52 C.C. Sabathia L/L 6-7 290 07/21/80

37 Jake Westbrook R/R 6-3 215 09/29/77

41 Victor Martinez S/R 6-2 210 12/23/78

10 Kelly Shoppach R/R 6-0 220 04/29/80

1 Casey Blake R/R 6-2 210 08/23/73

13 Asdrubal Cabrera S/R 6-0 170 11/13/85

7 Jamey Carroll R/R 5-9 170 02/18/74

25 Ryan Garko R/R 6-2 225 01/02/81

15 Andy Marte R/R 6-1 205 10/21/83

2 Jhonny Peralta R/R 6-1 210 05/28/82

20 David Dellucci L/L 5-11 205 10/31/73

38 Franklin Gutierrez R/R 6-2 190 02/21/83

8 Jason Michaels R/R 6-0 205 05/04/76

24 Grady Sizemore L/L 6-2 200 08/02/82

48 Travis Hafner L/R 6-3 240 06/03/77

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

ttfc tidbits

-Looks like Brian Barton will be batting in the two hole for the Cardinals on opening day. For those of you hoping to get Barton back, this isn't good news. Still, it is a long season, and the Cards have to keep Barton on the 25 man roster for the whole thing.

-Not a Goodyear for Cincinnati? Looks like Cincinnati's plans to share a spring training complex with ttfc are meeting with some resistance.

-Scott Elarton has been sent to Buffalo. That means that it is either Jorge Julio or Tom Mastny for the final spot.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Save it for the regular season

Jake Westbrook threw 6 perfect innings today against Atlanta. What is also impressive is that he struck out 8. ttfc will be looking to here him interviewed about the outing.

Craig Breslow to replace Aaron Fultz

Breslow is in. Fultz is out. Breslow features a fastball that will top out in the low 90s. He has a good curve and an average change-up.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Selling high on Michaels

If ttfc keeps Jason Michaels for the entirety of the season, he should be a productive part of the platoon in left field. There is no need to trade him. However, Ben Francisco has had a tremendous spring. Francisco has earned a shot at the major league club.

What to do? Well, the Cubs and Mets are looking for help in the outfield. What would you look for in return for Michaels? I suggest a PTBNL. Make a deal for that involves a couple lists of A ballplayers (middle infielders and pitchers). If Michaels is a regular (determined by ABs) at the All-Star break, ttfc gets nice A ball prospect, someone like the Mets' Juan Lagares. If Michaels is a fourth or fifth outfielder (again determined by ABs), ttfc gets a flawed but interesting A ball prospect. (I don't know the Mets or Cubs farm systems well enough for an example here.)

I think this a reasonable return for Michaels. Given that Francisco looks like he can replace Michaels, this makes long term sense.

Maybe Shapiro is thinking along the same lines. PD's Paul Hoynes reports that Shapiro and Minaya met before Wednesdays game.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Team Depth Part 2: First Base

A word on "team depth:" I don't mean organizational depth. "Team depth" refers to players that can contribute in 08. For example, Beau Mills had a nice spring. I think he might be the real deal, but he doesn't factor into team depth because he won't be major league ready this year.

Again remember that injuries can happen in a moment but failure takes time.

First Base: One place where we lack our depth is "the slugger," and first base is a traditional place to put a slugger. We have Garko here. I like Garko and think that he hasn't had his career year yet. He is Mr. League Average. I don't think that he will ever hit 40+ homers. He is a good player but can't replace Hafner.

I think it is 50/50 whether he is a injury or failure risk. If Garko goes down, the options are limitless. First, V-Mart is going to get some ABs at first, healthy Garko or no. Blake can play first. In fact, if Garko goes down, my bet is Blake moves over and takes first. Marte is practicing at the position. Carroll can play first. There are lots of options here.

And we will save Hafner......for the interleague games. My basic position here is that the major league team could absorb these ABs. I don't think we have a clear "first baseman in waiting," but I think that we get equal ABs with various combinations present major leaguers.

On the farm: Ryan Mulhern. Scouts aren't high on him, but he hits homers at ever level that he has played. Think Jeff Manto. Can't replace Garko. but won't make you think that Garko was the linchpin. Again, think Jeff Manto.

Next: Michael "Always Injured" Aubrey. What do we get here? Did you see the nickname? Once upon a time, people thought he had talent. He is in the last of his option years. Don't be surprised to see him at some point. Be surprised by any results. Really, he has been injured that often.

UPDATE: Aubrey had a very good spring. But he needs to both rake at AAA and stay healthly, ttfc remains skeptical.

Next: Jordan Brown. Brown is not major league ready. He enters the season post-knife. But if he develops, he could be a possible second half replacement. I think that he hopes for Garko's career. Good but not great.

Someone else is paying attention

ABJ's Sheldon Ocker makes the observation that ttfc made a few days ago: ttfc is deep. This seems like a good time to continue with my series on ttfc's depth.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cards likely to keep Barton

The SLPD is reporting that the St. Louis Cardinals are likely to put Brian Barton on their opening day roster. This would make Barton the fifth outfield. The question will be if he can stay on the roster for the length of the whole season. In other words, can Barton stay moderately productive given limited playing time and not get caught in a numbers crunch? Thanks to MLB Trade Rumors for calling ttfc's attention to this.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

So much for neck and neck

The other day ttfc claimed the battle for the final bullpen spot was close race. Today the ABJ is reporting that the battle is all but over. They are predicting that Tom Mastny will have the final roster spot. The ABJ claims that from the beginning there wasn't much of a fight for this position.

Friday, March 14, 2008

On Curses

I was commenting recently on a blog, and someone suggested that Cleveland was cursed with regard to "our future closers."

Here is a ttfc promise to you: There is only one curse that is officially recognized by ttfc, and it is the curse of Rocky Colavitto.

The curse of Fernando Cabrera? Please.

Look. Every franchise has trouble developing closers. And every franchise looks at its prospects and dubs one, "closer of the future." The fact that most of them fail isn't a curse. It is baseball.

Team Depth Part 1: Catchers

Let's face it Detroit got better this off season. Miguel Cabrera is a monster. Adding him to any team makes them better. Plus, Detroit gains by having Renteria at short and Guillen at first instead of Guillen at short and the Traveling Willburys at first.

But here is why we should have hope: the baseball season is crazy and we have incredible depth.

Let's go through it.

One thing to remember: injuries can happen in an instant, but failure takes time. If a player is an injury risk, then you need a player that is major league ready today. If a player is a failure risk, then you need a player that could be ready by the all-star break.


V-Mart is a stud. He has apparently come to camp slim. Good to hear. Victor Martinez is no failure risk. If healthy, he will hit. He isn't especially injury prone, but catching makes all catchers injury prone. Here we are as good as anyone can be.

If V-Mart goes down, we have Kelly Shoppach. Shoppach could probably get a starting gig somewhere. We should feel good about this. He is still a failure risk. He has never held down a starting position. However, he has shown some signs of being able to handle starting duties. So, we have the injury replacement, and V-Mart is not a failure risk. Could Martinez get injured and Shoppach fail? Yes. And this is a worst case scenario for ttfc. Nevertheless, ttfc thinks we are about as good as can be. (Can anyone think of a better backup catcher? Doumit in PIT? Salty in TEX or is he the starter? Hmm...)

If V-Mart and Shoppach go down or V-Mart goes down and Shoppach fails, then what do we have? Yamid Haad and Wyatt Toregas.

Haad is the number three catcher. He has some major league experience with the Giants in 05. If Martinez or Shoppach goes down with an injury, Haad will probably get a chance to be the backup. But let's be clear; Haad's ceiling is backup catcher. If he sees more than 50 major league ABs, ttfc is in real trouble.

Toregas should start the season at AAA. He needs at least half the season at AAA. He has a lifetime .722 OPS, and a good defensive reputation. At this moment, Toregas would be a very high risk of failure. Given some time, he may improve upon that, but not someone you need getting ABs at the major league level this year.

The most likely scenario in the case of an injury is to trade for some veteran backup. Trade possibilities? I don't know. Really, there aren't enough quality starting catcher to go around. Instead of trading for a replacement, maybe Joel Skinner could suit up again. He can probably still hit as well as your typical backup catcher. No one available will be able to hit. That is all you need to know.

The boys could be coming home.

There is some speculation that Brian Barton and Matt Whitney may be returning to Cleveland. It is the official position of ttfc that our team's greatest asset is our depth.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Goodyear, Arizona = the spring destination for all of Ohio

As most of you know, ttfc is moving its spring training camp to Goodyear, Arizona. News out today has the Reds joining them. ttfc approves.

Well Wishes

Best wishes to Rick Sutcliffe. He is suffering from curable colon cancer. Thanks to Baseball Musings for calling my attention to this.

ttfc tidbits

-Looks like Andy Marte will make the team. He is having a mixed spring and is getting mixed reviews. But after the Phillips/Guthrie debacle, ttfc is going to play it safe. The plot thickens when Shin-Soo Choo get healthy.
-Marte's position was the only battle for position players. Ben Franscico and Josh Barfield are a couple of players that can't make the open day roster but are getting notice.
-ttfc's radio broadcaster Tom Hamilton is reporting that Cliff Lee's last outing should keep him in the lead for the fifth spot in the rotation. Lee is battling Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers for the spot.
-The tightest of the battles is the fight for the final bullpen spot. Front-runners, Tom Mastny and Jorge Julio, seem to be neck and neck but only slightly ahead of a large pack.
-Looks like Mark Shapiro is an Obama supporter.
-With the rash of young players complaining about their one year, team imposed contracts, ttfc seem wise beyond their years. But special attention should be payed to Cleveland's handling of Juan Lara. With everyone bemoaning the problems with MLB, it is good to see a team put morality above money.

The Cleveland (ttfc) offensive philosophy

The stated philosophy is to look at the lineup in terms of trios and get production from all three trios.

In other words, the 1, 2, and 3 spots must be able to produce runs. And you want to think about how that trio will go about producing those runs (e.g., OB + speed + extra base hits+ power in the 3 spot). Of course, the first inning might end with a three up three down. So, the 4, 5, and 6 spots must be able to produce runs. And again, you want to think about how that trio will produce runs (e.g., OB + power). Same idea for the bottom three.

That is the stated philosophy. Let me make another observation about the Cleveland offensive philosophy from a different perspective. Instead of looking at the lineup, look at the positions. And instead of looking at trios, look at pairs.

Implicit in the Cleveland philosophy is a pairing system with regard to production. According to traditional baseball wisdom, third base should be a run producing position. That position should produce somewhere in the ballpark of 30 HR, 100 RBI, and .900 OPS. I am claiming that the Cleveland philosophy is not to look at individual positions. Look at position pairs. Maybe you can't get 30 HR, 100 RBI, and .900 OPS out of third base, but maybe you can get a combined 40 HR, 160 RBI, and .800 OPS out of the third base shortstop pair. This combined production is equivalent to (if not better than) the production generated using traditional wisdom.

Pair Garko's league average production at first base with Martinez above average production at catcher. The below average production in left field with Sizemore's above average production in center field. Of course, these particular pairings are arbitrary, but the idea is that the offense must be viewed in terms of pairings.

Of course, this is model. It requires the players to perform up to expectations.

This way of thinking of things helps us see why players like Hafner are so important. Hafner's year long slump caused problems for the offense, because his above average production is supposed to make up for the below average production in right field. (This pairing model might also explain the reluctance to move Peralta to third, given the above average production at short is needed to make up for below average production elsewhere.)

Cleveland goes into the 08 season expecting less than what is traditional ideal production at all four corners. That means, they need above average production at four other positions. This burden falls on Martinez, Sizemore, Hafner, and Peralta.