To make matters worse,
With the Indians now chasing three contenders for the Division Crown, the rumor mill has only sped up. At what point can you stick a fork in
By trading Sabathia, the front office would be conceding the season and preparing for 2009. There have already been some excellent discussions of Sabathia’s value in a possible trade at LGT and The Diatribe, so I won’t be revisiting that topic. Instead, I’d like to get a better idea of what this lineup is capable of without
Can this team realistically contend with the players they have now or is this as good as it gets offensively?
|Player||Procedure||Rehab Time||Possible Return Dates|
|V. Martinez||Removal of bone chips in right (throwing) elbow||6 - 8 weeks||July 26 - August 9|
|T. Hafner||Muscle strengthening program for rotator cuff and right shoulder||4 - 6 weeks (rough estimate)||July 17 - July 31 (rough estimate)|
|J. Barfield||Surgery on left, middle finger ligament||6 - 8 weeks||July 29 - August 12|
Victor Martinez is by far the biggest loss to the lineup and will probably be the last to return. The wait should be worth it though as
When I really wanted to put something on a swing, I wasn't able. Every time I tried to get extension, I felt a sharp pain in my elbow. Man, it was tough. It's tough to play like that.
The amazing part is that despite being hampered by severe pain and limited mobility in his throwing elbow,
The tricky part is making up the difference while the teams most consistent hitter recovers from surgery. According to the Cleveland Clinic’s database:
Recovery varies from one week to several months, depending on the extent of the surgery. Most patients can return to heavy work and sports within three to six weeks of surgery if the procedure is minor. However, three to six months is often required for complete recovery.A best case scenario has Victor starting as DH or at first base if Hafner isn’t back yet. It’s unlikely that Wedge would use Victor behind the plate until his elbow is close to 100%. Otherwise, base runners will be constantly testing his throwing arm.
I’d like to provide a similar take on Hafner, but it’s difficult to say at what point he was truly healthy this season, if at all. How far back has his shoulder bothered him to the point of being a handicap on his swing? The outlook did not sound optimistic and Hafner is currently behind in his strength training program. The latest report says Hafner “has improved the strength in his injured right shoulder 15 percent since his last assessment two weeks ago, but it still remains just 45-50 percent as strong as his left shoulder."
Heading into 2008,
With a four year contract extension about to kick in and a healthy shoulder, Hafner will be out of excuses upon his return. It’s about time Pronk showed his face again and he may have to if the offense in its current state will ever truly get back on track.
Barfield’s turn of bad luck took him out of the lineup before he could even make an impression, so there’s not much to say on him. Barfield posted a .297 OBP and .382 SLG over 259 AB in AAA Buffalo this year, so it’s a safe bet he wouldn’t have outperformed Jamey Carroll.
Sources and Assumptions
I made a few key assumptions in compiling and analyzing the stats below. First, I created a baseline using the 2008 CHONE projections for each player (courtesy of Sean Smith’s blog). I debated whether the more useful data here would be career stats or projected stats for 2008. I decided that career numbers for veteran players (Hafner, Dellucci) would be skewed by far removed seasons (like a career year or rookie season) as much as a projection system might make some poor assumptions for a rookie (like Francisco).
In this case, I’ll be comparing the 2008 projections with the 2008 actual stats. Then, I’ll try a few combinations of under-performing or missing players to see how it effects the overall offensive production. It’s worth noting that I was limited to traditional stats for the comparison due to the inclusion of the projections. I only included players who have seen a substantial amount of action and are still available, so that eliminates Jason Michaels (58 AB) and Barfield (injured, 6 AB). Also, I chose CHONE because I’m notoriously cheap and don’t have access to this year’s PECOTA projections, in case you were wondering.
It was difficult to compile a true team OPS, since I don’t have a big database of the entire team (complete with hits, walks, and all the stuff that goes into calculating OBP and SLG) that I can add or subtract players from (like pitchers). Since the main thing I wanted was the concrete difference between an actual and optimized lineup, I took the averages of each players OPS and measured the differences between each lineup. This provides a rougher analysis, but gets the job done.
All stats were taken from FanGraphs and are current as of June 28.
2008 CHONE Projections
Actual 2008 Season Stats as of June 28
It's no surprise that Sizemore is leading the way on offense, but to see Choo and Francisco sporting the second and third best OPS on the team (by a sizable margin) was unexpected. Choo has responded well to the Majors since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Choo had a .846 OPS in 146 AB in 2006, so his current production is certainly within his means. Choo is a much needed addition to right field, as Gutierrez has been a disappointment so far (.430 OPS in June).
Another unexpected savior of the offense has been Ben Francisco. CHONE projected him with a modest rookie season with 13 HR, a .318 OBP, and a .413 SLG, but Ben is having a breakout season. While he's not blowing the doors off, Ben has made a smooth transition from his MVP season in Buffalo with 5 HR and a .291, .347, .458 line.
The production from Choo, Francisco, and Carroll (.856 OPS) this month is largely negated by ongoing slumps from guys like Peralta (.637 OPS) and Garko (.660 OPS), who were supposed to be primary contributors this season.
Difference Between Actual and CHONE Averages
The main question is, what can we realistically expect from this group of players for the long haul? There's a very real possibility that Hafner and/or Martinez will not return in time to make an impact on the season. Even if they do, they may not be fully effective at the plate for some time.
This table just highlights the number of players who are currently underachieving, according to their anticipated production for 2008.
Below are a few scenarios based on the actual and projected stats:
Optimized Lineup Using Available Players
This table lists the current stats of players who are significantly outperforming their CHONE projections, as indicated by an asterisk. If you combine these overachievers with the expected (CHONE) numbers for the rest of the current roster (minus Martinez and Hafner) you end up with a pretty potent offense. This "optimized" lineup has a difference of .083 OPS points compared to the actual lineup listed at the top. Again, this is a fairly unrealistic lineup as long-slumping players would have to break out in the second half in addition to some hot hitting from Francisco and company.
Actual Stats Plus Hafner and Martinez CHONE Projections
The second scenario takes the actual stats, but inserts the 2008 CHONE projections for Martinez and Hafner. There are two obvious issues here. First, I seriously doubt Hafner posts a .917 OPS in the second half. Martinez's numbers are more realistic and I'm confident he will hit the ground running when healthy. The second issue is just how bad the rest of the lineup is in comparison. Even with some overly optimistic numbers from the two DL players, the average OPS only increases by .035 points.
Keeping in mind that this .731 OPS is very rough due to the limitations discussed earlier, let's compare it to the other AL teams:
|Team||R / G||OPS||BA / RISP|
While a .731 OPS would be a significant upgrade over the current .708 OPS for Cleveland, it really doesn't guarantee much in terms of overall run production. Cleveland would move up in the offensive rankings, but would still fail to crack the top six and would likely struggle to win games without some insane pitching (like Anaheim).
Since we're dealing with an average, removing the biggest outlier (Marte's .342 OPS) should tighten up the team OPS a bit. Without Marte's stats, the average OPS shoots up to .760. Even a .760 OPS is middle of the pack for the teams listed above, but would be a massive improvement on the current .708. For comparison, the team OPS in 2007 was .771.
One trend I wasn't expecting was the loose correlation between team OPS and runs scored. I added BA/RISP to try and account for this. Cleveland has one of the worst team OPS', but have been fairly efficient in driving in the few baserunners they have.
My conclusion is that even with a healthy and productive Martinez and Hafner, the Tribe's offense would still be in trouble. A lot of things will have to fall into place for this team to even hang with the top contenders. An ineffective bullpen (4.78 season ERA) and the loss of Carmona and Westbrook make relying on the pitching staff to win games a risky proposition.