Found January 28, 2013 on
Waiting For Next Year:
From what I can tell, there seem to be two fairly entrenched camps that have sprung up regarding the Indians’ approach to the designated hitter spot this season.
The first group seems to be arguing that the team might be better off without a full-time DH. The thinking here goes that a designated designated hitter makes the team less adaptable; it would hamstring Terry Francona’s ability mix and match lineups by taking one spot off the table. It would also take up a valuable roster spot that could more aptly be filled by a player with some versatility. Travis Hafner’s onerous contract and awful performance are cited heavily in this camp, who would basically prefer to see Mike Aviles in some capacity almost every day—filling in around the diamond at various positions while allowing the regulars to slot in at DH or occasionally take the day off entirely.
The second group wants a DH. They see an everyday spot in the lineup that will currently be filled either by Mike Aviles (.663 OPS in 2012) or Lou Marson (.635) and realize that that sort of production just isn’t good enough—not when you could add in a DH and not lose much in the way of team defense by allowing Marson and Aviles to be role-players rather than everyday ones. This group also likes to point out that either Travis Hafner or Jim Thome will likely come very cheap, and as long as they are managed properly (i.e. not everyday players, but used in three to four games per week against RHP), there’s a chance they could stay healthy enough to post an OPS north of .850 or so.
And I guess that while I usually try to bridge the divide among warring Tribe factions and act as conciliator, I have to say I find myself falling pretty firmly in that second camp, and that the player I keep coming back to to fill the role is Travis Hafner. There are several reasons for this.
First, I really don’t think people realize what it would mean not to add another bat. While versatility sounds nice, it’s really only helpful if the player who’s being asked to be versatile is actually good. Mike Aviles and Lou Marson just aren’t, no matter how much we may want them to be.
Second, Travis Hafner is probably a lot better hitter than you realize. Outside of his execrable 2008 season, he’s never had a wOBA below .340 and never slugged less than .440. Can you guess how many times Lou Marson and Mike Aviles have done that combined? That would be one time: Mike Aviles’ 2008 campaign where his BABiP was an anomalous .357. So even on Hafner’s worst day, he’s a superior hitter to both Aviles and Marson.
Speaking of anomalies, did you know that Hafner’s batting average on balls in play last season was only .233, suggesting some really crummy luck for a player who’d posted BABiP’s of around .300 or better over the prior three seasons? For this reason alone, I think it’s more likely than not that his 2013 will be better than his 2012 was—and his 2012 was probably much better than anything Mike Aviles is capable of.
But even more than all the numbers and evidence that I can throw at you, I keep coming back to the same issue. How could adding Hafner on a dirt-cheap contract a bad thing? Let’s pretend he pulls a Sizemore and destroys his shoulder while cashing his first Spring Training check, preventing even one at bat next season. Then the team will be in the exact position that some fans are already pulling for: Mike Aviles and Lou Marson will be playing major roles. It’s not like the team is deciding how to spend that million or so bucks; basically, they’re either gonna do it or they’re not. I don’t see what we gain from not adding him.
And why Hafner and not Thome? I understand the optics would probably play better if we gave the job to the hero from the nineties, but I guess if you’re asking me which one of these guys is more likely to be able to handle 350 plate appearances, I’m going to go with the 35 year old over the 42 year old every day and twice on Sundays. I still think Hafner was miscast as an everyday player during his previous contract—probably because of his previous contract. The front office was paying the guy $13 million, and in an effort to recoup the investment, they insisted he play more often than he should have been. I think on a more appropriately sized contract and with a new manager, the message might be sent rather quickly that Hafner should be used judiciously in order to preserve his health. He could sit three or so games a week, and arguably be a better version than he has been in recent years.
Thome, on the other hand appears much closer to the actual end of his career. He is 42. Last season his ISO (slugging minus batting average—a measure of raw power) dropped below .200 for the first time in his career. He hurt his back while playing first base (good ole Cholly, up to no good), and managed only 186 plate appearances on the season because of it. I guess I just don’t believe in 42 year old baseball players unless they’re named Barry Bonds, and even then, the bounds of credulity are strained.
I say this knowing full-well that I also advocated signing Grady Sizemore last year. In other words, I may have lost the right to be taken seriously by a sizable portion of the fanbase.
But that situation was different to me: the team was choosing how to spend the $5 million they had on hand—they could’ve spent it on Grady OR on a real left fielder OR on a starting pitcher. This time, they’re either going to spend the million on a DH or they won’t add anything; they’re either going to add potential value, or they’re going to do nothing.
Perhaps it speaks to how soured the town has gotten on past-his-prime sluggers from yesteryear, but more and more I seem to be hearing people from that first camp—with more scar tissue built around their baseball psyches than Pronk’s shoulder—advocating that we just can’t go down that road again. That sometimes, a clean break is best, no matter the cost.
BEST OF MAXIM
The IBI's 2013 Indians Top 60 Prospect countdown continues on with right-handed starting pitcher Clayton Cook. Cook suffered an injury last season that resulted in an abrupt end to his season and had several setbacks in his return and finally ended up having surgery. Tony gives the details on how serious the injury was, how long he could be out, how his prospect value has changed...
The IBI's 2013 Indians Top 60 Prospect countdown continues on with right-handed reliever Bryce Stowell. He followed up a strange 2011 season with a lost season last year as he struggled with injuries once again. There is no doubt the stuff is still in there to be a high level prospect, but injuries every year and time is starting to creep up on him. Tony takes a look at this...
The IBI's 2013 Indians Top 60 Prospect countdown continues on with catcher Alex Lavisky. Lavisky continues to show good catching and leadership skills, but his questionable bat actually showed some improvement last season. Tony goes into detail on the improvement he showed with his swing, how his performance spiked in the second half of last season, all the value he provides...
The Indians made a lot of folks sit up when they hired Terry Francona to be their new manager.
Among those who noticed: The players.
I was excited, second baseman Jason Kipnis said last week before the teams Fan Fest. You know what he brings to the table, you know what kind of reputation he has. Hes a players coach and hes a winner. You can ask people around the league, all the guys...
Welcome to this week's edition of the IBI Power Poll. The Poll will take a look at a relevant topic of the time, an all-time list, or just something that we're talking about here at the IBI home offices. There's nothing like a list to spur a debate, so join us in our lively banter with our weekly polls! Today's poll focuses on the best Indians' shortstop of all...
The Indians have been busy this offseason making some significant changes to the lineup and pitching staff. But exactly how much have they improved? IBI newcomer Jake Dungan takes a look at the 2013 lineup and compares it to its 2012 counterpart in the first of a four part series that will break down and compare the 2012 and 2013 versions of the lineup, bench, starting rotation and bullpen.
New Indians manager Terry Francona was the subject of an hour long interview with Bob Costas for MLB Network’s Studio 42 with Bob Costas. The program will air Wednesday, January 30th at 9:00pm on the MLB Network.
While the majority of the interview deals with Francona’s new book and his time with the Red Sox, there are discussions about his time in Philadelphia and Michael Jordan’s...
The Indians still are without a definite designated hitter for the 2013 and have apparently been linked to two former Indians players, Travis Hafner and Jim Thome. In what is a sad state of events for Hafner, both players are essentially at the same point in their career, despite Pronk starting his career over a decade after Thome. Both players have seen decreases in playing time...
The Cleveland Indians and Clear Channel have reached an agreement on a five-year contract that will allow the long-time flagship station of the team to carry games through 2017.
WTAM/1100 AM will continue to carry every Indians game while 100.7 FM/WMMS — the flagship station of the Cleveland Browns — will reportedly simulcast 144 games over the course of each season, leaving...
Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here... highlighting the big storyline. Because there's nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
In the days and weeks after the disclosure of Lester’s cancer, Francona protected Lester’s privacy furiously, admonishing any reporter who attempted to reach Lester’s family. The manager guarded the pitcher...
The MLB arbitration hearings begin next Monday February 4th and continue through until the 20th. Most of the arbitration eligible players around the league have already signed a one year deal a few days ago, but the Indians still have one player that is unsigned: Mike Aviles.
From May to June last year, the Mets had Vinny Rottino on the team and had to use him as a starter on B-Roster Days. I remember one of these days clearly. it was the start where Johan Santana pitched a complete game shut out before pitching his no hitter. The Mets won 9-0 thanks to home runs by Scott Hairston, Vinny Rottino and a grand slam by Mike Nickeas. The starting lineup that...
Around the Farm will say good bye for the offseason in the next few days, but will return in a few weeks once minor league spring games kick up in mid-March. Tony takes a look at the performance of Ezequiel Carrera whose team played in a very important Game 5 on Monday night in a best-of-seven series that was tied 2-2.