Welcome to Tribe Talk, where our panel of Cleveland Indians fans weigh-in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.
This week, we debate about what the ideal batting order is for the Tribe, lament our pitching woes, and share our trade wish lists for the team.
I would like to thank this week's participants Dale Thomas and Jim Piascik for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.
1. It's finally happened: we've spent weeks dreading that the wheels would come off of the starting rotation, and it seems things may be starting to head south.
Carlos Carrasco can't get through six innings. Josh Tomlin finally got touched for more than three runs last week. Justin Masterson's sixth win continues to elude him. Mitch Talbot looks like he needed to stay on the DL a bit longer. And Fausto Carmona, well, he's pitched like Fausto Carmona.
It's not all bad, of course. Masterson and Tomlin should certainly be fine. But what of the rest of the group? Please share your thoughts on the state of the rotation: who do you think will bounce back quickly? Who do you think is going to be an ongoing problem?
And for fun, if the playoffs started tomorrow, who is in your three-man rotation?
Dale Thomas: My three-man rotation would be Tomlin, Masterson, and Carrasco. Tomlin is our best pitcher ERA-wise with Masterson right behind him. I totally believe Carrasco will continue to get better.
Tomlin has given up 10 dingers though, so opposing teams could strike quickly with him on the mound. Keep that breaking ball down, dude.
Masterson hits a lot of batters so why not hit a few in the playoffs? Our not-so-secret weapon. They're all about the same on strikeouts to walks (ratio).
As far as the starters in general go, I don't think the rotation has fallen apart or anything. We are an offense-dependent team, and run support has been a bit more elusive with Travis and Grady having been out, along with Choo's tendency to either not hit at all, or hit into double plays. Ditto Santana.
Anyway, I think the pitching has been fairly consistent. It's the hitting that's been more iffy. We'll be fine if we all get healthy then stay healthy. Talbot has some problems finding the strike zone, but he hasn't done such a bad job overall, in my opinion
Perhaps you've noticed I didn't even mention Carmona... anywhere... but when White comes back, there's a spot waiting for him.
Samantha Bunten: I have no concerns about Masterson or Tomlin; Masterson has been unlucky of late and Tomlin was bound to be less-than-perfect sooner or later. He'll get through it. I like Carrasco, though if he can't start pitching deeper into games, we're going to need better long relief.
Then there's the other two...Talbot and Carmona. I'm not ready to give up on Talbot yet, but I just don't trust him. As for Carmona, I just don't think he's ever going to be consistent enough. I wouldn't start him in the playoffs. Period.
My three-man rotation would be Masterson, Tomlin, and probably Alex White if he's healthy (I'm assuming he will be). I'd like to see Carrasco out of the pen in that situation. Talbot could compete for one of the rotation spots if he can be consistent. Otherwise I'd send him to the pen as well or consider him an "in case of emergency" starter for rain delays, if someone blows up early in the game, etc. Fausto can carry someone's equipment bag.
Jim Piascik: I think that we should have serious concerns about Carrasco. He hasn't been striking out enough people at the major league level at hasn't been the top of the line pitcher we need.
Talbot has been an interesting case so far. He looked better this week but still has a long way to go to prove himself. His spot in the rotation is tenuous at best.
Finally, Fausto will be Fausto. I'd just as soon see him traded if someone overvalues him. He's a mediocre pitcher at best.
Right now my three-man playoff rotation would be Masterson-Carmona-Tomlin, but if we do make the playoffs, I hope we trade for a better pitcher (Greinke? Please let the Brewers struggle and panic!) or promote someone from Triple-A (Zach McAllister's been a great pitcher so far).
2. This past weekend we saw some major changes to the batting order. Sizemore batting sixth and Santana moved out of the cleanup spot, just to name a few.
We've all been pondering the merits of a batting order change for a while and many of us felt there were moves that had to be made, but looking at the newly revamped batting order, is this what you had in mind?
Do you think hitting Sizemore sixth makes sense? What do you think of the change in the cleanup spot? How do you feel about the other changes to the order?
Dale Thomas: Not at all what I had in mind. I have to admit I'm a bit mystified by the batting order. I seriously don't like platooning Duncan and Buck at the cleanup spot. I'd try LaPorta there and see how he does. If Hafner comes back, I see it as his for the taking.
Choo batting third is ripe for DPs, and I'm surprised he didn't get moved down further. I like Brantley where he is. I'd like to see Sizemore hitting second. I cannot figure out why he would be in the 6th spot.
Of course I have no idea what I'm talking about, so I'm good with giving Manny's new order a fair chance. I like that he made some moves and doesn't appear to be locked in to conventional thinking. It's a test though...and if it doesn't work he needs to be ready to pull some switches in the middle.
Samantha Bunten: First, I'm glad Santana was moved out of the cleanup spot. He's been better there than his stats indicate and has delivered in the clutch pretty often, but I still think it's too much pressure and he would do better if he was moved down a bit. I'd like to see LaPorta in the cleanup spot until Hafner comes back (IF Hafner comes back healthy).
As for Sizemore batting sixth? No way. I know he's struggled to get back into form since coming off the DL, but I believe he'll be fine and I'd rather see him get the maximum number of at-bats, so he should be hitting third. It's the perfect spot for him anyway; he's really a prototypical number three hitter in every way. I wouldn't mind seeing him batting second either if Acta prefers A-Cab in the three-spot.
Other than that, I'm good with the order, except that Buck needs to be moved down. WAY down. Hopefully with Hafner back in the mix before too long, that will cease to be an issue.
Jim Piascik: I think that putting Travis Buck in the cleanup spot over Carlos Santana is ridiculous. Santana's been very productive this year despite his low average. Further proof that batting average is far from the whole story.
As for Sizemore, I'm okay hitting him sixth for now. He is struggling to get on base and striking out a lot. He's not all the way back offensively yet and needs some time to get back into form.
3. Staying on the topic of batting order, please list what you believe to be the ideal sequence for the Tribe's hitters, 1 through 9.
For the time being, please leave players on the DL out of your order and use only active roster members.
Dale Thomas: Here's the order I'd like to see: 1. Brantley 2. Sizemore 3. A. Cabrera 4. LaPorta 5. Choo 6. Santana 7. Buck 8. O. Cabrera 9. Hannahan
Samantha Bunten: 1. Brantley 2. A.Cabrera 3. Sizemore 4. LaPorta 5. Choo 6. Santana 7. O.Cabrera 8. Buck 9. Hannahan
Jim Piascik: 1. Brantley, LF 2. A. Cabrera, SS 3. Choo, RF 4. Santana, C 5. LaPorta, 1B 6. Sizemore, CF (LaPorta and Sizemore are interchangeable for me) 7. Buck, LF 8. O. Cabrera, 2B 9. Duncan, DH (not a fan of Duncan. Strikes out too much).
When Hafner gets back I'd hit him 5th and then go Sizemore-LaPorta-Buck-O. Cabrera from there).
4. It's early in the season for trade talk, but the Indians clearly have some needs that have to be filled if they want to go deep into the playoffs this year, and sometimes it's best to trade early for a better price.
What position(s) do you think the Indians absolutely have to trade for in order to compete in the playoffs? How much are you willing to give up to fill those needs?
Are there any specific players you have in mind who you think would be hugely helpful for the Tribe and are also realistically attainable?
Dale Thomas: Oh wow...Our recent history of midseason trades has not brought glory to the franchise. I like our infield. I like our outfield with Sizemore back. I do not like our long relief at all, and I don't fully trust our starters, so if I were to trade, I'd trade for pitching.
I'd also try to acquire talent using money before I sold the farm, so to say. My understanding is that there are some dollars available for acquisitions.
I think I'll have a much better feel for this at mid-season. For example, I'd like to understand Hafner's health, and if Sizemore can make it through a couple of months. Can Santana and Choo get back to some monster offense? Can Talbot really pitch? How about Carrasco? I'd give somebody five bucks to take Carmona right now.
Samantha Bunten: There are plenty of spots on the roster that could use a tweak, but realistically, whatever we have to spend needs to go to pitching.
Down the stretch of the regular season, we could really use another starter. One who can throw six-plus innings without imploding. For the playoffs I'll assume we'll go to a three-man rotation, which we can probably come up with in-house if we need to, but we're going to need some good quality long relief. The kind that shuts down an offense rather than just mop-up type guys. That's where I'd spend my money first and foremost.
Speaking of, I'd prefer we focus our trades on spending cash rather than prospects, but I know we'll have to give up some talent to get some talent back. If someone wants Carmona, they're more than welcome to him, but other than that, I'd be against moving anyone else on the active roster.
As far as who to bring in, I'd love to get a guy like Dan Haren in terms of starters if the Angels wind up sellers at the deadline, but I suspect the price may be too high. In the long relief department, I'd settle for pretty much anyone with an ERA under three and a half who doesn't have a tendency to give up the long ball.
Jim Piascik: We need more starting pitchers as I alluded to earlier. Every other playoff team will have at least one ace. Masterson is our best player so far and is a #2 starter at best.
I would love to see us get Zack Greinke, but that's dependent on the Brewers fading. That's my hope though and has been for months now. Dan Haren would be another good fit if the Angels fade.
5. Fun Question of the Week: Let's try a spin on the above trade question that's a little more fun.
Tell us, which three players in all of MLB would you trade for if money and prospects you'd have to give in return were no object?
It can be anyone you want, doesn't matter how high their salary is or if they have a no-trade clause, though they should be players the Indians can actually use to fill needs they really have, rather than just the three best players in the league regardless of position/skill set.
Dale Thomas: Well here we go! Lincecum (Style) Longoria (Grace) Braun (Personality).
Samantha Bunten: Roy Halladay, Ryan Braun, and Joey Votto.
Just imagine a batting order that starts like this: Brantley, A.Cabrera, Braun, Votto, Sizemore. Sigh, if only.
And maybe if we ask nicely, we can get Halladay to pitch once every three days or so.
Jim Piascik: I'd still say we need pitching, so I'd want either Roy Halladay, Jered Weaver or Felix Hernandez. We really need an ace of the staff.