Cleveland Indians Bet On Grounders in Trade for Derek Lowe
After stunning the baseball world and trading for Ubaldo Jimenez at the trade deadline this year, the Indians seem to be in a rush to get the front of their rotation set for 2012. Earlier today the Indians announced a trade with the Braves for Derek Lowe for a prospect and salary relief. The Braves picked up reliever Chris Jones in exchange for Lowe and 5 million dollars to Cleveland. The Indians already have Fausto Carmona on their staff, and most know of my affection for Justin Masterson. Those four will form the core of the 2012 Cleveland Indians starting rotation. Listed below are their 2011 numbers.
¹The average is for qualified starting pitchers only, in both the AL and NL.
If Philadelphia has a historic group of control and strike out pitchers, then at the least Cleveland has a near historic collection of ground ball machines. Each of the four listed above have a better than average ground ball rate, three of them by a difference of 10%!
Of course a ground ball pitching staff is only as good as the infield defense behind them, so let us take a look at the likely starting infield come 2012. Currently the only 1B that Cleveland has on it’s roster is Matt LaPorta but it would be an understatement to say he hasn’t hit or fielded as well as hoped. One would imagine that Mark Shapiro isn’t done acquiring players yet, and I would assume the next player added is Carlos Pena. Pena is merely speculation at this point however, so I will include LaPorta in this. Here we have the the MLB defensive numbers for each player from this year².
|3B – Chisenhall||461.0||.941||-0.4||3.9||1.3|
|SS – Cabrera||1326.2||.976||-0.7||-13.8||-11.8|
|2B – Kipnis||305.0||.963||-1.2||-2.5||-5.6|
|1B – LaPorta||802.2||.992||-0.1||-0.6||-5.9|
²The elephant in the room to RngR (Range Runs above average) and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating Runs) is that the accepted rule is a required 3 year data set. That is to say, it is best to take the accuracies of the statistics in a 3 consecutive year sequence. Worth noting: Cabrera has never been the “glove wizard” that announcers tend to make him out to be. For his career per 150 games played, he has a -10.5 UZR. To put that in perspective, that equals 1 win person season he is costing his team on his lack of range at shortstop.
Well that doesn’t exactly bode fantastically well, does it? At least the 4, 5, 6 are able to start double plays in any order. Finished them at 3 might be a bit tougher with LaPorta being there, but again, he has hasn’t had a huge sample size to draw conclusions from. If I were Shapiro, I would go after Pena in an attempt to boost my defense. I’m less worried about Chisenhall and Kipnis, as various scouting websites have listed both them as average with the glove, and some saying Chisenhall a tick above average in the field.
It appears as though Mark Shapiro has decided to bet wins and losses (in essence his very job) on these ground ball hurlers. Statistically, ground balls translate to fewer XBH than fly balls. It’s not just that, but the last time I checked it was impossible for a ground ball to go for a home run. It seems as though Shapiro has found a way to make a bet and beat the odds of baseball. As an extension of that wager, he is counting on the infield defense to turn those grounders them into outs. It is a bet that I would be willing to make too.
Tables via Tableizer!
David considers himself a student of the school of sabermetrics. As a rule, he doesn’t discount anyones word until it’s disproven, or cite any statistic until it’s verified. A cautioned optimistic, he loves watching, learning, and studying the intricacies of baseball.