Pondering Option on Carmona

By: T.J. Zuppe

Indians fans have grown to know two distinct things about pitcher Fausto Carmona; there is good Fausto, and there is bad Fausto.

With the 2011 season winding down, the Wahoo faithful have been seeing a lot more of the bad, bordering on unwatchable Fausto. His alter-ego has faded into a distant memory.

For a while, due to the question marks surrounding the rotation in 2012, it seemed cooler heads would prevail regarding Carmona’s future with the Indians. Possibly some time away from watching his frustrating style, paired with the fact that he still has youth on his side would keep the Chief Wahoo on his hat for the time being.

However, as 2011 has closed out, his option next year looks less and less appetizing.

Under his current contract, the Indians hold club options for the next three seasons. In the offseason, the Tribe could decide to keep the soon-to-be 28-year old righty at roughly seven million dollars.

After a sluggish start to this season, where he posted a 5.98 ERA in his first 16 starts, Carmona seemed to make that option a no-brainer. He settled into a grove between June 26th and August 22nd, posting an ERA of 2.62 over nine starts.

Indians Pitcher Fausto Carmona

The team won five of those games.

Then the world came crumbling down around him. In the next six starts that followed, Carmona has been nothing short of abysmal. He has surrendered 29 runs in that period, in just 31 innings of work.

He also walked 13, compared to just 18 strike outs.

That includes Tuesday’s first game of a double-header with the White Sox, where he worked six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. However, he did pitch well enough to give his team a chance at victory, as he picked up the win, in the 4-3 ballgame.

It has been that maddening nature of his outings that has plagued him his entire career with Cleveland. When he reaches a point where he begins to build on positives, he regresses into a helpless state where outs are tough to come by.

He battles through some contests, as he did Tuesday, providing hope for his next outing. Then, the Hyde to his Jekyll emerges and situations get nuclear.

“Overall, he has been up and down,” Indians manager Manny Acta said of his starter this season. “I think he’s got good enough stuff to be better than that.”

This would be easy to accept from a first or second year hurler, not so from player ready to enter his seventh season in the big leagues. It is no longer just a small trend, it is the norm.

However, his manager did note one element in his favor.

“He’s very durable,” he added. “He’s pretty consistent with taking the ball every five days.”

Even missing some time with injury this season, Carmona is nearing 400 innings over the past two seasons. His ability to be a workload monster is arguably his largest strength.

Yet, if the team truly hopes to compete with the big boys next season, relying on Carmona is becoming a tougher option for success. The club must consider moving in a different direction and finding more consistency in the back of the rotation.

To come to this conclusion, the front office must ask themselves the question; in the heat of a playoff race in September and October, do you feel comfortable with the right-handed starter on the hill? Are you willing to play a game of chance on which Fausto will appear?

At this point, it is really difficult to argue yes to either question.

When the dust settles, it is still hard to see the team moving forward without him in 2012. At seven million, with a flexible contract, odds are good the team will take the large risk on bringing him back for another go.

Largely, this will be decided by what veterans the team can chase in free agency and via trades. If the team feels good about the pitching market, cutting ties with the former ace will be easier than expected.

But it is very likely that next year’s campaign will be Carmona’s very last to prove his worth. If we see the same inconsistencies in the early stages, he will be greeted with a quick hook and shaking heads.

He cannot skate by on youth and promise any longer.

Huff Regressing With 2012 Starting Rotation in Question

By: T.J. Zuppe

One of the biggest questions facing the Indians as they enter the 2012 season is the back-end of the starting rotation. There is little doubt as to who will anchor the top, presumably being Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and a mending Josh Tomlin.

The last two spots will be fought out between incumbent right-handers Fausto Carmona, depending on club’s intentions of keeping him, Jeanmar Gomez, Zach McAllister and left-hander David Huff.

Unfortunately for Huff, he has done little lately to build on momentum heading into an important decision-filled offseason for the Tribe.

Indians Pitcher David Huff

The 27-year old lefty has struggled mightily since giving the team a big boost in the middle of a division race, earlier in 2011. So much so, that his once sparkling numbers no longer look so glamorous.

Since posting a 2.08 earned run average in his first six appearances, five of which starts, Huff has looked much more like the pitcher the team had seen in the two years prior.

In his last four starts, including Monday’s rain-shortened 12-6 laugher at the hands of the Mariners, he has surrendered 25 runs, 15 earned and 26 hits over 19 innings of work.

He picked up the loss in all four of those games.

For a hurler needing to build a resume heading into the offseason, he has spent more time erasing the positive from memory. More importantly, he does not seem to be getting better with more experience.

When Huff was recalled back in July, he shocked everyone with his aggressive attack of the strike zone, hitters included. He made quick work of the opposition and looked like an entirely different pitcher.

Most of all, he looked like he trusted his stuff.

Flash forward to Monday, Huff was no longer that same guy. As the rest of the league made adjustments to his aggressiveness, he has struggled to do the same.

Will he ever be able to? It seemed he had, but time has given way to the same player the Indians have seen over the past few seasons.

So what does this mean to the front office’s decision making in the offseason regarding the rotation? That truly is the million-dollar question.

Gomez has shown flashes and still has youth on his side. McAllister will face another audition on Tuesday, in one of the two double-header games with the White Sox.

The future of Carmona is anyone’s guess.

It is very likely the team will target a veteran starter in the offseason, however that still leaves one spot unaccounted for, with the Tommy John surgery recovery leaving Carlos Carrasco out of the mix.

Because of that, it does appear Huff will have a legitimate shot at one of the open slots in the back of the rotation. But he will really have to earn it, with others presenting more possible upside.

For that to happen, he will have to find a way to discover more consistency on the hill and make secondary adjustments. The past has shown his inability to do so.

If it does not, his consideration for being part of the future of the team will be in serious doubt.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

A Key Offseason Approaches In Cleveland

By: T.J. Zuppe

Typically, the month of September means one thing to baseball in Cleveland; it is evaluation time for players auditioning for jobs this offseason. However, this final month has been a little out of the ordinary for the Indians.

Cycling down from contention in the American League Central, the Tribe has slipped into forgotten territory.

Just as the flood gates can open for a pitcher surrendering his first run in a shutout, after being dismantled by the Detroit Tigers early in the month, things have soured quickly for the guys with Wahoo on their lids.

However, due to the early debuts of several young prospects, in addition to dealing some away at the deadline in an attempt to stay in contention, there really are not that many questions being answered in the final stretch of games.

The Indians front office faces a big challenge in the upcoming months

Conclusions will be drawn based on what has already been established.

Instead, we shift our focus to the offseason that follows.

With a young team poised to make a step towards legitimate contention, it is just as much on the front office and ownership to continue their newfound commitment to winning, as it is on the club to elevate their play on the field.

In the past, Cleveland has been told to be patient. The mid-market lyrics could be sung in the sleep of the Featherhead faithful.

It is a song they know all too well.

In the period leading up to spring training in 2011, the team ownership even stated that there is a time to spend. Now just was not it.

But after a fun and frustrating ride of Indians baseball this year, featuring meaningful games at the start of September, expect those excuses to fly as well as a penguin.

Now is exactly the right time to recommit to winning.

Contrary to popular belief, wins do not just come through spending more money. But it is a factor.

For a team in the middle of the baseball marketplace, simply throwing dollars at a payroll of players does not equate to winning. For every squad that makes the playoffs with swelling salaries, there are five that have nothing to show for their investments.

The Yankees and Red Sox of the baseball world can toss dollars at any problem. That is not so for everyone else. Do not expect that to change anytime soon.

But a mixture of cash to accompany savvy moves, that is where a team like Cleveland needs to thrive. After all, it is rarely about the money you spend, rather how you spent it. Boy, do they need both ends of the spectrum.

This is where general manager Chris Antonetti needs to earn his paycheck. As much as the ownership needs to remove some of the financial barricades created over the past several seasons, Antonetti needs to reward that decision with smarter ones.

After all, a poor investment like the signing of pitcher Kerry Wood a few short years ago, not only wastes time and money, but makes the Dolans less prone to opening up the pocket books once again.

In the next few months that follow, the future of the 2012 Indians will be put into motion. Will they buy into the new window they have created, going all-in at the trade deadline to acquire pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez?

Or will the fan base again be greeted with explanations and warnings of patience? Will the current perceptions about team ownership continue to rule the day?

Whatever the choice may be, the sequence in which it transpires will be as pivotal as any moment in recent sports history in Cleveland.

There is no more room for excuses, just results.

The Glass Half Full Tavern

By Munch

COACH! I have had very few problems with MANNY ACTA and his staff this year and I (We) will always question every Manager, Head Coach! I am not sure the flip with hitting coaches has helped to the degree it needed to, and after watching SHELLEY DUNCAN hit yesterday in the 1st inning I am not even sure we have a hitting coach! Here are facts:

* The Tribe loaded the bases with NO ONE OUT in the 1st on 3 singles!

* Carlos Santana WALKED on FOUR pitches to bring a run home!

* Duncan swings at the FIRST PITCH and pops up to 1st base!

He should have NOT SWUNG AT THE FIRST PITCH AFTER FOUR STRAIGHT BALLS TO CARLOS! SIMPLE!

Also, who in the dugout keeps waving Carrera BACK in CF!!!??? If no one is doing this, THEN BRING HIM IN! My gosh, if he could, he would play CF on EAGLE AVENUE! Someone, YES A COACH, also needs to tell him to PLAY THE BALL, DO NOT LET THE BALL PLAY HIM!

One other thought with Tim Belcher and Ubaldo Jimenez…TIM, do NOT give him too much 411. So tough to do during the season, especially when you are in a play off race. SHOW HIM THE GOOD THINGS HE IS DOING, reinforce them, then after the season OFF TO ARIZONA to work on mechanics AND NO HUGE 2012 vacation for Ubaldo this year! WORK, WORK, WORK!

Whew…earn your pay COACHING STAFF!

 

Browns/Indians Quick Thoughts

By Kenny Roda

So what do you think of Colt McCoy running the West Coast Offense so far through 2 games in the preseason? His numbers:

19/28, 231 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT, 68 completion %

Colt has played in 9 offensive series and led the team on 5 touchdown drives for 35pts!

The Browns defense has a ways to go with or without the starters who missed the Detroit game. Who’s going to step up and be the impact player on defense?

What was Manny Acta thinking on Friday night bringing Tomlin out to start the 7th inning after giving up the 2-run HR in the 6th & the last out of that inning was caught at the wall? Tomlin would give up 2 more HR’s in the 7th. Also, Acta with a bad move leaving Luis Valbeuna in to bat in the top of the 7th with 2 out, a runner on 2nd, and the Tribe tailing 2-1. Valbuena grounds out. Should of pinch hit Shelly Duncan. Tribe loses 4-1 to the Tigers and falls 2.5 games back.

Where’s My Bat?  Boy do they need one in the worst way, if they really want to make a run at the Central Division!

Do or Die

By Kenny Roda

Huge series starts tonite between the Tribe and Tigers at Progressive Field. It could determine whether or not this fun ride the Indians have taken us on will continue, or is over.

So what are your expectations in this 3 game series?

Before you react know this – the Indians have won 11 in a row at home over Detroit. Your pitching matchups are as follows: Masterson vs Fister, Jimenez vs Porcello and Carmona vs Verlander.

So how many do the Indians win? I say they take 2 out of 3 and stay in this race for a little while longer, and who knows maybe into the month of September.

Follow Kenny on Twitter @RoadmanWKNR

 

I’m All In Are YOU?

Some times as a sports fan you wonder if you’re all in with your team. For the past few years I knew I wasn’t with the Indians, as they were suffering through 90 loss seasons. Last year I could care less what they did, because, well they sucked.  Hell I even started to watch Glee instead of the Tribe games live.  Sure I’d tape the game for work purposes and then go back and fly through it to see how they lost. I was doing my job, but this year, as much as I bitch and moan about them, they’ve made my job very enjoyable. Last night the Indians were playing in Boston and I knew I’d be off today for a golf outing and really didn’t have to watch it live.  I could’ve recorded it and then went back and watched it to see what happened.  But I didn’t.  In fact I couldn’t walk away from the TV.  I wanted to watch it live.  I wanted to see if they would whoop Boston’s ass, and they did and it was very enjoyable to watch.  My point is, while I may not agree with everything they’ve done so far this year with roster moves and the whole Austin Kearns thing, they’ve got me. They’ve got me hook, line and sinker.  I’m all in with the Tribe, and it’s been a while since I felt that way.  So lets try and enjoy the last two months of a pennant race here in Cleveland for the first time in a while.  Go Tribe!

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