Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tomahawks from a New Bench

While everyone attempts to erase the events of Monday night on the lakefront from their memories, let’s fire a few tomahawks off to cover the latest happenings on The Reservation with a more complete coaching staff, more projections, and some Must-See-TV...let ‘em loose:
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The Indians’ coaching staff continues to be filled out as Sandy Alomar, Jr., Scott Radinsky, Tim Tolman, and Steve Smith join Tim Belcher on the Tribe bench as the new First Base Coach/catching coordinator (Alomar), bullpen coach (Radinsky), bench coach (Tolman) and Third Base coach/infielder coach (Smith). Following along the idea that the staff would be populated by internal options (Radinsky to join Belcher) and external candidates (Tolman, Smith, and most recently Alomar); the Indians’ coaching staff is starting to get fleshed out.

In terms of the most recognizable name added to the big-league staff, the name of Sandy Alomar, Jr. obviously tugs at the heartstrings, as memories of “Sandy the Player” cannot be ignored, nor can his place in Indians’ lore. The announcement came as a bit of a surprise as it had been previously reported that Sandy was on the Mets’ coaching staff and that he was essentially “off-limits” to the Indians in terms of him simply making a lateral move to another organization. Regardless of how it went down, Alomar joins the staff to…well, stand at First Base and do what Luis Rivera did for…I don’t know, must have been a few years, and to handle the coaching of the catchers.

While his First Base coach duties figure to be pretty forgettable (quick, tell me who the First Base Coach was during the run in the 1990’s), his mentoring of the young catchers is where Alomar hopefully makes an impression. Given that Carlos Santana is likely to be the Indians’ everyday catcher by the middle of the season, one would have to think that Alomar’s main job will be to tutor Santana into becoming a complete catcher instead of simply a hitting machine with unpolished receiving skills and a propensity for (as Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein called it) “histrionics” behind the plate that didn’t sit too well with opponents. A long time ago, on a coast far, far away from Cleveland, Alomar was a similarly hyped young prospect who translated his promise to MLB success, a transition he can hopefully impart on Santana.

While the emotional attachments are terrific for some (and I could be wrong but I’m not anticipating a flood of the phone banks at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario tomorrow morning based on this news), let’s hope that those emotional strings did not play the largest role in Alomar’s hiring. Re-living and relishing the past only gets one so far, so it remains to be seen if “Sandy the Coach” rivals “Sandy the Player” in terms of organizational impact. While that impact may be a hard thing to measure and at the risk of sounding heartless, “Sandy the Coach” is the only one that I care about going forward because the 1990’s were great times for Indians’ fans...but I’m more interested in creating memories and not just remembering them.

After Alomar, the name that most people have likely heard of belongs to Scott Radinsky, who climbs one rung up the organizational ladder to preside over the Indians’ bullpen after serving as the AAA pitching coach in Columbus. He comes with a resume built on his time as a reliever in MLB and an apparent ability to rectify mechanical problems, something he did most notably with Stomp Lewis in 2008. While his results of returning a pitcher to their past successes were not universal when sent down to AAA (Rafael Perez in 2009 being the obvious example), he now has a chance to do his tinkering at the big-league level in an attempt to maximize the arms that project to the 2010 bullpen.

Most of the pitchers that figure into the 2010 bullpen are pitchers that he’s coached already (Wood and Chris Perez being the exceptions) and with his area of expertise (at least from his playing days) having to do with relieving, the time is right for him to ply his craft at the big-league level and perhaps allow some of the other MiLB pitching coaches in the organization (like Akron’s Ruben Niebla) to climb that organizational ladder to the next rung. While it could be argued that Radinsky is getting this gig a year too late, his familiarity with the arms on hand (and his success with them) should allow the name Chuck Hernandez to drift away into the wind.

Beyond Alomar and Radinsky, the other new coach with a history with the Indians organization is Tim Tolman (mistaken by some for Red Forman from “That 70’s Show”), as Tolman was the Indians’ Minor League Field Coordinator from 2003 to 2006. What a “Minor League Field Coordinator” does is not my area of expertise, but Tolman should have some level of familiarity with the organization while providing that “fresh set of eyes” that many desired in John Farrell in that Tolman was around for the period of building the team that competed in 2005 and 2007 and left only when offered the position of Third Base Coach in Washington in 2007.

Interestingly, Tolman was Manny Acta’s manager in Burlington (the Astros’ Single-A affiliate) in 1991, Acta’s last year as a player and Tolman’s first year as a minor-league manager. Thus, the two are intimately familiar with each other as Tolman also served on Acta’s staff in Washington, though not as Acta’s bench coach. The thought was out there that Acta’s bench coach would be someone with managerial experience with someone like Acta’s former bench coach in Washington, Pat Corrales, perhaps fitting that bill…except that Corrales retired last year because of health issues. Regardless of whether anyone can even articulate what a bench coach does (other than handing in lineup cards and playing devil’s advocate to the manager), I’m inclined to give Acta the benefit of the doubt in terms of knowing what type of personality he wants on the bench to be the yin to his yang in handling game situations.

Speaking of types of personality, it would certainly seem that the Indians netted themselves someone who would projects a fiery personality in new 3B coach/infield instructor Steve Smith, formerly of the Phillies, among others. A quick Google search not only finds this marvelous picture but also this beautiful bit of reporting following a three-game suspension that he took in 2007:
“Do I think [three games is] harsh? Yeah,” Smith said. “They explained it was because I came out on the field. That’s one day. The other two days are for my history. I’ve been thrown out a few times over the years.”

With the Rangers last season, Smith was suspended for five games for arguing a call with umpire Brian O’Nora. Mark Teixeira was called out on a play at the plate, and Smith ran in to argue, inadvertently spitting some chewing tobacco in O’Nora’s eye.

Though unintentional, Smith received a five-game suspension. The three games Smith got for Sunday’s incident were equal to the punishment levied to Cubs hitting coach Gerald Perry, who got into an altercation during Saturday's game between the Cubs and Padres.

Smith feels he was misunderstood. He believes that umpires consider the suggestion of disrespect objectionable and subject to ejection.

”They make it sound coaches just have to sit there and take it,” Smith said. “When an umpire is cursing me out, and all I said was, ‘We got it,’ and he threw me out. He couldn’t wait for me to even move. You can’t breathe.”


Who said this team needs a little hell, fire, and brimstone after the monotony of the last seven years?
Enter Steve Smith, with the only question being what uniform he’s going to wear so we can all roll around the corner of Carnegie and Ontario with base coach helmets and wads of tobacco tucked away in our lips.

But I digress, the one name that still seems to be missing from the coaches appointed is quite obviously Torey Lovullo, who most assumed would find a spot among Acta’s staff after he was given the opportunity to interview for the managerial position and paying his organizational dues. The hirings of Smith (3B Coach/Infielders) and to a lesser degree Alomar (1B Coach/Catchers) likely removes any possibility that Lovullo joins the Indians’ coaching staff in any capacity. The only as-yet-unnamed position to be filled is that of the Hitting Coach and Manny Acta stated on WTAM on Tuesday morning that he was had recently been to Venezuela (where Jon Nunally is the hitting coach for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League) to interview “internal candidates” for the job.

Whether Nunally gets the Hitting Coach gig, Lovullo remains on the outside looking in and may be looking at a return trip to helm the Clippers in 2010 unless the Indians find another spot for him in the organization (one that would be seen as a promotion) or if he finds himself outside of the organization after being passed over for the newly named coaching staff.
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Last week, the Bill James 2010 Handbook projections became fodder for discussion and a new week brings a new set of projections – this time from CHONE, who provides his 2010 projections, even if it is only for hitters at this point. His projections are not far off from those of Bill James (shown under BJ2K10), that I’ll put up there again for comparison’s sake:
Catcher
Lou Marson
CHONE
.251 BA / .339 OBP / .347 SLG / .686 OPS with 3 HR in 291 AB over 110 games
BJ2K10
.280 BA / .372 OBP / .360 SLG / .732 OPS with 1 HR in 150 AB over 49 games

Kelly Shoppach
CHONE
.229 BA / .322 OBP / .422 SLG / .744 OPS with 14 HR in 301 AB over 101 games
BJ2K10
.249 BA / .333 OBP / .465 SLG / .798 OPS with 19 HR in 381 AB over 113 games

Carlos Santana
CHONE
.243 BA / .332 OBP / .390 SLG / .722 OPS with 8 HR in 313 AB over 122 games
BJ2K10
.270 BA / .356 OBP / .419 SLG / .775 OPS with 16 HR in 503 AB over 128 games

First Base
Matt LaPorta
CHONE
.268 BA / .341 OBP / .467 SLG / .808 OPS with 18 HR in 422 AB over 133 games
BJ2K10
.266 BA / .334 OBP / .468 SLG / .802 OPS with 20 HR in 451 AB over 121 games

Second Base
Luis Valbuena
CHONE
.258 BA / .326 OBP / .393 SLG / .719 OPS with 8 HR in 387 AB over 131 games
BJ2K10
.257 BA / .323 OBP / .399 SLG / .722 OPS with 9 HR in 366 AB over 103 games

Jason Donald
CHONE
.241 BA / .307 OBP / .353 SLG / .660 OPS with 5 HR in 348 AB over 116 games
BJ2K10
Not available

Shortstop
Asdrubal Cabrera
CHONE
.285 BA / .355 OBP / .411 SLG / .766 OPS with 7 HR in 470 AB over 138 games
BJ2K10
.294 BA / .358 OBP / .421 SLG / .779 OPS with 9 HR in 582 AB over 157 games

Third Base
Jhonny Peralta
CHONE
.257 BA / .326 OBP / .406 SLG / .732 OPS with 16 HR in 579 AB over 151 games
BJ2K10
.269 BA / .336 OBP / .424 SLG / .760 OPS with 16 HR in 531 AB over 146 games

Andy Marte
CHONE
.262 BA / .315 OBP / .443 SLG / .758 OPB with 15 HR in 409 AB over 127 games
BJ2K10
.258 BA / .320 OBP / .452 SLG / .772 OPB with 6 HR in 155 AB over 65 games

Outfield
Grady Sizemore
CHONE
.276 BA / .373 OBP / .493 SLG / .866 OPS with 24 HR in 525 AB over 130 games
BJ2K10
.272 BA / .369 OBP / .484 SLG / .853 OPS with 25 HR in 574 AB over 144 games

Shin-Soo Choo
CHONE
.280 BA / .368 OBP / .456 SLG / .824 OPS with 15 HR in 472 AB over 135 games
BJ2K10
.293 BA / .383 OBP / .467 SLG / .850 OPS with 19 HR in 583 AB over 156 games

Mike Brantley
CHONE
.273 BA / .349 OBP / .358 SLG / .707 OPS with 3 HR in 377 AB over 129 games
BJ2K10
.268 BA / .342 OBP / .335 SLG / .677 OPS with 4 HR in 526 AB over 130 games

Trevor Crowe
CHONE
.255 BA / .331 OBP / .371 SLG / .702 OPS with 5 HR in 364 AB over 116 games
BJ2K10
.260 BA / .335 OBP / .360 SLG / .695 OPS with 3 HR in 311 AB over 93 games

Designated Hitter
Travis Hafner
CHONE
.259 BA / .353 OBP / .449 SLG / .802 OPS with 18 HR in 410 AB over 112 games
BJ2K10
.275 BA / .385 OBP / .495 SLG / .880 OPS with 16 HR in 309 AB over 98 games

Don’t ask me how “at-bats” or “games played” is determined (or whether the math on it even works out), but anyone else notice that CHONE is the second set of projections that have Andy Marte putting up better numbers in 2010 than Jhonny Peralta?

CHONE is not nearly as bullish on Hafner or any of the catching options as Bill James is, and these projections should be taken as just that (which historically look on the low side every time they come out), but it’s interesting nonetheless to see what an unbiased projection of the 2010 offense looks like.
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Winding it down, Manny Acta appeared on “More Sports & Les Levine” on Monday night, when most everyone was getting ready for the event on the Lakefront, listening to the blathering of the ESPN talking heads prior to kick-off while Acta was on MS&LL.

If you did miss it, here is a little highlight clip with Acta hitting on how every team is looking for starting pitching “unless you can just go out and buy two starters every year” (in a nice dig at the Evil Empire), why Sizemore is likely to lead off (high OBP regardless of strikeouts and to allow Brantley to ease into the lineup) at least to start the season, attempting to explain the enigma that his Jhonny Peralta, how he thinks that putting an emphasis on winning in Spring Training could be a solution to a better start to the season, why the “wide open” nature of the AL Central (which is just as good as saying mediocrity of the division) was one of the things that lured him to Cleveland, his preference for a set line-up, and his optimism on Hafner’s health.

The clip (only 6:20, so worth a listen) gets across Acta’s affable personality and his optimism for next year and while he doesn’t say anything different than what was heard from the former manager, it does come from a new voice. If anything can be taken from the interview, it is that “new voice” that Acta brings that will hopefully breathe new life into a club that had become moribund and listless.

Finally, MLB Network is currently running their “30 Clubs, 30 Recaps” series during their “Hot Stove” show throughout the month of November and the Indians go under the microscope of Reynolds, Leiter, and Heymann on Wednesday, November 18th at 6:00 PM. If you miss it and forget to set the DVR, it will replay on MLB Network at 7:00 PM and 10:00 PM on Wednesday.

After what transpired on Monday night on the lakefront, thinking about Spring and the Indians may be a welcome transgression as you pull your “ALOMAR 15” jersey out of the back of the closet because I know you weren’t still wearing it…were you?

2 comments:

R.M. Jennings said...

Dave Nelson and Al Bumbry?

A.G.B said...

Excellent post and a nice find on the Steve Smith article.

I may be an eternal optimist but I am liking the Manny Acta hire a little more every day. Based off the Levine interview, this guy has a better understanding of the Farm system than Wedge over did. We need to try to find a soundbite of Eric Wedge ever saying the words "Weglarz" or "Santana."