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Indians Indians Archive View from the Porch: Examining a Slump Edition
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke


With the Indians playing around .500 ball since May, fear and doubt are starting to creep in to almost everybody’s mind. The Indians gave themselves the luxury of playing .500 by having an 18-8 April and giving themselves a reasonable shot at having four months of mediocrity lead to 86 wins. As I said in last week’s VftP about perspective, baseball is a long grind. There are 162 games to complete.

It isn’t time to run for the life jackets and the row boats, but a slight sense of panic is setting in. For some, the panic is far more severe than others. While the national media starts writing up their "I told you so" articles about the Indians and the fairweather fans' second thoughts about the season begin to take over their sense of optimism, overreactions are running rampant. Step away from the ledge everyone.

Is the Indians stretch of middling, sometimes substandard play in the back of my mind? Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be? We’ve been ****-teased too many times in this town to have it be otherwise. But, I don't let it consume me. I'd rather take it in stride and eat the burger. Or, in other words, there's no reason to let a bump in the road ruin something entirely. Every road has a bump, even the most freshly-paved one.

I get that a slump is a surprise for us this year. With how well things began, it looked like the road to the playoffs would be paved with yellow bricks and lined with waving, screaming fans. Consider that we're actually at the point where a stretch like this pisses us off. Last year, weeks like this past one would be the norm, the expected outcome from the Indians. This year, it's a shock. That tells you how far we've come.

This is not the same team we saw in April and very early May. Personnel-wise, it might be damn close. But, the team that was 30-15 on May 23 has disappeared. Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson look human. The defense has been porous (#FreeCordPhelps). Clutch two-out base hits are harder to come by and the “different hero every night” theory seems to have gone by the wayside for the time being.

Anybody know what this is called? Give up? I’ll tell you. This is called baseball. It is a game of streaks. A game of ebbs and flows. A game of Mount Everests and Death Valleys. A game of Five Guys hamburgers and processed, frozen grocery store patties. A game of a fresh pie from your favorite Little Italy pizzeria and a hastily-thrown together, unauthentically topped pizza from a chain. A game of...nevermind, you get the idea.

Teams go through struggles. No team is immune to this. The 2008 Philadelphia Phillies’ longest losing streak was six games. The 2009 New York Yankees longest losing streak was five games. The 2010 San Francisco Giants longest losing streak was seven games. The ’10 Giants also had two entire months where they played below .500 and a month that finished exactly .500.

Since the first game of the Boston series, the Indians are 3-7. They have allowed 74 runs while scoring 37. Quite frankly, they were due for a stretch like this. Not because they’re a bad baseball team, but because it’s the nature of the game of baseball. The trick to being a good, or great, baseball team is to prevent long losing streaks. Win a bulk of the series that you play. To date, the Indians have done that. They have found ways to win more games that they shouldn’t than give winnable games away.

Much has been made of a couple of the team’s more pressing issues. Here’s the View from the Porch on these subjects.



Fellow TCF writer Al Ciammaichella, also backed by TCF DiaScribe Paul Cousineau, began this grassroots Twitter campaign as Orlando Cabrera really started to struggle. (entering Friday’s game) Over the last two weeks, OCab’s hitting just .194. Stretch that to four weeks and it’s .216. Stretch that to all season against RHP and he’s at .232. When leading off an inning, Orlando’s batting a Mario Mendoza-belly-laugh-inducing .138. He added to this bit of the column with an 0-for-3 on Friday.

For the longest time, I was willing to give Orlando Cabrera the benefit of the doubt. He had displayed an ability to be clutch throughout April and the first part of May and his leadership skills and character were firmly on display. The hitting slump reared its ugly head. Then, the fielding foibles began. This is one of those Eye Test v. Stats arguments that I discussed last week in VftP.

Cabrera’s range factor at 2B is .12 below the league average. A more telling range factor is factoring in what you see. Cabrera has most of his difficulty going to his left. A couple of botched ground balls lately have resulted in runs, none more egregious than in Toronto when he dropped a ball and then sulked about it long enough to allow Rajai Davis to score.

I want to support Orlando Cabrera. What he brings in his leadership role is great. I have no idea what relegating him to the bench would do to the chemistry and morale of this year’s Tribe. Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers can overcome weak defense and adequate hitting. The Indians cannot. This is a situation to monitor, especially as the Super Two Status deadline inches closer. By mid/late June, the Indians can bring up Cord Phelps and still maintain another year of contractual control. In this market, that’s critical.

I was a big proponent of Orlando Cabrera and what he brought to this team because our record was unexpected and he was riding that same wave. Now, where we actually have a good chance in this division, put the nine best guys out there. That may include Cord Phelps.



Carlos Santana’s coming around with the stick thanks to Jon Nunnally & Co. fixing a hitch in his approach to the baseball. I still believe he will hit because he has hit at every level. I have an issue of a different type.

His defense. The Indians pitchers have been awful at holding on runners for the last few seasons. It’s hard to hold his low caught stealing percentage against him because most of the time, he never has a chance. Very few stats are available to quantify a catcher’s defensive performance. Even CS% is misleading because a stolen base is usually the fault of the pitcher more than the catcher.

Under the umbrella of catching defense, to me, is something that we were unquestionably spoiled with when the other #41 was here. Carlos Santana, in my opinion, is a bad defensive catcher because he cannot sufficiently handle the pitching staff. Again, with no way of quantifying this, Santana lacks the maturation and the awareness to be behind the plate long-term. It has nothing to do with his receiving of pitches. Nothing to do with what he does in regards to blocking pitches in the dirt.

For those who have seen the Band of Brothers miniseries, I can best describe Santana’s prowess behind the plate as Lieutenant Norman Dike. Dike was the acting commander of Easy Company when legendary Major Dick Winters was taken off the line. Dike, nicknamed “Foxhole Norman” was nowhere to be found when the bullets started flying or the bombs started exploding. To me, Santana tries to hide at his position when the team is facing adversity.

Santana hangs out behind home plate looking irritated and annoyed when his pitcher is getting battered. Rather than go to the mound and gameplan with his battery mate, he gazes in to the dugout as if Tim Belcher needs to don a cape and come save him. When Belcher doesn’t leapfrog the top step, Santana goes back to his crouch and continues to watch the game unfold.

At the slightest hint of trouble, Victor Martinez would walk the ball back to the mound or motion “Settle Down” with his hands. He, usually, would then call for a breaking ball to get the pitcher to slow down and relax his delivery. Maybe I’m jaded because I was spoiled with, arguably, the best teammate in baseball, but I see none of these traits from Santana.

He may learn them, he may develop them but the Indians are not in a position to wait around. Are Indians pitchers getting hammered of late because they’re making bad pitches or because the catcher calling them isn’t making adjustments? I’ll say that it’s a combination of both.

Consider cERA (cue sample size discussion!), which is the catcher ERA with a certain pitcher on the mound.

Fausto Carmona

Santana: 4.81 (5.31 this year), 22 games

Marson: 3.12, 12 games (0 this year)

Justin Masterson

Santana: 4.72 (3.57 this year), 14 games (7 this year)

Marson: 4.15 (2.86 this year), 30 games (5 this year)

Josh Tomlin

Santana: 3.20, 9 games all this year

Marson: 4.08 (3.55 this year), 7 games (2 this year)

Carlos Carrasco

Santana: 5.03, all 8 games this year

Marson: 4.66 (6.00 this year), 7 games (2 this year)

Tough to get a good read off the last two, but the Carmona splits are the most telling. The Masterson splits include Masterson’s excellent end to last season where he seemed to figure it out and when Santana was on the mend. Unfortunately, cERA is the best way to try and quantify my point, and I don’t think it does justice. Just watch Santana and his mannerisms behind the plate. You’ll start to notice what I noticed.


These are simply the issues that get magnified right now because the team is not playing well and everybody needs/wants someone/something to blame. Maybe there is more to it than a slump. Maybe the team is coming down from the emotional high of their hot start and really, truly are starting to level out. As I write this after the Indians finished getting pasted again for the sixth time in 10 games, I wonder how they will snap out of it.

But, baseball is a long, long season. One thing is for certain. On May 23, the Indians lead the Central by seven games. On June 4, they lead the Central by 4.5 games.

Considering the entire lineup seems to be slumping all at once, and the Indians best hitter Travis Hafner is on the DL, and the starting pitching has been putting the team behind early in the game, being ahead by 4.5 games really is not all that bad.

For now, it’s time to right the ship, avoid the iceberg, and start to re-arrange the deck chairs. It’s when the deck chairs are falling into the water that we need to be worried about. We’re not at that point yet.

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