Early Weekend Six-Pack (18 June '09)


1. John Meloan is not helping his cause or ours...

On a 40-man roster this shell-shocked, it's hard to muster up a complaint about any one given minor leaguer. But it's telling that the Indians turned to journeyman relievers before the young and (presumably) healthy Meloan, whose 2009 was supposed to be a dramatic return to form, since he'd been decoupled from the starting duties to which the Dodgers had so irrationally shackled him. As it turns out, the problem may have more to do with John Meloan, and less to do with how John Meloan's being used. Take a look at his numbers since he left L.A. (as a starter) and came to Cleveland (as a reliever).

2008 (LAD): .285 / 1.66 / 4.31 / 19.0%
2008 (CLE): .235 / 1.43 / 4.43 / 16.7%
2009 (CLE): .293 / 1.57 / 4.61 / 27.0%

Whatever's gone wrong with John since his standout 2007 season, moving him back to the 'pen doesn't appear to have fixed it. It's especially frustrating because even a modicum of effectiveness probably would have earned him a call-up by now.


2. Michael Brantley might be better than Trevor Crowe right now

Lost among the commentary about Brantley's rocky AAA debut was the fact that he kept getting good wood on the ball -- a LD% over 20% in April and May, and nearly that so far in June. As his discipline has caught up to the level of the competition (BB:K in April, May, and June: 7:14, 15:14, 6:4), Brantley's become a legitimate threat at the plate, not to mention a Net-demon on the basepaths, stealing 20 and only being caught twice. If Brantley's June level of performance is what he's really capable of, Sackmann's MLE predicts a Major League OPS in the mid-700s.

Should Grady's elbow turn out to need a good ol'-fashioned athroscropic scopin', the Indians will have some tough choices to make regarding the outfield. Obviously they could replace Francisco with LaPorta, but that still leaves a significant offensive hole in center, barring a turn-around from Trevor Crowe. The front office would have a number of reasons not to add Brantley to the 25-man -- not the least of which would be that he also would have to be added to the 40-man -- but doubts about Brantley's capabilities probably won't be one of those reasons.

3. The Indians do not have signability issues with the draft

And 2009 doesn't look to be an exception. Tony Lastoria reports that the Tribe has already inked 9 draftees, including 8 of the top 16 picks. Several more high level picks, including 3rd- and 4th- rounders Joe Gardner and Kyle Bellows, are unofficially signed and will be reporting to their minor league affiliates within the next few weeks. As Brad Grant said in a couple of different interviews, the Indians' prioritize signing the first 15 picks, then follow the rest for the summer and sign them as they see fit. Off we go.

I'm curious to see how this organization values Jason Kipnis in particular. As I noted in the comments to last week's 6-pack, Kipnis and 2008 pick Tim Fedroff are both college center fielders, very nearly the same age, so comparing their signing bonuses ought to give us a decent idea of how the Indians value Kipnis's talent relative to Fedroff's.


4. Given the opportunity, here's a dumb question I asked Brad Grant

"Do the Indians scout non-NCAA conferences and JuCo teams more heavily than do other clubs?" I was thinking about Mills coming from an NAIA team, and Chisenhall coming from a JuCo team. Except -- except -- that's not really what happened, is it? Both Beau Mills and Lonnie Chisenhall were NCAA Division I talents. Mills left for academic reasons, Chisenhall for trouble with the law, but ... shoot, these guys were only bargain-bin signs in the most superficial sense. While I'm at it, Mills didn't leave for just any NAIA team, but for the NAIA team. Lewis-Clark State is its own animal.

So if we think of Mills and Chisenhall as NCAA players, that means the Indians have used their first-round pick on a Division I guy every year since after Corey Smith in 2000 and Dan Denham in 2001. If that's not a ringing endorsement for selecting college players in the first round, I don't know what is. (By the way, from the "Did you know this? 'Cause I didn't" file -- Denham and Smith are still in baseball. Name the organizations they're with.)


5. Okay, so, Stomp ... what gives?

As long as we're talking about things I've written that are wrong, how about that glowing everything's-okay-now profile of Jensen Lewis in the Annual? Here's what FanGraphs' Marc Hulet had to say about Lewis, J. recently:

If you're a fan of FIP, you're probably not a fan of Jensen Lewis. The right-handed reliever has posted pretty good superficial numbers over the parts of the past three seasons that he's been in the Majors. However, his FIP has gone from 2.49 to 4.59 to 5.54. His line-drive rate was also a worrisome 24.5% in 2008, although it currently sits at 11.5%. His HR/9 rate has gone from 1.03 to 2.30 in the past two seasons. For what it's worth, Lewis does have a nice K/BB rate at 3.00.

A glance at Jensen's FanGraphs profile sheds some light on the problem, if not on the solution: His first-pitch strike percentage has fallen from 67.2% in 2007 to 55.4% in 2009, and he's inducing 10% fewer swings at pitches outside of the zone over that same timeframe. As Jensen is pretty strictly a fastball-changeup reliever anymore, I'm going to guess this is a fastball location issue more than anything. In 2008, PitchF/X says Jensen got most of his swings-and-misses up in the zone, and his called strikes at a medium height, on the corners. I'm left to conclude that Jensen's missing off the plate so badly that he can't set up the high heat or the change-up.

On the plus side, his stuff doesn't seem to have deteriorated, and he's still working in the zone, as Hulet points out, so there's no reason to think he can't be fixed. But the less-appealing reality might be that he's not a dramatically different pitcher than he's ever been, and that the league is simply on to him. Either way, the fact that the Indians haven't exercised that option year shows just how abysmal the bullpen really is these days.


6. If Carl Pavano's goose is cooked, what's left?

Saved the best for last, didn't I? In his recent round of in-game interviews, Shapiro said the team was trying to keep its "nose above the water" until the return of Westbrook, SLewis, and Laffey (and of course Sizemore and Droobs). What I don't think he had in mind was those three pitchers taking up slots 2, 3, and 4. But Zach Jackson's going through a rough patch, and after him, the only other starter on the 40-man is Hector Rondon. I'm stumped. What do we do if Pavano's hurt, or gassed?


Well, it's been a tough week. Have a couple extra of Milwaukee's ACTUAL best, in honor of our having hosted the Brewers.




UPDATE: Okay, since this is technically an 8-pack, here's two quick ones to slam.

7. "Carlos Santana! Carlos Santana! Ooohhhh, $%!#, Carlos Santana!"

Have you looked at this man's profile lately? If not, I'll tell you, it left me so sassified I started callin' out his name. That would be a 529 SLG basted with a 45:29 BB:K ratio, and no, you're not reading those numbers backwards. Oh, and he's throwing out 34% of attempted base-stealers. At the very least, I think Carlos will be seeing a promotion to AAA in the near future, but the larger reality might be that we're watching a Major Leaguer already.

Casey Blake, people. Casey. Blake.


8. CoolStandings still thinks 85 wins takes the Central

Which means, any way you cut it, that the Indians will have to play nearly 600 ball for the remainder of the season.

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