As the season winds down, our collective gaze wanders. There are other things to do, children to put onto schoolbuses and slot receivers to be drafted. Compounding the problem, rosters expand and results suddenly seem to mean less. However, as the most astute among us have already noticed, a number of suns are peaking out from behind the nimbus for the Indians.
- You can hardly be any better than Chris Perez is right now. In a banner year for pitchers, Perez's 1.91 ERA is, perhaps, overstating his case a little bit. It's "only" 15th among relievers. Still, bear in mind that Chris Perez is only 24 years old, a pitcher still developing. His progress has been evident this season and manifests in his season statistics. Since participating in the bullpen explosion in New York on May 31 (hey, all the other kids were doing it!), Perez has posted a 1.17 ERA, gone 14/15 on save attempts, struck out a batter per inning, and held batters to a .506 OPS. On the season, Perez has a 206 ERA+, the best for a regularly used Indians pitcher since the brothers Raffy both went nuts in 2007. The young fireballer has exclusively used his plus fastball (94.5 mph on average) and effective slider (83.3 mph) to great enough effect that he could be traded for ten Mark DeRosas at this point. This is, as far as I can tell, the most clear cut "win" for the Indians in a trade since Choo or Cabrera.
- The note about ERA+ above is a little bit misleading; there are some strange exceptions (Anthony Reyes' magically lucky 34.1 IP in 2008, for instance) and, in fact, there's a strange exception on this staff. Justin Germano has now pitched in 16 games for the Cleveland Indians and has an ERA+ of 333. Germano, a player the Indians brought to camp after he spam emailed a bunch of MLB teams, will have to battle to sunstain big league success (none of his peripherals inspire a ton of confidence) but he's been a lot of fun, mostly because of the novelty of his sub-70 mph overhand curve. At a minimum, the Indians found an effective long reliever at no cost in a year where they really needed an effective long reliever. Optimistically, they've added another arm to the bullpen mix for next year and may have found a major league reliever. And, of course, Germano is LGT's first exclusive interview since that guy was selling Cy Young's house.
- Michael Brantley has made good on a portion of his minor league promise since his full time return to the big leagues in early August. Following his reinsertion into the lineup, Brantley has commanded the plate (16:9 K:BB), hit respectably (.299/.346/.393) and played centerfield at a level that Trevor Crowe can't approach. Brantley still has a long way to go toward valuable major league regular: he must maintain the incremental progress he has made and add power. However, at just 23 and having gone 8/10 on stolen bases this season, he's inspiring a lot of optimism.
- Many of the Indians top prospects finished their regular seasons with their stocks some form of "up": Nick Weglarz, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Jason Knapp, and Carlos Carrasco all appeared to make significant strides this year and, perhaps more importantly, only one of those guys is below AA. With his late season push (which is no flash in the pan), Carrasco will almost certainly be a favorite to make the Indians rotation out of ST and Chisenhall, Kipnis and Weglarz will all have a chance to contribute in Cleveland if they perform well in Columbus. On top of this, Chun-Hsiu Chen has forced his name into the Indians very tippy top prospect discussion with his bonkers season split between Lake County and Kinston. Everything didn't go well down below this year (Nick Hagadone tries to wave the shell of Hector Rondon's arm at us but he can't control it) but more went well than we could've reasonably hoped.
And, now, a little minutiae, in honor of the best MLB beat guy anywhere.
- When Luis Valbuena, a lefthanded batter, arrived to man second base for the Indians, one of the big questions was if he would ever be able to hit lefthanded pitching or if he would be forced into a platoon role. Valbuena has definitively answered this question in two ways. First, he's shown that he does not need to be platooned, he needs to be kept from playing at all. Secondly, he's smashed lefthanded pitching in 2010. Seriously. He has a career minor league split of just 664 OPS versus lefties yet, for Columbus in 2010, he posted a 1096 OPS against lefties, with 3 HRs in only 36 ABs. And, for the really nuts part, he's done an 899 OPS against lefties in 2010 at the major league level. The problem, of course, is that he's done nothing against righties. This is all a small sample size gambit but it's strange enough to warrant mentioning. Shouldn't there be greater hope that Valbuena, who's never struggled to hit righties at any level, would be able to relearn how to do the most natural thing in the world for lefties, hit righties?
- It's been speculated that the aforementioned Michael Brantley's inability to pull the ball will eventually be his demise in the major leagues. Well, I don't know how to parse this chart by date or anything, but it certainly looks like he's showing the ability to pull the ball in 2010 at Progressive Field.
- Shin-Soo Choo has taken a lot of heat for being a Boras client but does it seem reasonable that Boras, with his seemingly endless resources, might have been the obvious fit for a guy who might need to stand up to an entire nation? If any agent could find a way to keep Choo out of the South Korean military and in the majors, I'd imagine it's Boras.
- Am I the only one who always votes "100" on the Indians fan confidence poll?