Cleveland Indians 2014 vs. 2013: The Infield

Jason Miller

The first of a four-part series looking at how the 2014 Indians should compare to the Wild Card team from last year.

Flash back to Opening Day 2013, the Indians were a different team than they are today. Carlos Santana was a full-time catcher and Yan Gomes had never donned an Indians uniform. We were dreaming on Mark Reynolds' right-handed power. Ubaldo Jimenez was a mess. Chris Perez was the closer. Over the next four weeks, I want to take a step back and look at the Indians position-by-position to see where we can expect improvement and where we should be concerned as we near Opening Day 2014.

Today we'll review the infield, with DH and the outfield to come next week, followed by the rotation and finally the bullpen. For the offense, you'll see six columns on each table:

  • 2013 wOBA (FanGraphs has a great primer on wOBA, but in short it is a single statistic that aims to incorporate a player's entire offensive contribution) is each players' actual split - what they produced while playing that position
  • 2013 UZR/150 is again the actual split - an advanced measure of the player's defensive contribution while playing that position
  • 2013 PT is the percentage of the team's PA at that position that the given player was responsible for
  • 2014 wOBA is the ZiPS projected wOBA and is not position specific - I'm assuming that a player will be the same hitter no matter what position he plays
  • 2014 UZR/150 is my estimate based on the player's history
  • 2014 PT is my guess as to the percentage of the team's PA at that position the given player will be responsible for

Without further ado, here is the infield:

Catcher

Player

'13 wOBA

'13 DRS

'13 PT

'14 wOBA

'14 DRS

'14 PT

Yan Gomes

.363

11

47.6%

.327

14

65%

Carlos Santana

.361

-12

51.1%

.356

-8

35%

Lou Marson

.276

0

0.8%

Kelly Shoppach

.000

0

0.3%

Omir Santos

.000

0

0.2%

Indians Total

.359

-1

.337

6

AL Average

.311

-3

UZR does not exist for catchers, so I used DRS instead. The big drop in offensive production comes from ZIPS not projecting Gomes to match his superb 2013. The high 2013 BABIP, as discussed in my last piece, suggests a drop off is in the works. Defense, however, should represent a big improvement and this doesn't even get into the impact Gomes could have on the pitching staff. With Gomes behind the plate in 2013, the Indians pitchers had a 3.56 ERA; with Santana it was 4.05. It's hard to count on that happening again, but between pitch framing and game calling, there is reason to believe Gomes's impact is understated by looking solely at DRS and wOBA. If he hits even half-way between his 2013 and his ZIPS projection, catcher could turn out to be a big improvement compared to last year - and it was already a strength.

First Base

Player

'13 wOBA

'13 UZR/150

'13 PT

'14 wOBA

'14 UZR/150

'14 PT

Nick Swisher

.311

2.2

63.4%

.330

5

80%

Carlos Santana

.378

-16.5

15.3%

.356

-10

20%

Mark Reynolds

.313

-5.6

21.0%

Yan Gomes

.000

0.0

0.2%

Indians Total

.321

-2.3

.335

2

AL Average

.338

-0.5

First base seems like a clear spot to look for improvement and we can foresee a shift from below average to average production. First there is the addition by subtraction: removing the disaster that was Mark Reynolds. Then you get a big bump from an expected Swisher bounce back. And Swisher's track record suggests his defense could improve a bit, as well. This is exactly why we do this exercise - most of the Indians 1B production will come from the same people who provided it last year, but there is good reason to think there will be marked improvement here.

Second Base

Player

'13 wOBA

'13 UZR/150

'13 PT

'14 wOBA

'14 UZR/150

'14 PT

Jason Kipnis

.356

-6.3

90.7%

.334

-5

90%

Mike Aviles

.212

14

6.4%

.289

0

10%

Ryan Raburn

.356

14.7

1.1%

Cord Phelps

.000

-135.5

1.1%

Jose Ramirez

.454

12.9

0.7%

Indians Total

.344

-6.1

.330

-4.5

AL Average

.308

0.1

2B is a huge strength for the Indians, although 2014 doesn't look great compared to 2013. But for a moment, I am going to do something rather unscientific and say I think this result is wrong. I just don't buy the wOBA projection for Kipnis. ZiPS projects a .311 BABIP for Kipnis, but with his speed and a rising line drive rate, I expect something much higher, probably closer to .330. If that happens, his wOBA will climb closer to his 2013 numbers. That said, it looks like 2B could be step back on offense and a small step forward on defense in 2014.

Shortstop

Player

'13 wOBA

'13 UZR/150

'13 PT

'14 wOBA

'14 UZR/150

'14 PT

Asdrubal Cabrera

.307

-16.8

77.0%

.320

-12

90%

Mike Aviles

.294

-2.6

22.9%

.289

5

10%

Jose Ramirez

.000

0

0.1%

Indians Total

.303

-13.5

.317

-10.3

AL Average

.296

-1.3

First of all, for all the hand-wringing about not trading Asdrubal Cabrera, note that even in a down year, SS was an offensive strength for the Indians compared to the rest of the league. As for 2014, no player changes, but ZiPS is bullish on Cabrera. This would still be a step back from Cabrera's great 2011 and very good 2012, so it seems reasonable to me. If Cabrera can put up this season, SS will be much more valuable to the Indians than it was a year ago.

Third Base

Player

'13 wOBA

'13 UZR/150

'13 PT

'14 wOBA

'14 UZR/150

'14 PT

Lonnie Chisenhall

.274

-4.6

48.2%

.315

-5

70%

Mike Aviles

.285

-19.2

25.0%

.289

-15

30%

Mark Reynolds

.271

-30.4

24.9%

John McDonald

.086

-38.1

1.3%

Jose Ramirez

.444

60.8

0.6%

Indians Total

.282

-14.7

.307

-8

AL Average

.317

-0.1

Let's start with the bad news: third base looks like it will not be pretty in 2014. The silver lining? It was such a raging dumpster fire in 2013, that "not pretty" is a huge step forward and a great chance for the Indians to get meaningful improvement. And if Chisenhall develops into the hitter we once expected him to become, we could see a big shift in production here.

Put together, it looks like the offense we see from the Tribe infield in 2014 will be about the same as in 2013, which would be solid production. Meanwhile, the defense looks like it will be better than last year, in part because of Gomes playing more, in part because of other players projected for improvement.

Next week, we'll look at the outfield, plus the DH spot.


.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Let's Go Tribe

You must be a member of Let's Go Tribe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Let's Go Tribe. You should read them.

Join Let's Go Tribe

You must be a member of Let's Go Tribe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Let's Go Tribe. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker