Much has been made of the Indians success this season and many people have attributed it to a big offseason in 2012. While those players and personnel have been important, enough credit can not be given to Mickey Calloway's role in turning around the pitching staff, the real reason behind the Indians success this year was the career progression of the players acquired through various means over the past five years.
Before going into the greatness of the long term Tribesmen, credit must be given to the newcomers. Terry Francona has been just about the perfect manager for this team. He was patient when necessary, allowing Ubaldo Jimenez, Lonnie Chisenhall and others to work through their struggles during the early season before making rash decisions. In each decision, he was right, allowing Jimenez to continue while benching Chisenhall and Mark Reynolds. He was generally good in handling the pitching staff as well, keeping the young starters from over extending so they would be available late in the season. Of the rest of the new coaching staff, it is hard to tell how much they actually effected, but the offense, coached by Ty Van Burkleo, has improved over previous seasons. Mickey Calloway and Mike Sarbaugh have been good as well, but are technically not newcomers as they came through the minor league system.
In addition to an entirely new coaching staff, the Indians also spent a lot of money to bring in a slew of free agents, including Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds and Brett Myers. Some even better deals were made through trades where the Indians picked up Yan Gomes, Mike Aviles, Drew Stubbs, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw. Finally, they added a few role players just before the season started through minor league contracts including Scott Kazmir, Ryan Raburn and Rich Hill.
Of the 25 most used roster members, 12 were new, while 13 were either on the team in 2012 or came up through the Indians farm system. Based on our 2013 final Player Power Rankings, the Indians top six Indians producers this year fell under the second category, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Corey Kluber. This is important to look at before giving Nick Swisher all the credit for the turn around, just because he used to play for the Yankees.
The above chart shows the total final season statistics for the Indians, split between those players who have been with the team at least a year or came up through the system and those that were added just prior to the 2013 season. Obviously, the Indians added a much larger percent of their lineup in the offseason than the pitching staff. In fact, although it wasn't prepared this way at the beginning of the year, four of the five regular starters were hold overs from last year. The sixth starter, Danny Salazar, also counts for that side as a former Indians international free agent signing.
Because of this, there is no question that the old pitchers far outproduced the new, not just in innings, but in the rate stats as well. In fact, almost none of the new pitching acquisitions worked out with Brett Myers and Rich Hill especially being epically bad. Marc Rzepczynski was a great mid season pick-up and is included on the new players list, but didn't throw enough innings to really matter. The main player responsible for anything positive on that side was Scott Kazmir, who was a surprise signing that continued to surprise through the final month of the season.
The offense was a different story. Three of the eight regular offensive players were new as well as the entire bench, most of which eventually became some sort of every day player. An interesting note is that those five starters that remained from 2012 were essentially the only old Indians to play at all this year. Those players all played in at least 94 games with the next highest being September call-up, Juan Ramirez, who played in 15. On the other side, eight new players got into at least 70 games and September call-up, Matt Carson, played in 20. This essentially explains why the counting stats are higher for the new players, but the rate stats are higher for the original Indians.
The most interesting statistical oddity is that not only did new players not steal more bases than the old, but they were more inefficient. Coming into 2013, Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs were supposed to bring a new level of speed to the Indians offense, but Bourn was caught 12 times in 35 attempts and Stubbs only attempted 19. Jason Kipnis was the top stealer on the team this year with 30 steals and was only caught seven times. Michael Brantley added 17 of his own and was only caught four times. Yes, the Indians were much more dangerous on the bases this year than in previous years, but it had more to do with the career progression of Kipnis, Brantley and Cabrera than the additions of Stubbs and Bourn.
The fact is, things are looking good for the Indians now and in the future. There is no real competition between the old players and the new and this was just an effort to show that all the Indians success was not due to their extra spending last offseason. Kipnis, Swisher, Santana, Gomes and Bourn are under team control through 2017. Most of the top pitchers, like Danny Salazar, Zach McAllister, Trevor Bauer, Cody Allen and C.C. Lee are under control even longer. If nothing else, this means that last year's off-season was a one time event and won't need to happen again for at least the next four years. If these guys played this well together in their first year, just imagine what they will be like when they hit their prime within the next three years.