Where We At? July 2012

A month that saw the Indians struggle as a group also saw them struggle as individuals. Many stars had their worst month of the season although a few unexpected players did shine through. Players ranked in order of importance to team for the entirety of 2012 to this point. The rating given (above, even or below) is based on July’s expectations only and only considers that month. (Change from last month’s ranking is in parenthesis). Here’s this month’s list:

1. Jason Kipnis Below (0)

9 RBI: Even though Kipnis had by far his worst month of the season in July, he remains atop the leader boards for another month. He continues to lead the team in RBI (9 more than the next best) and steals (10 more) while remaining in second in home runs and triples behind by just one in each stat. His defense remains strong at a very difficult and important up the middle and even at his worst he is one of the most effective parts of the Indians offensive machine.

2. Shin-Soo Choo Above (+1)

8 Doubles: This is Choo’s highest place so far on the Indians Player Power Rankings as he started very low, ranked 15th after April. Since then, Choo has improved every month, culminating in team high 8 doubles in July, giving him 32 on the season, second in the American League (Alex Gordon). This recent success has lead to rumors of an early departure from the team for Choo that were thankfully untrue. No true Indians fan would want to see him traded away in the prime of his career.

3. Michael Brantley Above (+3)

.326 AVG: Brantley was the only Indian with more than 50 at bats in July to hit over .300 and joins Cabrera’s April and Choo’s June being the only times an Indian has hit over .300 in a single month this year. Brantley had a great July, showing some power (3 home runs, 11 RBI in July, 1 HR, 35 RBI previously) and patience as he drew 12 walks. If there is one draw back to Brantley, it is that he is not being used to his fullest potential as he was stuck in the middle of the lineup when he should be batting in one of the top two positions as a table setter. This has kept his steal attempts to three this month with just two being successful.

4. Asdrubal Cabrera Below (0)

.307 SLG: I would list the players with a higher slugging percentage than the Indians shortstop, but it is easier to go the other way. Hannahan, Lopez, Marson and Lillibridge were the only players to hit with less power on the Tribe during July. None of those other players had any expectations coming into this month, but Cabrera did. He has also struggled defensively including a recent game where he made two errors in the same inning. Luckily for him, the Indians signed Kotchman to make him look good or things would be even worse for the All-Star.

5. Carlos Santana Above (+6)

.433 OBP: Not surprisingly, Santana lead all Indians in both OBP and walks again this month and continues to lead for the season with 61 walks. Santana is extremely patient and has a great eye, to the point that he could end up challenging Jim Thome for his walks record if he sticks around long enough. July was Santana’s best month to date as he is finally sitting about where he should on these rankings. Although an injury slowed him down, he appears to be hitting his stride and should provide power from the cleanup spot for the rest of the season.

6. Vinnie Pestano Above (-1)

12.75 K/9: The Indians flame throwing set-up man outdid himself this month, striking out 17 in 12 innings and lowering his season ERA to 1.47. How did he manage to lower his already minuscule ERA? Pestano didn’t allow a single runner to cross the plate during the month of July. There is simply no Indians pitcher on the roster comparable to Vinnie Pestano.

7. Casey Kotchman Even (+5)

11 Runs: Casey has improved much this season, going from a huge detractor of the Indians offense to becoming almost an asset. His 11 runs scored from the bottom of the lineup show that he is getting on base more when it matters and his team leading 12 RBI in July show that he can score from both sides. If Kotchman had played the whole season like this the Indians still would have been disappointed (.239 AVG in July, .227 in 2012), but they would have been a lot less disappointed.

8. Zach McAllister Above (+6)

9 Runs Allowed: The Indians newest best pitcher was amazingly able to keep an ERA of 2.56 through the month despite giving up 5 home runs by keeping his walks down (9), his strike outs up (31) and by having players make errors behind him leading to a team high 7 unearned runs in one month. McAllister has been by far the most consistent starting pitcher on the team during his time with the Tribe and is very deserving of the top spot held by a starter in this month’s rankings.

9. Travis Hafner Below (New)

5:17 BB/K: At some point in time Pronk got turned around and started swinging early in the count and taking pitches late. This has lead to an inordinate amount of called looking strike outs and a very slim amount of walks and hits. Travis used to be the Indians best hitter as far as getting on base, but this month in particular he has been awful. This is his first month back after missing a month with injury and he has shown some power (team leading 4 home runs), but it hasn’t amounted to much (6 RBI). If he continues to struggle he may begin to lose playing time to Duncan who has been much better of late.

10. Chris Perez Even (-3)

1 Blown Save: I know how much he hates it, but when Pure Rage only throws 9 innings in a month, he is going to be judged on the one time he messed up. Perez blew his second save of the season the day before the All-Star break, and although he has been perfect since, he simply hasn’t had the opportunities to make up for it.

11. Joe Smith Above (-1)

2 Wins: Smith was second on the team in wins in July and is tied for third for 2012 as a reliever. He has been solid all year (especially this month) and has taken advantage of many games where the original starting pitcher was not as dependable as the Indians would have liked. Smith is especially successful at racking up wins because he is only used in close games, but isn’t used exclusively in wins like Perez and Pestano are.

12. Jose Lopez Below (+2)

2 RBI: Lopez wasn’t exactly impressive this month, but absolutely terrible performances by a few Indians starting pitchers have seen him climb up the rankings. His .220 batting average and single walk during July have made deciding who to start at third a daily headache for Indians manager Manny Acta.

13. Justin Masterson Below (-11)

1.54 WHIP: So much for those flashes of brilliance as Masterson has fallen off the wagon and started walking people again. Fifteen this month alone along with 40 hits allowed have ballooned his WHIP and ERA (5.55), but the fact that he is nowhere near being the Indians third worst starter is what is really depressing. His fall of 11 places in the rankings in one month is by far the most of any player this season.

14. Shelley Duncan Above (+6)

1.103 OPS: Duncan surprised everyone in July by playing how he was expected to play all season. In no more playing time than normal, Duncan has hit 4 home runs (9 total) and knocked in 10 runs (25 total) this month. He also batted .306 and only struck out 4 times as he is practically demanding to take playing time away from the struggling Hafner and Damon. At this point there is no reason Duncan shouldn’t be starting somewhere every day.

15. Ubaldo Jimenez Below (-7)

6 HRA: Jimenez had a 6.09 ERA and there were still two Indians starters worse than him this month. He is continuing to strike hitters out (29 in July, 94 on the year), but his 1.74 is embarrassingly bad. Jimenez pitched more innings in July than anyone but Masterson and the Indians have no choice but to stick with him and wait for him to turn things around.

16. Jack Hannahan Below (0)

11 Hits: The reason Lopez is still the starting third baseman can be found by looking at Hannahan’s line, .193/.246/.298. He makes Jose look good. If only Lonnie Chisenhall hadn’t taken one for the team, Lopez could have been traded to the Yankees for the next Zach McAllister and Hannahan would be a solid late inning defensive replacement. Instead, Jack has to be used in some sort of sado-masochistic platoon situation where the two players batting averages added together equal .413.

17. Johnny Damon Even (+1)

2 XBH: While Damon is still considered the starting left fielder for the Tribe (he starts more games in left field than any other player at least) he has managed to do something interesting in July. He hit one double, one triple and walked once during an entire month. The fact that he stole two bases is a minor miracle, but doesn’t add much to his value as a baseball player. At this point there may be dozens of more capable candidates for the job and Damon is just holding them back. One was recently sent to Los Angeles (Trevor Crowe), never to be seen of again. Hopefully the Indians will remove this dead weight from the roster before any more promising young outfielders disappear.

18. Derek Lowe Below (-9)

10.03 ERA: It can’t get worse than this. If Lowe is listed on next month’s rankings it will be a sure sign that the Indians have been eliminated. His fall has been dramatic since he peaked at the #2 spot in the first ever edition of the Indians Player Power Rankings. Lowe may just be the second worst starter on the Indians, but he is bad enough.

19. Josh Tomlin Below (-4)

1 Relief Appearance: The Indians decided to make this move just before the month ended. With both Lowe and Tomlin struggling they have put them together like some kind of starting pitcher nightmare Voltron that combined can’t make it through five innings. In their first combined effort they allowed 11 hits, 8 runs, 2 walks and just recorded a single strike out in 5 innings. Tomlin’s replacement is to be called up on Thursday and the Indians will have to make a choice with what to do with him, and Derek Lowe, by then.

20. Lou Marson Below (+1)

.194 AVG: Lou’s back to normal, don’t worry about anything. That one good month was just a fluke. There’s nothing to see here. Certainly not a batting average above .200 or a single home run.

21. Esmil Rogers Even (-5)

10 Games Played: At 10 games, Rogers was the third most used reliever in the bullpen and established himself as king of the losers. The Indians have two bullpens, one consists of Perez, Pestano, Smith and sometimes Sipp (the Bullpen Mafia), while the other is used in games that have already been decided by terrible starting pitching and poor run support. Rogers is the best of these others at this point. The good news for him is there is room for advancement and if he continues to pitch well, he may be used in a close game that the Indians are winning, provided that that particular situation happens again this year.

22. Jeremy Accardo Below (-3)

7 BB: Seriously how do you walk seven batters in 13 innings as a relief pitcher. The job of a reliever is to come in and throw strikes. Accardo hasn’t allowed many hits and has been effective getting batters to swing and miss, placing the majority of his 4.15 ERA to blame on his awful control.

23. Tony Sipp Above (+1)

1.93 ERA: The Indians lone left handed reliever out of the bullpen just had his best month of the season by far as he will look to slowly regain his stature as the Tribe’s best matchup lefty out of the pen. He seems to have put his troubles behind him and will need to work the rest of the season in regaining management’s trust. Assuming he doesn’t slam any doors he already has one left hander beaten out anyway.

24. Cody Allen Above (New)

.067 BAA: Allen’s 0.00 ERA is impressive, but even more so is the fact that he has only given up a single hit so far in the Majors. Enjoy watching this kid as he is truly special. Players simply don’t rise through the Indians farm system this fast. At least it should make an interesting fireworks show when this rising fireball burns out.

25. Brent Lillibridge Even (New)

9 At bats: With just 9 at bats and games played at four different positions, it’s impossible to get a read on Lillibridge at this point. All we can say for sure is that he is a gigantic upgrade over whoever that old guy was.

Here are June’s rankings for comparison.





No longer with us (June Ranking in parenthesis):

Nick Hagadone Below (22)

Jason Donald Even (25)

Scott Barnes Below (DNF)

Aaron Cunningham Below (23)

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since its inception in 2011. He also writes for The Outside Corner and the Comeback and hosts the Tribe Time Now podcast. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians. Follow on twitter @BurningRiverBB