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UCB Project: 2013 American League Predictions

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM
It's that time of year again.  When hope is new, the grass smells clean, and people foolishly put down what they think will happen in the baseball season to come.  The United Cardinal Bloggers are no different.

Every year we take a crack at these things.  Sometimes it goes pretty well--Pittsburgh's late fade last year kept me from nailing them being third and over the .500 mark.  Sometimes it goes disastrously--I had Boston winning the AL East last year.  Yeah, that was pretty much bad from the get-go.

However, terrible performances don't stop us from trying it again anyway.  (Kinda like Mike Matheny continuing to use Victor Marte last year.)  So we'll do it again on the same kinda schedule--the entire American League today, then each division in the National League gets a day before wrapping it up on Friday with postseason predictions and awards.

Since we hardly pay attention to the American League--we all know real baseball lets a pitcher hit, don't we?--let's try to make a quick pass through there today.  If you want to use these as a guide, odds are you better figure the opposite is really going to happen!
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Playing Pepper 2013: Cleveland Indians

Posted on February 27, 2013 at 3:00 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.  

Cleveland Indians 
68-94, fourth in AL Central 

Well, that didn't quite turn out as expected.  Coming off a year where the Indians had been in contention much of the season before falling to a .500 record, there were hopes Cleveland could take another step in 2012.  They stayed in the pennant race and were in second place, 44-41 and just three games back of the White Sox, at the All-Star Break before collapsing down the stretch.

So, now what?  Is this the team that was better than Detroit in the standings for much of the year?  Or is it closer to the team that ran on fumes from August on?

To settle that question, I've got a slew of Cleveland fans with opinions.  First up is Nino Colla, the president of the BBA's Cleveland chapter, the author of The Tribe Daily, the man behind @TheTribeDaily and a longtime veteran of this series.

Mike Brandyberry of Did The Tribe Win Last Night? has also done some of the questions before in the past.  You'll find him on Twitter @didtribewin.

Finally, in my appeal to some general baseball bloggers, I was able to scoop up Jeff Furtah.  Jeff writes over at the fantasy baseball blog ClubhouseGM and Tweets under the same handle (@ClubhouseGM). He's also in my Twitter fantasy baseball league and likely will be crushing me all summer long.

Stick with us and we'll talk about that pitching ace that hasn't been and what to watch for when you tune in Indians games this year.
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A Week+ Of Inconsistency

Posted on June 18, 2012 at 9:30 AM
Did I miss anything?

Before I get into starting a recap of the last almost week and a half, I want to again thank those that took the time to put up quality work here at my blog while I was vacationing.  I read through a number of them the few times I had wifi or cell service and appreciated the time and quality that those posts represented.  I am in your debt, my friends.

Now, to the games.  Unlike last year, when the Cards didn't win while I was on the wrong side of the Mississippi, this year the club was able to win a few games.  However, for the most part, they did it by dominating on the mound and squeaking by at the plate, indicating that there is something still wrong with this team.  The win one/lose one mentality doesn't help either.  Let's take a look after the jump.
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Series Preview: Indians @ Cardinals

Posted on June 8, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Good afternoon C70 readers! This is Nino Colla of The Tribe Daily bringing you a Cardinals/Indians series preview with Daniel out on vacation. If you are interested in reading more of what I have to offer you can check out my blog or follow me on Twitter. Looking forward to watching the Cardinals and I can shed some light on the 2012 Indians team.

For the first time in some time the Indians travel to St. Louis as Interleague play kicks up once again for the final stretch of the 2012 season. St. Louis has not had good fortune against Cleveland, going 5-12 against the Tribe in the annual matchup of the NL and AL with their last meeting coming in 2009. St. Louis has not won a series against the Indians.

The Cardinals are coming off an absolute pummeling of Houston in their series win, while the Indians are fresh off their series win over Detroit. They may not play each other often, but there are plenty of cool story lines involved in this rare match-up of two of the best teams in the MLB's Central Divisions.

Friday: 7:15 PM - Josh Tomlin Vs Jake Westbrook

Tomlin: Has never faced the Cardinals or any of their hitters before, so each side will have a fresh look in the bottom halves of the game. Tomlin features a controlled game that forces hitters to make contact and get themselves out, however this season he's found himself with more strikeouts than usual. Tomlin is coming off a six inning-five run performance.

Westbrook: Like his counterpart, Jake Westbrook has not pitched against Cleveland before and with good reason, he was a member of the Tribe for nine years. Westbrook was dealt to St. Louis a few summers ago in the Ryan Ludwick deal that brought the Indians Corey Kluber from San Diego. As an Indian fan, it will be nice to see Jake Westbrook once again as he was one of my favorites since he came over from the Yankees. Jake however is familiar with Tribe regulars Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman.

Saturday: 6:16 PM - Justin Masterson Vs Kyle Lohse

Masterson: Another fresh matchup for the Indians as Masterson has not faced the Cardinals before and has limited experience against some of their hitters. The Indians ace has struggled this year, winning just two games and searching for his groove. Justin features a repertoire that is based off the success of his sinker. When his sinker is going, it's confounding for hitters as it has the speed of a fastball, but the sink of a breaking ball. He is coming off a loss to the Twins, but put up a winnable effort that wasn't aided by his offense.

Lohse: In his career versus the Tribe, Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse is 7-9 with a 5.89 ERA. I can almost certainly say though that the Indians will not see the same Kyle Lohse they saw when he pitched in the American League for the Twins. Not only that, the teams he faced in Cleveland look nothing like the one he'll face on Saturday. Lohse really on has faced a few of the Indians hitters, and like Westbrook one of them he's familiar with is Kotchman, who may only play in two games. Kyle Lohse is not the same pitcher Indians fans became accustomed to years ago, so it will be almost like watching a new face.

Sunday: 1:15 PM - Ubaldo Jimenez Vs TBA

Jimenez: Finally someone who the Cardinals will recognize. Or maybe not. The Jimenez the Cardinals had become accustomed to was a little better. Although they had success (Jimenez 2-3, 3.64 ERA against St. Louis) against him, Jimenez is not the same pitcher he was with Colorado since arriving in Cleveland. Of course Colorado was still searching for a reformed Jimenez before they dealt him, he's shown only flashes of what he's capable of. One of those was his last start, a gem against Detroit in which he ventured into the seventh inning and gave up just one run to claim his sixth win of the year. Yadier Molina and former teammate Matt Holliday have faced Jimenez a good amount of times and Beltran has a homer to his name off 'The Big U'.

Hitters to watch:

Yadier Molina: The Cardinals backstop is hot right now, with 15 hits in his last 39 at-bats. I'm impressed to see Molina adding the hitting to his game as he becomes one of the best and complete catchers in the entire game. He was always fun to watch behind the plate, but now he's rounding out to be an awesome player.

Michael Brantley: There's no one hotter on the Tribe right now than their center fielder, Michael Brantley. He's carrying a 15 game hitting streak and is in the midst of his best stretch of baseball since arriving in Cleveland in the CC Sabathia trade. Brantley has been much maligned in his time as he's either been hurt or just disappointing as the Indians leadoff hitter. Since Johnny Damon's arrival, Brantley was pushed down in the order and from there, he's taken stride.

Carlos Beltran/Matt Holliday: If there's two guys on the Cardinals that will be comfortable against the American League it will be two guys who are familiar with playing in the American League. Holiday is a lifetime .313 hitter in Interleague play, but has hit .379 against the Indians in nine games. Beltran, a former Royal, hit .262 with 10 home runs in his career against the Tribe.

Shin-Soo Choo: Since being placed in the leadoff spot, he's been the only one as hot as Michael Brantley at the plate. Last year was much of a lost year for Choo following a plethora of issues that ranged from a DUI arrest to frustrating injuries. Hitting first he's carrying a .333 average with a .412 OBP, numbers you expect from a table setter.

Story Line: Perez Returns

Cleveland media tried making a big deal out of Chris Perez returning to face his former team in St. Louis. Chris knocked down the discussion, but it will be interesting to see how he responds to the St. Louis media and what they say to him. Chris said he is glad that St. Louis traded him and he ended up in Cleveland. He will be glad to see some of the players he went up through the minor leagues with, but otherwise holds no grudges against the Cardinals.

Chris Perez has flourished in his time with Cleveland and is currently the MLB leader in saves. After blowing the save on Opening Day to Toronto, he's notched 19 straight and has been nearly untouchable since he called out Cleveland fans for acting negatively towards him and the Indians despite a good start. Since then he's endeared himself even more to the fan base.

Tribe Hitter You Must Watch: Jason Kipnis

Cardinals fans, I know you appreciate good baseball. I wish Cleveland was more like St. Louis when it comes to the appreciation of the game and just the raw love for their team. I know you will appreciate watching Jason Kipnis play the game. He's the Indians second baseman that is fast becoming a star in Cleveland for his all-out play and high energy. He's endeared himself as a typical "dirtbag" type of a player that manager Manny Acta refers to him as and he's leading the AL in steals even though he isn't all that fast.

He can hit, he can field his position (to which he is still learning after being drafted as an outfielder), he can run, and he likes to have fun. He's one of the more interactive Indians on Twitter and he's got a fun personality. I'm not asking you to date him, but I know you'll enjoy watching him in this three game series. He also could use some more votes for the All-Star game, so if you are filling out your ballot with Cardinals, when you fill out the AL side, tick his name as your second baseman :)

With that... Good luck to you and your team in this three game set. And I ask you this question. Which Cardinals player should Indians fans be watching? Who will make us appreciate the game and the way it's played?

UCB Prediction Week, Part I: American League

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Every year about this time, the United Cardinal Bloggers take aim at their predictions for the upcoming season.  It's a great way to look at the divisions, get a feel for what is going on, and write down picks that you will be trying to scrub from any internet search engine by probably July.

I'm far from an expert, so take all of these picks with a grain of salt.  There are few gut picks that don't have a lot of basis in reality, so feel free to take that into consideration when reading them.

Since the American League doesn't really matter as much, we at the UCB just lump it all into one day.  So keep reading to see how I pick the divisions to shake out.
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Playing Pepper 2012: Cleveland Indians

Posted on February 29, 2012 at 11:30 AM
In 2009, I decided to get a feel for other teams around baseball by asking bloggers for those teams some questions about their squad.  Not only has this series been very popular, but it spawned the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With camps opening up again and spring training getting into gear, it's time once again to play a little pepper.

Cleveland Indians
80-82, second in the AL Central

Cleveland wasn't supposed to do much last year.  While the team had some interesting talent, they were still considered at least a couple of years from really contending for the divisional title.  Instead, the young Indians came out of the gate blazing hot and rode that wave to first place for most of the season before fading late and winding up 15 games behind Detroit.

The question then becomes, which is the team we'll see in 2012?  The hard-charging team that led the AL Central for a while or the fading team that's just not quite ready?

Thankfully, there are some great Cleveland bloggers that we can ask these sorts of questions.

Mike Brandyberry writes the wonderfully-named Did The Tribe Win Last Night, where you can find out, yes, if the Tribe won or lost.  You can also follow him on Twitter at didtribewin.

Nino Colla is the president of the BBA's Cleveland chapter and authors The Tribe Daily on a regular basis.  TheTribeDaily is also where you can find him on Twitter.

Keep reading to find out what Mike and Nino think of the 2012 Indians and all about that not-as-known-as-we-thought pitcher.
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Playing Pepper 2011: Cleveland Indians

Posted on March 3, 2011 at 1:01 PM
Two years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come.  Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.

Cleveland Indians (69-93, 25 GB and fourth in the AL Central)

For a while, the Indians were the laughing stock of baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates of their day.  Then a new stadium and a great rebuilding plan put them into the World Series and on a path of regular success.

Lately, though, the Indians have slipped back down the path toward mediocrity.  As talk of "Major League 3" gets bandied about, I talked to a couple of Cleveland bloggers about the state of Indians baseball.

Nino writes over at The Tribe Daily.  He's president of the BBA's Cleveland chapter and been with the organization for a long time.  He's got a Twitter feed and a Facebook page that both deserve a follow.  Mitchell does his writing at TribeScribe and Tweets off of this account.  

After the jump, we talk about just how smooth Carlos Santana is.

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Playing Pepper 2010: Cleveland Indians

Posted on February 25, 2010 at 10:22 PM
Last year before the season began, I posed five questions to a blogger for each team, so as to get to know the rest of baseball.  I focus so heavily on the Cardinals that sometimes the rest of MLB can pass me by.  That went very well, so much so that it spawned not only a postseason edition but was part of the impetus for the formation of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

So this year, I've brought 
Playing Pepper back, with a little bit of a twist.  Instead of five questions, I posed 10 questions, and this year every team got the same set.  Plus, tapping into those BBA connections, I sent them to every blogger representing that team in the BBA.

We'll try to do two a day in a general alphabetical order, but things may change depending on responses.

Cleveland Indians
2009 Finish: 65-97, tied for fourth in the AL Central

With my wife being an Ohio native as I noted before, both the Reds and Indians come under some scrutiny in this house.  With the Indians in the AL, I don't keep an eye on them quite as closely, but like to see them do well.  Lately, though, that's been a little problematic.

For the first time in this series, not one but two bloggers will be taking on the now-familiar questions.  Nino from The Tribe Daily and Tony from Indians Prospect Insider fill us in on what to expect for the Tribe this season.
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Wrapping Up The Road Trip

Posted on June 16, 2009 at 8:08 AM
OK, where were we?  Ah, yes, catchup time.  Let's just hit the highlights, since you all know what's happened.

Thursday at Florida (6-5 win)
Hero: Ryan Franklin.  Rick Ankiel was close with three hits and three runs, but having Franklin go almost two innings and lock down a come-from-behind game was huge.

Goat: Todd Wellemeyer.  Two home runs to Ross Gload?  Really?  Close second was Brendan Ryan, with his 0-5 in the leadoff slot.

Notes: I'm glad to know that Colby Rasmus actually had a physical reason for not starting this game, but I'm also glad that it wasn't enough to keep him out of the game entirely.  Nice bit of pinch-hitting for the rookie.

Friday at Cleveland (7-3 loss)
Hero: Albert Pujols.  Two hits, including a home run.

Goat: Dennys Reyes.  It's hard to pick a bullpenner to take the tag, but Reyes had a hit, a walk, and a run in zero innings pitched.  Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan did their best to put the game out of reach as well.

Notes: Mark DeRosa really wanted to showcase himself in this series, it seems like, and it started know the game is changing when you have two steals, from Pujols and Ryan Ludwick.

Saturday at Cleveland (3-1 win)
Hero: Albert Pujols.  Two homers will do that.  Brad Thompson had a strong outing as well, which always is good (and, in my mind, surprising) to see.

Goat: Rick Ankiel.  Not the day to go 0-4 in front of Pujols.

Notes: What's up with Yadier Molina?  His fourth steal of the year.

Sunday at Cleveland (3-0 loss)

Hero: Yadier Molina.  Kept the Cards from being no-hit.

Goat: Nick Stavinoha.  Lots of people went zero for Sunday, but Nick left four on base while he was doing it.  Ankiel didn't do much either, striking out three times.

Notes: What can you really say about an almost no-hitter?

So now what?  The Cardinals sit a game out of first place and could have been tied for the top slot had the Cleveland bullpen been able to, I don't know, get someone out last night against Milwaukee.  That said, there are few in Cardinal Nation that feel extremely strongly that this is a playoff team.

I mean, DeRosa would be nice, but would that really be the missing piece of the puzzle, when Brad Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer are in the rotation?  I hate to lump Wellemeyer in that group, but it's starting to look like he's not going to revert to the 2008 form for any long stretch of time, for whatever reason.

We've seen a little more offense in the last few days, but does anyone think that April's returning?  Pujols is Pujols, of course, and Rasmus has looked pretty good.  You still have the fact that Ludwick's BABIP is so low, which means he should be primed for a bounce, and Ankiel has looked a little better recently.  Still, even if those four get going white-hot, you have to have people getting on for them.

Skip Schumaker isn't helping out as much as I was thinking in the leadoff slot.  Brendan Ryan has shown some life, but you can't completely count on him yet.  We know that third base has been such a void that the front office is moving Khalil Greene over there (more on that in a bit).  Molina's settled into the .260 range instead of the .300 range.  Where do you start fixing?

Not that this season is over by any stretch, don't get me wrong.  With a healthy Chris Carpenter and an effective Adam Wainwright, the Cards shouldn't go too long between wins.  The problem is going to be figuring out just what can get them into position and if the front office has enough bullets to make it all happen.

Khalil Greene to third, huh?  I wouldn't have thought it, though I see where he was a third baseman in college, so it's not a complete shock.  And with the Cardinal propensity to move anything that's not nailed down (i.e. Pujols), you had to guess something like this would happen.  It does seem strange to give a guy with anxiety issues something new to do in front of a huge fanbase, but maybe if he's having to think more about what he's doing he'll be less worried about how he's doing it.  I also think this should be an effort to keep the Cards from appearing desparate in trade talks.  Whether either will work, I don't know.

Of course, with an off-day yesterday, it gives time for a topic to be fleshed out.  This time, as it will be often in the next couple of years, it's Pujols.  Bernie Mikalsz says sign him already, Brian Burwell says, hey, maybe he doesn't want to sign right now, ever think of that?

What there needs to be is honest dialogue between Pujols and his representatives and the front office.  Even if they aren't talking specific terms, they need to be letting him know this is what they are trying to do, this is why they think it'll work.  Pujols has been adamant about wanting to win, but he wants to do it in St. Louis if at all possible.  I think if the front office keeps him in the loop, as it were, it'll bode well for them when it's time to talk numbers.

Today, 1:30 Central, Blog Talk Radio, Ozzie Smith and I talk a little bit.  I plan to ask him about Khalil's move as well as if he's glad he played before bloggers!

Playing Pepper 2009: Cleveland Indians

Posted on February 16, 2009 at 11:30 AM
As the players start getting themselves ready for another season, I thought it'd be a good idea to do the same.  I contacted a blogger for each major league team and posted them five questions.  This is the result.  You can find the tentative schedule of teams here and today's main post is right here.

My wife hails from Ohio, so today's two teams are ones that I tend to keep my eye on.  She professes to be an Indians fan (though it's more of a casual following) and the Indians have always put together an interesting team.  This is the organization who started the trend of signing young players and buying out their arbitration years, which has worked out pretty well both for them and baseball in general.

I caught up with Chris from Tribe Times and asked him about this coming season, from their chances of playing in October to the Carl Pavano signing.

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Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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