I had the chance to talk to Lewis Pollis, the editor over at Wahoo’s on First, about the Cleveland Indians, as the New York Yankees head to Cleveland to take on the Indians, and ex-Yankee Nick Swisher. Here’s what he said about the Tribe.
1. Impressions of team so far?
You can’t learn much from a six-game sample size, but with a few exceptions I like what we’ve seen so far. Justin Masterson
and Ubaldo Jimenez
have been solid. We’ve seen what it looks like when the offense clicks and it’s spectacular. I haven’t agreed with all of new manager Terry Francona
‘s decisions but I love his willingness to ditch orthodox thinking when it gives his team an edge. I’m a little wary of Brett Myers
and Trevor Bauer
and consistency is not this lineup’s strong suit, though that doesn’t take away from the larger optimism most Cleveland fans have about this team.
2. What kind of impact do you think ex yankee Nick Swisher will have?
Well FanGraphs has had him as almost exactly a four-win player three years in a row, so that seems like a pretty good place to start. No one’s going to mistake him for an MVP candidate but he’s a solid middle-of-the-order hitter and he gives the Indians a stability at first base that we haven’t really had since Jim Thome
left. The phrase “big fish, small pond” has been thrown around a lot this winter about his move from New York to Cleveland but it’s not as though he’s expected to single-handedly carry the team.
3. What should yankee fans look for in the pitchers the indians are throwing this week?
First up is Ubaldo Jimenez. His collapse over the last couple years is due to a dramatic drop in velocity. A few years ago he made his living by being “effectively wild,” but now that his stuff isn’t as intimidating he’s struggled to adjust to the new limitations of his skills. In his first outing he looked much more comfortable in his own skin than we’ve seen in quite some time, so perhaps he’s been able to remake himself for 2013.
Next you’ve got Carlos Carrasco
. The runner-up for the fifth starter competition this spring, he hasn’t pitched in the majors in almost two years and when Scott Kazmir
is back he’ll presumably be out of the rotation. He’s got good control and the Tribe brass was impressed with his velocity this spring, and I’d say he’s one of the best spot starters in the game.
Game three you’ll get Brett Myers, who I wasn’t on board with signing
this winter. He had an awful first outing after being converted back into a starting pitcher, getting rocked for seven runs on seven hits in five innings. He gave up four home runs and didn’t strike anyone out. You’ll probably enjoy this one.
Finally you’ll see a guy New York fans may recognize: Zach McAllister
. I’m quite bearish on McAllister, especially now that he’s got Michael Bourn
and Drew Stubbs
to chase down the many fly balls he’ll induce. The key for the Yankees is to set the stage for the big inning. It’s very telling that McAllister gave up more unearned runs than any other pitcher in baseball last year despite his making only 22 starts—he has a hard time refocusing when he’s in trouble.
4. Expectations for Indians in the division?
Second place with best/worst-case scenarios as plus/minus one place. This team has a ton of talent and if everything goes right they could easily overtake the Tigers or if everything goes wrong they could fall behind the White Sox or Royals, but I think they’re pretty clearly the second-best team in the division.
5. From a business perspective, what kind of impact will the new TV deal have?
It certainly helps, but it’s not a huge boost. The new contract means about an extra $10 million in revenue per year, which is nice but certainly not enough in itself to explain the Indians’ $117 million shopping spree this winter. When you’re a small-market team every little bit helps but the new contract isn’t as important as an uptick in attendance, an aggressive front office, and a willingness to spend from the ownership.