OK, so bloggers are notorious for being nit-pickers, second-guessers and hair-splitters, criticizing the work of others in hindsight, often without contributing much in the way of original content to whatever is being discussed.
Point made. Now let's get on with it.
One of Fox Sports' baseball analysts is a guy named Dayn Perry. He is responsible for the Fox MLB Power Rankings, and he has the Indians pegged for a disappointing season this year, ranking them 11th among all major league teams in his preseason list. That's all well and good. I disagree with several of his points, but he still has the Tribe rated in the top third of the major leagues, and I wouldn't bet the house that he turns out to be wrong. Besides, he's got the Fox Sports gig, and I...well, you know.
Anyway, here's what Mr. Perry has to say about the 2006 Cleveland Indians:
The Tribe is becoming a trendy pick in the AL going into the upcoming season, but there are reasons for concern. To wit, the bullpen has been seriously thinned out, reigning AL ERA champ Kevin Millwood is no more, they'll get inadequate production from third base (at least until Andy Marte takes the job from Aaron Boone), first base and the outfield corners, and Jhonny Peralta is in for a regression. That all adds up to a disappointing season in Cleveland.
On two points, I must agree; a) Kevin Millwood isn't on the team anymore, and b) most winning teams get more offensive production from their corner outfield positions than we can realistically expect from ours this year (much like the production we didn't get last year, when we won 93 games)
Taking Perry's other arguments one by one.... (bear with me here...this post has a point...I'm just not there yet):
a) "the bullpen has been seriously thinned out..." The team lost solid eighth inning set-up man Bob Howry to free agency, and added solid eighth inning setup man Guillermo Mota. Budding star Fernando Cabrera will be here all season, and the rest of the best bullpen in baseball from 2005 returns pretty much intact, (Bob Wickman, Raphael Betancourt, Matt Miller, Scott Sauerbeck, Jason Davis). Losing Arthur Rhodes is a non-factor. He wasn't even around for the last two months of the season, when Cabrera was emerging. The most inconsistent reliever from 2005, David Riske, "is no more"...addition by subtraction, I daresay. A refreshed Danny Graves looks to take Riske's spot, and another comer in Andrew Brown is waiting in Buffalo to step in if Graves stumbles. So even if you make the case that Howry for Mota isn't a 100% even swap, there's nothing "seriously thinned out" about this pen.
b) Aaron Boone will give them "inadequate production" at third base. Of all the people who watched the Indians last year, who would bet against this out-on-a-limb prediction from Mr. Perry? Last season Boone couldn't hit his weight till the 4th of July, and he's not a big man. The point is, the fact that Boone is not Albert Pujols at the plate is not a reason to project fewer wins for the Indians in 2006. We won 93 games with Boone having a horrible offensive season. It wouldn't pain me if we traded him tomorrow, and got the Andy Marte Decade going sooner instead of later, but Boone's spring training attitude and his offensive numbers (.405, 4 HR, 10 RBI) plus the simple law of averages, argue that he'll have an improved offensive season in 2006, if only because it couldn't possibly be as bad or worse than last year. Boone is proud, he's smart, and he's tough. And he's an excellent defensive third baseman. He will rebound in '06.
"Jhonny Peralta is in for a regression" This one is stunning. He is in for a regression based on what? The Sports Illustrated cover jinx? The only thing I can imagine that would be more baseless would be to go on record as predicting that "Grady Sizemore will suck in 2006". I guess Perry's argument would have to be that Jhonny Peralta was just too good in 2005. Well guess what Dayn. He's 23 years old, and he's getting better. He was the MVP of the AAA league at 21, an age when most team's prized prospects are playing A or AA ball. In his first full year in the majors, he set the team record for homers by a shortstop, hit .292, had more homers and RBI than Derek Jeter, and finished in the top ten in the AL in slugging percentage, all while playing a pressure position defensively, and hitting third in the order for most of the season. Yes, that all adds up to one inescapable conclusion for his 2006 season. R-E-G-R-E-S-S-I-O-N. (If Jhonny bats .290 in 2006, Perry can say he told you so)
So I'm giving Dayn Perry all the benefit of the doubt that I can muster. He does, after all, have to cover all the teams for Fox Sports, a big job to be sure. The nuances of the Tribe bullpen personnel and the spring campaign of Aaron Boone can't be foremost in his mind. He has predictions to make for Fox. You know, the preseason picks for MVP, Rookie of the Year and such, that no one remembers or cares about by October, but which must be done every March anyway. So I'm reading Perry's picks for the 2006 AL Awards, all of which I must say are entirely plausible and well reasoned, as far as I can see.
He predicts that Kenji Johjima, the 30-year old Japanese catcher for the Mariners will be the AL Rookie of the Year. I'm fine with that. I hear he's a stud.
But then, in making his case for Johjima, Perry makes a statement that explains everything. It explains why he picks the Indians as the majors' 11th best team...(behind the freaking Tigers, as God is my witness.) It makes clear that covering the American League for Fox Sports is not a job for just one man, even a man as seemingly capable as Dayn Perry. Here's the telling statement:
Johjima's right-handed bat may not play well in Safeco, but he'll put up solid gap-power numbers and provide exceptional defense behind the plate. He'll immediately join Jason Varitek, Joe Mauer and Ramon Hernandez as the top offensive catchers in the junior circuit.
See what I mean? No wonder he thinks the Indians are in for a disappointing season in 2006.
Dayn Perry doesn't even know who Victor Martinez is!
I'm referring to the Victor Martinez who led all major leaguers in batting average after the All Star break last year, finishing with a .305 average, which led all major league catchers for the 2005 season. The Victor Martinez who also led all major league catchers in RBI with 80, and finished behind only Varitek (22) and Rod Barajas (21) with his 20 home runs. The man who finished one double from leading major league catchers in that category as well, with 33.
I'm thinking of the Victor Martinez who has a career batting average 21 points higher than Jason Varitek (24 points higher in 2005) and a career slugging percentage higher than Varitek.
Ramon Hernandez is a solid hitter, for a catcher. He hopes to be as good a hitter as Victor Martinez someday...oops, he's two years older than Victor, and his career numbers in batting average (.262) on-base pct.(.325) and slugging (.418) aren't even within shouting distance of Martinez' career stats of .293 (BA), .365 (OBP) and .463 (SLG).
Joe Mauer's numbers at the tender age of 22 all compare favorably with Victor's and I have no quarrel whatsoever with his inclusion in the Future Studs of the AL Club.
I don't know. Maybe Dayn Perry has Victor figured for a regression this year too. Actually, I think poor Dayn Perry just flat out forgot about Victor when he wrote this piece of copy, although the American League's best hitting catcher rated not a word of mention in Perry's AL Central Preview. Maybe he really doesn't....nah... that's crazy.
Hey, man...all's forgiven. Love ya, babe. Dayn?