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Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Indians’

Twenty years ago, the Yankees and Indians endured miserable seasons that ranked among the worst in each franchise’s respective history (sixth lowest winning percentage for New York and second lowest for Cleveland). However, on October 4, three games before the merciful end of a forgettable season, the two teams participated in a memorable moment that launched a Hall of Fame career.

Jim Thome celebrates his first major league home run, a game winner versus the Yankees on October 4, 1991 (Photo: Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Jim Thome broke into the majors as a skinny, 20-year old, third baseman. Despite being selected in the 13th round of the 1989 draft, he quickly emerged as a top prospect by posting prolific numbers in ever level of the minors. Finally, in 1991, Thome was rewarded with a September call up, but in his first 20 games, the lefty showed few signs of his reported potential. In the final week of the season, however, the Indians’ heralded rookie finally began to give a glimpse of what the future had in store. Over those final seven games, Thome posted a line of .481/.500/.741.

Included among Thome’s last season surge was his first major league home run, a two run blast hit against Yankees’ closer Steve Farr in the top of the ninth. The homer, which gave the Indians a 3-2 victory, sailed into the empty wings of the right field upper deck. Although a sparse crowd witnessed James (as the New York Times called him the next day) Thome’s first blast, the lefty slugger would provide plenty of encores over the next 20 seasons.

The Road to 600

HR # Date Tm Opp Pitcher
1 10/4/1991 CLE @NYY Steve Farr
100 5/14/1997 CLE @TEX Bobby Witt
200 4/15/2000 CLE TEX Mark Clark
300 6/5/2002 CLE @MIN Eric Milton
400 6/14/2004 PHI CIN Jose Acevedo
500 9/16/2007 CHW LAA Dustin Moseley
600 8/15/2011 MIN @DET Daniel Schlereth

Source: baseball-reference.com

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

By most objective standards, the Yankees have the best pitching staff in the American League. And yet, according to some, Brian Cashman’s inability to acquire another pitcher has branded the team as a “trade deadline loser”.  So much for perspective.

American League Pitching Staffs, Ranked by Average WAR*

Team bWAR fWAR AvgWAR ERA+
Yankees 18.5 16.6 17.6 121
White Sox 15.7 17.4 16.6 111
Angels 14.8 15.4 15.1 111
Athletics 17.7 12 14.9 118
Mariners 13.7 13.3 13.5 103
Rangers 13.9 10.8 12.4 115
Red Sox 11.8 12.6 12.2 106
Blue Jays 12.0 9.5 10.8 97
Tigers 8.6 11.3 10.0 92
Rays 7.2 9.2 8.2 97
Indians 6.4 9.4 7.9 96
Royals 8.0 6.9 7.5 88
Twins 4.0 7.8 5.9 90
Orioles 7.3 4.2 5.8 82

Note: AvgWAR = bWAR + fWAR/2
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

Let’s be honest. The reason so few people seem to believe in the Yankees’ rotation is because the team’s second and third best starters were looked upon as veteran retreads less than four months ago. No matter how well Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon continue to pitch, that stigma will remain until they come up big in October. Based on the injury history of each veteran, it’s hard to criticize that perception. After all, if the Yankees were completely confident in the pair, Cashman probably wouldn’t have even entertained some of the discussions he reportedly had with other general managers.

‘I think they’re in trouble,’ said one scout. ‘I look at their rotation, and there’s CC [Sabathia]. And then there’s CC.'” – anonymous scout quoted by Jayson Stark, July 31, 2011

The second part of the above statement is a reasonable one. In fact, I’ve probably uttered it myself on occasion.  However, just because the Yankees do not have another pitcher on Sabathia’s level (very few in the entire league are), does that really mean the Yankees are in trouble? Even though Garcia and Colon remain legitimate question marks, is every other American League contender that much stronger in terms of rotation reliability? Let’s take a look.

Comparing the Rotation Depth of Main A.L. Contenders, Based on Average WAR* (click to enlarge)

*Note: AvgWAR = bWAR + fWAR/2
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com

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