Ryan Richards from Let's Go Tribe, SBNation's blog for the Cleveland Indians, was kind enough to give me the inside scoop on his team this season. Thanks, Ryan!
The Indians and Orioles are in pretty similar situations right now, both with their records in their playoff position. Have you given up, or do you still have hope that the Indians will make it?
There's still a chance that the Indians can make it, but the last week (1-5) really pushed them onto the edge of the abyss. This series is absolutely crucial to both clubs, with the possibility of either getting right back in the thick of the wild card race or completely falling out of contention.
The Indians were very active in the off season. Are those moves the reason the Indians have been so competitive this year? Or is it something else?
The main reason the Indians are in contention has little to do with their acquisitions over the winter. The starting staff, which is mostly left over from last year's club, has gone from baseball's worst rotations a year ago to a league-average staff. That's an amazing accomplishment, and much credit has to go to pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Ryan Raburn and Scott Kazmir, two minor-league free agents, have also played a large part in getting the Indians to this point.
The only deadline moves the Indians made was trading for relief pitcher Marc Rzepczynski and picking up Jason Kubel just a few days ago. Were you happy with their deadline activity or do you wish they'd done more?
Rzepczynski (aka Scrabble, in reference to the high value his name would have on a Scrabble board) has actually been a nice pickup. The Indians were asking about more high-profile LOOGYs, but some of the demands were rather high (there were reports of the Giants asking for Danny Salazar(!) in exchange for Javier Lopez). In retrospect, the Indians should have been looking for offensive help, as the club's hitting was awful in the month of August, but I don't think any of us were screaming for a bat at the end of July. But I do wish they would have been more active in the waiver trade market, especially for a bat. I don't think Jason Kubel is much of an upgrade over Jason Giambi, and Giambi has a .657 OPS (impressive for a 42-year-old, but not very good for a DH).
A lot of Orioles fans wanted the O's to re-sign Mark Reynolds and as such kept a close eye on him when he went to Cleveland. Were you happy with the signing when it happened and he way he was used once he was on the team? Did you agree with the decision to release him, including the fact that he's been hitting well with the Yankees?
Reynolds had a great April, almost single handedly carrying the offense. But after April he just stopped hitting, and when Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes cotinued to hit, Reynolds lost more and more playing time to the point where he wasn't a regular. That precipitated his release. His April contributions just about paid for his 2013 salary, so I'm not going to complain too much about the signing. Did the Indians release him too soon? I suppose you could make a case using hindsight, but it's hard to argue against the stats at the time (.541 OPS in June, .331 OPS in July).
The Orioles are scheduled to face Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Zach McAllister this series. Can you tell us what to expect from each pitcher?
Masterson has struggled of late with command, though he's managed to go 6-7 innings per start. If he gets ahead of you, he'll throw an unhittable slider, but of late he hasn't had many chances to do that.
Ubaldo Jimenez has transitioned from a thrower to a pitcher, and seems to have become a nice 5-6 inning pitcher. He'll throw a lot of pitches per inning, but he usually only gives up a couple of runs. The key for him (even more than other pitchers) is spotting his fastball in the first couple of innings. If he can do that, his myriad offspeed pitches can work the second/third time through the order.
Zach McAllister has dominated teams not named the Detroit Tigers since coming back from the DL. We'll see if the problem was just Detroit or perhaps it's good offenses.