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Entries in Terry Francona (3)

Wednesday
Sep252013

The New Ubaldo May Be Better Than the Old Ubaldo

In 2010, pitching for the Colorado Rockies, Ubaldo Jimenez finished third in the Cy Young voting after a season in which he had an ERA of 2.88 and a WHIP of 1.155. On May 31 of that season, Ubaldo had an 11-1 record and a microscopic 0.78 ERA. Three starts later, he was 13-1 with a 1.15 ERA.

Then something happened.

From June 23, 2010 to June 29, 2013, Jimenez, now a Cleveland Indian, was not a Cy Young pitcher, he was not an All-Star pitcher, in fact, he was barely a major league pitcher.
The not so good Ubaldo
GIPERAWHIPAVGSLUGOBPHRHR/9K/9BB/9IP/G
Ubaldo 6/23/10-6/29/1398569.04.821.452.253.412.341610.968.454.325.81

Then something happened.

It took until July of this season.
The so much better Ubaldo
GIPERAWHIPAVGSLUGOBPHRHR/9K/9BB/9IP/G
Ubaldo 6/23/10-6/29/1398569.04.821.452.253.412.341610.968.454.325.81
Ubaldo 7/1 - 9/25/2013 1592.02.241.245.233.337.30240.399.363.416.16

Let's compare September to September

There is something magical going on with Terry Francona's Tribe and with Justin Masterson recovering from the dreaded oblique, the team has need someone to step up on the mound and since Jason Giambi can't pitch (but he sure can pinch-hit), the fulfilled responsibility fell on Ubaldo.

Last September, Jimenez was not a good pitcher. This September, he is.
A Tale of Two Septembers
GSIPIP/GERAWHIPAVGSLUGOBPHR/9K/9BB/9WL
9/2012 Jimenez422.15.673.971.456.244.411.3300.794.764.3703
9/2013 Jimenez534.16.931.041.038.236.276.2670.009.871.5630

It's not how hard you throw

After Terry Francona was hired as the new manager, Mickey Callaway, the Indians' minor-league pitching coordinator, was named pitching coach. According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Paul Hoynes, Callaway was primarily hired because of his plan to salvage Jimenez's career.

Callaway could see that Jimenez was having difficulty making the transition from a thrower to a pitcher. He was trying to figure out how to pitch without a 98 mph fastball.

"I thought if we could just get Ubaldo in the strike zone and attacking hitters with the stuff he already had, that he would be good to go," Callaway told Hoynes. "Watching his video during the off-season, I was saying, 'Man, his stuff is so good, all he has to do is get it over the plate.' "

Look at the difference:
2012-13 September Pitch Selection
PFast%Chge%Curv%Slid%Splt%Strk%Swng%Miss%Chas%
Jimenez 9/201238052.7%26.6%4.3%13.8%2.7%58.7%44.2%16.7%23.8%
Jimenez 9/201349056.0%1.6%4.5%27.6%9.8%65.3%43.1%20.9%26.6%

The difference is palpable

There is something magical going on these days in Cleveland and if the Tribe makes the postseason and Masterson returns and is healthy, he and Ubaldo make a powerful 1-2 punch.

Now if I were the Indians, I put Mickey Callaway in charge of attendance and promotion.
Monday
Sep232013

Chemistry Makes a Most Valuable Team

When there is discussion about AL MVP candidates, do you notice you don't hear any of the Red Sox being mentioned? Isn't it odd that the team that has the best record in baseball, does not have one of the players you might consider as the lower case most valuable player in the league?

In fact, if you ask 10 people who they thought is the most valuable Red Sox player, you'd get probably a half-dozen different responses.
But, consensus on the Sox MVP would be very difficult...because it's better to have a Most Valuable Team than a Most Valuable Player.

Perhaps that's why they are so good

As baseball moves away from outrageous seasons developed in a pharmaceutical lab, teams are seeing the value of chemistry coming from a psychologist's lab.

This is what motivated Ben Cherington as he cleansed this team of Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez and replaced them with the like of Jonny Gomes and David Ross. The difference is best exemplified as Boston moved from the detached J.D. Drew to the involvement and engagement of his brother, Stephen Drew.

The team contributes

There are only two teams that have 11 different players who drove home at least 35 runs this season.

While you're thinking of the other obvious choice, check out the Red Sox numbers:

The Boston Red Sox 35 RBI Guys
G AB H HR RBI
David Ortiz (BOS) 133 502 154 29 98
Mike Napoli (BOS) 136 487 125 23 90
Dustin Pedroia (BOS) 156 623 186 9 83
Stephen Drew (BOS) 120 424 106 13 64
Daniel Nava (BOS) 130 441 131 11 63
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (BOS) 117 410 109 13 59
Shane Victorino (BOS) 119 463 136 14 58
Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS) 131 566 169 8 52
Jonny Gomes (BOS) 113 302 72 12 50
Will Middlebrooks (BOS) 89 325 75 15 42
Mike Carp (BOS) 82 208 62 9 42

The other team shouldn't be a surprise

This offseason, there was another team that recreated itself with chemistry as the focal point.

Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti knew that the first thing he needed to do was hire Terry Francona as his manager. If there was anyone who could quickly change the culture of this ballclub, Tito was the guy.

“We would not be where we are without Tito,” Antonetti recently told Tyler Kepner in the NY Times. “The impact he’s made on our organization — not just the major league team — has been profound.”

Francona told Kepner, “I get a little careful when they say I’m changing the culture, or being responsible for that. I want to be a part of that, but it’s us doing it together. It’s a complete team effort, and that’s why it’s working.”

Antonetti began looking for the same type of players that Cherington was seeking: guys who could make a difference, not just on the field, but in the clubhouse as well.

One of the guys the Tribe added was 42-year old Jason Giambi, who was being considered for the Colorado Rockies managerial job that Walt Weiss ended up. Francona told Kepner that he had never met a person like Jason Giambi.

“His leadership, his presence, for me not to use that, I would be an idiot. I’ve leaned on him so much. He’s not making enough money, I tell him that all the time. He’s the best influence on players I’ve ever seen — ever, and I’ve been around some pretty good ones.”

Giambi, who will make a great manager sooner than later told Tyler,

“Every single guy — from the Latin players to the white guys to the black guys — I’m tight with everybody. I get to care about them with no ulterior motives. I just want to see them succeed. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, and I want them to turn into the best players they can, because I truly believe that’s the gift you give back to this game.”

The Tribe 11

The Cleveland Indians 35 RBI Guys
G AB H HR RBI
Jason Kipnis (CLE) 143 541 150 17 80
Carlos Santana (CLE) 148 518 138 19 69
Michael Brantley (CLE) 145 529 148 9 68
Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) 130 484 117 14 61
Nick Swisher (CLE) 139 524 130 20 59
Ryan Raburn (CLE) 80 225 62 16 53
Michael Bourn (CLE) 126 513 133 6 48
Mark Reynolds (CLE) 129 428 94 20 65
Mike Aviles (CLE) 118 339 87 9 44
Drew Stubbs (CLE) 141 421 97 9 42
Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE) 92 287 65 11 36

Two teams - both most valuable

“I think I believe in them more than our numbers,” Francona explained. “Like, our numbers may not add up, but that doesn’t mean we can’t add up. And I think that as long as we believe that, we’re going to have a chance.”

I'm with Terry.

Chemistry makes a Most Valuable Team.
Monday
Jan282013

Francona, Dunn and 0-2 Walks

Francona-The Red Sox Years, the terrific new book by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy is filled with great stories and shiny anecdotal nuggets.

Tito's relationship with Dustin Pedroia was renowned for their give-and-take teasing. On page 26, after Shaughnessy addresses Francona's self-deprecating style when he talks about his own playing days, Dan points out that Francona "swung at everything, and he almost never struck out." After extolling a number of Francona's amateur achievements, Shaughnessy adds this fun quote:

There's one other stat that nobody knows about, said Dustin Pedroia (kiddingly)...."He is the only player with a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances to never work an 0-2 walk. How awesome is that? He had no fight in him. None! That's unbelievable!"

Well, of course, Pedey was right (about the absence of whiffs, not about the competitive nature of Francona). While all the data is not available, we do know that Tito had 1827 plate appearances from 1981-90. And of the 72 PA he had from 1988 on that he had an 0-2 count, after that Tito drew no walks. He struck out 14 times and picked up 14 hits.

The 2012 leader in walks, after an 0-2 count, was not surprisingly Adam Dunn.

Here are the 0-2 walk leaders