The Diff: Debunking myths about Michael Bourn

Last week’s edition of The Diff was a fun little side project on young NBA guards and high usage rates. It wasn’t exactly the biggest conversation-starter, however. So let’s change that with the hot topic du jour: Michael Bourn.

The Diff

It’s an exciting time to be an Indians fan. And we should cherish that. Not often in the last 10 years has there been so much fever about the Cleveland Indians in February. And no matter what happens, that’s something to be recognized and valued. Yet there certainly are a lot of myths out there about Monday night’s incredible signing of Michael Bourn. So let’s get to work.

It’s difficult for most people to wrap their mind around this at all. First of all, it’s the middle of February and we’re still talking about free agents! This offseason has been a wacky one in Major League Baseball, something actually our very astute Jon predicted in November 2011 might be the case with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that came into effect for this year.

I wish I had some more time today to share my thoughts on the context for what brought Bourn to Cleveland and ignited Cleveland’s interest that was reported as early as mid-December by Jim Bowden. But I can only write so much in one post.

So for today’s edition of The Diff, it only seemed natural to aggregate some general Cleveland feelings in the forms of myths and analyze them in the context of what many other writers are saying about this deal. And who is this Bourn guy anyway? Let’s play a little myth and rebuttal game.

Myth #1: “Michael Bourn’s not that valuable of a player since he’s not a great hitter.”

I’ll start off with some good news and some positive feelings1: It’s undoubtedly true that Michael Bourn has been one of the more productive players in the baseball over the last five years2. So let’s go to some stats to show that.

Since the start of the 2008 season, there have been 507 MLB players with at least 500 plate appearances. That’s about as many plate appearances as one might get in a full-time season playing maybe 130 games. Here is where Bourn ranks in a variety of categories among these 507 players:

Games Played749149.821806
Plate Appearances3222644.4163543
Stolen Bases25751.41*202*
Field + Position Runs5911.81393.9
Baserunning Runs44.78.91*32.5*


So yes, obviously, the **’s next to Leader are a note that when Michael Bourn is the leader, this column shows the second-highest total. And all these stats are via Fangraphs.

In the end, you can’t ignore the fact that Bourn has been one of the more consistently healthy players who has produced a lot of value in these five years (despite an strangely down year in 2011 when he was traded; I don’t want to call it fluky as that tends to happen in trade/new team years for various players even in recent MLB history (i.e. Swisher), but it’s a notable outlier), especially the most recent four years.

In terms of position players alone, he’s produced the 32nd-most wins since 2008. In a crude sense, that means, yes, he’s nearly as good as being the best position player on a team and is about the caliber of a fringe All-Star, on average. And that’s despite producing a fairly mediocre line of .272/.338/.365 in this span, which equals to an OPS+ of only 91 (essentially meaning that he’s 9% below adjusted league average for OPS). Or, as Keith Law wrote in ESPN:

In fact, as good as Bourn is, [Michael] Brantley actually had the better triple-slash line last year while playing in the better league, although he can’t touch Bourn on defense or on the bases.

This all goes to show the incredible value that Bourn has produced outside of the batter’s box. In a sense, this is again Moneyball 2.0 analysis for folks unfamiliar with recent statistical evaluations that emphasize baserunning, defense and enumerating how everything relates to wins.

Using the traditional rule of thumb of about 10 runs saved/added equaling 1 win, slightly over half (10.4) of Bourn’s WAR is from his fielding/positional scarcity and baserunning alone. The other half (10.7) is actually more than over-compensated from the replacement level factor in FanGraphs’ calculations. This means Bourn’s hitting actually has produced negative wins (-1.5) in these five years. (Note: calculations aren’t precise of 10/1; it’s just an easy rule of thumb.)

So clearly, despite being a replacement level contributor as a batter alone, Bourn’s been insanely valuable elsewhere. Jonah Keri wrote eloquently about this topic for Grantland.

Myth #2: “Michael Bourn’s 30 years old, so he’s going to start regressing soon anyway.”

Some people might say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So if that’s the case, then I might be flattering our dear friend Jon and the Grantland fellow from above quite a bit over the next few points. Let’s start with this:

The above is a little screenshot from Jon’s infamous MLB value dashboard. It shows the various WARs, from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference plus Jon’s average of the two, of Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Bourn since 2008. The quick synopsis: Choo was above 3.0 WAR from 2008-10, but now hasn’t reached that plateau in the past two years. Meanwhile, Bourn wasn’t very good in his first full year in 2008 and now has at least a 3.0 WAR in each of the past four years3.

Then there’s this tidbit from Jonah Keri’s Grantland article:

Bourn turned 30 in December, so we should expect at least some speed erosion during the next four years, and thus a dip in his legs-related value. Still, if Bourn ages the way players like Kenny Lofton and Rickey Henderson did, we could reasonably expect two or three more years of elite or near-elite value on the bases and in the field.

In essence, what Keri is trying to say is that Bourn has “young man skills,” unlike the “old man skills” of Travis Hafner that Rob Neyer alternatively wrote about in relation to this trade.

Old man skills vs. young man skills is a topic that essentially relates to PECOTA, Nate Silver’s landscaping-changing player evaluation tool that compares the career arcs of similarly skilled players. What Keri is saying above is that players such as Bourn — ones with excellent baserunning and fielding abilities — age better, as demonstrated by Henderson and Lofton, than average. The less-athletic and more power-driven Hafner, on the other hand, did not age well and that’s customary for players with those strengths.

So if Bourn was 32, like Nick Swisher, then he would have more risk. And if Bourn had a similar skill-set as Nick Swisher, then he also would have more risk. But Bourn at 30 years old and only 871 career games (simple math: 871/162 = 5.4 full seasons) and at his particular skill-set should easily have several more productive years ahead of him, or at least that’s the common assumption in the sabermetrics community based on over a century of comparable player analysis.

This all means that although peak athletic performance likely is around 25-28 years-old for the average player, Bourn certainly has better odds for longevity because of his skill set and his relatively youthfulness in terms of his actual MLB experience. So while 30 might not be the new 25, it doesn’t look too bad on Mr. Bourn.

Myth #3: “So … who is going to bat leadoff? Or second? Ah! The batting order!”

This is a fun debate. I totally get it. Whenever any new full-time position player is added to a team’s roster, it’s a natural reaction of fans and analysts to begin debating where said player will slot into the team’s expected everyday lineup. Heck, our very own TD did it last night in his instant anaysis.

Before I begin sharing some statistics related to that debate, I first wanted to share three ideas: 1) IT DOESN’T MATTER. 2) Isn’t this a fantastic problem to have? 3) In case you don’t understand the first two points, I’ll continue flattering Jon with a nod back to his fantastic “SABR-toothed Triber” series and specifically the edition he had on lineup arrangements. Let’s hear what Jon had to say back in 2010 about lineup configurations:4

What I find most interesting is that even with the worst possible lineup, we’re only costing ourselves, 0.31 runs per game over the best possible lineup. Yes, that’s a cost of 50 runs over the course of season, or about 5 wins, but we’re talking about THE WORST LINEUP against the BEST.

His capitalization truly was necessary. Because if we’re dealing with a 5-win difference when debating the absolute extremes of ordering — as Jon’s specific example showed, that would mean having your first four hitters as LaPorta-Valbuena-Hafner-Marson in that order — then we’re logically only dealing with a maximum 2-win difference in the actual consideration set of likely configurations. No one in their right mind would actually bat Luis Valbuena second! (Oh wait: Valbuena had 69 plate appearances as a No. 2 hitter in 2012. Sorry.)

And so that last parenthetical aside even goes to show the randomness and variability of a team’s assumed everyday lineup. So I went on a little stats adventure. Let’s start with this:



That, my friends, is a breakdown of the various positions in the batting order for the Cleveland Indians in 2012. The “Most” column shows the plate appearance total by the individual who had the most plate appearances at the slot. Then “Total”, of course, is the sum of all plate appearances that season by all of the players at that spot. So that must mean we have a percentage! Let’s call this Batting Order Randomness Distribution, or, fittingly for such an adventure, BORD.

Yes, undoubtedly, there were many, many factors at play when it comes to analyzing the crazy distribution of the ’12 Indians lineup. The team wasn’t very good, there was the whole Manny Acta controversy thing and there was a whole slew of trades/changes and other things going on throughout the year. It wasn’t pretty, and such chaos displays itself quite prominently on our BORD table above.

But, obviously, one can quickly point out the trend: Lineup slots 1-4 seem a bit more steady, while 5-9 is nearly a total crapshoot (With obviously No. 9 being skewed based on interleague games, thus different for NL teams and affected by the new schedule for 2013-beyond. So let’s stick with American League teams only for comparisons for now). That kind of makes sense, of course, intuitively, so let’s map that out with a few comparisons:

87555.0%79.2%33.4%2011Red Sox


I picked the most recent two iterations of the Indians and the 2006 Indians, the franchise year with the most runs scored in the last decade. Then, I also looked at the Rangers and Yankees — the two AL leaders in runs scored in ’12 — and the Red Sox, who led the way in 2011.

So yes, first and foremost, the most recent two years of the Indians have had quite bad offenses5 and quite bad BORD statistics. And that begins with consistency in the first four slots in the lineup. While the ’06 Indians and ’12 Yankees didn’t have such consistency, they at least were 40%+ overall and 60%+ in the 1-4 slots.

There’s likely a correlation here — or maybe it’s even a causation, in terms of lineup chaos leading to less production. Either way, it’s some type of relationship. And, along with my stat a few weeks back about year-to-year roster turnover ((I’ll also add some more context to my stat there about the staying/going rates of AL Central teams. The ratio of top 7 players’ to total team plate appearances on those 2012 AL Central ranged from 64.9% (Cleveland) to 69.3% (Chicago). So it hovers right around 2/3rds. Which means that even a team’s 7 most regular players only on average take up 6/9ths of a team’s lineup throughout the entire season.)), it just goes to show the uncertainity of debating lineups and how what really, really, really matters is getting better players.

Michael Bourn is a better player. He’s better than giving everyday at-bats to Lou Marson and Mike Aviles or Jason Giambi, or however else the lineup would have worked with replacement-level players. He’s been better than all but 30 players in terms of WAR over the last five years. And that’s nearly irreplaceable.

Myth #4: “This signing will immediately make the Indians contenders with the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.”

Thus far, I’ve been overtly optimistic about Michael Bourn and his addition to the team. Or, at least I’ve been debunking some myths that were negative and then showed how they really don’t matter and Bourn’s a good player and that’s all that matters.

But then we get into the final question: How much does it matter? Again, let’s go see what some others are writing. And I’ll start again with Jonah Keri at Grantland:

Just how much better they figure to be is an open question. The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog runs forecasts for all 30 teams using the CAIRO projection system plus some manual depth-chart input. For the latest update, made before Dice-K, Giambi, and Bourn signed on, CAIRO pegged the Indians at 74-88. Acknowledging that this is simply a back-of-the-napkin, hypothetical projection, it can be tough to reconcile a team picked to finish below .500 with spending more than $100 million on a pair of over-30 outfielders.

That listed 74-win mark isn’t far off from what I off-handedly predicted in my edition of The Diff two weeks ago about the Indians and strikeouts6 My comment was that the Indians were likely a best-case 81-win team. I probably would have pegged my estimate right around that 72-76-ish range.

Oh. And surprise, surprise, Jon wrote about a month ago about “How improved are the 2013 Indians?” His conclusion was eerily the exact same:

Last season, this team won 68 games. Using my most generous assumptions, I’m getting them to 74 in 2013. That’s….just not going to cut it. And to be honest, that’s why a lot of scribes were advocating blowing up the roster this off-season. Trade everybody. Start over. This group just doesn’t have the talent to compete, and giving $70 million to Nick Swisher might just be a way of telling fans not to pay too much attention to that man behind the curtain.

Keith Law’s comments of course were derisive among Indians fans, but I can’t say I necessarily disagree with him too much:

What I don’t see here is the endgame for Cleveland. The team still isn’t good enough to catch the Detroit Tigers without a substantial amount of luck in both directions — bad for Detroit and good for Cleveland — because the Indians lack the pitching to challenge for the division.

Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports also added his take on the new-look Indians since the Bourn deal:

Well, the Indians will take him — take his base-stealing ability, his elite defense in center field, his average of 153 games played over the past four seasons. The Cleveland rotation probably won’t be good enough for the team to compete with the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. But offensively, Francona’s new club sure is interesting. … I’ll be watching. We’ll all be watching. The Indians suddenly are a must-see team.

“Interesting.” I’ll buy that without a doubt. As many have argued — practically speaking, maybe every single one of the writers I’ve cited thus far — the Indians sure have a strange offense/outfield group heading into 2013. There certainly are a variety of ways in which new manager Terry Francona will be able to organize this talent. It’s not conventional by any means. So definitely, I think that then falls into the bucket of “interesting.”

But let’s go back to Michael Bourn’s added value. On average, over the past five seasons, he’s been a 4-win player. That includes his still-quite good 2011 season with a 4.1 WAR as well as his 2012 season with a 6.4 WAR, which was a career-best and, as the great ClevTA pointed out on Twitter, tied for 6th-best in the National League.

Yet something doesn’t really add up here: 74 wins + 4-6 added wins with the Michael Bourn signing still only =’s 76-80 wins. That probably will be enough to be in “contention” for a potential Wild Card spot through Labor Day and keep things undeniably “interesting” for a confused fanbase, but it still won’t be enough to be an actual “contender.” And it’s certainly not any easier  in the American League Central when you’re facing up against the defending pennant winners Detroit 19 times a season7.

So yes, the Bourn signing is exciting. And it’s fun for the fans and for the city. When else have we been this excited in February and the Indians were the top story being written about in a positive way on almost every single sports site out there? It’s been a long while. And we should enjoy this. But it doesn’t magically mean the Indians will necessarily be that dramatically much better than they were a month ago. Because of, of course, math.

  1. It seems like it’s been a while since Craig pulled out a #PositiveVibes on us. []
  2. So has Nick Swisher, of course, but that’s another story []
  3. A quick side-tangent on Choo and Bourn: Many have debated this comparison. It’s relatively fair, in my mind. Choo’s a significantly better hitter and adds little value with his glove. Bourn’s the opposite. Both will make close to $7 million-ish in 2013, as Bourn’s contract was heavily back-loaded — something very creative by the Indians front office. Bourn’s final three guaranteed years are close to 3 years and $45 million. I’d expect Choo to find a relatively similar deal in free agency next offseason. []
  4. And boy, was that 2010 post fun. Jon even had separate lineup conditions for whether or not the Indians used Branyan more often in a full-time role rather than Michael Brantley. And yes, that’s Russell Branyan. That one. []
  5. It’s easy to see 667 runs and 704 runs and compare it to some great offenses and say “bad.” What’s not so easy is talking about that in February. The Indians might be significantly better offensively in 2013, yet this is still a fun exercise. []
  6. About that topic briefly: Bourn has a K% rate of about 20% consistently for his entire career. My projection for the Indians in that article was just about 20% as well, which would place the team just over the league average. Assuming Bourn’s everyday appearance takes at-bats away from players such as Stubbs, Reynolds, Marson, McDade and other players with even higher K% rates, there’s no reason my prediction should change drastically at all. I’d feel perfectly fine with keeping it right about 20%. []
  7. My point being that although Chicago, Minnesota, Kansas City and Cleveland might all be 82-win teams or so at best, the AL Central is still a tough place to live because the Tigers are there. And that’s all that matters in terms of pure “contention,” although certainly the new Wild Card system creates an additional playoff opening. []

  • What’s interesting about the signings of Swisher and Bourne are that if these 2 can maintain their production over the next couple of years, even if the team tanks their contracts keep them as tradeable assets. That’s huge.
    And if the team can get better and win some games? Well, that’s exactly what we want.

  • 216in614

    We are one justin-verlander-season-ending-injury away from competing with detroit.

  • JacobWFNY

    Absolutely agreed. Fantastic value.

  • SDA

    thats looking at the bright side 😀

  • JacobWFNY

    I’m not so sure I agree with that. Seems logical at first. But let’s check the math.

    Tigers won 88 games in 2012. Justin Verlander’s fWAR was 6.8.
    Tigers won 95 games in 2011. Justin Verlander’s fWAR was 7.0.
    Tigers won 81 games in 2010. Justin Verlander’s fWAR was 6.4.
    Tigers won 86 games in 2009. Justin Verlander’s fWAR was 8.3.

    ’09-’12 Averages: Detroit wins = 87.5. Verlander fWAR = 7.1.

    But the Tigers had an overall team fWAR of 45.7 in 2012. Using Jon’s handy suggestion/estimate of 50 wins for a replacement team, that’d then mean the Tigers “should” have won 95.7.

    So yeah, if Verlander’s hurt, this is a whole separate ballgame. That’s a funny hypothetical though. And even still, the Tigers project to be about a .500 team in a worst-case scenario without Verlander — which is where the Indians will only be in a moderately best-case scenario.

  • And as I thnk about it, if Brantley has a better slash line with poorer defense, what is his FA contract going to look like? Yeeesh.

  • BenRM

    Hooray for an additional Wild Card spot!

    Even if these moves don’t translate into “playoffs” they at least translate into “watchable baseball” which is more than we’ve had for the 2nd halves of the past two seasons.

  • Bryan

    I would think bourn adds more than just his 4-6 wins. Being able to take Reynolds below average defense out of the field and having Stubbs and swisher in the field, that should add at least 2-3 wins. Then we’re only talking give or take 5 wins from a wild card spot….given breaks in 5 games is possible.

  • mgbode

    is Swisher better at 1B defense than Reynolds?

  • mgbode

    you never know in MLB. that being said, I think most would still pick Detroit as the favorites. going from a less stastical point than Jacob eloquently pointed out:

    top3 SPs: Scherzer/Anibal/Fister vs. Masterson/Ubaldo/Bauer?

    top5 hitters: Miggy/Fielder/Victor/Austin/Hunter vs. Swisher/Bourn/Brantley/Kipnis/Santana

    Defense and bullpen are decidedly towards the Tribe though.

  • Garry_Owen

    “Because of, of course, math.”

    I’m going to be stat-hating negative Nancy, here (it’s a hat I wear well). It’s not math. It’s a math-based projection. If it was a formula that we could just plug in and get a guaranteed result (i.e., “math”) then there would be no hope. And if it was really “math,” then Oakland would be piling up the trophies. (I didn’t catch all of Moneyball, but I did see the ending.) If it was math, I would never watch or care. Nobody would. Thank God it’s not math.

    There is hope because the games still have to be played between the lines. This is why we watch. Go Tribe.

  • Bryan

    Reynolds is by far one of the worst. Last 2 years has a UZR of -5.3 and -3.2. Swisher last year at 1B was a respectable 0.9. Then you count in Stubbs who will be above average RF.

  • mgbode

    was typing this up separately, but I will move it here where it relates.

    the 74-80 win projections are in large part based on past production. but, our starting pitchers ALL regressed from previous form last year. the hope is we regain some of that (and some may be built into projections). what happens if a couple of them gain back good form? those projections go out the window.

    we had the most starts by pitchers under 30yrs of age last season. we should be among the league leaders this year as well. in fact, Myers is our only projected starting pitcher who is over 30yo and he is “just” 32. Even one of our fliers, Kazmir, is only 29.

    why does this matter? because pitchers younger than 30 have a much higher probability of rebounding or progressing than older pitchers.


    I know it’s just hope, but I think it’s a good reason for hope.

  • mgbode

    Stubbs is a better fielder than Swish in RF, no doubt.

    Reynolds was a good glove at 1B in 2012. I watched a bunch of O`s games down the stretch and there are plenty of articles out there also backing it up. Honestly, I have a hard time with the defensive metrics as they do not seem to correlate between each other well at all at this point.

    I have not seen Swish play 1B (he probably did a few Yankee games I watched, but I don’t remember him there). So, I cannot tell for sure on him.

  • mgbode

    also note that negative UZR is in large part because of his time at 3B:

    He made up for that with stellar defense at first base once he was
    permanently moved there in mid-May. After struggling at third base early in the season — he made six errors in 15 games — Reynolds had a .995 fielding percentage in 108 games at first.

  • mgbode

    and Jacob, I agree on pretty much all points. and, yes, the batting order is also likely to shift around as we use all of our utility knife parts that it won’t matter too much.

    i still love the “idea” of having Stubbs in the 9-hole followed by Bourn and Kipnis just because of all the speed it puts on the bases for Asdrubal, Swisher, Santana

  • Bryan

    Those UZR numbers are strictly 1B only. If you include 3B, it would be even worse. So yes he is a better 1B. UZR takes into account range as well as fieldi percentage. So while Reynolds does make all the plays on balls he can get, his range is horrible. Anyhow, my point is just that the addition of bourn upgrades the team defense in 3 different positions and not just CF.

  • mgbode

    and it’s a valid point. I am just saying we can argue that it’s an upgrade at 2 positions (CF/RF) rather than 3. nothing more.

  • Matt S

    I think we’re missing the larger point about all of these moves. Which is that they’re all long-term. Getting Bauer, Swisher and Bourn here for the next 4 years means we don’t have to win this year to get something out of those investments (and even Myers has a club option for 2014). The hope is that we develop or acquire some better starters by 2014, 2015 or 2016. Hopefully at least two of those will be Carrasco (who will need some time to regain his control – the last thing to come back after TJ surgery) and Bauer.

    All of these moves – except for Reynolds – are with an eye towards 2014 and beyond. It makes us possibly contenders this year, which might help ticket sales (doubtful), but even if it doesn’t, that’s not necessarily the point. The point is that we have a lot of still very young guys that hopefully will learn to contribute more (Chiz, Brantley, Carrasco, Bauer, maybe even Kipnis/Santana can do more).

  • WFNYJon

    Totes agree, mg. Or at least partway totes.

    If the pitching is even league average in 2013, the team will likely contend. That’s pretty neat, considering we were second to last in the AL in runs scored last season.

    But while you’re right to point out how terribly our pitching staff performed last year, you’re going to have work pretty hard to demonstrate to me that they’re likely to get better rather than stay the same–especially on Ubaldo and Masterson. Ubaldo’s lost considerable velocity–that’s not a skill that pitchers typically “rediscover” in their late 20s. And Masterson’s 2011 is starting to look like the exception to the rule: he struggles against LHB and walks too many to be a front-end starter.

    Maybe Bauer is ready. Maybe Dice-K is in the best shape of his life (!). Maybe McAllister is better than anyone thought. The rotation could well be league average, but the more I think on it the more I wonder if that won’t be in spite of the top two arms, rather than because of them.

  • JacobWFNY

    I agree mostly with Jon here (as usual).

    There’s a difference between realistic projections and franchise-building. I’m not saying I know the best way for Shapiro, et al to build the Indians. In this post, I just hoped to analyze what it means for 2013. And based on everything we know empirically, that still means the Indians are probably gonna be about league average.

    Then, in terms of the pitching staff’s potential, there’s also a huge difference between being under-30 AND good, and under-30 AND not that good. In 2012, it wasn’t good. And there’s also a huge difference between being closer to 29 than 24, relatively, as this pitching staff isn’t old, but isn’t spectacularly young anymore.

    Of course then, this all goes without yet explicitly saying that last sentence was 99.9% tongue-in-cheek. Sorry, folks.

  • ThatAlex

    The way I see it, all these recent moves are a collective lottery ticket on the part of the Dolans. If they work out, great, we’re right in the thick of things competing for the division or wild card spot. If they don’t, none of the people we have are signed to outrageous contracts, and we can trade them for high-level prospects and reload.

    I’m sure Antonetti has the best case and worst case scenarios all mapped out in terms of moves, and is prepared for anything.

  • JacobWFNY

    Absolutely a huge point here, folks. “Watchable baseball,” “interesting,” “fun.” It’s a good week to be an Indians fan. And it should be a good atmosphere at the Prog.

  • mgbode

    yes, I definitely agree with both you and Jon here. all our pitchers have their issues and we need them to all (or a good number) progress. it’s alot to ask and I don’t think we can expect it (hence why the projections do not).

    Masterson (1 year wonder so far)
    Ubaldo (mechanically falling apart)
    Carrasco (coming back from injury and inconsistent before it)
    Myers (Astros gave up on him as a starter and 1yr wonder himself – but with more years)
    Bauer (just ask Montero about him)
    McAllister (ERA/FIP point to barely league average type guy)

  • Excellent article. The Tribe will never again get a crack at a free agent the quality of Lohse with a 4th Round draft choice. We’re still waiting. The guy may be itching to get onto a team at this point.

  • JacobWFNY

    Yeah pretty much. You made a good point below as well about comparing the Indians staff to Detroit’s, even without Verlander.

    In essence, though, it comes down to this:

    Offense — the team that ranked 13th out of 14 teams in the AL in 2012 in runs scored (667 runs) made several dramatic upgrades and now ranks somewhere among the 4-8-best offenses in the AL. Some major offensive upgrades after chaotic last season. Definitely at least near/slightly above AL average (721 runs).

    Pitching — the team that ranked 14th out of 14 teams in the AL in 2012 in runs allowed (845 runs) added Trevor Bauer, Brett Myers, Carlos Carrasco, a couple helpful middle relievers, some really good defensive players and very little else. Pending drastic upgrades of existing talent, there’s very little to make one believe they’ll be significantly better or even league average. Expect somewhere in the 8-12-best pitching staffs, at best.

    Add it up — an offense in the 4-8 range in the AL and a pitching staff in the 8-12 range in the AL — and that’s a mediocre baseball club.

  • Harv 21

    1) “Interesting.” I’ll buy that without a doubt.”

    Yes, me too, all of us. Because, beloved math aside, it’s entertainment. I’m a Cleveland fan. I’ve watched a couple of losses before. But I’m way more likely to support the team if I get to watch Bourn hit than Shelley The Duncan or Austin Kearns. Once the Dolans won that lotto they had to put on a suit and smile and bring us some valentines immediately, and not think an email about saving up for a house would work. Now I want to see this team play. Want to see what Santana and Kipnis and Brantley might do with some lineup protection.

    2) What is their “end game”? Regardless of this cash influx and outfielder purchases, they’re going to have to draft pitching well to get some legit front of the rotation starters. They tried to trade a few first round picks other teams coveted and they whiffed horribly. Maybe Antonetti learned clubs don’t want to trade those guys if they are affordable. They can’t afford an ace in his prime, or even a #2 for very long. The End Game remains amateur player evaluation and development. Or wait for Mike Ilitch to die and pray for the lightning strike like ’07, a Jared Wright/Fausto comet, a bunch of guys careering, we win 88 games while the rest of the division tanks. But that’s not contention, that’s fluke year. Draft your ass off.

  • I stand corrected: ‘competitive balance’ pick.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I like some of these sabermetrics to look at the value of a particular player, but I’m not as high on them for team win predictions. One big reason is that it’s tough to predict the impact of a new manager/staff on a team. I’ve seen too many teams far exceed and far underperform their win predictions to rule out the Tribe as a contender this year. Paul Byrd won 15 games in 2007 with a 1.4 WAR, thanks in large part to an excellent offense and a solid defense. I will not allow projections to rain on my parade, and I’ll be looking for the Tribe to compete with and beat the Tigers.

  • JacobWFNY

    (Note: I’m about to be moderately sarcastic so please don’t take it hard. I’m just playing back at your comment.)

    Many sabermetric-esque people also would argue that managers don’t matter. For reference, Jon and I led this debate, which we’ve admitted was partially tongue-in-cheek although it’s quite interesting:

    In general, I think WAR provides a decent context for debate and analysis. I certainly don’t think it nor PER or any reported all-encompassing statistic is perfect and covers every aspect of sport. Momentum either with the team or the coaching staff certainly plays a huge part in the variability of team and player performance.

    So you’re right. We can’t know for certain because this is just a bunch of people playing around with a ball and a bat on an oddly configured diamond field. So we’ll see. I can’t profess to know everything.