<
>

Hey, Carlos Carrasco is right

9/23/2014

Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco apologized after criticizing his teammates' defense after Monday's loss.

"You know what? Everything was good. Everything went perfect," Carrasco said on Monday. "We should've made those plays right there. That cost me two runs."

OK, you shouldn't call out your teammates like that in public, at least if you want friends in the clubhouse. On the other hand ... Carrasco was kind of right. The defense didn't help.

Here's the first play, an Eric Hosmer line drive off the glove of first baseman Chris Gimenez. Hit hard but should have been caught. Gimenez hasn't played much first base -- he's that rare breed of catcher/outfielder. Here's the second play, a grounder off the glove off shortstop Jose Ramirez, with the infield pulled in. Again, catchable.

As Stephanie Liscio of It's Pronounced "Lajaway" wrote,

Nothing says critical September game like starting Chris Gimenez at first base. While I hate to nitpick over someone filling in for a player getting a day off, I can't help but wonder if that play in the first goes down differently with Carlos Santana at first. Although, even if they did have a tighter defensive performance, you're not going to win any games with zero runs.

The bigger issue is that Cleveland's defense has been a major problem all season. According to Defensive Runs Saved, the Indians' defense has been 78 runs below average -- worst in the majors. Using a much simpler statistic, Defensive Efficiency -- the percentage of balls in play turned into outs -- the Indians are 25th in the majors. They also lead the majors in errors. No matter how you measure it, it's been a bad defensive team. With league average defense, they could be leading the AL Central.

It's not that surprising that Cleveland's defense has struggled; they were minus-42 runs last year and returned largely the same cast of fielders. The biggest culprits have been third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (-16 DRS), outfielder David Murphy (-14), second baseman Jason Kipnis (-12), third baseman/first baseman Santana (-10), center fielder Michael Bourn (-9) and former shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (-7). Again, none of those numbers should be especially surprising with the exception of Murphy, who always rated well in the outfield while with the Rangers. When the Indians signed Bourn two years ago, it was in part for his range in center field, but he's battled leg issues, is now 31 and has clearly lost a step out there.

(It's this poor defensive support that creates a boost to Corey Kluber's Cy Young case.)

By trading Cabrera, the Indians should improve defensively at shortstop next year, whether it's Ramirez or top prospect Francisco Lindor. Kipnis and Chisenhall, however, are pretty much locked into spots, although there's been some talk of moving Kipnis back to the outfield, where he played in college. Bourn is signed for two more years, but doesn't hit enough to warrant a starting spot if his defense is no longer above average. If Kipnis would be an improvement in center, maybe they move him there, slide Ramirez over to second, make Bourn a fourth outfielder and find a better glove for right field. If you do that, maybe you're stronger defensively at four positions next year.

That doesn't help this year. The Indians had a lot go right with Kluber's monster year, the second-half emergence of Carrasco, Michael Brantley's stellar season that should land him in the top-10 of MVP voting and Yan Gomes putting up excellent numbers behind the plate. In a weak AL Central, it could have been their division.