Early Season Grades for All of the Cleveland Indians' Offseason Acquisitions
The Cleveland Indians made a few acquisitions this offseason, but nothing that could be considered scale-tipping. The club acquired Josh Outman from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for former center fielder Drew Stubbs, and signed a number of players to both minor and major league contracts.
Of the players acquired by the team this offseason, only five are currently playing with the big league club. That group of players is composed of Outman, Scott Atchison, David Murphy, John Axford and Elliot Johnson.
Some of these players have made important contributions, and, without them, the team wouldn't have its' 11-15 record.
So, with a month of play nearly complete, the time has come to assess these players based on their early-season contributions. We'll kick things off with the only player acquired via-trade, Josh Outman.
2014 Stats: 11 G, 8.1 IP, 3-0 W-L, 2.16 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 10.8 K/9, 7.6 BB/9, 1.43 K/BB, 8.6 H/9
The Indians grabbed Josh Outman this offseason in exchange for former Tribe outfielder Drew Stubbs. The 29-year-old has yielded some encouraging numbers, including a 3-0 record, a 2.16 ERA and a whopping 10.8 K/9.
With that said, Outman has been relatively lucky through his first 11 appearances and, despite putting roughly 16.2 batters on base per nine innings pitched, Outman has managed to allow just a 2.16 ERA, despite a BABIP of .333. Outman's FIP (4.76), xFIP (4.14) and SIERA (4.17) suggest that his positive marks are relatively unsustainable, unless he makes some major changes.
The first place he should look in order to set himself up for future success in 2014 would be to increase his strike percentage, thereby decreasing his walk rate. Outman owns a walk rate of 18 percent—more than twice the league average and nearly double his career average.
That walk rate is the result of Outman falling behind in the count on a far-too-regular basis. Though he's thrown a first-pitch strike more often than not (66.7 percent 1st%), Outman has also found himself in a surprisingly poor percentage of 0-2 and 3-0 counts—15.4 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.
Aside from his WHIP and BB/9, Outman's numbers are solid, and his grade is representative of that. However, he gets docked a bit here because they're deceiving, nonetheless.
2014 Stats: 10 G, 10.1 IP, 0-0 W-L, 2.70 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 4.00 K/BB, 4.5 H/9
To this point in the 2014 season, Scott Atchison has been arguably the best pickup of the Indians' offseason. Through 10 games played, Atchison has allowed a 2.70 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP while also averaging 7.2 K/9 and 4.00 K/BB.
Atchison has been incredibly efficient and boasts a strike percentage (66.4 percent) and a first-pitch strike percentage (62.2 percent) that are both better than the league average. Because of his efficiency, Atchison has done an admirable job of keeping runners off base, allowing batting averages and on-base percentages of .143 and .189, respectively.
Unlike Josh Outman, Atchison seems primed to keep up his current pace over the course of the 2014 season. The 38-year-old has done a masterful job of keeping the ball on the ground, generating a 3.50 GB/FB ratio over 10 innings pitched—the second-highest innings-pitched total in the team's bullpen.
Atchison's FIP (2.08), xFIP (2.47) and SIERA (1.50) are all indicative of a pitcher who has earned his current metrics, and, to this point, they're very good.
2014 Stats: 24 G, 74 AB, .284/.341/.446, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 9 R, 10:7 K/BB
David Murphy. Best pickup of the offseason? You betcha.
Murphy has been outstanding for the Indians this season, appearing in all but two of the team's 25 games. Over 23 games—73 at-bats—the 32-year-old boasts a healthy .284/.341/.446 slash line with seven extra-base hits (two home runs), 17 RBI, nine runs scored and an impressive 10:7 K/BB ratio.
Murphy leads all qualified Indians hitters in batting average and OPS+. Beyond that, Murphy ranks second in RBI, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and fifth in total bases.
Murphy has been a driving force within the Indians lineup and has done a wonderful job of solidifying the bottom of the team's batting order.
Considering the struggles of players like Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher, Murphy's bat would be better suited toward the top of the Indians lineup. If that group continues to struggle, expect to see Murphy move up toward the two hole and Nick Swisher drop in the team's lineup.
For now, however, Murphy will continue to plug away in the No. 7 and 8 spots.
2014 Stats: 11 G, 9.2 IP, 8/9 SV, 2.79 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 6.5 BB/9, 1.29 K/BB, 5.6 H/9
John Axford was signed this offseason to replace former closer Chris Perez. The 31-year-old struggled over the last two seasons, posting a 4.35 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP over 134.1 innings pitched.
This year, Axford has rebounded for the most part. Over 11 appearances—9.2 innings pitched—Axford is eight for nine in save opportunities and boasts an outstanding 2.79 ERA to go along with a 1.35 ERA and ratios including 8.4 K/9 and 1.29 K/BB.
Axford has struggled to limit his walks here in 2014, allowing 6.5 BB/9 and a whopping 16.3 percent walk rate—nearly double the 8.3 percent MLB average. Axford's numbers suggest that he, like Josh Outman, may be in for a bit of regression.
The veteran righty owns worse-than-league-average marks in important predictive metrics like BB/9, K/BB, walk rate, ground-ball percentage and line-drive percentage. His marks in these all-important metrics suggest that Axford may be out-earning his performance in terms of ERA and save percentage.
The main problem for Axford, though, is his walk rate, which sits solidly above the MLB average. Even so, he's been pretty dependable and should be commended for it.
2014 Stats: 5 G, 12 AB, .083/.083/.167, 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R, 4:0 K/BB
Elliot Johnson's stat line pretty well speaks for itself. Over five games played and just 12 at-bats, Johnson owns a .083/.083/.167 slash line with just a single extra-base hit, one run scored and a 4:0 K/BB ratio.
The 30-year-old has rendered himself nearly unusable outside of an occasional appearance as a defensive replacement, and for good reason. In his 12 at-bats, Johnson has managed an astounding negative-30 OPS+.
In Johnson's defense, he has been somewhat unlucky in regards to balls in play. Johnson registered a .125 BABIP through his first five games, despite a 22 percent line-drive percentage and his having avoided hitting a single infield fly ball.
Unfortunately, until he begins to make more contact—his contact and strikeout percentages clock in at 68 percent and 30 percent, respectively—don't expect his numbers to improve too drastically.
In any event, Johnson has been solidly disappointing, and the super-utility player may play his way out of a job with infield prospects like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Jesus Aguilar biding their time at some of the higher minor league levels.