Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report's Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.
This week, we talk rain delays, Shin Soo Choo's 20/20 season, what statistical benchmarks a team needs to hit to be a playoff contender, and whether the 2010 Indians are better, worse or equal to the 2009 team.
I would like to thank this week's participants Nino Colla, The Coop, and Lewie Pollis for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.
1. Over the weekend, Shin Soo Choo reached both 20 steals and 20 home runs, giving him his second consecutive 20/20 season.
In your opinion, how big of an accomplishment is a 20/20 season? Do you consider 20/20 enough to say the player in question has had a "great" season?
Is this accomplishment more significant than usual in Choo's case because the team has had so little success this season otherwise?
Samantha Bunten: Choo definitely had a great season, but basing that solely on the fact that he went 20/20 doesn't do his performance justice. His average, consistency, eye at the plate, and arm in right field all contributed as much to his great season as the 20/20 feat did.
What IS particularly notable about the fact that he hit 20/20 is that he did it despite missing significant time due to injury. The fact that he was able to do it two years in a row is no small feat either.
Nino Colla: I think it is a big accomplishment given that he's been injured and I didn't think this club would have anyone reach 20 home runs this season.
I wouldn't say just because he had a 20/20 year means he had a great season; he had a great season for many other reasons. He's a good player but he needs to stay healthy for the entire year and more importantly, he needs someone that hits around him so they can take the pressure off.
Lewie Pollis: To call Choo a "20/20" player is to focus on the wrong parts of what make him so special. The power and speed are nice, but more important is his plate discipline and smooth swing.
And don't forget his sterling glove and cannon arm—even during throws where there isn't a play, I'm always amazed at his arm strength and accuracy.
The Coop: I think the most impressive thing about what Choo has done isn’t the 20/20 part of the accomplishment, it’s the fact that he’s done it two years in a row.
I remember a time—back when statistics weren’t overinflated due to steroids and HGH—that 30/30 was the true benchmark of a serious offensive weapon. These days, it’s likely that there will only be about a dozen guys that hit 20/20, and maybe only one or two with outside shots at 30/30.
So, maybe I need to re-define what is “great”? I don’t think 20/20 is great, but it’s definitely solid.
Also, it’s not necessarily an accomplishment that relies on the quality of the team and supporting cast, so no bonus points for that either.
The problem for the Indians is, they need a bunch of guys who can hover around 20/20. A team with one guy who (barely) reaches 20/20 does not a contender make.
Still—how can you not be happy with what Choo has done in his brief tenure with the Indians? He is one of only a few guys that the Indians can truly depend on for the future, so props to him.
2. When asked what it takes for a team to be a viable playoff contender, Manny Acta said it was crucial to do at least one of the following: score 800+ runs, have an OBP of .340 or higher, or have an ERA under 4.00.
The Indians obviously reached none of these benchmarks. Do you agree with Acta's assessment of what milestones are necessary for a team to reach in order to be a playoff contender?
In your opinion, which of those three numbers is the MOST crucial, and why?
Samantha Bunten: I understand the point he's trying to make but it's really a gross oversimplification. This is essentially like saying, if you hit well and you pitch well you'll win ball games, so everyone just needs to go out there and do their job and we'll all be fine. Uh, duh?
Besides, plenty of teams hit these benchmarks and miss the playoffs, and there are also plenty of teams that miss all three and make the playoffs anyway.
If you're playing good baseball in general, you might miss all three and still get there because the machine as a whole is working. Or you might reach all three but miss out on a playoff spot because you play in a very competitive division.
I'll give him points for using OBP instead of batting average, and for the fact that what he said was at least technically correct, but mostly it just comes off sounding like how you would explain how to win baseball games to an eight-year-old.
Nino Colla: Short answer, yes. Why? Because if you score 800 runs you have a good offense, and if your team ERA is under 4.00, you have good pitching.
The last time I checked, you kind of needed both to be decent to make the playoffs. I mean, what Acta said about those benchmarks is so simple, but so true.
The most important one is ERA. If you don't have pitching you don't have a chance. You can't get by with marginal pitching and an explosive offense. But you can get by with stellar pitching and a marginal offense. At least in my opinion. I'm sure there are stats that counter that, but I agree with that in principle.
Lewie Pollis: The Reds aren't on pace to do any of those things, so simply put Acta is wrong.
Also, OBP and lots of runs are cause and effect of the same thing, so really, this is a pretty stupid quote. As for which is most important, does it really matter whether you prevent runs or score them?
One thing I am proud of: our manager used OBP as a primary measure of batting performance. It's not quite wOBA, but it's a hell of a lot better than, say, Jerry DiPoto.
The Coop: Well, I think Acta has done an admirable job of oversimplifying things, but he’s probably on target. I mean, score lots of runs and don’t let the other team score very many? Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty decent formula for success.
However, it seems to me that Acta is overlooking many of the intangibles that truly do contribute to a run at the pennant.
For starters, how about a lights out bullpen? Even if you have a dominating crew to work the late innings, chances are they won’t make much of a dent in the team ERA but you’re going to win a ton of games.
Same goes for timely hitting, not leaving men on base, and aggressive (but smart) baserunning. A big hit with two outs or challenging an outfielder’s arm on a ball in the gap doesn’t always show up in the box score, but who would argue that these things don’t contribute to making a team great?
Of the things Acta mentioned, I say that getting on base and scoring runs gets you into the playoffs, but pitching wins playoff games. But the bottom line is, you need a strong combination of all of these things—and a good manager (which Acta conveniently neglected to mention).
3. Last year many of us expected the Indians to contend before the season began, and they completely imploded.
This year most of us didn't expect much of anything prior to the beginning of the season, and yet the team still managed to disappoint.
In your opinion, were the 2010 Indians a better than, worse than, or equal to the 2009 Indians? What makes you say so?
Samantha Bunten: In my opinion, the 2010 squad was a worse team that had a better season.
The 2009 team had more talent, or at least they did before they started trading them all away for peanuts in July. But they were also a team that was supposed to contend and instead played .400 baseball.
The 2010 team can't compete with 2009 talent-wise, but you have to consider this a better season because they didn't fall so far short of what they were expected to do.
Also, the team was getting worse in 2009; this season, even if they still have a VERY long way to go, at least they're actually getting better.
Nino Colla: I think they are separate entities. I don't think either was better or worse because they are different teams under different circumstances.
Was it worse having a team that you thought would compete, but didn't than having a team you thought wouldn't compete and didn't?
There was more talent on that 2009 team and for that there was a lot more expectations. All I know is that the 2007 team was the bomb.
Lewie Pollis: The Indians' winning percentage right now is .408. Last year it was .404. Not much of a difference either way.
From a fan's perspective, though, this year was much better. We didn't trade away any beloved hometown heroes. We underperformed expectations, but not by nearly as much. And we caught glimpses of Carlos Santana, Matt LaPorta, Carlos Carrasco, et al who give us hope for the future.
The Coop: I’ve got to believe they’re better. This year, the Indians had the opportunity to give a lot of young guys a lot of playing time. And, even guys that weren’t in the everyday lineup got a good taste of the majors which should hopefully carry them forward into next year.
First of all, the Indians got dramatically better when Eric Wedge was fired and Acta was hired. Acta is not going to remind anyone of Casey Stengel, but he’s done a fair job and, for the most part, has stayed out of the way.
The Indians found some clear building blocks moving forward (Santana, LaPorta, most of the starting rotation), and also purged some of the wasted space (Peralta, Wood). They need to continue on this path in the near-term.
Travis Hafner should be on everyone’s “must go now” list, and I wouldn’t shed a tear if the Indians got rid of Grady Sizemore too. There’s no doubt that there’s a ton of youth and potential at all levels in the organization, and it seems that, in terms of talent, they are headed in the right direction.
Still, at some point, any assessment of how good or bad the Indians are has to be based on their win-loss record, and right now it seems like it would take a miracle to get to .500. But I’m willing to give the organization at least one more year before I call this entire rebuilding process a disaster.
4. Fun Question of the Week: Saturday night, the Indians and Royals game was suspended due to rain for three entire hours, and was then resumed after midnight instead of being called.
Many people thought it was ridiculous that the officials chose to resume the game after a three hour delay, particularly given that both teams were well out of playoff contention and would have no impact on any sort of postseason play whatsoever.
Do you agree that resuming the game was ridiculous, or do you think the decision to resume play was correct? At what point has a rain delay gone on long enough that the game should just be called?
If you had attended this game, would you have waited out the delay to watch the finish?
Samantha Bunten: I've always been a huge supporter of sticking it out as a show of faith in your team, which in theory, means never leaving a game early.
Of course what I had in mind in terms of never leaving a game early was more like, sticking it out through a game where it's 30 degrees out in April, or riding out a 15-inning game waiting for someone to break up a tie score even if it takes until midnight.
What I did not have in mind is sitting through a three-hour rain delay in the middle of game between two teams whose doomed fates for the season were sealed, oh, somewhere around the middle of Spring Training.
Riding this one out wouldn't be loyalty, it would be insanity. So yes, of course it was ridiculous for them to resume play. It was pretty clear no one wanted to be there, including the players.
This was a meaningless game where the officials needlessly risked injury to a player due to wet field conditions, not to mention leaving the audience to die of boredom.
To date I've actually never left a game early, but if I had been at this game, it may very well have been the one that broke the pattern.
Nino Colla: I've stayed ridiculously late into the night to wait out a rain-delay, so I know I would wait it out if I needed to.
I thought it was crazy that they decided to continue that game and shocked when I woke up and didn't see F/7 on the box score. I could see if they needed to get the game in because it was the last visit to Kansas City for the Indians and it wasn't an official game yet, but that wasn't the case.
For this particular game, I would have left after that last delay. I'm not one to leave a game before it finishes, I hate that, but I think it would have been acceptable by my own standards to jet at that point, especially given the circumstances.
Lewie Pollis: About 10 years ago, I went to a game with my family. By the sixth or seventh inning we were losing and everyone else was getting tired, so we left in spite of my dramatic protests.
I pouted all the way home, and as soon as I got out of the car I ran up to my room and turned on the radio. Here's what I heard: "...swing and a DRIVE! DEEP LEFT FIELD A-WAYYYYYY BACK! WALK-OFF HOME RUN! INDIANS WIN!"
The moral of the story is, never leave a game early.
The Coop: First of all, what does it say about Kansas City nightlife if waiting out a three-hour rain delay between two teams fighting to stay out of last place is a good idea? I feel like anyone who did that is in desperate need of a new hobby or geographic relocation.
Of course it was ridiculous to resume play. The game meant nothing. Literally nothing. Not only does it have zero bearing on the pennant chase, but it probably didn’t even have an impact on fantasy baseball. I mean, I’m no expert, but if you have more than one guy from K.C. or Cleveland on your fantasy team, you’re probably not doing too well.
Secondly, there’s a serious chance of injury. I can just see it now—team MVP Shin-Soo Choo slips on the wet grass and breaks his leg, ending his career. Or slips on a wet top-step of the dugout. And for what?
But getting back to the nightlife thing—what, does someone have an affinity for paying $7 for a beer when they could probably get one across the street for $2.25? Is the charm of Kauffman Stadium more alluring than, I don’t know, watching Saturday Night Live re-runs on TV? Is someone sad that they haven’t caught pneumonia recently?
The fact is, in a situation like that, the players don’t want to be there, the managers don’t want to be there, the umpires don’t want to be there, and the peanut vendors don’t want to be there. So what kind of experience could a fan possibly get?
All that being said—doesn’t surprise me one bit that the game was resumed. That’s what MLB is, that’s what they do.