Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What exactly did we lose here?

The Indians were said to have gutted their team, trading away every short-term veteran and leaving the team short-handed for the rest of the season.

Does the first part really imply the second?

Consider left fielder Austin Kearns.  Kearns was a revelation in April, getting off to a fast start and saving the team from a truly horrendous offensive start, lifting them up to "merely bad."  I've argued that he might be the best NRI signing of the year, except that I think Joaquin Benoit was an NRI.  I don't know the details, but Benoit's season is a lot better than Kearns' (or most other humans).  In any event, Kearns was a good signing that paid off, and good for him (and us).

But realistically, since that hot start, Kearns has been kind of a schmoe.

Consider that in July, Kearns hit .258/.333/.379.  I mean, I understand that one month isn't a big enough sample, but look at Kearns' trend line:

April: .373/.429/.627
May: .250/.333/.337
June: .250/.349/.413
July: .258/.333/.379

I mean, which of these things is not like the others?

Meanwhile, Shelley Duncan, although prone to bouts of comical outfielding, hit .280/.390/.520 in July, and that doesn't count last night's 4-for-5 outing.  Even Trevor Crowe, Weakling McSchmendrick Trevor Crowe, hit .287/.337/.394 in July.  That's right, he out-hit, out on-based, AND out-slugged Austin Kearns.  Exactly what are we losing here?  Depth?  The ability to avoid Mike Brantley?  (Hm, come to think of it, come back, Austin!)

Jhonny Peralta hit .215/.268/.338 in July.  His two-homer debut with Detroit notwithstanding, Jayson Nix hit .242/.296/.473 in July.  Even if Nix is bad and Marte is bad and Valbuena is bad and Jared Goedert is bad, they aren't likely to be collectively significantly worse than Peralta was performing recently.

Kerry Wood ... I think everyone was part the point of being ready for Kerry Wood to go, not the least of whom was Kerry Wood.  I liked the philosophy behind the signing, cringed at the money, and it didn't work out.  We save some bucks.  Meanwhile, Chris Perez just capped off his third straight one-run save: does anyone truly think we were better off with Kerry Wood getting those save opportunities?  Not only would this stunt Perez' development, but ... Perez does it better.  No, again, Wood might prevent a couple Hector Ambriz outings, but he hadn't played for a while anyway, who's really going to miss him?

Now, Jake Westbrook is obviously a significant loss.  Westbrook wasn't having his best season, but he was having his average season, and had made a couple of very fine starts before getting dealt.  In his Cards debut, Westbrook put up an excellent line of 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, and 7 Ks.  That's good stuff.  Are we likely to get that from the David Huffs or Aaron Laffeys of the world?  We are not.

On the other hand, Jeanmar Gomez and Josh Tomlin have both made two starts:

Gomez: 7 IP, 2 R (0 ER)
Tomlin: 7 IP, 1 R
Tomlin: 5 1/3 IP, 1 R
Gomez 5 IP, 2 R

The last two starts were on short rest for EACH of the guys.  Now, long-term, am I saying that Gomez and Tomlin easily replace Westbrook's likely performance?  That seems overly optimistic.  But Jake was not exactly Cliff Lee, and it wouldn't be overly shocking if the team didn't come close to approximating his contributions with players they have here or in the minors.

Overall, I've talked elsewhere about the returns on the deals, but the fact is that the Indians as constituted on August 3rd are not a significantly worse team that they were a couple of weeks ago.  Their DEPTH is significantly worse (as evidenced by Brantley, Huff, and Justin Germano being the likely replacements for the backups), but the team ... hey, it's not a terrific team in the first place, but trading four players didn't make it a lot more terrible, either.

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