Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 7, 2008
BASEBALL: CC You Later
I'm still dumbfounded by the turn of events that has brought the Indians to the pass of trading CC Sabathia to the Brewers in exchange for outfield prospect Matt LaPorta, pitchers Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson and a player to be named later.
First, the take: LaPorta's numbers, at least, suggest a quality right-handed slugger, given his career minor league line of .294/.395/.616 in 411 at bats, mostly at AA this season, where he has 20 HR, 66 RBI and 44 walks in half a season. He's 23, so presumably he's pretty close to major league ready, but close to being on the older side for a AA slugger. Bryson appears to be a high-ceiling reliever prospect, 11.81 K/9, 2.64 BB/9 and just 0.41 HR/9 in 109 minor league innings mostly as a reliever, but he's 20 years old and hasn't pitched above A ball, so he's necessarily unproven against serious competition. Jackson, who started 7 games for the Brew Crew in 2006, does not appear to be much of a prospect. As for the Brewers, Sabathia is obviously a serious ace in his prime and on a roll; after 4 horrible starts to begin the season, the defending AL Cy Young winner has posted a 2.16 ERA in 14 starts, with 0.69 HR, 1.73 BB and 9.40 K/9. He's averaged 110 pitches per start in that stretch, with a single 98-pitch outing the only one below 100.
Sabathia has made clear that he'll be a free agent, so while the Brewers would seem an unlikely buyer, they are really just renting him, whereas the Indians really had to look to 2008 only. The list of things that have gone wrong with Cleveland is exhaustive, from injuries (Hafner, Martinez, Carmona, Westbrook) to a collapsed bullpen, all of which has offset an unbelievable year by Cliff Lee and what had, for a while, been a really outstanding performance from the rotation (Paul Byrd is 1-7 with a 7.40 ERA in his last 9 starts, Westbrook's pitched once since April, Carmona not since May, and the replacements have been less effective). While it's been rough from the outset for the Tribe, they were right in the thick of things with the AL Central in disarray; they were 22-19 and a game and a half in front of the division on May 15, but since then the team has been 15-32 and the staff aside from Sabathia, Lee, Rafael Perez and Scott Elarton has been a train wreck.
One thing that sticks out is that they are 6 games below their Pythagorean projection, and I'm starting to think we may have reached the point where Eric Wedge has to shoulder some of the blame for what no longer looks like just random chance; the team is 19 games below its projection for his tenure, including -5 in 2003 and -11 in 2006 (2007 they were +5, the only year they did not underachieve compared to their runs scored and allowed in the Wedge era).