A handy chart summarizing various team measures:
I think it’s pretty obvious where the weak spots were. The bullpen was bad in the first half, and the starting pitching was bad in the second half.
In general, this was a .500 team; their Pythagorean record was only a little over one win off from their real record. The rebuilding is pretty much over; the 2004 payroll should be the lowest in the upcoming five-year span, mainly because the Indians have a lot of pre-Arbitration players on the roster. If the team continues to win, payroll should continue to increase, stabilizing somewhere around the $60M plateau in 2006 when most of this years’ core players will be starting to get big raises.
As far as the team on the field, there are several areas to address, including a better understanding of how to steal a base. I like Rick Manning as a broadcaster; however, I haven’t really liked what he’s done as a coach. Now that Lee Mazilli’s job appears safe in Baltimore, Eddie Murray should return as the Indians’ hitting instructor; that’s a good thing. I’m not as sure about Carl Willis, but his big test will come with how he handles a more experienced pitching staff.
This offseason is going to be a big test for Mark Shapiro as well, because he hasn’t been in the position to give out multi-year contracts since the winter of 2001-2002, and we know how that turned out. But overall I’ve been impressed at a lot of his minor moves, including the signing of Casey Blake, Belliard, Howry, Miller, the acquistions of Hafner, Phelps, and the three prospects from Montreal. He made two bad moves last winter in acquiring Jeriome Robertson and Scott Stewart for decent prospects. However, I’m more impressed that he stood by his plan when there were several opportunities to go for broke or cave to fan interests. The fact that he’s willing to part ways with Vizquel, even with mainstream fan opposition tells me a lot; making the right move is more important than making the popular move. He was also willing to sign Kaz Tadano after he was blackballed by every team in Japan and a lot of major league clubs. He was willing to make a stand on Milton Bradley, and not respond even when Milton (and his mother) ripped him in the press.
Overall, I really like the organization’s health, top to bottom. There aren’t really any bad contracts hanging over the club, the farm system is in good shape, and the coaching staff will be entering its third year in 2005. The only thing left to do is to start bringing in some final pieces via free agency, and hopefully that should be enough to make this club a 87-90 win team in 2005. Granted, a lot of things have to go right to do that, but as Branch Rickey once said, “luck is the residue of design.”
Up next I’ll concentrate on individual players; I’ll try to do 1-3 a day, starting this week.