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The K-Tribe Chronicle: "The quest stands upon the edge of a knife...it will fail to the ruin of all."

The K-Tribe Chronicle: "The quest stands upon the edge of a knife...it will fail to the ruin of all."
July 20, 2011
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(Photo: Kinston Indians)
From the Reservation:

The Kinston Indians have turned into an enigma of gigantic proportions. Throughout most of this season, the offense has teetered on the brink of nothingness, batting in the .220's, and in dead last of nearly every major offensive category.  The pitching was the complete opposite, with an ERA in the low 3's, and at the top of nearly every major pitching category.

How did that translate in the big picture of the pitching-heavy Carolina League? Well, they finished in second place during the first half of the season, and got off to a rocket start in the second half, opening up as much as a two-game lead early on for the second half crown. Did it make sense, that a team batting .220 could finish in first place?

When you took a closer look and saw their clutch hitting, combined with a nearly unstoppable bullpen, the picture cleared just a little. Not much, but just a little. You could see that when the game was on the line in late innings, there would be a big two-out hit, and the bullpen would save the day.

So, this week, the offense had one of their better showings statistically, and the pitching dropped off considerably. What did that leave the K-Tribe?

Their worst week since the beginning of May, and a team that has looked like the bottom could fall out at any moment is now seemingly on the edge. This next week is a big one for the Indians. They are still in first, but hanging on precariously by a half game. With a little over a month left in the season, what happens in the next 7-10 days could make-or-break this team.

Now let's get driving...before we cut ourselves...

Where We Stand after week 13:

Overall Record: 52-41 Overall, 14-10 Second Half (2-4 the past week, first place in the Carolina League Southern division, 1/2 game ahead of Myrtle Beach)


Week #14 Games:

July 2011

13 @ Potomac, Postponed: Rain
14 @ Potomac, Postponed: Rain
14 @ Potomac, Postponed: Rain
15 @ Potomac, L 3-4 (WP: D. Rosenbaum; LP: B. Brach; SV: H. Nelo)
16 @ Potomac, L 3-5 (WP: S. Solis; LP: T. House; SV: N. Holland)
16 @ Potomac, L 2-3 (WP: M. Frias; LP: S. Wright; SV: J. Testa)
17 vs. Winston-Salem, W 2-0 (WP: M. Popham; LP: J. Serafin; SV: P. Guilmet)
18 vs. Winston-Salem, W 5-4 (WP: C. Jones; LP: T. Thompson)
19 vs. Winston-Salem, 6:30 PM

This Week's Transactions:

07/18/2011 RP Rob Bryson assigned to Akron Aeros from Kinston Indians.
07/14/2011 SS Tyler Cannon assigned to Kinston Indians from Akron Aeros.
07/13/2011 LHP Drew Pomeranz assigned to Akron Aeros from Kinston Indians.

The Offense:
Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG
Argenis Martinez
3
11
0
4
1
0
0
1
0
3
0
0
.363
Jeremie Tice
4
14
2
5
0
0
2
4
1
4
0
0
.357
Justin Toole
3
13
1
3
0
0
0
0
0
2
0
0
.231
Tyler Holt
5
22
5
6
0
0
0
1
2
4
1
0
.273
Adam Abraham
5
19
3
2
1
0
0
1
5
6
1
0
.105
Roberto Perez
4
10
0
2
1
0
0
1
1
4
0
0
.200
Abner Abreu
5
17
4
6
1
0
2
5
5
3
1
0
.353
Tyler Cannon
5
18
2
4
1
0
0
0
2
4
0
0
.222
Chase Burnette
2
9
1
2
0
0
1
2
0
3
0
0
.222
Casey Frawley
3
12
0
2
2
0
0
0
0
5
0
0
.167
Anthony Gallas
5
21
1
8
2
0
0
4
1
2
1
0
.381
Doug Pickens
3
11
1
2
0
0
0
2
0
4
0
0
.182
Delvi Cid
4
6
2
2
0
0
0
0
2
2
4
0
.333
Totals 51 183 22 48 9 0 5 21 19 46 8 0 .262

The K-Tribe boosted their average this week to .262, which is nothing to scream at, but was nearly 40 points over their team average entering the week. Their home run production dropped a bit, but they scored a bit over their normal clip of runs.

While this is hardly an improvement of vast proportions, it did seem to gel with the quality of players on their team. With a majority of Kinston prospects playing, offensively at least, below expectations, it wouldn't be a surprise in the least to see a "surge" off offense in the near future that is really just a return to form. When you take into account that many of the aces on these impressive Carolina League staffs have been or will be promoted as the season progresses, it's possible that the Kinston offense will improve with it.

Of course, "improve" is a precarious word. Are you really getting better if you are hitting less worthy pitching? Well, that's for future worries. Right now, the K-Tribe offense just might be on the edge of improvement, led by one of the most unlikely of performers, but one that seems firmly entrenched to take this team on his wire-thin shoulders.

The Good...

The vast potential of Abner Abreu has been talked about in this column, and at this website for years. While nobody here is ready to say, "He's finally there," Abner certainly is taking steps to validate the Tribe brass being patient with him. Abreu used to be tagged as a "warm weather hitter" prior to his past two seasons of struggle. Now, it appears as though Abreu is back to his old ways, struggling through much of April and May, before warming up in June, then taking off at the end of June and July. Abreu is pounding the ball for Kinston right now. While his overall average is only at .234, it's come up nearly 30 points since the end of June. In his past ten games, he's hitting .323, with six runs, two doubles, four homers and eight RBI. He's nearly even with K/BB ratio at 6/7 (overall this year, he's walked 22 times, and struck out 94 times). In the past seven days, you can see that Abreu has actually walked more than he's struck out. Chances are good that Abreu hasn't had an epiphany, but is just seeing the ball extremely well...but we can always hope. Abreu will have to continue this statistical leap for a longer period than a month to have fans regain confidence in his play, but he may be on the edge of doing just that.

Anthony Gallas found himself in the dregs of the Carolina League a week ago. He followed the pattern of many before him this season (Tyler Cannon, Jason Smit) as big hitters from Lake County that floundered at the next level. Gallas may have regained his rhythm though, after batting .381 over the last seven-day stretch. While his power numbers aren't near to matching his 24 doubles and six homer from Lake County, he may be showing signs of regaining some of his hitting confidence. How bad was it? After hitting .381 this week, he raised his overall average to .204. Bad indeed. Hopefully, this is a return to form from the Cleveland native.

...the bad and the ugly...

Adam Abraham was 0h-fer the week heading into last night's game.  While being first in the "bad and ugly" side of things is nothing to shout out about, it coulda been a lot worse. Abraham seemed to finally be ready to get rid of his inconsistencies over the past month, as he's led this team in every offensive category during that stretch. Then, while the rest of the team seems to be improving, Abraham dropped off the map. I'm hoping that the third baseman can work himself into a major leaguer, but he'll have to minimize weeks like this one.

Casey Frawley may be on the verge of a send-off. I'm not sure that being a poor man's Adam Abraham is the route you want to take in any organization. Frawley was given every opportunity this season to show off his skills as a power-hitting shortstop, and while there have been glimpses of him doing just that, he's never able to maintain it for more than a week. Frawley saw his playing time cut in half this past week, and he only managed to hit .167. He does have 10 homers, and his 44 RBI are second on the team, but when your OBP is .285, and your OPS is .637, the power numbers just don't mean as much.

Tyler Cannon must have seen his worst nightmare come true when he returned to Kinston this week.  If he didn't then, he does now, as the infielder was hitting a respectable .278 at Akron, only to hit .222 in his five games back with Kinston. Give the kid a bit of a break. Even though he likely knew that his spin in Akron was short-term, getting demoted is never an easy thing, especially when it is to one of the toughest pitching leagues in all of baseball. Expect Cannon to reboot as the summer wears on.

...and the rest...

The fringe players, such as Argeniz Martinez, Jeremie Tice and Delvi Cid all had outstanding weeks in short-term work.  Martinez made the most of his three games, batting .363 and raising his team-leading average to .321. Martinez has only played in nine games so far, but it's a plus that the career .2600 hitter is hitting the ball well. Perhaps he's found his 2009 form, that saw him hit .293 on the season. Martinez also has some speed to offer, so getting on base is big.

Jeremie Tice has always been a nice offensive player. He's never hit above .282, or below .266 in his professional career, so the .275 he's hitting right now is right on par. Hitting .357 for the week is just icing on the cake, and the two homers are the corner pieces. Delvi Cid will always be on the Tribe's radar because of his blazing speed on the basepaths. The outfielder has been fighting injuries all season long, which is disappointing after stealing 71 bases last season for Lake County.

Cid was relatively quiet on the basepaths all season until this week, when he stole four bases without getting caught, in his four games played (2 starts, 2 as a pinch-runner). Cid's one of those kids that could really take off in the organization if he can get on base better than the .287 clip this year. He's definitely one to watch going forward.

The Bullpen:
Player W L ERA G SV IP H R ER HR BB SO
Chris Jones
1
0
3.00
3
0
3
3
1
1
1
2
5
Jose Flores
0
0
12.00
2
0
3
6
4
4
1
0
2
Preston Guilmet
0
0
0.00
1
1
1
0
0
0
0
0
3
Francisco Jimenez
0
1
8.31
2
0
4 1/3
6
4
4
1
0
6
Steven Wright
0
1
1.23
2
0
7 1/3
6
5
1
0
4
5
Kyle Landis
0
0
0.00
2
0
2 2/3
2
0
0
0
1
2
Rob Bryson
0
0
0.00
1
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
2
Trey Haley
0
0
9.00
2
0
2
2
1
1
0
2
3
Totals 1 2 4.01 15 1 24 1/3 25 15 11 3 9 28

The bullpen has been the staple of this club throughout the season, and you can clearly see that their numbers weren't all that good this week. Of course, these stats aren't 100% indicative of relief appearances. Steven Wright is the ultimate rubber band, and he started in the rotation, and ended in the pen. Francisco Jimenez, who may have been the best bullpen performer in the past three weeks, made a start yesterday. Jimenez's performance as a starter wasn't good, but was balanced out by Wright's.

Still, you can see that the pen, which had been roaming between the 1's and the 2's with regards to ERA saw a definite uptick.  It's still the best part of the pitching staff, so we'll just have to hope that they stay in their normal roles as the season progresses, especially after Rob Bryson left for grander pastures.

The Good...

Kyle Landis may now be the best player not named Guimet in the K-Tribe bullpen. Okay, so Bryson is gone now, but even with him here, it's hard to argue with Landis' numbers. This week, he made two appearances for 2 2/3 innings, giving up only two hits and a walk, while striking out two. His arm isn't as electric as Bryson's, but he does know how to pitch. Overall, Landis has an impeccable 0.75 ERA in 16 games with the K-Tribe, and hasn't given up a run in 13 innings. After missing a season, you couldn't really ask for anything more. Landis may find himself back in Akron, where he belongs, in the coming weeks.

...the bad and the ugly...

Jose Flores had been pitching extremely well over the past couple of weeks, but really scuffled during the past seven days. Flores isn't a major blip on the Tribe's radar by any stretch, but hadn't given up a run in eight consecutive appearance. What's interesting is that all eight appearances were one inning. His last was a two-inning stint, and he gave up four earned runs. While all relievers should be prepared for more or less than an inning, at this level, it's easy to see a youngster struggle when something is put upon them outside the norm. Of course, fool me once, shame on you...fool me twice. Flores will need to figure it out, or get used to residing in Kinston long-term (well...Carolina anyways).

...and the rest...

Preston Guilmet was his normal brilliant self in his only appearance. He only showed up once, got the save, and struck out all three batters he faced.

Chris Jones is an adventure out there, but recently has been pitching extremely well.  He was the lone reliever to show up in three games, and only gave up one earned run, with three hits and two walks. He struck out five batters.

Jimenez and Wright were both solid in their relief outings, to the tune of three innings without giving up a run. You never know where Wright will end up, including Wright, so it's hard to say if he's a long0term reliever, or if he's going to be a starter. If that knuckleball improves, you just never know. Jimenez seems to have some ups in the organization, so I'm not really sure why the started him. I hope it's a short-term move though, because he was just finding his stride out of the pen.

The Starters:
Player W L ERA G SV IP H R ER HR BB SO
Brett Brach
0
1
4.26
1
0
6 1/3
8
3
3
1
0
5
T.J. House
0
1
7.94
1
0
5 2/3
7
5
5
2
2
2
Clayton Cook
0
0
7.20
1
0
5
3
4
4
1
5
7
Marty Popham
1
0
0.00
1
0
5 2/3
3
0
0
0
0
11
Totals
1
2
4.77
4
0
22 2/3
23
12
12
4
7
25

The starters just weren't all that good this week, including reliever Francisco Jimenez, who made a spot start this week. Jimenez gave up four runs not listed here, and Steven Wright one.

With that said, the starters, for the most part, took a dive this week, but really were salvaged by a brilliant outing from Marty Popham. Without much on the horizon coming from Lake County's struggling rotation, these guys will have to all step it up in the coming weeks, or this team won't have a chance.

The Good....

Marty Popham is clearly the best starter left on this team. He has been nothing short of spectacular over his last three starts, and in seven of his eight starts since rejoining Kinston as a starter. This past week was his most dominant effort of the bunch. He pitched 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball, giving up only three hits, while striking out 11 batters. As a starter, Popham is now 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA. He's given up 32 hits and five walks, while striking out 41 batters in his 41 1/3 innings. Folks, that's something to get excited about. My guess is that Popham will remain in Kinston for the rest of the season, readying to make the jump to Akron next year.

...the bad and the ugly...

T.J. House has been outstanding over the past several weeks, so hopefully this is a blip on the radar for the lefty. He's been as inconsistent as they come over the past couple of years as he's matured through the system, but after watching his starts earlier this month, he looked like a completely different pitcher. He got lit up in his only start this week, but I'm hoping it's not a trend.

Clayton Cook just hasn't been very good over the past month, and in particular, his last three. He's given up a grand total of 13 runs in ten innings pitched, and that's just not going to cut it. Fortunately for Cook is that he was on the complete opposite side of the spectrum prior. His overall ERA is still a respectable 4.17, which shows you just how abnormal his recent outings are.

Week #14 Awards:

Hitter of the week:  Abner Abreu
Pitcher of the week:  Marty Popham
Player of the week:  Abner Abreu

Weekly Awards

Week 1: 3B-Adam Abraham
Week 2: CF-Tyler Holt
Week 3: SP/RP-Toru Murata
Week 4: SP-Clayton Cook
Week 5: SP-Giovanni Soto
Week 6: RP-Adam Miller
Week 7: RP-Tyler Sturdevant
Week 8: NA
Week 9: NA
Week 10: NA
First Half: SP-Giovanni Soto
Week 11: Adam Abraham
Week 12: Adam Abraham
Week 13: Drew Pomeranz
Week 14: Abner Abreu

Here comes week #15:

July 2011

20 vs. Winston-Salem, 11:00 AM
22 vs. Wilmington, 6:30 PM
23 vs. Wilmington, 6:30 PM
24 vs. Wilmington, 1:30 PM
25 @ Winston-Salem, 7:00 PM
26 @ Winston-Salem, 7:00 PM

The Rearviewmirror:

Rob Bryson has headed onwards and upwards to Akron, as he tried to progress back to Columbus before injuries sent him scuttling all the way back down the system. Bryson is nearly back to form, and has been dominant. He really may be the best relief prospect in the system, with a high 90's ceiling. While a reliever never equals a starter, if Bryson can continue his health...and his wicked ways on the mound, this deal for Sabathia looks all the more better. No, it's never good losing a guy who's likely to win 300 games and more Cy Young Awards, but it appears as though Bryson may add to the Brantley/LaPorta haul yet.

Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his latest book the 2011 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is available for purchase for $20.95 to customers in the US (shipping and handling extra).

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