Cleveland Indians @ Miami Marlins Series Preview: Terry Francona is the Manager of the Year?


June 9, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona (17) in the dugout before the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins have gone 4-3 on their current home stand, after taking a series with the Pittsburgh Pirates and splitting their series with the New York Mets. Next up for the Marlins on their 10-game home stand will be the Cleveland Indians. To preview the series between the Marlins and Pirates, I had an email chat with Brian Heise, the editor for the Cleveland Indians Fansided Site, Wahoos on First.  Tom and his staff do a phenomenal job on WoF of covering everything Indians related.

Brian and I chatted about everything from Terry Francona‘s impact on the Indians franchise to who the team MVP is for the 2013 Indians.

Without any further ado, here is my chat with Brian:

Ehsan Kassim: What kind of impact has Terry Francona’s had on the Indians in 2013? Was his hiring the best move of the off-season?

Brian Heise: Terry Francona’s impact is beyond measurable. He’s such a breath of fresh air compared the years we spent with Eric Wedge and Manny Acta. It feels like he understands the big picture – where the team is headed and what’s the best way to get there. He’s also done a fantastic job of building up the team’s chemistry in the clubhouse. These guys legitimately love playing together and that’s a direct result of Francona’s honest approach and ability to manage 25 different egos at a time. And yes, there have been a few bumps in the road, but they are microscopic compared to the positives he has brought to the table.

EK: Before the season, if I told you the Indians would be 2.5 games out of first place at the July 31st trading deadline, what would your reaction be?

BH: Cautious optimism. For two straight years we’ve watched this team compete heading into the stretch run of August only to watch them wither and die. Last year was especially painful watching them go from first place all the way to battling the Twins for last. This year looks and feels different, though. None of this feels fluky. They’ve been so consistent, with the exception of a few hiccups, that you can just tell they know they’re good enough to make some noise if they can get in the playoffs. Again, I think that comes from Francona and trickles down through the veterans they brought in who have been through this before and it’s really helped the younger guys.

Aug 1, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson (63) pitches during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

EK: Who has been the team MVP for the Indians in 2013?

SH: It’s hard to pick one guy to be honest. It would really have to be split between Justin Masterson and Jason Kipnis. Masterson has been great all season long and pitching like the ace many thought he could be. If I needed to win one game, I would have no issue sending him out t the mound because he’s a guaranteed seven quality innings of work, if not more. Meanwhile, Kipnis has been our best offensive player this year by far. His numbers really jump off the page. The most impressive part is that his numbers look his good after having such a terrible first two months of the season. He was batting .238/.307/.448 on June 1. Since then he has hit .346/.430/.551. The turn around was remarkable. If he keeps it up he might not be just the Indians MVP, but he might also some get consideration for league MVP.

EK: Did the Indians do enough at the trade deadline to ensure themselves as a playoff team?

SH: Honestly they didn’t need to do much and the one move they did make, acquiring Marc Rzepczynski from the Cardinals, is a perfect fir for the right price. They needed some insurance in the bullpen, especially against left-handed hitters, and Rzepczynski fits perfectly. He also has some team control over the next year or two so its mot just a rental. There was some question about whether or not they needed another bat or starting pitcher, but with how they have performed this year it didn’t seem like a necessity. Like I said earlier, this feels like a team that could do something special.

EK: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers the Marlins will face this series?

Jul 13, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Scott Kazmir (26) pitches in the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

SH: Ubaldo Jimenez has really turned things around this year. What once looked like a bust of a trade has become a win for the Indians. He is consistently gives this team five solid innings and lately he has been stretching himself deeper and deeper into games. The big key for him is avoiding the big inning. When the wheel fall off all hell tends to break loose.

Zach McAllister recently came off of the disabled list and after a rough first start in Seattle he looked much, much better against the White Sox. He’s a solid pitcher with an exceptional curve ball. If he has it working he can be filthy. Historically he has struggled the more times he makes it through the batting order, but as he gets more used to big league hitters he’s learned to make the necessary adjustments.

Scott Kazmir has been the feel good story of the year for the Indians. He looked great in Spring Training and then struggled early after suffering a strained oblique. However, since mid June he has looked like the old Scott Kazmir. He’s been dominant. The big reason for the turnaround has been a reliance more on his secondary pitches and forcing contact rather than just trying to blow 95 mph past everyone. He had a rough start his last time out, but I fully expect him to bounce back for six quality innings.

EK: What’s your prediction for the series?

SH: The Indians are red-hot right now which makes it really hard to pick against them. Because of that I’ll say the Indians get the sweep but all three games will be close. And that’s not a knock on the Marlins at all. The Indians are just in one of those grooves right now where nothing seems to go wrong for them.

A big thank you to Brian for taking his timeout to talk to us. We at Marlin Maniac wish all Indians fans the best of luck for the upcoming of the series. If you get a chance, do check out some of the great content over on Wahoos on First. Here are the questions I answered for Brian on WoF.