The Cleveland Column: August 2013

Photo is courtesy of http://216sportsblog.weebly.com/ Written by: JP Lococo (@jp_lococo)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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For the encore of this monthly column that I started last month, I wanted to ensure that Cleveland sports fans got some different information on their favorite teams. Not that my post last month didn't provide any relevant information, but I wanted to change things up a bit this time.

Nothing is more concrete than statistical data about a team, player or sport. You can't argue what is already determined. That is another reason why I love looking at numbers and statistics, because they reveal the truth. We use batting averages to judge how good a hitter is throughout his career, points per game and assists per game to reveal the offense skills of an NBA player, and total goals scored to determine if a forward in soccer is producing.  We use numbers and stats as barriers of success in almost every aspect of life, especially sports. Whether its hitting your sales goals or breaking the single season home-run record, it all comes down to numbers. For the encore and second ever post on the Cleveland Sports Scene, I have focused on some stats I found to relate to each franchise and their situation at this current time. Shall we?

Cleveland Indians

1.) Currently 68-58 and 3 games out of the final Wild Card.

The good news about this record is that last year at this time, Cleveland was 54-66 and over 11 games back in the division. They were completely out of the race and the fans had already started looking forward to football season. Yes, it was bad enough to push Cleveland fans into looking forward to the Browns season, of all teams.

But this year has been different and Cleveland fans need to realize that. Terry Francona has taken a team that has completely fallen apart over the last couple years and turned them into legitimate playoff contenders. They are higher in the rankings in hitting and pitching than they were last year and they look like a team heading in the right direction.

The bad news about the current situation is that there are six teams all fighting for two wild card spots and only six games separate them. It is going to be a tight race over the next month and a half and the Indians will be right in the middle of it. Realistically, the Tribe is a move or two away from being able to make a deep playoff run in the AL but could you say that last year? Don’t think so.

2.) Nine

The number nine represents where the Indians stand in ERA in the American League. Most might consider this as an okay spot considering there are six other teams in the AL below them in the rankings. But when you take a closer look, it becomes evident on what needs addressing moving into this off-season. The starting rotation.

Below the Tribe are all teams completely out of the playoff picture. If you look at all the teams above Cleveland in the rankings, you will find all other five teams searching for a playoff spot this year and that is the concern. KC, Detroit, Oakland, Texas and the Yankees all have a lower ERA than the Indians. On top of that, even the Chicago White Sox, who are 50-74 have a lower ERA! Pitching wins championships and despite the strides the Indians have taken this past year, improvements are still needed.

3.) 15 home runs, at least 20 stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .360 or better.

Photo is courtesy of http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/

Jason Kipnis is one of four players in Major League Baseball right now with the stats above. Before you read any further, can you name the rest?

The other three are Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez. This is quite the group to be included in at this point in Kipnis' young career. The continued growth of Kipnis and his leadership will be crucial down the stretch as the Indians hang onto their playoff lives.

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Cleveland Cavaliers

1.) 3.3 Million

This number represents the salary of Carrick Felix, the 33rd overall pick for the Cavs in the 2013 draft.  The deal is worth three years, with the Cavs having a team option on the fourth year.

Last year at Arizona State he averaged 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds with a 56.9% efficiency field goal percentage in 35.3 minutes per game. The senior was named All-Pac 12 1st Team, All-Conference and All-Defensive.

Felix will bring a lot to the table defensively and Mike Brown has specifially been raving about his ability to defend the perimeter. With Alonzo Gee the likely starter at the three for the beginning of the season, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to rotate in that role. Gee is also a great perimeter defender but has not shown the ability the stretch the floor with his outside game. I am not expecting Felix to be a consistent rotational player, especially early on in the season. But don't be surprised if you see his minutes continue to grow if Mike Brown is not getting solid minutes out of Gee and others that might rotate in that position.

2.) 48.8%

This was Tristan Thompson's field goal percentage last season, and that led the team. Tristan was arguably the most important player on the roster last year at times and was certainly the most consistent, playing in all 82 games. But why is this number significant this year?

The reason I bring this number up is because of the drastic change Tristan is making to his game this off-season. As first reported by Michael Grange of Sportsnet, Tristan is now switching to using his right hand on jump shots and free throws.

This change will represent the first time in league history a player has switched playing hands in the middle of his career. The timing was a bit strange as Tristan was in the middle of playing for the Canadian National Team when he began to experiment with switching hands. Only time will really tell us if this move was smart or silly, but this is definitely a storyline for fans to watch moving into training camp. The Cavs may have hired a shooting coach to work with Thompson over the next couple of months, but this change will definitely come with growing pains.

Lets not forget the Cavs also drafted big man Anthony Bennett with the first pick in the draft just a couple months ago. I expect the coaching staff under Mike Brown to keep a careful watch on Thompson's progress as Bennett will need playing time to develop as well.

Will we be talking about Tristan shooting a higher free throw and field goal percentage next spring? We all hope so.

3.) No stat here, just THIS!

This highlight was something all basketball fans will enjoy. After all, it is still August and we are around five week’s away still from the start of team preseason camps. How much NBA can we really even talking about right now anyways?

Cleveland Browns

Photo by Ron Schwane/USA TODAY Sports/http://www.usatoday.com/

1.) Weeden has completed 18 of his 25 pass attempts for 229 yards and three touchdowns so far this preseason.

Sure, maybe these were preseason games that don't count for anything. Maybe players aren't taking all the snaps seriously and maybe Weeden has only played about a games worth. With all that said, there are some take-a-ways from preseason and a lot of positive take-a-ways are involving Weeden.

In the last two games, Weeden's quarterback ratings were 127.7 and 137.8 respectively, and he has yet to throw an interception. More importantly, you can now notice Weeden reading the defenses quicker and reacting to pressure sooner. Both were big problems that caused him to make mistakes last year. I am not saying that Weeden will be a Pro-Bowler by the end of this season, but it seems the improvements are starting to show in some of his throws. Unfortunately, a lot of the team’s success this year will depend on the development of Weeden and the offense which ranked 25th in the league last season.

I know it is still very early in preparing for week one, but the numbers don't lie; Weeden is getting better.

2.) 91 Yards

I think it is clear who will be fielding all kickoffs and punt returns this year for the Browns. That man will be Travis Benjamin.

After his 91 yard kickoff return to the house in week one, Benjamin took another one back in last week that was close to 80 yards out, but was negated by a penalty.

The speed and vision of Benjamin will be a calming asset to Cleveland fans as we have been quite spoiled over the years with Joshua Cribbs. Since losing Cribbs, the Browns have been in a constant search for a speedy receiver who might be able to fill the void of taking punt returns as well. Benjamin ran a 4.36 40-yard dash prior to entering the league before the 2012 season and his speed is something the Browns have liked in him all along. With more consistent quarterback play expected from Weeden, look for Benjamin to become a bigger asset moving into the season.

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So Cleveland fans, what do you think? How do you feel about your favorite team right now? Let me know so we can re-post some of the comments!