Red Right 88

Life as a Cleveland Sports Fan

Tribe’s problems easy to spot, but solutions may not be

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland IndiansThe Cleveland Indians closed out what ultimately will go down as a disappointing season on Sunday with a 7-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Tribe came into the season with high hopes and looking to build on the momentum of making the Wild Card play-in game in 2013. But the team came up short of a return trip to the playoffs, meaning the Tribe hasn’t had consecutive playoff appearances since the last millennium (1998 and 1999). They did the season at 85-77, in the process managing to post consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2001 and 2001, so at least they can hang their hat on that.

It was readily apparent, even just from watching a handful of games, what was wrong with the team this season. The Tribe’s defense had a major-league leading 116 errors; the bullpen was inconsistent; and the offense had a major drop off in the second half of the season, especially in September, which helped to stall any thoughts of repeating last September’s 21-6 record.

Diagnosing the problem is only half the battle, however, as finding a cure could prove to be more difficult.

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Browns offense sharing space with some good company

browns offense three gamesWhile fans of the Cleveland Browns deal with the frustration of the team’s 1-2 start, they can take solace in the fact that we’re witnessing a side of the offense not seen in these parts for a long, long time.

Through the season’s first three games, the Browns are fourth in the AFC in scoring with an average of 24.7 points per game, only one point behind the Denver Broncos, who have Peyton Manning at quarterback. (The fact that the defense has given up more points than just three teams in the AFC helps explain, at least in part, the 1-2 record.)

To put the offensive output into perspective, only once since 2004 has a Browns offense scored more points on a per game basis – the 2007 team with an average of 25.1 points, the only offense in the past decade that has broken the 20-point barrier for a season average.

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Numbers can often confirm what we are already seeing

joe haden numbersIn his autobiography, Mark Twain famously wrote that “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Twain wasn’t talking about sports when he wrote that, but he certainly could have been. It is very easy to manipulate statistics and numbers to support any argument you are making, especially if you worship at the ideal of analytics and some of the newer categories of statistics that have come into circulation in the past few decades. (For the record, we are not anti-analytics; we just don’t believe they are the be-all, end-all that some people make them out to be.)

But that doesn’t mean that statistics don’t provide a valuable tool when it comes to sports, especially when they reinforce what you see on a weekly or nightly basis.

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Browns stumble on transition from crawling to walking

browns lose ravens“Crawl, walk, then run.” – State Sen. Clay Davis

There was plenty of blame to around on Sunday as the Cleveland Browns saw their modest one-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.

From miscues on offense that left points on the field, to lapses by the defense that led to big plays from Baltimore, to continued misplays by the special teams, this was a team loss in every sense of the phrase. Even head coach Mike Pettine got in on the fun, saying after the game that “we didn’t coach well enough to win today.”

So what went wrong? Let’s start with the offense, which for the better part of three quarters looked as good as it has all season long. The Browns put up three touchdowns – all in the red zone – against a Baltimore defense that had only given up one touchdown (none in the red zone) in the first two games of the season. In addition, quarterback Brian Hoyer had a stretch where he completed 14 passes in a row and avoided turning the ball over.

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Browns vs. Ravens – 3 things to watch in Week 3

browns ravens previewThe Cleveland Browns return to action today feeling about as good as any 1-1 team in the NFL can.

The Browns are fresh off their first win in a home opener in 10 years after defeating New Orleans last weekend thanks to a timely play from linebacker Karlos Dansby and a game-winning drive from quarterback Brian Hoyer.

After heading into halftime of the Pittsburgh game down by 24 points, the Browns have looked relatively good over their last six quarters of play. So what could possibly go wrong today?

Oh, yeah, they are facing the Baltimore Ravens.

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A year later, much has changed for the Browns

browns change a yearThe NFL season is only two games old, but what a difference for the Cleveland Browns as compared to just a year ago.

At this time 12 months ago, the Browns were sitting at 0-2 after dropping games to Miami and Baltimore. Quarterback Brandon Weeden was hurt, and with the team realizing that Jason Campbell was not the answer no matter how many times they rephrased the question, the coaches turned to an unproven Brian Hoyer.

Wide receiver Josh Gordon had missed the first two games because of a league-mandated suspension, and both the offense and defense were working to learn new systems. (OK, it’s Cleveland; some things stay the same.)

The bombshell dropped during the week between the second and third game, however, when then-team President Joe Banner traded away starting running back Trent Richardson, turning the Browns running game into what statistically would be the worst in franchise history and effectively punting on the 2013 season.

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A day of firsts as the Browns defeat the Saints

browns sack saintsIt was a day of firsts on Sunday for the Cleveland Browns.

The first win as a head coach for Mike Pettine; Brian Hoyer’s first win as starting quarterback since his ACL injury; the first win in a home opener since 2004.

The most import first was the fact that, for the first time in a long time, the Browns looked like a real NFL team, providing hope that this year just may be different.

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Browns vs. Saints – 5 things to watch in Week 2

browns saints previewThe Cleveland Browns take the field today in their home opener, taking on the New Orleans Saints.

Both teams enter on a negative streak after losing their respective opening games. The Saints have lost four consecutive road games and were just 2-4 last season in games not played in a dome.

As for the Browns, they are currently riding an eight-game losing streak dating back to last season, haven’t won a home opener since 2004, and have started 0-2 in five of the past six seasons. And while they lead the overall series against the Saints, 12-4, the Browns have lost two of the last three times the teams have met.

Let’s take a look at five storylines to keep an eye on today.

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From the editor’s notebook …

jd martinez indiansIf the Cleveland Indians come up short this season in their quest to return to the playoffs, there will be plenty of moments and miss opportunities for Tribe fans to point to as they review the season.

The biggest one may be J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers.

Friday night, Martinez had a three-run homer and a triple as the Tigers beat the Indians for the fourth time in the past five meetings. On the season, Martinez is batting .327 against the Tribe, with six home runs and 18 RBI.

It’s not just the Indians that Martinez has been tormenting as he has clearly taken a liking to the American League Central. He’s batting .432 against Kansas City, with five home runs and 15 RBI; .324 against Minnesota; and .319 against the White Sox.

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Brian Hoyer blowing up national media’s storyline

GTY 454864228 S FBN USA PACleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer not only blew up the Pittsburgh Steeler defense in the second half of Sunday’s night, he also blew a big hole in the national media’s narrative on the Browns quarterback situation.

With the national media pining away for Johnny Manziel – CBS showed him almost as much on Sunday as the actual game – Hoyer refused to play along in leading the Browns to 24 second-half points and almost pulling off the franchise’s biggest comeback since 1966. (Funny, we don’t remember seeing many shots of Brandon Weeden on Sunday night while Tony Romo was crapping the bed against San Francisco.)

Hoyer’s performance has started to slowly turn the tide, with both USA Today and  Don Banks at Sports Illustrated acknowledging that Hoyer’s performance only solidified his hold on the starting job.

The best part is where Hoyer was among a group of veterans that challenged the team at halftime to get its act together.

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