Thursday, May 19, 2011

The B-List: 5/18

FINAL             1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R H E
Indians (26-14)   0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  0 3 0
White Sox (20-21) 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 X  1 5 0

W: Peavy (1-0) L: Masterson (5-2)

Two hours and one minute, and no Mark Buehrle involved!

1) Straightening the wobble

No outing can be considered an unqualified success when it starts by giving up a double to Juan Pierre, but truthfully, the first three innings for Justin Masterson were somewhat shaky.  The White Sox went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position last night, and 5 of those came in the first two innings.  (There were actually two more plate appearances that aren’t “counted” there: the sac fly from Adam Dunn and a walk from Brett Lillibridge.)

The run Masterson allowed was pretty mundane: Pierre blorted one down the opposite field line and is still relatively fast (and aggressive: his SB:CS ratio this year is atrocious).  Omar Vizquel may be old, but he’s hitting .348 right now.  And Adam Dunn hit a fly ball that wasn’t even very deep: had it been to right instead of center, Pierre would not have scored.

However, Masterson still didn’t have his best command early in the game: A.J. Pierzynski singled on a 2-1 pitch, Lillibridge walked on five pitches, three of Masterson’s first six outs were outfield flies, and he started the 3rd inning with 7 straight balls, walking Vizquel and going 3-0 to Dunn.  At that point, Masterson had pitched 2+ innings (the plus stands for extra wandering around!), giving up 3 hits, 2 BB, and 1 R against 1 K.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The B-List: 5/17

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R  H E
Indians (26-13) 3 0 0 1 2 0 1 0 0  7 10 0
Royals (20-21)  0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1  3  7 0

W: Carrasco (2-2) L: O'Sullivan (2-3)
It’s all fun and games until your pitcher throws the ball over the centerfield wall.

1) A contrast in styles

Through 5 innings, here are two pitching lines:

Pitcher A: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 92 pitches
Pitcher B: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 69 pitches

In each game, the next inning was the pitcher’s last, and he gave up a double during it.

Now, pitcher A obviously has the advantage in strikeouts with 1 an inning.  On the other hand, pitcher B was a lot more efficient, needing nearly 5 fewer pitches PER INNING to get through the 5th.

If asked in broad, general terms which of these pitchers I would normally prefer, I would probably still hem and haw.  I really like what the strikeouts say about the first pitcher’s ability to miss bats and what this suggests for future success.  On the other hand, the second guy has fewer baserunners, no walks, and could ostensibly go at least a couple more innings.  In a sense, the second guy is more “in control” of his game.

Pitching lines without context are only meaningful at a high level.  The first guy gave up a second run as his high pitch count induced his manager to replace him, and the reliever let his runner score.  The second guy pitched his last two innings with a double-digit lead and left after 6 because there wasn’t any point in leaving him in.  The first guy got more ground ball outs despite recording fewer outs and having a bunch more K’s.  The second guy gave up a double to Matt Treanor, which is plainly inconceivable.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The B-List: 5/16

FINAL           1 2 3 4  5 6 7 8 9  R  H E
Indians (25-13) 2 1 0 10 4 2 0 0 0 19 20 0
Royals (20-20)  0 0 0 1  0 0 0 0 0  1  5 0

W: Tomlin (5-1) L: Davies (1-6)

For once, when Joakim Soria entered the game, I could not have been less perturbed.

1) Ah, but you have heard of me!

I am not going to try to put any more perspective on Poor Vin Mazzaro’s outing than has already been covered in the national media.  I happen to be partial to Joe Posnanski’s recounting, but whenever something this noteworthy comes around, there is no shortage of scribes willing to lay out the exact depths of badness.  Let me say this, though: unlike some others I’ve read, I was not in the least surprised that Poor Vin Mazzaro was called out to pitch the fifth after coughing up a 10-run hairball in the fourth.  Instead, I was surprised by how surprised I became in retrospect.

It was pretty obvious that Poor Vin Mazzaro was summoned to the game in the 3rd inning in order to absorb as many innings as possible.  He was actually scheduled to start tonight’s game, but there was some concern about Kyle Davies being physically ready to pitch deep into the ballgame, where here by “ballgame” I mean “first inning.”

The B-List: 5/13

FINAL            1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Mariners (16-23) 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 0 0 4 6 0
Indians (24-13)  1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 5 7 0

W: Sipp (2-0) L: League (0-4)

With all the rain, the Mariners must’ve thought they were at home.

1) Pronk Smash!

On April 26th, Travis Hafner hit a double against the Kansas City Royals.  Since then, he had 8 games in which he made more than one plate appearance, going 9-for-30 with 4 walks for a .300 AVG and a .382 OBP, both of which are pretty darned good.

This yielded a SLG of .300, which plainly is not.

On the young season, Hafner’s overall numbers of .340/.403/.528 are quite excellent, and certainly more than could reasonably have been expected of him.  Frankly, I doubt he’s got a whole season of .340 AVG in him, but I’ll take a .400+ OBP and a .500+ SLG (at this point in his career) every time.  Still, which a .188 ISO is nothing spectacular (it is less than Matt LaPorta’s .202, for exmaple), he’s been hitting the ball with enough authority to warrant him hitting in the middle of the order and being a bona fide everyday DH.  His May has actually been a bit better than his April in one regard, in that his strikeout rate is slightly lower but his K:BB has decreased quite a bit (19:7 in April, 7:5 in May).  But while he slugged .566 in April, his .433 SLG in May would be more at home on the batting line of Mike Brantley (.412 for the season) than it looks on Travis Hafner.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The B-List: 5/12

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E
Rays (22-15)    0 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 7 11 0

Indians (23-13) 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 1 4 10 0
W: Shields (4-1) L: Masterson (5-1)

How do you turn a 62% strike rate into only 1 walk?

1) Blippy blips

Remember yesterday when I said that no team makes 162 Quality Starts?  This is pretty much what I was talking about.

The interesting thing about Justin Masterson’s “terrible” start is that is wasn’t truly terrible: he had one real Inning of Crap™, and even that was essentially a bunch of singles strung together.  Yes, giving up Reid Brignac’s first extra-base hit since the Johnson* Administration and a two-run single to Sam Fuld are not good results, but Brignac’s double was the only extra-base hit Masterson allowed and Fuld’s single came with two outs, meaning a little better pitch there and he’s out of the inning with 2 runs allowed.

No, the real problem was that Masterson flung the ball around like so many monkeys at the zoo with surplus excrement.  He started but NINE of his twenty-seven batters with a first-pitch strike, threw a lame-assed 57.4% of his pitches for strikes, and walked four guys in 5 2/3 innings.  To say he did not have his best command is to denigrate the very meaning of the word “command.”

The B-List: 5/11

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E
Rays (21-15)    0 1 0 3 0 0 3 0 1 8 11 0

Indians (23-12) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2  5 0
W: Price (5-3) L: Carrasco (1-2)

ERAs of Cleveland pitchers used last night: 5.29, 6.17, 6.75.  Where were we playing, Colorado?

1) Structural integrity

Carlos Carrasco returned from the DL and drew a lousy “Welcome Back” assignment, being paired up against David Price, who is much better than he is.  Carrasco didn’t look all that impressive in his last rehab start, but I guess it was deemed that from a physical standpoint, there was nothing preventing his return to the majors.  While you’d like a more ringing endorsement than, “Well, he’s probably not going to wince a lot,” the fact is that Carrasco was considered one of the five best (as defined by “ability to get major-league hitters out right now”) starters in the Cleveland organization at the beginning of the season, and no one (specifically Carrasco) has done anything to change that evaluation, so into the rotation he goes.

I still think Carrasco has a higher ceiling than most of his contemporaries, and I consider him one of our top THREE starters because I like his groundball/strikeout mix more than Josh Tomlin’s flyball/homer/mirrors mix, Alex White’s fastball/splitter mix, Mitch Talbot’s changeup/blunderbuss mix, or Jeanmar Gomez’ chuck-and-duck mix.  He’s not a polished product, and while I understand that the priorities of a 23-12 team aren’t 100% in synch with that of a young, developing team, polishing Carrasco’s repertoire might be as important as anything else the Indians do this season, the ultimate win-win scenario.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The B-List: 5/10

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E
Rays (20-15)    0 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 4  8 0

Indians (23-11) 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 1 5 10 0
W: C. Perez (2-1) L: Joel Peralta (1-2)

Not looking forward to tonight’s pitching matchup.

0) Administrative Note

Here is what I have to say about the Angels series: I really, really, really, really hate infield singles.  Unless they’re by Asdrubal Cabrera.  Those are awesome.

1) A predictable path has a predictable endpoint

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Josh Tomlin was cruising along until he left a pitch up and the batter hammered it for a solo homer.

So, as it turns out, you can’t actually stop me, but that’s not because you hadn’t heard it before.  You heard it in his last start.  You heard it in the start before that.  Is it more disturbing than hearing “… and then Fausto went insane, walked two guys, and gave up three straight hits?”  No, it is not.  One run is one run.  So Matt Joyce took him deep.  Matt Joyce is hitting .356 and slugging .554.  Stuff happens.

And except for an ill-advised “just one more guy” that led to “just one more run,” Josh Tomlin pitched a fine game, once again, for his umpteenth Quality Start in a row, extending his Indians franchise record by a subumpteenth.  Through six full innings, Tomlin allowed only 5 hits and 2 runs, walking one and striking out three (all in the first three innings).  He performed the same wondrous off-balancing act that has allowed him to post a 2.70 ERA through his first 7 starts, all with a very unlikely 0.85 WHIP that may defy belief but is wholly accurate as well.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The B-List: 5/3

FINAL             1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E
Indians (20-8)    0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 4 12 0

Athletics (15-15) 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1  5 0
W: Carmona (3-3) L: Fuentes (1-3) S: C. Perez (8)

The only team playing better than the Cleveland Indians right now might be … the Cleveland Indians’ AAA affiliate, the Columbus Clippers.

1) Fausto and the Inning of Minor Intestinal Discomfort™

Back in the day, I used to refer to C.C. Sabathia’s tendency to be rolling along, then somehow cough up an ungodly hairball of an inning, lovingly termed the Inning of Crap™.  Sabathia, being who he was, would then as often as not right himself and return to his normal, dominant form, leading me to wonder what the heck happened in that inning.  I mean, he throw five shutout innings, then give up 3 runs on 5 hits (2 doubles), then throw two more shutout innings.  It was infuriating, but in a masochistically amusing way.  (Perhaps it was more amusingly infuriating.  It was kind of a while back.)

Last week, we talked a bit about how Fausto appeared to lose focus a couple times in his last start, and while it’s true his fourth inning included a pair of hits, his only walk, and some very unorthodox defensive strategy, this is hardly a guy losing his stuff.  The first single was well-struck, but the second single stayed in the infield.  He then allowed a runner-advancing groundout, and had Jack Hannahan been able to field the next ground ball a little more cleanly, he may have had a shot at Daric Barton Fink rushing home.

In fact, on the night, Carmona allowed a total of 5 singles in 8 full innings of work, and THREE of the singles DID NOT LEAVE THE INFIELD.  TWO of them were by HIDEKI MATSUI, who is occasionally pinch-run for by a Cherrystone clam.  While his overall GO:FO ratio of 10:8 wasn’t very high, the A’s hit a large number of balls without an real malice, and Carmona had five innings in which he faced the minimum (4 perfect, 1 with a strike-‘em-out-throw-‘em-out double play).  Take away the minor-league version of the Inning of Crap™ and Carmona pitched 7 shutout innings with 2 singles, 0 walks, and 4 Ks (he struck out 1 in the Inning of Minor Discomfort™).

Monday, May 2, 2011

The B-List: 4/29 - 5/1

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R  H E
Tigers (12-14)  2 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 0  5 13 0

Indians (17-8)  0 0 0 0 0 2 3 0 4  9 11 2
W: C. Perez (1-1) L: Benoit (0-1)

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13  R  H E
Tigers (12-15)  0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  0  0  0  0  2 11 1

Indians (18-8)  0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0  0  0  0  1  3 10 0
W: Sipp (1-0) L: Villareal (1-1)

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E
Tigers (12-16)  2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 4 10 1
Indians (19-8)  0 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 X 5  8 0
W: B. Squirrel (1-1) L: Benoit (0-2) S: C. Perez (7)

Cleveland scored as many runs after the 6th inning as Detroit scored all weekend (11).  Note: Cleveland only scored 2 runs in each game before the 7th.

1) Fortune smiles

In one inning, starter Jeanmar Gomez gave up two singles and a double.  In another, he gave up two doubles and a single.  In those two innings combined, Gomez gave up … one run.

Gomez ended up having one of those game which sportswriters in my youth would have dubbed a “scattering of ten hits.”  He didn’t quite finish his 6th inning of work, so he was one out short of a Quality Start, but then, he only gave up two runs as well.  He left two men on base to Chad Durbin, so I feel he ought to get extra credit for that.  He did give up a two-run homer to Miggy Cabrera in the first, but after that, the Tigers did not score again off Gomez or, for that matter, anyone else, either.

Here’s something to take from this outing that might not be immediately obvious: while Max Scherzer was sawing through the Indians’ lineup the first couple times en route to collecting 7 Ks in 6 2/3 IP, Gomez was simply plodding along, giving up his 10 hits.  He had one inning out of six in which he didn’t give up a hit.  He threw to an astonishing 10 batters with a runner in scoring position.  He actually gave up 3 hits to these 10 batters.  However, two of these were singles that only advanced the runner from second to third, so only Cabrera’s blow actually produced any runs.

But here’s a stat to keep in mind:

Friday, April 29, 2011

The B-List: 4/28

FINAL          1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E

Royals (12-13) 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2  6 0
Indians (16-8) 2 0 1 5 0 0 0 0 X 8 10 0
W: Carmona (2-3) L: Davies (1-3)

Kyle Davies is not good at baseball.

1) Above all else, the ability to concentrate and focus is of … look, a shiny object!

Over the course of a long season, the vast majority of starting pitchers will have good outings and bad outings, days on which their stuff is better than others.  There are a huge number of variables that go into a starting performance, with 100 different pitches thrown on dozens of days with different weather and opponents in different stadiums.  There are days on which the pitcher feels energized and others when he’s fighting off a mild virus; days on which the pitcher slept well the night before and others that require strong coffee to “get going,” days that are cold or windy or searing or the flight was delayed or he got bitten by a mosquito or reacts to pollen or a particularly endearing drawing of an octopus wearing a top hat by a three-year-old child.  Professional athletes are remarkable not only for their physical gifts, but also for their ability to perform at a consistently high level given all the distractions and the huge collection of individually-minor but collectively-notable daily challenges.

Although it’s quite reasonable for the lay fan to ask for “more consistency” from a professional athlete, it’s only reasonable because that athlete has passed through the ranks of the “talented” through “excellent” up to the “elite” that make up the highest ranks of his or her sport.  You don’t make it all the way to the majors without showing that you’ve got way, way more than the average guy and really, significantly more than other guys who are “merely amazing.”  I make this point every so often that the worst guy in the majors is almost certainly (depending on your personal experience) far better than anyone you’ve ever played with recreatoinally: the fact that Roy Halladay can make him look ridiculous doesn’t mean you could strike him out.  But while  “consistency” remains a bugbear for any number of players, it bears mentioning that it’s not something you can reasonably expect a guy to just go out and get.  You can lift weights and get stronger.  You can’t take a “consistency pill” and become a machine.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The B-List: 4/27

FINAL          1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E

Royals (12-12) 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2  8 1
Indians (15-8) 5 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 X 7 11 0
W: Tomlin (4-0) L: Francis (0-3)

Somehow, that felt a lot like 5 runs.

1) Junior Byrdman

First things first: Josh Tomlin was marvelously effective last night, we another Quality Start and his 4th win of the season.  Tomlin allowed only 6 baserunners in 6 innings on 5 hits and a walk, and struck out the last two hitters he faced on sliders that dropped out of the zone to run his K total to 3 for the game.  He was victimized by a pair of solo shots in the second, but otherwise held the Royals in check, and granted a 5-0 lead in the first inning, aggressively attacked the strike zone with an astonishing 73% strike rate (73 in 100 pitches overall).

And so, instead of continuing to admit to a certain frustration at not being able to identify how much of his performance is sustainable or how exactly Tomlin “does it” or mention for the umpteenth time how generating 4 ground ball outs in 6 innings of work is a tough row to hoe or point out that with 11 fly ball outs, it’s hardly a wonder that two of them end up over the wall, consider the potential epiphany that Josh Tomlin is, in effect, Paul Byrd.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The B-List: 4/26

Somehow, that felt a lot closer than 5 runs.

1) A very high floor

In his worst start of the season, Justin Masterson allowed 5 hits, 2 walks, and 7 Ks in 6 2/3 innings, meaning he was one out short of posting a WHIP of 1.00.

I am probably going to look to other areas to find something to complain about.

If anything, the 3 runs Masterson allowed serve to illustrate just how fine the line is between a mediocre performance and a good one, or a good one and a great one.  After retiring the first 10 hitters in order, including 5 groundouts and 3 whiffs, Masterson gave up a seeing-Orly single to Melky Cabrera before giving up a ringing double to Alex Gordon and an opposite-field double to Billy Butler on what was, frankly, just a good piece of hitting.  If Orly Cabrera had the mobility of, say, a palm tree, and Billy Butler was a mere average hitter, that’s a shutout inning.  With the Royals doing a good job at the plate, that’s two runs, as many as Masterson allowed in his last start, or in the two starts before that COMBINED.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The B-List: 4/23 - 4/24

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R  H E
Indians (13-7)  0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 0  3  6 0

Twins   (8-12)  0 0 3 0 3 2 2 0 X 10 13 0
W: Duensing (2-0) L: Carmona (1-3)

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E
Indians (13-8)  0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 3  8 1
Twins   (9-12)  0 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 X 4 10 0

W: Pavano (2-2) L: R. Perez (2-1) S: Capps (4)

In seraching for good things to say about the weekend series, I came up with “Grady hit a home run” and “Shin-Soo Choo throws more strikes than Chad Durbin.”

0) Administrative Note

I travelled with the family Friday, so did not get a chance to write up the rainy 3-2 loss to the Royals.  Josh Tomlin was very impressive in getting the no decision, so well done for him.  But while Chris Perez certainly did fail, let me posit that Angel Hernandez is the only home plate umpire whose strike zone makes Joe West’s look like the work of someone with stereoscopic vision.

1) Simple Fail

Someone must have pointed out to the Twins that Fausto Carmona was not having a particularly easy time locating his initial offerings within the confines of the strike zone.  In the first inning, none of the four hitters swung at the first pitch, even though quite a few of the Twins are known to be less selective than others.  To Fausto’s credit, three of those four hitters fell behind 0-1 in the count.  Although Carmona walked Jason Repko on five pitches, he also induced five groundouts in the first two (shutout) innings and appeared to be in reasonably good form.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The B-List: 4/20

FINAL          1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R  H E
Indians (13-5) 0 0 0 0 0 4 2 0 1  7 11 0
Royals  (11-7) 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3  5  8 1
W: Masterson (4-0)  L: Hochevar (2-2) S: C. Perez (6)

Both teams’ pitchers combined to throw 144 pitches out of the strike zone for a 57% strike rate, which, on a scale from 1 to shitty, is shitty.

1) What an odd, smelly material you’ve chosen for your bookends!

I wrote briefly last time Justin Masterson pitched about the fact that Masterson hasn’t really faced a lot of adversity yet:

At some point, it will be necessary to see how Justin Masterson adjusts to adversity, whether this is not having his best stuff, falling behind early, having the defense fail behind him, an extraordinary performance from the opponent, a few flat pitches with rotten location, or a combination of all of them.

Well, let’s run down the list:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The B-List: 4/19

FINAL          1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R H E
Indians (12-5) 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 1  4 9 0
Royals  (11-6) 0 0 2 1 2 0 0 0 X  5 9 1
W: Chen (3-0)  L: J. Gomez (0-1) S: Soria (5)

Well, any time you have a chance to watch three straight strikes with the bases loaded, you pretty much have to grab hold of that opportunity with both hands.  Keeps ‘em off your throat.

1) Not in Kansas any more

Jeanmar Gomez may or may not be a rookie any more.  Frankly, I don’t really care.  He made some starts in the back half of last season and showed glimpses of being able to compete at the major-league level, but not enough to make you go, “Wow, that guy really needs to be in the rotation next year.”  And, sure enough, he was NOT in the rotation this year, getting passed up on the ladder by Josh Tomlin and potentially others as well.  Alex White is not really ready for this level, and Dave Huff is still plying his trade from the left side, which could potentially help if it made any difference whatsoever.  There are guys with higher ceilings, but Gomez had held his own at this level and certainly deserved the first shot after Mitch Talbot semi-Westbrooked his elbow.

To be honest, there’s not a whole lot of insight to offer past “Gomez has decent stuff but no real out pitch.”  Tony Lastoria pointed out on Twitter last night that Gomez’ lack of an out pitch has always led to relatively high hit rates in the minors, and that came to the fore last night as the Royals were able to string together several multi-hit innings off Gomez.  This included Chris Getz’ first triple of the season, an inside pitch that he was able to turn on and drive into the right field corner.  Alex Gordon and Melky Cabrera added doubles, and in all Gomez allowed at least one hit to seven different players in the KC lineup.  The only players we had trouble against him were Kila Ka’aihue, struggling mightily at .151 in the early going, and Brayan Pena, who hits .207 as the backup catcher.  It is worth noting that the Royals are swinging collectively-hot bats as a team, with their 3-6 hitters posting averages of .361, .367, .323, and .375, but I wouldn’t read too much into the numbers beyond “they have skill or they’re hot or possibly both.”  (Of the four players, Billy Butler is clearly an established excellent hitter.  Alex Gordon was a high draft pick that has disappointed, but everyone loved his swing out of Nebraska, and Wilson Betemit has shown elements of great offense in bursts in the past.  Jeff Francoeur is a fraud, but he is hot.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The B-List: 4/18

FINAL          1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10   R  H E
Indians (12-4) 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0  4   7 13 1
Royals  (10-6) 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0  0   3  7 2
W: J. Smiff (1-0)  L: T. Collins (1-1)

Well, this is the sort of dogfight you expect from the 1st and 2nd place ballclubs.  And then you replace dogs with drunken seagulls, then with box jellyfish, then with irritated fiddler crabs, and finally bring one of the dogs back to face a kangaroo mouse with lumbago.

1) Picking nits for no fun and absolutely no profit

One of the obsessions of a baseball analyst is to try to determine what things that have happened suggest about the relative likeliness of something happening in the future.  For example, if Fausto Carmona induces double-digit groundouts in sixteen consecutive starts, and pitch f/X shows significant downward movement on his pitches, and you watch video and he’s throwing sinkers with late movement that guys are beating into the ground, it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that unless something significant changes, Fausto Carmona is likely to induce a lot of ground balls in his remaining starts.  You have to constantly update your data, as it were: if he begins losing velocity or starts throwing nothing but knuckleballs or gets a tattoo of Bert Blyleven with the caption “60 HR or bust!”, well, you have to adjust your expectations for such things.  But the guiding principle of analysis is that without new information, you expect things to go pretty much as you’ve observed them go.

The distinction in recent times is what you mean by “things” has become more nuanced.  Instead of expecting a pitcher to collect Wins, you gain an appreciation for just how OTHER-dependent a thing like Wins are and instead make predictions based on things that are more INdependent.  As long as you’re trying to predict something that is actually kind of predictable, you’ll probably make some reasonably good predictions.  Predicting that Jack Hannahan will hit fastballs thrown at more than 90 mph to other way is pretty reasonable: predicting that Jack Hannahan will always produce extra-base hits in extra innings is not.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The B-List: 4/15 - 4/17

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R  H E
Orioles  (6-6)  0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1  2  8 0

Indians  (9-4)  0 0 4 0 0 1 3 0 X  8 12 0

W: Masterson (3-0) L: Britton (2-1)

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Orioles  (6-7)  0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 7 1
Indians (10-4)  0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 6 1

W: Tomlin (3-0) L: Guthrie (1-2)

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E

Orioles  (6-8)  2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 6 11 0
Indians (11-4)  0 0 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 4  5 1
W: Carmona (1-2) L: Bergesen (0-2) S: C. Perez (5)

The latest the Indians were ever TIED in a game was the bottom of the THIRD.  The latest they ever trailed was … never.

1) A Lack of Adversity

At some point, it will be necessary to see how Justin Masterson adjusts to adversity, whether this is not having his best stuff, falling behind early, having the defense fail behind him, an extraordinary performance from the opponent, a few flat pitches with rotten location, or a combination of all of them.  We won’t mention the other thing that can go wrong because it already has with another, similar pitcher.

The fact is that the complete absence of such things is not something that’s going to cause me a lot of lost sleep.

All Masterson did was saw through the Baltimore lineup with roughly the difficulty of Charles Barkley faced with a quarter-pound hamburger.  Consider this: in the spirit of C.C. Sabathia’s Inning of Crap™, Masterson’s worst inning by FAR was the 4th, in which he allowed a single, an infield single, and an RBI single.  Of course, no two of the hits were consecutive, and between them he induced a routine groundout, a swinging K, and another routine groundout.  Outside of this inning, Masterson retired 18 of 20 hitters, allowing a single and a walk in 6 (other) innings of work.  Both other baserunners came in one inning, meaning that fully five of Masterson’s innings were 1-2-3 affairs.  He threw 66 strikes in 90 pitches to complete the 7 innings, and was lifted more to take advantage of a more favorable matchup against left-handed hitters than any sort of fatigue or ineffectiveness.  His last inning was perfect with a pair of groundouts.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The B-List: 4/13

So much squandering … such bursts of “Gah!” ...
FINAL         1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12  R H E
Indians (8-4) 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0  0  0  0  3 7 1
Angels  (7-5) 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0  0  0  1  4 6 0
W: Takahashi (1-0)  L: Durbin (0-1)

0) Administrative Note

This is one of those times when Real Life intervenes: between a work rush and having to run my son home from school with a fever, this column will be shorter than normal.

1) Hopeful Hope, or One Bad Pitch II

As with Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco’s first start was a Thing of Not Beauty.  I will stop short of calling it Ugly, insofar as Carmona’s set the standard so inachievably “high,” but it sure wasn’t any good.  Carrasco returned with a wonderful outing against the Mariners, although the 10-run outburst from the offense coupled with the truly astonishing ineptitude of the Mariners’ offense made it rather difficult to effectively evaluate his performance.  He had good stuff, and he had good results: beyond that, well … the saying is that if you have two watches that say different times, you don’t actually know what time it is.  You had to figure he wasn’t as bad as his first start (based on his late-2010 run of moderate success), but past that, you didn’t know.

Well, really, except for one pitch, there is virtually nothing to complain about from last night’s start.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The B-List: 4/12

FINAL         1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R H E
Indians (8-3) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  0 1 0
Angels  (6-5) 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 X  2 4 1
W: Haren (3-0)  L: Carmona (0-2)

Sometimes, the other guy is just better than you are.

1) Righted Ship

Is it fair to say that the memory of Fausto Carmona giving up 10 runs in 3-plus (the plus stands for Extra Fail!) innings on Opening Day is simply a Data Point of Badness and we can all move on with our lives now?

This game wasn’t quite as good as his previous start against the Red Sox, but it was still damned good.  Instead of 2 hits, he allowed 4, and of course, instead of 0 runs, he allowed 2.  On the other hand, he actually threw more strikes and struck out more batters (6 to 4) while getting more swings-and-misses (14 to 9).  It’s going to be hard to top a scoreless outing when giving up a home run to Peter Bourjos, and of course he lost the game, so there is no argument for this start being “better.”  Still, it’s equally hard to argue that it wasn’t high-quality.

One of the interesting things about Carmona’s pitch location was that he started only 9 of the 30 hitters he faced with a first-pitch strike.  Usually, I would complain about this: it seems like one of the easier things to control about an outing.  However, given his overall numbers, I wonder if maybe there wasn’t some Method to the Madness involved.  The Angels of the 21st century have been an aggressive team at the plate, taking the character of their manager and hitting coach.  While statheads tend to deride such things, the fact is that it has generally worked for them, and they went through a stretch where they routinely “out-performed” their “Pythagorean Projection” of how many games they “ought” to have won based on a simplistic calculation based on run differential.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The B-List: 4/11

FINAL         1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R H E
Indians (8-2) 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  4 6 0
Angels  (5-5) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  0 5 0
W: Talbot (1-0)  L: Chatwood (0-1)

The only two hitters in the lineup with OBPs under .300 hit 3rd and 4th.

1) Destination Semi-Known

I have loaned my copy of Jim Bouton’s seminal work, “Ball Four,” to my father for a while, so I am spared the effort of trying to find the exact quote, but for all the alcohol and underpants and ill-conceived behavior, the thing that sticks with me from the book is when Bouton talks about control.  I can’t remember the quote verbatim, but broadly put, he said the idea of “pinpoint control” is nonsense and a myth.  “You can’t hit a spot on the outside corner, exactly where you want it,” I paraphrase him saying.  “I aimed for the middle, knowing I’d be off 6 to 8 inches in some direction, and that would make it a good pitch.”

This might be exaggerating a bit, but I do think that it is the exceptional pitcher who has what we’d consider great control.  It bears remembering that while Bouton had an injury-shortened, unspectacular career, in his early days he was a high-effort high-quality high-velocity pitcher.  He wasn’t just some journeyman, even if he career ended up there after he was hurt.  The way I’ve always read this is that sure, there are a small percentage of pitchers who can hit a spot more often than not, the majority of pitchers settle for “quadrants” and leave it at that.

I was reminded of this last night watching Mitch Talbot pitch, because I swear I never saw him throw a pitch that ended up precisely where I predicted it would.  He would throw a pitch, and I’d see in my mind’s eye a “path,” maybe bending down slightly from the middle toward the outside knee area, and all of a sudden at the end of the flight, the ball would “voop” somewhere else (often bending in to right-handers).  He would throw a slider, and it would be singing along, and then at the end, “voop,” it wasn’t there any more.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The B-List: 4/8 - 4/10

FINAL           1 2 3  4 5 6 7 8 9  R  H E
Indians  (5-2)  1 0 0 10 1 0 0 0 0 12 17 1
Mariners (2-5)  0 0 0  0 1 0 0 0 2  3  6 1
W: Carrasco (1-1) L: Vargas (0-1)

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Indians  (6-2)  0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 7 1
Mariners (2-6)  0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 6 1
W: Masterson (2-0) L: Fister (0-2) S: C. Perez (3)

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E

Indians  (7-2)  2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 6 11 0
Mariners (2-7)  0 0 0 1 0 0 3 0 0 4  5 1
W: Tomlin (2-0) L: Bedard (0-2) S: C. Perez (4)

Consider this: the Indians had as many hits on Friday as the Mariners managed for the WHOLE SERIES.  And we scored 50% more runs … in that one game.  Then we had two more games worth of offense.  Seattle had two more games of Brendan Ryan and Ryan Langerhans.

1) Son of Rebound

Fausto Carmona’s debut was worse, but this says more about Carmona’s performance than Carlos Carrasco’s.  Carrasco’s first outing against the White Sox was nothing to write home about either, unless it was to write home to say, “Boy, that wasn’t very good, was it?”  Granted, the White Sox have a better offense than the Mariners, which is a bit like saying that jackals are more fearsome than banana slugs armed with salt shakers.  Still, Carrasco looked lousy, and his performance Friday was in no way guaranteed.

All Carrasco did was throttle the Seattle “offense” soundly, getting three swinging Ks in the first two innings and facing one over the minimum through three because he inexplicably walked Ryan Langerhans on four pitches.  After an interminable wait through a half-hour top of the 4th, Carrasco was able to retain enough concentration to toss another scoreless inning before giving up a run in the 5th, but was able to end that frame with another swinging K before collecting one last forwards-K in a scoreless 6th inning of work.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The B-List: 4/7

FINAL         1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R H E
Red Sox (0-6) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0  0 4 0
Indians (4-2) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 11 3 0
W: R. Perez (2-0)  L: D. Bard (0-1)  S: C. Perez (2)

At the beginning of the year, had you told me we’d be 4-2 after playing Chicago and Boston, I’d have taken that.  After the first four innings of Game One, I would have been pretty pleasantly surprised that the team had not all been sold to a cosmetics firm for scientific experimentation.

1) ¡Fausto!

What a difference a week makes.

Granted, I’m pretty sure no one out there thought that Fausto Carmona was a 30.00 ERA pitcher, or that Opening Day was anything but an exaggerated pratfall by the nominal Ace, but I’m equally sure that yesterday’s performance was not something many fans would have laid serious money on, either.  All Carmona did yesterday was:

a) Held the Red Sox to 2 hits over 7 innings
b) Allowed only 4 baserunners total
c) Posted four 1-2-3 innings
d) Allowed more than one baserunner in an inning one time

Carmona certainly wasn’t flawless: he threw too many balls and too many overall pitches to get through 7 innings.  He walked two more hitters and only posted a 9:8 GO:FO ratio, which is very low for Fausto.  He had nine three-ball counts before he retired his first batter in the 6th inning.  And he was the beneficiary of a couple of fine defensive plays, notably a catch of a Youkilis liner by Orly Cabrera in the top of the 2nd.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The B-List: 4/6

FINAL         1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H  E
Red Sox (0-5)2 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 4 7 "0"
Indians (3-2) 2 1 0 0 0 4 0 1 X 8 8  0
W: R. Perez(1-0) L: Matsuzaka (0-1)

You might say that Asdrubal Cabrera’s homer barely cleared the wall, but was it really that much shorter than Adrian Gonzalez’?

1) Managerial Back-Patters

Mitch Talbot was fine last night, with flashes of real goodness (I still love his change) and a surprising 7 Ks. I normally start with the starting pitcher in the first List item, because he normally has the most material to delve into, and there’s plenty to talk about there. We’ll get to it shortly.

To me, it seems like it would be terribly unjust if the first focus didn’t go on Manny Acta’s handling of the 5th inning before anything else.

One thing I didn’t mention about Tuesday’s “save” by Chris Perez was the point at which Acta came out to talk to Perez with a 2-0 count on David Ortiz with two men on base. I called this a “mature, gentle Tony Pena head slap” in a conversation on Twitter (follow me at @stevebuffum) last night. Whereas Pena’s will always live more fondly in Cleveland Lore, especially since it resulted in physical abuse to Jose Mesa, Acta’s was equally effective in that it got Perez to focus, throw quality strikes, and retire the batter.

With this backdrop, Talbot ended up in a bit of low-wattage trouble in the top of the 5th by walking Carl Crawford, watching him steal second, and then getting Dustin Pedroia on a runner-advancing groundout. After falling behind Adrian Gonzalez, the one Boston hitter who has resisted the Global Newtification Process, Talbot decided to use the better part of valor and finished the walk intentionally.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The B-List: 4/5

FINAL         1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Red Sox (0-4)1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 1
Indians (2-2) 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 X 3 5 1
W: Tomlin (1-0) L: Beckett (0-1) S: C. Perez (1)

Joe Tait: It's a beautiful night for baseball!
Everyone else: You're totally lying, dude.
Joe Tait: So I am.

1) All he does is win

Last season, spent a good portion of my time trying to figure out exactly what it was that Josh Tomlin did WELL as a starting pitcher.  His ERA was solid enough, but seemed a little lucky.  He wasn't a complete puffball, but his 5.30 K/9 rate wasn't anything to write home about.  (Not that I ever actually write home.  Look, I'm 46: I *am* home.  I guess I text home fairly frequently.  I wouldn't text Josh Tomlin's strikeout rates home, either.)  He had good enough control, sporting a K:BB ratio over 2, so that's good (especially compared to yoots like David Huff and Aaron Laffey).  He just didn't seem like he had some singular, signature skill on which to hang his hat.  Like a monocranial Zaphod Beeblebrox, he was just this guy, you know?

One thing he most certainly did NOT do well is keep the ball on the ground.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The B-List: 4/1 - 4/3

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R  H E
White Sox (1-0) 2 0 4 8 0 0 0 1 0 15 18 0
Indians (0-1)   0 0 0 0 0 4 3 2 1 10 17 0
W: Buehrle (1-0) L: Carmona (0-1)

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R  H E
White Sox (2-0) 1 4 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 8 11 2
Indians (0-2)   0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3  7 0
W: Ed. Jackson (1-0) L: Carrasco (0-1)

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H  E
White Sox (2-1) 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1  7 0
Indians (1-2)   0 0 0 0 0 2 2 3 X 7 11 1
W: Masterson (0-1) L: Danks (0-1)

I’m not sure which was more exciting: the Indians turning a triple play, or me punching a hole through my monitor in the 4th inning on Friday.

1) CFL All-Star

One of the exciting things about the Canadian Football League is that there are only 3 downs. Instead of third-down conversions, there are second-down conversions, meaning that you really pretty much have to get 5 yards a play in order to move the ball. Other exciting things include 12 players per team, a wider, longer field, scoring points on tremendous punts, occasional yetis devouring unwary cornerbacks, and teams owned by Meat Loaf.

It takes some getting used to, though, realizing that an incomplete pass on second down pretty much means you have to punt, so the game is fast-paced, pass-oriented, and completely devoid of interest. Still, you could imagine this kind of innovation being carried over to baseball: you could see, for example, an effort to squeeze an entire baseball game into the 4 hours of daylight Canadians are rationed in Spring Training by going to 3 balls for a walk and 2 strikes for a strikeout. We’ll call this sport Canadian Rules.

In Canadian Rules Baseball, Fausto Carmona was AWESOME.