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.)

There’s not much more to say beyond that, though: Gomez generally threw strikes, which is good.  He got 3 strikeouts in the first 3 innings while the Royals were feeling him out.  After the first trip through the lineup, though, the Royals had pretty much figured him out, and he ended up giving up 5 runs on 9 hits in 4 1/3 innings, which is simply crummy.  While it should be noted that Fausto Carmona’s first start was obviously worse and Carlos Carrasco rebounded from a similar outing, Gomez has neither the movement of Carmona nor the velocity of Carrasco to fall back on, and given (for sake of argument) 20 starts, this is very unlikely to be his only clunker.

The Big Question, as it were, is how much room for improvement there is in Gomez’ development path.  While young and inexperienced, this is kind of what he is: a guy.  It’s hardly prudent to write off a guy this young after a late-season debut and an early-season flop, but objectively, it’s not obvious where big improvements would come from.  The one suggestion I could make is for Belcher and Company to see if they could get Gomez to learn a cutter, which has worked wonders for the White Sox’ staff and helped Tribe pitchers from Cliff Lee to Josh Tomlin to certain degrees as well.  Fully three-fifths of the Opening Day rotation make their living off late movement (Carmona, Masterson, Talbot), and Carrasco has some as well: that might be the ticket to Gomez becoming more than, say, Brian Bannister.  As of April 20, Jeanmar Gomez is not a net strength.

2) Never say die!  (Until you’re dead, after which it’s kind of too late)

Look, let’s be honest: once the Royals scored a 5th run, I wrote the game off as a loss.  I kept watching, of course, because I have deep-seated issues, but I expected the Indians to lose the game after the 5th inning.  There are some pitchers in the Royals’ bullpen that have problems, and Tiny Tim Collins was certainly not going to come running in on his stubby little legs after throwing umpteen pitches the night before, but the Indians’ offense up to that point consisted of Mike Brantley dropping a couple of singles in an a few guys taking a walk.  Some nights you just don’t have it.  Besides, the Tribe’s M.O. this season has been to score early and pay attention to the pitching while the offense disappears in the final 5-6 frames.

So it was nice to see the Indians come back with a couple of runs off Chen, as noted lefty-killer Tofu Lou Marson blasted a two-run double off the Panamanian.  Sure, Marson also whiffed three times, but here is the list of players for either team last night who drove in more than one run:

Lou Marson

Thank you.  Don’t forget to tip your waitress.

Of course, Marson was then cut down at the plate trying to score on a shallow single to left: while it took a fine throw by freshly-minted OF Gordon (until recently an execrable third baseman) to peg Marson, it was not exactly a “close play.”  In fact, it was egregiously awful.  The next hitter leading off the 8th grounded out, so hindsight and all that.

Mind you, this rally shouldn’t have even happened.  Chen was clearly tiring, but the phone from the dugout to the bullpen stopped working, so when Ned Yost tried to call for Blake Wood to get ready, Wood blissfully ignored Yost’s telepathic pleas.

Wood wasn’t a LOT better, in that he gave up a run on a single and steal of second by Shin-Soo Choo (his 4th SB on the season) and subsequent RBI single by Carlos Santana.  But it’s still a two-run lead heading to Joakim Soria, who has been Death on Feet to the Indians in the past but is struggling early this season.

Soria was victimized by an error by Betemit, but Gordon made up for this with a wonderful diving catch of a slicing liner by pinch-hitter Grady Sizemore for the second out.  After this, Brantley singled, Asdrubal Cabrera ran the Rudy Stein Play on an 0-2 pitch that ran in on him, and Choo coaxed a walk after falling behind 1-2.  (Note: 2010 Choo would have positively hammered the 1-1 offering that the 2011 Choo fouled off.)

To the plate strode Carlos Santana, already with an RBI in the last inning.  Like Mighty Casey, he disdainfully watched a borderline pitch get called strike one.  Continuing his Casey fixation, he also watched strike two.  But which Casey shattered the air with the force of his blow, Santana instead decided that, you know what, 0-2 is a wonderful time to take a borderline pitch.

You know what?  0-2 is NOT a wonderful time to take a borderline pitch.

I will stop short of making some global attributions about the character of the team, fighting back and never saying die and Sydney or the bush, but I’ll give ‘em credit: they fought back to the point where I was really, really irritated at Carlos Santana.

3) Why have you brought a voodoo doll to your arbitration hearing, Lou?

One of the hidden benefits of giving Santana a day off from catching is that Tofu Lou Marson is significantly better at controlling the running game.  Santana isn’t Super Awful, but he’s objectively below-average in the Victor Martinez mold.  Marson, on the other hand, borders on the excellent, catching 47.6% and 37.8% of would-be basestealers in the past two seasons (last season catching 31 of 82, so no small sample).

Yesterday, he caught 0 of FIVE.  One of whom stole third base, and another of whom was Billy Butler.  The second is less likely (although, in fairness, it was the back end of a double steal … still, have you seen Billy Butler “run?”).

Why is this?  It may be that Marson had an off night.  It may have been that it was about 30 degrees.  But the one thing that is indisputible was that Jeanmar Gomez was pitching, and I will tell you this: he did not appear particularly interested in the actions of the runners on base.

In one sense, this is fine.  It’s your debut for the year, you are fourteen years old, concentrate on the hitter.  But Marson’s CS stats for the year are gonna take a while to catch up.

4) Credit Where Credit is Due Dept.

While not entirely “excited” to see Chad Durbin come out to replace Gomez, I understand that he’s more a quality pitcher off to a bad start than a schmoe with no talent.  Relievers are volatile, but it’s pretty hard to spin “3 R, 6 H, and 4 BB in 3 2/3 IP” into anything but “Brian Sikorski after the fall.”

Last night, though, Durbin was quite excellent, retiring all 8 batters he faced with a pair of strikeouts and pretty good command: 19 strikes in 28 pitches is a big improvement for a guy coming into the game at a walk an inning.  I think getting out of the jam in the 5th gave Durbin confidence, and he sawed through the 6th on three groundouts.  The sample sizes endemic to relievers don’t make overall stats all that predictive, but he LOOKED better last night and his RESULTS were outstanding.

In the same vein, I mentioned yesterday that Justin Germano may have been unfairly judged on his first bonechilling outing rather than on the quality followups.  He, too, located well, and while he walked Wil Betemit after getting ahead 1-2, he got the next three hitters to ground out and finished a scoreless, hitless inning of his own.

I’m not drawing any Great Conclusions about what this means for bullpen usage in the long term or specific situations, but good is better than bad, and these guys were good last night.

5) Open Question

Chris Getz’ triple drove in the first run of the game because Al Escobar had beaten out an infield single to short.  As a bit of background, I’m on the record as saying I hate giving up infield singles.  Truthfully, at this point, I am overly-sensitive to them.  We went through a stretch in 2006 or 2007 in which we seemed to give up a LOT of infield singles.  We’re nowhere near as ineffective any more, but because of that stretch, I still cringe.

So … here’s the thing.  I look at that play, and while my initial instinct was to blame Asdrubal Cabrera, I’m wondering … if Matt LaPorta had been playing first base, is that a hit?

6) Things I cannot explain

Adam Everett drew two walks.  He is hitting .385 with a .500 OBP.

Bruce Chen is 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA.

Cleveland has stolen more bases (10) than their opponents (8) despite never once catching any opponent stealing a base (0).

Travis Buck, whose .611 OPS was truly dreadful when he was demoted, still had a higher OPS than Shin-Soo Choo.

Austin Kearns.


  1. I looked at the lineup last night and wondered if Manny had decided to throw in the towel before the game started. Any thoughts on the logic of having all the subs play? Is it because of low expectations with Gomez pitching?

  2. Dude, that's the Lefty-Mashing Lineup!

    Yeah, I'm pretty much serious.

    (Grady has a planned night off, and Hafner will miss a game here and there to try to keep him around all season as well, but ... yeah, Marson and Everett will play against lefties. And it's more important to get Santana on track than LaPorta a few more ABs.)