This blog obsessively follows the Cleveland Indians baseball team. It is a lot more active during the regular season, but addresses team issues with analytical humor, humorous analysis, and a lot of calling bad players "fungi." You can subscribe to its RSS feed here:
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.
Paul Byrd was generally an effective pitcher for the Indians, although I had the original “Paul Byrd Theory of Effectiveness” in 2006 or so such that Byrd was effective if and only if his strike percentage was high.This turned out to be less of a “Theory” as a “Wrongness,” but it had an element of sensibility to it: when Byrd was able to keep the ball in the strike zone, he got guys to swing at pitches that weren’t quite where they liked them and ended up taking some more-defensive swings when down in the count.If Byrd fell behind hitters and had to groove one, he got hurt, and if he walked guys, his propensity for homers hurt him badly.Fortunately for the Tribe, Byrd went through stretches of extreme stinginess with free passes, once going (I think) five starts without walking anyone.
Tomlin’s stuff may be a little better than Byrd’s (although, for all the jokes we shared about Byrd, his stuff was better than most remember it being), but he has some of the same strengths and weaknesses.When Tomlin throws strikes, hitters have to have a “swing now” mentality, which leads to hitting the ball not quite squarely.Tomlin will give up his share (and a couple other guys’ share as well) of homers, but a solo shot is still only one run.A key is to minimize the free passes, and Tomlin walked only 1 hitter last night.After an initial bout with command, Tomlin has walked only two hitters in his past three starts, a span of 19 1/3 innings.He’s still hit-lucky (in terms of BABIP, at least), but the results are what they are, and what they are is very good.The only thing standing between Tomlin and a 5-0 record to match Justin Masterson’s is Chris Perez’ inexplicable meltdown last Thursday (Tomlin left with a 2-1 lead).
Can you win with Paul Byrd in your rotation?Well, that’s an empirical question, no?The 2007 Cleveland Indians not only won their Division in 2007, but had only one starting pitcher who won a game in each series without losing any of them.That pitcher?
2) A more troublesome epiphany
Chad Durbin, learning from his experiences, took advantage of the 5-run lead to attack the strike zone with regularity and authority.In 16 pitches, Durbin threw 12 strikes, did not walk a hitter, and ended up collecting his three outs with only an infield single as a black mark.He was effective and efficient.
Keeping with the 2007 theme, Durbin, sadly, reminds me most of Ferd Cabrera.He doesn’t have the scary slider Cabrera had on his best days, the pitch that made me think Cabrera would be the Closer of the Future with a double-digit K/9 rate. Ferd displayed a maddening inconsistency, an inability to pitch out of trouble, and a propensity to go all Spray Hose now and again, and thus Ferd wore out his welcome and became … well … the Ferd Cabrera he is today.
Chad, Chad, Chad … don’t be Ferd Cabrera.(Consider plucking your eyebrows.)
3) A more temporary epiphany
On a day on which Orly Cabrera saw more than 4 pitches per plate appearance, including two in which he watched the first FOUR pitches go by, Cabrera was able to deliver both his third walk on the season AND the big blow of the game.With the bases loaded off DJ Junky Jeff Francis, Cabrera sized up a 3-1 fastball and delivered it into the left-center field gap for a 3-run double that effectively ended the game … in the first inning.
So, while I’m not arguing for a mandatory number of pitches taken or anything, I would like to point out that on such a day, Cabrera hit .333/.400/.667.Just sayin’.
4) Flashing the leather
It is next to impossible to tell if Grady Sizemore’s knee is fully-healed, in that if it feels great, Sizemore will tell you that it feels fine.If it hurts a little, Sizemore will tell you that it feels fine.If it hurts a lot and Sizemore is noticeably limping, Sizemore will tell you that it feels fine.And if his leg detaches at the knee and he is forced to hop to center field as blood gushes out of his stump, he will admit that while some days are better than others, today, in fact, his knee feels “fine.”
So it’s encouraging to see that not only is Sizemore off to a great start at the plate, with tremendous early-season power, but on a sinking liner hit in front of him, Sizemore got a good jump and made a diving catch.Of course, there was an element of 8-year-old me in the back yard in that dive, in that he might not have HAD to dive to catch the ball, but he did without hesitation or incident and he looks … well … “fine.”
However, this wasn’t necessarily the best defensive play of the game, which may have been Alex Gordon’s line shot in the third.After fouling off three pitches on a full count, Gordon laced a ball over Shelley Duncan’s head: Duncan then jumped (it was a bit less than a “leap”; Shelley Duncan remains Shelley Duncan) and snared the ball for the final out of the inning.Duncan is not exactly a natural first baseman, but it was a nice play.Nice option to have.
5) Hitting for the microcycle, or “Ouch!”
Shin-Soo Choo reached base all four times he came to the plate.Although it’s slightly disappointing that none of the balls he hit left the yard, Choo gets extra credit in that only two of the balls he hit felt the sting of wood.DJ Junky Jeff hit Choo with a pitch in between a single and a double, and reliever Nate Adcock learned the lesson of the night before, intentionally walking Choo as a right-handed reliever with a man in scoring position.Louis Coleman thought this was rather mincing of Adcock, but Adcock pointed to the number of earned runs he allowed, which was zero.Coleman’s … was not.
6) Ducks on the pond!
Listen, a five-run first inning is terrific and erases most offensive concerns, although only Orly’s double was a hit that I would have written home about.Travis Hafner drove in a run with a blort that looked like a Johnny Damon throw home.Francis ended up dying by papercut, with five singles and a double resulting in the five runs.
It was the innings that followed that led to the heading: after going 4-for-6 with runners in scoring position in the first, the Indians proceeded to go OH-FOR-NINE thereafter, including Hafner’s 0-for-3 and the Cabrera’s 0-for-2 apiece.Sure, there were only 7 Indians left on base for the game, but with so many opportunities, it should have been more of a blowout.
7) Jack Haikunahan
Gork, gorkity, gork
Neither Peralta nor Nix.
8) Terror on the Basepaths!
Hannahan stole his first base on the season, while Choo swiped his SIXTH … by stealing THIRD.After he took second on a passed ball.
Cleveland’s 7th run scored when Brayan Pena did not catch a Nate Adcock offering with Sizemore on third base.
9) Credit Where Credit is Due Dept.
Cleveland relievers threw 38 strikes in 54 pitches, including first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 13 hitters they faced.They gave up zero runs in 3 innings, walking 1 and giving up 3 hits.
Tofu Lou Marson has reached base in each game in which he’s played, including hits in 5 of 6 games and an RBI in 4 of 6.
Steve Buffum grew up a Cleveland sports fan in Akron, OH. He now works as a data cudgeller in Austin, TX with his wife and three children. He also writes a theoretically-popular regular column for www.TheClevelandFan.com and is on Twitter as @stevebuffum. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org