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:
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.”
Let me interject here for a moment: what?What on Earth is Kansas City doing here?If Davies had a concern that he was trying to “pitch through,” I mean, have you seen Kyle Davies pitch this season?He’s been bloody terrible.It could certainly be the case that this was due to Kyle Davies being bad at baseball, but if you even have an INKLING of this being a physical issue, you have to look at his ginormous ERA and horrifying power-against numbers and wonder, “Hm, I wonder if there’s a real value in having this guy gut out possible pain?”The answer there would be, “No, there is not.Kyle Davies has been fucking terrible, maybe he could benefit from some Not Pitching Any More.”And if that happened to make his arm feel better to boot, that would be an ADDED benefit on TOP of him Not Pitching Any More.Man, I don’t know.I’m already on record as being frustrated by the Tribe’s handling of the Mitch Talbot injury, but this one make that look like fucking Greg House.Now Davies is pulled and Poor Vin Mazzaro’s in Omaha and unless this was a Sooper Sneeky Planne to get Danny Duffy in Kansas City, I’m one confused schmoe.
Anyway, Poor Vin Mazzaro, despite apparently having been told to “be ready” was “not actually ready,” so they brought in Nick Adcock, who was merely Not Very Good.Adcock let two of Davies’ runners score and gave up one of his own and walked the first guy in the third and left.Jim Margalus used to call this “James Buchanan pitching:” come into a bad situation, make it worse, then leave.
And, oddly enough, Poor Vin Mazzaro came in and was … fine.He got a fly out.He whiffed a guy.He induced a grounder.One inning under his belt.
That was as good as it got.
As others have written, the ten-run 4th inning wasn’t a deluge of massive blasts and horrifying badness: really, there were a couple of bloop singles and a couple of spotted balls and the whole thing went by with two outs, so he was always thisclose to getting out of the inning until the end, when he was kinda gassed and Mike Brantley hammered a three-run shot to complete the 4th-inning scoring.But look: Poor Vin Mazzaro was out there to bridge the gap between Kyle Davies and Tomorrow and it didn’t really matter how many pitches that was going to take.
Every team has had this kind of game at some point: this is where you bring Aaron Laffey out of the pen or stretch out your Jason Davis or Justin Germano or Jamey Wright or whatever marginal innings sponge you happen to have lying around.KC’s was Poor Vin Mazzaro.Big whoop.Go get ‘em, kid, save the bullpen arms for a game we can win.
Except … how many pitches can you throw in an inning, and how worn down do you have to get, before this is actually a Really Crummy Idea?
Poor Vin Mazzaro threw 44 pitches in the 4th inning.His 40th was hit for a homer.His last four hitters missed hitting for the cycle because Asdrubal Cabrera struck out instead of tripling.There is Value By Bulk Inning Absorption, and there is Death By Ineffective Schmoery.The odds of Poor Vin Mazzaro being able to waft through the next inning of work were effectively nil.Sure enough, the one out Poor Vin Mazzaro got was a well-hit fly ball.Travis Buck’s RBI single was hit hard enough that had it been hit to right instead of left, Jeff Francoeur would have had a legitimate shot at throwing him out at first.
And the worst part of the whole process what that Jeremy Jeffress allowed ALL THREE of the inherited runners to score, or else this is simply awful and not Historically Bad.
2) No, the grass is greener on MY side of the fence
From the Indians’ perspective, of course, the whole thing was a jolly lark indeed.
Consider this: 9 of the 10 runs in the 4th inning scored with two outs.
11 of the 19 runs overall were driven in with two outs.
The Indians hit 13-for-26 with runners in scoring position.Thirteen hits!The Indians scored 19 runs, but only hit one home run, meaning they chained together hit after hit after hit.
Three players reached base at least four times.The only starter who reached only once (via hit or walk) was Jack Hannahan, who did score two runs (he hit into a fielder’s choice before one of them).
3) Ho Hum Dept.
Instead of rehashing the same old laments and bland platitudes, let me say this about Josh Tomlin’s performance: I EXPECTED him to have a Quality Start.Not simply because he does it every time, but because I BELIEVED he would do it THIS time.KC has some pretty good hitters, or at least hitters who are performing well: they have some odd lineup choices, like the .274 OBP leadoff guy or the .305 OBP 2-hole guy while slotting the .318/.382/.458 in the 7-hole, but this is not the 2011 Seattle Mariners lineup.And I came INTO the game EXPECTING Tomlin to throw more zeroes than anything else.Right or wrong, I now consider Josh Tomlin to be an effective, dependable starting pitcher.
It’s almost a shame that Tomlin’s performance gets lost in the parade of baserunners.While he did allow some well-hit balls (4 of his 5 hits allowed were for extra bases, and he posted his customary 6:11 GO:FO ratio), Tomlin retired the first seven in a row, only once allowed more than one baserunner in an inning (which was scoreless), didn’t walk anyone, showed 17 of 23 hitters a first-pitch strike, and finished his 6 innings in an economical 81 pitches (55 strikes).He was pulled after 6 because he had effectively warmed up preparing to start in each of the past three days (he would have replaced Alex White on Saturday had the game resumed, and was scheduled to start Sunday).Also because it was 19-1.If you can’t trust Justin Germano with an 18-run lead, you might as well dip him in chocolate and rent him out as a wedding centerpiece.
If there is one negative, it is that Tomlin gave up a double to Matt Treanor, who is a fungus.
4) Relax, it’s covered
With Grady Sizemore officially going on the DL, Mike Brantley settled into both the CF and leadoff roles.All he did was draw a pair of walks, lace a single, pound a three-run homer, and drove in four runs.From the LEADOFF spot.
On the season, Brantley is now hitting .304/.383/.437.To say that he doesn’t have the power you’d like from a corner outfield spot might be missing the point: that hitter will play in your lineup, and will play especially well at the top of your lineup.In fact, you could make a very credible argument that this player will play better at the top of your lineup than the one who just went on the DL (with the obvious subtext that the other player would be perfectly well-suited at other slots in the lineup, perhaps down a notch or two).
Players aren’t Strat cards and if Grady Sizemore is productive exactly when he’s in the leadoff slot, well, Brantley does not appear to have trouble producing out of other spots in the lineup.However, it should be noted:
The OBP is consistently high, and that’s really what I’m looking for from Brantley more than anything else.But it bears mentioning that while Grady might prefer the leadoff slot, well …
One interesting thing about Brantley: he’s actually pretty crummy leading off innings at .195/.267/.317.Of course, this is a 41-AB sample that means nothing whatsoever.Besides, the #1 guy is guaranteed only one inning in which he leads off.Surprisingly, Brantley has been “clutch,” hitting .404/.500/.538 with runners on and .375/.500/.625 with them in scoring position, so maybe the 7-hole makes sense from that perspective.
But I guess more than anything else, the fact that we’re discussing Mike Brantley in terms of “how do we get the most out of him?” rather than “does he belong in the lineup, for real?” shows that we’ve probably turned the proverbial corner with Brantley as an everyday player.
5) The campaign of silence, continued
Matt LaPorta actually led all Indians hitters by reaching base FIVE times yesterday before giving way to Carlos Santana at 1B and Tofu Lou behind the plate.Two of LaPorta’s four hits were doubles, and he drew a walk as well.
For the season, LaPorta is now hitting .274/.354/.487.He bats 8th.
6) Pronk quasi-smash!
It wasn’t a homer, but a 3-run double is still a fine hit.Huzzah!
7) Terror on the basepaths!
Asdrubal Cabrera stole a pair of bases, but when Carlos Santana stole second, I was concerned about the appearance of pigs over the northern horizon.However, I remembered that they were in Kansas City, and this is actually pretty normal fare.
8) Unsung Hero Patrol
Justin Germano entered the blowout in the 7th inning.He allowed no baserunners, retiring the side on 7 strikes in 11 pitches.
At that point, I was convinced that Germano would be given the opportunity to earn what we lovingly call the Wes Littleton Save.Go look it up.It’s pretty hilarious, but the gist is that if you pitch the last three innings of “quality” (subjective) relief in a win, you earn a save.Apparently Manny Acta has no sense of humor, as he called on Chad Durbin to pitch the 8th.Durbin threw 6 strikes in 7 pitches and retired the side in order.
And then the VFP allowed the only baserunner when he hit Mitch Maier in the 9th.However, it was still a hitless, walkless, scoreless inning, and everyone went home.
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