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™).

The one reason I’m willing to lay the 4th on him at all (besides it being the only inning in which he gave up a run) was that he started 5 of 6 hitters with ball one, 3 of them with ball two, and 2 with ball three.  Going 3-0 on consecutive guys suggests a certain e’sprit d’bad.  And the thing is, over the course of the game, Fausto threw an efficient 64 strikes in 96 pitches, meaning that without that blunderbussery in the 4th, he completed 7 innings on 53 strikes in 74 pitches, which is quite excellent.

It’s no secret that the A’s aren’t a powerful offensive club.  The A’s might not pack the wallop of a bridge club.  But Carmona had excellent command of excellent stuff, and there wasn’t really any point last night at which I worried that Fausto would put the game out of reach in a bad way (by giving up runs).  I was more impatient during his innings, just waiting to see how the A’s would be retired so we could get back to the business of hitting.

One measure of Carmona’s control over the Oakland lineup: he held the A’s hitless with runners in scoring position.  All three times.

Open question: had the Indians scored four runs in the 9th instead of three, eliminating the Save opportunity, would Carmona have pitched the 9th, especially seeing as though he had a 7-pitch 8th?

2) More whiplash

Spirits were raised in the top of the 9th when Mike Brantley worked a 9-pitch walk off ace lefty reliever Brian Fuentes.  Brantley may never bloom into a super-high-quality hitter, but I will say this: he almost never gives away a plate appearance.

So with a 1-1 tie in the late innings and baserunners at a premium, it was especially galling that Brantley got picked off by the wily old (old, old, old) veteran on a move that could charitably be termed “not quite a balk, apparently.”  I was calling for a stolen base attempt earlier in the game to try to get a guy in scoring position, and admit I thought about it with the speedier Brantley, but against Fuentes, well, that seems like a tough gamble.  I admit that Matt LaPorta was a double play risk, and at least some of this is hindsight, but it seemed like a really unfortunate thing.

Especially after LaPorta singled.

And ESPECIALLY after the NEXT hitter, Jack Hannahan, ALSO singled, which “would have scored” Brantley.  (I assume so, but I guess there’s no guarantee, and it didn’t matter anyway, seeing as how out Brantley was, which was “fully.”)

So it was back to euphoria when Orly Cabrera drove a single up the middle to score LaPorta with the go-ahead run, and when Grady Sizemore produced his highest-quality plate appearance by being struck with a baseball, and Drooby Doo followed with a two-run single, Brantley’s pickoff seemed like a distant memory.


3) Managerial Second-Guessing

Let’s get this out of the way: I have no special insight as to who called for Brantley to get picked off.  Well, I mean, I suppose it was Brian Fuentes, but Brantley looked like he got a steal sign, and I’ll assume for now that this came from the bench and not the second-year player.

In the 8th inning, Giant Mike Wuertz was pitching as the right-hander that had been called on in the last inning.  He walked one and struck one out in the 7th, then got the first batter in the 8th.  Shin-Soo Choo fell behind 0-2, but coaxed a walk for his best plate appearance of the night.

See, THIS is the guy who should steal.

Not only is Choo a good basestealer (not that Brantley isn’t), but Wuertz is right-handed and enormous, not left-handed and crafty.  And with Santana-Duncan-Brantley due up, if you got Choo in scoring position, you’d have decent (not great) chance to go ahead before the bottom of the order came up.

Of course, Santana flied out and Duncan whiffed and it was the bottom of the order that won the game, so I’m clearly in angels-on-pinheads territory here, but I sure liked that setup for a stolen base better than one involving Brian Fuentes on the mound.

4) Stop!  Cabrera Time!

I am thoroughly grateful to have been so wrong, no matter how temporarily, about Orly Cabrera’s charm wearing off.  His last-inning RBI hits are getting finer, not staler, with increased frequency.  Don’t look now, but the man is actually hitting .301 right now.  (Mind you, his OBP is .330, but hey.)

But barely a week after I asked if Asdrubal Cabrera can actually hit, the man has gone 8-for-25 with 2 doubles, a homer, and 5 RBI.  Last night, he went 3-for-5 to raise his season numbers to .276/.341/.466, which I would probably accept from my third baseman: from my shortstop, this is both sooper and dooper.

Asdrubal leads the team with 19 RBI and 32 hits.  Orly is second with 18 RBI and 31 hits.

5) Hop this way

With two outs and men on second and third, Travis Hafner was called off the bench to pinch-hit for Adam Everett when Wuertz was called in to replace ex-Tribesman Craig Breslow.  He did swing at the 2-0 offering, but ultimately walked on five pitches before giving way to Orly Cabrera as a pinch-stander.

I liked the move a lot for a couple reasons: Hafner is a much more productive hitter than Everett, obviously, but the situation was nearly custom-made for a guy with a bad wheel: good platoon matchup, guys in scoring position, batter speed not at a premium.  As long as he could hobble to first in time to beat a throw, the important speed was in front of him.

6) One of these plate appearances was not the Worst in the World!

Because there are two of them, see?

It goes without saying that in a 1-1 game with two outs in the late innings, making the last out of the inning with the bases loaded is more disappointing than a regular out.  To strike out in this situation is frustrating as well.  To strike out on three pitches, swinging and missing at two of the three (and fouling the other off), well, Grady Sizemore, that was Very Bad Indeed!

But while the situation was a lot more intriguing there, I think from a purely aesthetic standpoint, the 6th-inning gackity-gack from Shin-Soo Choo might have been my least favorite.  Tyler Ross missed a couple times away and once low to run the count to 3-0: Choo took the next pitch for a strike on the outside corner.  And then, as ball four sailed through the right-handed batter’s box (it did not look close to being a strike to me), Choo reached out, yanked it all the way across his body, and grounded meekly to second as if the mirror spirit of Andy Marte had inhabited his form.  Shin-Soo Choo, that was Very Bad Indeed!

7) Strikes are good!

Chris Perez threw strikes.

Chris Perez got the save with a perfect inning of work.

I consider the two related.

8) Let me say this about that

Oakland’s leadoff hitter has a .287 OBP.

They had five players in the lineup batting under .250.

Three of their four infielders sport an OPS of .627, .494, and .581.

Two of their outfielders live in the Tyner Zone, and one has an OPS of .561.

Their first baseman slugs .291.  Their right fielder slugs .258.  They bat second and third.

I am willing to accept that Rolling O Stadium or whatever it’s called suppresses offense, but those are seriously awful numbers for a park on the sun.


  1. I will be at the game tonight in Oakland, donning my Indians gear. It’s going to be weird watching a good team with an optimistic outlook versus watching a barnacle of a team plunging toward the cellar, and not declaring “This guy’s a fungus”, or “Or the only thing this guy does well is ‘extreme suckage’. Hopefully 5 to 6 beers will help me ease into that transition.

  2. Steve, are you blogging anymore? I really enjoy your writing. Just curious.