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.