Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The B-List: 5/17

FINAL           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  R  H E
Indians (26-13) 3 0 0 1 2 0 1 0 0  7 10 0
Royals (20-21)  0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1  3  7 0

W: Carrasco (2-2) L: O'Sullivan (2-3)
It’s all fun and games until your pitcher throws the ball over the centerfield wall.

1) A contrast in styles

Through 5 innings, here are two pitching lines:

Pitcher A: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 92 pitches
Pitcher B: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 69 pitches

In each game, the next inning was the pitcher’s last, and he gave up a double during it.

Now, pitcher A obviously has the advantage in strikeouts with 1 an inning.  On the other hand, pitcher B was a lot more efficient, needing nearly 5 fewer pitches PER INNING to get through the 5th.

If asked in broad, general terms which of these pitchers I would normally prefer, I would probably still hem and haw.  I really like what the strikeouts say about the first pitcher’s ability to miss bats and what this suggests for future success.  On the other hand, the second guy has fewer baserunners, no walks, and could ostensibly go at least a couple more innings.  In a sense, the second guy is more “in control” of his game.

Pitching lines without context are only meaningful at a high level.  The first guy gave up a second run as his high pitch count induced his manager to replace him, and the reliever let his runner score.  The second guy pitched his last two innings with a double-digit lead and left after 6 because there wasn’t any point in leaving him in.  The first guy got more ground ball outs despite recording fewer outs and having a bunch more K’s.  The second guy gave up a double to Matt Treanor, which is plainly inconceivable.

What I was trying to convey here is how it FELT to watch Pitcher A Carrasco versus how it felt the night before to watch Pitcher B Tomlin.  Josh Tomlin did his customary “Aw, you just missed that one!  I’m sure you’ll get the next one!” act, frustrating the Royals with a tantalizing extra-base hit here and a long fly out there, and all of a sudden it’s six innings later and you’ve scored one run.  Granted, Poor Vin Mazzaro’s outing made the game a lot more comfortable to watch, but even then, there was no point in the game Monday where I thought, “Ah, he’s losing it, the Royals are breaking out now.”  No, I expected Tomlin to be in control, and he was in control, and then he won, and while I’m still not entirely sure how this happened, I now take it on faith that this is the typical Josh Tomlin experience.

Carrasco, on the other hand, FELT like a guy groping in inadequate light for a flashlight.  The box score says he gave up 23 foul balls, but I swear I counted that many to Alicedes Escobar alone.  He threw 60 strikes in 97 pitches, and I was flat-out shocked that it was that many.  I’m having a hard time coming up with a compact sequence that illustrates my point well, but some examples include Alex Gordon walking after fouling off three two-strike pitches, Escobar beating out an infield single after fouling off FIVE two-strike pitches, and each of the next three hitters after Escobar’s single seeing at least two balls.

Here’s my concern: one of the harbingers of elbow troubles for Jake Westbrook and Mitch Talbot was a lack of command.  Carlos Carrasco just came back from the DL after having elbow trouble.  Now, some of this may simply be Carrasco “working the plate” and Escobar’s X-Treme Tenacity or some such euphemistic rot.  I don’t know.  Carrasco got his ground balls and his strikeouts and was basically some inefficiency away from a Quality Start.  He was fine, and I have no reports of an injury and generally don’t know what I’m talking about on the subject anyway.

I’m still concerned.

2) Pronk smash!

Sean O’Sullivan was not having the finest of luck with his command in the first inning: after giving up a leadoff double and a sacrifice, O’Sullivan started Shin-Soo Choo with a ball, then hit him with the next pitch, then threw four straight balls to Carlos Santana to load the bases.

Travis Hafner then practiced the unsung art of plate discipline, which is to wait for a pitch you can drive, not simply to take a lot of pitches.  Instead, Hafner knew that O’Sullivan was struggling and looked for a ball in a particular zone, got it, and cleared the bases with a double into the right field corner.  Remember, “plate discipline” and “walks” are not synonymous.  They are linked, but they are not identical.  The first pitch was fat, and Hafner drilled it.

3) Pronk limp!

In running out his second double of the game, though, noted DiaTriber Paul Cousineau noted on Twitter last night:

As well as Hafner is hitting, he is noticeably limping and laboring on the basepaths.

There will be some days off for Hafner, and the shoulder is still the primary focus, but I saw what Paul saw.  Let’s hope this is just a temporary blip and not a precursor to a full-scale old-age sort of thing.

4) Managerial Steve-Infuriators

I apologize for not mentioning this about Monday’s game, but when Jack Hannahan bunted in the SECOND INNING in order to advance runners from 1st and 2nd with no outs, it made the anti-bunt crusader in me cringe, then explode with impotent rage.  Look, everyone knows how I feel about bunting, and I certainly accept 1st and 2nd with no outs as a classical situation, but in the SECOND INNING?  I actually resent that.  To paraphrase Earl Weaver (because I’m not committed enough to look it up verbatim), “If you play for one run, that’s what you’ll get.”  8th or 9th inning, sure.  7th inning, starting to get iffy.  2nd inning, completely ludicrous.

So when Asdrubal Cabrera laid down a bunt to advance Mike Brantley from second to third, with no outs, in the FIRST INNING, off SEAN FUCKING O’SULLIVAN, I became convinced that Manny Acta is, in fact, trying to kill me.  That’s rude, Manny!  Cut that shit out!

5) But it worked, right?

Shut the holy fuck up.

6) Extra bases for fun and profit

Carlos Santana pulled out outside pitch over the right-center field wall for a homer.  While I normally frown on Indians batters pulling the outside pitch because it normally turns into a groundout to the appropriate middle infielder, if he can hit it over the wall, he can hit it anywhere he wants.

Asdrubal Cabrera hit a homer from the right side, his third against left-handed pitching.  He is now slugging .585 from the right side.  He has 15 hits in his past 10 games, including an 8-game hitting streak.  Compared to his career numbers:

AVG: .288 (career .285)
OBP: .350 (career .347)
SLG: .497 (career .404)

At age 25, it is worth asking if Cabrera has simply become more physically mature.  Isn’t power routinely the last skill to fully develop for a hitter?  It may very well be that Asdrubal Cabrera is simply … better now.

Mike Brantley led off the game with a double, and Travis Hafner doubled twice, meaning that fully half of the Cleveland base hits were for extra bases.

7) Juuuuust a bit outside

Joe Smiff entered the game in the 7th inning with a 7-2 lead to face Matt Treanor, who is a lemming in catcher’s gear.  There is no reason not to throw Matt Treanor a strike.  Yes, he had an RBI single and hit a double the night before.  I still do not respect Matt Treanor’s bat.

Joe Smiff did not throw Matt Treanor a strike.

Then he did not throw him a strike.

Then he did not throw him a strike.

Then he DID finally throw him a strike … and then he did not.

Well, surely the .219/.258/.267 hitting Al Escobar, a man who will swing at literally ANYTHING (as evidenced by the fifty-nine foul balls off Carrasco, thirty-six of which were out of the strike zone), would see a strike.

Joe Smiff did not throw him a strike.

Then he did not throw him a strike.

Then he did not throw him a strike.

Then he did not throw him a strike.

And with two men on, he did not throw Mike Aviles a strike, and then FINALLY the light came on, and he got Aviles to pop out, and that was enough of Smiff.  For this, his ERA went down.

I did not like this performance from Joe Smiff.

8) Juuuuust a LOT outside

But it was arguably better than the performance of Chris Perez, who also walked two hitters, gave up an RBI single, and threw 28 pitches to finish the 9th inning.

Still, Perez’ most famous “pitch” may have been the one he threw when the game was over, as he turned away from the plate, reared back, and heaved the ball over the center field wall, ostensibly out of frustration.

I did not like this performance from Chris Perez.

9) Terror on the basepaths!

Although Melky Cabrera, who should never be called “The Milk Man,” did steal his fifth base of the season off Carlos Santana, Santana did catch Eric Hosmer trying to steal, good for a 50% catch rate than any sane fan will appreciate.

But this was not Santana’s finest throw on the evening, as the aforementioned Lemming in a Suit had made it to second base on the pair of walks from Joe Smiff.  Reliever (in the TRUE sense of the word, not the Joe Smiff sense) Tony Sipp retired Cabrera on a fly to center, then, facing Alex Gordon, ran the count to 2-1.  At that point, Lemming Suit Treanor began planning the night’s activities:

“There’s dinner at the spread, and then maybe I can bag up some dry cleaning, and what was it the wife asked me to get, was it paprika?  Maybe rubbed sage?  I can never keep those … oh, look, I’ve been picked off second.”

I cannot explain this maneuver, but it was an excellent throw by Santana.


  1. Love your stuff

  2. Just found this great Blog. Love your stuff. Stats and "feel" together along with good humor. I'm gonna drop in quite often I think!

  3. A wonderful comment, exactly what I'm striving for. The whole purpose of the blog is to capture the experience of a fan in real time, which is why I have no hesitation in saying I will hate a player later than I love now, and vice versa. Except Mike Rouse.