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Indians Indians Archive You Should Pay More Attention! (But Not To *That* ...)
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum
 One of the easy things to do when following a team is to get certain notions in your head about what to pay attention to. Whenever Casey Blake came up with a runner on base, you paid attention to his unparalleled out-making skills. Whenever you checked the AL leader boards, you paid attention to Cliff Lee's W-L record. There are obvious things that stick out, and attention begets attention: once you're focused on something, you tend to rationalize that it's important so you don't feel like you're wasting your time.

The problem is, you have to be careful what you're watching. Here are some things that you may (or may not) be paying attention to ... and wasting your time, anyway.

You're paying too much attention to: Travis Hafner hitting lefties. Yes, Hafner is a prototypical lefty slugger and yes, he doesn't hit lefties as well as righties. We all remember Jim Thome (who had a similar build and stance) looking silly against lefties. Well, Hafner can still hit left-handers: he may hit only .269, but he still walks a lot (.378 OBP) and can still mash (22 extra-base hits in 156 ABs and a .500 SLG). This is hardly the kind of dropoff in power that, say, Victor Martinez experiences against portsiders (.381 SLG!), and only pales in comparison to his ungodly 1.062 OPS against right-handers.

You're not paying enough attention to: Grady Sizemore vs. lefties. I realize that it's sacrilege to speak ill of Mr. Sizemore, but the fact is, he can't hit left-handed pitching. At all. A .296 OBP (and .661 OPS) is quite bad. True, it's not a large sample and yes, he's very young, but the fact is, if he's going to bat leadoff, he can't sport a .296 OBP against a quarter of the league. If this doesn't change, Jason Michaels should lead off against lefties, not Sizemore. (I do not expect Eric "the Book" to shift batting orders like this.)

You pay too much attention to:
Aaron Boone sucking. I broke down the whole "three seasons" thing and think he'll hit better in 2006. Sure, we're all calling for Marte now, now, now, but ...

You don't pay enough attention to: Aaron Boone's batting eye vs. right-handers. Since righties make up the bulk of the league, if you have trouble hitting them, you aren't good. The thing is, Boone saw lefties well in 2005: OBP-AVG: .107, SLG-AVG: .212. So he drew walks and hit for power ... what happened against right-handers? Well, his power wasn't atrocious, but his eye sure was: OBP-AVG = .041 (!). He drew 18 walks in 393 ABs. He drew 17 in 118 against lefties! If he can't find the patience to work right-handers, that's why he'll suck.

You also don't pay enough attention to:
Aaron Boone's basestealing. Third on the team (and Crisp is gone) and second-best rate (and Cora is gone). Given the general lack of a running game, this could be important.

You pay too much attention to: Travis Hafner's strikeouts. Hey, they're impressive. They're also less numerous than...

You don't pay enough attention to: Grady Sizemore's strikeouts. St. Grady is a great young player, and certainly more valuable on the basepaths than the amusing Hafner. But I am not crazy about my leadoff man striking out 132 times. Look, power hitters strike out (he did have 20+ HRs, which qualifies), but perhaps they shouldn't lead off.

You pay too much attention to:
Casey Blake's strikeouts. And there are plenty (although, again, fewer than Sizemore, Hafner, or Peralta). But power hitters strike out. More interesting to me ...

You don't pay enough attention to: Casey Blake's walks. His OBP-AVG against lefties: .061. Against righties: .069. Although this number is non-trivial, it needs to raise to be valuable. Casey Blake is not going to hit .300, but if he can be a little more patient, I could see a .265/.350 out of him, which would lead to me not making fun of him so much.

You also don't pay enough attention to: Blake's putrid base-stealing skills. Stop sending him!

You pay too much attention to: Cliff Lee's W-L record. Yes, he went 18-5. Yes, he had a great record the year before, too. And yes, winning is better than not winning. (Ask Kevin Millwood) But these things wash out. He's not a consistent 18-5 pitcher. He's good, but that was lucky.

You don't pay enough attention to: Lee's second half. In 2004, Cliff Lee disintegrated in the second half. Last year: pre-All Star break: 3.89 ERA, 109 H + 33 BB in 109 2.3 IP, OAVG .257. Post-All Star: 3.66 ERA, 85 H + 18 BB in 93 1/3 IP, OAVG .243. As "The Pursuit of Happiness" once said, "I'm an adult now."

You pay too much attention to: Jake Westbrook's ERA. Yes, his ERA fluctuates wildly. That's because he's an extreme groundball pitcher (only Brandon Webb and Derek Lowe are in Westbrook's class among starters) who doesn't strike anyone out (5.08 per 9 IP). As long as he stays with what got him here, he'll be fine (and will eat the requisite 210 innings as usual).

You don't pay enough attention to: Jake Westbrook's first two pitches. On an 0-0 count, Westbrook gave up a .341 OAVG. 1-0, .380. 0-1, .321. After that, it's pretty typical good count vs. bad count stuff: all pitchers are bad 2-0 or 3-1, that's why they're called "hitter's counts." But after Westbrook gets past the first pitch, if he started 0-1, hitters end up hitting .226; if he started 1-0, they end up hitting .285. These numbers aren't out of line with general pitching, but they are on the high side: Jake needs to concentrate on making a good first pitch, or we're hoping he induces a heckuva lot of double plays.

You pay too much attention to: Matt Miller's delivery. Yes, he throws sidearm. With his numbers, he can throw behind his back for all I care. The question is, does he get people out? Well ...

You don't pay enough attention to: Matt Miller's SLG allowed. Hitters on a 0-0 count slug .425 on Miller. However, that's 40 of the 313 pitches: after that, if it was 0-1, they end up slugging .306. If it was 10, then end up slugging .254. Two fifty four! Tell you what, Matt, throw the first pitch in the dirt. If they want to swing, let them. Otherwise, you have them right where you want them. By the way, Miller gave up 18 extra-base hits. Two were homers. He is the anti-Riske. Now, left-handers do hit him better than right-handers, but it's still only .240 vs. .211, with a SLG of .344 vs. 280. That's paltry. The only real problem he had in 2005 was walking lefties. But I would claim that jerking Miller out just because a lefty is coming to the plate is an overreaction.

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