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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 8/22-8/24
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum
The Indians swept the Rangers because of timely hitting, eventual shutdown relief pitching, and the Texas Rangers being bad.  In this edition of the B-List, Buff wonders what makes Anthony Reyes good while Jeremy Sowers is not, whether Raffy Betancourt is really back, whether Smallball is the wave of the future, and whether Juan Rincon would look better answering the question, "What can Brown do for you?"
Indians (60-67)2300000027111
Rangers (63-66)000100031590

W: Carmona (6-5) L: M. Harrison (5-3) S: J. Lewis (5) 

Indians (61-67)100060010880
Rangers (63-67)0016000007100

W: R. Perez (3-3)  L: Jam. Wright (6-5) S: J. Lewis (6) 

Indians (62-67) 000210001481
Rangers (63-68) 001000020370

W: Betancourt (3-4)   L: Guardado (3-3) 

We swept the series because we ... we ... we ... hit in the clutch.  The clutch!  Like, the last two innings!  Us!  Hitting!  I have to lie down. 

1) Snatching victory from the jaws of Juan Rincon 

The seemingly minor deal of Someguy Johnson* to St. Louis for fallen starter Anthony Reyes is shaping up to be the one that pays the most immediate dividends for the Indians: Matt LaPorta was hitting poorly even before being hit in the head in the Olympics, Carlos Santana is still rather far off, Jon Meloan is ... okay, I do really know where the hell Jon Meloan is, Milwaukee's Player To Be Named Later is still heavy on the Later, and Zach Jackson is Just Some Guy. 

In contrast, Reyes has posted four good starts in a row: the only thing standing between him and four Quality Starts is that he only went 5 innings against Kansas City in his previous start (pulled at a pitch count of 84).  He has yet to give up a third run and is giving up fewer than a hit an inning.  He has given up only six extra base hits in 24 1/3 innings as an Indian, and 5 were doubles.  And while he's 2-1 as an Indian, the Indians "supported" him with 1 run in the loss and he should have won this game had Eric Wedge used a major-league reliever to start the 8th inning. 

Reyes went 7 innings, and although it wasn't a terrific start, it was pretty good, especially considering the offensive environment in Arlington.  4 hits (all singles) is obviously quite good.  4 strikeouts is pretty decent. 4 walks is terrible.  However, I liked the way that Reyes rarely seems to give in on a deep count: three of his four walks were of the four-pitch variety, smacking of a lack of polish, but if he got a couple strikes on a hitter, he held on with doglike tenacity and wouldn't let go.  Reyes threw 21 pitches with two strikes on a hitter: 16 were strikes, and 5 were balls.  4 were strike three and only 1 was ball four.  Only one two-strike pitch was struck for a hit.  So if Anthony Reyes gets ahead of the hitter, good things happen. 

Of course, with 61 strikes in 107 pitches and four walks, this probably doesn't happen enough to get too excited about.  On the other hand, if you remove the 4-pitch walks as "hitters I'd rather work around" for whatever reason, these numbers become 61 strikes in 95 pitches, a decent enough ratio.  Reyes has walked 1, 2, 3, and 4 hitters in his four starts, which is obviously trending in the wrong direction, but conversely, he's done a good job of keeping the ball in the park and limiting big innings (he has only allowed more than 1 run in an inning once in four games). 

One rather oddball stat with Reyes is a rather severe negative platoon split: even adding in his St. Louis numbers (which weren't very good), lefties hit .221 off him for an OPS of .565; right-handers pound him for a .301 AVG and .866 OPS.  I'm not sure what his Cleveland-only splits are, and I didn't see anything last night that would suggest that this is something sustainable (his three-year average from 2005-2007 showed little split, although righties posted a smallish-higher OPS by virtue of walking more, being hit a lot, and pounding more extra-base hits).  But it still looks weird.  As far as drawing any great conclusions as to Reyes' place in the 2009 rotation, it bears mentioning that through six starts, Aaron Laffey looked even better than Reyes does to this point and subsequently turned into a newt: I don't see anything from Reyes that makes me think he is obviously head and shoulders better than Laffey (just from a "likely results" standpoint: they're not remotely similar pitchers), or vice versa, but I haven't seen anything from Reyes that makes me think he shouldn't be considered, either. 

2) In contrast 

Jeremy Sowers was awful. 

I don't know what to say about Sowers: he retired the side in order in each of the first two innings, weaseled out of a big inning in the third by giving up only 1 run on three hits, then completely self-destructed in the 4th to get knocked out of the game.  On one hand, it was his first truly dismal outing since giving up 7 runs on 10 hits against Detroit on July 8th.  On the other hand, he has two Quality Starts or games that could be considered Actually Good since then, too.  It marked the first time he'd gone fewer than 6 innings since July 13th ... but he'd only completed a SEVENTH inning once in that span as well.  I mean, if you give up 4 runs in 6 innings, which is kind of Sowers' modal outing, you end up with a 6.00 ERA, which is pretty much what Sowers has (actually 5.95).  He's given up 107 hits in 87 2/3 innings, augmented by 31 walks (including the 7-walk debacle July 13th) for a 1.57 WHIP.  Right-handers pound him for a .868 OPS ... and so do lefties (.810 OPS).  He's allowed a .958 OPS on the road and the league bats .301 against him. 

See, I think this is the problem: Sowers struck out 2 in his 3 2/3 innings, to give him 46 for the season.  Combined with the numbers above, this results in a 4.72 K/9 rate and a pallid 1.48 K:BB ratio.  If you're going to miss that few bats without a signature pitch (like, say, a sinker), you pretty much expect the league to hit .300 off you, and you can't really fall back on any other skill to prevent runs from scoring. 

I've written that Sowers is too young and inexperienced to give up on, and things may certainly change for the better.  Sowers is a smart guy with a good pedigree.  But right now, he simply doesn't pitch very well at the major-league level.  If you asked me to identify two starters from the group of Sowers, Laffey, and Reyes, Sowers would not be on that list. 

3) Well, now, wait a minute 

On one hand, I am trying to conclude that Jeremy Sowers is bad at least partially because he has a 4.72 K/9 rate and a 1.48 K:BB ratio.  And yet Anthony Reyes is held up as a paragon of virtue despite having an even LOWER K rate (4.07 K/9 as an Indian) and an even WORSE K:BB ratio (1.1).  Who's to say that Reyes isn't simply getting very lucky with balls hit in play and that Sowers is not? 

Man, I don't know.  I got nothin' I can say with lots of confidence.  Except this: the results are a lot different, and Reyes just LOOKS more in control of the game than Sowers in my limited exposure to the two men.  Sowers has ONE outing that is as good as ANY OF THE FOUR that Reyes has put up.  One!  In sixteen starts! 

I don't have to make this decision (and I don't get to, either), but right now I will tell you that I like watching Anthony Reyes a lot more than watching Jeremy Sowers.  And I'm not all that interested in concocting an internally-consistent statistically-rigorous argument to explain why. 

4) On a scale from one to dumb 

The nickname "J-Rod" is dumb. 

However, the pitcher "Jensen Lewis" is not.  His weekend did not start auspiciously, as the first hitter he faced pounded a home run off Lewis, and the second hitter singled. 

After that, Lewis recorded two strikeouts and a lineout to save Friday's game. 

In Saturday's game, he simply recorded three strikeouts. 

These five strikeouts included a freezing of überstory John Hamilton on a 3-2 fastball, then four swinging Ks.  Of the fifteen pitches Lewis threw Saturday, the Rangers made contact with two. 

So, yeah, now it's time to start taking Jensen Lewis seriously.  Anoint him, no.  Take him seriously, yes. 

5) ¡Fausto!TM 

Truthfully, this wasn't so much a ¡Fausto!TM start as merely a very good one, but I'll take what I can get this season, especially from Carmona.  The end result was certainly good: only one unearned run in 6 innings, and the unearnedness came entirely from Fausto himself.  Carmona butchered a ball him back to him by Chris David, then wild-pitched Davis to second before yielding an RBI single to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  He also got five strikeouts, all swinging, which suggests he had good movement on his pitches.  And his 9:4 GO:FO ratio is what you expect from Carmona, including a double play ball (arguably two double play balls on consecutive pitches in the 5th, in that they simply didn't get the back end on the first one). 

No, this is still a bit sub-trademark in that Carmona walked three guys and gave up a trio of doubles: he was able to strand all these hitters, but you'd really like to see more on the ground and less bouncing off the wall if you're Carmona.  And this marks the first time since his return that he's posted consecutive good starts and only the second in which he's had more strikeouts than walks.  But ultimately, coupled with his performance last year, a start like this makes me feel a lot more like this is the Process Back To FOR Status rather than any sort of career derailment. 

6) Bullpen Roundup 

Raffy Perez had a pair of excellent one-inning outings.  Unfortunately, he pitched a second inning in one of the games.  Really, I'm not all that horked off that he gave up the three-run homer to Marlon Byrd: it was a bad pitch, a bit elevated for my tastes (and Byrd's) and Byrd punished it.  The more troublesome element of that inning to me was walking Hank Blalock, a left-handed hitter with a platoon split the size of Nevada, on FOUR FREAKING PITCHES.  That's terrible.  But his other two innings were perfect and he struck out a total of 5 in 3 innings, which is superb. 

Raffy Betancourt had a nice weekend: sure, he walked Ramon the Fungus in an excruciating 9-pitch at-bat with the bases loaded, a plate appearance in which Betancourt threw exactly one kind of pitch to one location nine freaking times before getting the next guy to ground out on a different pitch.  But he shut down the Rangers in order the next inning and threw a hitless inning the night before, which was good stuff.  But Raffy, please, for the love of God, throw a pitch inside now and then. 

Eddie Moo, please don't taunt me. 

The measurement for "a job well done" has changed for Juan Rincon, from "wearing pants" to "not being on the mound." 

7) The power of Smallball 

Cleveland scored its first run Saturday when Grady Sizemore walked, stole second, stole third, and came home on a sacrifice fly.  The winning run scored when Kelly Shoppach (!) beat out an infield single to short, took second on a passed ball, yielded to a pinch-runner, who scored on pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll's opposite-field two-strike single.  Of the 8 runs Cleveland scored, 6 came with two outs. 

Cleveland scored the winning run Sunday when Ryan Garko singled to left, pinch-runner Andy Gonzalez advanced to second on Kelly Shoppach's fine bunt, and scored on the center fielder's single up the middle.  The previous run they'd scored in the game involved the center fielder doubling, then scoring on a walk and two hit batsmen. 

8) Flashing the leather 

For the second time in less than a week, Ryan Garko snared a liner with a man on first that resulted in an unassisted double play.  He also started a nice 3-6-3 double play on Friday. 

9) The good with the bad 

Kelly Shoppach drove the first pitch from reliever Warner Madrigal (which can't possibly be a real person's name) over the left-field wall for a three-run homer to draw the Indians into a 7-7 tie Saturday.  He then had the aforementioned infield single. 

He also struck out 3 times in 7 at-bats for the series. 

Ryan Garko had a hit in each of the three games, going an aggregate 4-for-12 with 5 RBI.  He also struck out in each of the three games for a total of four. 

Andy Marte got a hit in each of the three games, including his first triple of the season.  He was also pinch-hit for in the game-winning situation and made his fourth error of the season. 

Shin-Soo Choo was awarded three bases on a tripe.  He also took one of the worst paths that eventually ended up with a catch that I've seen since Pete Incaviglia.  I am not convinced he has depth perception.

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