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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 8/25
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum
Interestingly enough, the half-game separation between Cleveland and Detroit in the standings was largely what Buff expected when looking at the schedule in March.  The circumstances aren't EXACTLY what he envisioned, though.  (He also didn't foresee a Zach Jackson - Armando Galarraga showdown.) Regardless, the Indians won their eighth straight game last night over the Tigers.  And Buff talks about it in today's B-List.
Indians (63-67)10110000014111
Tigers (64-67) 0100101000390

W: Donnelly (1-0) L: Glover (1-3) S: J. Lewis (7) 

Interestingly enough, the half-game separation between Cleveland and Detroit in the standings was largely what I expected when looking at the schedule in March.  The circumstances aren't EXACTLY what I envisioned, though.  (I also didn't foresee a Zach Jackson - Armando Galarraga showdown.) 

1) Mook in training 

I still haven't really seen enough of Zach Jackson to even form a good knee-jerk opinion of where he falls in the pecking order: his delivery is not very "fluid" in the same way that Napoleon Dynamite's dancing was not "athletic."  He supposedly throws in the low-90s, although that doesn't seem to happen all that often.  He's described as a sinker/cutter guy, but his slider looked like a better pitch on occasion last night. 

One thing Jackson has going for him is that his array of low stuff does encourage batters to beat the ball into the ground: his 8:5 GO:FO ratio is nothing special, but it does seem repeatable.  He hasn't been able to duplicate his low-sample 2.25 ratio he put up in Milwaukee, but his 1.59 in Cleveland is pretty solid, definitely on the right side of things for a guy who doesn't miss a lot of bats.  Of course, last night he did get 6 strikeouts, 4 of them swinging, in 6 1/3 innings of work, so maybe he's figuring out how to locate that two-strike pitch.  One game isn't very meaningful, but it's worth mentioning that his three starts featured 1, 4, and 6 Ks. 

One of the nice things about those numbers is that they're accompanied by 1, 1, and 0 walks: I don't necessarily think Jackson will maintain a K:BB ratio over 5, but keeping guys off the basepaths will help a guy without overpowering stuff enormously. 

Now, Jackson did give up a pair of solo shots, and while they were indeed single runs, no one particularly misses that feature of Paul Byrd's game.  If you're going to get any mileage out of being a groundball pitcher, it's best to keep the ball in the park, especially one as cavernous as Comerica.  Still, Jackson did a pretty good job of keeping the Detroit lineup in check: the only inning in which he allowed more than one hit, he induced a double play and got the next hitter to escape unscathed.  And if not for a couple of infield bleeders, he might have gotten his first win of the season. 

I guess what it comes down to is, what are you asking your 4th/5th starter to be able to do?  Obviously he should keep runs off the board: Jackson hasn't been particularly good at that, but he's done better in each start.  You'd like him to be able to get through 6 innings: Jackson's done that twice.  His WHIP of 1.31 is pretty decent as an Indian, and the low walk total encourages me.  If he can actually maintain a K/9 rate in the 6 neighborhood (he's at 5.4 as an Indian), combined with ground balls and some double plays, and those numbers would play. 

One of the things about Jackson is that he has a real platoon split right now: some of this is a product of very low samples, but coming into the game, he held lefties to a .211/.286/.211 line, while righties hit him significantly harder at .348/.380/.435.  Both home runs came off the bats of right-handed hitters, so these numbers look even worse today.  This contrasts with Jeremy Sowers, for example, who gets pounded by everybody.  It may be that Jackson's ultimate role is the one Milwaukee was trying to cram him into, that of left-handed relief pitcher.  I'm of mixed mind on this: I value starters more, and Jackson is clearly capable of starting capably.  It's just that "capable" might be his ceiling. 

2) St. Grady 

Stuck on a paltry 29 home runs for the season, Grady Sizemore succumbed to the pressure of becoming Cleveland's second 30/30 (home runs/stolen bases) player in history and did not swing at the first pitch of the game (which was out of the strike zone). 

He recovered quickly, though, and hit the SECOND pitch of the ballgame over the left-center field wall for his 30th home run on the season. 

With that enormous weight off his shoulders, he breathed a sigh of relief and drove the FIRST pitch he saw in his next plate appearance over the right-field wall for his 31st homer. 

Sizemore hopes to join the pretigious 33/33 club and begin an advertising campaign for Rolling Rock beer in the next couple of days. 

3) Enough with the Smallball already! 

The late innings of a tight game always seem to be the best time to pull out the Smallball weapons from the managerial bag: play for one run, ‘cause that's all you need.  I mean, unless you put Juan Rincon on the mound or something.  Or you're playing an A.L. team other than Seattle.  But you get the idea: the single run grows in magnitude as the game wears on.  And, after all, we'd just scored the winning run the other night as a direct result of a successful sacrifice bunt, so the memory was fresh in everyone's mind except Jhonny Peralta's. 

Here's the thing, though: not all Smallball is created equal. 

Look, it's complete hindsight-laden second-guessing to claim that neither the thin left fielder in the 7th nor Peralta in the 8th should have been sent to try to steal second.  Heck, I'd go so far as to say that it made quite a bit of sense: in both cases, a batter with a prodigious propensity for grounding into double plays was at the plate (Peralta for the LF, Garko for Peralta), both were sent on a two-strike count, and Brandon Inge hasn't really been a regular catcher for all that long after a very long layoff.  He was a pretty darned good steal-catcher back in Bush's first term, but in 2008 he's been a lousy 6-for-24 in catching would-be stealers. 

Still, I have to wonder: The left fielder I can understand, in that he has speed, although not a good base-stealing awareness, and there were two outs: you could start the next inning with Peralta at the plate anyway.  But after Inge proved he could gun someone down, you send Peralta ... not with anything approaching the previous guy's speed ... with Ryan Garko at the plate, a man who strikes out with savoir faire ... I dunno, that just seems like either stubbornness or desperation there. 

Anyway, Cleveland scored four runs on three solo homers and a hypertesticular dash after a double to the wall by Shin-Soo Choo.  So it's nice to have more than one tool in the box. 

4) Backing off my initial reaction 

My initial reaction after seeing that Masa Kobayashi gave up a pair of singles to allow Jackson's baserunner to score the tying run was to prepare a rant about how Kobayashi is finished for the season and how could Wedge do that and why is "According to Jim" still on the air, but really, although the wild pitch was truly grotesque, neither "single" left the infield.  Had Inge's ball been hit a little better, it could have been the inning-ending double play.  It certainly wasn't a great performance, in that Kobayashi didn't actually record any outs, but ... eh, it wasn't that bad.  That's baseball. 

I really don't see why Kobayashi would pitch a single inning in September, though. 

5) Lucky Socks Dept. 

Since invoking the Global Thumper Rule and refusing to invoke the name of the man who played left field last night, he has hit .328/.377/.578 in August with 3 HR, 7 doubles, 12 RBI, and has even drawn five walks.  He is actually a guy capable of sitting in the two slot and has won two games in a row with game-winning hits, this one a solo shot off Gary Glover, which still counts. 

So in one respect, the fellow certainly deserves to have the G.T.R. revoked.  On the other hand, he's been hitting very well since the rule was invoked, and I am the pigeon practising random behavior hoping for another kernel of corn. 

So, he did a good job last night.  Except for the steal attempt. 

6) The value of counting stats for relief pitchers 

Here is how valuable the Win stat is: Brendan Donnelly got the win last night.  Yes, he pitched well, spinning a perfect inning.  But it was one inning and he happened to pitch before the left fielder got to bat.  (The Loss to Glover makes perfect sense.) 

However, I forgot to mention something about the previous game: in Cleveland's 4-3 victory over Texas, Juan Rincon, who came into the game and began hurling excrement in all directions like a furious zoo monkey, was credited with a Hold.  If there is a more useless stat than the "Hold" (remember, Rincon gave up three hits, one walk, and two runs while recording two outs), I do not want to hear about it. 

7) Ho Hum Dept. 

With runners on first and second and one out, Raffy Perez induced a tapper to the mound.  When the Indians could not turn the double play, he simply struck out Placido Potatohead swinging on four pitches. 

After striking out Magglio Ordonez to start the 8th, Perez was so fazed by an error by Peralta and a four-pitch walk, he simply got Ryan Raburn to ground out and Matt Joyce to fly out to center. 

8) Is it time to start taking Jensen Lewis seriously? 

Well, let's see: in a one-run game on the road, Lewis faced Potatohead, hitting .315, Ordonez, hitting .307, and Miguel Cabrera, who ate Todd Jones and still hits .291.  He retired the side in order.  In ten August outings, he has allowed one run, 7 hits and 1 walk in 11 1/3 innings, and recorded 7 saves with 9 strikeouts. 

Yeah, I'd say it was time. 

9) Not sure I came to the same conclusion 

Many fans were praising the guts and savvy of Shin-Soo Choo, who took off running from second base on a flare by Ryan Garko.  The ball dropped in for a single, and Choo, with his running start, came around to score what turned out to be a crucial run. 

There are two ways to look at this: 

a) Choo showed remarkable good judgement to see that the ball would drop
b) the routes Choo takes to fly balls suggest that he makes judgements on fly balls by rolling dice or using a Magic 8-Ball to move in random directions until the ball strikes him or not 

So, although I'm glad he scored, I'm ... I'm ... I'm not going overboard giving Choo credit for that one. 

10) Special Message for Juan Rincon 

Hijo, su papel en este equipo es usted no tiene ninguÌ n papel en este equipo. 

(Thanks for Richard Sheir for the translation of John McNamara's explanation of Ken Phelps' role to the team.) 

11) Department of Corrections Dept. 

Paul Evans points out that when I talked about Robinson Tejeda's ouvre, I meant oeuvre.

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