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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 6/30
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

The Indians won their FOURTH straight game and have guaranteed a series win going into the early game this afternoon.  In today’s B-List, we look at the fine start by new father Aaron Laffey, marvel at Carlos Santana, congratulate soon-to-be All-Star Shin-Soo Choo, give credit to a fine shutdown performance by the bullpen, and ponder the mystery that is Andy Marte.  But all of these things pale in comparison to the MOST important thing that happened last night … at least in terms of the future of the Cleveland Indians. 














Blue Jays (40-39)













Indians (30-47)













W: Laffey (1-2)  L: Litsch (0-3)    S: C. Perez (7))

laffeySo, what you’re telling me is, suffering through all those David Huff starts was totally worth it because … ??? 

1) Burying the lead 

Congratulations to new father Aaron Laffey, who celebrated the birth of his first son by shutting down the Blue Jays last night.  Laffey was poised and effective, holding the Blue Jays to 1 run on 5 hits and 2 walks in 6+ innings of work (“The Plus stands for Extra Fail!”).  And I could not care less.

Well, metaphorically speaking, of course.  There are plenty of things I care less about.  What are the Olsen twins wearing today?  What is the population of Burkina Faso?  What do socks taste like?  I don’t care about any of these things, while Aaron Laffey at least plays for my favorite baseball team.  I’m always at least peripherally interested in his performance. 

What I mean more literally is that while I normally begin each recap with a discussion of the starting pitcher because his performance is generally the meatiest, more important element of the game, this is not the case today.  Because Matt LaPorta hit a home run. 

“Now wait a minute,” you might object.  “Matt LaPorta hit a home run the night before, and you gave him a single sentence at the very end of the article!”  And this is true, of course, because “you” in this statement is completely hypothetical and happens to be “me” anyway. 

Consider the pitch sequence of the home run, though. 

In two plate appearances, LaPorta had lined out to short on the first pitch and walked on a full count (each strike fouled off).  It was a one-run game, and there were two outs against the reliever with a 2.40 ERA.  Shawn Camp threw a pitch that was within a few inches of being at the lower outside corner of the strike zone. 

LaPorta spit on it. 

Camp threw a second pitch, aiming for exactly the same spot. 

LaPorta rolled his eyes and sighed. 

Camp threw a strike on the inner half of the plate.  At 2-0, this was not what LaPorta was looking for, so he took it for strike one. 

And then Camp went low and away with another slider, except it wasn’t quite as low and not quite as away, and LaPorta hit the ball 408 feet over the (slightly toward right) center field wall. 

See, here’s the thing: if Aaron Laffey continues this kind of performance and proves that he can be a worthy back-end rotation member, is this a big deal?  Medium-sized, I guess.  It avoids David Huff and hedges our bets against Mitch Talbot being made of cardboard and Carlos Carrasco being a Gila monster.  Laffey’s an asset, capable of pitching well and of pitching poorly and if he becomes a League Average Inning Muncher, it will be a plus. 

But if Matt LaPorta develops into a real, honest-to-goodness offense force in the middle of the lineup, that is a MUCH bigger deal to the future success of the Cleveland Indians.  And hitting a home run doesn’t necessarily mean, “Oh, yeah, LaPorta has arrived, bay-bee, fer sher, fer sher!”  But the WAY he hit the homer DOES provide a meaningful positive sign for the future, in my opinion: taken in the aggregate, the three plate appearances showed: 

a) A willingness to hit a pitch early in the count (solid contact, liner to short)
b) A degree of plate discipline (drew a walk, but more encouragingly waited Camp out)
c) Actual meaningful power (400+ feet on a ball diving down and away)
d) Going with the pitch (the homer was slightly to the opposite field, not pulled)

In four games since LaPorta’s return, the first was painful (Size Four collar, 2 Ks), but the next three EACH featured an extra-base hit, and two of the three garnered a walk as well.  Is this ESPECIALLY meaningful?  Of course not, it’s 11 PAs.  Is it legitimately encouraging, in that he looks more relaxed and professional than he did earlier in the season?  In my opinion, it is. 

2) Back to our regularly-scheduled program 

None of this is meant to marginalize Laffey’s contribution last night.  Through three innings, Laffey had faced the minimum, erasing his only baserunner (a leadoff single by Fred Lewis) with a double play and collecting three swinging strikeouts against zero walks.  In the 4th, he gave up a double to Alex Gonzalez but retired the other three batters. 

However, through 4 innings, six of the outs Laffey recorded were fly balls to the outfield, a couple of which required the outfielder to move back before catching the ball.  In all, Laffey got 5 groundball outs (and two were on the first-inning double play) against 8 in the air, and of those 8, only one was a popup.  In addition, Laffey gave up two wall-reaching doubles and another single that could very well have been a double.

More troubling was the fact that from the last batter of the 4th inning through the end of the 6th, Laffey started 10 consecutive hitters with a first-pitch ball, and 5 of those hitters started with a 2-0 count.  Laffey’s stuff may be better than he’s normally given credit for, but he’s not good enough to start in a 2-0 hole to half the hitters he faces.  He may have walked only 2, and all 5 of his strikeouts ended up being swinging Ks, but that’s a disturbing trend that needs to stop if any sort of long-term success is likely. 

3) Death to flying things 

After giving up a pair of singles to put runners on the corners with no outs, Laffey gave way to Frank Herrmann, who immediately got a popup that held the runners and produced one out.  Herrmann then gave up an infield single to short (“A Cleveland Tradition since 2006!”), which really was a pretty nice diving play by Jason Donald to even get to the ball.  This produced Toronto’s run. 

And then Herrmann struck out Adam Lind on three pitches. 

And then Herrmann struck out Fred Lewis on 11 pitches, not giving in after five two-strike fouloffs.  (To be fair, Lewis didn’t give in, either.)

And then Joe Smiff came on and induced three consecutive harmless groundouts.  (One advantage of starting a lefty: the lineup was stacked with righties and Lind had already pinch-hit, so the low-slot Smiff got to face three straight right-handed hitters.) 

And then Chris Perez produced a 1-2-3 save, punctuated by a swinging K for the final out even after Andy Marte dropped a foul pop that would have ended the game.  (Perez did get the other two outs on fly balls to the outfield, including one by Instant Out McDonald, but a perfect inning is a perfect inning.) 

The last time a relief pitcher lost a game was Wood’s blown save against Philadelphia June 23rd.  Before that, it was Jen Lewis against Pittsburgh June 20th.  Before THAT?  June SIXTH (Tony Sipp).  (Granted, there have been some lousy starting performances, but the point is, the bullpen is not blowing games as often as they were.) 

4) No “Break”

While the rest of the team is likely to be enjoying cookouts and golf on July 13th, Shin-Soo Choo will not. 

Okay, I don’t know that for a FACT, and I suppose it’s possible that someone will make a very weird, unjustified decision, but Choo SHOULD be the Indians’ lone representative at the All-Star Game.  (You can make an argument for Fausto Carmona, I guess, but Choo has a better one.  Who else is even close?  Carlos Santana?) 

Choo hit his 13th home run of the season last night, a 418-foot blast to right that required no movement from the right fielder.  He also walked and singled, and his walk set up the second run.  (He was then thrown out trying to go from 1st to 3rd on a single to right, but that was more a good throw by Jose Bautista than slowness by Choo.  Also, it looked pretty close on the replay.) 

5) Perspective 

Carlos Santana hit his 9th double of the season last night.  This is 5th on the team, tied with Russ Branyan, Jason Donald, and Trevor Crowe.

Peralta: 21 in 269 AB
Kearns: 15 in 235 AB
Choo: 13 in 294 AB
Hafner: 13 in 212 AB
Crowe: 9 in 173 AB
Donald: 9 in 117 AB
Branyan: 9 in 171 AB
Santana: 9 in 58 AB


Choo’s slugging percentage of .480 is far better than those of virtually everyone left on the roster; Russ Branyan actually had a higher one at .491. 

Carlos Santana’s SLG is .707. 

Branyan was kind of an all-or-nothing hitter: 19 of his 45 hits were for extra bases, an impressive 42.2% of his hits.  Choo’s ratio is only 32.9% by comparison. 

Carlos Santana has 13 extra-base hits in 20 overall, a ratio of 65%. 

Branyan, as a Three True Outcomes hitter, drew 16 walks in 52 games and 171 AB.  Hafner is even better, drawing 29 walks in 66 games and 212 AB.  That’s 0.44 walks per game, and .137 walks per at-bat. 

Carlos Santana has 13 walks in 18 games, 0.72 walks per game and .224 walks per at-bat.

To be fair, I wouldn’t pitch to him, either. 

6) Oh, by the way 

The Indians went 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position. 

The hit was by Carlos Santana. 

7) Nice wheels! 

The reason that Santana had someone to hit with in scoring position is that Jason Donald led off the 6th by beating out an infield single to shortstop.  I don’t know if he sued Alex Gonzalez for copyright infrignement after the game, though. 

8) “Defensive” replacement 

Dude, if you come into the game as a DEFENSIVE REPLACEMENT and then make an error, why are you on the goddam roster?

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