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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 7/23 - 7/25
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

The Rays finally find a way to break through against the Indians with the radical formula of “Being Better Than the Indians,” a tack more and more teams appear to be taking these days.  As the Indians scored three or fewer runs in each of the three games, it is natural to look for culprits in the hitting zone, but Buff wonders how much of this is simple expectations: the Rays pitchers are good, and they played great defense.  Stuff happens. 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Rays (57-38) 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 X X 1 1 1
Indians (41-55) 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 X X 3 8 2

W: Carmona (9-7) L: Niemann (8-3) S: Sipp (1) 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Rays (58-38) 0 0 0 0 3 2 1 0 0 6 9 0
Indians (41-56) 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 4 0

W: D. Price (13-5) L: Talbot (8-9) S: Soriano (25) 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Half-vectors (59-38) 0 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 4 7 0
Indians (41-57) 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 11 1

talbot1W: W. Davis (8-9) L: Masterson (3-9) S: Soriano (26) 

This is going to have to be an abridged version due to “because I said so.” 

1) Anatomy of Squander Ball 

"Offensively, we were horrible," Acta said. "We had terrible approaches at the plate when we were in hitters counts."  

When something goes wrong, it is natural to look for a systemic explanation for it.  At least part of this is because if there is something wrong with the WAY you were doing that thing, then you could CHANGE the way you do things in the future.  In other words, you can FIX it.  It will stop happening, because you won’t be doing the same thing next time.  A systemic explanation is one that breeds hope.  Golf.  Dating.  Home repair.  Now that you know to turn off the power, you won’t shock yourself quite so hard next time. 

This extends to team sports, even though it’s a situation over which we have far less control: if the relief pitcher gives up extra-base hits on elevated pitches, then you can seemingly-reasonably conclude that if that relief pitcher would just stop elevating his pitches, then he’s be a lot more effective.  See, there’s hope for the bullpen after all!  Just stop doing that bad thing, and it naturally follows that the results will improve! 

Well, of course, we tend to fall prey to a lot of the “post hoc propter hoc” problems we’ve discussed in the past.  My wife used to call this “correlation implies causation,” which of course, it does not.  This did not prevent her psychology studies from making some very bad conclusions, not unlike the pigeons that perform superstitious behavior because they once got a pellet when they flapped their right wings three times in rapid succession.  Come to think, this explains some of the more distracting behavior in some of my wife’s final exams. 

Anyway, people like to see patterns whether there really is one or not.  As I said, at least part of this is because if there is a pattern, they can accurately predict what will happen if nothing changes, or change what will happen if they alter the pattern.  It gives us a feeling of control we don’t always experience in our everyday lives. 

Consider then, Acta’s quote, which came after the third game of a three-game set in which the Indians hit a robust 1-for-21 with runners in scoring position.  This is obviously quote terrible, and a major factor in why the team scored a total of 8 runs, three of which scored on home runs by Replacements.  (Not the band: they were notoriously poor hitters because they used Performance Destroying Drugs.)  It would certainly be encouraging if, simply by taking a better approach in hitters’ counts, the Indians would then hit better in such situations and, by extension, score more runs. 

Don’t hold your breath. 

1st: runner on 2B, Choo bloops a single on a 1-2 count 
st: runners at 1st and 3rd
: Santana sac fly first pitch 

Of these, I suppose that Santana’s first-pitch swing may not have been the best approach, but he hit the ball well.  Choo took the first pitch and watched the third: can’t say I hate that approach. 

2nd: runners on 1st and 2nd: Crowe takes a strike, fouls one off, grounds to first 
nd: runners at 2nd and 3rd: Marte takes a ball, hammers a pitch into the hole that Bartlett makes a great play on 

I’m not sure what else Crowe was supposed to do there: he never had a hitter’s count.  Marte hit the ball hard, albeit on the ground. 

3rd: runner at 2B, Laporta Ks swinging 

Well, by all means, don’t miss the ball.  But the count was already 1-2 (Santana advanced on a wild pitch), and on Sunday, Wade Davis was better than Matt LaPorta (struck him out twice). 

4th: runner at 2B, Nix HBP 
th: 1st and 2nd
, Crowe takes a ball, sac bunt 
: Marte foul, ball, ball, strike looking, strike swinging 
th: Brantley ball, ball, fly out to left 

Okay, Nix didn’t so much have an “approach” as a “proximity.”  Crowe’s approach appears to have been dictated by the bench itself.  Marte probably shouldn’t swing at the first pitch, but at 2-1, he didn’t like the pitch, so he took it: that’s the right approach, isn’t it?  And then he missed, which is, of course, not so much an “approach” as a “bollix.”  Brantley’s approach should be to try and walk because he cannot hit, so his approach at 2-0 was indeed terrible. 

7th: 1st and 2nd, Choo grounds out 0-2 
th: 2nd and 3rd, Santana takes one, misses one, fouls one, drives a smash into the “hole” and Brignac makes a great play 

Should Choo have swung at the first pitch?  Uncertain.  He is one of our two best hitters, though, and got a single and a double in the game using a similar approach.  Santana’s approach looks fantastic. 

8th: 1st and 2nd, take two balls, WP to 2nd and 3rd, Duncan flies out to right 

Okay, swinging 2-0 with guys on 2nd and 3rd, you REALLY better be CERTAIN you can hammer that ball.  That’s probably a bad approach. 

9th: man on 2nd, Santana flies out deep on first pitch 

Again, swinging at the first pitch, maybe not so advised.  But Santana can hit, and DID drive the ball, just not well ENOUGH.  Also, falling behind Soriano is not recommended. 

Of these, the only two that I can really call “a bad approach in a hitter’s count” were Brantley and Duncan.  And yes, sure enough, those approaches were truly bad, swinging at 2-0 pitches with runners on second and third and two outs, such that even a single is potentially two runs (more likely since two outs means the runner on second is running on contact). 

But the vast majority of the time, the Indians did not score because the Rays proactively did something to prevent it.  In two cases, Davis struck out the hitter, and in two other cases, the Rays’ middle infield made extraordinary plays.  Bartlett’s in particular involved a diving stop AND the heads-up play to take the short throw to third, where there wasn’t a force on.  (Brignac’s was more a play of positioning, something I credit the Tampa coaching staff for more that Brignac, but Brignac’s diving stop and throw was also uncommonly good.) 

Acta may have been remembering the most recent two instances, where Duncan’s approach was bad and Santana’s was questionable.  But overall, this isn’t really something that can be solved by changing the APPROACH as much as it is solvable by changing the fact that Andy Marte, Mike Brantley, Trevor Crowe, and Shelley Duncan are taking game-defining ABs. 

2) This having been said 

Hitting 1-for-21 with runners in scoring position is really shitty. 

3) Dominance 

For his rain-abbreviated five-inning stint, Fausto Carmona looked about as dominating as he ever has.  It wasn’t so much that he had pinpoint control: he didn’t throw a first-pitch strike until the fifth batter and didn’t really lock in until the third inning, after which he’d given up a Horror Run (error, steal, error, groundout).  On the night, though, Carmona allowed one hit (an infield single), one walk (in the 4th), and one run, all while striking out 7 guys, 5 of them swinging.  He was reasonably efficient as well, needing only 72 pitches for the 5 innings. 

(His walk looked like of like the kind in which he fell behind, then didn’t want to give Carlos Pena something good to hit at that point, choosing to let him go and attack the next hitter.) 

I’m not sure how sustainable the 7 Ks in 5 IP is, but the results could hardly have been better. 

4) Partial Dominance 

For the first four innings of his outing, Mitch Talbot could have argued that he was more dominating than Fausto Carmona. 

Talbot didn’t allow his first baserunner until the 3rd (single) or his first walk until the 4th.  He struck out six batters in a row across the 1st through 3rd innings, the first five swinging.  None of the hitters saw ball three until Kelly Shoppach singled in the 3rd.  He started four of the first six hitters with 0-2 counts, and the other two were behind 1-2. 

After getting two quick outs in the 5th, though, Talbot gave up another single to Shoppach and one to Bartlett as well.  He then threw an execrable pitch to Bip Zobrist, and the game was functionally over, as it was only a matter of time before Tampa would score another run and Cleveland would do Very Little Indeed. 

Sure, Talbot ended up giving up two bombs and two doubles over his last inning of work, and the end result is kinda ugly (5 R in 5 2/3 IP on 7 H, 4 XBH), but for a while, Talbot looked like a guy who could give you one helluva outing.  He finished with 8 Ks against 1 BB, and while I think that is no more sustainable than Carmona’s final tally, it does suggest at least that Talbot is not melting down the back stretch. 

5) Lack of Dominance 

Justin Masterson blah blah blah. 

Masterson ground ball blah blah blah (12:3). 

Masterson K stuff return blah blah (5:2). 

Masterson inconceivable homer on execrable pitch blah blah (Brignac). 

Blahdiddy blah, blah blah blah blahdy blah. 

6) Also blah 

Blandy Blarte 8th blahdy error blah. 

7) Welcome back! 

After the first long rain delay, it was clear that Fausto was not coming back, and the Indians were still only leading 3-1.  Thankfully, the guy in the Tony Sipp Suit pitched like the early season guy and not the mid-season guy.  In two scoreless innings, Sipp didn’t allow a single hit, although he did walk a batter.  Sipp struck out 3 batters and threw 21 of 35 pitches for strikes, which is kind of an “airing out” for Sipp. 

Fortunately, he threw exactly ZERO pitches in his next outing, which lasted 1/3 IP.  This is because he pitched off Evan Longoria with two outs.  Huzzah! 

8) Inexplicable 

Against the 8-3 pitcher with the 2.95 ERA, Asdrubal Cabrera went 3-for-4, while Trevor Crowe with 2-for-3 including a homer off the reliver with the 3.16 ERA. 

In the other two games, Cabrera went 1-for-9.  Crowe went 1-for-6 with a walk. 

Travis Hafner credits a new approach for going 4-for-4 (including his 17th double of the season) on Sunday, the only hitter other than Choo to get more than one hit.  What is inexplicable here is not so much the 4-for-4, but why I am writing about a “successful new approach” on July 26th instead of, say, 2008. 

Jess Todd threw 12 strikes in 18 pitches in a scoreless inning of work.  Did not think that possible. 

9) Ho Hum Dept. 

Shin-Soo Choo got a hit in each game, going an aggreagate 5-for-11 with a walk. 

Jhonny Peralta did not.

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