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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 8/10
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

Justin Masterson’s excellent first three innings turned into a Team Effort Four Innings of Crap™, and the Indians allow Buck Showalter’s genius to ooze from every pore of the mainstream media.  Meanwhile, except for a couple of well-struck hits by Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley (yes, Michael Brantley!), the Indians’ highlights were limited to a redonkulous play by Asdrubal Cabrera.  Today’s B-List highlights the Homer Pen, Small Sample Successes, and poses the musical question, “Are we there yet?”  (No, we’re not.)

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Orioles (39-74) 0 0 0 4 3 1 0 6 0 14 13 3
Indians (47-66) 0 0 1 5 0 0 0 0 2 8 9 1

ascab1W: Arrieta (4-3)  L: Masterson (4-11) 

And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down, 
In rushing, rising riv’lets 
‘Til the bullpen came and pitched and pitched 
Like ever so much bullshit 
-- “Winnie the Pooh and the Shameful Bullpen”

1) Familiar territory 

Remember what I said about David Huff? 

Justin Masterson: 

vs. RHB: .267/.339/.348, 61:22 K:BB in 277 PA 
vs. LHB: .313/.394/.469, 42:38 K:BB in 338 PA 

Innings 1-3 OPS: .779, .663, .720 
Innings 4-6 OPS: .920, .826, .790 

1st PA: .281/.337/.375, 41:13 K:BB 
2nd PA: .304/.383/.431, 32:22 K:BB 

Pitch 1-25: .295/.340/.386 
Pitch 26-50: .246/.324/.362 
Pitch 51-75: .328/.409/.455 
Pitch 76-100: .288/.396/.441 

Last night, Masterson gave up one single in the first three innings, collecting 6 ground ball outs and a K.  In the next two innings, he gave up 7 runs (4 earned) on 5 hits and 3 walks, including a 3-run homer to a man named after a dessert who was deemed too unskilled to play for the CUBS. 

Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk believes Masterson should go back to relieving.  It’s hard to disagree.  I don’t necessarily think that this season has been a waste or a bad plan or a poor risk or a crummy idea.  If the team was going to be any good, Masterson was going to have to be a part of that: after the team was empirically proven to be not very good, there wasn’t really any downside to chucking him out there to learn developmental skills.  Well, except losing eleven ball games, I guess.  If you consider that a downside, then yeah, there was a downside.  On the other hand, it’d be hard to argue that Masterson starting was getting in the way of any other development unless you try to claim you saw the Gomez/Tomlin thing working the way it has.  Plus he gives the team lots and lots of infield practice, something we can generally use. 

Look, I don’t think the exercise was doomed to fail from the start.  It wasn’t guaranteed to work or to not work.  It was a chance, objectively something with less than 50% chance of working well, but a significant chance nonetheless.  It was worth doing. 

Emphasis: was

Again, I understand the concept of sample size and that one season does not a pitcher define.  Did Cliff Lee’s 2007 define his ceiling?  Did his 2004?  Is it written in stone that a pitcher has to show great improvement in his first full season or he will never be any good?  Of course not.  It would be roughly the same gamble in 2011 as it was in 2010 to plunk Masterson back into the starting rotation: probably still less than 50% chance of working, probably still a significant number (more than 15%). 

But I am telling you from the perspective of a fan, trying to take the pulse of the Zeitgeist, I am telling you: Justin Masterson looks like a relief pitcher to me. 

2) Wacky suggestion you can only do with electrons instead of people 

I once suggested using Jeremy Sowers as a “tandem starter,” because he was actually a net asset his first pass through the order.  He needed that pre-game warmup time to get to that stage, so he wasn’t a particularly good reliever, but as a starter, for a time there, he could get once through an order with better-than-average results. 

Now, as far as I’m concerned, Jeremy Sowers has turned into a newt or joined the French Foreign Legion or both.  I don’t hear anything abot Sowers, and I certainly don’t see him in Cleveland, whereas I’ve seen Laffey and Huff and Tomlin and Gomez.  It looks like the ship has sailed with a tiny green Legionnaire, doing pushups on the stern in lieu of trying to wave, with thicker-than-normal eyebrows aboard. 

But how about this rotation: 

Masterson 3/Huff 3 

Three innings should allow each pitcher to relieve on at least one of the days he doesn’t start.  Replace Tomlin and/or Gomez with Carrasco or White or whomever you see fit. 

Anyway, it won’t happen.  It oughta be mentioned, though. 

3) I like this guy better 

Sure, in most respects, Michael Brantley’s two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth was nothing more than last-minute window-dressing on a discouraging loss.  However, the ball was no cheap shot down the line: it was listed at 403 feet, which is a significant blast.  It was Brantley’s second hit of the game, marked the third time he got on base in five trips, and he scored three runs to boot.  In fact, Brantley has scored 6 runs in 4 games since being returned to the leadoff slot on August 6th

Yes, yes, four games is nothing and blah, blah, blah, and it’s a toxic combination of Confirmation Bias and Wishful Thinking to believe that Brantley being given the leadoff slot context-free (“It’s yours no matter what, relax and enjoy”) is the primary cause of this nice stretch.  But Brantley is hitting .313/.389/.625 since being recalled, and while he’s obviously not going to slug six hundred in the majors, whipping up a .350+ OBP seems well within the range of possibility and would qualify him as a net asset at leadoff, as long as his defense isn’t atrocious (which, by all observations and reports, it is not). 

The problem with the “Just give him playing time,” of course, is that he played lots and lots and lots in July and sucked rocks, hitting .157/.231/.214 in nearly 80 PA.  It stretches credulity to think that his ten-day stint in Columbus made all the difference in the world.  I will say this, though: I was prepared for the July Guy, and I like the August Guy a whole lot more.  Shoot, he went 2-for-2 with runners in scoring position.  And he plays for the Cleveland Indians!  Astonishing. 

4) Getting untracked 

Jordan Brown increased his number of extra-base hits by 100% last night with a pair of doubles off Jake Arrieta and Mark Hendrickson. 

Sure, I’m concerned that Brown has drawn 1 walk in 26 plate appearances, but it’s good to see him hitting. 

5) Frank Herrmann, white courtesy phone 

In his last five appearances, Frank Herrmann has zero scoreless outings.  He has either walked or given up a home run in each of the outings, including a 2-batter outing and a 4-batter outing.  I would say he’s out of gas, but the man’s pitched 26 innings since June 4th.  That’s not an onerous workload for a reliever. 

Anyway, as his ERA jumps from 2.57 to 5.19, let us remember fondly the Tom Mastny that Frank Herrmann once was.  If we time it right, we can send him down, call up Jensen Lewis, then send Lewis down again when Mitch Talbot is ready. 

(By the way: over those 5 lousy outings in a row, spanning 5 innings?  One strikeout.  One.) 

6) Rule 5 is dumb 

... because it results in carrying Hector Ambriz in the majors all f*#&ing season. 

7) Did I mention the homers? 

When Ambriz gave up the three-run shot to Luke Scott, he became the fourth Indians pitcher to allow a Baltimore hitting to smack one over the fence. 

This includes Tony Sipp, who gave up a homer to Corey Patterson, who is an Old Skool Schmoe who hits .197/.230/.239 off left-handed pitching. 

My hat is old 
My teeth are gold 
And now my story  
Makes my spleen explold.

8) Managerial Head-Scratchers 

Luke Scott hits .264/.295/.514 off left-handers. 
Luke Scott hits .302/.372/.600 off right-handers. 
Hector Ambriz is right-handed. 
Raffy Perez is left-handed. 
Hector Ambriz was summoned to face Luke Scott. 

From there to here 
From here to there 
My spleen has exploded 

9) Good for you 

Jason Donald had two hits.  Woo hoo!

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