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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 8/13 - 8/15
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

The Indians continue to limp through August by losing their third consecutive series 2-1, and the B-List considers the return of Mitch Talbot, the continuing, festering presence of Hector Ambriz, the power at the top of the lineup, some very bad defense from each bad team (that is, both), an excellent job of closing the barn door after the horse has hopped a jet to Majorca by Frank Herrmann, the amusing blunderbussery of Justin Masterson, smashing “smashing” by Pronk, and glovework by … Matt LaPorta?   

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Mariners (45-71) 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 10 0
Indians (48-68) 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 8 1

W: Pauley (1-4)  L: Carmona (11-10) S: Aardsma (23) 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Mariners (46-71) 1 0 0 1 5 2 0 0 0 9 13 0
Indians (48-69) 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 3 6 2

W: Vargas (9-5)  L: Talbot (8-10) 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Mariners (46-72) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 3 1
Indians (49-69) 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 2 X 9 11 0

Hafner1W: Sipp (2-2)  L: F. Hernandez (8-10) 

So, the Little League World Series is going on, and word is, all players were forbidden from watching this series. 

1) The best worst game, or the worst best game? 

So, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that walking 6 guys in 6 innings while throwing fewer than half of your pitches for strikes is just flat-out excremental.  Unless you are learning to throw a knuckleball or it’s Bobby Witt Appreciation Day, there’s just no way to spin that into anything resembling a worthwhile exercise. 

Unless, of course, you give up 0 runs on 1 hit in those 6 innings. 

There are a couple of conclusions to draw from this performance by Justin Masterson: 

a) he throws pitches that have an exceptional amount of movement 
b) he is not very good at controlling or predicting the movement of his pitches 
c) Seattle hits .236/.302/.338 as a team and had one guy in the lineup hitting over .251 

I would take more notice of Masterson’s unusual 7:7 GO:FO ratio (he is normally a much more severe groundball pitcher), but I don’t think that anything that happened Sunday was, strictly speaking, actually intentional on Masterson’s part. 

Note: the one player to get a hit bats .215/.282/.347.  In one sense, this is encouraging, because it means that Masterson was attacking a guy who cannot hit, and the guy just caught one.  In another sense, this is discouraging, because the guy cannot hit. 

Anyway, it’s kind of poetic justice that Masterson did not get the win Sunday, because posting a 3:6 K:BB ratio and a 49:51 strike:ball ratio should not be rewarded in a cosmic karmic sense. 

2) Balloon-like sharpness 

Mitch Talbot returned to the starting rotation after a brief DL stint and immediately set the tone for his outing by starting each of the first five hitters and 8 of the first 9 with either a ball or a single. 

To expect Talbot to suddenly become sharp after a forced rest was probably misguided.  After all, Talbot has consistently hovered in the 1:1 K:BB range, one of the reasons that pundits have been slow to embrace him as more than a rotation-filler.  As the season has worn on, Talbot appears to be losing steam on his fast start: 

April: 3.76 BB/9, 2.05 ERA 
May: 2.90 BB/9, 4.91 ERA 
June: 3.82 BB/9, 4.11 ERA 
July: 5.32 BB/9, 4.94 ERA 

The June blip in ERA is mostly explained by the fact that Talbot managed to hold opponents without a homer, which, all things considered, is probably more fluky than anything else.  While Talbot has a very acceptible 4.25 ERA on the season, except for April’s somewhat gorky start, he’s been a thoroughly average mid-to-high-fours kind of guy. 

The fact that he started two of the first three hitters with 2-0 counts suggests one of several things, none of them particularly encouraging: 

a) he’s nibbling 
b) he’s rusty from the DL stint 
c) he’s running out of gas in his first full major-league season 

Of course, it’s just a couple hitters, too.  I mean, this can be over-analyzed. 

But watching the replay, it looked like the Seattle hitters were sitting on his changeup rather than his fastball.  While this is a nice external validation for the quality of his change, it also suggests that hitters can sit on his change without really being overpowered by the rest of his arsenal.  Talbot did strike out two hitters, but only got 6 swings and misses out of 90 pitches over four-plus (the Plus stands for Extra Fail!) innings.  Actually, through 3 2/3 IP, Talbot had a nice-enough game, with 4 singles and a walk adding up to only one run.  The wheels started loosening after that with a double, single, and a pair of walks to finish the 4th, and Russ Branyan led off the 5th with a 400+ foot homer that was probably indicative of Talbot’s ability to finish off hitters. 

As long as Talbot doesn’t hurt himself again, there’s not much reason not to give him regular starts through the end of the season, but there’s no compelling reason to push him, either.  It’d be nice to get up to 175-180 innings or so, just to have a jumping-off point for 200 in 2011 (modulo actual effectiveness).  I think it’d take a serious leap to be truly excited by the prospect of Talbot anchoring the 2011 rotation, though. 

3) Hey, we had one of those! 

As a result of a pair of errors (one of which was kind of harsh judgement, but not egregiously so) by Andy Marte, the Mariners loaded the bases and Talbot got the wazoo, and in came Hector Ambriz to face Josh Bard.  There was a time when giving up Josh Bard in the “Andy Marte Trade” (which turned out to be the “Kelly Shoppach Trade”) seemed like a horrible miscalculation, especially insofar as Kelly Shoppach didn’t actually turn out to be any good.  Fortunately for Tribe fans, neither did Josh Bard.  Unfortunately for Tribe fans, neither to Andy Marte.  In retrospect, the Indians traded a burlap sack of wet suet for a straw basket of sheep intestines, inedible contents in an inadequate package, but in any event, Josh Bard used to be an Indian, as did Russ Branyan, Frank Gutierrez, and Jamey Wright.  The four men are known, respectively, for their inability to catch a knuckleball, striking out in the manner of a professional terpsichorean, running around in center field, and SETI-capable ears. 

Hector Ambriz was summoned from the pen, and with any luck, I will be including him in this type of passage within a year, because I am officially tired of Hector Ambriz giving up home runs, especially to men who have no business hitting them.  By giving up home runs to Josh Bard (12 career home runs in 841 AB) and Casey Kotchman (I may have mentioned that he was hitting .215/.282/.347, but in case I haven’t, Casey Kotchman is hitting .215/.282/.347), Ambriz has now allowed 9 homers in 39 1/3 IP, which is a rate of 9 homers per 39 1/3 IP, which is simply dreadful.  I am so tired of Hector Ambriz, I display symptoms of narcolepsy in his presence.  And projectile vomiting.  Projectile narcolepsy, in which I leap off my couch to punch the “off” button so I do not see Hector Ambriz give up another home run, while further protecting myself by falling asleep before the leap so that if I miss, I still don’t see it. 

Here is the good news: next season, Hector Ambriz will no longer be a Rule 5 pick and can be sent down to the minors.  Better still, we could expose him to the Rule 5 draft and make someone ELSE pursue this nonsensical strategy of so much self-foot-shooting. 

I was going to go into a long diatribe about how I didn’t understand why they brought in a righty to face Bard, who for some reason I remember as a left-handed hitter, but actually he’s a switch-hitter.  Although his splits slightly favor him against righties this season, from 2007-9, he was SIGNIFICANTLY better against lefties (.765 OPS to .658), so … yeah, I’m less attentive than Manny Acta.  Bard hit a grand slam and the game was effectively over, although Ambriz did manage to give up a two-run shot in the next inning, so he wasn’t just a one-pitch lack-of-wonder. 

Anyway, I don’t like watching Hector Ambriz. 

4) Hey, we still have one of those! 

And then there’s Andy Marte, who plays the same role on the 2011 Cleveland Indians as Patton Oswalt: fat guy with no roster spot. 

You know what was great?  You remember when Marte got picked off by Bard in the middle of a potential rally, getting caught off first?  That wasn’t it. 

5) Nice hose! 

Not only the the Indians throw out TWO Seattle baserunners at home Friday night (Choo straight to home, Crowe to Cabrera to home), but Choo also doubled off Russ Branyan at first on a fly ball to right on Sunday.  Admittedly, Russ Branyan is not the most attentive baserunner and may actually have been eating a chili cheese dog at the time.  But Choo has a fine arm, and Crowe’s has been displayed a couple times recently, too. 

Chris Gimenez also caught a basestealer, but it was 1 of 3, so the hosiness is mitigated somewhat. 

6) A short mention of Fausto 

Fausto Carmona gave up 3 runs in 6 innings, although the AP report seemed to focus more on the 9 hits allowed.  In fact, writeup scared me when it pointed out that Carmona has given up 37 hits in his last 23 IP: how could I have missed that?  Because I had manged to force the 10-hit outing on July 28 out of my mind, where he lasted only 2 2/3 innings.  The outing before that he’d give up one hit in 5 innings, so it’s one of those arbitrary-endpoint stats that sounds meaningful until you realize it’s not. 

Yes, Carmona has allowed more hits than innings over each of his past 4 starts, but he’s a groundball guy.  Sometimes the ball will sneak through.  He did give up a trio of doubles and wasn’t hit sharpest.  On the other hand, he’s walked at most ONE hitter in each of his past FIVE outings.  That would go a long way toward making Carmona a more sustainable rotation stalwart.  Over those 28 innings, he’s walked 4 guys and struck out 20: I would absolutely take that for a seasonal rate. 

Because one of the runs was unearned, Carmona’s ERA went down slightly and has stayed under 4.00 since his May 5th start pushed it from 4.05 to 3.86.  It’s been a nice season for him. 

7) Pronk smash! 

I will say this: Travis Hafner is not a wuss. 

Instead of taking some cuts in the minors before coming off the DL, Hafner chose to come straight into the meatgrinder that is Felix Hernandez, a guy having a Cy Young caliber season with a 2.62 ERA.  (I’m not saying he should win, but I’m saying you should look at his season.)  And through three plate appearances, this looked about as you’d expect, with Hafner getting punched out twice and making another out to start 0-for-3. 

In his 4th plate appearance, Hernandez had walked Shin-Soo Choo to pitch to Hafner with the bases loaded.  Whether he actually took this personnaly or not is immaterial: the fact is, Hafner destroyed a 2-1 pitch almost 440 feet to center to turn a 2-0 nailbiter into a 6-0 laugher. 

(Yes, it is possible that Chone Figgins’ “error” did not actually pull Kotchman off the bag and the inning should have been over, but 440 feet is 440 feet.) 

8) Sotto voce 

With two home runs this weekend, Jayson Nix now has 10 home runs on the season, the same number as Travis Hafner.  Both players are slugging .438 on the season. 

9) Top of the order in more ways than one 

Mike Brantley finished off the weekend with a 2-for-4 performance that included his 3rd homer on the season, 2 R, and 3 RBI.  He collected 3 hits on the weekend and scored … 3 runs. 

Shin-Soo Choo showed the effects of being hit on the hand last week by getting only one hit in each of two games and two hits in the other.  Looks like he was right, not me. 

Asdrubal Cabrera got 2 hits in each game.  He is working on a modest 6-game hitting streak and is hitting .314/.400/.431 in August. 

10) Tales from Bizarro World 

All-bat no-glove first baseman Matt LaPorta accomplished nothing whatsoever with his bat, going 0-for-3 twice (albeit drawing a walk in each game). 

However, with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth, LaPorta made a diving catch of a line shot down the line which may have resulted in three runs (almost certainly at least two), then made a nifty play in fielding a bunt from Chone Figgins and tagging out the runner, looking downright nimble in the process. 

Meanwhile, Lou Marson went 3-for-4, including a double off Hernandez.

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