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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 8/19
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

It was an extraordinary game: our third baseman made two errors, so he was replaced for defensive purposes after we took the lead … and his replacement made an error.  The Royals had two men thrown out at third in the same inning, including a stolen base attempt with two outs.  The Indians’ starting pitcher gave up 8 hits, 4 walks, and three men to reach via error in under 5 innings and gave up 3 runs.  Circle August 27th on the calendar!


FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Indians (50-71) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 2 7 13 5
Royals (51-70) 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 3 10 0

talbotW: R. Perez (4-0) L: B. Wood (1-3) S: C. Perez (15)

Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die. 
-- Mel Brooks

In the same vein, Wednesday was tragic, but last night was hilarious.

1) Psychology 125

After seven innings last night, I was truly dreading having to write this column.  (As it is, I have commitments that will prevent it from being full-length.)  The game was so badly-played, so desultory, so continuing the theme that I couldn’t stand to think about it.  I’d already used up quite a lot of Helpless Outrage on the last two columns: dredging up even more seemed like something to avoid with all due diligence.

And scarcely one inning later, I actually felt buoyed: I mean, I know it’s a .413 team beating a .421 team and we’re not going anywhere and badly-played remains badly-played independent of the ultimate result, but by golly, winning that game really did have an emotional impact.  I’m not going to claim this turns our season around or anything, but I am going to say that had we simply phoned in a 3-0 loss or, more true to form, came back and failed in a 3-2 loss with Joakim Soria striking out yet another guy with the tying run in scoring position, well … let’s just say I might have cashed in a sick day.


So why is that?  How can a meaningless win in a meaningless season turn dread into amusement?  It may be something endemic to bloggers and columnists who feel (or are paid to be) obligated to crank out Yet Another Description of Troglodytic Fail, but I suspect that this is only a matter of degree.  Otherwise, it would be impossible to explain Browns Fans.

Anyway, please send flowers to the Kansas City Royals, who fell into an open sewer last night and died.  Which was hysterical!

2) The Future of Third Base

… is not Jayson Nix.

I appreciate Nix’ willingness to take one for the team: when we first claimed Nix off waivers, I opined that this move was more because Nix had played some third in Chicago and that he was Jhonny Peralta Insurance more than Another Second Baseman.  Of course, later I opined that Nix seemed a lot more comfortable at second, both offensively and defensively, and that forcing the square Nix into the round third base hole might not be the best idea for either the hole or the Nix.

After going 4-for- 14 at the end of June after being claimed, Nix played regularly in July and responded with a rather weird .242/.296/.473 line powered by an uncharacteristic 6 homers.  That player’s kind of an asset, sure, although a sub-.300 OBP remains a sub-.300 OBP regardless of how Russ Branyan you are.

A funny thing happened since I wrote him off as a schmoe, though: he’s been hitting really well.

His two hits last night were the third multi-hit game in his last five, a modest hit streak that raised his August splits to .349/.396/.581.  This is clearly small-sample nonsense, as Nix is not a .349 hitter, nor really a .581 slugger.  He’s got more power than I thought (3 more homers in 11 full games and a couple PH appearances in August), and as a bat, he’s arguably a more legit than Jhonny Peralta was.  (It should be noted that Peralta has 5 homers, including a pair of 2-homer games, for Detroit … but an OPS under .600 for them.  Still awful.)

But the defense.  Oy vey, the defense.

Nix made two more errors last night to raise his season total to 10.  All ten of his errors have been made as a third baseman (5 each for Cleveland and Chicago).  His fielding percentage (not the best measure of defense, I understand, but still useful at the margins) is .839.  I mean, this is Corey Smiff Level Skilleting here.  Wes Hodges could give him tips.  This isn’t to say that Nix is a hopeless third baseman who will never field well: he hasn’t been doing it very long, and the reactions at third are a lot different from those at 2B (where he’s played the majority of his career).  He’s 27 and this is effectively his second major-league season (his Cuppa Cawfee with Colorado in 2008 lasted 20 games).

I understand the appeal of his bat potential.  He plays hard and has skills.  But .839 is .839.  I could actually see Jayson Nix as a poor man’s Casey Blake, late-blooming at multiple positions, playing four corners plus second base (I don’t know if he has the arm for RF, actually, but you’re not talking about a 100-game-in-right player here).  But I would not feel confident going into 2011 with the announcement that Jayson Nix is the starting third baseman.  (Neither would Fausto Carmona or Justin Masterson.)

3) The Future of Third Base

... is not Andy Marte.

It’s probably impossible for me to be truly objective about Marte any more.  I hate watching him play.  He seems to have at least one cringeworthy moment in the field per game, either at third or first.  Not all cringes result in an out being avoided, but he’s not smooth, he’s not fluid, he’s not agile, and he’s not interesting.  In parts of 5 seasons for the Indians (topping out at 235 AB in 80 games in 2008), Marte has topped .700 OPS once, in his first (2006) season with the Tribe, powered by a .421 SLG that remains a career high.  He is hitting .223/.302/.375 this season … as opposed to .232/.293/.400 the season before … as opposed to .221/.268/.315 in the season before that.  This seems like his Trute Talent Level.  This is Andy Marte at this point.  Would regular playing time help?  It probably would.  Would I be willing to give it to him?  I certainly would not.

Marte drew a walk last night and eventually scored.  That’s admirable, coming into a game late and ice cold and having the discipline to get on base there.  Too bad this would be the first season he has topped as much as .300 OBP.  He also made an error almost instantly upon stepping on the field to replace Nix.  That’s not admirable, but nor is it surprising.  Marte has 11 errors this season, 9 of which have come at third.  His fielding percentage of .850 would certainly be a career low (he has shown himself to be a pretty good defensive third baseman in the past), but it certainly is lousy now.  Worse, he just seems enervated by his situation, playing sporadically for a bad team behind subpar players.  I think Andy Marte needs a change of scenery to bloom, if he ever will.

Failing this, he needs a change of scenery so I don’t have to write about him any more.

4) The Future of Third Base

… is not Luis Valbuena.

When Mike Brantley Brantleyed his ankle in the late innings, Trevor Crowe slid over from LF to CF to take his place.  Sadly, there was no remaining LF to take Crowe’s place, so …

… wait, no, there totally was.  Matt LaPorta was standing on first base, and had certainly not done anything over the course of the game to prove that he was a net asset over there.  He had made a ridiculous throw home to not force out anyone at all, and with a man of first, he fielded a grounder and stepped on the bag.  The man “running” from first made it to second without a throw.  He was Billy Butler, who could not score from second on either of TWO singles hit with him there.  Billy Butler is not fast.  In fact, Billy Butler is not even “slow.”  Billy Butler is a sea cucumber with legs.  But sadly, there was no remaining 1B to take LaPorta’s place if he moved to LF, so …

… wait, no, there totally was.  Andy Marte was “playing” third, and he’d already made an error there, so it’s not like keeping him there was going to accomplish great confidence for Chris Perez.  You could shift him across the diamond.  But then who would play third?

Maybe Luis Valbuena?  Well, sure, he was brought into the game as a defensive replacement.

In left field.

Where he’d never played before.

So yeah, I’m thinking that the confidence in Luis as a 3B is not really high.

Also, he can’t hit, but that wasn’t really germane last night.

5) Mitch Mitch Mitchy Mitch Mitch Mitch


No, really, 8 hits, 4 walks, and a horrible fielding play are just bad.  If it weren’t for the comical baserunning, two bases-loaded squanderings, and a line drive 1-6 double play with men on first and second, Talbot’s outing could easily have been one of the ugliest things in recent memory.

I am struggling to remember Mitch Talbot’s last Actually Good Game.  Looks like July 17th against Detroit … and even that one lasted only 5 innings.  The last REALLY good game was June 27th (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, very good) at Cincinnati.  He might not be out of gas, but the smoke seems to be dissipating and the mirrors are smeared with something opaque.

6) Terror on the basepaths!

The Royals managed to run into several outs on the bases last night, with Trevor Crowe throwing out Wilson Betemit trying to go from first to third on a single to LEFT, Alex Gordon getting caught stealing third with TWO OUTS, and Chris Getz getting doubled off second on the liner to Talbot.

The Indians were much better, only having a man thrown out at home trying to score from second on a single, a guy (the SAME guy, in fact) get thrown out stealing second by Jason Kendall, who is technically mummified at this point in his career, and had a man thrown out at third trying to advance on a ground ball to the … PITCHER.

Did I say “much better?”  By this, of course, I meant “exactly the same.”

7) Specific terror

Special mention goes to Billy Butler, who reached base in all five of his trips to the plate with a walk, an HBP, reaching on an error by Nix, a single, and a double.

He scored one run.  He was stranded on third base TWICE, after getting to third from second on singles both times, and stranded on second once.

His single was an infield single.  This boggles my mind.  Heck, this boggles my everything.

8) A bright spot in the void

Tony Sipp, Justin Germano, Raffy Perez, and Chris Perez combined to throw 4 1/3 innings of scoreless ball: they gave up two hits and no walks (although Germano did hit Butler on a two-strike pitch) while striking out three.  Sipp stranded three of Talbot’s baserunners by striking out Mitch Maier with the bases loaded.  Chris Perez threw 15 strikes in 22 pitches and retired three straight hitters with Butler on second, two via strikeout.  He also stranded two of Raffy’s baserunners (after a two-out error/single combo).

9) Even better than it looked

The box score will tell you that Asdrubal Cabrera drove in two runs in a 2-for-4 night, including a double in the 9th.

What it misses is that the “sacrifice fly” he hit was a diving catch away from being a bases-clearing three-run double.  Drooby Doo is locked in at the plate in recent weeks.

10) Winning the war of attrition

Other columnists have commented on it more thoroughly, but I will mention for completeness the 13-pitch 9-foul at-bat by Matt LaPorta that finally sucked the life out of a pretty dominant Kyle Davies and opened the floodgates for the 5-run 8th by the Indians.  Well done.

Also, Blake Wood isn’t very good.

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