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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 8/25 - 8/26
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

Contrary to popular misconception, it was not the Indians that felled Steve Buffum, but rather an illness passed on from his daughter that prevented a column from being posted yesterday.  In today’s B-Lists, Buff touches on the bad luck of Mitch Talbot, the good luck of Mitch Talbot, and the thrill of the huge three-run outburst that counts as an Offensive Explosion from this team, including irreplaceable contributions from guys with .261, .284, .303, and .309 OBPs respectively.  Also, Chris Perez. 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Athletics (63-62) 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 6 8 1
Indians (50-76) 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 8 0

W: Cahill (14-5)  L: Talbot (8-11) 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Athletics (63-63) 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 6 0
Indians (51-76) 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 X 3 7 0

perez1W: Masterson (5-12) L: Mazzaro (6-6) 

Insert cheap joke about Puppypalooza here.. 

1) Perspective Filtering 

It is hard to win a game in which you give up 5 runs in the top of the first inning, especially given that your offense had not scored five runs in the previous four games combined.  Five runs is largely a death sentence for this offense against this pitcher in this year. 

This having been said, consider the nature of the five runs Mitch Talbot gave up against the A’s: 

He walked a guy after getting ahead 1-2 (two two-strike pitches fouled off) 
He hit a guy with an 0-2 pitch that didn’t hit the batter 
He gave up a single to a pure lefty slugger who is better than Travis Hafner on a 1-2 pitch (fouled off one two-strike pitch) 
He walked a guy on a 3-2 pitch 
He gave up the weakest bloop single imaginable 

And then he gave up a bases-clearing double, which isn’t bad luck, but simply bad. 

But still, it’s not like Talbot was getting clubbed to death or not throwing strikes or anything: you certainly shouldn’t walk a couple guys and Talbot needs something better to throw with two strikes to finish guys off.  But this is five runs on two well-hit balls, one of which was a single.  This is kind of unfortunate stuff. 

In his next five innings, Talbot gave up one run on 3 hits and a walk.  On the other hand, consider the nature of the outs Talbot allowed: 

With two on in the second, he got two lineouts and a fly ball to center. 
In the third, he gave up another liner and a fly to Kouzmanoff. 
He got another lineout in the fourth, and another in the fifth. 
All three outs in the sixth were fly balls to the outfield. 

In all, Talbot got 2 groundouts and FOURTEEN outs in the air.  He just doesn’t have the stuff to be able to get away with that game-in and game-out.  With the liners, this is kind of fortunate stuff. 

I give Mitch credit for going back out there and continuing to throw his stuff, getting through 6 innings after such a terrible 1st.  But all things being equal, his line probably accurately reflects how well he pitched.  Which isn’t really very well. 

2) More Perspective 

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs: 

One comment that keeps arising, however, is about the correlation between Trevor Cahill‘s BABIP and his sinker, specifically his ground ball rate. Several people assert that Cahill is inducing weak, easy to field contact by pounding his sinker at the bottom of the strike zone, and that’s why his BABIP is just .217. There are a few problems with this assertion, though.  

We know that BABIP on groundballs is higher than on flyballs, as a ball is more likely to sneak between two infielders than it is to fall in front of an outfielder. In general, groundball pitchers will post higher than average BABIPs, not the other way around, though the effect is generally pretty small.  

The other problem… well, we’ll just demonstrate it this way.  

Trevor Cahill: 56% GB%, 14.9% LD%, 29.1% FB%, .217 BABIP

Justin Masterson: 62.3% GB%, 14.9% LD%, 22.8% FB%, .344 BABIP 

Now, I don’t want to make the contention that Justin Masterson is “really” better than Trevor Cahill, or that Trevor Cahill is “actually” not very good, or that Masterson is “unlucky” or that I would rather take my chances with Masterson than Cahill.  Let’s clear this up right now: I would rather have Treor Cahill in my rotation than Justin Masterson.  Granted, this might be familiarity breeding contempt, or more likely Masterson’s infuriating badness breeding contempt, but I would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t prefer Cahill to Masterson as a starter. 

But it’s kind of striking that Cahill gives up the same number of liners and more flies and fewer grounders and ends up with SO much better stats.  Obviously Oakland’s park plays a role here.  And Oakland’s defense.  And Masterson’s arm angle.  And Cleveland’s third basemen.  There are a lot of factors. 

Oddly enough, Masterson got exactly 3 ground ball outs in his 5th win of the season, up against 11 in the air.  So that’s pretty weird.  On the other hand, he limited his hits (5) and walks (2), generally threw strikes, and threw an efficient 91 pitches in 6 innings. 

For all the wailing and gnashing about Masterson against left-handers, though, I find myself more concerned about the low K totals.  This was pretty much Masterson’s best asset, and it’s largely disappeared.  Without the above-average K rate (excellent, even, at least as a reliever or in the early season), Masterson is untenable as a starter, and not really useful as a reliever. 

And yet, for all of MY wailing and gnashing, Masterson’s 5.23 ERA on the season isn’t truly awful.  Sure, it’s a run higher than Mitch Talbot, who is a proto-mook.  Anyway, he won. 

3) The Man 

Raffy Perez did a fine job in a perfect inning of relief, striking out a batter and requiring only 10 pitches to do it.  Joe Smiff had a similar inning Wednesday, requiring 11 pitches but not getting any Ks.  Hector Ambriz did not pan-fry any of the puppies who came early to scope out the park. 

But none of these pitchers was The Man, because Chris Perez was The Man. 

After Smiff walked two of the three hitters he faced, C-Pez was called out in the 8th to get the FIVE-out save normally associated with Joakim Soria or Sparky Lyle. 

In the 8th, he threw 6 pitches.  Each was a strike.  One batter struck out, the other grounded out.  Oakland: now 0-for-2 with a runner in scoring position off Chris Perez. 

In the 9th, he was less efficient … because strikeouts take longer.  He did allow a booming single to Cliff Pennington, but the other three hitters: 

Struck out 
Struck out 
Struck out 

Since Pennington stole second with one out, the A’s again went 0-for-2 with a runner in scoring position off Chris Perez. 

Also, to show his magnanimous nature, he did not pan-fry Joe Smiff after the game. 

4) Not The Man, but somewhat Manly nonetheless 

Is this the time to shed the “Tofu Lou” moniker for Lou Marson because he has turned the corner on performance with Carlos Santana out?  Of course not.  I’m not giving up that easily.  More to the point, Tofu Lou still doesn’t actually hit the ball, batting .184/.216/.286 in August that is right in line with his year-long line of .188/.261/.267.  His best month OPS is .591, which is quite crummy indeed.  Before the All-Star Break, Marson was posting a .530 OPS … and after, it’s .502.  Marson is not a good major-league hitter. 

However, Marson did draw a pair of walks (out of the three issued), and after one of them, stole second (his 6th steal; he has not been caught), took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a single. 

We won 3-2. 

So yeah, we don’t win the game without Tofu Lou. 

5) Port Smash! 

After a reasonably-good July, Matt LaPorta’s August has been pretty lame.  However, after hitting 2 homers in 24 hits in July with an ISO of .153, LaPorta’s August includes 2 homers in 15 hits with an ISO of .145.  (He has fewer doubles and (guffaw) triples.) 

I remain more hopeful than confident that LaPorta will have a breakout 2011 and will be the slugging first baseman (not to mention right-handed power presence) we need for years to come.  But it’s always nice to see the guy you’re hoping on hit the game-winning homer in a one-run game. 

6) One-man Squander Crew 

Shin-Soo Choo reached base all four times Wednesday on three singles and a walk.  Jayson Nix, hitting two slots later, reached base thrice with a pair of singles and a walk. 

Together they combined to score zero runs.  And with all due respect for the Size Four Collar Travis Hafner was able to cough up, the man who really stood out in terms of Hopeless Squandertronics was erstwhile left-fielder Trevor Crowe: 

2nd inning: Nix on first, GIDP 
4th inning: Choo on second, Nix on first, F-8 
6th inning: Choo on second, Nix on first: GIDP 

After that, Crowe simply struck out after Nix struck out against the guy who struck everybody out, and this doesn’t make him stick out in any way. 

But dude … that’s a bad game. 

7) By the way 

Jayson Nix July SLG: .473 
Jayson Nix August SLG: .484 

At what point do we start to believe that Jayson Nix can actually … y’know … hit

I’m tellin’ ya … give him a chin implant and elevator shoes and he could be Casey Blake. 

(Except for the third base defense thing.) 

8) Hey, we had one of those! 

Craig Breslow: 13 strikes in 17 pitches, 1 IP, 1 H, 3 K. 

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

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