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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 8/31
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

Is there anyone that irritates you more in delivering the game-winning blow than A.J. Pierzynski?  Buff thinks there is, but it took him a while to come up with the list.  He also addresses Justin Masterson's present and his future, distilling it down to a simple black-and-white test.  Does he address the quality of the pitch Frank Herrmann threw?  He does not.  He does take a moment to congratulate Shelley Duncan on a milestone, opine on the 2011 middle infield, and take a last cheap shot at Andy Marte.

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
White Jerx (72-60) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 4 5 2
Indians (53-79) 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 3 8 1

ajW: E. Jackson (3-0) L: J. Smiff (1-2)  S: Jenks (25) 

Shoot me. 

1) The Comprehensive List of Players I would Less Like to have Beat Us than A.J. Pierzynski 

Jonathan Papelbon 
Ben Roethlisberger 
Glenn Beck 
Colin Cowherd 
Sean Avery 
Dr. Doofenschmirtz 
Mr. Noodle* 
Stewie Griffin 
Any Teletubby (but especially Po) 
Draco Malfoy 
Edward Cullen 
Swiper the Fox 
Osama bin Laden 
Any AIG Executive 
Elmo Monster 
Jokey Smurf 
Jack Spicer 
Steve Jobs’ pancreas 
Justin Bieber 
Billy Ray Cyrus 
Kim Jong Il 
The inventor of pop-up ads 
Pete Campbell 
Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear 
A zebra mussel 
Pia Zadora 
Gorgonzola cheese 
The fungus that killed all the grass in my front yard 
Mike Rouse** 

* Don’t get me wrong, I love Mr. Noodle, but you can’t let Mr. Noodle beat you 
** as far as I know, Rouse is not what killed the grass in my front yard

2) Case Closed? 

Last night’s start is being held up as evidence that Justin Masterson has shown enough and “deserves” to be considered a full-time starter going into the 2011 season. 

Make no mistake: this was an excellent start.  Masterson tossed seven shutout innings, giving up 3 hits and ZERO walks while striking out 7.  He posted a typical GO:FO ratio of 8:5 (ended the game at 9:5) and struck out the heart of the ChiSox order (Rios, Konerko, Quentin) a total of 5 times (Rios and Quentin twice each).  He ended up giving up a smallball run in the 8th on a walk, sacrifice, and single, but it’s disingenuous to say he should have been pulled before that.  He was dominant in this start and had every reason to go into the 8th (heck, he was at only 82 pitches through 7 IP!).  This marks his third Quality Start in his last four outings, and in five of his last eight starts he’s yielded strictly fewer than a hit an inning. 

Here’s the thing: striking out those guys in the heart of the order is really nifty, in that each of them slugs over .470 and Konerko is having a borderline MVP-level season.  But these are three right-handed power hitters.  These are the guys that Masterson has ALWAYS struck out.  That’s a whale of a skill to have. 

For example, let’s apply this skill in the 9th inning: 

Alex Rios (walked) 
Paul Konerko (K’d) 
Carlos Quentin (walked) 

Had Masterson been pitching that inning, the likelihood of A.J. Pierzynski hitting a three-run homer would have been very low, in my opinion. 

Now, while this is brought into stark relief (as it were) by the Epic Fail of Cleveland’s nominal right-handed matchup guy(s), this is not a new topic or post hoc analysis.  Masterson’s platoon splits are still high, and the three hits he allowed in the first 7 innings were by left-handed hitters.  By Juan Pierre and Mark Teahen, no less.  The fact that they are hitting .284 and .270 respectively surprises me a great deal.  The fact remains. 

Here’s my perspective, which has shifted a bit over the years, but isn’t altogether new, either.  Just as I don’t think any player is LITERALLY “untouchable,” I don’t think anyone should LITERALLY be “guaranteed” a role on the team.  Would it make sense to trade Carlos Santana?  Well, he’s an immensely valuable player who is a great hitter, dirt cheap, and plays a premium defensive position.  Yet if you offered me a large-enough package, I would trade him.  The thing to keep in mind is that my definition of “large-enough” would probably cause you to asphyxiate on your own saliva.  Evan Longoria, Jeremy Hellickson, and Rafael Soriano would probably do it, for example. 

How does this apply to Masterson?  Well, I think he should be in the starting rotation for exactly as long as there are no more than four better starters in the system.  As soon as he is the sixth-best starter (and how that is evaluated can be a tricky thing: is Carlos Carrasco better or worse?  What criteria are you using to measure this?), he should not be in the starting rotation. 

Consider Sept. 1, 2010.  Justin Masterson is, in my opinion, one of the five best starting options for the Cleveland Indians.  I think Jeanmar Gomez is better.  I think Fausto Carmona is better.  I don’t see anyone else I would DEFINITELY say, “Yeah, that guy’s better.”  Tomlin and Talbot might be, but Tomlin frightens me with flyball stuff and Talbot is filled with chocolate pudding.  At least Masterson has a K:BB ratio and a K/9 rate I can live with.  Talbot’s scare the hair off my head, which I cannot afford at this point.  Is Alex White?  Is Jason Knapp?  Is Youthful McGillicuddy I’ve not really heard of?  Sure, they might be in 2011.  On Sept. 1, 2010, they are NOT. 

There could be some very interesting developments in the off-season.  I am no scout, and cannot tell you how close any particular guy is to being a major-league pitcher.  Heck, I might be wrong about Gomez and Carmona being better than Masterson.  From where I sit today, though, I have to agree with Masterson that he should prepare this off-season as if he’s a member of the 2011 Opening Day rotation.  Because right now, he’s one of the top five. 

To be explicit, though, I have no loyalty to Justin Masterson.  As soon as he drops to 6, I want him out.  Out, out, out.  And if he never does, this will either be great (because Talbot teaches him the changeup to get lefties out and he improves dramatically) or horrendous (because nobody younger than Masterson is able to advance). 

3) Dunk smash! 

Congratulations to Shelley Duncan, who hit his career-high 8th home run last night to give Cleveland a short-lived 1-0 lead in a real pitcher’s duel. 

I know that 8 homers is not a lot in a vacuum, but Duncan’s a nice story, getting regular playing time for the first time.  I could see him carving out something like the career Marcus Thames has.  Pair him with Matt Stairs and you’d have a wonderful pairing that plays some really amazing defense. 

4) Captain Clutch 

Nice piece of hitting by Jason Donald in the 9th: that was a solid single, stroked to center.  Fittingly, it was the first time in 9 tries that a Cleveland hitter got a hit with a runner in scoring position: the team ended 1-for-10 after Mike Brantley grounded out to end the game. 

I would like to believe that Jason Kipnis will be ready to rip the reins of second base out of Donald’s hands sooner rather than later, but for now, I see Donald as a perfectly acceptible option there for the time being.  I certainly believe he has left Luis Valbuena in the dust: depending on how you feel about Cord Phelps being “for real,” Donald is “it” until Kipnis arrives. 

Caveat: never, ever, ever let him play shortstop again.  Not once.  No. 

5) Managerial Head-Scratchers 

Omar Vizquel is a great story.  At age 43, his bat has slowed, but objectively, he only had one brief stint as a truly valuable offensive performer.  Still, he’s been hitting right-handed pitching at a .297/.369/.342 clip, while struggling from the other side of the plate to the tune of .250/.306/.341.  His double off Raffy Perez the night before notwithstanding, Vizquel is better when hitting left-handed against a righty. 

But still … he’s Omar Vizquel.  He slugs .342.  There is a runner on first base.  And the next three hitters are Rios, Konerko, and Quentin, a group you DEFINITELY want a right-hander to face. 

So why are you burning Tony Sipp (remembering that Raffy Perez threw a lot of pitches the night before, and also Satruday, so he is de facto unavailable for this game) on Omar F&#*ing Vizquel? 

Is some of this hindsight?  Sure, some.  But not a LOT.  Burning your only lefty on Omar Vizquel seems profligate. 

(For completeness, A.J. Pierzynski hits .219/.265/.323 off lefties this season.) 

6) Guest commentary: Marlon Brando observes Frank Herrmann’s “slider” 

The horror … the horror … 

7) One bad pitch because of eight bad pitches 

Of course, Herrmann’s atrocious hanging gravyball isn’t nearly as devastating if Joe Smiff throws anything resembling decency against two of the three hitters he faced.  Sure, it’s nice to strike out Konerko, the most dangerous hitter in the lineup.  But dude!  You walked Alex Rios on FOUR PITCHES!  You walked Carlos Quentin in FIVE!  You have walked at least two hitters in THREE of you last SIX appearances!  Your K: BB ratio over that span is 1:7!  One to seven!  Are you hurt?  Are you insane?  Has someone replaced the vestibular center in your middle ear with Pop Rocks?  You have a 21:21 K:BB ratio on the SEASON.  That is simply AWFUL. 

I don’t care if he’s throwing harder since coming back up.  His command is shit. 

8) Port Bip! 

Matt LaPorta, sore hip and all, delivered a pinch-hit single off Fat Bobby J to extend the 9th inning.  Let’s see how it goes, but frankly, if he has to be shut down, shut him down.  September call-ups, bay-bee! 

9) Things you did not know 

Tofu Lou Marson has ten doubles.  Ten! 

Chris Gimenez is a valid choice to pinch-run. 

Andy Marte is a stale cranberry muffin.

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