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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 9/2
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

Shin-Soo Choo defeated his old team, the Seattle Mariners, in a matchup of marginal pitchers having long stretches of effectiveness punctuated by Innings of Crap™.  The final score was Choo 5, Seattle 3, Cleveland 1.  The one run Choo did not drive in was scored by Shin-Soo Choo.  In today’s B-List, Buff looks at Josh Tomlin’s bounceback, the bullpen’s amazing performance, a surprisingly effective game by the middle infield, and a comparison most Cleveland fans would probably rather Buff not make. 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Shin-Soo Choo (54-80) 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 2 6 12 1
Mariners (52-82) 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 7 0

choooblastW: Tomlin (3-3)  L: Fister (4-11)  S: C. Perez (17) 

Feedback update: three emails, no questions, no ice cream.  It’s hot here, people. 

1) Dept. of Nostalgia: the Inning of Crap™! 

Long-time readers will remember the designation of C.C. Sabathia’s Inning of Crap™, in which a stretch of dominant innings would be punctuated by an inning so horrible and grating that you wondered if it was the same guy, then realized that no one else on the team wore a 50-lb uniform and yeah, it was still him.  Whether this was due to a temporary loss of concentration, a problem with footwork, or simple hunger, Sabathia would often recover from the IoC™ to continue pitching in dominant form for the rest of his outing.  Since then, few have been able to pick up Sabathia’s mantle, first because it’s really big and heavy, but also because recent Cleveland pitchers have followed their own paths, including: 

Innings of Cuts and Bleeding (Westbrook, Pavano) 
Innings of Smoke & Mirrors (Byrd, Ohka) 
Innings of Ineptitude (Talbot, Z. Jackson, Jason Davis)
Innings of Davd Huff (Sowers, Huff) 

Consider these performances, though: 

5 IP, 3 H, 0 XBH, 0 R, 0 BB 4 K 
1 IP, 4 H, 2 XBH, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K 

Now THAT’S an Inning of Crap™

Indeed, Josh Tomlin’s start to the ballgame was not particularly auspicious, requiring a caught stealing and a double play to minimize the danger of three singles, but two of the singles were of the infield variety.  His third inning was truly dreadful, though, featuring a booming double off the bat of Ichiro Suzuki and a home run by Russ Branyan that landed in Vancouver at 4 AM this morning (Pacific time). 

A funny thing happened on the way to Tomlin being laughed out of the stadium, though: through a revolutionary denewtification process, he actually got better. 

The first two innings may have been okay, seeing as though they were scoreless and two of the three hits were ground balls to middle infielders, but the final three innings were very good indeed.  The only baserunner in the 4th through 6th was Ryan Langerhans, who reached when Jayson Nix fielded a popup with the aplomb of a drunken colobus monkey, or perhaps Luis Valbuena.  Tomlin got 8 swinging strikes in the game, and five of them finished off swinging srikeouts.  Yes, one was by Russ Branyan, but it still counts. 

The best part of 5 Ks in 6 IP is that it was paired with 0 BB.  Tomlin attacked hitters aggressively after his Inning of Crap™, and it paid off. 

The scary thing for me remains the trajectory of the ball.  Seattle hitters hit three balls on the ground: two were infield singles and one resulted in a double play.  They put SIXTEEN balls into the air: yes, 10 of them were outs, and very nice, but a 2:10 GO:FO ratio and a 3:16 GB:FB ratio are truly terrifying in most parks that aren’t Safeco Field.  Tomlin has a 0.48 GB:FB ratio thus far this season, and Tomlin has now allowed a homer in each of his last six starts. 

Consider this: the two men aren’t built anywhere close to the same (Tomlin is 6’1”, the other pitcher is listed at 6’8”), but their styles of pitching look remarkably similar to me.  Neither has great velocity or a discernable “out” pitch.  Their breaking balls move noticeably but not extraordinarily.  The other pitcher posted a 0.68 GB:FB ratio in his first year at age 25 (which is what Tomlin is now) and got 10 starts to end the season (Tomlin has 7).  The other guy was homer-prone (11 in 61 IP, Tomlin has 6 in 41 1/3IP) and had a lowish K rate (5.31 last year, 5.13 this year; Tomlin is at 4.57), but with a good K:BB ratio (2.40 last year, 3.08 this year; Tomlin at 1.91).  The thing about the other guy is that his overall performance (4.13 ERA, 1.28 WHIP last season, 3.85 ERA, 1.25 WHIP this season) is masked by his home/road splits: 

Home: .248/.279/.348, 3.21 ERA 
Away: .312/.355/.412, 5.10 ERA 

Most players perform better at home, but this kind of split can indicate a problem if the circumstances are unusual, like if the guy is a flyball pitcher in a huge park with great outfield defense. 

The other guy is Doug Fister. 

Josh Tomlin does not pitch in a huge park with great outfield defense*. 

Doug Fister is a perfectly fine rotation member for Seattle, posting a 17.2 VORP (if you trust such things for pitchers) and a SNLVAR of 2.8.  He’s the clear #3 guy behind King Felix and Jason Vargas (was 4th behind Cliff Lee as well, of course), but still ahead of such luminaries as Lucas French and Dave Pauley.  (Way WAY ahead of Ian Snell and Ryan Not-a-Starter-Smith.)  But tell me: how excited would you be if I told you Josh Tomlin was the Next Doug Fister? 

Now, how excited are you that Tomlin will need to improve more than a bit to become the Next Doug Fister? 

* caveat: a Brantley/Sizemore/Choo OF would probably cover a lot of ground 

2) How’s that Ben Broussard workin’ out for you? 

With the bases loaded in the 6th inning after five innings of Total Throttlation from Fister (1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K), Shin-Soo Choo blasted a ball to just right of dead center that would probably have been a grand slam in a bunch of parks.  Even with St. Frank Gutierrez in CF and Suzuki in RF, Asdrubal Cabrera had no trouble scoring from first base to complete a three-run double. 

Travis Hafner then lined a single to right and Choo scored easily from second despite the threat of Suzuki’s arm. 

Finally, in the 9th inning, Choo golfed a low pitch THE OTHER WAY for a 2-run homer that gave Chris Perez a three-run cushion for the save.  Watch the replay: can you tell that ball is hit that hard?  If you’d frozen the swing just after contact, I would have said, “Eh, pop out to deep short, maybe?”  No.  374-foot homer.  I suppose in one sense that is very, very, very, very deep short.  ‘t’weren’t no popup, though. 

Shin-Soo Choo was traded from Seattle to Cleveland for Ben Broussard.  Ben Broussard last played for Seattle in 2007, and his last major-league AB came in 2008. 

3) How’s that Eduardo Perez workin’ out for you? 

Only one player scored on each of Choo’s hits (not even Choo did, after all): starting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.  Cabrera went 3-for-5 on the night, and has a hit in 8 of his last 9 games, during which he is hitting a respectible .275 with a homer and a double. 

Asdrubal Cabrera was traded from Seattle to Cleveland for Eduardo Perez.  Eduardo Perez last played for Seattle in 2006, and his last major-league AB came in 2006. 

4) How much salt would a saltchuck chuck if a saltchuck could chuck salt? 

Tony Sipp’s value is tied tightly to three things: 

a) K rate 
b) BB rate 
c) OpSLG 

Generally speaking, Tony Sipp is valuable precisely because he is a strikeout left-handed reliever.  Throughout this season, good month or bad, Sipp has still struck out no worse than nearly a guy an inning: 

April: 3.24 ERA, 8 K in 8 1/3 IP 
May: 4.76 ERA, 12 K in 11 1/3 IP 
June: 14.29 (!) ERA, 7 K in 5 2/3 IP 
July: 2.77 ERA, 14 K in 13 IP 
August: 3.55 ERA, 12 K in 12 2/3 IP 

I mean, that’s actually remarkably consistent for the K rate: on the season, 57 K in 53 IP makes a rate of 9.68 (K/9).  Everything hovers around that.  The reason for the fluctuation in ERA?  Well, small samples play a role for any reliever, but it’s pretty straightforward: Sipp walked 6 guys and gave up 2 homers in May, EIGHT guys with THREE homers in June, and since then is more in the 2:1 K:BB ratio range.  Frankly, that’s still too many walks.  And he STILL gave up 4 homers in August, which is kind of a lot of homers in 12 2/3 IP. 

None of this is rocket science: when Sipp struggles with his command, he walks guys and eventually leaves a cookie in the center of the zone to be swatted with authority.  Whether he’s struggling or not, his “stuff” remains quite good. 

Anyway, last night, Sipp threw 16 strikes in 23 pitches and struck out 4 of the 6 batters he faced in 2 perfect innings.  He got SEVEN swinging strikes.  Seven!  In other words, one fewer in 23 pitches than Tomlin got in 94.  One fewer in 23 pitches than Seattle pitchers combined got in ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-THREE.  Against CLEVELAND. 

Sipp … was good. 

5) Ho Hum Dept. 

Chris Perez posted his 17th save with a perfect 9th, including a strikeout.  Each of his 8 pitches was a strike.  (If you have a three-run lead, you really ought to throw strikes.  Perez did.  This is awesome.) 

6) Hey, we had one of those! 

Frank Gutierrez is hitting .248/.308/.365 this season. 

Russ Branyan struck out twice. 

Jamey Wright gave up 2 runs in 2 innings of relief. 

Not one of these facts is remotely surprising to an Indians fan. 

7) Nice hose! 

Tofu Lou Marson gunned down Ichiro Suzuki trying to steal second base.  Suzuki came into the game with a 35-to-7 SB-to-CS ratio, a success percentage of 83.3%. 

Mr. Suzuki, Lou Marson is not impressed. 

8) Credit Where Credit is Due Dept. 

Luis Valbuena went 2-for-4 and scored Cleveland’s first run on Choo’s double. 

Trevor Crowe stole his 15th base on the season. 

Jordan Brown is left-handed.

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