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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 9/27
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

The Indians take the opener from the Tigers, which is hardly surprising: the home team in this series is now 14-2.  Hopefully, this bodes well for the remaining two games of the season series, which Detroit still leads 9-7.  Carlos Carrasco displayed sponge-like sharpness, but still managed to toss his 6th consecutive Quality Start, whereas Tribe-killer Armando Galarraga was somewhat less than perfect in his bomb-shortened outing.  The B-List looks at the power of power, makes another disturbing comparison, and wonders where Luke Carlin has been all his life. 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tigers (80-76) 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 13 0
Indians (66-91) 0 0 0 0 5 0 1 0 X 6 8 1

HafnerW: Carrasco (2-1) L: Galarraga (4-8) S: C. Perez (22) 

I had to look up the Tigers’ record: do they feel like an over-.500 team to you?  They don’t feel like an over-.500 team to me. 

1) Simply smashing! 

No kidding 
I’m ready to fight 
I’ve been looking for Armando all night 
If I get him in my sight 
Boom boom – out go the ball 
-- Little Walter (Jacobs), paraphrased

To say that Armando Galarraga had the Indians’ number this season up to the 5th inning is a bit of an understatement: in 2 ½ starts up to that point, Galarraga had throttled the Tribe like Grover Norquist with his dream government: 

20 IP 
4 H 
0 R 
0 BB 
11 K 

The start everyone will remember is the 28-batter perfect game he threw early in the season, but his second start was nearly as dominant, a 7-inning affair with 0 runs on 3 hits and 8 punchouts.  It wasn’t as if Cleveland brought a knife to a gun fight, it’s as if they brought a sleepy kitten. 

Galarraga wasn’t enitrely as sharp last night, walking two hitters in the first and another in the third, but still hadn’t given up a hit through three innings.  In the 4th, he set the Tribe down in order again, but each of the three hitters lofted a fly ball to center that might have been the first sign of trouble for Armando. 

Matt LaPorta hit a blast 418 feet to center to lead off the 5th that probably didn’t get 30 feet off the ground. 

Luke Carlin pounded a 396-foot shot to right on an elevated pitch. 

Mike Brantley missed a homer by a small amount and had to settle for a double.  Not just a double, but a PULLED double.  So Galarraga has been timed at this point. 

And after a fly out and a walk, Travis Hafner turned on an inside pitch for a 424-foot launch that effectively ended the game.  It certainly ended Mr. Galarraga’s night on the mound. 

There are a couple things here: first, Hafner turning on an inside pitch at this point in his career means it was not a very speedy, quality pitch.  Pronk sure hammered the ball, but he’s been jammed by that pitch when it’s a mid-90s fastball this season.  It was not.  Second, the pitches thrown to Carlin and Hafner probably weighed a combined eight hundred pounds.  They were seriously fat.  Again, credit to the hitters for being patient (Carlin hit a 2-0 pitch, Hafner a 1-0) and also for jumping on pitches they could drive, but Mando did not throw excellent pitches to those hitters. 

But more to the point, Armando Galarraga had pretty much made the Indians look like Compleat Buffoons for more than two complete games, so it was EXCELLENT to see them go bombing away like that. 

2) The Cautionary Tale 

Armando Galarraga induced two ground ball outs against 12 in the air.  He was ultimately undone when three (actually four, I suppose) of the fly balls were lifted over the heads of outfielders for extra-base hits. 

In fact, Galarraga looks like a one-man recruitment brochure for pitchers to sign with Detroit: 

Home: .234/.296/.386, 26 XBH in 77 H, .152 ISO, 1.198 WHIP, 3.49 ERA 
Away: .315/.383/.555, 27 XBH in 63 H, .240 ISO, 1.747 WHIP, 6.66 ERA 

With all the boilerplate caveats about sample sizes and a leaguewide home/road advantage in general and an artificially-low BABIP at home and such, it doesn’t seem completely far-fetched to suggest that Galarraga benefits from having fast outfielders (notably Austin Jackson in CF) in a large park (Comerica) at home.  He has induced 184 ground balls to 284 in the air, a 39% rate.  Coupled with a rather low K rate (67 in 136.1 IP, or 4.42 per 9), this essentially makes Galarraga quite playable at home, but rather iffy in a park that doesn’t allow a speedy outfield to swallow up balls hit in the air. 

Josh Tomlin has induced 70 ground balls to 146 in the air.  He strikes out 5.16 batters per 9 innings.  His ISO is .176 at home and .200 on the road. 

Now, Tomlin’s WHIP is considerably better than Galarraga’s, and his K:BB ratio is FAR superior (Galarraga’s is AWFUL).  I am not saying that Josh Tomlin has no chance to ever be better than Armando Galarraga.  It’s just that Galarraga is the KIND of pitcher that leads me to prefer higher groundball rates in general. 

There are two substantive differences from what I can tell: Galarraga does not have a weapon in his arsenal like Tomlin’s cutter against lefties, and Tomlin has better “stuff.”  When Asdrubal Cabrera swung and missed at a 1-0 offering in the 3rd, it was the ONLY time a Cleveland Indian swung and missed at one of Galarraga’s pitches. 

I remain wary. 

3) Ho Hum Dept. 

Carlos Carrasco gave up 3 runs in 6 innings for his sixth consecutive Quality Start.  He has made six starts this season for the Indians. 

Was Carrasco Sooper Awesome?  No, he was not.  He gave up 11 hits and required a really, really, monumentally bad steal attempt (3rd base by the catcher, Alex Avila, who was out by the distance between Akron and Canton) to weasel out of a big inning.  He got Will Rhymes to bounce into a double play to escape a jam.  And 11 hits is just a lot of hits. 

Still, I think it was a bit disingenuous to claim that Carrasco wasn’t missing many bats, as a highlight commentator said.  He did strike out 5 in 6 innings, and balanced against one walk, this made for a manageable game as long as he made big pitches in big situations.  Since he did more often than not, he won his second game of the season. 

I’m getting kind of a Charles Nagy vibe out of Carrasco: keeps the ball down, gets hit around some, but ends up giving up cuts and bruises rather than breaks and ruptures.  Both players could strike out more than you might think (Nagy posted 7.0 and 6.8 K/9 seasons at his peak in ’95-’96), and could keep an ERA lower than you might expect for the hits allowed.  Carlos Carrasco has yet to show that he can make the Charles Nagy Face, though, something few did as well as Charles Nagy. 

By the way, Charles Nagy’s breakout season came in 1992 when he was 17-10 with a 2.96 ERA, a 1.198 WHIP, and a 6:2 K:BB per 9 IP.  He was 25 years old.  Carlos Carrasco has a 3.26 ERA with a 1.37 WHIP and a 6.74:2.56 K:BB per 9 IP.  He is 23 years old. 

4) A chink in the armor! 

Joe Smiff gave up a hit! 

5) Two chinks in the armor! 

Joe Smiff gave up two hits! 

6) Apparently chinked armor is not really a problem 

The Cleveland bullpen still threw 3 scoreless innings, striking out 2 and walking no one. 

Consider this: time-travel back to June or so and tell that version of yourself that the pitchers used in last night’s game had ERA’s of 3.26, 3.99, 4.21, and 1.75.  I don’t think he’ll believe you. 

7) Welcome back! 

And best wishes to Chris Perez, whose son now has an “X” or a “Z” in each of his three names, making him a potential starter in Scrabble Bowl 2030. 

8) Where have you been all my life? 

Luke Carlin! 

Mr. Carlin is now hitting .375/.444/.750 on the season.  In addition to hitting the solo shot off Galarraga, Carlin gunned down Alex Avila stealing third, reached on an infield single, and scored a second run. 

Now, look: I still don’t know who Luke Carlin is.  I am much too lazy to look up his minor-league stats … oh, all right, I’ll go look them up … wait, he’s actually been in the majors before!  He hit … ooo, .149/.238/.234 for San Diego in 2008 at age 27.  That’s really terrible.  He got a few swings in Arizona last season.  And he hit .238/.332/.336 in AAA between Indianapolis (home of nothing in particular!) and Clumbus (home of the AAA champs!). 

So … um … yeah.  Some questions are better asked and not answered.  Or maybe not asked in the first place. 

9) Stats Corner 

Shin-Soo Choo walked twice last night, nudging his OBP up to .400.  He is now hitting .297/.400/.475 on the season, very fine numbers. 

Travis Hafner is hitting .275/.372/.444.  If he had 25 points of batting average as all singles, his line would be .300/.397/.469, essentially noise away from Choo. 

With 385 AB and 106 hits, this would be 9 ½ singles over 115 games.  The average major-league team plays 6 games a week, so this is just over 19 weeks. 

So with one more single every two weeks, Travis Hafner would be Shin-Soo Choo. 

Yeah, that’s not really all that meaningful and smacks of Bull Durham anyway.  I thought it was interesting that Hafner and Choo have very similar OBP-AVG and ISO.

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