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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 9/29
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

The Tribe finishes the sweep with a pair of wins last night, tying the season series 9-9 with each team going a remarkable 8-1 in their respective home park.  Mitch Talbot and Josh Tomlin finish their rookie seasons on high notes, while Shin-Soo Choo has a Jekyll-and-Hyde sort of night with a two-run homer and a Golden Sombrero.  The B-List celebrates the Best Bunt in the World, tells why Chris Perez is no longer on Lou Marson’s Christmas card list, and lauds the once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that happened in the nightcap. 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tigers (80-77) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 0
Indians (67-91) 0 0 2 0 2 0 0 0 X 4 9 0

Chris-Perez-222x300W: Talbot (10-13) L: Scherzer (12-11) 

FINAL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tigers (80-78) 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 11 0
Indians (68-91) 0 1 0 1 2 0 0 0 X 4 7 0

W: Tomlin (6-4)  L: Verlander(18-9) S: C. Perez (23) 

Screw avoiding 100 losses: let’s go get 70 wins. 

1) Out on a high note 

Mitch Talbot finished his rookie season with a very fine game: in 7 scoreless innings of work, he held the Tigers to 5 singles and no walks (1 HBP) while striking out 5.  He kept the Tigers off-balance most of the night, and while the 3:11 GO:FO ratio was very unusual for Talbot, he showed a good mix of pitches, including a slow down-bending curve that froze more than one right-handed hitter. 

Why mention the curve now?  Well, because to this point, Talbot’s highest-quality pitch is a changeup that fades a good distance from left to right (as Talbot sees it), meaning IN to a right-hander.  Up to now, a right-handed hitter could gauge the speed of one of Talbot’s offerings, and if it was slow, could largely expect the ball to move in toward his body.  This is one of the factors in Talbot giving up more singles, doubles, triples, and homers to right-handed hitters than left: 

vs. LHB: .255/.356/.369, .114 ISO 
vs. RHB: .295/.353/.441, .146 ISO 

(Note: there are more AB against righties at 322 to 290, but the rates of all flavors of hits are higher as well as the raw frequency.) 

It’s hard to do a serious evaluation of Talbot’s numbers in the back half of the season: sprinkled in amongst good starts and bad are starts like July 29 (2 IP, 1 H, 4 BB, 1 injury) and Sept. 12 (0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 injury).  Technically speaking, his September ERA of 2.89 sends him off with his head held high: the fact that he faced September lineups for non-contenders in any game in which he recorded an out (SEA, KC, DET) makes this hard to get jiggily excited about. 

So what do we make of Mitch Talbot’s rookie season?  Certainly he provided more consistent quality that I had expected in the pre-season.  Talbot ended up tossing 159 1/3 innings, which isn’t Jake Westbrook, but it’s very nice.  His ERA of 4.41 is pretty solid, a bit over the A.L. average of 4.15, but certainly acceptable from a rookie, even a 26-year-old one.  I can see why he was expendable by Tampa, which has high-end superlatives.  On the other hand, his ERA is the same as Jeff Niemann’s and lower than James Shields’, so maybe not. 

Still, it’s hard to get over the poor 88:69 K:BB ratio for Mitch.  His hit rate is actually pretty decent at 9.54 per 9 IP, and his K rate crawled from 2.39 per 9 in April (when he was 3-1 with a 2.05 ERA) to nearly 5 by the end of the season (4.97 per 9 IP).  He walks too many guys.  He’s a rookie!  I mean, really. 

Following the Masterson Rule, it seems clear that Talbot is a favorite to start in the rotation in 2011.  Given better command of his stuff and a better weapon to use against right-handers (the curve), I don’t see why Talbot couldn’t be at least a league-average pitcher next season.  And while that doesn’t sound very impressive, consider that it means that this would mean there were at least 35 starters in the A.L. who aren’t as good as Mitch Talbot.  League-average is nothing to sneeze at, expecially from a minimum salary guy.  

2) Lightning round 

Josh Tomlin, blah blah blah. 

Extra-base hits, blah blah blah. 

Weasel, weasel, cha cha cha. 

He won.  At no point was I confident he would.  If you’re wondering why he was pulled after “only” 81 pitches, that would be the 9 hits, 1 walk, and 15 total bases in five innings that probably played a role … but really, once you give up an extra-base hit to Gerald Laird, who has the build and hitting acumen of Henry Kissinger, you need to go. 

Does Tomlin have legitimate major-league stuff?  Sure, I guess, in the same way that Jeff Karstens has major-league stuff.  He could sharpen his stuff and become good.  He could keep the same stuff and not be very good.  I am passing the point where I can be thoroughly objective about Josh Tomlin. 

3) Pronk smash! 

Against Max Scherzer, a pitcher with a sub-3.50 ERA coming into the game and described as having Ace Stuff, Travis Hafner lifter a ball over the right field wall with one out an one on to give the Indians a quick 2-0 lead in the first game. 

Two innings later, Shin-Soo Choo turned the same feat. 

It is nice to have major-league hitters in the lineup. 

Note: because of Miggy Cabrera’s ankle sprain, Travis Hafner had a better slash line (if OBP is correctly considered more important than SLG) than anyone in the Detroit lineup.  (Raburn’s close.) 

4) Simply excellent 

Let’s make this clear: I do not enjoy watching Trevor Crowe play baseball. 

I think he is a lousy hitter.  I think he should stop batting right-handed.  I wish he had even adequate power.  I put it to you that he would not play appreciably worse defense if forced to wear an eyepatch over one eye.  I believe he would play only slightly worse defense if forced to put a raw steak over one eye and stuffed shrews in his pants. 

However, against one of the best pitchers in the A.L., Justin Verlander (formerly a Favorite Player: he has since bounced back since I transferred my karma to Jonathan Penisbon), Crowe was given the suicide squeeze sign with Mike Brantley on third and the score tied 3-3. 

Now, Verlander throws hard.  Really hard.  Like, “Routinely Top Five Average Fastball Velocity” hard.  And when he throws hard, he will elevate the ball, forcing you to try and catch up to it.  Crowe said as much after the game: 

"When Verlander has a runner in scoring position, he tends to work his fastball up," Crowe said. "I was looking for it, but not one way up there. You can't practice against something like that." 

Boy, howdy.  Verlander: 

"You gotta give him a lot of credit," Verlander said. "The pitch was neck-high. He did a fantastic job. He's got to get it down at all costs." 

Nick-high might be an understatement.  Still, Crowe knew what he was getting, and knew what he had to do, and in a wonderful play, one of the most-successful of the Indians’ season, Crowe DID get it down and Brantley scored what proved to be the winning run. 

Well done, sir! 

5) Polka Dot Moon Special 

In the 8th inning of the nightcap, Shelley Duncan led off the 8th inning by getting plunked.  After an out, Andy Marte ran the count to 3-2 against Ryan Perry. 

And then Shelley Duncan did something he had never, ever done in the major leagues before. 

He attempted to steal second base. 

Shelley Duncan is a very exuberant fellow.  Even in a season that has seen him fall off his early-season pace, he has remained unfailingly positive and energetic, possibly because he hasn’t really gotten regular playing time in the bigs, and isn’t being tormented by cries of nepotism like his brother Chris.  He is tall, muscular, and large.  You are wise to fade in the direction opposite Shelley Duncan when scoring the winning run on a walkoff homer, because he is likely to hit you with appreciable force in “celebration.”  I like Shelley Duncan the guy more than I like Shelley Duncan the baseball player. 

The idea of Shelley Duncan stealing second base, however, is something I wish I had gotten to see in person. 

I have told the story of Boog Powell stealing a base for the Indians when he was roughly the size of Shawn Rogers with the mobility of Zydrunas Ilgauskas.  It was an amazing sight, and I’m forever grateful to have been in the stands for the occasion.  (Much in keeping with the Tribe at the time, he did not score that inning.) 

Shelley Duncan was safe.  This makes me happy. 

By the way, against left-handed pitching: .277/.355/.542.  I’d rather have Mike Napoli, a more versatile player, but … that’s not shabby. 

6) Ho Hum Dept. 

The Cleveland bullpen: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K. 

Special mention goes to Vinnie Pestano, who threw a first-pitch strike to … nobody.  He still has a 0.00 ERA, though.  Huzzah! 

7) You’re blowing my arbitration hearing of the future, man! 

Chris Perez inherited a baserunner in the 8th inning of the second game.  He allowed the runner to steal second while striking out the last hitter to end the inning. 

He then walked a hitter in the 9th inning.  He allowed the runner to steal second while striking out the last hitter to end the inning. 

Now, this is all very well and good.  It is good to strike out hitters, including three swings-and-misses in 4 pitches to Brennan Boesch.  But Tofu Lou Marson’s calling card to this point is that he is excellent at throwing out would-be basestealers, and Perez didn’t give him much of a chance there. 

I think Perez owes Marson some grape Gatorade. 

8) Speaking of Tolstoy 

I am curious as to where all the Baseball Tonight Live chatters are that told me I was an idiot for thinking that Brennan Boesch’s early season performance was fluky and insisted that I should have him as the favorite for Rookie of the Year. 

Player A: .325 OBP 
Player B: .317 OBP 

Player A: .424 SLG 
Player B: .426 SLG 

Player A is Boesch.  Player B is … Shelley Duncan. 

9) Credit Where Credit is Due Dept. 

Marson did throw out Austin Jackson trying to steal. 

Justin Masterson stood out with 2 Ks in a perfect inning. 

Shin-Soo Choo’s Golden Sombrero was really shiny.

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