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Indians Indians Archive The B-List: 7/19
Written by Steve Buffum

Steve Buffum

On cruise control for most of the game, the Indians dropped a spleen-buster to the Twins by giving up a pair of runs in the 9th inning.  Justin Masterson was once again tremendous, and the offense was once again pretty lousy, but the key play came early in the day when Mike Brantley ate a bad burrito or something, forcing Luis Valbuena to play left field, which was plainly absurd.  Guess who is playing left field in today’s game?  Oy vey.















Indians (51-45)













Twins (45-51)













W: Perkins (2-1)                        L: C. Perez (2-5)


Paper cut, meet lemon juice.


1) Smooth as silk, hard as nails


To ask for a better performance from your starting pitcher than Justin Masterson delivered last night, you essentially have to split hairs or display shocking avarice.  Masterson was thoroughly in control the entire time he was on the mound, from inducing three ground balls to the pitcher in the first to finishing his night with an infield single sandwiched between two swinging Ks.  He was throwing just as hard in the 8th as he was in the first, and ended up tossing 7 2/3 shutout innings, allowing 4 singles and striking out 6 while walking zero.  72 of his 104 pitches were strikes, a 69.2% strike percentage.  He recorded a prepostrous 15 ground ball outs to 2 in the air, posting a Masterson Number of 21.  The Arcane “Game Score” metric tells me that his start against the Yankees (3 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 8 IP, 0 R) was a little better than this one, but I actually like the exchange of 1 single for 2 walks.  I liked this start better.


One of the things I tend to forget about Masterson is that he throws pretty darned hard.  There were a couple of times when Masterson did not simply bore in another of his sinkers, but rather let fly a high fastball that the Twins simply had no answer for.  I suppose I, too, would look for something down in the zone against Masterson, or at least something trending downward.  To be looking low and then have a 95-mph ball cross the plate at about spleen level would be pretty hard to catch up to.


Any questions I have about Masterson’s performance fall into the Managerial Second-Guessing variety.  Masterson lowered his season ERA to 2.64 in 136 1/3 innings over 21 starts.  He has posted a 1.47 ERA in 5 starts in July.  He has won 8 games.


2) Squander Ball!


Francisco Liriano is likely a tough pitcher to face.  He may not have the superior raw stuff he had when he first burst onto the scene, but he has recovered most of it after his elbow surgery.  He throws hard.  He drops the ball out of the zone.  He has an excellent slider.


He has no clue whatsoever where he is going to throw the ball.


Although Liriano no-hit the Indians into the 3rd inning and only gave up a hit in 3 of the 6 innings he pitched, the Indians still put a runner on base in each of his six innings.  While his 5 Ks in 6 innings shows a certain degree of skill, it’s not like Liriano was dominating the Tribe hitters.


They certainly didn’t do much with what he gave them, though.


Special mention, of course, goes to the 4th inning, in which the Indians loaded the bases with no outs on a pair of singles and Travis Buck’s forehead.  It bears mentioning that Zeq Carrera’s single was:


a) the only hit Cleveland got with a runner in scoring position
b) did not actually score the runner in said position
c) came after he bunted the ball foul … twice


And then, in a situation in which anything but a fan or a popup scores a run, Orly Cabrera popped up.  Asdrubal Cabrera hit a sac fly, but then Carlos Santana also popped out and the inning ended with one run in the books.


Of course, the Indians wasted an opportunity in the previous inning when a leadoff walk was followed by a pair of swinging Ks by left-handed hitters against left-handed Liriano, then a single, then a wild pitch that was enough to advance the runner from first but not score the runner from third, and then … a swinging K.


3) General Managerial Head-Scratchers


So, generally speaking, your outfield is meant to be Brantley, Sizemore, and Choo.  Injuries are a part of the game, and somewhat unfortunate, and the best laid plans of mice, voles, and other mice and all that.  No team has an inexhaustible supply of any commodity.


Here, then, are your outfielders:


Brantley (LH)
Zeq Carrera (LH)
Buck (LH)
Kearns (RH)
Nobody Whatsoever (NH)


So, this plan appears to have be laid by a capybara or something.  This is not so much a “plan” as it is “not a plan.”


But really, now, why do you need 5 outfielders?  Isn’t this profligate?  I mean, Matt LaPorta can play LF, right?  He did for a while.  And shoot, most anyone can stand out in left for a few innings, right?  It’s left field!


Well, y’know, actually, it’s nice to have a guy who’s stood in left field before.


Now, am I telling you this is a Huge Error that the team didn’t shuttle out Jeanmar Gomez for Shelley Duncan (using the Sizemore injury to get around the minimum time rule) or anything?  Eh, probably not a HUGE error.  But you know what is a Huge Error?  Having the fourth-through-seventh best outfielders in your WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM be Travis Buck, Austin Kearns, Zeq Carrera, and Shelley Duncan.  That’s motley, man.  How many teams do any of these guys start for?  How many team do any of these guys make the ROSTER of?  Kearns could play for half the league, I guess.  Buck’s a hope-and-prayer project, Carrera’s not really done anything to deserve a call-up that doesn’t involve attrition, and Duncan is a lefty-mashing luxury player.  Are there guys coming up through the pipes who are probably better long-term?  Sure.  Are any of them better options RIGHT BLOODY NOW in 2011?  Veeeeery questionable.


The whole lineup just tilts so far to the left.  Both third basemen, most of the outfield, pretty much the whole bench besides Marson.  Bleah.


4) Managerial Second-Guessers I


So.  It’s Luis Valbuena in left field.  This looks funny, but whatever.  It’s left field.  Justin Masterson is en route to posting 15 groundouts and 6 Ks.  All Valbuena has to do is not impale himself on a stanchion or something and this is fine.


Here’s the thing, though: once Alexi Casilla pulled the ball off Chris Perez, it seemed kinda easy to foresee that the Twins were able and interested in pulling the ball.  Danny Valencia pulled an outside pitch Monday for his homer.  Mike Cuddyer is better at pulling than going the other way.


So yeah, this is fairly extreme second-guessing, but is it inconceivable that Manny Acta could have had Austin Kearns trot over to the Pull Field for each hitter?  Stay in right for Mauer, go to left for Cuddyer, right for Thome (or, if IBB, stay where he was), left for Valencia?  Is this that absurd?


If so, it was no more absurd than the way Luis Valbuena played left field in the 9th inning.


5) Managerial Second-Guessers II


With one out in the 8th inning and a runner on first, right-hander Matt Capps was summoned from the bullpen to face Matt LaPorta and Austin Kearns.  LaPorta was acting as DH with Santana at 1B and Tofu Lou behind the dish.


Capps has to face one batter, if I remember the rules correctly.  And even if not, if they bring Perkins in, Kearns gets a better look.  I understand giving Travis Hafner the FULL night off.  One plate appearance doesn’t SEEM like much to you and me, but I am not Pronk’s shoulder.  I was calling for Hafner, but I can understand not doing it.


But why not Chisenhall?  I mean, Chisenhall sure can’t hit lefties, but Capps yields a brisk .264/.304/.471 line against left-handed hitters.  LaPorta did a decent job, battling an 7-pitch AB into a fly ball to the outfield, but … boy, I wanted to see Hafner break up the two righties.


6) Managerial Second-Guessers III


Justin Masterson had thrown 104 pitches in recording his 23rd out, which turned out to be his last.  The reason?  So that left-hander Tony Sipp could get the platoon advantage on Ben Revere.


Ben Revere?  Really?  Ben Revere?


You know who was unlikely to get a hit off Justin Masterson?  That would be Ben Revere.  Revere had grounded back to Masterson, lofted an easy fly the other way, and grounded out to second.  Ben Revere had no more chance of hitting Masterson’s stuff than he had of digesting his bat.


And then the next hitter was switch-hitter Lex Casilla.  You know who was unlikely to get a hit off Justin Masterson?  Lex.  Groundout to pitcher, groundout to pitcher, swinging K.


So, at 104 pitches, maybe it’s overly aggressive to ask for the complete game shutout, especially since I’ve been a big Pitch Count Honk in the past.  But I wouldn’t have pulled Masterson for Sipp.


If you wanted, though, you could have Sipp face Mauer, and then there’s STILL a Save Opportunity for Mr. Perez in Cuddyer et al.


I just didn’t like it.


7) “Fail” writ big and small


In Chris Perez’ defense, Mike Cuddyer’s blooper to left was a single misplayed into a double by an inexperienced Not Left Fielder, and Danny Valencia’s game-winning single was a blort that happened to drop in front of a Not Left Fielder who was playing in an absurd location.


But do you know what I attribute at least part of those hits to?  Perez’ inability to throw a damn strike.


Not only did he walk Mauer, but Perez fell behind both Cuddyer (2-0) and Valencia (2-1) before yielding hits.  You can chalk it up to “just not his night,” but results matter, and these were poor.


8) Managerial Second-Guessers, Opponent Edition


Why pinch run for Thome in the 9th?  The only way the runner on first made a DAMN bit of difference is if the runner on third was thrown out at the plate or something.  I dunno, just seemed odd.


9) The novelty has worn off


Stop sending Zeq Carrera!


10) Credit Where Credit is Due Dept.


Austin Kearns, Zeq Carrera, and Tofu Lou each reached base twice.

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