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Indians Indians Archive Morning Rundown: Taming the Tigers
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

jkexcitedHello. My name is Adam Burke and I’m an addict. Indians baseball is my drug of choice and I’ve got the pleasure of filling in for Nino Colla while he’s out of town. Fellow TCF Writer Al Ciammaichella may also help out in Nino’s absence. Hope you enjoy!

May 23, 2012

Detroit Tigers 2

Cleveland Indians 4

W: Vinnie Pestano (2-0), L: Phil Coke (1-1), SV: Chris Perez (15)


My highly unscientific numbers tell me that the Tigers are 85-90% likely to win with Verlander on the mound, 70-75% with Doug Fister on the mound, and are drunkenly throwing darts with Porcello, Scherzer, and Smyly on the mound.

Poor Nino missed one heck of a game tonight. If you’re not in love with this team already, then you have commitment issues. I know there’s a stigma attached to the word “grind” thanks to the haunting memories of Eric “Mustache Rides” Wedge, but that’s exactly what the Indians have done in the first two games of this series. They’ve grinded out victories with opportunistic hits, some terrific bullpen work, a little bit of luck, and turning the opponent’s mistakes into runs.

The Indians forced Doug Fister to throw 29 pitches in the first inning. Starters have to be jumped on early when they’re struggling to find the zone. The Indians got two men on, but failed to do any damage. Fister sailed through the next 5.2 innings throwing just 82 pitches and making just one mistake.

Enter Zach McAllister. McAllister was acquired for Austin Kearns on July 30, 2010 when the New York Yankees had a need for a right-handed bat. Somehow, that need led them to Austin Kearns. McAllister was sent to the Indians on August 20, fulfilling the “Player to be named later” portion of the trade. If you recall, the Indians re-signed Austin Kearns that offseason. In essence, we gave up two months of Austin Kearns for Zach McAllister. Last night, McAllister was brilliant.

(Please click this Youtube link and listen to the music while reading the next section of the Rundown)

The only thing that kept Z-Mac from going 6.1 (or more) shutout innings was some shoddy defense from the Indians in the sixth. QuintinBerry, recalled by the Tigers prior to today’s game after Tigers centerfielder Austin Jackson was unable to take batting practice, got his first career hit with a bunt double. That’s not a typo. A bunt double.Berrypopped the bunt over the head of a charging Casey Kotchman and then Jason Kipnis, trying to field it on the short hop, had it go right under his glove into short right field.

The next hitter, Andy Dirks, lined a ball at Shin-Soo Choo who “baby giraffed” it into a double, misplaying it horribly and having to chase it down off the wall.Berryscored easily and the Motor City Kitties went up 1-0. After Miguel Cabrera flew out to medium-deep right field, the Indians brought the infield in with Prince Hitter at the plate (You’ll get the name change shortly). Hitter ripped a ball at Cabrera who made a terrific diving stab and short-hopped a throw to the plate that Carlos Santana was unable to dig out and Dirks scored.

(End Youtube music now. For those who couldn’t hear, it was the Benny Hill Theme “Yakety Sax”.)

Timing is everything in baseball. The hitter must gauge the speed of the pitch to make solid contact. The infielders need to gauge the speed of a runner to know how quickly they have to make a throw. Runners must time the pitcher in order to get a good jump when stealing the bases.

Pitching great Warren Spahn used to say “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” Basically, Spahn’s point is that pitching is all about changing speeds. I don’t think that people really understand the mind games that go on in baseball. Hitters, and pitchers, take mental notes of every pitch in an at bat. They have scouting reports and do their pre-game work, but nothing comes to fruition until they’re actually facing off against each other.

In the first inning, Travis Hafner got a changeup that was about thigh-high on a 2-2 count. It looked like he had gotten a lot of it, but it turned out that he hit it off the end of the bat and it harmlessly landed in the RF’s glove. Fast forward to the sixth inning. Travis Hafner is up again and this time with a 2-0 count. Sitting fastball, he is way out in front of a good changeup from Tigers starter Doug Fister.

There are two thought processes here for Fister and his catcher Gerald Laird. One is to throw the changeup again, assuming that Fister’s arm action makes it look like a fastball and could get Hafner out in front, inducing a double play with Kipnis on first. The other is to throw the fastball and expect Hafner to be late on it because the first three pitches in the at bat were breaking balls.

They opted for the changeup. Fister hung it and Hafner hit out to tie the game.

hafner watchIt’s at this point that we must commend Travis Hafner and possibly point to a trend that we may see more of. Hafner was mired in a terrible May slump entering this series. He was 12-for-65, which is a .185 average and it’s been exacerbated by his season-long struggles with men in scoring position, with a .140 batting average. As we’ve seen over the last couple of years, Hafner’s body is wearing down. The Indians put kid gloves on him for a while, making sure that he didn’t play more than three or four days in a row and limiting his exposure to left handed pitching. This year, Hafner’s played in 39 of the team’s 43 games. He got just two days off during the Indians 21 games in 20 days stretch to start the month of May, but played both games of the May 7 doubleheader.

With the May 21off day giving Hafner a chance to catch his breath, he’s driven in four of the Indians nine runs in the series with a home run, a sac fly, and a RBI single. Hafner needs days off to stay fresh. It’s something to monitor going forward because this is a guy who hasn’t played more than 120 games since 2007.

Anyway, the Hafner homer only tied the game and made it a best-of-three innings affair. Advantage: Indians. The Tigers entered this series with the worst bullpen ERA in Major League Baseball, including a 5.51 from closer Jose Valverde. The Indians, with some minor hiccups here and there and numbers skewed by punching bags like Dan Wheeler and Jairo Asencio, have one of the American League’s best bullpens.

McAllister gave up a couple of soft singles in the seventh and was replaced by Nick Hagadone. From my recollection, it was only the second time that Hagadone was brought in to a “high-leverage” situation. Hagadone fought with his command against two left handed hitters, getting one to weakly ground into a fielder’s choice and walking the other, bringing up Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded.

There’s a tremendous book that is a must-read for any sports fan called Scorecasting. It’s written by one of the top finance scholars in his field, University of Chicago Professor Tobias Moskowitz, and Sports Illustrated senior writer, Jon Wertheim. As a huge baseball fan, one section of the book greatly intrigued me. In a segment called “Whistle Swallowing”, regarding umpires, officials, and why certain rule-bending instances are good for the game, the authors looked at the Pitch F/X data of the 2007 season, a sample size of nearly 1.15 million called pitches, aka, pitches not put in play. One of the subjects they researched was the strike zone differences in a 3-0 count as opposed to an 0-2 count. We’ve long heard disgust from commentators or players “3-0 strike call”, which is sometimes referred to as the “automatic 3-0 strike”.

What Moskowitz and Wertheim found is that the strike zone is 93 square inches larger during a 3-0 count as opposed to a 0-2 count. That was just for 2007, but one would assume that other years have a similar result. Why is this relevant? Because Joe Smith got what appeared to be a “gift” call on a 3-0 pitch to Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. The Pitch F/X data would tend to agree (note: pitches are tracked from behind the hitter, so when looking at picture, imagine that Cabrera is on the left of the strike zone). According to the plot, the pitch was about .9 feet outside the strike zone. Cabrera grounded out on the next pitch.

The Indians weren’t done with stress-inducing situations for the night. After Kipnis’s error on a Prince Hitter ground ball deep into the shift, Vinnie Pestano came on to put out the fire. Instead, he tossed a few drops of lighter fluid on it. Delmon Young hit a perfectly placed sand wedge down the RF line and Brennan Boesch took a pitch that was a foot outside and singled to LF. Luckily, with Hitter on the basepaths, despite Johnny Damon’s horrendous arm, the Tigers did not score. Pestano toughened up with the bases loaded and nobody out to get Jhonny Peralta swinging at a pitch he couldn’t hit with a boat oar, got a weak roller from Ramon Santiago that resulted in a force out at home plate, and then struck out Alex Avila on a Dutch Boy fastball that painted the black.

kipsafeathomeJason Kipnis led off the eighth inning with a cue shot into the corner pocket off Phil Coke’s glove and then scampered to third on a double down the line from Asdrubal Cabrera. With the infield in, Hafner chopped, to put it nicely, a ball in the direction of Prince Hitter. Hitter, showing the defensive prowess you would expect from somebody who got a $214 million contract from the Tigers this offseason, spiked the throw to home into the ground on the run and Kipnis slapped his hand on home plate for the lead. Carlos Santana followed with a sac fly.

Inexplicably, Shelley Duncan was caught stealing to end the inning. This needed its own paragraph.

Chris Perez calmly collected his 15th straight save and the faithful went home happy.

Winning the series is big. Beating Verlander would be huge.


Random details...

Is there anything better than watching a player who hustles 100% of the time? Jason Kipnis is exactly that. He struggled at the plate for much of May, but never stopped running hard. He’s picked up a couple of infield singles so far in this series and his run from first-to-third on the Cabrera double in the eighth was a thing of beauty.

Attendance jumped up 7,000 from the first game of the series, so kudos to you walk-up crowd. 22,000 is still embarrassing for a series of this magnitude, but we’re getting closer.

Do the Indians need a left handed reliever? Tony Sipp got credited with an appearance tonight but didn’t retire a batter thanks to a throwing error. He has been extremely inconsistent this season and has been the benefactor of his Bullpen Mafia comrades who, generally, have not allowed his runners to score. Nick Hagadone looked really unsure of himself today against two lefties who aren’t considered “feared” hitters. Rafael Perez is still out with noodle-arm-itis with no return date in sight.

Do the Indians need another right handed reliever? Had the Indians not taken the lead in the bottom of the eighth, Chris Perez would have entered in a tie game, which brings bad thoughts to all of us. Had the game gone to extra innings, the Indians were left with only Jeremy Accardo and Jairo Asencio in the bullpen. They need another reliable right handed pitcher for that sixth/seventh inning role or a guy they can trust if Smith and Pestano have been used.



Jack Hannahan is supposedly going to be ready to get back into the starting lineup this weekend inChicago. Hannahan hasn’t played in a week with a nagging back issue, but Jose Lopez has played admirably in his place, both offensively and defensively. As a result, the Indians haven’t hurried Hannahan back.

Josh Tomlin, Manny Acta’s Little Cowboy, is scheduled to throw 50 pitches in a simulated game on Sunday inChicago. If that goes well, he’ll be one step closer to re-joining the ballclub, and is not expected to make any rehab starts in the minors.

Vinnie Pestano extended his appearances with a strikeout streak to 23 with a couple of K’s last night. According to Jordan Bastian, it’s the 31st such streak in the bigs dating back to 1918.



AAA: The Columbus Clippers had Wednesday night off

AA: The Akron Aeros beat the Trenton Thunder (NYY) 4-2 with lefty TJ House going a solid seven innings of one run ball.

High-A: The Carolina Mudcats got knocked around losing 7-2 with the lone bright spots being Delvi Cid’s first long ball of the year and Danny Salazar’s three scoreless frames.

Low-A: The Lake County Captains were idle on Wednesday.


Well, we got to watch the Tigers downfall today. Defense, specifically from their infield. However, we do know that they still love pepper and hate cinnamon.


I’m pinch hitting for Nino this week, but you can find my weekly Saturday column, View from the Porch, right here at

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