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Second Thoughts: An entirely droll off day

Second Thoughts: An entirely droll off day
May 17, 2013
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Setting aside a few torturous offensive performances at the beginning of the week including both parts of the doubleheader against the Yankees as well as the first game in Philadelphia, the Indians have been absolute must-watch television. And as excited as I am about Brian Hoyer, (Hint: I am not at all interested) I am far more intrigued watching an offense that is fifth in Major League Baseball in runs scored, first in home runs or even a pitching staff that has become shockingly palatable over the past month.

This is all to say that Thursday was empty; I spent the day continually wishing that the Indians did not have an off day.

This is how great a diversion baseball can become. The last three weeks of quality baseball have been tremendous and increasingly addictive where off days seem like weeklong separations from excitement. More importantly, the Indians after wavering in early April are off to strong start. Using this off day as one of reflection it is easy to look back to just last September and see just how much the entire outlook has changed.

In September 2012, we were talking about assets and rebuilding, what we could get for Asdrubel, Justin, and Perez, and how quickly the team faded from a second consecutive strong start. No matter what the ticket takers might experience, the organization is revitalized and off to yet another encouraging early season start. However, this time it feels a little bit different:

May 16, 2012: 21-16, Run Differential -4
May 16, 2013: 22-17, Run Differential +25

Run differential is not an overtly powerful statistic in illuminating or predicting production but it is somewhat useful as a smoke and mirrors meter. And it is clear that this year’s start may be less like the fool’s gold of last season and something closer to a stabile commodity like copper. The outlook for Indians fans ranges from person to person. Personally, I am still skeptical that they will compete for a division or even top 86 wins this season, but the Indians have created a new three to five year window of opportunity in the central which has made watching this team a joy.

Mafia kingpin Vinnie Pestano on his way back

As of Thursday night the Indians bullpen was in the top five in K/9 and sixth in ERA, yet after the Tiger’s series and Yankee’s doubleheader it became clear that no matter the depth of quality arms, the Tribe missed Vinnie Pestano. Pestano and Joe Smith have been a few of the criminally underrated relievers in the last three years because they aren’t lucky enough to play the overvalued role of closer.

The Indians were relatively effective in covering Pestano’s absence in terms of win/loss; however, some warts and inexperience were shown. The second game in Detroit, while being just one game, was particularly concerning because of their inability to cover the seventh inning. The biggest concern was Nick Hagadone who was optioned out in order to make room for Pestano’s return.

Hagadone’s Achilles heel to this point has been his walk rate and  this season Nick is averaging a walk per frame. While this is elevated above career norms, Hagadone’s minor-league walk rate is not much better and right now this issue really challenges his viability as a left-handed matchup guy let alone back-end piece. Every team needs at least one and usually two competent left-handed relievers and with Hagadone’s continued struggles they either need him to make adjustments quickly or for Scott Barnes/David Huff to plug the dam until he figures it out.

Up Next

Ubaldo Jimenez v. Brandon Maurer @ 7:05 PM, Progressive Field on Friday night.

Prior to each start from Jimenez my anxiety has slowly decreased, and as with every outing for Ubaldo this start is key to prove that he can be consistent from start to start.

With a home series and a seemingly mediocre opponent the Indians are set-up to continue their run of winning/splitting series' and hopefully Progressive Field's attendance begins to grow more visibly in correlation with the Indians recent success.

Interact with Michael by email at and on Twitter @MichaelHattery

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