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Second Thoughts Game #106: Mariners 5, Indians 2

Second Thoughts Game #106: Mariners 5, Indians 2
Trevor Bauer and Yan Gomes (Photo: AP)
July 30, 2014
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The Cleveland Indians lost to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night by a score of 5-2. The offense continued its inconsistent ways and Trevor Bauer lost his string of four consecutive quality starts and gave up more earned runs (five) than he had in any start in his reassuring 2014 campaign. This game seemed out of reach given the 5-0 lead compiled by the Mariners, but it was similarly played  in all but one respect when viewed as follows:

  • The Tribe offense struggled to put anything together as they only had multiple baserunners in two innings.
  • The Mariners had multiple base-runners in three innings.
  • The Indians drew only one walk and had no stolen bases or sacrifice bunts.
  • The Marines drew only one walk and no stolen bases or sacrifice bunts.
  • The Indians pitching staff struck out nine batters and the bullpen yielded no runs on three hits.
  • The Mariners pitching staff struck out ten batters and the bullpen yielded no runs on two hits.
  • The Indians pulled together eight hits with only three going for extra bases, all of which were doubles.
  • The Mariners had 11 hits with seven going for extra bases, five of which were double, a triple and a home run.

This last portion is obviously the deciding factor in the game: as the clustering of hits was similar, as was the number of balls put in play by opposing offenses. The Mariners simply hit the ball harder and thus didn’t need to rely on the luck (yes, it’s luck) of stringing multiple hits and walks together. Games like this are hard to watch because the feeling is always there that just “one more hit” would break things open and make things square.

Trevor Bauer was hit hard, no doubt, but he threw strikes and that is the biggest key for the Indians going forward. In all likelihood, the Indians will need another 10-game winning streak (a la 2013) to make the playoffs this season. Even then, it is a long shot as more teams are in the running. However, as was the case in 2013, there are several teams that have separated themselves from the pack in terms of run-differential and they are all finding themselves moving to the top of the heap.

As of July 30th in 2013 and 2014:

2013 Team Record WC GB Differential   2014 Team Record WC GB Differential
BOS 64 – 44 - 96   LAA 63 – 42 - 90
BAL 59 – 48 - 31   TOR 58 – 50 - 38
CLE 58 – 48 0.5 50   SEA 55 – 51 2 54
TEX 58 – 49 1 12   NYY 55 – 51 2 -29
NYY 55 – 51 3.5 -9   KC 53 – 52 3.5 -2
KC 52 – 51 5 4   TB 53 – 54 4.5 1
          CLE 52 – 54 5 3

We can see that LAA, TOR and SEA are all much better in terms of scoring and preventing runs than the other four teams chasing them. This is hugely significant, as the differential is a great indicator for expected performance.

If we were to have sorted the AL by run-differential at this point last season, it would have looked like this:

Team Differential on 7/30/13 Final Standing Division/AL
DET 122 1/3
BOS 96 1/1
TB 76 2/5
OAK 67 1/2
CLE 50 2/4
BAL 31 3/8
TEX 12 2/5
KC 4 3/7

Clearly, this is some noise, but the basic summary is that teams with good run differentials by July 30th were destined for the postseason, while those who merely had good records (due in part to good-luck) and were “in the hunt” couldn’t hang on.

Unfortunately, Cleveland is one of those teams that just doesn’t have the profile to really make the case that things will start breaking their way any game now. The Indians are, in all likelihood, a .500 team in reality and in our excel sheets. Proper maximization of current assets (e.g. Masterson and Cabrera) along with development and exploration of future assets (e.g. Jose Ramirez, Carlos Moncrief) are essential to finding the ever-elusive marginal gains that will put the Indians in better position to consistently contend.

The hard part, and the part that Terry Francona and Chris Antonetti are paid for, is to appropriately balance the risk of bringing in unknown-talents/sending out known-talents with the potential reward of returning to the postseason. The Indians will look for a little luck this evening as the enticing pitching matchup of Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez are slated for a 7:05pm duel of two of the top pitchers in the Majors.

User Comments

July 30, 2014 - 4:06 PM EDT
Shy: the Mariners are a bad offensive team: they are dead-last in the AL in runs scored, they are dead-last in the AL in OBP, they are the 4th most swing-happy team in the AL (swing%), and the 5th-most likely team to swing at pitches out of the short, they are an impatient offensive team, that doesnt make good contact during all those swings.

Bauer had an off-night: he has proven that he is a viable Major League he needs to refine his approach and gain the consistency that will allow his prodigious arm to be used most effectively.
July 30, 2014 - 2:20 PM EDT
Gomes 8th????????

Gomes batting lower than 6th has now started me to question titos sanity I don't care who is pitching. I could see if this was the 1995 team. It's NOT!!

You can make a good argument he's been our second or third best hitter since last summer.

Wake up Tito!!!!!!!!!!
July 30, 2014 - 1:18 PM EDT
I agree that the Indians are a .500 ball club this year. Francona is a very good manager and tends to get the most out of the talent that he has, but it's hard to over-achieve w average talent over 162 games. You look at the Mariners lineup- they've got a bunch of kids that can hit the ball, they've got pitching, play good defense, and they're still not really in contention in a competitve division. The Indians need another starting pitcher or two, a 4-5 tool RH outfielder, a DH, and a new middle infield. They waited a year too long to deal Cabrera, now unless he goes to the Giants or A's, they're not going to get anything. I would also consider trading Kipnis if they can get a high prospect back and starting over up the middle next year w Lindor and Aviles/ J Ram. Perez needs to catch more and Gomes DH or even 3B against lefties. Bauer, I have never been convinced he is a formidable AL pitcher. Against bad teams, he gets some guys being over-aggressive and swinging at bad pitches. Against teams like the Mariners, they wait him out and sit on stuff. You can really see the offspeed stuff coming off accentuated body movement. Not only does the movement tip the pitch, it also makes it difficult to locate. He threw a lot of meatballs yesterday and the Mariners feasted on them. The Indians and Francona have a four year plan, perhaps somewhat thrown off course by first year success. They need to pick it up now.
July 30, 2014 - 12:31 PM EDT
CL Who:

I was just talking about this with a friend. I couldn't agree more. I'd love to find a way to get Ramirez everyday reps and Perez as many reps as possible in the final months of the season. Best case scenario, they impress, and maybe you can package them to fill a need this offseason (#3-4 SP, RH bat). Worst case scenario you find out they're simply not everyday type players, which we already assumed, and you've lost nothing.
C L Who
July 30, 2014 - 12:02 PM EDT
Good summary. The Indians are what they seem to be.....a .500 team plus or minus a couple of games either way. Let's hope the FO follows your advice re maximizing assets (some trades, now), and assessing future assets. Roberto Perez and JRam have both looked pretty good so far......I'd like to see some more. It's likely I will get to see more when the roster expands in a few weeks.

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