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Second Thoughts Game #133: Indians 1, Braves 3

Ubaldo Jimenez, a lethargic offense, and Friday

Second Thoughts Game #133: Indians 1, Braves 3
August 30, 2013
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It is almost unbelievable that Ubaldo Jimenez is pitching well as the Tribe’s fifth starter and yet they are struggling to keep their competitive heads above water. However, leaving the Indians offensive struggles for later in the piece it is my responsibility to highlight or at least point to how impressive he has been of late.

Over his last 42.2 innings, beginning in the last week of July, Jimenez has allowed twelve runs, with 49 strikeouts. Yes 49 strikeouts; talk about being absolutely dominating. 

If one was to ask who has the most devastating stuff on this staff, the answers would vary but probably center around Danny Salazar’s fastball/change combo (we won’t include him as a staff member yet as he has thrown just 27 innings) or Justin Masterson’s filthy sinker . Ubaldo Jimenez probably would not come to mind due to his velocity decrease since leaving Colorado.

However, if one was to use strikeout rate, a fair indicator of swing and miss “stuff”, Ubaldo Jimenez has the highest at 9.11 K/9. In fact he is the only rotation member over 9.00 (Masterson is flirting with it and has fluctuated around 9.00 most of the season).  Except for one pitch to Brian McCann, Ubaldo was pretty electric on Thursday night as he had twenty swings and misses in 104 pitches.

One of the reasons for Ubaldo’s increased success has been the thinning of his repertoire. Specifically the vast decrease in curveball usage combined with increased usage of both the changeup and the slider.  The slider specifically has seen an increase in the strikeout rate on usage rising from 26.3% to 30.5%. Indeed as the slider has improved and Ubaldo his limited his pitch mix it has allowed him to have increased control and an improved strikeout rate.

An entirely torturous offense

I wish there was some cute anecdote to summon or a critical aphorism to reference that would appropriately show my distaste for the Indians recent offensive production, but unfortunately the English language does not provide many “appropriate” words capable of expressing their comprehensive ineptitude.

So in order to evade the possibility of frustration pervading a lens of rationality we will have a look at the Indians offensive “production” in the month of August.

The Indians are tied for 25th in runs scored with 85, and are in the bottom five in baseball in the following categories in the month of August: BA (.228), OBP (.297), SLG (.356) and wRC+(83).

One piece this does point to in terms of their offensive struggles is that they are not solely based upon a failure to hit with runners in scoring position. Rather they are also a huge step below their season OBP and are struggling to create scoring opportunities themselves.

The struggles have become cyclical as poor production has put pressure on the players to produce which has created bad at bats.

In fact, some of the lack offensive production has been based on luck:

August BABIP: .269, LD% 22.6, GB% 43.2, FB% 34.2
Full Season BABIP: .298, LD% 21.1, GB% 43.5%, 35.4%

Basically what this shows is that the Indians have had decreased “success”/“luck” on balls in play without any real significant change in their batted ball profile.  Their BABIP numbers with RISP during August are indeed similar which goes to show that the Indians are probably just suffering through some deflation struggles.

The only real concern or decline has been the walk rate which is around a 1% lower during August than the rest of the season. Which seems minute but actually represents a ten percent shift overall.

The point being that perhaps as the calendar turns over to September, and the Indians back into a confidence builder that they will probably return to an average or above average offense. The question being whether it happens quick enough for them to legitimately compete for a playoff spot.

Up Next: Cleveland Indians @ Detroit Tigers. Friday, August 30th 7:08 PM ET @Comerica Park

The quiet killer, Zach McAllister will attempt to be the Tribe’s stopper Friday evening as he faces off against Detroit’s weakest starter Rick Porcello. This series is one of if not the most important series to date shaping the Indians ability to compete for both the division or the wild card.

Interact with Michael by email at and on Twitter @MichaelHattery

User Comments

Joe Chengery
August 30, 2013 - 8:22 PM EDT
To clarify last comment, Tigers may have beaten the Indians 10 more times, but are they really 10 games better than the Indians? I don't think so, not especially when they're manhandled by Oakland, get swept by the Angels and have lost to other poor teams quite often throughout the season. DET is certainly beatable, but it looks like climbing an impossible mountain, which makes me think it's more psychological than talent differential.
Joe Chengery
August 30, 2013 - 8:19 PM EDT
Hate to say this, but I think the Indians play "scared" to the Tigers in the sense that they don't seem to have the confidence to beat them and the pitching tries to be too fine instead of letting go against them like they do against other teams. Oakland manhandled Detroit and really should have swept them, proving more that Detroit is not this unbeatable, super team. You look at the Indians and A's rosters, can you honestly say that Oakland has more talent than the Indians do? I can't, never mind the fact that the Indians beat the A's 5/7 times in 2013.

I've been thinking about this for a while now, and tonight emphasizes it again: It seems more like a psychological problem facing the Tigers rather than they being 10-11 games better than we are (based on season series, they aren't). The Indians have to start relaxing, stop playing "scared," and start beating this team. Certainly would like to do it to end 2013, and certainly in 2014. Just something to consider.
Joe Chengery
August 30, 2013 - 8:05 PM EDT
Miguel Cabrera just left the game, but if he was still in there, I would have Stubbs, Bourn, and possibly even Kipnis, bunt to the third-base side and force Cabrera to make plays over there as long as he is in there. You'll either get on base, force him out of the game, or both. And especially since we're not hitting anyway, plus the fact Bourn and Stubbs, at least, can get on via their speed. Something to consider, even if Cabrera is playing up- make him move and force the Tigers to risk him defensively and health-wise or remove him and keep him to a pinch-hitting role at most.
August 30, 2013 - 12:01 PM EDT
If you're in contention in August but you are last in the AL in BA, OBP and OPS then you have to fire the hitting coach. I am not a big fan of sacrificing coaches for player's mistakes, but Van Burkleo has failed big time.. The mark of a good coach is not what you can do when your players are doing well, but what you can do when they're not. The Indians are not blessed w top tier offensive talent and that is Antonetti's fault not Van Burkleo, but they are slightly better than average and yet they are statistically at the bottom for the entire month of August, in a year of contention where it is unacceptable to underperform. Give the job to Jason Giambi or Charlie Manuel- there's lots of qualified people out there.
Ross Miller
August 30, 2013 - 11:58 AM EDT
Further to Tribe's offensive woe's:
Based on every player on the roster having 550 AB's (normal full season) and based on current K's and BB's per time at bat figures, the following 2013 SO's and BB's figures would result:

SO's BB's
Aviles 66 20
Bourn 138 40
Brantley 63 42
Cabrera 128 36
Chisenhall 114 29
Giambi 166 61
Gomes 107 35
Kipnis 138 75
Rayburn 160 73
Santana 116 92
Stubbs 176 54
Swisher 139 77

As a team we are striking out 23% of AB's and walking 9.6%
of AB's. Not a good ratio. Hopefully FO will take these type of statistics into consideration in making future roster and batting approach decisions. Taking a lot of pitches early in the count perhaps isn't a good strategy for many hitters because it often puts them behind in the count and often times the early in the count strikes are the best pitches hitters see in an AB. Also, we need to adjust to the strategy of opponents pitchers throwing off speed pitches in hitters counts.


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