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Second Thoughts: Game #15 - Royals 3, Indians 4

Second Thoughts: Game #15 - Royals 3, Indians 4
April 25, 2012
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  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
KC 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 3 12 0
CLE 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 x 4 8 0
W: Lowe (3-1) L: Sanchez (1-1) S: Perez (7)

The Starting Pitching

The Line: Win, 6 IP, 8H, 1/1 R/ER, 1BB, 5K, 1 WP

The Results:  61% strikes, 9 groundouts, 1 fly out, 1 Line out, 2 pop outs

The Write-up: Lowe pitched well and definitely deserved the win. He induced groundballs all game and got some timely strike outs while limiting walks. This is a good recipe for avoiding big innings. He did give up eight hits, but only one went for extra bases and coupling that with just one walk really limits the potential for damage. Of the eight hits, three of them were ground balls. Meaning he induced 12 groundballs and 25% of them were hits, this is about what one would expect so it wasn’t like Lowe was getting lucky on the balls in play.

Watching the broadcast and then seeing the pitches come up on PitchFX is confusing because the pitches look like they snake different directions each time: cutters, sinkers, change-ups and sliders darting towards the bottom of the zone, but PitchFX tells a very different story, regardless of the classification, the pitches work between 80-88 with about 7-9” of break and 4-7” of movement. These are very small windows of variability and it just shows how valuable keeping the ball down in the zone can be. He will have bad days as his mediocre stuff will work it’s way up in the zone and guys will turn on it, but you have to like the acquisition so far.

The Bullpen

The Line: Hold, Save, 3IP, 4H, 2/2 R/ER, 1BB, 2K

The Results: 66% strikes, 5 groundouts, 1 fly out, 1 pop out

The Write-up: Tony Sipp looked good and should quell the Hagadone talk for a little bit. Call me crazy, but isn’t Wheeler the one that is on the hot seat? Hagadone and Sipp get hitters out better than Wheeler, regardless of what side they choose to hit from. Just because the Indians have good relievers who happen to be left-handed doesn’t mean that we should trot bad right-handed relievers out there to keep things balanced. Pestano and Perez both looked rough, spotty control coupled with only above average, not elite, velocity is a recipe for disaster. They made the pitches, but all of Perez’s hits were on 92-93 mph fastballs that were up in the zone. Pitchers typically need to work down or throw 94-96 to escape harm and the Chris Perez velocity watch is a nightly adventure.

One scouting note: Pestano’s velocity must play up due to his potent slider and low ¾ release point. STO slowed the footage down and showed his fastball bearing in against a righty. The pitch actually turned over to barrel in on Escobar’s hands, but if a slider was thrown it would sweep away from the batter and the only indication would be picking up the “dot” on top of the ball as the seams spin to create a red dot that the batter can pick up. Arm slot, release and trajectory are very similar until the break and this is likely a large reason why Pestano generates so many swings and misses despite having only slightly above average “stuff”.

Starting Lineup

The Line: 8/28, 2 2B, 9BB, 7SO

The Results: 4 runs, 2 Sac Flys, 1 GIDP, 28 LOB, AVG/OBP/SLG 286/459/357

The Write-up: There is something to be said for “getting it done” but this could have been a big “coulda, shoulda, woulda” game had the Royals bunched their hits a little more. In the first two innings alone, there were five men on base with nobody down and the top of the order at the plate. The Indians managed one run on a heads up play by Kipnis alertly retreating to 3rd to tag on a sinking liner caught by Gordon. If he had froze, like many are taught on line drives, he wouldn’t have been able to tag and the Indians would have come away completely empty handed.

Asdrubal came back from the bereavement list and hit the ball very hard three out of his four AB’s. His line only shows a double and single, but he squared the ball again in the 6th and if he hadn’t gotten a little out on his front foot he could have really driven that. The other guy that hit the ball hard all night and didn’t have much to show was Travis Hafner. He absolutely killed two pitches and had nothing to show for it. Even more encouraging was the hard line drive in the left-center gap that Hafner hit against lefty, Jose Mijares. If Hafner is hitting it hard to the opposite field against a LOOGY reliever, you know he is going well. I already picked him up for my flex/UTIL spot in fantasy baseball and look forward to his less than everyday, but productive starts.

The Other Stuff: Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana are the stars of this  team. They consistently make quality plays at the plate and in the field.  In the 3rd inning, Billy Butler hit a flare into shallow right field. Choo was back and couldn’t close on the ball fast enough. Kipnis made a good run at the difficult over-the-should basket catch and when it popped loose, he quickly and alertly retrieved the ball to get the force out at 2nd. This seems like a lucky play on a botched catch, but it is far from that; he clearly has the awareness that great players possess. In addition to the heads up running play in the 1st and the alert defensive play in the 3rd, he laid down a great bunt to get things going in the 7th.

Carlos Santana is a joy to watch at the plate. He has excellent control, a selective-aggressive approach where he attacks his pitches in hitters counts and produces in every at bat. Last night his stat line was pretty decent (1/3, R, BB, RBI), but his at bats were a thing to behold. He got his RBI  after falling behind 0-2 and working the count until he got a pitch he could  lift enough to get the runner home. My favorite at bat of the game was Santana’s 11-pitch battle with Tim Collins that went into the box as a groundout but was really a hard hit ball in the hole that Alcides Escobar made a strong play to get the out.

The Takeaways: This team is learning how to win, but will need to convert more  opportunities against the better teams. Bases loaded, none out, is a multi-run scoring situation. Also, as much fun as the jack Hannahan two-out run scoring machine is right now, it is not sustainable. Hannahan isn’t this good of a hitter and the Indians can’t hope for such timely hits for the rest of the season. Outings like this from Lowe will be a regular occurrence, but those hits will get bunched up and more runs will be scored from similar performances in the future, especially against better teams. I point out the shortcomings in a winning effort, but want to make certain that I point out that they won. Getting the easy ones is important and paves the way for future successes.

Looking forward to Ubaldo today and please, give as much feedback as you can, this is my first shot at a game recap integrating opinions and outcomes!

User Comments

April 25, 2012 - 6:47 PM EDT
The sequence of ABs after Sanchez walked 3 in a row to load the bases was horrible......

Kipnis hacks at the first pitch and shallowly pops up

Asdrubal hacks at the first pitch and grounds into a double play

why are you letting free at first pitches right after the pitcher just walked them loaded?
April 25, 2012 - 5:46 PM EDT
and det...he's just that kind of kid that gets it done. More reminds me of a non-jailed, Lenny Dykstra...with more upside for power and average...

As we said on Smoke Signals last night...he should be the guy at the top of the order...full time...don't like him at all in the nine-spot...
April 25, 2012 - 11:35 AM EDT
I agree with you about Kipnis, Tony - a poor man's Sizemore. Doesn't have the power and doesn't have Sizemore's plate discipline right now, but he makes things happen when he gets on base. Gets into scoring position via xtra base hits or singes and SB. And he has combination of good speed and plus baserunning instincts.
April 25, 2012 - 9:50 AM EDT
I really like Kipnis in that leadoff spot. Sort of like a mini-Sizemore when he was good and hitting leadoff. Kipnis does not have the speed of Sizemore, but he is quick and a heady ballplayer that can still take extra bases and swipe a few bags. If I am Acta, I move Brantley down to 9th and let him get his confidence up. I personally think Brantley should just stay down at 8-9 anyway. I don't know what happened to him as he is just so much slower in the outfield and on the basepaths than when he first came to the org in 2008-2009.
April 25, 2012 - 8:40 AM EDT
I watched the game; nice recap. Kipnis is surprising me with his speed. He beat out a bunt and stole 2nd base against a lefty, and also made a great base running play on that line drive to left as you pointed out. However, I was disappointed when he swung at the first pitch and popped out after three straight walks to load the bases with none out. I thought he should have been more patient in that situation.

Hafner has been on base 16 of his last 22 at-bats and it could have easily been 18 because he smoked those last two balls. Pitchers are terrified of him. I would include him as one of the stars of the team for April.

Lowe has three wins already in April and looks like a great pickup, but you're right, let's see how his stuff plays against teams that have more than a couple of legitimate major league hitters. I'll bet the Tribe pitchers wish they could pitch against the Royals, Mariners and A's the entire season.

Awesome game by Hannahan. Game winning two-out two-run double and a brilliant defensive play. He continues to roll but I agree he can't keep hitting .800 with two out and RISP.

The Royals are a mess right now. Even their good hitters like Butler and Gorden are slumping. This was supposed to be the year they emerged as a competitive team but they appear to be worse than ever. I really feel for their fans. At 3-14 their season appears to be already over.

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