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Second Thoughts Game #20: Royals 8, Indians 2

Second Thoughts Game #20: Royals 8, Indians 2
Asdrubal Cabrera and the rest of the Indians offense had their hands full with James Shields on Tuesday night. (Photo: AP)
April 23, 2014
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Let’s break down the Cleveland Indians’ loss to the Kansas City Royals last night. We will walk through the game, examining some of the key moments, but first, a quick summary:

  • James Shields continues to be quite good.
  • Danny Salazar continues to be quite bad.
  • The Indians continue to receive very poor starting pitching performances.
  • The Royals looked like the team that many pundits predicted would give the Tigers a run for their money in the division.

Danny Salazar being not very good is frustrating because he was so effective in 2013 in his short-time at the Major League level and because he is so crucial to the Indians success in 2014. If not for Zach MaCallister pitching brilliantly in his four starts, and the Indians going 4-0, the Indians would likely be among the worst teams in all of baseball; as opposed to merely a below-average team.

The quick and dirty analysis of Danny Salazar’s outing is that he started out really strong and then fell apart in the 4th inning. The traditional view is that hitter’s adjust throughout the game and that the second and third time through the lineup, they perform much better having the benefit of previous at bats earlier in the game.

Of course, the pitcher gets the chance to adjust, too. And, boy did Dannay Salazar adjust his approach: in the first three innings Danny Salazar threw five off-speed pitches and gave up a pair of walks and needed 50 pitches to do so. He threw 90% fastballs and was extremely effective. In his final 1 1/3 innings, he threw 12 off-speed pitches out of his remaining 36 pitches. He threw 66% fastballs and gave up seven hits and all five runs (four earned).

I’m not advocating Danny Salazar scrap his off-speed pitches, but maintaining the focus on his fastball certainly has to be considered in his quest to to turn things around from his disastrous start to 2014. The only thing to remain excited about, of course, is the fact that he is striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings pitched. This reason alone is why the Indians should, and will, continue to work on his approach as a starter.

Due to the fact that the Indians didn’t provide much to write about last night, I’d like to explore another thing that (some of) you might find interesting:

James Shields pitching well should hardly be surprising at this point: he is among the top-15 or 20 pitchers in the league and has been for a while. Listening to the Indians’ radio call provided a great tidbit that merited further investigation.  Tom Hamilton remarked that James Shields seems to get to 200 innings every year; a simple internet search told me that he has accomplished this feat every year since 2007. That’s impressive, but I had no clue how impressive until I dug a little deeper:

  • Overall, there have been 559 seasons where a pitcher has thrown 200 or more innings since the 2000 season.
  • Those 559 seasons have been spread among 205 pitchers.
  • Only 36 pitchers threw 200 innings in 2013 (a little more than one pitcher per team).
  • From this starting group of 36 only 12 have had 200+ innings in the past 3 years.
  • Only four workhorses have put up seven seasons: Shields, Justin VerlanderCC Sabathia and Mark Buerhle.

Not for nothing, but among the 28 pitched seasons that these four have undertaken:  15.5 of them have been in the AL Central. Apparently, the teams in this division develop workhorses. Additional errata: Mark Buerhle has thrown 200 innings since 2001, at which point James Shields was a newly drafted player in the Rays organization recovering from shoulder surgery.

Hopefully, you found this exercise in data-digging more interesting than the game last night. The Indians will look to get back on track tonight with Justin Masterson facing Jason Vargas. Masterson is looking to regain his form from last year, similar to Salazar, but at least one thing is for sure: Masterson is going to throw a lot of fastballs; regardless of the situation.

User Comments

April 23, 2014 - 4:18 PM EDT
I would take the responsibility beyond Gomes to the bench. Management should take the lead in pitch selection.
April 23, 2014 - 12:08 PM EDT
As I've said all winter, the enthusiasm for Salazar (while understandable) seemed to me to be premature. Remember how good Lee looked in his first swing through the big leagues, and how bad he subsequently looked when he lost the strike zone and started throwing meatballs, in an effort to get the ball over the plate?

Salazar is young, and he's going to be really, really good. But that is in the future. Send him down to Columbus and let him get there, like Phifer did. Bring up Bauer, House or Tomlin (or each in succession), and hope Marcum can get past extended spring training and back to health. Salazar will get there. I'm more worried about Carrasco, who has just really stunk again this spring.
April 23, 2014 - 11:33 AM EDT
Interesting indeed how Salazar changed his approach the second time through. A lot of that is not on Salazar, that's on Yan Gomes. He's calling the games back there. I have to wonder if the Indians picked up on this and they discuss some things with his approach and the game calling going forward. I know pitchers try and keep hitters off balance, but it should be more at bat to at bat and not each time through the lineup. Just another example of how the youth of Salazar and Gomes will show itself at times.

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