Second Thoughts Game #29: Indians 7, Athletics 3
Indians pound out four homers, including Reynolds mammoth 460-foot shot
Maybe, just maybe...
After throwing arguably his best game as an Indian last week, Ubaldo Jimenez's follow-up was highly-anticipated. Could one great start turn into another?
Well, it wasn't great, but there was still plenty to like. The offense gave him an early lead again. He threw 60% of his 101 pitches for strikes (about Major League average; down from 67% in his last start, but much better than what we have come to expect from him), and got ahead of 14 of the 24 batters he faced (right on his pace from the last start). His velocity was good, especially late, as he touched 96 on one of his final pitches of the night.
Most importantly, though, was that there was no real indication of overthrowing. Just like his last start, he appeared to not be fighting himself, physically. If he and Mickey Calloway have stumbled onto a permanent solution to this that has plagued him for so long, it might change everything for the player and the team. Better mechanics breeds better command, which leads to more strikes, getting ahead in counts, allowing for effective pitch variety and going deeper into games.
It really could be that simple, but I for one am still choosing to tread very lightly. This potential revolution is long overdue, and it's hard to imagine what could have changed that Jimenez and multiple pitching coaches haven't already tried.
Reynolds, less strikeouts and expletive-inducing homers
When Mark Reynolds was signed in December, we all heard the narratives about his strikeouts. His career rate is 32.3%, which includes a then career-best rate of 29.6 last season. One month into 2013, a highly productive month, he stands at 23.1.
Has he begun to correct his swing-and-miss ways, starting in his last campaign with the Orioles? It's hard to say just yet, but he has swung at the highest rate of pitches out of the strike zone since his rookie season (two-percent more than his career rate), and made contact with a whopping 58.7% of those non-strikes (almost 13% more than his career rate). That seems quite unsustainable, as swinging at more and more balls should theoretically end more poorly than it has for him so far, and maybe more along the lines of what the general perception of him is.
But, perhaps there is more to it than that. In a phone interview with MLB Network after the game, he was asked about cutting down on strikeouts, and spoke upon a new approach at the plate. He acknowledged that he wasn't always going to see inside fastballs that he could spin on and drive, so he has been doing more with what pitchers are giving him, such as giving in on a slider away and punching it into right field for a single. That kind of more studious hitting would work towards explaining his inflated contact rate while expanding his strike zone - he is doing it cerebrally.
Anyway, enough about the science of hitting. After wearing a pitch from Jarrod Parker in his previous at-bat, Reynolds responded in about the most primal way a hitter can - by clubbing a baseball three-fourths of the way up the bleachers (an estimated 460 feet), starring Parker down, spitting and walking into a home run trot. In that same interview on MLB Network, he stated that his dose of revenge was "probably the coolest thing he's ever done," and that Terry Francona told him, "if you hit one, let him (Parker) know." I think he knew. If not, he should be able to access a replay rather easily today. I have personally watched it approximately 16 times.
The Indians' pivot is what we thought it was
Once upon a time, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis were both hitting in the .100s, not driving in runs at the two and three spots in the order and striking out at alarming rates.
Not so much anymore. The pair combined to hit three home runs in this game (Cabrera, two), continuing a recent upswing for the both of them. Since the doubleheader on April 28th (nine games), they have combined for five doubles, three triples, five home runs and 18 runs batted in.
Francona never wavered, didn't bench Kipnis against tough left-handed pitching and refused to tinker with his lineup. Whether or not you believe in that kind of stability really mattering, it tends to in a player's mind. In response, the two in the middle are back to looking like impact bats.
Just three hours before first pitch, word came down that Vinnie Pestano was placed on the disabled list with elbow tendonitis. This, less than 24 hours after he was presumed to be fine and not heading down that road. Nick Hagadone was recalled for him, and responded with a three-pitch strikeout of Josh Reddick with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
On the rehab front, Michael Bourn's first chance back in action was washed away at Huntington Park. He is only expected to need a few games before returning to the Indians, and the Clippers are only home through Thursday, anyway.
The Indians are now 12-2 this season when scoring first.
What in the world was Athletics manager Bob Melvin doing letting Chris Resop throw 48 pitches in relief? He was the first out of the bullpen, brought on in the sixth inning. You expect that from a manager in, say, the 16th inning, when he is down to the option of calling on a position player to get on the mound.
Speaking of bullpens, doesn't it seem like Bryan Shaw runs out of one in exactly every single game?
Up next: Game two of four against the Athletics. The Indians will call on Zach McAllister to make his sixth start of the season.