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Second Thoughts: Game #29 - White Sox 5, Indians 3

Second Thoughts: Game #29 - White Sox 5, Indians 3
May 9, 2012
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  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
CHW 2 0 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 2 5 10 1
CLE 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 3 8 0
W: Santiago (1-1) L: C. Perez (0-1) S: Reed (2)  

Starting Pitching

The Line: 6IP, 6H, 2/2 R/ER. 5BB, 3K. 2GIDP

The Results: 109 pitches, 55% strikes, 12GB, 4FB, 3LD

The Write-up: Masterson did not have his best stuff by a long shot Tuesday night, he couldn’t command his sinker and this is the reason he walked 5 guys. He was lucky to only give up 2 runs because a couple of groundballs were hit at Indians and the double play ball was induced in some clutch spots. One thing that was a pleasant surprise was the control that Masterson had with his slider; he was consistently backdooring lefties and getting called strikes. It seemed like he had a better feel for that than his fastball, which is a rarity with Masterson.

The funny thing is, Masterson probably shouldn’t have given up any runs, and earned a win, because of a missed catch (albeit a tough one) in center and a left-fielder with no arm. The entire Indians staff seems terrified of Adam Dunn, because he is getting walked constantly.

This was a very encouraging outing for Masterson, a moral victory if you are into those kinds of things, because he got through 6 innings by simply battling. If he is going to be the front-line starter the Indians desperately need, nights like last night go a long way toward becoming that guy. Now, just stop walking people. Over the past three years, it had looked like he was well on his way to rectifying his one glawing weakness: walks. He went from 4.18 BB/9 in 2009 to 3.65 to 2.71 in 2010 and 2011. However, he is back to his old ways and trailing only Kyle Drabek, Clay Buchholz and Ubaldo Jimenez in terms of free-passes allowed per 9 innings.

The Bullpen

The Line: 4.0IP, 4H, 3/3 R/ER, BB, 4K

The Results: 58 pitches, 62% strikes, 9GB, 3FB, LD

The Write-up: Chris Perez took the Loss, as closers always seem to when they take the mound in non-save situations, but he didn’t pitch particularly poorly. He challenged Alex Rios with a 94 mph pitch at the knees and Rios simply hammered it over the head of Kipnis and past Choo for a triple. Wheeler struggled, but this shouldn’t be surprising, he is not exactly a high-priority guy in the bullpen and was being used when the Indians were down by 3 and had shown no signs of offense at all.

The real story was Nick Hagadone who was simply over-powering and completely in control of a mid-90’s fastball and a power curve. He threw fastballs by De Aza and Beckham to get ahead and then went back up stairs to put De Aza away, and threw a beautiful curve that completely bottomed out to get Beckham. Then, Dunn came up and Nick Hagadone showed why he could be such a valuable piece of the Tribe pen. He got ahead of Dunn by throwing the big curve for called strikes, Dunn couldn’t pick it up so he just laid off. Now, if Hagaone was bouncing them in there trying to induce swing and misses, he would have fallen behind. Instead, he put the curve in Dunn’s brain and then after missing a very questionable 2-2 fastball on the edge, he came right back and punched Dunn out looking. This really signals that Acta is impressed by and trusts Hagadone; he turned over the game to his greenest reliever and he was rewarded with a 12-pitch, 3K, utterly dominant performance against the top of the order.

The Starting Lineup

The Line: 8/37, 2 2B, 4BB, CS

The Results: 3R, 10TB, 21LOB, AVG/OBP/SLG 216/292/271

The Write-up: The Indians had exactly 2 hits and 2 walks through the first 6 innings of play and then after starting with a double and a walk in the 7th, still didn’t score any runs thanks to an unfortunate liner that easily doubled off Duncan at first.

The Indians were all but done until the 8th when back to back singles by Kotchman and Hannahan put runners on 1st and 2nd with no one out. The White Sox skipper, Robin Ventura, made a surprisingly progressive move and brought in newly-minted closer Chris Sale to get the save in the 8th inning. This was by far the highest leverage point in the game and utilizing the guy that you think is your “closer” in this situation makes sense. However, luck was not on Sale’s side last night as Damon, who had looked horrible all night, got a veterans’ bounce and the ball squibbed away from Alexei Ramirez. Bases loaded and none out with the heart of the order coming up. Kipnis just missed a bases-clearing double and instead settled for a fielder’s choice RBI. The next batter, the true superstar of this team, Carlos Santana delivered a beautiful at bat. He fouled off pitches and when he got behind he shortened his swing and took the ball up the middle for a game-tying 2-run single.

Another great AB was by Shelley Duncan in the 2nd inning. He went 14 pitches before finally popping up to the 2nd basemen. For a point of reference, Danks needed 12 pitches or fewer to get through the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5thand 6th innings. These AB’s are the ones that get covered up by the box score and have such immense value because it gets to that bullpen a little quicker and gives your team a better chance to get back in it, or put things away later on in the game.

The Defense

This was an odd defensive game. No true errors, but a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda type plays. In the 1st inning alone, there were several such plays. First, Brantley should have caught that ball, it hit the heel of his glove. Yes, it is a tough play, but Major League center fielders make the catch. It ended up being a big mistake and, in retrospect, was a difference maker in the outcome.

Second, Jack Hannahan fielded a grounder that ended up being a 5-3 fielder ’s choice RBI a little flat-footed and decided not to throw home to try for the runner from 3rd. It sure seemed like he had time and Santana definitely was prepared for a throw, but it’s tough to say without really being right on top of the play itself.

Finally, on A.J. Pierzynski’s RBI single to left, Johnny Damon fielded the ball fairly shallow in left about the time Adam Dunn rounded third base. If the Indians had literally any other player on their team, save Travis Hafner, in LF at that time, the White Sox wouldn’t have even bothered sending Dunn. Instead, they waved him knowing that Damon wouldn’t get anywhere close and they were right. Damon double-pumped and then threw a weak toss that barely got to the cut-man on the fly. His entire value is predicated on offense and he isn’t hitting right now.

Another coulda moment was in the 3rd when Asdrubal ranged fairly far into the hole between SS and 3B and made a good play to glove the ball on his backhand. However, because he had to completely sell out to get it, his momentum carried him too far across and he couldnt get enough on the throw to get the speedy Alex Rios. A better defensive shortstop likely would have been able to do one of two things: 1) get to the ball sooner so that more weight could be transferred on the throw 2) possess superior arm strength that would have allowed the play to get converted.

The Takeaways

The Indians didn’t win, but there are some major positives to take away from this game. The team didn’t quit and came back to score 3 runs despite being stymied all night by Danks. Justin Masterson pitched well despite not having his top-flight stuff or control. And for me, the big revelation was Nick Hagadone. He is a legit power-pitcher who should be a fixture for a longtime in the Indians ‘pen.

My parting thought is just that these games are the ones you hate losing, but are going to lose several times over the course of a campaign. Eventually, the teams that win these games consistently find themselves in line for playoff baseball.

User Comments

May 9, 2012 - 10:05 PM EDT
I think Perez could definitely be on the block, though can't see such a change this year. He definitely has re-established his value some after a poor finish last year and his stuff appears to be a lot better so far this year. He's getting really expensive for the limited role he fills, and as mentioned, with Hagadone and Pestano potentially ready to fill the backend of the pen, I would certainly listen to any and all offers for Perez - though I do not dump him. They have to get back ML talent in return, which is hard for a reliever.

As for Ubaldo, this is a pitcher that is nowhere close to what he was 2-3 years ago. Sure, the stuff is there, but the command has gotten worse, his mental makeup is shaky, he is apparently stubborn with the coaches, and his fastball velocity is down considerably. I don't know what happened to him....whether he was on PEDs or is hurt and trying to cover it up....but he is not the same pitcher he once was and the indians so far got a lemon. I sure as hell hope he turns it around. Unfortunately, time is running out as he is only here the rest of this season and next. He's already almost pitched 1/3 of his expected time in Cleveland. Not a good return on their investment so far.
May 9, 2012 - 5:44 PM EDT
I think my point regarding the IPI staff bias toward the Jiminez/Masterson situation has been made very well by the IPI staff. We see different things in our player evaluation and I belieive your collective assessment is incorrect based upon the small sample sizes. Jiminez has far greater upside as a ML starter as he has proven in the past. In my world, the P with the most talent is a good bet in the long run. If you are so inclined to admit the long overdue defeat on our "latin trio" wager Tony, I am more than willing to let the big bucks ride on this years performance between our two warriors provided the analysis is based on actual rather interpretive. Make it easy on yourself big guy. BTW, i am really glad to hear the medical troubles are better. Take care of yourself.
May 9, 2012 - 5:38 PM EDT
Masterson seems to be having control issues this year, 29K/25BB is poor (I know Masterson isnt a strikeout pitcher but the ratio is bad)

What do you think of the chances of Chris Perez being traded with Pestano and Hagadone coming on?
May 9, 2012 - 4:59 PM EDT
It's fairly simple with regards to Jimenez and Masterson. Jimenez has a flawed delivery, too many pitches, and a near two-year window of struggling to find the strike zone. Masterson as a season full of quality starts, followed by a struggling start to a season in which his correctable delivery is slightly off, and he's clearly knowledgable of what needs fixed.
May 9, 2012 - 12:24 PM EDT
Norm, I'll simply agree to disagree. All I will say is Ubaldo has been a disaster since being acquired and very inconsistent. The stuff is there no doubt, but the mechanics and mindset are lacking so I have no hope it will ever materialize with him. One fundamental difference with Masterson and Ubaldo is that mental aspect. Masterson is much more tough minded whereas Ubaldo has definite composure issues. Also, let's be real, since the time Ubaldo arrived, when you compare the numbers from Masterson/Ubaldo in their starts since Aug 1st it is not even close. Masterson is struggling no doubt, but he's proven to have the mental component where we believe he can overcome it and he has the recent success that he will do it. Ubaldo has neither.
May 9, 2012 - 10:55 AM EDT
Haha, Norm, I take pride in being called a "moneyball" evaluator, so thank you. Also, when evaluating two pitchers against one another, the entire point is to compare them with no context at all and determine who is better, not who has gotten luckier/unluckier over a limited sample size. Simply put, Masterson has pitched better than Ubaldo for more than a year and a half now and thus had received less criticism.

ERA, which is what I assume you are referring to, especially this early in the season is not really a great thing to bank on because one bad outing can skew it so heavily. I'll bet a shiny nickel that Masterson finishes with a better ERA (while maintaining all the peripherals) than Ubaldo once the season is out. For your reference, Derek Lowe and Jake Westbrook have given up more than a run less than Roy Halladay, but I don't think we are going to start shouting that they are better pitchers than Doc. History combined with peripherals, are darn good indicators of how someone has been performing and both are in Masterson's favor.
May 9, 2012 - 10:20 AM EDT
Well Tony and Charlie, I seem to have struck a nerve. You guys can sugarcoat your position all you want but no matter how you cut the statistics, the only one that really matters to the team is how many runs a pitcher gives up. Ultimately, the rest of the stats are meaningless to the team and are for those who fashion themselves "moneyball" evaluators. Moneyball is only useful is you consider it in context, not as a be all to end all evaluation. You can either talk about the miniscule difference between Masterson and Jiminez in the peripherals you stated or look at the fact that Masterson gives up nearly an additional run per game. I remain unconvinced at either of your positions.

As for Sizemore, one big phooey Charlie. The first two payroll additions to the Indians were players that Acta said he needed to compete. He made what appears to be a good choice at this time in Lowe and both Acta and Dolan wanted BJ Upton instead of Sizemore. The Upton deal, which the Indians worked on tirelessly from July forward, fell apart. Acta was scared he could not get another quality CF, which he wanted since he was not convinced Brantley was "ready" to play full time in CF. It is true that Dolan was pursuaded by the alleged interest from other teams in Sizemore and the good feelings he has held for Sizemore but the initial push came from Acta. Acta came out at 50% for the two deals which is the statisical average. If you really believe that a baseball professional like Acta was unfamiliar with Sizemore, that is a pretty damning statement about his ability. While I am not a great fan of Acta, he has done little to abe denigrated in this fashion IMO.

As far as crow goes Tony, I haven't seen any crow feathers loose after Gomez' performance for the last three years.:-)
May 9, 2012 - 8:58 AM EDT
Hagadone is not a starter. Only has two pitches. Also can't go long in his outings. Was always a top shelf reliever in college and only started in minors to develop his stuff and to maybe see if he could start, but teams know he best fits in the pen. Leave him alone....he can be a difference maker in the pen.
May 9, 2012 - 8:51 AM EDT
I would think that a guy with Hagadone's stuff ought to be stretched out and used as a starter. Isn't he kind of wasted in the bullpen?
May 9, 2012 - 8:48 AM EDT
I'll disagree Norm. Masterson was a disaster last night, but he somehow, someway found a way to compete and keep his team in the game. Battled through six innings and gave up just the two runs. This is something Jimenez absolutely does not do as once things go sour he often loses it. Just a different mindset between the two. Also, while I agree that Masterson has had some consistency issues this year, again, he more times than not has battled through it, and he also had a very good 2011 season (something Ubaldo didn't). So when Ubaldo shows me he can be mentally tough when he doesn't have it, he will continue to be roasted. He may be getting a lot of attention because of the trade, but the backlash is warranted. If he pitches better and gets on a roll of 5-7 starts over the next 6 weeks, people (myself included) will be more than happy to apologize or eat crow on him.
May 9, 2012 - 8:44 AM EDT
Bottom line is Masterson misses Tim Belcher. His stuff isnt the same as last year. This new pitching coach has yet to help either Ubaldo or Masterson.
May 9, 2012 - 8:34 AM EDT
Great to see Masterson go six and give up no earned runs (I'm giving Brantley an error) without his best stuff. That's a mark of a good pitcher - he consistently keeps you in the game even on his off days.

You're right, Damon contributes nothing but his offense and he's hitting south of .150. He obviously needed to play some minor league games but they rushed him up due to Brantley not hitting at all in the leadoff spot.

Asdrubal is turning into Jhonny Peralta. No range at all, but a good bat. Which is OK if he just makes the routine plays. He cost us a game by dropping an easy double-play throw just like Brantley cost us this one by dropping a fly ball.

One more game with the Sox. Are they out of left-handed pitchers yet?
May 9, 2012 - 7:16 AM EDT
Norm, another item, so say that Ubaldo has better stats is a tough claim to make outside of Wins, which is not a very worthwhile statistic anyways.

For the record: Masterson and Tomlin have better K/BB ratios, xFIP, worse BABIP, better GB%, higher WAR's, and more Quality Starts. In summary, they have gotten better results (i.e. more QS's) by pitching better (more K's, fewer BB's, more GB's) and have done all of this while being unlucky (higher BABIP against).

Not much of a case that Ubaldo has pitched better or that his stats are better.
May 9, 2012 - 7:05 AM EDT
Norm, while one can never know the exact conversations going on surrounding player decisions; it is widely believed that Sizemore was a Dolan decision. How could Acta have any strong feelings for retaining Sizemore when Manny had never seen Sizemore play until he came to the Indians? Also, Sizemore is getting $5mil with incentives, so if he gets $9m, he will have earned it. Finally, the Indians offered a lucrative 2-year deal to Carlos Beltran who turned them down to go to the Cardinals. Once again, the rumors are that that Indians offered near identical $ figures, but Beltran simply selected the Cards over the Tribe.

This is my first write-up on Masterson and the fact is that Masterson had horrible control (mentioned several times) and will lose games in the future if the walks aren't cut back down to his 2011 levels.

If you want to go back and read my write-up's on Ubaldo from games #16 & #21 you will notice that Ubaldo was A) more out of control B) gave up more runs and C) Ubaldo gives up fly balls that go for home runs. while Masterson gives up groundballs that go for singles or (as happened last night) double plays.

Yes, Masterson is way too wild, but he did everything else better than Ubaldo last night and you can't really bash a Quality Start.
May 9, 2012 - 1:17 AM EDT
Perhaps you cn explain to me why all the IPI writers, including you and Tony, are sweetness and light when it comes to Masterson's performance and get apoplectic when describing any performance by Ubaldo. If you have noticed their stats, you would be aware that Ubaldo's stats appear superior to Masterson and Tomlin as well.

One thing to be thankful for, it was not Sizemore tryig to field that ball in center. He would still be running after the ball before falling injured to the field. These guys are out there because Acta had to have Sizemore. Seems like $9M should have gotten us a better OF.

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