Second Thoughts Game #30: White Sox 0, Indians 2
The Indians' bullpen has rarely in recent memory been so stable as to inspire any serious confidence. With Axford at the back end of the bullpen, confidence remains occasionally elusive - but given the contours of his breaking ball, it's a heck of a show to watch.
Beyond Axford, however, aesthetics were quite difficult to come by in Saturday's 2-0 game. Outfield range proved elusive, scarce was infield defense: barring Lonnie Chisenhall's opposite-field double, every single one of Cleveland's eight baserunners would have reached on either an error, HBP, walk, or single - the team had only a singular extra base on the day.
Yet two exceptions arose from this otherwise painful Saturday game.
The J-Ram Rises
The fifth inning of Saturday's game was far and away its most tumultuous. With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the fifth, it took an unassisted double play by Nick Swisher to send an altogether quite lucky Indians club to the bottom of the fifth - wherein Jose Ramirez proceeded to lay down a bunt.
The author does not necessarily oppose bunts. Sacrifice bunts, certainly, are nothing if not tools of vice and sin; however, when dropped by batters such as Ramirez or Bourn, bunts with the intent of singling are quite effective. And on Saturday, we saw the excitement that we might expect Jose Ramirez to bring. Upon dropping a bunt, Flowers made a throw that would have been a close play were it on line - but ended up as an error. Joseph A. Bunts came to the plate with the intent of receiving one base, but he received a second free. It was Ramirez who, later in the inning, then proceeded to score the second and final run of the game. Were Masterson and the bullpen less on-point, that run by Ramirez likely would have proven decisive.
In the aftermath of the Kipnis injury, Jose Ramirez's ascent was the only reasonable choice - yet it's far from assured that Ramirez is merely a depth option. While his power is far outstripped by that of Kipnis, Ramirez remains a wholly intriguing option by virtue of his speed and contact ability. Upon Kipnis's return, Ramirez will likely return to AAA - but the impression he makes in his stint in the big leagues is paramount in determining the fate of a second baseman in an organization with genuinely impressive organizational depth in the middle infield.
In sum, while it's unclear whether Jose Ramirez is the Second Baseman of the Future or the Second Baseman of All Spacetime, he shall surely make the next three to five weeks a pleasant month in the field - not that there's anything wrong with the -25.3 UZR/150 at second base that Jason Kipnis has 'showcased,' (note: there are indeed a great many things wrong with a -25.3 UZR/150) but Jose Ramirez injected a genuine fire into the Cleveland Indians when he debuted in September 2013 as a pinch-running 20-year-old. Kipnis may be a perennial fringe all-star candidate, but for now, the show belongs to Jose Ramirez. Sit back and enjoy.
Please: Any Adjective Other Than Masterful
To call Justin Masterson an 'effective' groundball pitcher is to vastly undersell his divet-creation competency. On Saturday, 61.1% of the balls put in play against Masterson were groundballs, a rate that would have been second among all qualified pitchers' Ground Ball rates. Saturday's performance was a decrease from his previous season average of 62.1%, behind the entirely puzzling Astros starter Dallas Keuchel.
Masterson's career to this point has been an enigma surrounded by Foucault's prose - it's never made sense if one had the patience to try to decipher it. Masterson has struggled with his walk rate (2012-14) and his strikeout rate (2010-12), but there's never been any clear and consistent strength or weakness - beyond his consistently excellent Ground Ball rate. Thus far in 2014, he is 2nd in Ground Ball rate - in 2013, he was first in the majors, and in 2012, 6th. Induction of ground balls has been Masterson's guiding strength.
Unfortunate, then, that Masterson is condemned to stand on the mound, while statues in the form of Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera stare stoically at the plate.
On Saturday, Masterson had, in fact, rather good BABIP luck, with balls in play allowing baserunners only at a .222 rate - substantially better than both the league average of .298 and Masterson's 2014 average of .333. On a night when Masterson struck out very few opposing batters - only 6 over 7.1 IP - his favorable BABIP was necessary to hold the lead for an offense that eked out but two runs against a White Sox pitching staff and defense that struck out no Tribe batsmen and surrendered baserunners via the error at even the most unlikely of turns.
It appeared, on the aggregate, that Masterson's good BABIP fortune on Saturday merely was good fortune - weak contact, balls hit directly at Lonnie and Asdrubal, for instance - but it's equally possible that the continued presence of Jose Ramirez at the keystone, in the upcoming weeks, may help ensure that Masterson's elite Ground Ball rates are not wasted in front of an infield that is incapable of fielding for him.
The logical extension of this, of course, is that the Indians should then proceed to call up Francisco Lindor to help. Not that calling up a AA batter is inherently a no-doubt move - however, writers more qualified than the present author have made the argument. The author can hardly object on grounds of team efficacy.
And if calling up Lindor were to hypothetically improve the aesthetics of Indians' games - all the better.
John can be reached on Twitter at @JHGrimm. He can also be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think Ramirez could fit that role for now while they plan to transition Kipnis back to the OF, but within the next two years at the latest, I think a Ramirez to 2B on a permanent basis could be in the works. Ramirez could help Kipnis, Lindor, and Chisenhall/Santana (if Santana isn't moved off 3B back to 1B/DH) next year, but I'd like to see his capabilities as a full-time starter at one position; very few players can excel moving around the infield, and I think Ramirez has more ability than just a "super-sub."
However...the other part of me is very worried about ruining him by rushing him too quick. Tribe rushed Brandon Phillips, a plus defender....ended up stalling in AAA and we lost him for virtually nothing. We rushed Chisenhall...and took him several years to (hopefully) finally put things together. Rushed LaPorta, rushed Andy Marte...
Really when you look at the Tribe the two big time prospects they didn't rush were Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis. Waited til June to call up Santana (after giving him time in AAA despite many wanting him up before) and waited even later in the season to call up Kipnis, despite just about everyone crying for him to be up sooner. Was it simply staying in the minors that kept them from busting/struggling? No, don't believe so but I do believe that it helped them.
So while a part of me wants to see Lindor up now and feel he'd be at least an Alcides Escobar type....bigger part of me wants the Tribe to take their time with him as he can be a Jimmy Rollins MVP type of shortstop IMO.
If you want to improve the defense at SS then start Aviles. He's no Lindor at short but he's a plus defender there and has shown in the past he can be an effective starter at the position.
I think there is room for both on the team moving forward...
And Mark me down as one who would like to see Ramirez as the Indians' second baseman of the future, not Kipnis. The only area where Kipnis would hold an advantage would be power, and that advantage may not be as great of an advantage as one might think, since I think Kipnis may be no more than a 15-20 HR guy, maybe 20-25 (personally think under 20 than over); I think Ramirez could be a 5-10 HR guy, maybe 10-15 guy, so the advantage wouldn't be that great.
Add in that Ramirez projects to hit for a higher average because of better speed and equal or better plate discipline, plus better defense, and I think Ramirez fits better at 2B long term than Kipnis. Kipnis can be shifted back to the OF, his natural position, and being that Brantley is the only long-term OF and there are questions about both Naquin and Moncrief (most still think Naquin is a fourth OF, as is Holt), and there would likely be room out there. Plus, Kipnis could probably be average to above-average in LF, maybe RF, better than he would be at 2B, where he projects to be no more than average.
It could work; I just hope the Indians are willing to give that opportunity; I don't want Ramirez traded for a marginal short-term upgrade for the rotation (I.e. Samardzjia) or elsewhere; if it's for a significant, impactful player, I'd consider that, but not some questionable, short-term fix.
Still, I don't know of any way Foucault's prose could in any way be described as 'accessible.' One can certainly get through it, but it's as though he's browbeating you into submission through terrible prose - Zizek-lite, in that sense.
'Foucault' because the French philosopher's writing is completely and totally impenetrable. It's a nightmare to try to read because the sentences are so extended, tortured and disjointed - so what he's actually saying is frequently a mystery.
Similar to how Masterson's career arc has *also* been a mystery.