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Second Thoughts: Game #42 - Tigers 3, Indians 5

Second Thoughts: Game #42 - Tigers 3, Indians 5
May 23, 2012
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  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
DET 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 6 1
CLE 1 0 1 0 1 2 0 0 X 5 12 0
W: Jimenez (5-3) L: Porcello (3-4) S: Perez (14)

Starting Pitching

The Line: 6IP,5 H, 3/3R/ER, 6BB, 2K. 1GIDP

The Results: 99pitches, 59% strikes, 28 batters faced, 8GB, 7FB, 5LD

The Write-up: On the surface, this is a good outing for Ubaldo. Getting 6 innings and 3ER every time out from your starting pitcher would be a good result. No, it was not an ace-caliber performance like Ubaldo could deliver, but certainly a valuable one nonetheless. Some silver lining could even be drawn from the fact that despite the six walks, Ubaldo didn’t give up the huge inning and only got burned on one bad pitch. However, watching the game and looking at the batted ball data, there is a lot to be worried about. There were a lot of very hard hit balls throughout the night and about 40% of the time these are going to find holes and those walks are really going to hurt.

The velocity was back and he held it into the 6th inning, which is a positive sign. That means he is getting back to his old mechanics, but the control problems look like they will be an issue all year. The biggest problem is that he is so erratic that hitters go up there looking for get-me-over fastballs early in the count and don’t have to pay attention to off-speed pitches because they aren’t going to be strikes anyway.

The scouting report on Ubaldo for the Tigers was an odd one: swing early at his fastball. This is a guy that will likely ruin things on his own, you don’t need to do anything. Of the 23 batters Ubaldo faced after the 1st inning, 15 of them swung at one of the first two pitches. Of those 15, 11 were put in play. Of those 11, only three got hits (one of which was a 3-run HR), but there were five hard hit balls (Line-Drive + Deep FB) and the damage could have been much worse.

Batters

Swing 1or2%

Balls in Play%

Hits

Well-Hit

Avg

Well-Hit Avg

23

(15)65%

(11)48%

3

5

.272

.454

The Bullpen

The Line: 3 IP, 1H, 2BB, 3K

The Results: 48pitches, 60% strikes, 2GB, 2FB, PO, 3LD

The Write-up: It seemed like the usual suspects were struggling tonight: Tony Sipp and Chris Perez, but the fact is that they were both just pitching with runners on and Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder up to bat. That makes it seem like they are going to blow it and therefore they are bad pitchers. Far from it, both handled things very well giving up a grand total of a BB and only one ball in play.

I’ll start with the bad: Chris Perez gave up a hit and walk, but got the job done. This is what we care about, and I was unsurprised, but greatly disheartened to hear the meager showing at Progressive field booing and heckling their own closer. People: this was a divisional game that had been superbly played by your home team and they were trying to put the finishing touches on winning the 1st game of a crucial early season series. Chris Perez cares, and he is 14/15 in save opportunities while flashing signs of his octane stuff again. Call me optimistic, but this is a good thing all around.

Now for the really good: Vinnie Pestano. This guy is just lights out and should definitely be in line for closer duties if/when the Tribe part ways with Chris Perez. His slider completely baffled Alex Avila as Pestano tripled up on the pitch and generated two bad swings and misses to get a strikeout to end the 8th. That makes 20 straight appearances that Pestano has struck at least one batter out. Pestano has a rare delivery that makes it so lefties can’t see the off-speed stuff that breaks in towards them, most of the time a change-up is needed for a RHP to attack lefties, but Pestano is burying the slider so far in that guys are going right over top of it. He is a real weapon in the pen, and with a ridiculous 12.42 K/9 he will be relied on to get the Indians out of more and more jams as the year goes on.

The Starting Lineup

The Line: 12/34, 4 2B, 4 BB, 3SB

The Results: 5R, 16TB, 20LOB, AVG/OBP/SLG 352/421/471

The Write-up: This was a good offensive performance from seven of the nine starters. Damon went hitless yet again and looked badly over matched in most of his at bats. He did hit one ball hard down the right field line that ended up going just foul, but he was badly cheating and happened to guess right. At this point, Damon isn’t a capable Major League hitter, he may be once he gets more AB’s, but he could’ve hurt the team tonight. The last straw was in the 6th inning when Brantley singled and stole 2nd on the 1st pitch of Damon’s at bat. He tried to bunt unsuccessfully, then struck out while hacking and trying to hook some pretty bad pitches. That could have really mattered had it not been for back to back hits from Kotchman and Jose Lopez. Jason Kipnis also had a rough night at the plate striking out in two big spots and almost grounding out into a double play in the 1st.

However, on that very same play in the 1st, Kipnis hustled down the line and beat out the throw. Cabrera promptly doubled home Kipnis thanks to a great read off the bat and some good aggressive base running on the part of Kipnis. I thought the Indians were smart on the bases all night. Lopez did well to get into a rundown in the 6th and let Choo take his place at 2nd. I would love to see more of this from a relatively young and athletic team. Brantley and Choo both took advantage of Porcello and Avila to get easy steals. Brantley’s other steal should have been a CS, but Peralta’s glove was travelling up instead of down and he couldn’t reposition to bring the tag down in time.

The Defense

The story of the night defensively was Jason Kipnis and the gap in left-center. Kipnis made several really strong plays and is demonstrating surprising range and instincts for a position he is relatively new at. The jump and throw in the 2nd inning was a remarkable play. First, just to get there showed good range and soft hands to field it cleanly. Second, incredible balance was on display by being able to jump and turn in a single motion while turning the torso to face 1st. Finally, an absolutely wonderful throw was placed to get Ramon Santiago, a pretty fast runner, by several steps. As much as we may rip on Johnny’s bat, he still has good outfield instincts, he made a catch in the left-center gap in the 1st inning that neither Duncan, Cunningham nor anyone else in consideration for Left Field duties would have been able to. Brantley made a couple of nice running plays and may be starting to let that natural speed of his pair with some instincts to get better reads and cover larger territory more indicative of his physical talents.

The Takeaways

When it comes to divisional games, you care about winning and this team did that last night. Warts and all, a win is a win. Ubaldo pitched well enough and battled, despite the fact that similar outings in the future will likely result in much worse results, he got a quality start and picked up a win. At this point, the strength of the team needs to be narrowed down to two things: a patient lineup (4 walks last night actually lowered their season average of BB/9) and a lights out bullpen. The starting pitching and the power department will need to raise their heads up at some point to keep it rolling, but for right now; the Tribe faithful should enjoy the ride and look to keep on rolling against the team that was supposed to be running away with the division, but in reality is four games behind your very own Cleveland Indians.

User Comments

Jim
May 23, 2012 - 8:02 PM EDT
Okay...we can't boo Ubaldo...check...

and we can't boo Perez...check...check...

Excellent piece Charlie...as always...
Avory
May 23, 2012 - 3:12 PM EDT
Seth and Tony, excellent rebuttals to IronMike's assertion that there's too much of a microscope on Ubaldo. Jeez, Mike, what "finer points of the game" are you talking about, just the fact that he won and it was considered a quality start by some? As Tony Lastoria re-tweeted, Ubaldo has walked five or more batters in five starts; no other TEAM has that many five walk starts except for Toronto. And it's not like Ubaldo is Nolan Ryan, who would routinely walk five in an eight or nine inning outing, we feel grateful if Ubaldo gives us SIX! So in addition to everything else, the man has a bullpen-killing skill set that is going to kill our bullpen by July...not what you need from a top of the rotation horse.
Seth
May 23, 2012 - 11:46 AM EDT
All it took was eyes to comment on Jimenez' performance IronMike, no computer-geekery needed. I thought Charlie's comments were too kind. A 4.50 ERA every time out isn't actually a "good result". I liked that he brought up you could say Jimenez made "one bad pitch", but how that wasn't the case, I was actually thinking that watching the game, that if you didn't watch the game, you'd have a skewed opinion and think it was just one pitch that got away. The majority of his pitches were bad, a ton of line drives on that happened to be hit right at people, he wasn't fooling anyone, and of course had zero control.

I don't really think the comments about the booing in the 9th make much sense. What are fans supposed to do when the opposing teams gets hits, cheer? Besides, Perez pitches better when he's angry. As far as I'm concerned, they should stand up and boo all 9th inning when Perez pitches, since is seems to help his focus.
Tony
May 23, 2012 - 10:56 AM EDT
Jimenez was very fortunate last night Mike. Way too many baserunners and way too many walks. That trend always catches up to a pitcher in the end. And there is absolutely no sign in sight of his "command returning". It may actually be getting worse. I completely agree that he has great stuff, but he is like Carmona in that regard. A guy with unbelievable talent but just unable to put it all together because of some bad mechanics, a lack of command, and some questionable makeup.

Bottom line he has not been good to date. He is 100th out of 115 qualified starters in MLB in ERA (5.02), is 113th out of 115 in WHIP (1.71), is 101st out of 115 in OPS against (.803) and has the MOST walks of any pitcher in baseball this season (38). He's been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this year. No denying that.
Ironmike
May 23, 2012 - 10:16 AM EDT
Way to much of a microscope on Jimenez performance. The person who wrote this has way too much time on their hands and is more of a computer geek than a person who understands the finer points of the game.

The guy kept his team in the game, battled and his transistion continues from being a flame thrower to a pitcher. Great stuff, when he gets his command back in place, he's going to be highly effective.
Tony
May 23, 2012 - 9:10 AM EDT
Yeah, I know Acta mentioned Damon is here as long as he wants to stay....but some of that is manager's speak. If he continues to play like this another 2-3 weeks, it would be absurd to still have him out there on a daily basis. He looks like he is done and a player that could not land a job this winter. Indians have to be proactive on this.
Wally
May 23, 2012 - 9:07 AM EDT
I assumed that the boos were for the hits, not Perez, especially the way that the sparse crowd cheered him upon entry...

Nerve wracking watching U struggle and with the runners on in the 9th last night, but a great win. Tigers are horrific defensively and it cost them runs last night.

I wonder outloud how long the Damon experiment is going to continue. He isn't ready to play and is killing them. It's not that the Tribe have ready OF bats, but a steady stream of 4A guys to find the hot one would be better than Damon right now.
Rich
May 23, 2012 - 9:05 AM EDT
Kotchman is hitting over .300 in May and that is huge. You can't win (for very long) when your first baseman is hitting .143.

Nice to see Pronk get two RBI's. I said he's killing himself with ground balls and needs to start elevating it. He did that twice last night and got a ribbie each time.

The Indians had success going to the opposite field all night. Lopez with the double to right-center; Choo and Droobs with doubles to left-center. Choo and Brantley had singles to left as well. Hafner's single was to center as was Kotchman's. The only base hit I recall that was pulled was Santana's single through the hole.

Kipnis tried to pull everything and was 0-for-5. Damon is pathetic. He can't even get a bunt down or move the runner from 2nd to 3rd with nobody out. Getting a hit is out of the question.

Pestano is so good right now it's ridiculous.

Ubaldo is Houdini; he just keeps allowing baserunners and escaping most of the time. Not pretty but he has five wins. He kind of reminds me of Paul Byrd that year when he won 15 games but it seemed like he struggled every game.

Perez showed a lot of balls in striking out Miggy with three straight fastballs with the tying runs on base, then getting Fielder to ground out to end the game. There would have been less drama if he hadn't walked the #9 hitter, but that's how he rolls. He's Bob Wickman with a fastball and a beard.
Tony
May 23, 2012 - 8:32 AM EDT
Yeah, Perez came in to an ovation.....but as soon as he allowed 2 baserunners, people were booing loudly. That's ridiculous. The guy can't even allow a baserunner without being booed. I do no understand why the guy is being booed so much. So what if he allows a few baserunners here and there.....a great majority of the time no one is scoring anyway and he is getting the job done. There is not a closer in the game that is 1-2-3 every freaking outing.
Charlie
May 23, 2012 - 7:38 AM EDT
Avory, you are right, walked in to cheers; it was after he gave up base runner's he was booed. This is the thing that he seemed to be most sensitive about in his little flare up anyhow. He feels like he is being ovely scrutinized. The good part is that he has tough enough skin (apparently) to deal with it and lock down the win.

Didn't have space, but I do want to compare the feeling as an opposing fan. Facing Miggy and Prince reminds me of the 2007 ALCS against the Red Sox: Manny and Ortiz. Just terrifying and you literally are trying to just get through the order in such a way that minimizes the damage they can do when they are up to bat.
Avory
May 23, 2012 - 4:38 AM EDT
Solid summary, but it was my impression that Chris came into the game with a standing ovation of cheers. Not what I would have done (I would have just kept quiet)...and I couldn't help but be nervous after Perez walked the immortal Ramon Santiago to practically ensure that Cabrera would come to the plate as the tying run, a circumstance that could have been avoided thanks to the stellar work of Pestano the previous inning. Alas, Perez said he wanted to face Cabrera and Fielder with the game on the line, and he certainly made that happen.

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