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Second Thoughts: Game #43 - Tigers 2, Indians 4

Second Thoughts: Game #43 - Tigers 2, Indians 4
May 24, 2012
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  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
DET 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 10 1
CLE 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 X 4 7 1
W: Pestano (2-0) L: Coke (1-1) S: Perez (15)

Starting Pitching

The Line: 6.1IP, 8H, 2/2R/ER. 0BB, 2K

The Results: 89 pitches, 74% strikes, 10GB, 9FB, PO, 4LD

The Write-up: McAlister has pitched really well in his last two outings. Tonight he didn’t walk a single batter and was throwing a ridiculous number of strikes: 74% is really, really high for a starter. With only two strikeouts, he made the Tigers put the ball in play and they just couldn’t string more than a hit or two together and because nobody got a free pass, the hits had to get bunched up in order to provide lots of scoring opportunities. For those of you wondering why walks drawn for hitters and walks allowed for pitchers are so important, this is essentially the argument: walks don’t need to fall in between fielders, you get 1st every time.

McAlister reminds me of Jeanmar Gomez over 2010 and 2011; putting up solid spot starts while refining his pitches and establishing himself as a legit big league option and not just spot-start filler. Right now, the Indians have lots of Big League caliber starting pitching: Masterson, Jimenez (yes, he is Big League quality), Lowe, Tomlin, Gomez and maybe Carmandez at some point if the legal issues get cleared up. The exciting part about having more than 5 legitimate starting options is that the Indians are in every single game if they can score a few runs.

The Bullpen

The Line: 2.2IP, 2H, 1BB, 4K

The Results: 59 pitches, 63% strikes, 4GB, 2FB, 1LD

The Write-up: Last night’s game really showed the value of having a deep and flexible bullpen. Hagadone came in and though he ended up walking Andy Dirks (who by the way, looks like a really legit everyday player), you still have a ROOGY and LOOGY in the pen to get Miggy and Fielder. Yes, Fielder reached on a throwing error, but Sipp did his part in the 8th. Pestano took a card from Chris Perez’s book and gave up back-to-back singles before striking out one, inducing a groundball to Kotchman and striking out another on a perfectly placed pitch over the black on a full count with the bases loaded.

The Indians tallied two in the bottom of the 8th and then Chris Perez left nothing to chance by getting two strike outs and a lazy fly ball off the bat of Miguel Cabrera to end the game.

During the game, it was brought up that the Indians bullpen ERA was in the middle of the pack, in fact, it was more towards the bottom as the #22 out of all 30 MLB teams with a 4.08 ERA. Here is what the bullpen looks like if you take out some of the long-relief guys that have been battered:

Player Removed ERA K/9 FIP
TOTAL 4.08 (22) 8.02 (18) 3.61 (12)
Dan Wheeler 3.47 (14) 8.87 (9) 3.27 (6)
Jairo Acensio (+Wheeler)
3.24 (10) 9.16 (t5) 3.11 (4)

As you can see, the Indians late-inning guys have been among the best in the Majors when it comes to their bullpen. Now, of course if you remove the mop-up guys then you are going to get better statistics. The point that is being made is that the overall results of the bullpen, which make it seem like the Indians are middle of the pack, are heavily skewed by a couple guys. The perception that the Indians have a very good bullpen is correct, because when it counts: they do.

The Starting Lineup

The Line: 7/29, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2BB, CS

The Results: 4R, 12TB, 9LOB, AVG/OBP/SLG 241/290/414

The Write-up: The Indians managed to squeeze runs out when the Tigers couldn’t and that was the difference. Both teams had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no down and the Indians scored twice and the Tigers didn’t get any, those two runs were the final margin of victory. Hafner looked especially locked in, launching a 2-run HR and barreling another very well that had the right trajectory but was just off the end a little and ended up a looping liner to right field. Though not credited with an RBI in his 8th inning AB that scored Kipnis, he did battle a tough LOOGY in Phil Coke and put the ball in play. I think the past couple of years he would have struck out on some of those off-speed pitches sweeping across the plate.

Kipnis had a slump-buster kind of night, finding ways to get hits even if he wasn’t crushing the ball each at bat. Let’s hope that this translates to some confidence and another stretch like he had to begin the season. Choo went hitless as the leadoff man for the first time and snapped his 8-game hitting streak. Regardless, he is the right guy to have at the top of the order.

Finally, Damon actually looked a little better last night. He pulled one to the warning track and his timing seems to get better and better. I wonder how long the Indians will be willing to stick with him. Also, Carlos Santana is in a bad slump and is clearly pressing. He is consistently rolling over pitches from the left-side of the plate. Speaking of which, a small piece of errata, the off-season concern of having a lefty-heavy lineup has been mitigated recently because the Indians have faced 10 right handed starters in a row.

The Defense

Not too much of note defensively except a couple of misplays. Brantley needed to wait back for the carom off the wall in the 2nd inning. You aren’t catching that, but you could give up a triple if the ball bounces farther or the runner is a little faster. Another outfield miscue, Choo badly misplayed a liner that got over his head. He broke in on contact rather than freezing or taking a step back and that allowed the ball to just get over his outstretched glove. Finally, Kipnis needs to just relax on that throw from the shift, it is difficult because you are out of position and he saw Kotchman’s back as he was retreating to the bag to take the throw, but you just have to wait and make the toss. As he plays the shift more and more, something that is almost never done in the minors, he will get used to making some of those odd throws and it won’t be a concern.

The Takeaways

Windians. This team seems to have the knack of winning the late ones. It is why they are 7 games over .500 despite having a 0-run run differential. Typically, this is indicative of a .500 team. The Indians are converting on late opportunities and have a strong bullpen, these are the signs of teams that find ways to win games and so far, this has been the case with the Tribe. They face Verlander this afternoon with the  series victory and a 5-game lead over Detroit already in hand.

User Comments

May 24, 2012 - 11:22 AM EDT
Seriously, the fact that McAllister has been able to translate his game to the majors like this is outstanding...and I've learned to take this stuff day-by-day, so we'll see what happens when Tomlin comes back. McAllister has earned a spot in this rotation last night, as far as I'm concerned...

but Ubaldo's a lock for as long as he's "healthy..."

Unfortunate...but maybe having McAllister bounce for awhile is a good thing for when he ultimately makes it up here for good later in the year...

there won't be a "book" on him...
May 24, 2012 - 11:16 AM EDT
Thanks Seth. You just ruined my day with that thought. Ha!
May 24, 2012 - 11:14 AM EDT
I wish they could send Ubaldo to the minor when Tomlin came back. Honestly, who would you rather see out there right now, Ubaldo or McAllister?
bruce cuthbertson
May 24, 2012 - 9:36 AM EDT
In other words, the tribe is taking advantage of other teams' mistakes. That's great! But you can't always count on the other team throwing the ball away or losing it in the sun. They need to start kicking the door down, rather than waiting for their opponents to open if for them.
May 24, 2012 - 9:35 AM EDT
Jackson to me kills the Indians just as much with his defense as he does his bat. Probably why he is one of those guys (like Gordon with KC) that are not that great offensively against the Indians but the perception is they do because they really affect games on both sides of the ball.
May 24, 2012 - 9:32 AM EDT
300/342/395 against the Tribe, which is pretty darn close to his average line of 277/340/403. But I was surprised by that too, I feel like he beats up on the Tribe pretty good.
May 24, 2012 - 8:33 AM EDT
With minor league fill-in Zack McAlister going against the great Doug Fister and his 1.89 ERA, this game looked like it belonged to the Tigers. But the rookie matched Fister inning for inning and gave the Indians a chance to win, which they took advantage of when Fielder threw away what should have been an easy out at home plate.

No Star of the Game tonight - everybody did what they needed to do. McAlister pitched very well into the 7th, Joe Smith got Miggy with the bases loaded, Pestano worked out of a based load/no out jam, Pronk unloaded to tie the game, Droobs got a huge double to put the winning runs in place, and Rage slammed the door in the 9th. Just a great team effort all around as they overcame some very shoddy defense to beat one of the better pitchers in the A.L.

The Tigers' bullpen continues to be their Achillies heel, along with their defense. Also, we're fortunate that Austin Jackson is out. He always plays well against the Indians, if I'm not mistaken.

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