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Second Thoughts: Game #49 - Royals 8, Indians 2

Second Thoughts: Game #49 - Royals 8, Indians 2
May 30, 2012
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  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
KC 2 5 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 8 10 3
CLE 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 0
W: W. Smith (1-1) L: Masterson (2-4)

Starting Pitching

The Line: 6IP, 9H, 8/7 R/ER. 0BB, 8K. 1GIDP, 1HBP

The Results: 111 pitches, 70% strikes, 11GB, 3FB, PO, 5LD

The Write-up:  If you take away the actual runs scored and hits allowed, Justin Masterson had a great line: 70% strikes, his typical 58% GB% and 8 strikeouts. These are all great things. Of course, you can’t take away the hits he gave up or the runs he allowed and this, in fact, was a very discouraging outing. Masterson had horrible control all night and only managed those strikeouts thanks to an aggressive Kansas City team that was willing to flail at sliders more than a foot outside of the zone.

Though one can constantly look at statistics to glean a better insight into actual performance as opposed to just the simple results; one must also use their eyes. For an example of this we can take a look at Masterson’s stat line for the evening as it related to FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching). Below are the necessary stats to calculate FIP and xFIP from Masterson’s stat line, compare them to his actual results:

  FB HR/xHR BB+HBP-IBB K Calculated “ERA”
FIP - 1 1 8 3.1
xFIP 3 0.318 1 8 1.62

A couple wild pitches, a hit batsmen and lots of line drives can, and did, lead to bad results. Numerous times through the night, Masterson’s battery mate, Luke Carlin was setup inside against righties (outside against lefties) and Masterson pulled across his body and Carlin had to reach completely across the plate to try and make a backhanded stab at the ball before it went to the screen.

Tribe fans should be used to Masterson’s customary rough first couple of innings; and the optimistic ones can point to the old adage that sinker-ballers need a while to “get tired” and find the groove. Masterson gave up his runs in the 1st and the offense responded in style by tying the game up in the bottom of the 1st. However, he came back in the 2nd and gave up a 5 spot and the game was never in contention again. We should be more optimistic about Masterson’s chances of turning things around than Ubaldo, but in order to remain in contention, both need to make changes in a hurry.

The Bullpen

The Line: 3IP, 1H, 0BB, 4K

The Results: 44pitches, 68% strikes, 4GB, 1FB, 1PO, 0LD

The Write-up: Yes, it was in mop-up duty for a game long since decided, but Jeremy Accardo looked great. Taken in context with the Jairo Acensio DFA, Jeremy Accardo’s spot in the Indians bullpen is pretty safe for the time being. Accardo’s splitter (classified as a change-up by MLB Gameday) was really working well as he induced swinging strikeouts by Johnny Giavotella and Mike Moustakas in the 7th. The Royals were prepared for the splitter in the 8th and they beat three splitters into the ground for a quick 1-2-3 inning. Accardo went away from the splitter following an arm injury that saw him leave Toronto and cycle through Baltimore, he picked it up again and the Indians are the beneficiary for as long as he can maintain healthy.

For those of you with a baseball nearby, put it in between your index and middle finger, and then use your left hand to force it even farther down towards your palm. Now, once it is uncomfortably far down there, imagine throwing that at 85mph and that is the strain that Accardo and other splitter-ball pitchers put on their arm. High-risk, but Jeremey Accardo is back in the bigs; so, high reward too.

The Starting Lineup

The Line: 5/34, 0 2B, 0HR, 2BB, 2SB, 0CS

The Results: 2R, 5TB, 17LOB, AVG/OBP/SLG 147/194/147

The Write-up: The Tribe got off to a red-hot start with walks to Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Kipnis followed by a laser by Asdrubal Cabrera to load the bases and a broken-bat single through the left-side by Lopez to score Choo. Following those batters, Indians preceded to make 27 outs and put up only 3 hits, all of which were singles. This is not terribly surprising given that injuries effectively substituted Juan Diaz for Travis Hafner, Luke Carlin for Carlos Santana and Aaron Cunningham for Johnny Damon.

That being said, the left-heavy lineup in Cleveland came to roost as Will Smith is a LHP with a big hook and he was using it all night. Lonnie Chisenhall looked hopeless up there against him and the old questions of whether Chisenhall will ever be able to hit left-handed pitching have to be creeping in to everyone’s head. One game isn’t near enough to damn someone, but it was the way that Chisenhall was missing that is concerning. These weren’t even recognized for a while and the swings he did put on the baseball were late flails that missed the ball by 6-inches or more.

The Defense

While the Royals tried their best to give the game to the Indians by allowing three runners to reach via error, they weren’t hurt in the end by their mistakes. Luke Carlin was the beneficiary of all three mistakes as he reached in the 2nd, 4th and 7th innings on a fielding error, throwing error and missed catch error all taking place in the infield. He tried to give some back though by having a rough night at the dish catching Masterson’s errant pitches. Twice the ball got past Carlin as Masterson over-threw and pulled the ball across his chest to the (as you face the catcher) left-side of the plate. Carlin was setup middle-in both times and couldn’t get over quickly enough to stop the ball. He ended up reaching for a backhand and gloving, but failing to stop the ball each time.

Another miscue by Carlin was in the 2nd inning when Lopez went home to get Hosmer on a fielder’s choice. The throw was right on line and Hosmer was dead-to-right’s, that is if Carlin hadn’t scooted up the line anticipating no-throw. He had to reach back to apply the tag and he gave enough room for Hosmer to get around and swipe the plate. You need to stay put as long as possible to protect the plate and field the throw and quickly apply the tag. This run didn’t matter in the scheme of things, but in other games it will and it is why Carlin is a AAA guy and only filling in for the injured Carlos Santana.

The Takeaways

It was a tough game to watch, both because of the sloppy all-around play of both teams and the absolute win-ability of facing a guy like Smith. Masterson could not find the zone at all and when he finally threw some get-me-over strikes, the Royals were waiting and they made it count. Masterson will be ok, he is a huge guy with pretty violent mechanics and a funky release, but we have seen this before where he gets out of synch. Jeanmar Gomez goes Wednesday afternoon against Bruce Chen to try and pick up the series win and I sit with bated breath dreading a soft-tossing lefty going against our suddenly impatient and punch less lineup.

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