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Second Thoughts: Game #54 - Indians 4, Tigers 2

Second Thoughts: Game #54 - Indians 4, Tigers 2
June 6, 2012
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  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
CLE 0 0 1 0 2 1 0 0 0 4 7 0
DET 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 7 0
W: U. Jimenez (6-4) L: D. Smyly (2-2) S: Perez (18)

Starting Pitching

The Line: 6.2 IP, 5H, 1/1R/ER. 1BB, 4K, 1HBP.

The Results: 102pitches, 54% strikes, 7GB, 9FB, 1PO, 3LD

The Write-up: The oft-criticized Ubaldo Jimenez put together a great game last night. The biggest thing last night was the fact that he was throwing ‘good’ strikes by placing them on corners and generally avoiding the middle part of the plate. He didn’t have the huge strikeout game that, to many, would really signal a return to dominance, but avoiding the walks and forcing poor contact is a huge step. In fact, if Matt Young, the Tigers LF, wasn’t in the game, Ubaldo would have registered only a single strikeout. Young is a recent call-up and went 0-4 with 4K’s (3 of which Ubaldo delivered). So, even the strikeouts that Ubaldo did have were a little suspect.

This is brought up to highlight the fact that Ubaldo wasn’t picking at corners and taking strikeouts along with a half dozen walks like he has been doing most of the season. He worked off his fastball which actually had good movement and sat in the 92-94 range all night. The curve has been working all year and it would be great to see him use it both as a get me over pitch (like he’s been doing) and a strikeout inducing pitch so he can put guys away (like he used to do).

The Bullpen

The Line: 2.1IP, 2H, 0BB, 2K

The Results: 32pitches, 75% strikes, 3GB, 3FB, 1LD

The Write-up: The Tribe bullpen, or at least the top 4-5 guys, continues to be dominant. Hagadone, Pestano and Perez effectively closed the door and really made the game less stressful for the Tribe faithful than it could have been. Hagadone went one pitch, one out to mop-up Ubaldo in the 7th (after Ubaldo issued his only walk of the night) and then Pestano went 1-2-3 with two punch outs in the 8th. Perez looked shaky, but never had the tying run aboard and continued to throw strikes and force the Tigers to win the game rather than giving it to them.

The Starting Lineup

The Line: 7/33, 0 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 3BB, 0 SB, 0 CS

The Results: 4R, 12TB, 9LOB, AVG/OBP/SLG 212/278/363

The Write-up: The story of last night that is getting the most attention is the trio of RBI triples that Michael Brantley, Asdrubal Cabrera and Lou Marson laced. However, when watching the game, the thing that caught my eye was the consistently hard contact and superb adjustment that the entire lineup was making against Drew Smyly, a lefty with solid breaking pitches. The first time through the order was terrifying as the first four hitters went down swinging and the entire lineup was only able to garner a single and a walk the first time through. However, the adjustments were made and the whole team was ready for the 2nd and 3rd attempts. Pay particular attention to the % Hard-Hit stat which is simply (Hits + Line-Drives +Deep FB)/At-Bats. The number is rapidly increasing each time through the order and you can tell that the deception and inability to wait on the off-speed pitches wore away quickly after getting a chance to dig in once against Smyly.

Time Facing Pitcher AVG/OBP/SLG % Hard-Hit
1st 125/222/125 0.22
2nd 333/333/777 0.44
3rd 286/429/571 0.67

The Defense

The Indians do not have the best defense in the league, a lack of range up the middle and a consistent hole in LF have ensured that overall advanced fielding statistics won’t show the Tribe very favorably. However, the Indians have the t-4th fewest errors in the Majors and have a flare for the dramatic play.

No play was bigger than Asdrubal’s bare handed snag and throw to force Delmon Young at 2nd. Yes, Perez shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with. Yes, Delmon Young literally delayed touching the bag by sliding his legs above the base despite being there well ahead of the throw. But, this was a heads-up and incredibly fast-twitch play by Asdrubal. The crazy thing, and the reason that advanced defensive statistics can at best be called “approximate”, is that this was simply recorded as a ground ball barely out of the fielding zone for Asdrubal; rather than an incredibly difficult play that could have been made only one way. Another clutch play was Choo’s pair of sliding catches in RF, one of which sealed the win for Chris Perez and the Tribe.

It will be interesting to see what Michael Brantley is able to do the rest of the year because, from casual viewing, it sure looks like he is improving out in CF. Great catches are becoming more routine for him and he seems to be getting better jumps and letting his speed come to bear.

The Takeaways

The Indians have the Tigers number right now which is a great sign for the rest of the season. An even better sign is that Ubaldo is no longer easily the league leader in BB/9 among starters and he is now just barely the league leader. He has six wins and gives the Indians hope that he can straighten himself out down the stretch. Jeanmar Gomez looks to rebound after a rough outing and the Tribe will look to stretch their win streak against the Tigers to five games.

User Comments

June 6, 2012 - 6:15 PM EDT
Tell me about it Rich....that one stacked up as a loss going in for the very reasons you listed. That's why I love baseball, as no game is a sure win or loss.

Very, very encouraging outing for Ubaldo. He's shown glimpses of his potential before for a start here and there, but has never been able to put it together for a few outings in a row. Hopefully this is finally the time things come together because I have about run out of hope.
June 6, 2012 - 4:51 PM EDT
The catch-22 there Seth is that he had an entire offseason to do just that...and he didn't...had the entire spring training to do just that...and he didn't...

Not sure the 15-day DL is the answer...but would try anything to replicate performance, and find that velocity...if it's still out there somewhere...
June 6, 2012 - 2:25 PM EDT
That was the first game where we've seen something that could be called "encouraging" from Ubaldo. Checked the pitch fx, showed him throwing 62 fastballs. I think Ubaldo always TRIES to use the fastball and expand off of it, but he usually has to stop using it, because he can't locate it, and it's either a ball, or gets hammered, so going to the secondary stuff is pretty much a necessity.

Looks like his release point was much more consistent this start. The one thing you can see if you look at pitch fx from 2010, is his release point was generally lower then than it is now. And of course he threw 3 mph harder. The fact that he had some success after working on his mechanics on the side, makes me think it would be wise to get him onto the 15-day DL to work a little bit more. His stuff yesterday was still nothing like it used to be.
June 6, 2012 - 8:17 AM EDT
Oh, and how about Lou Marson with two more hits, including a triple over the center fielder's head? He's got a seven game streak going and his average is finally over the Mendoza line. Nothing like getting to play every day to help get your timing down.

The Tigers center fielder, Berry, has great speed and played shallow, figuring he could get to anything hit over his head. He underestimated the Tribe hitters, as Droobs and Marson both hit triples over him. Bet he plays a little deeper tonight.
June 6, 2012 - 8:12 AM EDT
Can't believe they won this game. With a good left-hander starting for Detroit, Jimenez going for Cleveland, and playing in a ballpark where they lost 23 of their last 26 it looked like they had practically no chance. Very nice win.

Brantley is really coming on with the 13-game hitting streak where he's batting close to .400 as well as the solid defense. Up until now he's been considered a marginal defensive center fielder, but he's looking a lot more comfortable and confident lately. He went over the fence for a Loftonesque catch recently, which I hadn't seen him do before. Moving him down in the lineup was an excellent decision by Manny as his bat has really come alive.

It looked like Ubaldo threw at least 80% fastballs. I got the feeling he and Radzinsky decided to work on being able to get the heater over consistently and then expand from there. Even when the Tigers knew it was coming they couldn't square it up, except for Miggy, of course. Baby steps. Now the questions is whether Ubaldo can replicate that performance in his next start or if he'll continue to take one step up and two steps back.

That was a big win to start the road trip. Tonight they get a right-hander, Max Scherzer, who's been struggling. They should be able to score some runs. If Jeanmar can put up a solid start they have a good chance to take this one.

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