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Second Thoughts: Game #81 - Angels 3, Indians 12

Second Thoughts: Game #81 - Angels 3, Indians 12
July 5, 2012
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  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
LAA 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 3 12 0
CLE 3 6 0 0 3 0 0 0 X 12 15 0
W: D. Lowe (8-6) L: E. Santana (4-9)

Starting Pitching

The Line: 6IP, 11H, 3/3R/ER. 0BB, 1K, 2GIDP

The Results: 92pitches, 66% strikes, 15GB, 4FB, 2PO, 7LD

The Write-up: Last night’s performance was exactly what the Indians anticipated to receive when they signed Lowe; a quality start, even if it is ugly, and a win fueled by offense. Derek Lowe is unlikely to blow teams away, but despite giving up 11 hits, and striking out only a single batter, he was effective. He didn’t walk anyone, which is a hugely important fact for all groundball pitchers, and he induced a couple double plays that killed the big innings.

Lowe gave up tons of hits both on groundballs that found gaps (which isn’t a bad thing) and on line drives (which is a bad thing). Sure, he gave up 11 hits, but 10 of those 11 were singles and didn’t allow runners to move up multiple bases. This kept forces in order, prevented runs from scoring on subsequent groundballs and all around makes pitching easier and more effective. Lowe deserved a win last night and he got it, take that for whatever it is worth.

The Bullpen

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

The Results: 44pitches, 57% strikes, 3GB, 3FB, PO, 1LD

The Write-up:  This wasn’t much more than mop-up duty as the Indians had a commanding lead, but all three guys got their job done. Hagadone continued his spotty work by yielding a walk and run, while Sipp showed his major weakness by continuing his extreme flyball tendencies. Those flyballs turn into extra base hits fairly often and extra base hits allow inherited runners to score. That fact is why Sipp has been removed from high leverage situations in favor of other options. Accardo continues to be serviceable as a middle reliever and mop-up guy which is a good deal more than the Indians thought they had when they signed him to a minor league deal.

The Starting Lineup

The Line: 15/37, 3 2B, 2HR, 4BB, 0SB, 0CS

The Results: 12R, 24TB, 15LOB, AVG/OBP/SLG 405/463/649

The Write-up: The Indians lineup was clicking on all cylinders yesterday and has been (with the exception of Monday against Jered Weaver) for the past two series'. Yesterday the Tribe got off to a fast start by drawing two two-out walks and then Brantley cleared the bases with just his 2nd home run of the season. Every Tribe regular got in the action as everyone got at least one hit, everyone but Asdrubal Cabrera scored at least one run, and everyone but Hafner, Hannahan and Damon knocked at least one run in. It was the kind of complete offensive performance that the team has flashed throughout the season but never seemed to be able to showcase permanently. Travis Hafner came back from his DL stint and picked up right where he left off gathering a hit and two walks. His presence in the lineup is so big, not from a run-producing standpoint, but from a length of lineup standpoint. He makes pitchers work and he is a tough out following three really strong hitters in Choo, Cabrera and Kipnis.

Brantley came into the season as a bit of an enigma because nobody knew how good he was or how good he really could be if it ever all came together. He has answered the latter part of the question in the past month: if he puts it all together he can be an incredibly effective center fielder making highlight plays with average range and hitting for a high average with low power and a decent speed game. His ceiling is so high if he can ever bring over the patient approach that he had in the minors and inch that BB% up to above 10% instead of the current level around 6.5%. Those extra 18 walks over the season could raise his OBP from a very pedestrian .325 up to .350 over the course of the season. That seems like so little, but it can mean around a whole extra win for the Indians and really elevate him from solid regular to above average everyday centerfielder on a playoff caliber team.

The Defense

To me, the biggest play of the day, even more so than Brantley and Kotchman’s homers, was the backhanded stab and throw to first that Hannahan made in the top of the 2nd inning. The Indians were up 3-1 and Angels’ catcher Bobby Wilson hit a decently hard grounder down the 3rd base line. Hannahan ranged far to his right and backhanded the ball roughly 15 feet behind the bag and his momentum carried Hannahan a little past the line. He stopped his weight and fired a one-hopper to Kotchman to end the inning. The play saved one run that would have scored on the hit, but it also closed the Angels out of a chance to draw even and let the Indians go back to work. They would go on to put up a six-spot in the bottom half of the inning and the rest is history. Sometimes it isn’t the difficulty or flare that a play possesses, but the context within which it is made. Jack Hannahan very well could have made the play that changed the tide in the Tribe’s favor for good.

The Takeaways

The Angels were absolutely rolling and the Tribe should have swept the series if it weren’t for an absurdly stubborn performance by Jered Weaver in the first game of the set. The Indians outscored the Angels by 13 runs the next two games and, along with the White Sox, showed the AL West that the Central isn’t so wimpy after all. Lowe continues to surprise as an effective, and insanely cost-effective, starting option for the Indians. The Rays come in before the All-Star break and the Indians will need the exact same type of  offensive approach against the stingy pitching staff hailing from Tampa.

User Comments

July 5, 2012 - 5:43 PM EDT
If/When Sizemore returns, he should play LF and be slotted in the 9 spot. Brantley has earned the right to keep the CF position and by placing Grady in the 9 spot, it takes preasure off of him to perform right away but also gives the team a lead-off like hitter at the bottom of the line-up.
July 5, 2012 - 4:32 PM EDT
Great Tony, there are two other players who have "stepped up" in the face of adversity. The Indians owe a huge debt to Marson who has made Santana's issues bearable with his perforformance, offensively and defensively. The other is Jose Lopez. He is not the player he used to be but he has been better at multiple positions than the Indians could have expected under the circumstances.

The indians had a reasonable expection of the recovery of Choo's offense, continued performance of Cabrera and the emergence of Kipnis but the other three have outperformed any reasonable expectation.

As an aside, the Pads are "demanding" an ML ready SP and a top prospect to even talk trade about Quentin according to some Padre sources. He also refuses to talk about an extension
July 5, 2012 - 9:38 AM EDT
Norm, I'm with you. Brantley has played well in center field and I think looking back on it the Indians made a mistake in the offseason thinking he could not play there. I think it has to be his position going forward. This gives me an idea for a note in my Sunday piece.
July 5, 2012 - 8:36 AM EDT
I think your observations on Brantley's performance, both offensively and defensively, are very accurate. He has been an extraordinary replacement for the ill-fated Sizemore signing and the Indians would not be where they are without him stepping up his play. A big boo-boo for those in the organization who said he could not play CF. Even without any power, his ability to make contact with runners in scoring position has been a big part of the offensive success. If he stays healthy, CF is mannned for several more years.
July 5, 2012 - 7:45 AM EDT
Tampa does have a stingy pitching staff, but fortunately the Tribe will miss David Price and his 11-4 record. In games not started by Price the Rays are 32-33. They're 19-20 on the road, so the Indians have a decent chance of splitting this series or possibly even taking three of four.

The Rays are 10th in the league in scoring. They've lost 10 of their last 15 games. They really don't have a hitter who scares you, like Cano, Votto, Miguel Cabrera, Konerko, Dunn, Pujols, and Trout. The Indians are on a bit of a roll as their offense is finally waking up and Masterson and Jimenez are pitching like aces. This could be a big series if they can keep the roll going.

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