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Second Thoughts Game #84: Indians 5, Royals 6

Bullpen struggles continue for the Indians

Second Thoughts Game #84: Indians 5, Royals 6
July 4, 2013
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Tito with a quick hook and a sh(awful) performance

After allowing singles to the Royals first two hitters in the sixth, Escobar and Hosmer, Indians starter Scott Kazmir sat at 87 pitches. Crossing off pitch count, it is obvious Kazmir was removed for one of two reasons: the first being that he was set to face at least 4 straight right handed hitters or Francona wanted to get him out to keep building confidence in Kazmir.

I am usually a strong proponent of lefty-righty matchup shifts and with Kazmir right handed hitters have had a lot of success hitting to a tune of .336. So the rationality of Francona’s decision was probably entirely sound but it was still somewhat surprising.

Surprising because Kazmir was having a lot of success, as Butler, Perez, and Cain the hitters coming up were 1-for-6 against him on the night.

Surprising because Francona has shown a willingness not only to push his starters through the wall but also to trust them in high leverage situations when they are performing well which Kazmir was.

Kazmir left frustrated as you could see in the dugout that he was visually irritated by what transpired in the sixth inning.

In terms of the rest of his start, one thing really stood out to me about Kazmir, which was his success throwing secondary offerings later in counts. Facing Hosmer early in the game Kazmir came at him with two consecutive sliders in a 3-1 count to strikeout the first baseman. Kazmir also threw a changeup to Lorenzo Cain in a 2-0 count and had success.

The point being that Kazmir’s feel has continued to return as he rehabilitates his career, he has the confidence to throw either secondary offering late in counts or down in counts which is a huge asset for a pitcher with his plus stuff.

Returning to the sixth inning, Francona brought in struggling right hander Bryan Shaw. Shaw has allowed seven earned runs over the last six and a third innings.

Shaw’s recent struggles and inability to establish himself the way one would think is somewhat astounding. Albers has a mid-nineties fastball with a little movement and a plus slider which opponents are hitting just .107 against.

There is a lot to like in terms of offerings but bringing him in during a high leverage situation right now is not a risk I would take.

Managing High Leverage Situations

The situation upon which Shaw entered has a run expectancy of 1.56 runs. Obviously the worst case occurred as he allowed four runs to score before an elongated exit.

This was the definition of high leverage as the tying runs were on base with nobody out in the late innings of the ballgame.

Which leads us to the question what reliever do you use?

Too many times managers become obsessed with using relievers in a certain order and obviously having consistency as well as stability at the back end of the bullpen is nice but there must also be some latitude for nightly adaptation.

In high leverage situations you want to use your best relievers for the situation and not stick to inane inning assignments. If you are going to pull Kazmir, you must bring in either Cody Allen (yes he surrendered a bomb later but on the whole he has been the most effective) or Joe Smith to put out the fire.

While the Indians would later tie the game at five, the sixth inning is where the game swung in terms of momentum. And in a two run game, the last of the middle innings as the visitor, do you really want your fifth or sixth best reliever out there?

Up Next: Indians vs. Royals @ Kauffman Stadium. First pitch at 2:10 ET

Ubaldo Jimenez will toe the rubber for the Tribe as they look to take the rubber match and head home to Cleveland to host their most important series to date. After both Kluber and Kazmir failed to get through six innings it will be important for Jimenez to get deeper into the game. Ubaldo has not gone six or more since June first.

For the Royals will be big game James Shields who enters the start with an ERA at 2.99 and only three wins to show for it.

Have a good fourth everybody!

Interact with Michael by email at and on Twitter @MichaelHattery

User Comments

July 4, 2013 - 12:23 PM EDT
I think I leave Kazmir out there also Michael- he really seemed to be locked in last night against a tough lineup despite the long delays, the Royals were not squaring him up at any point. And you don't know what you're going to get w Shaw unfortunately- what you think you may gain in a matchup can be mitigated by taking out a guy who still has his momentum and bringing in a guy who is cold. If it were Acta or Wedge I would be more inclined to second-guess. But with Francona, he's earned a pass from me- he knows the game, he knows his players really well, and he has great instincts. He gets it right a high percentage of the time.

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