Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tomahawks From the Bright Side

A win to bring the Tribe to within 3 Games of the AL Central leading Royals (yes, I’m kidding, I’m not really watching how many games back we are…at least not too closely), let’s roll out some tommies to get us all ready for Thursday’s tilt in the Bronx.

Let ‘em fly...
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Before the I-480 bridge fills up with the Tribe 2-7 and headed for New York (which, apparently opening a new stadium…or something like that), take a quick look at the OPS thus far for the Indians’ regulars:
Hafner – 1.126
Martinez – 1.048
Choo – .917
Shoppach – .846
Garko – .813
Sizemore – .766
Cabrera – .762
Peralta – .705
DeRosa – .523
Francisco – .484

Yes, small sample sizing applies and, yes, this is not what these are going to look like at the end of the year – but what were the big concerns coming into this year?

Was it whether Hafner and Martinez would be able to rebound, particularly in the power categories, from their forgettable 2008 seasons?
The two have combined for 10 extra-base hits in their 64 AB…

What about whether Choo’s second half was a mirage, never to be duplicated?
He’s had 4 multi-hit games in 8 games played…

How would this convoluted platoon of Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Garko work out?
Combined .414 OBP / .424 SLG / .835 OPS with 2 HR in 3 fewer AB than Vic…

Is the team struggling with RISP and does it strike out too much (particularly with RISP)? Absolutely, but if you had told me that those numbers would come from those players (particularly Hafner) a week and a half into the season, I may just take a 2-7 record because that good news portends good things for the Indians’ offense.
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Want more positives, how about Kerry Wood pitching as advertised in the 9th inning? After getting his first 6 outs of the season via the K, all Wood did to save the 2nd victory of the season was throw 7 pitches (6 of them were strikes) and log three outs. Yes, he gave up two hits, a walk, and a run (gasp) in his first appearance against the Rangers, but since then he’s notched 6 outs on 20 pitches, 3 via the strikeout.

Of course, with those positives come the negatives as the Indians’ bullpen outside of Wood has been spotty at best and Rafael Perez has been an unmitigated disaster, having allowed 7 hits and 6 walks in his 5 innings of work, which have resulted in 5 ER.

While Stomp Lewis’ meltdown today (although, really…what is he doing coming out for the 8th inning after that 7th?) couldn’t have come at a worse time as he has been one of the bright spots in the early going, what’s going to be interesting is how this bullpen starts to take shape. That is, obviously Wood is going to handle the 9th inning, but who comes in for the 7th or the 8th with a lead. Unfortunately the leads that the Indians have carried in those innings have been few and far between and the reliever that I honestly thought would be the most dominant outside of Wood was Perez…so scratch that in the short-term.

Right now, the best options look like Rocky Betancourt and Lewis to sit in front of Wood with Joe Smith’s usefulness as a ROOGY hopefully being used properly against RHP. Beyond those four that have been moderately successful and Perez (for whom a trip to the DL or to Columbus doesn’t sound like a bad idea), the rest of these guys (Kobayashi, The Zach Attack, The Regrettable Chulk) figure to be inning-eaters for the foreseeable future, if they remain on the roster. One name to watch (if re-enforcements…or at least better pitchers…are deemed to be a necessity) would be John “Mayday” Meloan, who has struck out 7 while allowing only 1 hit and walking only 1 in tossing 5 scoreless innings for the Clippers.

Of course, that whole idea that a bullpen progression to Wood for the save emerges all assumes a lead…which has not been easy to come by for the Tribe thus far as the starters have allowed a nearly impossible 23 runs in innings #1 and #2 in 9 games.
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Then again, maybe The BabyFaced Bulldog (who, apparently had a little more than just hurt feelings after being sent down…which I actually like and hope that he uses it as that “chip on his shoulder” that has served him well in the past) and his solid start serve as the impetus for the rest of the rotation to follow suit. It certainly can’t get much worse, can it?

Nothing like your best start of the year coming from a guy on April 15th who didn’t break camp with the team, but that’s the evolution…baby.
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Does everyone realize that, after Wednesday’s afternoon tilt in KC, the start times for the Indians next 4 games are 1:05 on Thursday, 1:05 on Friday, 3:40 on Saturday, and 1:05 on Sunday?

Fire up those DVR’s for the next two days and know that your evenings figure to be clear as watching the game on Fast-Forward, when you already know the final score, is actually a pretty liberating way to “watch” a game, free from the announcers, commercials, and all of the superfluous fluff that clogs up the game on TV.
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I’m being told that a certain pitcher, for whom the slimming effects of pinstripes is simply not working, is going for the Evil Empire, so I just need to post this in advance of tomorrow’s christening of this “Cathedral” (at least that’s what the WWL calls it) in the Bronx.

All day, every day…
Today would be a pretty good time to re-discover that mojo, Clifton Phifer.

4 comments:

Docnon said...

"the Regrettable Chulk" . . . now that is funny.
Bring on Meloan!

Les Savy Ferd said...

I remember that game, and thinking back, boy, i was pretty insufferable to my close yankee friends that week. To be fair, this was before Boston 'lapped' New York for the coveted ESPN Media Darling Award for Coverage in a National Market and it was Jeter this and Jeter that all day every day. To say I had a chip on my shoulder would be understating things.

In other news, I have watched significant portions of all 7 Tribe losses live (i.e. as they occurred). I have entirely missed both wins (as you suggest, the DVR is your friend). The lesson? Some vengeful Sports deity does not want me watching our 2009 Cleveland Indians. The good news? Lot of day games coming up...

A.G.B said...

22-0.

Thanks for my daily dose of Optimism!

I guess it just goes to show you how weird baseball is. We were worried about all of these factors going into the season (Vic, Hafner, Closer) and the downfall comes down to two things we were relatively certain about (Lee, Carmona, Perez).

csusi said...

bottom of the 7th. 10-1. this is so beautiful.