What can I say about this year's group that hasn't already been stated with equal parts eloquence and profanity on these hallowed pages? Here are things that aren't news: we lose games that we should win, we do it in gut-wrenching fashion, and we do it because our bullpen sucks and we can't get the big hit. In a recent rant to my brother, known on here as fwembt because that's his real name, I declared that we had to have crapped away at least ten games this season that we should have won. I will now, with help from the good folks at cbssports.com and fangraphs.com, prove it.
For the purposes of this study, I'm sticking to the games that really gut the fans who are watching. These aren't games where we got behind and couldn't quite get over the hump. Those hurt, but that's more like watching a kitten die of tuberculosis. By the time it's over, you hate it but you've already accepted it. I'm sticking to the ones that looked like we had them in the bag until they suddenly died like my dog the day after Christmas when I was eight.
PAINFUL LOSS 1: Game 4, versus the Blue Jays
The setup: Down 7-4 going into the bottom of the seventh, the Tribe scrapes together three runs on a lone hit to tie the score. We had been in command for most of the way before falling behind, but Ben's clutch RBI HBP (RHBPI?) bumped our win expectancy back up to 61.7 percent. For the top of the eighth inning, Wedge chose to bring in Rafael Perez.
The meltdown: A walk and an unconverted fielder's choice later, Jose Bautista was bunting two runners into scoring position and giving up the first out. Marco Scutaro singled in a pair, Alex Rios doubled in a pair, and Perez' day was done. He alone lowered our win expectancy almost 50 points. Masa came on to stop the bleeding, but instead walked Vernon Wells and gave up a two run double to Adam Lind before ending the inning. The score was 13-7, and that was where it would stay as Toronto's bullpen actually got guys out.
LVP: Raffy Left (-.458 WPA)
Notes: Wedge says, "It's a long season. As bad as these four games have been, we've got to separate from it." He also speculates that the game would benefit from netting along the baselines in all ballparks.
PAINFUL LOSS 2: Game 11, at the Yankees
The setup: After five innings, the Indians had a 77.7% chance of winning the game. This came thanks in large part to a 3-run fifth capped by a Ryan Garko 2-run double. Leading 5-3 with Reyes having thrown 91 pitches, Wedge elected to bring in long reliever Zach Jackson, who promptly surrendered a solo homer to Cano. Still, things were looking okay when he settled down to retire the rest of the side, leaving the Tribe with a 69.1% win expectancy after six innings.
The meltdown: Things went downhill from there. Vinnie Chulk got credit for the blown save for allowing an unearned run to tie the game. This seems harsh, until you dig a little deeper and see that it was Vinnie himself who made the error. He managed to reel things back in from there, retiring three straight batters with the go ahead run at second. After we were retired meekly, Jensen Lewis allowed a solo shot to Jeter in the bottom of the eighth that gave the Yanks the lead. Rivera sealed the deal.
LVP: This was more of a progressive decline due to the bullpen's inability to record a single scoreless inning, so the get it as a group for their combined -.571 WPA.
Notes: The Yankees hit five solo HR which accounted for all their RBI. Wedge wasn't surprised that Pavano got booed during introductions the previous day. Jhonny sat out with an injury to his hand.
PAINFUL LOSS 3: Game 13, at the Yankees
The setup: Pavano went six strong, allowing a single run to lower his season ERA to 9.69, which should give you some idea of how bad he had been. Garko and Shoo had each homered and Shoo scored on Garko's homer, giving us a 3-1 lead that was soon to disappear like chaff in the wind.
The meltdown: I actually have to give an assist to the hitters here: with one out and the sacks chucked, DeRosa and Martinez managed to combine to drive in zero runs in a situation where the run expectancy is 1.60. Nice work gang. To make matters worse, Wedge went to the pen for Raffy Left. Both of the batters he faced reached, and Jensen Lewis futher stretched the definition of relief by allowing Jorge Posada to homer to give New York a 4-3 lead with just two inning left to play. Cody Ransom made it a laugher an inning later with a 3-run double off of Raffy Right.
LVP: Lewis and Perez share honors with their combined -.545 WPA over the span of just four batters.
Notes: Posada's HR was reviewed by video, and frankly I thought it was a terrible call. Crowe said, "It all happened so fast" like he was in a car wreck, and Wedge said that the umpires "did the best they could" like he was describing doctors who had lost a patient. Interestingly enough, I feel like both of those analogies fit how most of us have felt for most of the year.
PAINFUL LOSS 4: Game 20, versus the Red Sox
The setup: Lee traded zeroes with Wakefield and Delcarmen for eight innings. The Tribe stranded second and third in the fourth, first and third in the sixth, and second base with one out in the seventh. With Lee sitting at 106 pitches through eight, the Tribe elected to go to Wood for the ninth rather than stretch their ace.
The meltdown: I'll let Kerry Wood take it from here. "It was a matter of missing my spot," Wood said. "Good hitters hit those pitches, bad hitters hit those pitches. Cliff shuts them down for 106 pitches, then I throw 12 and we're down 3-0. It's not good to waste a great performance by your ace pitcher. I didn't do my job." Specifically, Wood walked Dusty McHustlepants, gave up a single to Papi, and then retired Youkilis. His second pitch to Bay, a 99-mph fastball, was ditched into the left field seats. Wood gave up a triple to Lowell (how does that happen?) and walked George Kottras before being lifted. DeRosa drove Choo in to bring it to 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth, but Tribe bats stranded first and second with one out to run the game's total of LOB to 8.
LVP: Wood, who sported a -.463 WPA
Notes: Wedge was ejected in the fourth for arguing a fair/foul call with CB Bucknor. Lee said, "We think we're a better team than this."
PAINFUL LOSS 5: Game 22, versus the Red Sox
The setup: Fausto Carmona actually had a strong outing for the Tribe, going 6.2 and surrendering just 2 runs. The offense jumped on Jon Lester early, slapping up five earnies in the first four innings. After five, Cleveland led 5-0 and sported a 94.9% win expectancy. Kelly Schoppach's two-run HR capped our offensive outburst.
The meltdown: We managed to scrape together a single runner in innings 5-7 before leaving them loaded in the eighth and stranding a pair in the ninth. Meanwhile, the pitching staff was working its magic. Fausto couldn't quite finish the seventh, but the two runs he allowed in the sixth were the only thing he gave up. Raffy Left finished seven for our boys. Right came on to start the eighth, leading 5-2 and protecting a 94.9% win expectancy. For compairson's sake, that's only 5% less certain than the sun coming up on any given day. Betancourt was hurt by an error on a crucial double play ball by Mark DeRosa and was only able to retire one while allowing three to score. Lewis came on to surrender a couple of inherited runners to score while retiring Pedroia and putting Drew away on a fielder's choice. The Tribe's offensive struggles have been previously documented, and Lewis was stretched past his point of effectiveness, finally allowing a homer to Johnathan Van Every in his third inning of work.
LVP: Where to begin? The offense stranded seven runners, five in scoring position in the last four innings. Betancourt's outing gave us -.447 WPA. Lewis was left out there way too long and proved it by giving up the game-winning HR. Just a complete disaster at every level, from managing to relief work to hitting to fielding. Total cluster.
PAINFUL LOSS 6: Game 24, at Detroit
The setup: This one started out ugly, with Laffey giving up five runs including a grand slam to noted slugger Adam Everett. Perhaps revitalised by the challenge to their collective manhoods, the Indians offense responded in the next half inning with five runs of their own and tied the game. After everyone's hero Vinnie Chulk allowed the Tigers to take a 6-5 lead in the sixth, the Tribe scraped together a couple of runs to take a 7-6 lead that held into the bottom of eight.
The meltdown: Sporting a 65.7% win expectancy, Wedge went to Betancourt. Two batters later, Curtis Granderson had just finished rounding the bases on his go-ahead two-run homer. Raffy managed to finich the inning, but not before allowing another, probably inconsequential run. The Tribe managed to put runners on first and third with one down before DeRosa and Peralta fanned to confirm what we already knew.
LVP: The pen was all around awful - in fact, so was the starter - but Rafael Betancourt and his -.577 WPA. That's awful.
Notes: Everett also hit a grand slam in 2003, so he's due for another one in 2015. Wedgie said, "Unfortunately, we had to go to the bullpen early today, and that made it tougher to get to the end." In the future, remove the word early from what Wedge said for an accurate assesment of our hopes.
PAINFUL LOSS 7: Game 27, at Toronto
The setup: Down 3-2 going into the seventh, the Indians pushed across four thanks to five singles, a walk, and a wild pitch. Uncle Jhonny struck the big blow with a two-out, two-run single to make it 6-3 and give the Tribe a 90.8% win expectancy. With Reyes having thrown 88 pitches and having surrendered seven runners in six innings, Wedge went to the pen for the bottom of the seventh.
The meltdown: Perez proved that the hold is a stupid stat by giving up 2 ER in 1/3 of an inning to earn one. Chulk came on and faced two, giving up a walk and a single. Jensen Lewis actually got a guy out, but also surrendered an RBI single. Sipp relieved Lewis and promptly gave up back-to-back HRs before retiring Overbay to end the pain. We never threatened again, but Masa did throw a scoreless inning.
LVP: Tony Sipp. His first two batters added -.400 WPA to our cause.
Notes: Wedge said, "What's happening right now is unacceptable," most likely in reference to our 6.49 bullpen ERA to the point. Rolen's HR off of Sipp was his first since April 15th, three weeks ago.
PAINFUL LOSS 8: Game 37, at Tampa
The setup: The Tribe was off with a shout, leading 7-0 after three and a half innings. Scott Kazmir got slapped around pretty well for the Rays, giving up 14 baserunners and 7 ER in 3.1 innings. Choo and Sizemore each homered and Choo and DeRosa each drove in a pair. After 3.5 innings, our win expectancy was 96.7%. Reyes limped into the sixth inning, giving up 5 (3 earned) in 5+ but sporting an 83.9% win expectancy when he left the game. Sipp walked the only batter he faced, and Lewis allowed an inherited runner to score on an error by Carroll. Still, after six the WE column read 82% in our favor.
The meltdown: Once again, the bats went silent and the pitching fell apart. After scoring seven in the first four, we got only two baserunners in the next four. Lewis allowed another run in the seventh before giving way to Betancourt, who promplty loaded the bases before wiggling out of it. Raffy's first batter of the eighth, Ben Zobrist, hit the second pitch he saw for the game-tying homer. After the Indians left them on first and second in the top of nine, Luis Vizcaino surrendered the GW HR to BJ Upton.
LVP: Another team effort. Zero runs after the fourth inning, and the bullpen flat out eroded. Sipp was the only reliever who didn't allow a run, but that's only because he walked the lone batter he faced. The pen again failed to record a single scoreless inning as the Rays tallied 5 runs in the last 4 innings to quell my will to live. Vizcaino's -.363 WPA is pretty impressive considering he only faced one batter.
Notes: Largest comeback in Rays' history. "It's 7-0 tonight, and we end up losing the ballgame. At some point, these guys -- they've got to look in the mirror," said Wedge. "When you score seven runs, you should be up at home plate tension free," he added. "Our guys are up there and they're not tension-free for the fact they feel like they've got to score more runs, and that's ridiculous." Wedge was hummed in the third inning, so I guess he noticed all of this on the TV in the clubhouse.
PAINFUL LOSS 9: Game 40, at KC
The setup: I've gotta tell you, this one is an all-time classic. Clifton Lee threw 8 strong innings, surrendering two runs on eight hits with no walks. Vic and LaPorta hit RBI singles, and Kelly had a two-run HR. Going into the bottom of nine, the Tribe led 5-2 and had a 96% win expectancy. With Lee having thrown 101 pitches through eight, he was once again divested of further game responsibilities (see painful loss 4). Kerry Wood came on to earn his eight figure salary, if anyone playing baseball can be truly said to be "earning" anything.
The meltdown: As these things often do, Wood's destruction of this game started silently. In fact, he retired the first batter he faced. The next batter was renowned fastball hitter Mike Jacobs. Wood fell behind 3-1 in the count and then threw Jacobs five straight fastballs. The last one ended up in a fountain or something. Mark Teahen homered on the next pitch, but we were still up 5-4 with one out and a 89% win expectancy. Formulae cannot account for the pure meltdown that Wood was having though, as he walked Miguel Olivo on five pitches. A DeJesus triple tied the game, and Willie Bloomquist hit a sac fly that ended the game. The KC batters' line against Wood was .750/.800/2.750. That last number is slugging, not OPS.
LVP: Kerry Wood -.960 WPA. Pathetic.
Notes: "It just didn't work out for us," said Wedge. No kidding.
PAINFUL LOSS 10: Game 66, versus Milwaukee
The setup: Carl Pavano was in line for the win after his worst outing since the first month of the season, having gone only five innings and given up six earnies. Greg Aquino added an inning of two-run "relief", but a dozen-run outburst from the offense had the Tribe up 12-8 after seven and carrying a jaunty 96.1% win expectancy into the eighth. That number jumped to 97.5% when JJ Hardy was retired to begin the half-inning. Then, as they say, the wheels came off.
The meltdown: Vizcaino walked the next two, and Herges came in and walked the first batter he faced before giving up an RBI bases loaded single to Ryan Braun. Raffy Left came in a threw one pitch to vegetarian Prince Fielder, who ditched it into the right-center field bleachers for a grand slam. Single-walk-single gave the Brew Crew another run and ended Perez' day. Joe Smith ended the inning. The bats did nothing in the eighth and, after a leadoff single by Pronk, nothing in the ninth.
LVP: Raffy Left, again. His -.688 WPA was helped out by his first pitch, which sported a -.505 WPA. One friggin' pitch.
Notes: "It's a situation where you have to come in and throw strikes," said Herges. "I didn't do that." Actually, nobody did. The Tribe walked seven, including four in the painful eighth. Ryan Braun said, "Everybody feels better about themselves after a game like this." Not me, Ryan. Not me.
PAINFUL LOSS 11: Game 69, at Chicago (NL)
The setup: Another game that just gives you the feeling that no lead is safe. I swear, every game is filled with an overwhelming feeling that the other shoe is going to drop. There are games where we win and I'm on edge for 2-3 hours, waiting to find out that we somehow actually lost. But I digress. Kind of. Lord, I must hate myself! Why do I still cheer? I'm still digressing, sorry. Where was I? Four and a half innings in, we led 7-0. Val and Vic (The V Cards? I feel like these guys merit a cool nickname. I'll work on it, don't worry) each had 3-run HRs, and DeRosa had an RBI single as well. Our win expectancy was 96.9% going into the bottom of the the fourth. Even after Lee surrendered solo homers in the fifth and sixth innings, we carried a 97.5% win expectancy into the bottom of the eighth.
The meltdown: Lee allowed a single to Milton Bradley and his self-destructive temper before getting lifted from the game. Joe Smith gave up a strike out to Derek Lee, got Geo Soto to double, and then coughed up a K to Jake Fox. Then Reed Johnson walked, Andres Blanco singled in a pair, and Rafael Perez came in. Koyie Hill scalded the ball to SS Jhonny Peralta, who happened to be playing third (I think Choo was at short at the time) and flat out couldn't handle it. A run scored on the play. Soriano singled Blanco in before the pedestrianly monikered Joe Smith came in and ended the inning. And we were still ahead! Marmol walked a pair in the top of nine, but struck out Victor to preserve the one-run deficit for the Cubs. Preserving (I'm using that word too much now) an 87.7% win expectancy, Kerry Wood coughed up a game-tying HR to Derek Lee. The Indians managed to leave them loaded in the top of the tenth, then Vizcaino confirmed what we all suspected by giving up the game-winning run.
LVP: Wood (-.377 WPA) or Vizcaino (-.313).
Notes: DeRosa "enjoyed every minute of it until Theriot's base hit." Apparently he's a big Derek Lee fan, because I started hating it about right then. Wood said that Lee "knew what I was trying to do." We all know what Wood is trying to do; it would seem that he is incapable of doing it.
PAINFUL LOSS 12: Game 70, at Chicago (NL)
The setup: After a back and forth game, we tied it a 4 in the seventh. We also left the bases loaded with one out in that inning, managing only one run in a situation when the run expectancy is 1.64. Our only RBI that inning came on a bases loaded walk. I, too, wished to be loaded at this point. We left them loaded again in the eighth, and left them on first and second thanks to the inexplicable pinch-batting appearance of Trevor Crowe. I know Garko "sprained his wrist;" I don't care if he gnawed his own arm off, it's still better than Crowe. We went meekly in the 10th, 11th, and 12th, but our bullpen held the Cubs scoreless for six whole innings. We even got a perfect, two-strikeout inning from Raffy Left. Perhaps tired of being out in the heat, Luis Valbuena hit a solo homer in the 13th to put us up by one.
The meltdown: Hey gang, remember when Kerry Wood struck out 20 in a game as a 20 year old? Talk about destined for greatness. Eleven years later, here we are. I know, everyone including Eric Wedge is blaming Schoppach's throwing error for the loss. Don't kid yourselves; a closer is supposed to retire the other team in such a manner that they don't think they can win this game. Allowing a leadoff single is not how to do that. Blanco's single brought Fukudome, and Miles' single moved Blanco to third. If you're scoring at home, that's three singles and one out by our lockdown closer. The dissolution was complete when Wood missed everything and everyone with his 2-1 pitch to Fox, allowing the walk-off run to score.
LVP: Kerry Wood and his -..782 WPA. I can't imagine he did more to win consecutive games for the Cubs when they were paying him.
Notes: There's nothing left to say.
Well that's it. I hope you've hated reading this as much as I hated living it. There were more I could have chosen, but I tried to be a little selective. If your favorite painful loss isn't on here, I'm sorry. Can you imagine what our season would look like if we had won all these games? Half of them? Two-thirds? Even according to the win expectancies at the beginning of each "meltdown" paragraph, we deserved to take 9.679 wins from these twelve games. Instead, we took zero. I can't imagine what the odds of that are, but they must be astronomical. This is my team!