April 13, 2013
Chapter 10: There is another...
Until yesterday, it seemed that the Indians would have a chance to win only when Justin Masterson was on the mound. This isn't the day of Old Hoss Radbourn, where pitchers started 50-60 games a season; if he's lucky, a starting pitcher may start one-fifth of his club's games. So for the Indians to compete in the American League, someone was going to have to step up, whether it be someone currently in the rotation or one of the AAA arms.
Yesterday Zach McAllister stepped up. He allowed two early unearned runs, but no more, pitching well into the seventh; the only reason Terry Francona pulled him when he did was because the Indians were up 7 and the bullpen needed some work. McAllister first and foremost threw strikes; he rarely fell behind a hitter. And that allowed him to go up the ladder with his four-seam fastball to get strikeouts. In fact, most of his pitches were fastballs (two and four-seamers); only 15 of his 89 pitches were off-speed. From Brooks Baseball:
|Pitch Type||Avg Speed||Max Speed||Avg H-Break||Avg V-Break||Count||Strikes / %||Whiffs / %||SNIPs / %||Linear Weights|
|FF (FourSeam Fastball)||91.46||93.85||-6.37||7.64||41||30 / 73.17%||6 / 14.63%||21 / 65.63%||0.3886|
|CH (Changeup)||79.62||81.33||-8.34||2.02||4||3 / 75.00%||1 / 25.00%||3 / 75.00%||-0.3222|
|SL (Slider)||86.68||87.9||-1.73||6.53||2||2 / 100.00%||1 / 50.00%||2 / 100.00%||-0.1055|
|CU (Curveball)||80.55||81.87||3.43||-0.59||9||9 / 100.00%||1 / 11.11%||4 / 100.00%||-0.4080|
|FT (TwoSeam Fastball)||92.24||95.33||-9.52||7.35||33||22 / 66.67%||3 / 9.09%||17 / 60.71%||-1.2326|
|Pitch classifications provided by the Gameday Algorithm.
SNIPs are "Strikes Not In Play" and do not include any balls in play.
Velocities are assumed from 55ft (rather than the gameday standard of 50ft) for increased realism.
These 55ft numbers are directly comparable with our player cards.
McAllister did struggle in the first couple of innings, though not all of it was his own doing. After giving up a one-out double to Jeff Keppinger, Alex Rios hit a chopper wide of first base. Mark Reynolds, who was playing the field, ranged to his right to field it, then tried a lengthy underhand toss to McAllister, but it was well behind him. Keppinger scored from first, and when McAllister retired Adam Dunn on fly ball to the warning track, that run became unearned. He would give up another unearned run when Paul Konerko singled home Rios.
At this point, the prospects didn't look for the Indians. McAllister looked like he would follow the template for Indians starters not name Justin Masterson; give up runs early and often, and get pulled early. And Chris Sale was on the mound, the Chris Sale that posted a 151 ERA+ last season. Fortunately for the Indians, today's Chris Sales was not last year's Chris Sale. Or, more specifically, this year's Indians lineup was not last year's Indians lineup.
When Sale faced the Indians as a starter in early May last year, this was the lineup that he faced:
2B Jason Donald
2B Jason Kipnis
Yes, there were right-handed hitters in this lineup, but not very good ones. Not surprsingly, Sale allowed only 3 hits and a run in six innings of work. And the lineup that faced him in early April last year was even worse, if possible. The Indians last year were at times utterly helpless against a decent or better southpaw, mainly because hardly anyone in the lineup could hit for power against left-handed pitching.
That's changed. Nick Swisher (switch-hitter) and Mark Reynolds (right-handed hitter) have been added to the everyday lineup, and Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles are on the bench to spell guys like Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis against a tough left-hander. This is not to say that Chris Sale's implosion was caused entirely by the Indians lineup, but that this lineup is now equipped to take advantage of games when a pitcher like Sale doesn't have his best stuff.
Nick Swisher began the scoring in the bottom of the first when he took Sale deep for a two-run homer. It was Swisher's first homer as an Indian, and came the at-bat after last night's game-winning single. In the fhird inning, he hit what probably would have been a home run in 70 degree weather, but instead of going over the 19-foot wall in left, it hit about 7 feet high off the wall. Left field Dayan Viciedo easily could have caught it, but he got himself caught up against the wall and couldn't jump up to grab it. Later in the inning, Mark Reynolds hit a rare groundball single to drive home Swisher, giving the Indians a lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
The Indians landed the knockout blow in the fifth. The struggling Asdrubal Cabrera singled to start the inning, then went to third on Ryan Raburn's double to left. Sale then hit Nick Swisher to load the bases, and left a breaking ball in the middle of the plate to Mark Reynolds. Reynolds knew what to do with it. It was 7-2 Indians, and the game had been put out of reach.
With his very next pitch, Sale hit Michael Brantley square on the backside, a pitch that was nowhere near the strike zone. Sale was not ejected, but both benches were warned. With the Carrasco ejection/suspension fresh in our minds, the circumstances between what happened on Wednesday and yesterday were almost identical: a pitcher having a bad day who had just given up a back-breaking home run hits a batter on the pitch after giving up the home run. The reactions of the home plate umpires were different, though..why is this? Perhaps the placement of the pitches were different; Carrasco's ball was much higher than Sale's. Perhaps it was the history of the pitchers; Carrasco had done the exact same thing before, while Sale (I don't believe) had been suspended or incited a bench-clearing brawl for hitting a batter. And perhaps the home plate umpire (in this case Ed Hickox) had a different take on the situation than the one on Wednesday. MLB, however, has the power to suspend or fine a pitcher for something like this even if he wasn't ejected, so it should be interesting to see what their reaction will be.
After Sale was pulled, Yan Gomes put the capper on the game by launching a two-run homer, his first hit as an Indian. Gomes was not originally in the lineup, but Francona at the last minute wanted to give Carlos Santana another day off. Gomes will soon be going back to Columbus, but his short stint with the Indians has been impressive. I think he can be at least a quality MLB backup, but perhaps he can become more than that; his defensive skill behind the plate is impressive considering that he hasn't been catching that long.