April 28, 2013
Chapters 21-22:Same day, different worlds
I had planned to somehow connect these two games in one recap, finding a common thread somewhere. You know, construct a narrative out of two games by the same teams on the same day. But I've racked my brain and I can't really find one, unless the narrative is that baseball games are like snowflakes, each one completely different. Baseball is unlike every other team sport in that one of the most important players on the field - the pitcher - is changed every day for another one. You wouldn't only play your All-Star point guard once every three games, nor would you only play your All-Pro quarterback every other game. That's what makes baseball's regular season so fascinating to follow; rather than being 162 games of the same players playing, it's 162 games played by different combinations of the same players. The pitching limitations inherent in the baseball season also make it great, something that's not readily apparent until you step back from each of those individual games, seeing the bigger picture.
Although a team with a great pitcher or even a great couple of pitchers may not get a chance at a short series because the rest of their 40-man roster is garbage. The playoff structures enacted in recent years have de-emphasized this to some extent, but you could also look the six divisions as a miniature of what used to be the pre-1969 pennant chases; because each team in the AL Central is playing each other 19 times, it's impossible to use even just your top five pitchers in a game; sometimes you have contests with your sixth, seventh, or eighth pitchers. And that's where the depth of a roster kicks in; whether due to injury or scheduling quirks, that pitcher you'd never thought would be important suddenly is.
Where am I going with this? Well, the Indians were destroyed by the Royals in the first game in a contest of front-line pitchers. Jeremy Guthrie, whom the Royals signed to a multi-year contract this winter, shut down the Indians, while Justin Masterson, who is the Indians' best pitcher, struggled. But the outcome was completely different when the two clubs engaged in a battle of reserve pitchers. When the season started, Corey Kluber was perhaps the eighth pitcher on the depth chart, while Will Smith, who had started 16 games for the Royals the season before, had been reduced to a similar importance on the Kansas City roster because of all the outside acquisitions. You could say that Game 1 was the better measuring stick of the two clubs, since Will Smith will not likely get many starts this season, but if one of the Royals' starters misses any time, Will Smith every fifth day might be possible.
Justin Masterson wasn't awful in the first game, even though his final line score looks awful. He should have been pulled much sooner than he was, but Terry Francona was worried about how the second game would turn out, so Masterson was sent out to pitch the seventh, and then left in several batters longer in that seventh inning than normal. But the overall game turned out awful; LGFT Jeremy Guthrie continued his incredible career resurgence, blanking the Indians over 6.2 innings, and by the time Matt Albers and Scott Barnes mopped up the Royals had rather thoroughly embarrassed the Indians. Teeth were gnashing all over Ohio bewailing the awfulness of the Cleveland Indians.
Then came the battle of reserves. Well, sort of; Corey Kluber spent most of April either pitching for Columbus or serving as a longman in the bullpen, but because of Brett Myers' injury, he's now in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Yes, the eighth or ninth starter on the Opening Day depth chart is now one of the top five starters just a month into the season. Kluber had pitched extensively with the Indians down the stretch last year during and after the July-August meltdown, and although the results weren't that good, he showed the potential to have some success at the major-league level. He was missing bats (7.7 SO/9) and keeping the walks down (2.6 BB/9); he just needed to be a little more finer with his command.
Last night Kluber reached his potential, at least for one game. He was aggressive in the strike zone, utilizing his low-mid-90s fastball high in the strike zone with occasional forays into offspeed pitches. Brooks Baseball says that of his 97 pitches, 85 were fastballs of some sort, though they were not thrown in the same plane or with the same movement. Corey got some swings and misses high in the strike zone with the different versions of his fastball, but more importantly, got lots of weak contact from them.
|Pitch Type||Avg Speed||Max Speed||Avg H-Break||Avg V-Break||Count||Strikes / %||Whiffs / %||SNIPs / %||Linear Weights|
|FA (Fastball)||92.42||94.12||-4.56||11.74||6||5 / 83.33%||1 / 16.67%||5 / 83.33%||-0.2168|
|SI (Sinker)||92.93||94.44||-8.91||8.50||48||34 / 70.83%||3 / 6.25%||17 / 54.84%||1.2799|
|CH (Changeup)||84.11||85.38||-7.74||4.72||7||5 / 71.43%||1 / 14.29%||3 / 60.00%||-0.6003|
|SL (Slider)||81.20||81.64||9.28||-0.85||4||4 / 100.00%||0 / 0.00%||3 / 100.00%||-0.3496|
|FC (Cutter)||88.85||91.15||1.94||5.28||31||16 / 51.61%||5 / 16.13%||14 / 48.28%||-1.2024|
Pitch classifications provided by PITCH INFO.
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.
Meanwhile the offense that was moribund in the afternoon came to life against Smith, with a little help from the Kansas City defense. A Mike Moustakas error opened the door for the Indians to score two runs in the first inning. Former Royal Mike Aviles struck the biggest blow in the third inning with his two-out, three-run homer. Smith was pulled after four innings, and the Indians then worked on Bruce Chen, another 2012 Kansas City starter, scoring two runs off him. And with Kluber being efficient and effective, the game turned into a rout.
So which of these two games represent the 2013 Indians? Both. At certain points this season the Indians have shown themselves capable of blowing out a team, but those games have been few and far between. Those routs have inflated their overall offensive numbers to the point where someone who hadn't watched the team on a day-to-day basis would think them a fine offensive club. They do need more boring five-run games, though.
Meanwhile Corey Kluber with this game should get an opportunity to pitch several more games, and perhaps in a couple weeks he'll be seen as one of the first five rather than just a depth option.