Hannahan Does It Again As Tribe’s Hot Road Trip Continues

This road trip the Indians are currently on has proven to be a fulfilling one. The Tribe is 6-1 thus far after last night’s 4-3 victory in Oakland, as they’ve awakened their offense, settled down their closer, and continued to get solid starts all in that short span. For the second straight night, it was Jack Hannahan turning in a multi-RBI effort, with the Tribe’s plate discipline remaining an asset in these hard fought victories the past two nights.

What a treat! It’s my weekend at WFNY, and Ublado Jimenez pitched last night. Now, if you guys have read this or follow me on a regular basis, you know that I’m far from Ubaldo’s biggest fan. In fact, my Twitter profile lists me as a “Ubaldo Trade Skeptic”. Anyway, back to the action on the field where Ubaldo earned his second straight win by pitching good enough against an admittedly weak Athletics lineup. The eye-popping portion of Jimenez’s statline is, of course his five walks over six innings. Worse than that, however, and the root of my frustration in watching him pitch, was the startling number of hitters that he started with a 2-0 count. Six, yes SIX, of the first nine hitters last night saw two outside the strike zone from Ubaldo to begin their at-bat. Against a better offense with an element of patience, Ubaldo will get eaten alive with that type of output. Jimenez has avoided being hit hard at all in the ’12 campaign, but his pitch count has been driven up early in his last two starts, and that’s only going to continue as AL hitters get the book on him. Ubaldo’s stuff is undeniably tough to hit. He made one mistake on a hanging breaking ball to Josh Reddick in the third inning that he deposited in the right field seats. That happens, and I’m not holding it against him. No, it’s far more frustrating to me when you consistently work from behind in the count and give guys a free pass on base. Are we sure Tim Belcher didn’t step down from his pitching coach role primarily because he couldn’t stand Ubaldo’s lack of first pitch strikes? I’m not ruling it out.

Ok, that’s enough about Ubaldo. The real hero in this game was Jack Hannahan… again. As Jon so eloquently put it yesterday, it’s hard to believe that what Jack is doing is sustainable. What I’m seriously doubting is the part where Hannahan is second on the team with a .321 average and the team leader in RBI with 11. However, I do feel that Hannahan can continue to play a role on this team throughout the season, even when Lonnie Chisenhall (he of the .344 average and .989 OPS at Columbus) comes up sooner rather than later. He puts up good at-bats, hits left-handed pitching well for a southpaw, his leadership role on this team is clear, and his defense is always a plus. Yes, I’m aware of the four errors, but I’m calling that a fluke for now. Hannahan swinging a hot April bat, much like last year, probably won’t last all season, nor will it keep Chiz down. It may, however, solidify Jack’s role on this team.

There’s been a change with the Indians’ approach at the plate this season. It centers around patient hitting, and it’s manifesting itself with less strikeouts and more walks, even with solid contact on their outs. It downright floored me when I heard the stat yesterday that the Tribe was striking out the second LEAST in the AL. This coming from a offense by whose obituary from last year I would write “Relies too much on homers, strikes out too much”. In addition to Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner’s patient approach, others have taken up the strategy, including Shelley Duncan, who is tied for the team lead in walks with Santana at 12. Cleveland allowed Oakland starter Graham Godfrey to work himself into trouble, as Graham as hit two batters and walked five, including three in the second to load the bases, permitting the Indians to score on a Hannahan sac fly without generating a single hit.

The bullpen’s starting to calm down a bit, with Tony Sipp allowing the lone run out of the pen last night in three innings of work between the top four out of the pen. Home plate umpire Derryl Cousins did have an inconsistent strike zone with Joe Smith and Chris Perez feeling the pain of that. Smith slung in a sidearmed slider right at the knees to Jonny Gomes which was called a ball to load the bases. Smith did get out of the jam. As for Chris Perez, he got burned twice against Yoenis Cespedes (2 RBI, 3 hits) then still got him with a blazing heater. Perez looks sharp right now, and though I don’t believe he’s the best man for the job (Pestano, in my opinion), with his fastball back in the 92-94 range, he’s back to getting the job done without requiring diehards to ingest a bottle of Maalox in the middle of the ninth to get through the ordeal.

One more note, and it’s about Carlos Santana, the catcher. He threw out another runner last night, his third in four attempts this season. In one season, Santana appears to have come a long way behind the plate, and that’s a very good thing. Carlos’s value as a franchise type player is behind the plate, and the attention to improving his craft behind the plate has not gone unnoticed. It’s just one element of why I think Carlos is in for an All-Star type season.

The Tribe and A’s meet up tonight for game two of the series at 9:05 PM. Jeanmar Gomez for the Indians will take on Brandon McCarthy for Athletics.

(Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)


  • BIKI024

    why is Pestano is the better man for the job exactly? the guy with 3 career saves. closing is a whole different beast than being a setup guy. how do you know how well he can handle the heat in the kitchen?  we know that Perez can, even if you poor things have to drink Maalox.  he gets the job done.  you play to win the game.  

  • Kirk

    No one knows for sure. In that same light, the three saves could be the absolute WORST metric to use for an argument given that he’s never been given a true opportunity. Pestano has two fantastic pitches and pitches like he is afraid of no one. Perez has pretty much one pitch and when he goes bad, he is completely unusable. His fastball velocity is sometimes a concern. Right now, he’s going great, but that doesn’t stop me from believing that Pestano could easily be the guy.

  • I think the ubiquitous antacid comments will always be there for the closer until he establishes himself as absolutely dominant.  Guys like Rivera, Mesa, Gagne, Hoffman, Valverde, and Eckersley, to name a few, eventually earn a reputation where the fans have a fair amount of confidence.  Even then, they still blew saves occasionally.  It happens.

    Pestano may eventually close for this team.  He seems to be more consistent in terms of throwing strikes.  His K/BB ratio was more than double that of Perez’s last year.  That said, Perez faced the 3-4-5 hitters of two teams in one-run games the past two nights and set them down 1-2-3.  Dating back to 2010, Perez is 33-36 in one-run save situations.  That’s pretty good.  In fact, that 91.67% conversion rate is better than the win expectancy of a team winning by one run either at home (91.5%) or on the road (83.5%) to start the 9th inning.  (From BP:  Note: it’s from the perspective of the team that’s batting, so I had to subtract from 100 to find the pitching team’s win expectancy.)  So, you can make the argument he has been above average in one-run situations the past couple years.  Do you really want to mess with that because he isn’t as pretty as others?  I think it’s going to take a streak of blown saves to bring about change.  And even then, the stress of those final three outs will always induce a measure of indigestion even in the most confident of fans.

  • Yes, I’m so cool, I’m replying to myself.

    I got the 33/36 stat from a tweet from the Cleveland Indians last night.  Assuming it includes all of his save opportunities in 2010 (and, thus, all save opportunities as an Indian), it means Perez is 31/37 in save situations in which the lead is 2 or 3 runs.  That’s a conversion rate of 83.78%, which is obviously well below the win expectancy of a team with a 2 or 3 run lead in the 9th inning.  Perhaps the margin for error is a bad thing with Perez.

  • BIKI024

    if it continues to result in wins, the stress of the final three outs are a problem i’d love to keep having.  Manny is loyal to his guys, at times to a fault, so you’re right, it would take a streak of blown saves for him to make a change.  while it’s rarely pretty, one thing Perez shows is his ability to shake off a bad outing, so it seems unlikely he’ll have a bad streak, but we’ll see.  in the meantime, Pestano’s role as setup is extremely vital and the combo is working quite well thus far, so let’s hope they Bullpen Mafia keeps it up!  

  • BIKI024

    exactly, we don’t know how he will fare in the pressure packed situation of the closer role, since he’s had so few chances.  but we do know what Perez has done, albeit not in the prettiest of ways as it seems everyone wants.  and maybe Pestano will be the guy in the future, or as soon as this year if Perez gets hurt or struggles.  but in the meantime things are going well as is, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  

  • BuckeyeDawg

    So when do the “Hannahan is God” signs start showing up at Jacobs (Progressive) field? 

  • 5KMD

    Petsamo usually pitches in the higher leverage situations anyway so you guys are arguing semantics right now. Vinnie does best with guys on base (that he didn’t put there) in the eighth and CP does best when he has all 3 bases at his disposal. It’s perfect right now, leave it alone.

  • kjn

    Exactly. He is indeed a better pitcher and used in much more important ways. The save is baloney. 

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Supermannahan!  With so many of our key guys struggling, it’s awesome to see Hannahan picking up the slack until they come around.

  • Hypno_Toad

    I don’t want the Mafia to keep up EVERYTHING they’re doing….

    Sipp 14.73 ERA
    Wheeler 6.23
    R.Perez 5.79 ERA

    I know Hammy was even saying last night that our lefties have been so bad that Hagadone might hive management a tough decision when Cabrera comes back.

  • Steve

    Actually, last year Perez was in much higher leverage situations. The problem is that the save and now hold stat have forced defined roles, which the players seem to prefer as well. I’d like to see relievers managed more toward the opposing lineup rather than pre-established roles. One thing specifically – use your best reliever against the middle of the oppositions lineup, whether it be the 7th or the 9th.

  • Kirk

    I would take this opportunity to point out how horrific Perez was in tie game scenarios last season. He seems to be a little more mentally fragile than Pestano. He clings to that closer role and if he’s not pitching for the save, he struggles even more. I swear I don’t dislike him, just calling it like I see it.

  • mgbode

    Hafner, Santana, Duncan, Hannahan, Choo, Asdrubel(though missing games), and Kipnis (just under .300 at .290, but slugging .482) have all been hitting reasonably well when taking a look at their OBP and OPS numbers. 

    I don’t trust alot of the numbers to keep up (we are striking out WAY too much still and not facing the elite SO pitchers in doing so, but we are also walking a ton so the patient approach at the plate may be working).

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I guess you are right… I was really talking about driving in runs, so looking at BA and SLG with runners in scoring position, but only Cabrera comes off the list in that situation.  I didn’t realize Choo and Kipnis had been as effective in that area.