Indians

162+: Indians win 9th straight, one win away from Wild Card

carloshomerThe Cleveland Indians are guaranteed to play more than 162 games in the 2013 season. On the heels of a brilliant outing from Scott Kazmir and some of their classic two-out magic, the Indians clinched at least one game beyond today as even with a loss today they would at worst be playing baseball on Monday. After their ninth straight win, however, it’s time to make it a perfect ten to end the regular season. Doing so will clinch the Wild Card game being at Progressive Field on Wednesday night.

You have to start with Scott Kazmir, who turned in just a phenomenal performance. Kazmir got into some trouble in multiple innings, but the strikeout was his best friend. Kazmir put two runners on in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, yet he allowed only a single run to score in the fourth. In the third and fourth, Kazmir got fly balls to end the threats (Michael Brantley got a huge jump on the one to end the threat in the left-center gap in the fourth), and in the fifth, it was a strike ’em out, throw ’em double play courtesy of Yan Gomes firing it down to third and erasing Brian Dozier. Kazmir struck out 11 in his six innings of work, including striking out the side in his final inning of work. One would have to think that should the Indians get into a series that Kazmir would be awarded a start ahead of Zach McAllister, provided that Justin Masterson would stay in the bullpen. Kazmir’s had swing and miss stuff most of the year, but it’s that ability to avoid the big inning and work out of trouble that he needs to have to be the guy he’s been for most of the season. In his last two starts, it appears that knack is back.

On the other side, Cole De Vries was doing his early best Seth McClung impersonation, fanning Tribe hitters left and right. The Indians’ approach against the slow-throwing righty the first time through the order was downright pathetic. 7 of the first 11 batters struck out, but the two-out magic got going with the Tribe’s All-Star slugger. Jason Kipnis sent a two-out single into center, which brought Carlos Santana to the plate. Santana figured out the mystery of the 88 mph fastball when he crushed one on a 1-1 count and deposited on the right field concourse in Target Field.

Kazmir gave one run back in the bottom of the inning on an Eric Fryer RBI single with two outs. But, the Tribe came back with three more in the fifth. Again, it was two-out hitting that started with singles by Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles. Then, Michael Bourn, returning after a two-game absence due to a wrist injury, sliced a triple into right that hit the wall in right and popped straight up in the air. Gomes scored, and there was a play at the plate with Aviles. Fryer appeared to sweep the tag on Aviles’s foot before he reached the plate, but Mike was called safe. After a Swisher walk, Kipnis added another two-out hit to score Bourn and make it a 5-1 game, the final score.

In a four-run game, Terry Francona took no chances, using his bullpen core to get the final nine outs after Kazmir’s day was done. Mark Rzepczynski was called upon for the seventh, Cody Allen was used in the eighth, and Joe Smith worked the ninth. Rzepczynski walked the first hitter, but the three together faced the minimum and kept the Twins offense silent.

Today, it’s simple. You have your number one starter on the hill in Ubaldo Jimenez. Win, and I’ll see you on Wednesday in Progressive Field for the Wild Card game. Lose, and it’s much more likely that we could be hosting a tiebreaker tomorrow against either Tampa (if we lost and both Texas and Tampa won). What we all should be rooting for is a Tribe win and losses (or wins) by both Texas and Tampa. That sets up a tiebreaker for those two teams in Texas, where Tampa Bay would be forced to throw David Price, keeping him out of the potential Wild Card game. The Twins send Scott Diamond to the hill in the regular season finale for them.

Ubaldo and the Tribe have a real golden opportunity to end the regular season with a 10-game winning streak and cap off September with a 21-6 record. Let’s hope they can do that and set us up for a thrilling home game on Wednesday.

(Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

 

  • @TheDeePagel

    Great read Kirk. What I love about this is back in the winter and leading up to Opening Day, many predictions about this team were very mild.

    “All the moves the Indians made in the winter will only increase their win total by +7 games….”

    “Very exciting winter for Indians fans, but these new pieces won’t make a difference because look at what this formula says….”

    Now here we are on the brink of a 92 win season, and rolling at the right time to lead us to who knows where.

    Statistics have their place – especially in baseball – but no formula or progression model can account for chemistry, leadership, and the ability to use mind over matter when push comes to shove. These intangibles are what made the difference with this team, and the only way to measure it is by letting them actually play the games on the field, instead of on paper with calculations.

    Go Tribe.

    Win the whole ******* thing.

  • Steve

    Sigh.

    The Indians wOBA, which properly takes into account their ability to get on base, led by Santana’s excellent .378 OBP, is 6th in the majors. Last year they were 27th in this stat. They were 15th in ERA this year, 29th last year.

    It is actually quite easy to measure the effects of good health, and a strong bench, two key factors for the Indians this year. It meant not having to run guys like Lillibridge, Cunningham, Canzler, and Lopez out there over 100 times each. Antonetti realized he can’t add a 6 WAR guy to the roster, but he could gain just as many wins by replacing zero and negative WAR guys with 1-2 WAR players.

    It’s also quite easy to measure the change to Jimenez, of the 3.38 ERA, and going today to put us in the playoffs, and in line to start game 1 of the ALDS if they get there. The rest of improvements in the rotation fall in line, but pale in comparison to what Callaway has done with Jimenez.

    There is no doubt that great chemistry, leadership, and coaching have played important roles for the team this year. But this denigration of statistics in the process is incredibly frustrating.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Not denigrating statistics. In fact I give stats their place of importance in baseball which I mentioned. I just get a kick out of projectionists who end up wrong when they use formulas and statistics alone to figure out wins and losses before the season. Which is what happened this season with the Indians. I heard nothing but “not good enough” “don’t get too excited” “these moves don’t mean playoffs” “81-81” by these kind of people all winter and during spring training…..and after they played the games on the field, the reality is 90+ wins, and playoffs.

  • @TheDeePagel

    The point you make about Jimenez is exactly what I am talking about. If anyone mentioned in March or February about Jimenez turning things around and having a good year, “stat guys” jumped all over that with WARs and trends, and track records or prior seasons to shoot that commentor out of the water. “There is zero basis for Jimenez to turn things around” “The numbers don’t show Jimenez being able to pull that off” “His velocity-minus-inches missed off the plate-plus opponents batting average-times fans in attendance-equals a projected 4.92 ERA and a sub-.500 record for Jimenez, so your hope of him having a good year is faulty”

    But here we are staring reality in the face and Jimenez did make a turn around….

    That’s kind of the point I’m making.

    Stats are very important to baseball – but sometimes they end up not being right and the game has to be played on the field, with a real ball, a real bat, and real people…..not numbers and calculators.

  • Steve

    Are you kidding me? The only talk of Jimenez turning things around was hopeful wishing. It wasn’t “stat guys” who shot that down, everyone and their mother thought that Jimenez was going to have another tough year. You put two lines in quotation marks that I don’t remember anyone saying. I think it’s dangerous to attribute quotes that weren’t actually said. You’re putting words in other people’s mouths. And the “velocity-minus-inches” hooey is a disservice to the discussion. If you want to talk about what real stats said, fine, but saying that a stat that you just created out of thin air ended up being wrong drags the discussion into the gutter.

    And for the post above this, even the scout guys, and the Kruk-ian, make things up as I go along, guys were calling this a .500ish team that wouldn’t make the playoffs. I don’t know why just stat guys get called out for that. No one predicted that the lineup would stay healthy all year, no one predicted that Raburn and Gomes would mash the ball, no one predicted that Callaway could work what seemed like miracles. All the people who saw the chemistry, leadership, and coaching up through Spring Training still didn’t think this was a playoff team.

  • Steve

    And so we’re clear, I’m not saying that the leadership and coaching weren’t huge reasons that this team exceeding expectations. Guys always seemed to keep their heads up, even after the losing streaks, they were all picking each other up, and I’ve said that Callaway is a miracle-worker.

    My issue is the default sentiment of the stat guys not knowing what it takes when a team exceeds everyone’s, and not just stat guys’, expectations, or that you can’t measure what those team’s are doing right.

  • @TheDeePagel

    You heard everything said to me, and read everything I read?

    How do you know I never heard the things I put in quotes?

    Yes the last quote was a joke – and joking is not “dangerous”….but I heard/read everything else that I quoted.

  • @TheDeePagel

    I am a stat guy as well. Like I originally said….I simply get a kick out of stats and projectionists being wrong. Which is exactly what happened this season. That’s the bottom line.

  • Steve

    I didn’t say your joke was dangerous, I said it was a disservice to a potential real discussion.

    Fine, you heard those exact quotes, even though the probability is incredibly for an actual stat-oriented individual to say something like “there is zero basis” for anything, much less an area that is filled with as much randomness as pitching a baseball. The people who do spend a lot of time poring over the stats know better than anyone else that sometimes guys do something completely out of the ordinary.

  • Steve

    I enjoy my team exceeding expecations as well. I’m not disagreeing with that, but with the idea that you can’t see the differences on paper or singling out “stat guys”. What if the stat guys actually projected a better record for the team than the “scout guys” or the “nonsense-blathering sportswriters”?

    None of the regular guys at ESPN or SI predicted a playoff spot for the Indians, some ESPN radio guy did though. Of the few positive things written about the team, it was by a “stat guy” – Jay Jaffe:

    “It’s difficult to look at any of the 30 teams and imagine a run culminating in a playoff spot akin to last year’s A’s or Orioles. With a new manager in Terry Francona, a remade roster that includes Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and (eventually) Trevor Bauer and a solid young nucleus of up-the-middle talent in Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera, the Indians have created a pathway to respectability. They could be the second-best team in the AL Central, if not a real playoff contender”

    The stat guys actually had a better grasp of the Indians situation that most others who wrote on the topic.

  • @TheDeePagel

    “I think it’s dangerous to attribute quotes that weren’t actually said.”

    This was taken directly from your comment. This is what I was responding to with my “joke” comment.

  • Steve

    Your joke was in the comment before I said that, so no, that’s not what you were responding to with your joke.

    There doesn’t need to be a pissing contest, and we do want the same thing, but I don’t see why we have to single out stats and the people who use more advanced metrics to make predictions in the process as wrong in the process.

  • @TheDeePagel

    Okay, you win. Can this be over now? Let’s band together and get a win on Wednesday? Sound good?