Indians

“C” is for “Cookie”, Good Enough for Me

Carlos Carrasco Cleveland Indians
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

8:11 PM – I was about to suggest that if the Indians hadn’t given up on this season, neither should we. After all, I was just reminded of a recap I wrote last year that prematurely declared the Indians’ playoff hopes dead.  Anything can happen when you’ve got a team fighting for its life, and no one should know that better than we, especially after the 10-game winning streak that ended the 2013 season.  If the Indians haven’t given up on this season, neither should we.

But they just put the lineups up and Chris Gimenez is playing first base so I guess you can do whatever you want, really.

This is likely my last live recap of the season, so I’ll probably be negligent of the actual game, choosing instead to opine on whatever shiny objects or stray thoughts might pass in front of my consciousness.  You are free to point out that this is basically the same thing I always do.


Pitchers don’t pull 180s like this very often, and it’s a little interesting that another truly remarkable turnaround came from the guy whom we traded for Carrasco five years ago.

Anyway, Chris Gimenez.  He’ll probably hit a home run or something.

8:22 PM – A quiet first inning from both Carrasco and Oberholtzer, and we’re scoreless after one.

Let’s talk about Carrasco a bit, shall we? I’ve been on the record pretty much since we acquired him that he belongs in the rotation and not the bullpen. So you might think that I’ve taken some delight in his recent success. You would be right. I am delighted. It’s great to see a young pitcher learn to harness his talent and develop into an effective rotation option. I actually look forward to his starts, which is something only a masochist would have admitted to last year.

But I’ve also tried not to gloat, because it’s certainly not as if I believed that this turnaround would happen. The smart money was always going to be against him turning things around. Pitchers just don’t pull 180s like this very often, and it’s at least a little interesting that another truly remarkable turnaround came from the guy whom we traded for Carrasco five years ago.

Pitchers don’t normally go from being awful to good for long stretches of time, and we still don’t know if this is going to stick in any permanent sense. Carrasco has thrown 88 innings since being removed from the rotation at the end of April, and while his ERA is sterling (1.84), the point remains that lots of fluky things can happen in 90 inning samples. It may still all go away. God knows we won’t be surprised by anything.

So yes, the point was never that I expected this to happen.  It was just that when you’re choosing between crummy options (e.g. Tomlin, Carrasco, McAllister, et al) you go with the guy who has the best raw stuff. Carrasco’s fastball touches 100 with arm-side tail. His slider is literally the best slider in baseball this season.

#WHIFF

And his change-up is above average.  These are the guys you bet on, when you have the chance. Not because you’ll always win, but because when you do, the sky’s the limit.

8:43 PM – Chris Gimenez struck out looking and I just thought that you might want to know that.

8:55 PM – Through three innings, still scoreless. Hell, still hitless.

Speaking of which, let’s talk offense, and how woeful it’s been of late. So far this season, the Indians have averaged 4.19 runs per game (632 runs over 151 games). Over the 2013 season, that was 4.60. That extra .41 runs might not sound like a lot, but spread over a season it’s the difference between 680 runs and 750. That’s a massive swing, and one that will likely ultimately cost the Indians’ a chance at a playoff spot this year.
But we know it’s much worse than this, of course. Because in the first half, our offense was competent-ish. Check this table out:

 Month Runs Scored
April 3.79
May 4.86
June 4.42
July 4.69
August 3.74
September 3.25
Grand Total 4.19

Things seem to be ticking along nicely for the first four months of the season. April offense is typically suppressed by poor weather, but May through July put us right back on track for 750 runs or so. Then almost a full run drop in August with another half run drop in September. That is not how you win a playoff spot.

The question, of course, is why? Swisher? Kipnis? Chisenhall? Sequencing? Murphy? Probably a little bit of all those things and more yet. For what it’s worth, Fangraphs attempts to model how many runs a team “should” have scored based on base runs, and have the Indians about a tenth of a run higher than they currently are (4.28 RPG), but that’s still not going to be good enough without some really stellar pitching. Where did the other .3 runs per game go from last year? And more importantly, can we get it back?

That last one is the most important, obviously. It feels silly to say, but I honestly don’t know what position I go into this offseason trying to improve via free agency or trade.  The outfield feels set, especially with the ridiculous Raburn deal. Hard to hold this season against Lonnie, as it’s been something of a break out. Jose Ramirez has handled short wonderfully, and we know his replacement is in-house anyway. Kip signed a big deal, and Santana should be the incumbent at first with Gomes’ great season locking him behind the plate. That leaves Swisher and his untradeable contract at DH. You could bench him for the next two years, I guess, but that’s about as likely as trading him.

I think we just hope. Hope it gets better.  Hope they stay healthy. Hope this is temporary.

I honestly don’t know what position I go into this offseason trying to improve via free agency or trade.

9:22 PM – There have now been hits, and even a run!  Heading to the bottom of the fifth, the Indians lead 1-0 on a Carlos Santana double and a Yan Gomes single.  The good news is that we are winning; the bad news is that we are below even the execrable pace of run-scoring we’ve established over the last month.

9:41 PM – This is going to be two game-related posts in a row, which just doesn’t feel right, but the Indians take a 2-0 lead on what has generously been scored a two-out RBI triple for Yan Gomes to drive in Michael Brantley from first.  The Indians have five hits, two runs, and their problems are solved. So long as they bat against Brett Olberholzer every night and don’t need to score more than three runs per game.

9:46 PM – Ho Hum. Carlos Carrasco just struck out his tenth Astro through six innings pitched. This is the upside. This is why you’re patient. So that literally dozens of people can enjoy starts like these.

I actually want to take a moment to talk about the other half of tonight’s battery. Here is where Yan Gomes ranks among the 19 AL catchers who’ve had at least 200 plate appearances this season:

WAR 1st
OBP 8th
SLG 1st
ISO 2nd
OPS 1st
AVG 2nd
HR 2nd
wRC+ 2nd
BB% 15th

That’s a lot of 1’s and 2’s. If you want to get anxious, you might point out his inability to take a walk or his abnormally high BABiP for a slow-footed catcher (.334), but I think it’s fairly hard to argue that Yan Gomes isn’t in the conversation for best catcher in the league. In fact, that’s just what TJ Zuppe argued yesterday, and in fairly convincing manner.

10:00 PM – Carrasco just retired the Astros in the seventh on eight pitches; Good Guys still up 2-0

Just expanded that table from earlier—a more thorough reckoning of how not to win a playoff berth:

Month Runs Scored Runs Allowed DIFF
April 3.79 4.71 -0.93
May 4.86 4.68 0.18
June 4.42 4.46 -0.04
July 4.69 3.69 1.00
August 3.74 2.93 0.81
September 3.25 4.38 -1.13
Grand Total 4.19 4.13 0.05

In case you need tabular evidence, September has been a nut-kicker of epic proportions. But at least we have endless winter to look forward to.

10:11 PM – Indians take their 2-0 lead to the bottom of the eighth. Carrasco coming back out.

10:16 PM – The bottom of the eighth takes five more pitches, which brings Carrasco’s total to 84 on the night. Only two Astros have reached base against him.

Once, when the Indians didn’t trust Carlos Carrasco, they signed Brett Myers, the closest thing baseball has to Guy Fieri. Which is to say, a man who attempts to hide his gross lack of proficiency with “personality”, “flair” and “attitude”, all of which make you despise him even more.

10:24 PM – The Indians go down in order in the top of the ninth, and Cookie is coming back out for a shot at a “Maddux”.

10:26 PM – Strikeout 11; pitch 87. Thirteen pitches to get two outs. THESE GO TO ELEVEN.

10:29 PM – Uh oh. A 3-0 count to start, but Carrasco fights back to get Presley to fly out to left on the 92nd pitch of the night. One more to go.

10:31 PM – Booo. A soft grounder to short from Altuve puts the pressure on Jose Ramirez, who throws the ball away. Carrasco to face Dexter Fowler as the potential tying run.

10:32 PM – BALLGAME! On the 98th pitch of the night, Cookie Carrasco strikes out Fowler for the complete game shutout. That’s the Indians’ second Maddux of the year (Kluber), and it ties Cliff Lee’s team record of 12Ks in a CGSHO with fewer than 100 pitches.

I hate to be this guy, but I cannot wait to watch this pitching staff next season. The lineup has been a huge disappointment, which feels odd to say, given the breakout years from Gomes, Chisenhall, and Brantley. But this rotation… My goodness: you could dream on group like Kluber, Bauer, Salazar and Carrasco. I already am.

  • boomhauertjs

    Great recap Jon. You need to do a podcast with Craig to wrap up the season.

  • JNeids

    -I’m shocked at our runs allowed in September. I know we’re only halfway through the month, but our pitching has been excellent for the most part. I assume it’s slightly inflated due to the couple bad starts (I think Cookie and Kluber each had one, and maybe House?), but mostly due to Brian Shaw.
    -I like a rotation of Kluber, Cookie, Bauer, Salazar, and House for next year, although I’m sure we’ll throw a little bit of money at a pitcher coming off an injury looking to make a recovery.
    -Santana at 1st, Ramirez at 2nd (and moved lower in the lineup ONLY IF Tito insists on sac bunting him every freaking time Bourn gets on), Lindor at short, Chiz at 3rd (at least to start – I don’t know anything about Urshela except that I think about Usher everytime I see his name), Kipnis in right…unless we actually want to go get a real, live, actual power hitting right fielder. Swish can rot on the bench for all I care, maybe get a few DH starts.
    -And I will fully admit I don’t know what I’m talking about when someone wants to call me crazy for any of these ideas.

  • JNeids

    -Oh and eight pitches in the 7th, 5 in the 8th. That just screams of a team trying to get to the end of the season.

  • mgbode

    Houston was on a 10-4 run before we beat them the last 2 games. Still, 10-6 in their last 16 games. They are not playing out the stretch.

    In fact, they are .500 or better against all teams they haved played the last month (6 other teams: Red Sox, Angels, A`s, Yankees, M`s, Rangers) except the Indians (2-4 so far).

  • JNeids

    Fair enough. I will combat that without doing any research but by saying that they could have easily been playing other teams racing towards the end of the season. And if you tell me they beat good teams, then I’ll just say it was bad coaching not telling their hitters to be more patient against the starter that deep into a close game 🙂

  • mgbode

    I am excited for the rotation, but also the positional players. This is the first time since 2005 that we have seemingly had so many young players in the organization with promise. We still need more help, but we have more chances that some of these guys pan out.

    3 games back of Seattle and 5 games back of KC (w/ 3 full games against them left). We HAVE to sweep the Royals to have a shot, but it’s not completely out of the pitcure yet.

  • mgbode

    I listed the teams. 2 are out (Red Sox, Rangers) and 4 are fighting (Angels, A`s, Yankees, M`s) plus our team. Very well could be bad coaching or a coach that is just experimenting with the hitters on a night where Carrasco was dealing.

  • JNeids

    Good god…I thought I was more awake today than normal, but apparently I’m just as oblivious – I completely ignored your second paragraph the first time ’round and just replied after reading the first. My apologies.

  • nj0

    The Astros strike out a lot. Just under nine a game. So yeah… don’t think it’s got that much to do with time of the season.

  • nj0

    The U turn CC has done this season is the reason baseball is such a fun, infuriating game.

  • mgbode

    I don’t think I hit the edit button on that one, but I’ve only had 1 cup of coffee so far this morning and I’m balancing actual work with commenting, so no guarantees. MMmmmmm….coffee.

    http://static.fjcdn.com/gifs/Hank+Scorpio.+Sorry+it+s+not+in+packages.+Want+some+cream_cfe780_5151963.gif

  • JNeids
  • mgbode

    also, my wife didn’t know the Cookie Monster song when we were dating and it’s a song that I tend to sing from time to time. Little did I know she thought I was completely crazy (well, she knew, but not on this one) and she found out that it was a real song from Sesame Street when she took a job in a daycare.

    Gotta love Sesame Street Songs:

    http://stream1.gifsoup.com/view1/1810159/c-is-for-cookie-o.gif

  • Hopwin

    I hope Nick Swisher comes back next year healthy and hitting where he used to, but if not I am absolutely boggled by the idea that they would continue to play him just because we pay him. The Dolan’s are supposed to be smart business people right? Econ 101: SUNK COSTS. If Nick isn’t putting buts in the seats by helping us win games, then absolutely bench him because not only is he costing you $15M but he’s also now costing you lost concessions and ticket sales. Rotate guys up from the minors, sign a cheap-rental, whatever is an upgrade (even a little one) over him. Just don’t let good money swirl down the toilet after bad money.
    The same rule should apply to every sport and every ownership group.

  • markn95

    Of all the crazy things to happen this season, the emergence of Carrasco has to be near the top of the list (tied or running close with Brantley and Gomes establishing themselves as do-everything, all-around players). It was little more than 6 weeks ago when I was begging the FO to flip Cabrera and Masterson for SP prospects who could contribute in 2015. When they got Ramsey and Walters instead, I couldn’t believe it. Now, I’m cautiously optimistic that the rotation is set for a good couple years. Going into next season, I would slot CC as high as #2 in the rotation based on his second half. Kinda risky considering his track record but I think two things happened–first, a pitcher doesn’t truly regain his command until two years after Tommy John surgery, and two, the move to the bullpen convinced CC to attack hitters. Oh, and Mickey Callaway!

  • Steve

    I would say that our offense in the first half was actually pretty good, more than competent-ish. 6th in wRC+ and runs per game in MLB, 5th in the AL in both. No, they weren’t the mid 90s juggernauts that seem to be the baseline in this town, but those are good, playoff-worthy marks.

    In the second half, they are 11th in wRC+ (8th in AL), but 22nd (13th in AL) in runs scored. So absolutely yikes on the sequencing there.

  • markn95

    It’ll be interesting to see what they do. They absolutely tried everything to get their money’s worth out of Travis Hafner. No cutting of one’s losses there. But back in 2009-12, the farm system was not producing any alternatives (we had to sign guys like Duncan, Kearns, and Cunningham, ugh). That’s not the case now, as there is a ton of infield and outfield depth at the upper levels who will be able to contribute throughout the remaining 2-3 years of Swish’s deal. That said, considering Tito’s loyalty to his vets, I think Swisher will be given every chance to contribute next season at least.

  • Steve

    After Francona’s treatment of Giambi, Aviles, Raburn, and now that apparently Gimenez is a platoon 1B during a pennant drive, I don’t put that much on the front office. Teflon Terry’s deference to vets has cost this team more than a few wins this year.

  • Eric G

    Sorry it’s not in little packets.

  • markn95

    I keep waiting for them to call up Branyan from Tijuana/Columbus. You know Tito would find AB’s for that guy.

  • Steve

    I’m confident enough in that half inning to say 4 back of KC. I think we can catch them as they get Detroit this weekend. Though I wish we hadn’t skipped House this series, as we could have lined up Kluber-Carrasco-Salazar for that KC series.

    Seattle though now has four games against an Angels team with little to play for. What looked like a good matchup for us has flipped.

  • nj0

    Great piece over at Fangraphs on the new improved Carlos Carrasco.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/carlos-carrasco-brings-a-bullpen-ace-to-the-rotation/

    I especially love the gif of his change/splitter. NASTY.

    http://cdn.fangraphs.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/carrasco-change.gif

  • mgbode

    only 3 games up on Baltimore for the 1seed. I don’t think they pack it in yet, but that last series against the M`s I would worry as they set their October rotation.

  • mgbode

    would you like some cream?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I must admit your boy is continuing his roll. Bottle this up and save some for next season. Carrasco, Kluber, Bauer and Salazar make for a great four horseman for next season. If a real life hitter, preferably a right handed power hitting OFer, can be added along with a veteran starter then I see no reason why this team can’t, at a minimum, replicate this season and then some.

  • mgbode

    I would force him to wear the Slider costume.

  • mgbode

    Hafner continued to hit. He just wasn’t healthy very often. His OPS+ of 125 from 2009 – 2013 would be better than all but Brantley, Santana, and Gomes on this year’s team.

  • ThatAlex

    As great as our starting pitching has been as of late, you can’t really bank on repeat performances next year. We seem to have a lot of similar style pitchers…Bauer, Salazar and Carrasco are all hard throwing power arms. Those kind of pitchers tend to peak early, and when they’re off form they fall off the map completely.

    Case in point, the Detroit Tigers. At one point, nearly every pitcher in their starting rotation was Cy Young caliber. But the last few months they haven’t pitched like it.