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.
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.
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:
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.
9:41 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:
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|
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.