Sunday, August 31

Oh Brother

Before the series, I was afraid Sowers' performance was going to ruin this run of wins the Tribe have put together. Facing the worst team in the AL did alleviate some of my worries. However, Sowers did a decent job, giving up three runs in 5.0 innings of work. OK, decent may be a little strong, but he didn’t lose this game for the Tribe. No, the Tribe only mustered two runs on nine hits and hit into three double plays to spoil any chance they had. So the offense which had performed so well on the 10-game winning streak was a little weak during Friday’s game one of this series. Seattle starter Felix Hernandez picked up win number nine and Sowers was hit with his seventh loss on the season. The Indians bullpen of Rincon, Donnelly, and Mujica was perfect for the final four innings, only giving up one hit. Hernandez just barely out-pitched Sowers and that was all it took. Tribe lose 2-3.

OK game 2 of this atrocity was in no way the fault of the starting pitcher Anthony Reyes. If anything Reyes continued his extended audition with the Tribe nicely by pitching seven runs of one run baseball. Reyes with the Tribe has yet to allow more than two runs in any of his outings. So who’s to blame for this loss to the worst team in the AL? Well, with Reyes pitching like that ,we could blame the offense. Yes, the offense that seemed invincible a few days ago is now as impotent as a Nevada boxing commissioner. I could say that Victor’s return has also returned the bad mojo, but things were bad even after Victor got hurt so I can’t blame him, yet. While Choo’s homerun in the bottom of the ninth with Garko standing on first tied the game Jensen Lewis promptly gave up two runs in his inning of so-called relief. Lewis takes the loss and I don’t want to talk about this game anymore, bring on the next victim. Indians lose 3-4.

Game 3 was attended by Andy and Nick so maybe one of them could point out exactly went wrong. I spent my day happily in non-Indian related pursuits so this is a recap written up from the box score, let’s see how I do. Well the Tribe lost. Hell! Damn! Fart! Zach Jackson gave up six runs in five innings of work. Crap! Boobs! Crap! Well that’s all I can muster, sorry. Jackson had looked OK before today’s start. Maybe a spot starter or a 5th guy in a hurt rotation nothing more at this point. Today’s outing against the M’s of Seattle didn’t help his case. Here's to hoping everyone gets their collective shit together soon. Tribe lose 4-6.

During our weekly conversation I tried to console my father that; hey sure a team that had just won 10 games in a row was swept at home by the worst team in the league, but things will be OK. Luckily for everyone involved Cliff Lee takes the mound tomorrow. Still it would appear I may have been right when I said the 10-game winning streak was a correction of statistics not a trend. Moving on we welcome the division-leading Chicagoans to the shores of Erie for a three game series. Here’s to better results.

Game 1: Clayton Richard, LHP (2-2, 6.33) vs. Cliff Lee, LHP (19-2, 2.43)
Game 2: John Danks, LHP (10-7, 3.30) vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (7-5, 4.50)
Game 3: Javier Vazquez, RHP (10-12, 4.38) vs. Jeremy Sowers, LHP (2-7, 5.92)

After this last series I think I'm safe in saying that there is no game this team can't win or lose. However this is the part where I usually say considering the pitching matchups which games our team can win. So for laughs lets say we could win all three. While not out of the realm of possibility realistically I'll say the first two games are for the Tribe to lose. Oh and by the way Detroit is now in third place in the AL Central.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Friday, August 29

1743 days

since michigan last beat Ohio State.

84 days

till michigan

Instant replay

Reading the P-D's story on MLB's introduction of replay a few days ago, I'm shocked at how many Indians seem to be opposed to its introduction. It's a great idea to get calls correct, smartly implemented to only include home run calls, and adds no extra time to the game. Still, not all the Indians are fans, even though FIREJOEMORGAN is on board, and I find some of the Tribesmen's reactions kinda weird. A sampling of some of the Tribe's opinions:

Eric Wedge
"What do I do [to request a replay]?" Wedge joked. "Do I throw my hat on the field?...I'm more of a purist...I'm a proponent of the human element of it. But if they think it's going to be good for the game, then so be it."
Eric, surely you know that managers won't be requesting replays, right? Didn't you read the memo? IR doesn't make the game any more or less pure. I don't like people describing themselves as purists - it usually means they're clinging to an antiquated argument. This whole "human element" is a straw man argument; it's not like IR means the game will be played and officiated by robots.

Jensen Lewis
"I wonder if anything else is going to come under review. It will be interesting to see how this affects the game. Hopefully it doesn't affect performance. Everybody has a routine that keeps them in the right frame of mind."
Fair enough, though hopefully he's been told that nothing else will be reviewed. Almost every complaint involves a slippery-slope scenario.

Jamey Carroll
"MLB wants the pace to go faster, but it also wants instant replay? You have to hurry up to get in the box, but then you're going to take the time to make a call."
It won't take any more time than those fruitless umpire conferences do already, and will only happen occasionally. Really, you're not willing to add like one minute to get a home run call right?

Wedge again
"[Human error] is part of the game. I understand why they're doing it, but that's just my opinion."
That's insane. Yeah, human error by the players is part of the game. This willingness to have umpires make easily-corrected mistakes that strongly impact the game is unfathomable to me.

Sal Fasano
"It's Armageddon. Baseball is a game of human error. It always has been and always will be. Why would you want to take that away? I think it's dumb."
Setting aside Sal's hysterics for now: why does everyone love human error so much? And this isn't taking it away anyway - it's correcting one easily-fixed yet important mistake made periodically. Players and umpires will still make mistakes, rest easy.

David Dellucci
"A memo was put on our chairs today about instant replay and I'm not excited about reading it. I don't want to sound like an old-timer, but baseball is a game of history and tradition. In my opinion, instant replay goes against that. This is an aspect of the game that could potentially hurt more than it helps. Where does it stop? Why is the home-run call more important than any other part of the game -- a called third strike, a close play at plate? The home-run call can be difficult, but in my opinion it's an easier call than a check swing or a bang-bang play at a base. Where does it go from here?"
Dellucci really should read the memo. It's self-explanatory why HR calls are important, but the issue here is not just their significance, but their binary fair/foul over/under nature. 3rd strikes and tagouts are gray areas and will continue to be decided by umpires. Everyone agrees on this latter point - expansion of replay would gain zero traction.

Brendan Donnelly
"It's OK for homers. I think that should be the extent of it. If you go any farther, the game would become too detailed and stop being baseball."
I'm with Donnelly here. Again: this will be the extent of it.

Jhonny Peralta
"It's a good thing to do because sometimes the umpires are wrong."
A simple, logically inassailable point.

Zach Jackson
"This is the way the game is changing and evolving. There's nothing wrong with getting a call right."
Somebody sign this kid long-term.


It's interesting to me that, in their efforts to fall all over themselves praising humans making needless mistakes that affect strongly the games they play professionally, no one brought up any of the in-game logistics of the system. Like: what happens if a hit is ruled a HR but really isn't? I'd guess it should be a book-rule double then, but I'm not sure.

Thursday, August 28

Tribe Sticks the Landing and Scores a 10

Something has to be said about the Indians' position before this most recent streak of wins. As of Thursday, the Tribe had won 10 in a row. Over the previous ten games they were 10-0 - funny how that works. They have won 16 of their last 19. And their record after all of that winning is 65-67, still two games below .500. That is how bad a lot of those June and July series were. As Andy has so proficiently pointed out this is mostly due to the Indians offense being more consistent. Andy also likes to point out the Tribe were playing with a worse record than their stats point to, and were due a few wins to correct that. These wins coming in a row was nice too. While I'm fond of saying that I'll take wins any day, I have to confess this level of play by the Indians makes me think of the season that could have been. While not totally a "lost" season or a hard-luck season its hard not to long for your team to be competitive at the end of the season so as to be validated by the national baseball media as being important.

The discovery of Jensen Lewis as the club's current closer hasn't seemed to hurt either. Lewis has now saved seven games on eight opportunities. He also now leads the team in saves, which didn't take very long.

Finally, the Big League Stew (A Yahoo Baseball blog) has summarized the Tribe's recent run for me:

Indians 9, Tigers 7: FEMA ought to order the Indians airlifted into the NL West, so their 10-game winning streak might have meaning. Can you imagine the look on Casey Blake's face as Grady Sizemore and Co. egress from the choppers Michael Bay-style — wearing flight suits and sunglasses, in super-slo-mo? ... I'm not going to say what I'm thinking about the Tigers. It's not nice, I'll tell you that.

The first game of this awesome series saw Zach Jackson start the game I previously predicted would be the most in-question at the start of this series. Jackson has only pitched moderately well and was facing Armando Galarraga (12-4, 3.17) who Andy pointed out had beat the Tribe three times already this season. Let this be a lesson in the Indians offensive resurgence: this offense can do anything right now. To name-drop my editor one more time, Andy was kind enough to supply me with the ballpark numbers for Comerica: Comerica is 102 last year, 101 over the past 3 years - slight hitter's park but not by much. ESPN has it 6th this year, 13th last year (agreeing with B-R) for hitters. Grady started off the night with home run number 30, making him the first 30-30 player in the AL this year and the first Tribe 30-30 guy since Joe Carter. While the 1990's Indians hit plenty of homeruns they weren't terrors on the basepaths. Just look at Manny. Of course, upon his second at bat in the third, Grady hit another home run. On MLB.com they have the home team announcers on the video clips and for this one the Tigers announcers was heard to plead "Grady, stop it!" Jackson proceeded to go 6.1 innings and only give up three runs on seven hits and six strikeouts. Most importantly he didn't walk anyone. Unfortunately he was followed by Kobayashi who pitched his customary 0.0 innings. Truth be told he did pitch to two batters and was credited with a blown save, only his third on the season. Luckily for the Tribe, Gutierrez bailed out the bullpen with a solo home run in the eighth to put the Tribe up for good 4-3. Perez, Donnelly, and Lewis pitched the rest of the game with all pitching a scoreless frame except 1.2 frames in the case of Perez.

Poor, poor Tigers. Not only did this game result in their firm placement into fourth place (off-season trades don't guarantee anything) but they had to face arguably the best pitcher in the majors this year. So Cliff Lee facing off against some poor kid making his major league debut against the hottest team in baseball, not the kind of situation I would want to make my debut in. Almost no one disappointed in this game. The Tribe continued to hit. The Tigers' Lambert didn't make it out of the third. Home runs were hit by Carroll, Shoppach, and two by Ben Francisco. When Jamey Carroll hits his first home run on the year you know things are going your way. Ben's two home runs resulted in four RBI which was more than enough for Cliff, who went 7.2 and allowed his usual two runs. In a previous series against the Tigers, Lee had another sizable lead and went out there thinking he could cruise, which resulted in the Tigers coming back and eventually winning the game. Cliff said after the game he had no intention of letting that happen again. Betancourt finished off the eighth for Lee and Mujica came into the ninth with the Tribe up 10-2. However Mujica was a little shaky giving up a two-run home run to Renteria, only his ninth. After that Mujica got a few guys to pop out, ballgame! Lee wins number 19.

Game three saw Carmona take the mound and try to win back-to-back games for the first time since April. After giving up four runs in the first two innings Carmona settled down and made it through six innings, the final four being scoreless. The Circle of Trust tried to make a reappearance with Perez, Betancourt, and Lewis finishing off the game. Perez gave up two runs in his 0.1 innings with Senor Slo-Mo pitching a scoreless 1.2. Lewis came in with a big lead and surrendered a two run homerun to Magglio but luckily the Tribe had scored two at the top of the inning so the Indians still had a cushion. Offensively the Indians had no problems with Verlander or the two following relievers touching them up for a combined nine runs. Heroics were provided with Shoppach and Choo each with two-run home runs. Choo's homer was a blast to deep right. Tribe win 9-7 and make it ten straight.

From June 28 to July 9, these Cleveland Indians lost 10 straight games. This also marked their lowest point below .500 at 16. This recent streak has essentially erased that horrible slump. Unfortunately at the time those games were against the Twins, White Sox, and these Tigers. It however has been exciting to see guys like Gutierrez, Francisco, and Choo contribute like we'll need them to next year. Here's hoping Choo doesn't get called up by the South Korean army.

In other news there is a chance Victor may be called up before the 1st of Sept, but Hafner's shoulder is hurting again and the Tribe aren't in a big hurry to get Barfield back. Hafner's shoulder is bad news and that's all I can muster to say about that. There is also talk that with Reyes and Jackson pitching so well (especially Reyes) that after the rosters expand the Tribe may go with a six man rotation, with Laffey being the new addition. I wonder how that will impact Lee.

Well, bring on Seattle, who is on track to break the salary-to-win ratio record.

Game 1: Felix Hernandez, RHP (8-8, 3.28) vs. Jeremy Sowers, LHP (2-6, 5.95)
Game 2: Jarrod Washburn, LHP (5-14, 4.93) vs. Anthony Reyes, RHP (4-2, 3.23)
Game 3: Ryan Rowland-Smith, LHP (3-2, 3.73) vs. Zach Jackson, LHP (0-0, 4.91)

The offense bailed out Sowers last time. I don't think you can count on the Tribe helping out again if Sowers gives up seven runs. That's not to say the Indians can't win, just that game one of this series is definitely the one to be concerned with. Rowland-Smith is also a question mark since MLB.com didn't give a scouting report on him.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Wednesday, August 27

Can the Indians make the playoffs?

Of course not. But why should that stop me from writing a dumb post about them doing just that?

Right now, Baseball Prospectus gives the Indians somewhere between 0.1% (PECOTA) and 0.14% (ELO) chance to make the playoffs. Both give the Wahoos about 0.09% of winning the Central, but ELO-adjusted is a little rosier on our Wild Card chances. Essentially, both think that Boston is better than whichever of Minnesota/Chicago wins the Central. Fair enough.

Currently, the Indians sit in 3rd place in the division, a half-game up on the Tigers. If Fausto Carmona can channel his inner Zach Jackson these next couple of days, the Indians will soon be up 1.5 on Detroit for third place. More concerning is that they're 11.5 back of the White Socks and 9.5 behind the Twinkies, with only 31 games remaining (30 for the other two). They trail the wild-card leading Red Socks by 12 games. In other news: I do not like the Red Socks.

An ardent baseball fan friend of mine named Reid sent me a text yesterday saying "I figure if we win 31 of our last 32 games, we're in the playoffs." At first, I thought "of course," but without checking I'm not certain.

The good news: such an improbable run would net the Tribe 94 wins on the year, which is generally enough to secure a playoff spot, no matter what the 93-win 2005 Indians club might tell you. But would that be enough to pass those two teams? For simplicity, I'm leaving Toronto and the soon-to-be-missing-the-playoffs Yankees out of the discussion.

If the Tribe goes 31-1 (now 30-1, after last night's pummeling of the Motor City Kitties), here's how the other teams will need to finish for the season to end in a tie with Cleveland:

Chicago: 18-12
Minnesota: 20-10
Boston: 18-13

To qualify for the postseason, the Indians need at least two of these teams (any two) to perform at or below this level. This is very possible. Now, on our way to 31-1, we'll encounter these teams, and let's say the only loss is to Kansas City (on a bases-loaded walk in the 10th, no less!). The 31 W's will include six takedowns of the White Socks, four beatdowns of the Red Socks, and three Twin killings. Subtracting that from those teams' tie-the-Tribe metric, we've got team goals of:

Chicago: 18-6
Minnesota: 20-7
Boston: 18-9

Those are going to be really tough marks for these teams to meet or surpass, especially feeling the pressure from the surging Indians. At least two of these clubs won't get this done. I'd have to say that Reid is right - if we can put up 31-1, we'll probably make the postseason. Even a couple fewer wins, maybe a 28-4 mark and 91 wins, might give the Indians postseason hope. I've done the math - now it's time for the Tribe to do the deed.

Of course, had we played up to our Pythagorean potential all year instead of only the last eight days, this would all be much easier. Such is life, and such is baseball.

Tuesday, August 26

Uno

Nick and I were talking about the NFL preseason today, specifically the Browns' 0-3 mark thus far. He remains convinced that the Browns will be fine despite their exceptionally bad performance thus far, while I seem to recall that, although preseason isn't a good predictor of regular-season success, it's important to win at least one exhibition game if you want to make the postseason. Then I heard Tribe broadcasters Manning and Underwood call the preseason completely meaningless (earlier, Underwood said that the Tiger pitcher was more effective when ahead in the count - wow!) and decided I had to look it up.

Editor's note: I pick on Manning a lot because I think he should have a much better understanding of the game from a numbers perspective, but I just saw him call the location and type of like five straight pitches in an at-bat exactly right and explained before each one what the pitcher was going to do and why. Combine that sort of knowledge about playing with at least some awareness of OPS, and you're the man. Back to football.

Researching the first point quickly, I found this article that shows that the preseason is, in fact correlated to wins in the regular season, if not strongly. The trend was strongest for teams who had been mediocre the year before, posting 7-9 wins. Historically speaking, an 0-4 exhibition mark for teams in this range leads to two fewer wins than a 3- or 4-win slate. The Browns are not far outside of this territory with the 10 W's they put up last year.

I looked up the second point with my own data, and though it isn't a large sample size, it was at least consistent with my suspicions. I looked at preseason and postseason from 2001-2007 (the years ESPN had data for) and found that eleven teams over that span had winless exhibition slates. Of those, exactly one qualified for the playoffs. One. 9 percent. Six of them (55%) finished last in their division. Keep in mind that any given team is 50% more likely to make the tournament (12 teams get in, 40%) than finish in the basement (8 divisions, 27%), and a winless preseason looks like something you really want to steer clear of. Furthermore, one of the non-qualifying teams was the 2006 Steelers, a team who unfortunately won the 2005 Super Bowl, posted an 0-4 preseason, and stumbled to an 8-8 mark in 2006.

As such, even as someone who is fully cognizant of the fact that preseason doesn't technically matter and that the outcome of this game won't seal the Browns' fate either way in '08, I'm still anxious for the Brown and Orange to get a W in Game #4.

Of course, that one team who went winless (0-5!) and made the playoffs? The 2006Indianapolis Colts, who went 14-2 and fell in the AFC playoffs. Still, I'd rather not roll those dice.

Monday, August 25

Tribe Keeps Winning

Has the Fausto of 2007 returned? Well, a reasonable facsimile of him showed up Friday night to pitch to the Texas Rangers. Yes, the Texas Rangers who as a team have scored more than 30 runs than the next closest team in the majors. So how did Fausto fare? How does six innings, six hits, five strikeouts, and one unearned run suit you? And this is at that thing they call a ballpark in Arlington. Of course, pitching with a few runs as a cushion might not have hurt Carmona’s confidence. The Indians jumped all over Texas starter Matt Harrison early to the tune of five runs in the first two innings, my favorite hit being a triple by Andy Marte which he hit off the wall in right that took a bad carom and Marlon Byrd misplayed. The real show for this hit was Sal Fasano needing to unhitch the wagon and scoring from first. However, after the first two innings the Tribe bats went silent. Following Fausto’s six, the ball was handed over to the capable hands of Perez to pitch the next two innings. However, holding a lead against the Rangers is easier said than done, and Byrd redeemed his play on Marte’s triple by taking a pitch from Perez over the wall in left with two on and no one out in the eighth. Those two baserunners had been allowed free passes by Perez to start the inning. At the end of the eighth the score stood at 5-4 Indians. To help Jensen Lewis out, the Indians decided to hit again and scored two runs for insurance. Lewis came in for the save and while he surrendered a run on a solo homerun to some guy with the last name Boggs, he did nail down his fifth save, which included striking out Josh Hamilton with a man on. Tribe win 7-5.

Like I told Andy yesterday, it would appear anyone can score six runs in an inning in Arlington, despite it not being the ballpark's fault. The first to do it Saturday night was the Rangers in the fourth. This put an early end to Sowers' start and he left after 3.2 and was credited with seven earned. OK, so Tribe down 1-7, no problem. The starter McCarthy was excused after the fourth and Texas had Josh Rupe on the mound. Now it was the Indians' turn to score six, with the highlight being a Shoppach three-run homerun off Texas reliever Madrigal, whose first pitch was sent over the wall in left by Kelly. With the game tied in the eighth, Shoppach started a rally that resulted in the deciding run. After an infield single and thanks to a passed ball Kelly found himself on second base and then the bench with Gutierrez replacing him at a pinch-runner. Jamey Carroll, pinch-hitting for Marte, then singled to right field and Gutierrez touched home for the winning run off the pitcher of record Jamey Wright. Perez gets the win, and Lewis who after starting 3-0 to his first batter ended up striking out the side, collected save number six. Tribe win 8-7.

Sunday's game didn't start until 8:10 PM, which I can only imagine was done to try to escape the mid-day Texas heat. Anthony Reyes started for the Tribe and he continued his efforts to show that he will be an important part of this rotation next season. Reyes pitched seven innings giving up four hits and allowing a run. This was Reyes' longest outing by far with the Tribe. Previously he had been held to a 80-90 pitch count to, as Wedge said, "allow him to finish the season strong." However Sunday they left Reyes out there for 107 pitches and he did not disappoint. With a game against Detroit today I guess it was decided that the bullpen needed some help making it through this game and with Reyes doing his job out there, why not just let him pitch. Anyway, following Reyes was Rincon who gave up three hits and walked one in 0.2 innings. Betancourt replaced Rincon and promptly walked the first batter to tie the game. The Indians bats were however ready to bail out Betancourt. Ryan Garko, who has really turned it on this month, singled and was pinch-run for by Andy Gonzalez. Shoppach's sac bunt moved Andy to second and a Gutierrez single up the middle scored the go-ahead run. Betancourt returns for the ninth and the save and dispatches the Rangers for the win. Tribe win 4-3.

All three of these games were close and all resulted in wins for the Tribe. The offense has done a magnificent job keeping the Indians in each of these games. Having Jensen Lewis in the ninth hasn't exactly hurt either. The Indians' brass continue to point to a closer as being the most important acquisition of the offseason. I suspect what they really mean is "bullpen help, that can close if asked to do so." The Tribe aren't the kind of team who is going to go out and sign a pure big-time closer - they just don't like spending a lot of money. More than likely, expect to see a guy who can pitch the eight or ninth, in case this Lewis thing doesn't exactly work out. However, having said that, Lewis has been able to do over the last three weeks what no one else on this team has done, which is close consistently. That's not to say that eventually Lewis won't get burned, but how he reacts to that will also be important.

In other Indians news, Ryan Garko since the August has hit .321 with a team high 18 RBI.

I mostly take a game-by-game view of the Indians on this blog, not getting too much into players situations and future outlooks. One reason is because if I started looking at who might contribute next year what the hell will I be writing about while you guys are poring over the Browns and Cavs? A lot of other Indians writers, having lost interest in the day to day happenings of the Tribe, obviously find solace in the these musings of the future and I can't blame them really. On that note Terry Pluto this week touched on Reyes possibly being a decent replacement for Byrd and either him or Jackson being needed in the rotation until Westbrook's return. I may be misquoting him here but Reyes looks right now to be the Indians number three starter, not just a fill-in for the injured Westbrook. Jackson still doesn't look ready for the majors and hopefully Laffey has worked out his troubles in AAA.

The Indians are also looking at a log-jam (Log Jamming) at AAA and I'm not talking about the old guys like Graffanino, Weaver, or Ensberg. I'm talking about Hafner, Martinez, and Barfield. Until the rosters expand next month the Indians might have to make a decision.

One final series note. The Rangers have now dropped 14 of their last 17. Enough with all of that, now onto the Detroit series.

Game 1: Zach Jackson, LHP (0-0, 5.17) vs. Armando Galarraga, RHP (12-4, 3.17)
Game 2: Cliff Lee, LHP (18-2, 2.43) vs. Chris Lambert, RHP (0-0, -.--)
Game 3: Fausto Carmona, RHP (6-5, 4.40) vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (10-13, 4.42)

Galarraga is one of the good stories out of Detroit this season, if you're a Tigers fan anyway. Oh and if you didn't know he was traded from. . . the Rangers last offseason. So yes count him as another Texas pitcher traded away, but believe me when I say the Rangers didn't get a Hamilton-like player for him. His matchup against Jackson is the obvious weak point in this series for the Indians. Lee's opponent Lambert makes his major league debut taking over Robertson's spot in the Tigers rotation. The line of Lambert is: He owns a 12-8 record and 3.50 ERA in 26 starts for the Mud Hens, including three complete games and a shutout. He ranks fifth in the International League in ERA.

Go Tribe!


(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Sunday, August 24

Take 30 seconds and look it up

The Park Factor for Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, over the past three seasons, is 100 for pitchers and 100 for batters. That means it's exactly league average. Last year, both were below 100, making it a slight pitcher's park according to Baseball-Reference's calculations.

ESPN uses a different system that rates Arlington as a better place for batters, but even with their methodology the place ranks 11th in the league this year and was 19th last year.

In light of this very modest amount of research that I did and that anyone with a small amount of free time and a computer can do, can Tribe broadcasters Manning and Underwood please, please go more than 10 minutes without talking about what an astounding hitter's field this is? The sheer volume of references they make to it would be numbing even if it were factually accurate.

Check it out: as I was writing the previous paragraph, Underwood was surmising what it would be like if teams only got two outs when batting instead of three. I'm not making this up. Now STO is showing a graphic about how the park ranks in terms of teams' runs scored, batting average and such (all very high), conveniently ignoring the rather obvious fact that the Rangers are awesome at hitting (1st in the AL in runs scored) and awful at pitching (last in AL in runs allowed). This would be true anywhere. I'm tired.

Friday, August 22

No Superman does good, the Indians are doing well.

With this sweep of the Kansas City Monarchs the Indians have now won 10 of their last 13 and the uphill climb to .500 continues. I guess you should credit Wedge with continuing to keep this ballclub playing hard. Your players could have easily packed it in once August rolled around and mailed in the rest of the season while continuing to cash their checks. However, the Indians have played maybe their best baseball, at least offensively, over this recent stretch of games. You could try to make the argument that maybe Toronto, Baltimore, or KC aren't exactly the cream of the AL crop, especially given the series split with the Orioles. However a defeat of the Angels was impressive, and let me remind you when a team is in last place, like the Tribe was of late, any win is nice and any streak of wins is amazing. Sure the Indians have been playing below expectations all year, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the Indians winning these meaningless games. Look: the alternative is to spend a week arguing if Derek Anderson is mentally tough, and nobody wants that.

Game one of this three-game series saw flat-brimmed Anthony Reyes take the mound for the Tribe. Reyes doesn't have what could be considered ace material. He has, however, pitched consistently, and as a replacement for Byrd I think he'll do. Reyes had another fine outing, going five innings, six hits, and two runs. After Reyes came the bullpen parade of Donnelly, Perez, Betancourt, and Kobayashi. All of them pitched one inning with Donnelly and Kobayashi surrendering a run each. Offensively the Indians exploded for nine runs. Actually, nine runs was the median for this series by the Tribe. Scoring eight usually takes a lot of peope contributing and this game was no exception. Grady had three RBI and Choo and Garko had solo homeruns. Every Indian had at least one hit. And for once and the only time this series the Tribe had fewer men left on base than their opponent, with nine to the Royals' ten. Getting back to the pitching: why was Reyes pulled after five innings and 84 pitches? While no one is going to consider that he was cruising I think our bullpen has been used enough this year to ask Reyes to go out their for the sixth. Personally I would be more worried about Kobayashi going out there than Reyes, but what do I know. Tribe win 9-4.

Wednesday's match saw the newest Tribe rotation addition, Zach Jackson, pitching against the ace of the Royals staff, Gil Meche. Jackson's first start wasn't impressive but it also wasn't disastrous. Jackson's second start was similar. Jackson did, however, manage to go seven innings while giving up five runs, four earned. Not great considering the Royals aren't exactly an offensive juggernaut - actually they're 26th in MLB in runs scored. When Jackson was pulled the Tribe was looking at a 3-5 defeat. Rincon was called upon to pitch the eighth and did so without surrendering a walk or hit. In the bottom of the eighth the Indians bats came alive to the tune of five runs. With the score sitting at 8-5 in the ninth, Lewis came in and recorded his fourth save. Offensively, Kelly Shoppach broke out of his recent slump with a two home run game, Peralta also hit his 20th of the year, and not to be outdone, Gutierrez hit a three-run homer in the eighth to seal the game.

Thursday's game pitted Cliff Lee, going for his 18th win, against Zack Greinke, looking for his 9th loss. This may seem repetitive but Cliff pitched well going seven and giving up two runs. Of course the defense helped Mr. Lee out with five double plays, which isn't anything to scoff at. Betancourt and Donnelly came in to finish off the Royals in pitching scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth respectively. Offensively Grady Sizemore had seven RBI - SEVEN! While Grady isn't usually going to put up huge RBI numbers leading off he got some help from Cabrera and Carroll scoring each every time they were on base. Grady going four for five with seven RBI was enough for Cliff Lee I'm sure, but Choo chipped in another of his bent knee homeruns along with another four-bagger from Peralta. Tribe get the sweep and win 10-3.

It would be nice to see this kind of offensive production continue for a while. Choo's two homeruns were encouraging and it was nice to see Shoppach bust out of his slump. Peralta continues to hit the ball hard and I suspect he'll hold down the cleanup spot in the lineup for the rest of the season. Betancourt has pitched a few good innings, as has Rincon. I'm not saying they're both good, just they haven't made me curse their name in a while.

The Tribe head out on the road for a six-game trip to Texas and Detroit. Neither team is above .500, with Detroit 11.5 games back of the White Sox and Texas 15.0 back of the Angels. Amazingly, Texas is in second place in the AL West that far back. While the Indians haven't exactly impressed anyone on the road this year, making up the 2.5 games between them and Detroit would be really nice. Hey, at least it is an achievable goal.

Game 1: Fausto Carmona, RHP (5-5, 4.71) vs. Matt Harrison, LHP (5-2, 5.77)
Game 2: Jeremy Sowers, LHP (2-6, 5.46) vs. Brandon McCarthy, RHP (0-0, -.--)
Game 3: Anthony Reyes, RHP (4-2, 3.66) vs. Vicente Padilla, RHP (12-7, 4.96)

These three pitchers have the ability to win these games. But solid outings by Carmona and Reyes would be nice and a win by Sowers, number three baby, would make my weekend.

In the game I'll be attending Sunday:

Houston Astros vs. New York Mets
Randy Wolf, LHP (8-11, 4.81) vs. Oliver Perez, LHP (9-7, 3.93)

While not the pitching matchup of Oswalt and Santana of tonight's game I at least expect good weather.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Thursday, August 21

The name on the door is CLEVELAND

Admittedly, I don't understand the Browns' new marketing slogan for the upcoming season (what door?), but I like the city-centric nature of it. I thought it was a poor decision for the Indians not to include Cleveland's name anywhere in the new Progressive Field logo, so I'm glad the Browns are showing some hometown pride. What they are not showing is an ability to play football especially well, but we'll get to that. My posting over the past few weeks has been restricted to making fun of the Indians' announcers (Underwood last night said that AsCab had two "good at-bats" even though both had been K's. I knew what he meant, but it sounded ridiculous) and publishing some thoughts on the Olympics, but since Pat Forde at espn.com has Olympic hyperbole locked down, let's stay within the friendly confines of my current residence and take a look at the three teams.

Indians
Hey, don't look now, but the Wahoos are playing some solid baseball. Since July 10 (an arbitrary point I chose to make the numbers look as shiny as possible), the club has posted an excellent 22-14 mark. On the surface, it's hard to understand how they've played this well, considering all the factors going against them:

- The league's worst bullpen, one capable of blowing four straight games against the Orioles and torching a game on any given night

- A rotation that has now replaced CC Sabathia, Fausto Carmona (2007), Jake Westbrook, and Paul Byrd with Zach Jackson, Fausto Carmona (2008), Jeremy Sowers, and Anthony Reyes.

- A batting order where Franklin Gutierrez hits 2nd, Ben Francisco hits 3rd, and Andy Marte does not hit at all yet still occupies a spot in the lineup.

Yet the Tribe has managed to be quite competitive of late, improving their mark to 59-67. A lighter schedule (Toronto, Seattle, Detroit, Baltimore, KC) has helped, but they've held their own against tougher clubs as well. The key has been, quite simply, better offensive production. Look at these numbers, using July 10 as the dividing line. Their win over TB that day snapped a 10-game losing streak, the season's nadir:

First 90 games:
37-53
Runs scored/game: 4.39
Runs allowed/game: 4.56
Editor's note: this is way below expected wins for that run differential!

Last 36 games:
22-14
Runs scored/game: 5.81
Runs allowed/game: 4.83

These are very simple numbers to understand. The Tribe's recent winning ways haven't been driven by pitching, as they've actually been giving up more runs than before. They've allowed 584 runs on the year, exactly the AL average, so they have in fact been a below-average staff during this run of .611 ball. A quick look at the bullpen makes this statistic very easy to believe.

But the Tribe hitters have been swinging much better bats of late, scoring 5.81 times per contest. This is nearly a run and a half better than their first-half clip, and is over a full run better than the AL average (4.63 per game). The offensive success has been fueled by the Tribe's much-mocked "one through nine" approach; without big guns like Martinez and Hafner to carry the load (and Sizemore struggling badly in August until the Royals showed up), they've been getting contributions from up and down the lineup. Jhonny Peralta has been a force in the cleanup spot. Kelly Shoppach has provided solid power from the catcher spot. Asdrubal Cabrera has an OPS over .800 since rejoining the club. Ben Francisco puts up steady power and on-base numbers. Big League Choo completely eschews first base in favor of second and/or home. Hell, even David Dellucci and Ryan Garko have helped out over the past few weeks.

It's encouraging to see, and also in part validates the Tribe's minor-league system. Considering how many players stepped up to last year's playoff club, and how many more have been pressed into service this year, this production is quite nice. The Tribe isn't far off from contending again, soon - it's just too bad their early-season hitting troubles and ongoing relief pitching woes put them so far behind to start. Go Tribe!


Browns
Nick has written extensively about the Browns' preseason tilts, especially that early-game destruction at the hands of the Giants this past Monday. Like the opener against the Steelers last year, you saw a Browns team completely unprepared to play football; getting pushed around on both sides of the ball, taking bad penalties, executing terribly on special teams, and getting thoroughly trashed to the tune of a 30-3 deficit 16 minutes in.

We can take solace in the fact that the game doesn't really matter, and perhaps it will serve the Browns well as they get ready for the regular season. Better to do this now than when the Cowboys visit my neighborhood. There's no doubt that the Browns remain a talented club, and even in their bad games they will be more competitive than they were Monday. That was almost a perfect storm of bad football and bad breaks. But if the approach they took to game preparation remains as it was, they aren't going to win very many games. I'm hopeful that the Browns will be a more organized, focused unit come September 7.

Far more concerning to me than the actual game play is the number of injuries the Browns continue to pile up. One of the excuses offered post-game for the poor play was that there had been relatively little contact during practice. Really? How come half the team is on the IR? Winslow, Edwards, Rogers, Rucker, Heiden, Newsome (OK, Ozzie's OK, but four tight ends hurt?), Bell, and now Cribbs, Anderson, Pool. I'm going to be catching passes by the bye week if this keeps up. Come on, there hasn't even been one actual game yet! Anyway, Go Browns!


Cavaliers
The town's traditional sports third banana goes here mostly because they're the farthest away from their season, but that doens't mean that fans of the Wine and Gold shouldn't be excited about their club.

First off, in semi-team-related news, we have star (and Ohio native!) LeBron James leading the US Olympic team towards a gold medal in Beijing. LeBron has a bronze medal from the 2004 games and the equivalent of a silver medal in the NBA; I think he and his teammates can take home both the gold medal and the Larry O'Brien trophy this year.

Granted, based on the Olympic results so far, the hardware from the Games seems like a safer bet, but it's hard not to be excited about the potential the Mo Williams trade offers the '08-'09 Cavaliers.

First off, let's be clear that the move was a pretty straightforward salary dump by Milwaukee and Seattle. We get an All-Star-caliber point guard in Williams (17.2 ppg, 6.3 apg in '07-'08) and only give up seldom-used Damon Jones and 33-year-old Joe Smith? It's one of those deals that other teams always make, only our team just made it. Not quite the Pau Gasol heist, but the kind of move a deep-pocketed team like Cleveland (wanted to see how that looked in print) will make all day.

It will be intriguing to see how Williams fits in with the Cavaliers; he can create his shot and score (.480 FG%, .385 3PT%, .865 FT%), and plays a decent floor game, but will his skills overlap and interfere too much with LeBron's? The Cavs' coaching staff never solved this riddle with Larry Hughes; doing so with Williams will be crucial to the club's success this year.

So what sort of Cavalier roster will we have this season? At point guard, likely Williams and Delonte West (expected to sign for one year). I like West off the bench at PG quite a bit. At shooting guard, Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, Wlly Szczerbiak, and perhaps Devin Brown. Gibson's shooting skills will be key for the Cavs, and Pavlovic simply must play better than during his disastrous '07-'08 campaign. Szczerbiak can play bigger than guard, but he was a defensive liability in the playoffs and lacked his usual scoring touch. At small forward, we have the league's best player.

Down low, we lost some depth with the Smith deal. Zydrunas Ilgauskas will play what could be his last campaign - I'll take numbers just like last year's please. Anderson Varejao figures to see increased minutes, and one would hope for an improved offensive game. Beyond that, there are two big question marks: Ben Wallace's health is an ongoing concern, and while JJ Hickson is a promising young player, it's tough to expect him to contribute right away. It's possible that the frontcourt will not be a strength of the Cavaliers to the extent it has been over the last few years. More on these guys as training camp approaches, not that anyone cares at all during football season. Go Cavs!

Tuesday, August 19

Why I'm Not Worried (Yet)

Let's get it out of the way right now: the Browns had their clock thoroughly cleaned by the Giants last night. Did anyone really expect this team to ride off into the sunset? If so, those folks received the Monday Night Football equivalent of a cold shower, complete with shrinkage.

No sport lends itself to the instant overreaction of fans like football. You wait all week to watch the team play, and you're very emotionally invested in their performance. When the Browns win, you're on cloud nine for the day's remaining hours, and that feeling carries well into the next few days. When the Browns lose, you mumble under your breath, yell at strangers, and kick the dog. It is difficult to avoid overreaction, but let's at least give it the old college try.

Jump into your DeLorean and set the time coordinates for early September of 2007. There was far less cause for optimism last year following Browns' loss to the Steelers in the opener, but this time around we have legitimate reasons to believe this team will play better. Had last night's game been the opener against the Cowboys, which is now less than three weeks away, I'd still be inclined to preach perspective. But considering that this was manifestly an exhibition/pre-season loss (depending on which moniker you despise the least), there is no reason to get too worked up about what we witnessed last night. Before we all start buying ourselves some rope and carving "BROOKS WAS HERE" into the rafters, here's five reasons not to fret.


1. Romeo loves vanilla.
When I say "vanilla," I'm referring to the game plan and play calling on offense, which were about as exciting as eating an all cottage cheese lunch for a month. Before Anderson left the game we saw next to nothing in terms of a vertical passing game - Anderson's strength. Part of that can be chalked up to Edwards' absence, but it's also fair to say that Crennel and Chudzinski were hesitant to show the Giants their full blown offense.

There are numerous reasons to believe that Crennel didn't want to give the Giants any legitimate tape to watch before these clubs meet again in October. The Derek Anderson bomb passes were nonexistent. Chud's play calling wasn't the least bit creative, which is extremely uncharacteristic of the anti-Carthon. The Browns didn't work too hard to establish Jamal Lewis, who was replaced just before Derek Anderson suffered his concussion. There wasn't a single Josh Cribbs trick play - and we're supposed to see half a dozen or so per game this year. And the kicker? Derek Anderson's favorite target was Charles Ali. That's correct, Charles Ali, as in "backup fullback Charles Ali." It seems pretty clear that the Browns didn't want to compromise the playbook just to make a push for a meaningless pre-season win, and it's tough to argue with that strategy. The offense will be fine when they start playing real games.

2. "You...complete me." (Author's Note: I prefer Heath Ledger's take on this line to Tom Cruise's.)

Every team deals with injuries in the NFL, and the Browns and Giants are not exceptions. Braylon Edwards and Shaun Rogers were on the shelf for the Browns last night, and the Giants were without their top three receivers (Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Steve Smith). While neither team was at full strength, there's probably credence to arguing that the Browns were hurt more by losing Edwards and Rogers than the Giants were by losing their receivers.

Burress is an excellent receiver but the Giants play a run-heavy offense, making his presence less critical to the Giants than Edwards' is to the Browns. Not to mention that this season could conceivably establish Edwards as the best young receiver in the league. Beyond Randy Moss, you'd have a hell of a time convincing me that the Browns are a better team swapping Edwards for any other receiver. Edwards' ability to separate, adjust, and haul in a jump ball is a huge part of what Derek Anderson and the Browns do on offense. Except for Joe Thomas there isn't a player on the roster who's more vital to the Browns' success than Edwards, and the offense is more Ford than Ferrari without him.

By the same token, Rogers is arguably the Browns' most important defensive player. If you want to see how important a dominant nose tackle is to a 3-4 defense, take a look at how ordinary Pittsburgh's defense appeared last week against Buffalo, one of the league's worst passing offenses in 2007. With Pittsburgh's starting nose tackle (Casey Hampton) riding the pine, Buffalo's Trent Edwards looked like a Pro Bowler, dissecting the Steelers like a biology student carves up a fetal pig. Plugging Rogers into the middle of the Cleveland defense won't cure all that ails them, but it will make a big difference.


3. The snowball was rolling down the hill.

The Browns were shafted by some goofy stuff that simply doesn't happen very often during the course of a 16-game season. First Eric Wright was torched in man coverage, leading to a huge pass interference call, which was soon compounded by 25 more yards in penalties. Then Andra Davis took a swing at someone at added another 15 yards to the team's penalty yardage. The Giants scored their second touchdown on a free play which was set up when Robaire Smith jumped offsides.

Derek Anderson, as streaky a quarterback as you'll find in the NFL, didn't play long enough to find his rhythm, and he clearly missed Braylon Edwards. A false start penalty on Kris Griffin set up a punt by the D-Zaster from the Browns' one yard line which was blocked and converted into a safety by New York. Zastudil's free kick was then returned for another touchdown by former Akron stand out Domenik Hixon, which three touchdowns (two receiving) in less than one quarter.

Do you see what I'm getting at? This stuff isn't normal, especially in rapid succession. Well, that stuff doesn't happen when Paul Ernster isn't your punter, anyway. So yes, the Browns' starters were socked in the grill by the Giants' starters, but it generally wasn't in a way that's going to give the Browns problems on a weekly basis.


4. The corners (read: Eric Wright) were more sink than swim.

Wright and Brandon McDonald definitely had their problems, but they were in a ton of single coverage. In fact, it looked like Mel Tucker wanted to put them on an island during a risk-free game just to see what would happen. The results weren't positive, but these guys are both in only their second years, so there will obviously be a learning curve.

Wright in particular was owned by Sinorice Moss and Domenik Hixon, whether it was just trying to stick with Moss on a fly pattern or struggling to play bump and run on Hixon in the red zone. But we watched Wright struggle early last year, too, before his light seemed to switch on. While Wright and B-Mac are both very green, they're also very talented, and it's still the lack of cornerback depth that should be the real concern.


5. Opening night jitters? Overconfidence?

Were the Browns nervous because this was a prime time, nationally televised game? Could they have believed all of the hype they'd been receiving, giving them a falsely inflated level of confidence? Did the gap between Michael Strahan's front teeth look way bigger in real life, creating one of those "it's so weird I can't look away" distractions? Whatever it was, let's hope the Browns got it out of their system.

If overconfidence due to their new found status as media darlings was the problem, the Browns should have plummeted back to earth last night. Maybe the Browns needed a reminder that they aren't nearly good enough to just show up and post a win - nobody in the NFL is. We should remember that this team blew a couple of prime opportunities to beat lesser teams and lock up a playoff spot (Arizona, Cincinnati) last season, losses for which there weren't many excuses.

Derek Anderson seemed to tighten up when he struggled a bit in his limited playing time, and he's always struck me as a guy who might be a little too self-aware, particularly of national TV cameras. Let's call it like it is: when all eyes were on Anderson last season and he had something to lose (e.g. at Cincy, Pro Bowl), he blew it. But just like the rest of the team, DA has to learn to handle that pressure if the Browns are going to go anywhere this season, and part of handling pressure is simply getting used to it. It's better that Anderson and friends get acclimated to the pressure cooker now than week one against Dallas, or, God forbid, week two against Pittsburgh.


In conclusion...
Let's not forget that the starters looked solid less than two weeks ago against the Jets, even though the Jets certainly aren't on the same level as the Giants. It's a total cliche, but this still is only pre-season, and shaking off the rust is a big reason why these games exist. So should you be overly worried about the Browns' poor showing last night? Probably not. Now, if the starters go out and lay an egg against Detroit and Chicago, that will be a different story. Until then, consider my cautious optimism very much intact.

Monday, August 18

Indians Take Two From The Halos

In the previous series review, I mentioned that there was a chance the Tribe could win this series. Of course, I also mentioned that due to the bullpen's continued efforts to make me swear off baseball altogether, I wasn't sure what would happen past Cliff Lee's start. However, things went the Indians' way and here we sit, the first AL team to win a series against the Angels since mid-May.

Cliff Lee was the Indians' starter for game one of this series. With Cliff on the mound going for win number 17 you suspected he would do well but it is always a question with this bullpen of how deep into a game he should go. The quick answer is the longer the better and Lee didn't disappoint in this game. Lee pitched a complete game, giving up just two runs on eight hits and lowering his ERA to 2.43 on the way to his AL-leading 17th win. This against one of the best teams in baseball is impressive, but that has been Cliff Lee this entire season. Offensively the Tribe needed three runs for this win and that was all they got. Peralta, Garko, and Cabrera accounted for the driving in of those three runs. Both teams put up eight hits but the Indians drew five walks to the Angels' two. One of those walks was Kelly Shoppach, who later scored. Actually, Kelly was the only walk to score but never mind that. Tribe win 2-3.

Oh Cleveland Indians of 2008, the second game of this series was not your best effort. I'm sure this is the type of game that gives Wedge headaches. Carmona, he of the inconsistent starting, took the mound for game two of the series. Carmona pitched well going seven innings and only earning two runs. Usually that is all you can ask from a pitcher. However Carmona had some hard luck with the Indians posting four errors on the evening. Of course one of those errors was by Carmona himself so he still takes some of that blame too. But with half of the four Angels runs unearned, things weren't looking easy for the Indians. Betancourt did make a relief appearance and pitched two lights-out scoreless innings. His line was all zeroes except for that one strikeout, a glaring blight in the box score. On the offensive side of the field the Indians only mustered three runs off of starter Lackey, which is all you could ask of the offense on a usual night. Next came the Angels bullpen going three innings only allowing a hit per inning and no runs. The Indians did strand thirteen compared to the Angels' six. Indians lose 4-3.

The rubber match for the series, game three, brought with it so many questions. Would Sowers pick up win number two? Would the bullpen explode again? Would the score involve a team scoring three runs? Would Sal Fasano continue his dominance of all things facial hair? Well Sowers pitched a solid 6.2 innings, surrendering only three runs. Perez followed with 1.1 scoreless and Lewis picked up save number three after giving up two hits. Offensively the Indians had contributions from Gutierrez, Garko, and Sizemore. Garko batted in four of the Tribe's nine runs during this series so he seems to have picked up a little on his hitting of late. Strangely Grady was hit with only his second error of the season and once again looks to be on an all out effort to jeopardize any future he has with this team. Oh and Sowers takes home win number dos. Tribe win 3-4.

Amazingly the Indians did it. While not a sweep, this is probably the best this team could hope for, but those errors in game two still hurt. The Indians won this series on great-to-solid starting pitching and a consistent, but not overpowering offense. This series reminded me a lot of last year. Not so much that I became delusional, just that the Indians won games that were close and had contributions from enough guys to close out these games.

In other news, Martinez homered last night for the Aeros, scoring one of their two runs in a loss. Tonight Barfield and Hafner are in Buffalo, soon to be joined by Martinez. Hafner is already 1 for 2 on the night with a double.

Thank the scheduling gods for this Monday home off day for the Indians. KC is up next. Yes, a team a solid 1.5 games back of the Indians.

Game 1: Luke Hochevar, RHP (6-11, 5.44) vs. Anthony Reyes, RHP (3-2, 3.67)
Game 2: Gil Meche, RHP (10-9, 4.13) vs. Zach Jackson, LHP (0-0, 5.19)
Game 3: Zack Greinke, RHP (9-8, 3.92) vs. Cliff Lee, LHP (17-2, 2.43)

I'll take these matchups. I'm a little worried about Jackson against Meche, but we'll see how the Tribe handles these three righthanders. The Indians have been playing decently these last few series and are 7-3 over their last ten.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Saturday, August 16

Olympic notes

About a week into the Olympics, I realized that maybe I should have been watching the Games more than I have been thus far. It's a treat to watch people compete at such a high level, both in sports I'm familiar with and ones that I see at most every four years.

A word on my rooting interests. I know how fashionable it is in the modern world to bash the United States, given our prominent status in the world and foreign perception of many of international policies. Even among Americans, I feel like there isn't as much pride in the USA as there was when I was younger. Well, throw all that out the window when it comes to the Olympics. I want the USA to dominate everything. I want us to win 500 gold medals and send everyone else home disappointed (China is technically already home, but I want to topple them, too). I like winning. This is my country, and my athletes, and it's always exciting to see the red, white, and blue kick some Olympic ass.

That having been said, it's not the end of the world if we lose the overall medal count to the Chinese, who seem far more preoccupied with that than we are. This is especially true because of all the events we're not expected to even contend in because Americans don't really care about them. Like, who gives a fuck if we don't win in badminton or ping-pong ("All of my heroes are Table Tennis players" - Dwight Schrute)? Equestrian? Shooting? Weightlifting? I want us to win, of course, but any medals we get in these events are icing on the Olympic cake. Much more relevant is how we do in basketball, swimming, track, and gymnastics, the marquee events that Americans actually participate in during non-barbecue settings. And handball, can't forget handball.

I used to think the Winter Olympics' biathlon was weird; cross-country skiing and rifle shooting is an odd enough combo that Jerry Seinfeld saw fit to make fun of it in one of his routines. But now I've heard of the Modern Pentathlon. The events are epee fencing, pistol shooting, 200m freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping (?), and a 3 km cross-country run. Who has that sort of skill set? Why not add ping-pong and canoeing to it and make it a septathlon (heptathlon?)? Do you ride the horse in your running gear? Shoot in your swimsuit? Can you shoot your fencing opponent? This event raises far more questions than answers.

I kinda like the martial arts events like Judo and Taekwondo (I still hate boxing), even though I find myself consistently stumped by the scoring systems.

I gotta get me one of those bicycles with the solid wheels. I think it's only that, and a general lack of cycling skill, holding me back from Olympic bike glory.

One thing the Summer Games lacks that the Winter Games has is something as goofy, compelling, and thoroughly unathletic as Curling. I never tire of Olympic Ice Shuffleboard.

I've always enjoyed watching the Diving events, even though I generally disdain any event decided entirely by judges' scoring. Now that I think about it, that only includes diving, synchronized swimming (the most easily mockable event on the Games' roster), gymnastics, horse stuff (who cares?), and boxing (sometimes). Still, I'll make an exception for diving because of how amazing those people are. I wouldn't even want to jump off a 10m board, let alone flip and twist myself around frantically. I can do a few modest dives off a 1m and 3m springboard, but the guts and talent these people have amaze me. Or maybe I just like Speedoes, who the hell knows.

That having been said in praise of diving, it's too bad they don't have a belly-smacker competition, in which case my friend Todd from high school would be representing the United States in Beijing. They could also have an event like a game I developed called "Injure Yourself" where one runs full speed into the water, leaps, and tries to pack as many flips and twists in before hitting the water and awkwardly as possible. I would be a force to reckon with in this event. And, of course, the Pool Chair Toss, which HS friend Jason would lose at because he can never clear the rope. I'm going to start lobbying for the Andy Francis Silly Pool Games Triathlon for the 2016 Games.

Did you know that the battery of Track and Field events is officially called "Athletics"? Seems a bit generic to me. For my money, the 100m dash is the Olympics' signature event. Too bad our boy Tyson Gay didn't make it, but at least we get to see a guy aptly and improbably named "Bolt," who broke the WR in qualifying.

I'm surprised at how good we are at Fencing, because: Fencing?

Admit it: you can't watch Olympic Weightlifting without thinking about the Russian guy pulling his arms off while participating in the All-Drug Olympics ("some sort of fish paralyzer") on Saturday Night Live. That's gotta be disappointing!

I'm excited to see the Triathlon event as well, now that I'm kinda into doing those events myself. I executed an Olympic-distance race around Cleveland today, which took roughly 17 hours (not really) and made me salty (really), and I'm looking forward to see how actual athletes run it.

I can't believe I haven't busted out my copy of Track and Field II yet. That's a really fun game. The running and swimming events are kind of stupid - they hinge entirely on how fast you can press buttons repeatedly and you can pretty much only win with a paddle that has Turbo. But some of the other events are super-cool; I particularly liked the kayak event and the clay pigeon shooting contest.

I like listening to the broadcasters announce these games that they may not entirely be familiar with. Translating some of these sports for Americans who aren't accustomed to them isn't easy. On the other hand, that takes some of the pressure off - if these Rowing announcers I'm watching just straight make things up, it's not like I'm going to know any better.

Big, big ups to Abhinav Bindra of India for claiming his nation's first Olympic individual gold medal (in 10m air pistol, which sounds vaguely like shooting BB guns). I offer these congratulations with total sincerity - I'm always happy to see athletic teams and their fans break through.

Of the three athletes booted out of Beijing for doping, one of them was a shooter from North Korea. Why would you use PED's for shooting? Did he take a Xanax to relax or something? I'm not sure I want to know.


JHH claims here on the site that "baseball, soccer, and a number of other events (some involving horses) have no business in the Olympics" and I don't see the justification for such a statement. No, the Olmypics will never be the highest-prestige event in baseball or soccer (nor tennis for that matter), but these are games with broad worldwide appeal and participation (less so baseball, which may explain why it will not be an event in 2012). But hell, as long as we're going to have ping-pong, field hockey, sailing, and whatever other arbitrary events, I see no reason not to include these more popular team games as well. I suppose the argument could be made that basebal isn't well-suited to a tournament format, which I can buy into. Good to see Tribe farmhands Nick Weglarz and Matt LaPorta contributing to the Canadian and US teams, respectively.

There's very little I can add to the Michael Phelps story at these Olympics that hasn't already been said. I would like to point out that it's one thing to be the best in the world at all these swimming events and put in all the training (including the always-comical breaststroke), but it's another thing to get out there and execute in the medal races every single time. The focus this guy has is unreal. He hasn't just won these events - he (and his teammates) have claimed six world records and an olympic record in seven events. Ridiculous.

If Phelps was his own country, he'd be 4th in the world in total gold medals. Here I'd like to point out how the medal opportunities are a bit imbalanced. Yes, a once-in-a-lifetime swimmer can win eight golds at a single Games, but no matter how good you ever get at basketbal, you're never going to get more than one medal every four years. How come there's no basketball 1-on-1 tournament? 3-point shootout? Sprite Skills Competition? I want LeBron to get eight gold medals too.

Speaking of basketball, now that we actually have lost some world competitions, I really enjoy watching Team USA beat the stuffing out of whoever we play on the hardwood. This is our game, damnit, and we're better than you at it. I feel like a Canadian rooting for Team Canada in hockey, or a citizen of [pick any country in the world except the US] pulling for his nation's soccer club. I want this gold medal!

I just saw LeBron, playing for the USA Olympic team, make a beautiful assist to...yep...Carlos Boozer. That Carlos Boozer. It was weird to see, Boozer pointing to LeBron in acknowledgement, LeBron hopefully thinking what a cheap loozer Carlos is and how he sold the Cavs right down the river. USA! USA!

Friday, August 15

Two Up, Two Down

Weekday series are not my friend.

After starting strong by winning the first two games of the series and running their winning streak to five games, the Tribe offense and bullpen reminded us again what 2008 has been all about for this team and dropped the last two matchups. There are some silver linings in this series but at home, hosting the Orioles, we should have had a better result than a series split.

Monday's matchup started with Carmona taking the mound. Carmona's struggles continued, going 6.1 innings but giving up seven runs. He was doing OK until the seventh inning. Maybe Carmona isn't ready to go seven innings, given his month off, but you can't blame Wedge for sending him out there given the relief options. Up to this point you're thinking this sounds like a loss for the Tribe. Mujica comes in and gives up a run in the process of getting tagged with a blown save, but the bats come alive in the bottom of the seventh and eight also giving Mujica the win. Brendan Donnelly made his Indians debut in eighth and gave up one hit, one walk, and struck out as many. Lewis was called in for the ninth just because that's what he does now. Despite my preference to start all game reviews with the pitching summary the Tribe offense is the real story to this game: 13 runs on 13 hits isn't too shabby. Go Tribe Batsmen! Anyway the much shorter list of those without runs batted in (RBI) are Marte, Choo, and Peralta. Home runs were provided by Cabrera, Francisco, and Gonzalez. It was nice to beat up someone else's bullpen for a change wasn't it? Tribe win 13-8.

Sowers took to the mound for the Tribe for game two of the series. If I told you Sowers picked up win number two on the year would you believe me? Well you shouldn't. Sowers went 6.1 just like Carmona but Sowers only gave up four runs. Masa "Tired Arm" Kobayashi came in to pitch his 0.0 innings and give up a run. Perez follows and goes 1.2 innings and picks up his fifth (fif!) blown save of the year. However just like Mujica the night before, Perez is the recipient of some Tribe offense in the bottom of the eighth and also picks up the win, number two on the year (one more than Mr. Sowers). Jensen Lewis closes out the ninth for career save number two. The Tribe posted seven runs batted in by seven different players. Sizemore was the only player to not contribute a run either by scoring it or batting it in. While I'll let this one slide I think Grady is on thin ice with this club and the people of Greater Cleveland. Tribe win 7-5.

Well with the wins of this series out of the way let's review those losses! Tony Reyes, or Ray-Ray, started Wednesday's battle royale at Progressive Field. Reyes went 6.0 innings only giving up two runs. Another fine outing against a team whose offense the Indians had yet to shut down. However the Orioles would not be denied. After two scoreless Betancourt innings, nice, Donnelly spoils it for the rest of us. Donnelly was tagged for four runs in 0.2 innings. Rincon is brought in to help the Indians through the ninth with his 0.1 inning scoreless effort. Offensively the Indians were baffled by former Wahoo Jeremy Guthrie and the Orioles staff, scoring a run on five hits. Sizemore drove in Marte for the sum of our offensive output. Tribe lose 6-1.

Last night's game featured the Indians debut of Zach Jackson, he of the CC (historically accurate) trade. Jackson went five, giving up three runs on eight hits. No too bad but as we've discussed before asking this pen to go four innings is a lot. Rincon pitched two scoreless, which I think may put him half to becoming a saint. Perez comes in to the eight and. . .promptly gives up three runs and gets no one out. Not to be outdone, Mujica gets three outs but gives up four runs in the process of also walking three. Kobayashi some how makes it through the ninth without giving up a run, maybe the Orioles got tired of running the bases. On the other side of the plate the Indians did score six runs. Half of those coming in the bottom of the ninth, which I imagine like 5000 people saw. The Indians did commit two errors thanks to Cabrera and Gonzalez. Jhonny was HBP and left the game later for x-rays, NO!, which turned out negative, thank you. Tribe lose 11-6.

The Indians won two games of this series on "good enough" relief and "thank goodness" offense that never let up. The last two games feature the bullpen once again pulling out the gas can and a offense that in the first game didn't know what to do with a bat or during the second couldn't climb that 11 run mount the Orioles posted. The upside of those losses were the starts of Reyes and Jackson. While Jackson isn't quite ready, Reyes had another quality start. Unfortunately there isn't any good news out of the bullpen.

The Indians now face one of the best teams in baseball in the Angels.

Game 1: Jered Weaver, RHP (10-9, 4.51) vs. Cliff Lee, LHP (16-2, 2.45)
Game 2: John Lackey, RHP (9-2, 3.15) vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (5-4, 4.91)
Game 3: Joe Saunders, LHP (14-5, 3.07) vs. Jeremy Sowers, LHP (1-6, 5.70)

On paper this is a series I still think we can win. Of course looking at the numbers and after these last two games I'm hard pressed to see any hope past Lee. Luckily for the Indians Victor and Hafner have been making progress, not that they're the answer to our prayers, but to think how long the Indians have played without those two is amazing. Also on the good news side of things is that Monday is a home off day for the Tribe as they welcome the Royals to Cleveland to continue the battle for fourth place in the American League Central Tuesday.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Wednesday, August 13

Danny Ferry wants some Mo

If you haven't heard already, the Cavs landed Mo Williams earlier today in a three team deal that included Milwaukee and the Oklahoma City (Thunder). Six players were involved, but as far as Cavs' fans are concerned, the Cavs received Mo Williams in exchange for power forward Joe Smith and guard Damon Jones.

This amounts to a long-term salary dump by Milwaukee, and not unlike the Lakers with Pau Gasol, the Cavs are happy to take that salary off of their hands. Honestly, what's not to like? The negative are that Williams has had some injury issues, isn't known for his defense, the Cavs are now thin up front with the loss of Smith, and Ferry lost some of his long-term cap flexibility.

But none of those issues really bug me when you consider the potential reward of aquiring an excellent offensive player who can create his own shot, distributes the ball adequately, and shoots a high percentage from both inside and outside the arc. The numbers that really excite me are Williams' 2008 shooting percentages: 48% from the field, 38.5% from outside the arc. Those are excellent numbers for a guard, particularly a guard that's only 6' 1".

There are still plenty of things that could go wrong with this deal, but the potential reward clearly outweighs the risk. If I'm Danny Ferry, I make this trade eight days a week.

Tuesday, August 12

Nightly Tribe randomness

Manning just made a reference to Scud missiles, referring to a projectile throw over home plate by the Oriole left fielder. That's tremendous, but maybe a bit too contemporary? That ball was flying like musket fire!


Manning and Underwood were discussing Progressive Field and whether or not it's a hitter' park or a pitcher's park. It's irrelevant what they concluded - the fundamental problem is that everything they said was pure speculation. Look, guys, there's something called Park Factor, which is not difficult to reference, that says pretty plainly whether a venue is a hitter's park or a pitcher's park. I wrote about it like two weeks ago (the Prog is a hitter's park). You are professional baseball analysts. You should know this number for the home field of the team you cover. Professionally.


Joel Skinner doesn't generally make really good decisions over at third base - Tribe runners don't just get cut down at the plate, they're out by 20 feet. It's like he's overcompensating for the Lofton incident in the playoffs last year. Tonight, he sent Asdrubal Cabrera home twice in situations where a good throw would have gotten him, and once it did. I approved of one of them, which happened to be the one where he scored, but my feelings aren't results-contingent. It's simple: the time with one out, you hold him; the time with two outs, you go for it and send him. To his credit, Skinner did the second of these, but sending him home with one out on Sizemore's double was foolish, notwithstanding Indian troubles getting men home.


I like how this club is playing, though, except for the nightly bullpen lead-blowing. Winning baseball games is fun, isn't it?

Indocentric

Two things about baseball in August 2008:

1) When the Indians are out of it, as they are now, I can't seem to get into the rest of the league. Last year, when the Tribe won the Central, I knew exactly what was going on in all the divisions. This year, I sort of keep tabs on it, but halfheartedly. It's just not that interesting to watch other teams win divisions when yours isn't, I guess. Being completely sincere here, I find myself more interested in the battle for 4th place in the AL Central, a race I expect the Tribe to win even though they can't seem to edge ahead of Mighty KC. I also find myself more intrigued by the fact that Minnesota leads the Indians by 29 in run differential and a massive 12.5 games in the standings. These things happen when they have Joe Nathan and we have...well, onto the next topic.

2) By any measure, the Olympics are far more interesting, dramatic, and important than what is ultimately a lost season for the Tribe. So why do I punch in "76" for STO whenever I get home and the game is on instead of "03" for the Summer Games? I don't know, maybe I'm just not that into Judo.

Sunday, August 10

How Sweep It Is

Over the last few road trips for the Tribe, I've often mentioned their miserable road record. A team in last place who sports a home record three games above .500 has obviously been putting on a horrible showing during these away games. While the Indians' sweep of Toronto this weekend goes a ways to helping out that situation, the Indians still have some work to do.

Friday's series opener saw Anthony Reyes take the mound for his Indians debut. Reyes did not disappoint, going 6.1 innings and giving up one run on seven hits and only one walk. Not too shabby if you ask me. Not that Toronto is at its offensive zenith right now, but neither are we. The workhorse Perez pitched 1.2 innings in relief while giving up a run and Jensen Lewis came in for his first ever major league save. In the game that is "guess our closer" it looks like Jensen will be the closer for the time being. I've mentioned before that Lewis appears to be a very emotional pitcher, so maybe the high-stress situation of closing will bring out the best he has to offer. Offensively, the Tribe scored five runs over just two innings of scoring. Those batting in runs include Francisco (2), Choo (2), and Gutierrez (1) the Tribe's five, six, and seven hitters for the night. Tribe win 5-2.

Saturday's matchup between Byrd and Halladay was the one to worry about on paper. Would Byrd continue his remarkable pitching streak? Could the beleaguered offense muster enough runs from perennial Cy Young contender Halladay? Luckily for the Tribe the answer to both was yes. Byrd went the distance, giving up only two runs on six hits while improving his record to 7-10, which I know once stood at 4-10 and may have been 3-10 at one point. This is a remarkable turnaround that makes me wonder what Byrd was doing before the complete collapse of this year. On the other side of the box score Toronto and Halladay himself are only credited with earning one of the Tribe's four runs. Andy has already mentioned how Halladay's stats may have come into play on the scorer's ruling on this situation, but regardless he takes the loss. As for the Indians' offense, Garko, Dellucci, and Marte make up the teams RBI's. Talk about three names which haven't appeared together her on this blog much. One interesting stat is that Toronto as a team left only three on base compared to the Tribe's 12. Tribe win 4-2.

Sunday was never in doubt really. I hate to be complacent, but with Lee on the mound against this Toronto team I would have been shocked for Cliff not to pick up win 16. Lee went eight innings giving up the same number of hits but allowing zero runs. Perez pitched an inning of scoreless relief. With the Tribe up four to nothing I may have pitched someone other than Perez but I'm not the manager. RBI's were provided by Sizemore, Dellucci, Peralta, and Garko. The Indians bats did strike out 10 times and only registered one walk against the Toronto pitchers, which is slightly worrisome. And maybe that extended benching of Garko woke him up a little, but it might be too little and it is definitely too late. Tribe win 4-0.

This sweep of Toronto in Canada improves the Indians' road record to 23-28. With KC's win today it also means the Tribe are still in last place in the division by a game. Reyes's performance was encouraging and I hear Laffey had a good outing in AAA. If Byrd is to be moved, and he did clear waivers, then Laffey is the obvious choice to fill his spot. As a GM I'm not sure I would feel confident in taking Byrd but who knows. As for the bullpen, Perez has already made 53 appearances this year, topping 2007's total of 44. However innings are down so far from 60.2 to 59.1. Wedge's use of the bullpen has always been a hot topic and I don't have any answers for you, just numbers. I'm sure we'll see how Lewis handles his newfound role over the coming series. Speak of which the Indians return home to face the Baltimore Orioles, a team I'm safe in saying the Indians have yet played a game against this season.

Game 1: Dennis Sarfate, RHP (4-2, 4.58) vs. Fausto Carmona, RHP (5-4, 4.46)
Game 2: Garrett Olson, LHP (8-6, 6.06) vs. Jeremy Sowers, LHP (1-6, 5.70)
Game 3: Jeremy Guthrie, RHP (9-8, 3.26) vs. Anthony Reyes, RHP (3-1, 3.86)
Game 4: Daniel Cabrera, RHP (8-7, 4.78) vs. Paul Byrd, RHP (7-10, 4.53)

Jeremy Guthrie, the less-talked-about Brandon Philips of our pitching prospects, makes a return to face the newest Indians pitcher Reyes. I like our chances at home against the Orioles. Let's hope the Indians can keep some of the momentum they picked up in Toronto, even if Dellucci has to contribute.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Harris)

Saturday, August 9

Tribeservations

1) Somebody, please, either explain to the Toronto Blue Jays' official scorer what an "error" is, or politely ask him to seek other employment. Everything is a hit to this guy.

- First inning, Blue Jay batter hits a shallow popup that absolutely destroys Shin-Soo Choo in RF, rolls to the wall, and lands the hitter on 3rd. This HAS to be an error, or else we just stop having errors. At best you give the batter a single, though a three-base error is an option, but a triple? No way.

- Second inning, Tribe batter hits one to John McDonald, who tries to make a fancy flip to second for a force instead of getting the runner at first. This is not a base hit, except in Blue-Jay-scorer-land.

-Fourth inning, Choo hits a drive to center that is dropped by Alex Rios and is promptly scored a double. I'm out of words here.


In-game update: They have now overruled the original ruling and charged Rios with an error. Not because it's the right decision, but because Toronto pitcher Roy Halladay is a Cy Young candidate, and Choo's run now becomes unearned, improving his stats. That's fucked-up. The point of scoring isn't to make your team's numbers look as good as possible - it's to accurately reflect game play. This is embarrassing.



2) This off-season, I demand that Indians management get Rick Manning a subscription to Baseball Prospectus or at least arrange for him to spend a day with Bill James. I can't even tell you how much this would enhance STO's broadcasts. Manning is likable and professional, but he needs to have a modern understanding of the game.


3) I'm not sure if the goal was to sacrifice an out or to get a hit, nor whose idea it was, but either way, having Ben Francisco bunt with a runner on 2nd and no one out in the 4th inning was foolish.


4) There are two things that constitute a "good at-bat" to Manning and Underwood. In both cases, you have to fall behind in the count early, then take a few balls. At this point, you can: (a) walk or (b) hit the ball to the opposite field, to earn the crew's approval.


5) Cliff Lee's acting is pure joy to me.


6) More Manning! I've really enjoyed two moments from him recently. One was his slow-burn ire at Shin-Soo Choo for losing a pop fly in the sun and then still refusing to go to the dugout to get sunglasses. He's got a good point, and I liked the animated way he pursued his argument. The other moment was him pointing out the ridiculous frequency with which batteries appeal to 1st- and 3rd-base umpires on checked swings. Seriously, any time a batter thinks about swinging, these guys are pointing to a corner umpire for some help. Let's calm down here, and let's also realize that only the home plate umpire can request an appeal. If I was a home plate umpire, I would only ask for appeals in borderline cases, and if a corner umpire, I would completely ignore the players and only make a ruling if my home plate compadre asked me too. Take that, overzealous pitchers and catchers!

Thursday, August 7

Tribe Stumble Against the Rays

I first want to point out, dear readers, that this isn't going to be easy for me, for two reasons. One, if you are yet unaware, the Indians' series against the Rays isn't going to be appearing on any Indians' highlight reel anytime soon, and two, I spent a large portion of the day running around woods partaking in that pseudo-sport the kids call paintball, so needless to say I'm tired. But enough of my whining - let's examine what went wrong.

Actually the first game of the series featured Cliff Lee going for his 15th win. While not a lights-out performance by Cliff, he did hold the Rays offense to just two runs in his seven innings of work. Perez came in, as the only truly effective guy in the bullpen, to pitch two scoreless innings. With the offense contributing five runs that was all the help Lee needed. This respectable offensive showing was brought to you by the likes of Dellucci (ugh), Shoppach (yeah!), and Cabrera who had a solo shot. Tribe win 5-2 and Mr. Lee is the first AL pitcher to 15 wins.

The second game of the series wasn't so pleasant. While the loss in game two marked the first defeat of the Indians by the Rays this season I can only imagine it was a matter of time really, looking at the Indians' 20-38 road record. This marked the third game back for Carmona and the thought was that his first game was so bad because he was a little excited, and his second game showed that he was in the process of regaining his form. Well the third start the wheels came off. Carmona left after four innings and four runs on three hits and five walks. Five walks! Needless to say, handing the ball over to the the gasoline alley boys of our bullpen wasn't going to result in good things. Here is the rundown; Lewis two innings no runs, Betancourt 0.2 innings three runs on two homeruns (what the hell happened to this guy?), Rincon 0.1 innings 1 run (thanks Juan), and Mujica pitched a scoreless eighth because I'm sure the Rays just want to get to bed early for Thursday's day game. Offensively Peralta had another good game. Tom Hamilton mentioned that people like to be down on Jhonny for all the things he can't do, forgetting what he can do. Tribe lose 4-8.

Wednesday brought only heartbreak. Due to the day game I was able to listen to this one at work, which I like doing because it usually lightens my day. Not Thursday. Sowers started the game off by giving the Rays a three run lead. Garko started his short day at DH by hitting a dribbler to first base during which he never left the batter's box. Now any Indians fan knows Wedge's hatred for not running out a groundball. Garko hitting .239 was summarily pitch-hit for by Andy Marte who ended the day two for four with two RBI. Not too bad a day for Marte! I can only imagine that is better than Garko would have done. Anyway, long story short, Tribe is up 7-4 in the ninth, Rays score six runs. Perez pitched two scoreless innings (not too surprising), Mujica goes 0.0 innings giving up three runs, and Kobayashi does the same (0.0 innings, three runs). The obviously ruined the efforts of Peralta and Marte. Sal Fasano is now hitting .310 and the Tribe lose 7-10.

OK not the best series. I wouldn't be so down on the Tribe if it wasn't for this bullpen. I understand if the offense is sometimes not up to par, but this bullpen is without question the single most demoralizing part of this 2008 collapse. Moving on, the Indians open tomorrow at Toronto.

Game 1: Anthony Reyes, RHP (2-1, 4.91) vs. David Purcey, LHP (1-2, 8.35)
Game 2: Paul Byrd, RHP (6-10, 4.72) vs. Roy Halladay, RHP (13-8, 2.77)
Game 3: Cliff Lee, LHP (15-2, 2.58) vs. Scott Richmond, RHP (0-1, 4.91)

The Indians debut of Reyes is on tap for tomorrow. Reyes went 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA at Buffalo which was good enough to replace Ginter when he hit the DL. Reyes' major-league numbers are from his work out of the Cardinals bullpen, which included a save. The only other real option at AAA was Laffey and he was sent down for a reason and he needs to keep working that out in AAA. Let's hope the Indians play good baseball, win or lose. Of course I would prefer win but as long as we don't have another six-run bottom of the ninth this series I may be happy.

Go Tribe!

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Wednesday, August 6

Additional data point!

Mere hours after my previous post about the Tribe's poor work in easy run-scoring situations, we're given the gift of the Top of the 2nd in Tampa Bay. Andy Gonzalez walks, Sal Fasano doubles, and we've got 2nd and 3rd, one out.

Cabrera strikeout, Gutierrez groundout. Zero runs.


Exciting in-game update!
The Tribe, apparently tired of my criticism, righted the ship in the 5th. After Peralta's double pushed Jamey Carroll to 3rd (I love walks) with one out, los Indios capitalized with a Choo RBI single and a Marte two-run double to take a 5-3 lead.

Granted, Sal Fasano didn't get the memo, going down on strikes with runners on 1st and 3rd and one out, but he has an awesome mustache and is somehow OPS-ing like .850, so I'll let it slide. For now.

And, to JHH's point about Garko: Wedgie rightfully benched him for not even leaving the batter's box on a fair ball; Marte replaced him in the lineup and has only gone 2-2 with a two-run double that put the Tribe up 5-3.


Soul-destroying in-game update!
Edward Mujica somehow assumed the role of closer for the day today, as the Tribe headed into the 9th with a three-run lead, poised to take a road series from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Mujica is, of course, not far removed from appearing in the last Indians game I went to, where he quickly turned an 11-7 Indians lead into an 11-11 tie, needing only 28 pitches and two outs to do so.

Today, Mujica set new personal standards for efficiency, requiring no more than nine pitches and roughly 13 seconds to transform a 7-4 lead into a 7-7 tie, without worrying about the pesky details of actually getting a batter out. Well done!

But erstwhile Tribe closer Masa Kobayashi was not to be outdone. Kobayashi bested his bullpen mate in allowing three runs on EIGHT pitches (including a clever four-pitch walk) without retiring a batter, as Tampa Bay won 10-7. This appearance went by so fast that it actually took -5 seconds; along this particular space-time continuum, Kobayashi's appearance was so fast that it actually ended before he even threw the first pitch. This, as far as I know, is a Major League record.

Seriously, though, that inning was horrible, awful, terrible, disgusting, unacceptable. After two innings of Relief Ace Rafael Perez sawing through the Devil Ray lineup, these guys gave up SIX runs on SEVENTEEN pitches. Did you happen to watch the Home Run Derby this year? It's not trivial, even throwing intentional batting practice pitches to the game's best sluggers, to give up that many runs that quickly. Tampa Bay might not have been that good had their players been hitting off of a tee. I rarely get to say this, but I'm confident I could have outperformed these guys today. The worst game of a very bad year.