The funeral pyre is lit, and I’m hearing the elegies out in full-force for a season gone by the wayside. I don’t buy it. This next 15 days will be fun. The rest of the season will be fun. Here are some of the storylines I’ll be following.
The remaining games in August are (1) eminently winnable and (2) largely against the AL Central. I know this last road trip was rough. But we were playing some great teams, and we still managed to play pretty well, if you ask me. The starters looked good, and the offense capable. More on the bullpen in a minute.
But for the rest of the month we have the following murderer’s row: DET, MIN, CWS, DET, SEA, KC, OAK. That’s a decent stretch of winnable games, and with our next 12 games all coming against division foes, we have plenty of time to make up some ground before heading into the September stretch run.
Even more than that, guess how many non-division teams we play for the rest of the season with a winning record. Go on, guess.
Try one: the Texas Rangers in the middle of September.
Is Carlos Carrasco Really Hurt? I’ll go on record saying that I think he is not. This reeks of classic roster manipulation, at its finest. There are two reasons to put Carrasco on the DL even if he’s not really hurt: innings limits for young pitchers and David Huff’s incipient resurgence. Placing Carrasco on the DL allows the Indians to slot David Huff into the back of the rotation (who has pitched well in his few starts this year), while simultaneously limiting the innings-load on Carrasco’s arm. I wrote last week about the Indians’ hesitance to use Carrasco’s last option to send him down so late in the season. This DL move solves all the problems. I could be wrong, but the Indians’ Front Office has been savvy (deceitful?) enough about these sorts of things in the past to convince me that they’re lining their ducks up for the playoff push. I’m betting Carrasco comes back to the bullpen in September.
Shin-Soo Choo is Superman, and other Outfield Thoughts. I was at the Lake County Captains game on Sunday night, where Choo took batting practice in anticipation of his rehab start. Apparently his 10-12 week rehab won’t be necessary, as we’re only six weeks removed from his broken thumb and he’s already chomping at the bit to return. Read Anthony Castrovince’s piece if you haven’t. Now tell me you don’t love Shin-Soo Choo. Go ahead, try.
I would guess that upon Choo’s return, Fukudome moves to center and Brantley stays in left, but those two could be flip-flopped. I love Brantley’s defense in left, but find it particularly lacking in center, if you care about my opinion on these sorts of things.
I also think that there is a possibility that we’ve seen Grady Sizemore play his last game as a Cleveland Indian. This makes me all sort of sad to even write, and I’m not suggesting it’s a fait accompli by any stretch. Just that it’s possible. And the possibility is enough to make me sad.
About that Crummy Bullpen. There is no more painful loss in baseball than a late-inning, blown lead. That goes without saying. The fact that we had four such losses on our last road-trip is therefore, particularly painful. Especially since we’ve been trained like Pavlov’s Dogs to believe that all late-inning leads are safe; our bullpen has been that good this season.
But they haven’t really. Our bullpen has been plenty lucky, but that’s not to be confused with absolute dominance. Check out these ranks, out of 14 AL teams:
Better in WHIP than any other stat? That would suggest to me that they’re letting up fewer base hits than the average bear. And sure enough, their BABiP (batting average on balls in play) is well below league average, at .277, suggesting some degree of good luck on batted balls.
This isn’t to say that they’re bound to continue to struggle as they did last week—far from it. This is a talented bunch. But being surprised when Joe Smith (xFIP 3.55) and Chris Perez (5.75 K/9!) hit a few speedbumps?* Well, I guess we all sorta knew that we had some holes back there, right? RIGHT? Let’s move on, if we can.
*For the record, Vinnie Pestano is by far our best bullpen arm, and not using him on Sunday night was….well….it was a shame to let Joe Smith do what he did. Enough said.
The point is, the bullpen isn’t the best in the League, but they’re not bound to continue struggling as they have. Unless, of course, you believe that psychology is playing a major role here—that they’re so emotionally broken that they can’t get themselves out of their rut.
But if you do believe that, try taking it easy on the Twitter, huh? That’d be nice.