Yankees 7, Indians 1: The Little Urban Cowboy In the Big Bad City

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6:56 PM – I’ll have you know that Josh Tomlin’s first career MLB start came against the Yankees, and he did quite well, if you recall. He pitched so well, actually, that I wrote an entire post about how it probably wasn’t sustainable. I liked that piece mostly for its title, but still the point remains: pitchers like Josh Tomlin aren’t supposed to have success against lineups like the New York Yankees.1

But let’s suspend our disbelief, shall we? Tonight the Little Cowboy goes up against the Evil Empire.

7:10 PM – I just missed the first pitch because I was making the picture attached to this post. Priorities.

7:14 PM – Both Choo and Kipnis hit the ball extremely hard there—Choo to the opposite field warning track and Kipnis a liner to second base—but there’s nothing to show for it as those outs straddle a Cabrera strikeout and the Tribe goes down in order to start the game.

I do think some of the histrionics surrounding the Indians’ offensive ineptitude is somewhat overblown. As plenty of people have pointed out, the team is scoring enough runs to compete (right on par with the vaunted Tigers’ offense, actually); it’s the pitching that has killed them. The Indians have allowed 346 runs so far this season. Only the Minnesota Twins have allowed more among AL teams (379).

This isn’t to say I’m against trading for a bat. But even Miguel Cabrera couldn’t put this team in the postseason as long as we’re allowing runs to score at this pace.

7:23 PM – Tomlin walked Granderson after retiring Jeter. That is in no way acceptable. This lineup will make him pay for that.

7:31 PM – Sure enough, Teixeira drills one off the top of the wall in right to send Granderson to third. Then Robbie Cano sends a double to right-center to score Granderson and Teixeira. Cano is thrown out at third trying to stretch it into a triple. Tomlin ends the inning by striking out Nick Swisher. 2-0 bad guys. Tomlin has thrown 35 pitches (h/t @WFNYTD).

By the way, I’m not a huge fan of imputing a lot of meaning to splits that slice data into increasingly small (and consequently, irrelevant) sample sizes. You can eventually make the data say whatever you want. For example, did you know that Chris Perez’ career ERA in the month of June is 4.59? Or that Shin-Soo Choo has a .955 OPS when batting sixth in the lineup? Or that Carlos Santana is slugging .503 in interleague play?

That said, Josh Tomlin’s ERA in the first inning this year is 10.80. As you were, Cowboy.

7:51 PM – After the Indians went quietly in the top of the second, the Yankees pounce again: Eric Chavez lines a single to right and Dewayne Wise destroys a hanging breaking ball to right field for a two-run home run. Through two innings, the Bombers are up 4-0 and Tomlin has thrown 59 pitches. So much for that first inning theory…

8:01 PM – I realize this game is nearly an hour old, and you have no idea who is pitching for the Yankees due to my negligence. I apologize. It’s Hiroki Kuroda. I mention this, because I just witnessed the following exchange on my moving picture box:

Matt: The Yankees have had their share of Asian pitchers, what with Hideki Irabu…

Rick: THE FAT TOAD!!

Matt: …and Kei Igawa…

Rick: ‘Member that? The FAT TOAD!

Matt: …and Chien-Ming Wang….

Rick: That was great when Steinbrenner called him that…The FAT TOAD!!

Here we pause to note that Hideki Irabu killed himself earlier this year. Tact, thy name is Manning

Shin-Soo Choo is stranded at first to end another anemic inning.

8:10 PM – Josh Tomlin is nothing if not consistent. He allowed two more runs, bringing the score to 6-0 through three innings.

These runs came on back-to-back solo shots from Cano and Swisher, which is important because narratives. For Tomlin’s career, he’s allowed 1.25 home runs for every nine innings he’s pitched. That’s well above average (or below average…whichever way is bad) of about 1.00 per nine innings. This season, Tomlin has now allowed 11 HR in 66.1 innings, or about 1.50 per nine innings. As you can see, this is trending poorly for our diminitive cowboy. This is not good.

But really, we all KNOW Tomlin struggles with home runs. It sort of comes with the territory of throwing 89 mph fast balls on a consistent basis. What’s made him so pedestrian this season is his increasing walk-rate. He’s already walked two hitters tonight, bringing his walk-rate over 6% on the season. For comparison’s sake, last year Tomlin led Major League Baseball with a microscopic 3.2% of his plate appearances ending in a free pass. I write this all the time, but the margin for error with guys like Tomlin—who just don’t possess overwhelming stuff—is incredibly small. Doubling his walk-rate will pretty much take a guy like Josh Tomlin from above-average to barely-playable.

He’s done after three innings. His line: 3 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 3 K, 2 BB, 3 HR. Scott Barnes will be the long-man tonight, it would seem.

8:26 PM – After Kuroda walks Kipnis and Santana to start the inning, the side goes down on a fielder’s choice and two infield pop ups. If I thought we had a chance to win this game, this would’ve infuriated me, especially Johnny Damon’s foul out on the first pitch of his at bat. Serenity NOW.

8:51 PM – Barnes has retired the Yankees for two straight innings without considerable incident. Kuroda returned the favor in the tops of the fifth and sixth. He’s now retired nine straight Tribesmen, leaving me to consider the single note of optimism that’s yet to be taken from me: “at least it might be quick”.

This game needs an enema.

9:03 PM – Scott Barnes cannot go three innings. To be honest, ever since we cut Dan Wheeler loose, this bullpen’s been without a real long-man. Which is fine, since long-men really aren’t all that important, but still, it’s no less true.

Anyway, after striking out Swisher and getting Ibanez on groundout, Barnes issues a walk to Chavez followed by a Wise triple to right center to put the Yankees up 7-0.

Esmil Rogers strikes out Stewart on three pitches to end the inning.

9:15 PM – The Yankees fans are doing the wave as Hannahan strikes out to end the top of the seventh. Or as Signore Alighieri would say, “Welcome to the fifth circle of Hell! It only FEELS like forever.”

9:28 PM – Esmil Rogers manages to crawl through the bottom of the seventh, but it was neither pretty nor particularly admirable. Still 7-0. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…

9:33 PM – It takes a Chisenhall bloop followed by a Choo double to the gap to drive Kuroda from the game. He goes seven-plus allowing five hits and two walks. Struck out seven. Zero runs allowed, though those base runners on second and third are his. I’ll remind you here that this team is supposed to be good against RHP.

Anyway, the Yanks are bringing in lefty Clay Rapada to face Asdrubal.

9:41 PM – Last you checked, YOUR Cleveland Indians had base runners on second and third with no one out. You might think it would be impossible to score only one run, given this propitious head start afforded them to begin the inning. After all, you tell yourself, run expectancy charts would suggest more than two runs typically score in such a scenario. You feel so proud of yourself for having thought such happy and optimistic thoughts about your baseball team’s incipient successes.

But you are silly. The Indians scored but once, on a sacrifice fly no less (PRODUCTIVE OUTS!!). Heading to the bottom of the eighth, the score is 7-1. Those numbers are beginning to sound biblical in scope.

9:52 PM – Jeremy Accardo is still on the Indians, and he retired the Yankees in the eighth on 12 pitches. Which was nice of him, considering everyone involved pines for brevity.

But a game like this just wouldn’t be complete without an Aaron Cunningham strikeout, and thank goodness he obliged his adoring fans to lead off the top of the ninth. FOREARM TATS.

9:56 PM – The game ends mercifully on a Casey Kotchman ground out to second. I once lost a spelling bee on the word “typify”, so now I make amends. That Kotchman groundout typifies this game: slow, ineffectual, hopeless and forlorn.

I wish I could tell you that this gets better, but sometimes I wonder if this isn’t the team we had all along. Maybe the hot start was just that: a small start to a season that would inevitably reveal this team’s weaknesses. The Indians have now been outscored by 48 runs, which is second to last in the AL. Our aforementioned pitching staff also ranks second to last in runs allowed. We have the third fewest home runs, the second worst team UZR, and the second worst ERA. No team in baseball has a higher WHIP than YOUR Cleveland Indians. If it weren’t for an historically poor Twins team, things would look even worse.

Is this team a division contender? I tend to think not. Not unless Santana remembers that he’s supposed to be good. Not unless we can find three starters to count on. Not unless an another everyday player emerges with an OPS north of .800 (we have none two). These are real questions for which good teams have answers. As of now, we have only questions. And the good fortune to be within striking distance of first place.

But make no mistake: this team doesn’t deserve to be in first place—not by a long-shot. They’ll either have to get considerably more out of the talent they have or add some significant pieces before we even consider thinking post-season thoughts.

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Footnotes:

  1. And to be clear, he hasn’t. Outside of the first dominant, 7-inning start, Tomlin’s been what you might call “bad” against the Yankees. His career ERA against the Bombers is 4.26 over three starts. []
  • AlexMathews

    In ADDITION to finding a reliable third starter, whether that’s Lowe or Tomlin to go along with Masterson and Ubaldo, either the Indians need to make another offensive trade or pray that Hafner starts tearing it up when he returns to give the offense some gravitas. Either way, unless there’s some kind of change it doesn’t look good for the Tribe’s contention status come September.

  • ThatOneGuy

    2 regulars currently have an OPS of greater than .800 but who’s counting?

  • WFNYJon

    I’ll give you Asdrubal. I flat out missed that.

    But going into last night’s game Choo was below .800. Evidently the stats hadnt updated before pulling this together.

    Thanks for counting. I

  • E

    I don’t think our situation is quite as dire as you think. Yes – we have holes. But what team doesn’t? We’ve just hit a bad patch here where pitching AND hitting are slumping at the same time. Assuming it’s just a slump, we just need one to start performing well to be in these games again. Of course, if neither offense or pitching comes around… well then we’re just a bad team.

  • E

    good article though. entertaining read

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I think it’s more of the team getting back to reality just like last year just a month or two sooner. Detroit is getting healthy they’ll start playing better and you know they’ll make a move if they feel it’s necessary. Chicago is playing much better then anyone could have predicted and already made a move.