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Second Thoughts Game #30: White Sox 0, Indians 2

Second Thoughts Game #30: White Sox 0, Indians 2
Jose Ramirez is congratulated after scoring the Indians second, and final, run of the game. (Photo: AP)
May 4, 2014
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The Indians' bullpen has rarely in recent memory been so stable as to inspire any serious confidence. With Axford at the back end of the bullpen, confidence remains occasionally elusive - but given the contours of his breaking ball, it's a heck of a show to watch.

Beyond Axford, however, aesthetics were quite difficult to come by in Saturday's 2-0 game. Outfield range proved elusive, scarce was infield defense: barring Lonnie Chisenhall's opposite-field double, every single one of Cleveland's eight baserunners would have reached on either an error, HBP, walk, or single - the team had only a singular extra base on the day.

Yet two exceptions arose from this otherwise painful Saturday game.

The J-Ram Rises

The fifth inning of Saturday's game was far and away its most tumultuous. With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the fifth, it took an unassisted double play by Nick Swisher to send an altogether quite lucky Indians club to the bottom of the fifth - wherein Jose Ramirez proceeded to lay down a bunt.

The author does not necessarily oppose bunts. Sacrifice bunts, certainly, are nothing if not tools of vice and sin; however, when dropped by batters such as Ramirez or Bourn, bunts with the intent of singling are quite effective. And on Saturday, we saw the excitement that we might expect Jose Ramirez to bring. Upon dropping a bunt, Flowers made a throw that would have been a close play were it on line - but ended up as an error. Joseph A. Bunts came to the plate with the intent of receiving one base, but he received a second free. It was Ramirez who, later in the inning, then proceeded to score the second and final run of the game. Were Masterson and the bullpen less on-point, that run by Ramirez likely would have proven decisive.

In the aftermath of the Kipnis injury, Jose Ramirez's ascent was the only reasonable choice - yet it's far from assured that Ramirez is merely a depth option. While his power is far outstripped by that of Kipnis, Ramirez remains a wholly intriguing option by virtue of his speed and contact ability. Upon Kipnis's return, Ramirez will likely return to AAA - but the impression he makes in his stint in the big leagues is paramount in determining the fate of a second baseman in an organization with genuinely impressive organizational depth in the middle infield.

In sum, while it's unclear whether Jose Ramirez is the Second Baseman of the Future or the Second Baseman of All Spacetime, he shall surely make the next three to five weeks a pleasant month in the field - not that there's anything wrong with the -25.3 UZR/150 at second base that Jason Kipnis has 'showcased,' (note: there are indeed a great many things wrong with a -25.3 UZR/150) but Jose Ramirez injected a genuine fire into the Cleveland Indians when he debuted in September 2013 as a pinch-running 20-year-old. Kipnis may be a perennial fringe all-star candidate, but for now, the show belongs to Jose Ramirez. Sit back and enjoy.

Please: Any Adjective Other Than Masterful

To call Justin Masterson an 'effective' groundball pitcher is to vastly undersell his divet-creation competency. On Saturday, 61.1% of the balls put in play against Masterson were groundballs, a rate that would have been second among all qualified pitchers' Ground Ball rates. Saturday's performance was a decrease from his previous season average of 62.1%, behind the entirely puzzling Astros starter Dallas Keuchel.

Masterson's career to this point has been an enigma surrounded by Foucault's prose - it's never made sense if one had the patience to try to decipher it. Masterson has struggled with his walk rate (2012-14) and his strikeout rate (2010-12), but there's never been any clear and consistent strength or weakness - beyond his consistently excellent Ground Ball rate. Thus far in 2014, he is 2nd in Ground Ball rate - in 2013, he was first in the majors, and in 2012, 6th. Induction of ground balls has been Masterson's guiding strength.

Unfortunate, then, that Masterson is condemned to stand on the mound, while statues in the form of Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera stare stoically at the plate.

On Saturday, Masterson had, in fact, rather good BABIP luck, with balls in play allowing baserunners only at a .222 rate - substantially better than both the league average of .298 and Masterson's 2014 average of .333. On a night when Masterson struck out very few opposing batters - only 6 over 7.1 IP - his favorable BABIP was necessary to hold the lead for an offense that eked out but two runs against a White Sox pitching staff and defense that struck out no Tribe batsmen and surrendered baserunners via the error at even the most unlikely of turns.

It appeared, on the aggregate, that Masterson's good BABIP fortune on Saturday merely was good fortune - weak contact, balls hit directly at Lonnie and Asdrubal, for instance - but it's equally possible that the continued presence of Jose Ramirez at the keystone, in the upcoming weeks, may help ensure that Masterson's elite Ground Ball rates are not wasted in front of an infield that is incapable of fielding for him.

The logical extension of this, of course, is that the Indians should then proceed to call up Francisco Lindor to help. Not that calling up a AA batter is inherently a no-doubt move - however, writers more qualified than the present author have made the argument. The author can hardly object on grounds of team efficacy.

And if calling up Lindor were to hypothetically improve the aesthetics of Indians' games - all the better.

John can be reached on Twitter at @JHGrimmHe can also be reached by e-mail at john.h.grimm@hotmail.com.

User Comments

Joe Chengery
May 6, 2014 - 9:04 PM EDT
MT88,

I think Ramirez could fit that role for now while they plan to transition Kipnis back to the OF, but within the next two years at the latest, I think a Ramirez to 2B on a permanent basis could be in the works. Ramirez could help Kipnis, Lindor, and Chisenhall/Santana (if Santana isn't moved off 3B back to 1B/DH) next year, but I'd like to see his capabilities as a full-time starter at one position; very few players can excel moving around the infield, and I think Ramirez has more ability than just a "super-sub."
Hermie13
May 5, 2014 - 9:33 AM EDT
Very torn on the "call up Lindor" argument. His defense would be a huge improvement over Cabrera's, no doubt about that and think we'd all agree (well maybe not quite all). Lindor would probably be a 1-2 win player simply based on defense alone.

However...the other part of me is very worried about ruining him by rushing him too quick. Tribe rushed Brandon Phillips, a plus defender....ended up stalling in AAA and we lost him for virtually nothing. We rushed Chisenhall...and took him several years to (hopefully) finally put things together. Rushed LaPorta, rushed Andy Marte...

Really when you look at the Tribe the two big time prospects they didn't rush were Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis. Waited til June to call up Santana (after giving him time in AAA despite many wanting him up before) and waited even later in the season to call up Kipnis, despite just about everyone crying for him to be up sooner. Was it simply staying in the minors that kept them from busting/struggling? No, don't believe so but I do believe that it helped them.

So while a part of me wants to see Lindor up now and feel he'd be at least an Alcides Escobar type....bigger part of me wants the Tribe to take their time with him as he can be a Jimmy Rollins MVP type of shortstop IMO.


If you want to improve the defense at SS then start Aviles. He's no Lindor at short but he's a plus defender there and has shown in the past he can be an effective starter at the position.
MT88 in WI
May 4, 2014 - 10:54 PM EDT
JoeC - I understand you points about Kipnis vs JRam but I think JRam has more potential to be a Tony Phillips type of floater... Playing all other the place at solid to above average levels so that others rest or rotate thru being the DH for that day....

I think there is room for both on the team moving forward...
Joe Chengery
May 4, 2014 - 10:18 PM EDT
The concerns with both Bourn and Kipnis' injuries are that they are the types of injuries that tend to linger without the proper rest. That is why I give Kipnis the three-five weeks needed, while giving Bourn at least a few weeks off; by then, the weather will warm up to hopefully where it will not be a hindrance to Bourn's hamstring and it will fully heal. We should be fine, if not better, with Morgan and Ramirez.

And Mark me down as one who would like to see Ramirez as the Indians' second baseman of the future, not Kipnis. The only area where Kipnis would hold an advantage would be power, and that advantage may not be as great of an advantage as one might think, since I think Kipnis may be no more than a 15-20 HR guy, maybe 20-25 (personally think under 20 than over); I think Ramirez could be a 5-10 HR guy, maybe 10-15 guy, so the advantage wouldn't be that great.

Add in that Ramirez projects to hit for a higher average because of better speed and equal or better plate discipline, plus better defense, and I think Ramirez fits better at 2B long term than Kipnis. Kipnis can be shifted back to the OF, his natural position, and being that Brantley is the only long-term OF and there are questions about both Naquin and Moncrief (most still think Naquin is a fourth OF, as is Holt), and there would likely be room out there. Plus, Kipnis could probably be average to above-average in LF, maybe RF, better than he would be at 2B, where he projects to be no more than average.

It could work; I just hope the Indians are willing to give that opportunity; I don't want Ramirez traded for a marginal short-term upgrade for the rotation (I.e. Samardzjia) or elsewhere; if it's for a significant, impactful player, I'd consider that, but not some questionable, short-term fix.
yourtribe
May 4, 2014 - 4:17 PM EDT
Cl, you may be right, but it doesn't change my point that axford is possibly worse than Perez.
C L Who
May 4, 2014 - 4:15 PM EDT
Yourtribe, Axford didn't leave himself in the game after a 4 pitch walk to open, or after the second walk. That required managerial consent. This one's on Terry.
yourtribe
May 4, 2014 - 3:50 PM EDT
And the hitting still stinks.
yourtribe
May 4, 2014 - 3:50 PM EDT
This axford stiff makes Perez look like m. Rivera.
C L Who
May 4, 2014 - 3:05 PM EDT
Bring up Lindor? This is sacrilege to Terry and the FO. Remember this is a team that inexplicably keeps Big G on the roster.....that doesn't regularly play the best current hitter on the roster.....that sends Morgan down in favor of Bourn rather than keeping both on the roster.....that won't bring up Aguilar and let Swisher share 1B duties with him. I understand why the FO wants its big contract players to play over the major league minimum players, but must the big contract players play every game? Perhaps they would play better when better rested.
shy
May 4, 2014 - 2:52 PM EDT
Grimm, I was actually an andvanced placement English Lit student at OSU long ago and far away, I'm just razzin' ya'. I do however seriously believe that some of Clint Eastwood's lines are as universal and durable as Shakespeare. For example, it was Santayana or maybe Descartes who wrote "Life is a constant struggle between vice and virtue, passion and prudence, the sacred and the profane" But it was Dirty Harry who reduced it so eloquently- " "There is a dark side in all of us. Some of us give in to it, some of us control it, most of us just walk tightrope"
John Grimm
May 4, 2014 - 12:40 PM EDT
Why I love baseball fans: they add to your reading list. I appreciate that.

Still, I don't know of any way Foucault's prose could in any way be described as 'accessible.' One can certainly get through it, but it's as though he's browbeating you into submission through terrible prose - Zizek-lite, in that sense.
Tondo
May 4, 2014 - 12:34 PM EDT
If Foucault is a "nightmare to read" and a "mystery", you should never touch a Deleuze book, probably the Liriano among philosophers ;-) Both are good reads and worth the hedache though
Seth
May 4, 2014 - 12:21 PM EDT
Grimm is clearly a disciple of Carson Cistulli
John Grimm
May 4, 2014 - 12:03 PM EDT
'Sin and vice' because I feel about the same about sacrifice bunts as Mountain Landis felt about alcohol.

'Foucault' because the French philosopher's writing is completely and totally impenetrable. It's a nightmare to try to read because the sentences are so extended, tortured and disjointed - so what he's actually saying is frequently a mystery.

Similar to how Masterson's career arc has *also* been a mystery.
shy
May 4, 2014 - 11:54 AM EDT
I'm liking the Morgan in center. He's .280 lifetime and seems to thrive on the bigger stage- timing is everything and this could be his time. The Indians winning percentage w him in the lineup was .600 and.400 w Bourn. I think anybody w eyes could see Michael Bourn has not been full speed for going on 2 years. I got a good look at him warming up and playing against the Giants and he was definitely favoring the left leg and unable to fully accelerate. You have to think he's done for the immediate future and wonder if he will ever return to the high speed game of his earlier years. Let's see if the tribe can get back on that roll now w the sparky Tony Plush.. And hopefully, Moncrief and Myles will start turning some heads behind him. Hey JH Grimm, I'm still scratching my head over the bunting is nothing if not sin and vice line and the Foucalt reference. You gotta realize, if the line didn't come from a Dirty Harry movie, we probably don't know what you're talkin' about.
Walter
May 4, 2014 - 11:14 AM EDT
Morgan is in the starting lineup today playing CF. Hagadone sent back to Columbus. Kottaras also in the lineup.

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