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A few random thoughts:
Civale continues to over achieve. I think he was even better than his pitching line today, as there were a couple of "hit 'em where they ain't" hits. I think his BABIP was .400 on the day. And he's getting more Ks than experts have projected, which should raise his ceiling if he can continue to miss bats at such a high frequency.
One thing that I observed is that he wasn't pitching at the top of the zone as much today as he did last year, when he seemed to be able to paint the top of the zone, and just above and/or outside the zone, with his FB and cutter. I wonder whether this was intentional and is a change in his approach going forward, or just specific to today's opponent?
IMO, Clevinger's FB isn't the same this year. It was the reason he was special last year, as hitter's had difficulty making contact regardless of where he threw it in the zone, and even when they made contact, it usually wasn't solid contact. And his breaking/offspeed pitches benefitted from the elite quality of his FB. I'm hoping that he's still rounding into shape following his knee surgery.
I'm not encouraged by Lindor's at-bats. He's still chasing pitches.
The only person that will hold Karinchak back is Karinchak. Hitters just don't seem to be able to make contact with his pitches, and they continue to swing under his high, out-of-zone, FB. And he's effectively wild. But, a little better control would be nice, and it would reduce his pitch count, which would allow him to get into more games.
Zimmer has me cautiously optimistic.
I haven't seen enough of Zimmer and Mercado in the OF to conclude who's the better fielder. But, that play Mercado made in the 8th inning of the 2nd game was excellent. He's got speed, reacts quickly, and takes a direct route to the ball. In the last 12 months, his defense has improved noticeably. Now he has to show that he won't regress on offense.
Francona's getting the most out his BP coming out of the gate. I was a bit surprised he had Cam Hill closing out the 2nd game. His stuff isn't over powering, but he was locating his breaking pitch well.
I don't know why people think Civale is overachieving. Maybe his stuff is that good. He's held the opponents to two earned runs or less in 10 of 11 starts. People keep saying he's not that good - nobody is. Well, maybe the league figures him out, but he throws five pitches and commands them all.
Lindor was chasing pitches the first two games but has calmed down since then and has gotten ahead in some counts. After going 2-for-14 against KC he's 3-for-8 against the White Sox with a double and a home run.
Zimmer's bat has been great so far. A home run yesterday followed by a bases loaded, two-out, two-strike single against a lefty reliever brought in to get him out. Just a great piece of hitting as he tracked the pitch deep into the zone and slapped it into left field.
He was definitely uncomfortable going back on that deep fly ball, however. He looked back to see where the fence was, came to almost a complete stop, the stutter-stepped and jumped for the ball, which got over his glove and landed on the warning track. He clearly didn't want to crash into the wall and I don't blame him after missing a year-and-a-half to injury.
Mercado, OTOH, also glanced back, saw where the wall was, and climbed it to make a spectacular catch on a much more difficult play. A big difference from Zimmer, who let a catchable ball fall untouched short of the wall. At this point I like Mercado in center much better. Zimmer's cannon for an arm would be a good fit in right field.
I agree re: Civale and “being overachieving”. Civale was drafted ahead of Bieber and many felt he was the better prospect at that time. He may actually be a really good pitcher. He’s got some work to do to keep up with Bieber, though...
I didn't think my comment about Civale would be so controversial. LOL. His "critics" noted that he over achieved last year vis-a-vis what his swing-and-miss numbers would indicate. He had a K/9 rate of just over 7, and it was believed that he would likely regress without an improvement of this number, and that his stuff probably wouldn't allow him to do so to any great degree.
Yet, in ST1 and ST2, Civale improved his swing-and-miss numbers, and he has continued this in his first start of the season. I would note that he's relying more on his offspeed stuff so far, and only 22% of his pitches were FBs. That's a rather surprising stat - from any starting pitcher. I don't know if that was due to a change in approach that he's going to use going forward, or if it was a specific plan of attack against the White Sox who had difficulty with Civale's CB. We'll have to wait and see.
Regarding the Zimmer vs Mercado issue, I prefer to see them over a longer period of time and allow Zimmer to readjust to playing in the majors. And I would note that he's normally a CF who's being asked to play LF and RF. He may have to get used to the dimensions out there, particularly in LF, both at Progressive Field, as well as other parks.
re: Zimmer, I’d much prefer that he be a bit more cautious than Having him return to his “hell bent on self-destruction” prior defensive approach. Lol!
His new stance seems, at this very early stage, to be allowing him to make more consistent contact. I’m liking what I see thus far.
I jokingly posted on Twitter Zimmer would be a comeback player of the year winner. It could be he is a serious contender. He's looked good at the plate, and the newest approach is working for now. Time will tell, but he has plenty of tools. Right now, I like the way he's used.
Two series down and I'm liking what I see. Some thoughts:
Zimmer looks really good so far. The swing has seemingly cut down his contact issues. In the 9th I was sure he would strike out down 1-2 to Colome but he worked a walk and fouled off some tough pitches.
Hand is the object of hate right now. But Karinchak, much as I root for him, hasn't shown it yet. 12 K/9 is good, and he was at 13.5 last year. But 6 BB/9 isn't going to cut it. That lack of control mattered less in the minors when his K rate was an eye-popping 20+ per 9. For right now, if you're arguing against Hand as closer you're basically putting Wittgren in. Wittgren has a proven track record and has been good so far this year.
Plutko had a decent game. The lack of strikeouts and the tendency to give up homers will always put a ceiling on him. But he's good to have around. I do hope they trade him this offseason but I'm glad for him right now. Hard to feel confident about Logan Allen or Triston McKenzie stepping up when we have no idea what they're doing in Lake County.
The rotation is fantastic and they seemingly made a point to stay sharp on the layoff. My biggest question mark was Plesac, but 11 Ks and 0 walks is huge for him. He very clearly has the arsenal, and if he's found his control he has a lot more upside than Civale (who was better last year).
The offense is hot and cold, nothing new. Domingo hasn't looked terrible defensively, and they have some very good defenders out there in general. I will note something, quoting from the Lets Go Tribe write up on the Giolito/Plesac game:
" Last year Lucas Giolito bragged about easy it was to face Indians batters — just keep flipping between fastballs and changeups and those foolish fools never adjusted. Surely he couldn’t repeat that again, right? Surely the Indians have a coach on staff who can tell them to — I don’t know — expect a changeup here and there?
Forty of Giolito’s 85 pitches were changeups, 41 were fastballs, and the Indians never seemed to know what was coming. He has a good changeup, sure, but needless to say he doesn’t typically use it 50% of the time. That kind of usage is saved for the one lineup that came seem to adjust to it whatsoever."
Giolito's changeup is weird. He intentionally throws it high in the zone and seemingly the Indians cannot figure that out. It seems to be an odd Achilles heel.
On to a very crucial series with Minnesotta.
Edit: One more thing, I fully expect James Hoyt to be claimed, likely by the Marlins. The Marlins haven't disclosed everyone who tested positive but rumor is the pitching staff was hit heavily. With Hoyt being on the wire and them having spots open/a need because of the breakout, it's very likely he gets claimed. If he doesn't, then he truly has no value to any team.
Giolito is up to 20.1 innings against the Indians with still no earned runs allowed. They have no clue against this guy. So his secret is to change speeds on every pitch? Brilliant! Somebody should tell the Indians hitters about this.
Didn't see the game but I read that Lindor struck out with a runner on third and nobody out. I assume he swung at a breaking ball in the dirt?
The Indians starters have 53 K's and 3 walks. Unbelievable! And that's using six different starters. It's not like they've had a couple rainouts and only used their top three starters so far. The starters' ERA is 1.85 and they held opponents to two runs or less for 6+ innings in six straight games to open the season - first time it's been done in the majors in 27 years. Wow!
But we're only 4-2 thanks to the bats which are getting off slowly despite the warm weather.
The pitching will be tested, though. Through six games (10% of the season) the Twins, Cubs, and Reds rank 1-3 in runs per game. The next eight games are against the Twins and Reds. We're heading into the gauntlet. The gaudy pitching numbers won't hold up so the bats better start kicking in. These next eight games will be a true test of how good our staff really is.
There is a lot of skepticism about Civale and Plesac going into the season but in their first starts they were outstanding. So far, so good.
The starting pitching staff has been amazing. It's disappointing to see them fail to make adjustments at the plate.
If I recall correctly, Lindor hit .238 last year with runners on base. So, the struggles continue
IMO, the 8-game suspension the MLB handed out to Joe Kelly is ridiculous. That's the equivalent to 21.6 games in a normal 162-game season. And Kelly didn't even hit a player, nor did it appear he intended to. It also seems that Kelly's being penalized for being unprofessional. I also think that Manfred is partially responsible for this whole situation as the penalty handed out to Houston didn't match the crime. That's one of the reasons that the Dodgers and others are so pissed at the Astros.
MLB is trying to show force to dissuade teams/players from taking revenge against the Astros. 8 games would be a lot in normal years, but it's truly excessive in a short season. I know Kelly is a hothead and has previous history of throwing at people. I get what they're trying to do, it's just dumb. It reopens the old wounds and opens up old criticisms.
Manfred has been a disappointment. His heavy-handed approached was not necessary. Though they did warn teams, they'd be penalized for taking justice into their own hands.
Bieber was really masterful last night. He had excellent FB command early in the game, and it set up the repeated use of his CB and other pitches later. He's also got a cutter now, and I don't recall one hitter that made contact with it, and maybe not even a swing. And they all were seemingly on the black.
Josh Donaldson was gracious and complimentary of Bieber on a night when he went down on strikes 3 times on CBs. He gave Bieber a scouting grade of 70 out of 80 for the superb command he had on all of his pitches, but particularly his FB. He also noted that Bieber's CB has some deception to it. I don't know if he meant that it's difficult to pick up the spin out of his hand, or that he throws it in the the same tunnel as his FB and other pitches, causing a delay in pitch recognition. Maybe both. Regardless, it was obvious that Donaldson was having trouble with the pitch, particularly in his 3rd AB when he whiffed on a full-count CB that was well below the strike zone. And Bieber makes it more difficult as he throws one CB that end up in the zone, and another that he throws in the dirt.
Karinchak took my advice and threw more strikes. LOL. Seriously, he's got good enough stuff that he can throw both his pitches in the zone without too much worry that hitters will be able to square them up. His "rising" FB caused Donaldson and Polanco to pop up for the last 2 outs of the game - after Karinchak got Kepler to swing-and-miss on a 3rd strike CB. And the more consistently Karinchak throws his FB in the zone, the more I think hitters will also be enticed to go after FBs above the zone.
He only threw 6 pitches to get 3 outs last night. So, maybe he'll be available for tonight's game.
Now can get into Frankie's ear about chasing pitches down, lol! While you're at it, convince him to take a team discount deal too.
Bieber is a surgeon on the mound with exact precision. I believe the deception you refer to is both tunneling and the movement. Talked to a friend and he said those two things stuck out last night.
This from The Athletic's Keith Law - "Civale looks like he’s a fifth starter all the way, but if Plesac can maintain this kind of fastball command he’s got a good chance to be league-average or better."
I'll reserve my judgement on Civale until I see him one or two more times, but my initial reaction to Law's observation is that Civale's stuff, control/command, and pitchability make him more than a #5 SP. In my previous comment about him, I noted that he pitched differently against the White Sox than I recall him pitching last year. I want to see him over a stretch over a couple of more games to see how he's evolved from his rookie season. I will note that his FB velo was about 1 tick below last year, when it was 0.1 mph below league average (92.7) for SPs. I hope he can increase that a bit as he gets more innings under his belt.
Regarding Plesac, Law noted that Plesac's FB is average in velo and has little movement. But that it plays up due to sequencing and good command of the pitch. He also notes that his CB and SL are both swing-and-miss pitches notwithstanding low spin rates. And by the way, as with Civale, Plesac's FB velo was down about 1 mph from last year, from 94.0 to about 93.