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A close examination of one Cleveland Indians play: Francisco Lindor's double

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Francisco Lindor worked the count and squeezed a double out of Steven Matz on a day when the young lefty was nearly unhittable.

David Maxwell/Getty Images

In the first edition of what I've just now decided will be a series, we watched Yan Gomes snipe Avisail Garcia at first. Today, we're going to take a close look at one of the few bright spots for the Indians on Sunday: Francisco Lindor's double to lead off the top of the fourth inning. I'm stretching the definition of "play", here, but I think we can all agree that an at-bat can count as a play. It's not like I'm trying to cram 8 1/2 minutes of tape into a 30-40 second highlight.

Let's take it pitch by pitch.

Pitch #1: 94 mph sinker, strike. 0-1 count.


Pitch1Lind

I'm going with the Pitch F/X descriptions throughout. For what it's worth, here's what Brooks Baseball has to say about Mr. Matz's entire arsenal:

In 2016, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (94mph), also mixing in a Slider (88mph), Change (84mph) and Curve (78mph).

[...]

His fourseam fastball generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has an obvious tail, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has some natural sinking action and has well above average velo.

So. Is it a fastball? Is it a sinker? Either way, this first one is clearly meant to challenge Lindor. For most of the game Matz elected to throw first pitch strikes and attempt to get in front of Indians hitters. He succeeded. Lindor — and who knows if he actually wanted to do it or if he was faking — reached out to bunt at the pitch and then pulled away. There are certain writers at this website who feel somewhat strongly about Lindor's predilection for the bunt. In his defense, Lindor would have been bunting for a hit here, and we saw exactly how effective that can be when Asdrubal Cabrera did it in the second inning.

It's upsetting to see him give up a first pitch strike like this, but knowing what Lindor can do when he swings, I don't mind him pulling away.

Pitch #2: 94 mpg sinker, ball. 1-1 count.


Pitch2Lind

Based entirely on glove position here, Matz might have missed his mark. A low sinker tailing in isn't an easy pitch for anyone to deal with, but it gets away from him. Lindor appears to see it very early; there's never a moment where I think he even considers swinging at this. He even shifts away with the classic butt-thrust ball-dodge. Because of the way I needed to describe this, can we all agree that we ought to come up with a better word or phrase for the motion?

Pitch #3: 94 mph sinker, ball. 2-1 count.



Now, things get interesting in this at-bat. Matz's pitch goes up and away, and I wonder if he intended for it to be a ball. He grooved a strike, and then went down and in. Now, he goes up and away. He's changing the eye level and position over the plate, presumably attempting to keep Lindor from guessing correctly on the next pitch. However, I doubt he meant to hand Lindor a 2-1 count. The glove again pops far away from the target, which, if it's intentional, is Maddux-level stuff. For the sake of everyone in baseball, I pray that Matz isn't a super-wizard like Maddux.

Pitch #4: 94 mph sinker, ball. 3-1 count.



Similar pitch to the last, now. While Lindor has proven that he's someone to reckon with in the batters box, I think that this is supposed to be the strike. Matz threw up and away last time, and meant to come back with a similar-looking pitch for a strike to even the count at 2-2. If true, this is one of the very few times he missed his mark in the game, and it would also be twice in the same at-bat. We have to assume that he meant to catch the inside corner on the second pitch, so he tries to set himself up to get the second strike another way.

Somewhere, Maddux is smiling, twisting the Gandalf-level beard he has surely grown since retiring.

Pitch #5: 94 mph sinker, fouled back. 3-2 count.



Now, Matz has to attack the plate. Although, this one too may have been called a ball. Given that its is 3-1, it would have probably been called a strike; this is the kind of pitch that looks much differently to an umpire depending on the count. Lindor swats after it and fouls it off behind the plate.

Lindor has not been around for long. It's difficult for me to say if a fastball up and away, but over the plate, is the kind of pitch he likes. There are some who suggest that this kind of pitch is exactly what he's looking for from a left-handed pitcher. Either way, it's a good cut, if a little bit off-balance. We can all be happy that it is not another bunt attempt.

TIE THOSE SHOES STEVEN.



Steven Matz's cleat came untied. Somewhere in the fabric of space-time, the spirit of John Wooden is thrashing uncontrollably. "How can you focus on the game if you're worried about your shoe coming off?!" he shouts, accidentally sending Gliese-589c into its sun with the force of his cry. 

In time, the universe will agree with Wooden, despite the 4.5 billions lives lost. Tie your damn shoes.

Pitch #6: 93 mph sinker, double to right center.



Here, Matz finally finds the plate with the up and away pitch. Unfortunately, he's shown it to Lindor so many times now that he's ready for it. 

Let's just take a moment to consider: Matz threw six straight sinkers to Lindor. For all of the work he might have done to change his eye level, brush him off of the plate, or otherwise thwart his expectations, he never thought to go off-speed.

My knowledge comes to a halt here again; perhaps this is the case of a young pitcher deferring to his catcher. Except, no, Kevin Plawecki is only 25 years old with 76 total MLB games under his belt. It is in this moment that I must appreciate what Matz did for the rest of the game. This is his first full season in the majors. I'm not privy to the assistance that the coaching staff gives to calling pitches in the Big Leagues, but regardless, Matz showed some serious promise today as he dismantled the Tribe.

Lindor? This is his second double on the season. He's played spectacular defense thus far, and — just in case anyone forgot — he is only 22 years old.

I look forward to many, many more full count doubles over the course of his career.