With the wind whipping in from center field tonight in Detroit, Cleveland never lifted its offense off of the ground. The Tigers took the first game of the series 7-1 thanks to a shellacking of Trevor Bauer and the Indians ongoing inability to hit left-handed pitching. Bauer falls to 2-3 on the season, while the Indians have now lost 8 games against left-handed starters.
The war in the Pacific has not necessarily developed in Japan’s favor
— Emperor Hirohito, describing WWII
Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war
— Donald Rumsfeld, describing opposition to the invasion of Iraq
Those 3 run homers really hurt you.
— Rick Manning, discussing Trevor Bauer tonight
The beginning of tonight's game does feel like one of the instances where understatement is the only option. Language is not well-equipped to describe the depths of disaster, so why not crank up the irony?
The "somewhat suboptimal" performance appeared to stem from Bauer's fastball. On pitches very near the edge of the strike zone, Bauer found no luck. This struggle to locate early in the count handed the advantage to hitters, who converted with hits or walks. Later, Bauer began to throw toward the center of the zone, which worked about as well as you would expect. Here's how the strategy paid off, both in gif and box score.
Things didn't get much better later on as Bauer floundered into the fifth before leaving the game. Victor Martinez laid down a beautiful bunt against the shift for a single, Justin Upton doubled. Bauer earned both runs when Zach McAllister allowed a single to Alex Avila. To further underline the struggle, the Tyler Collins home run went 430 feet into a 20 MPH headwind. Furthermore, the doubles by Castellanos and Upton would have been home runs on any other night and in several other ballparks, as both carried nearly 400 feet.
Look: if you search this blog for the terms "Bauer" and "inconsistent," you're going to get about 100,031 results. I don't want this recap to become result 100,032†. I also don't believe it's time to start discussing Bauer's return to the bullpen. We know that he'll have nights like this that are buffered by eight-inning shutouts. At the season's end, his numbers will probably be slightly above average for a starting pitcher.
Is this what front offices around baseball expect out of a high first-round draft pick with excellent stuff? No, but I also wonder how long the expectations that come with a lofty draft slot need to be held over a player's head. I don't know the answer to this, but I worry that it might be around ten years, especially for a player who continues to show flashes of his ceiling.
Final Bauer thoughts: maybe he won't ever be an elite starter. That's fine. Maybe he'll only ever be a solid three or four in a rotation. That's okay. The interesting scenario to ponder is one in which Bauer is used like a right-handed version of Andrew Miller. Both have been promising starting pitchers in their career that struggled with inconsistency. One has found his calling as one of the best relievers on the planet. If Bauer's value would be higher in a similar role, the Indians would do well to pursue it.
The problem is that it's impossible to know, and the value of a dominant starter is several times that of a relief ace.
Famously bad predictions
Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein
— Dick Rowe, refusing to sign The Beatles to a record deal
Computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh only 1.5 tons
— Popular Mechanics, discussing the future of computing in 1949
The Indians [will] finally slaughter a left-handed pitcher tonight, and reach the Tigers' bullpen by the third inning.
— Matt Schlichting, writer of this recap, several hours ago.
I take full responsibility for the outcome of this game, guys. In the pregame, I talked about how Norris is a slightly below-average starter, and that the Indians would finally break out of their "slump" against southpaws. Oh well.
I don't think the Indians are actually incapable of hitting lefties. Here are a few reasons why.
- Coming into tonight the team's BABIP when facing lefties was .249. You don't necessarily expect that value to hover around .300 for just one handedness, but that number is certainly due for some positive regression: the Indians enjoyed a BABIP of .319 against them last season.
- wRC+ coming into tonight against lefties was 85, although it's lower now. Last season, the Indians finished with a perfectly average 100 wRC+
- It just doesn't make any goddamn sense what the hell is going on? The thing that makes it even more infuriating is that the Indians don't have any left-handed starters of their own.
Other items of note
- Francisco Lindor committed his third error of the season. Some people's heads are probably exploding, but he made twelve last season and the his pace isn't really that much faster this year. Also, he's hitting all those glorious dingers.
- Michael Brantley drew two walks and raised his OBP to .371, which is very near his 2014 season total of .385.
- Jose Ramirez turned a spectacular double play in the bottom of the third that saved Bauer from surrendering yet more runs. Jim Adduci ripped a line drive that, according to Statcast, should result in one out only 31% of the time, let alone two.
- Michael Martinez reached base twice.
- The Indians twitter made a joke about the Tigers stealing signs, and apparently it went over everyone's head. Either that, or Tigers fans just can't take a joke. Which is strange, really, since they keep watching that team.