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Indians waste stellar Zach Plesac start

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The 2-0 loss concludes a series loss on the south side of Chicago.

Cleveland Indians v Chicago White Sox Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Zach Plesac pitched for seven innings today, walked one, struck out seven, and allowed four hits and a run. He earned his first career loss because the Indians did not score any runs.

Pitcher wins aren’t the best stat, but they aren’t entirely useless. Here is one example in which they can be a valuable lens through which to view the game:

This is only the seventh time this season that a pitcher went at least seven innings, allowed only one earned run, and still managed to pick up a losing decision. He is only the third to do it while allowing only five baserunners.

Remarkable things are possible when your offense is as helpless as the 2019 Cleveland Indians’. For example, Brad Miller is still fourth on the team in OPS.

But isn’t Lucas Giolito a good pitcher?

We can’t really know that yet, can we? He’s always been a top prospect, showing elite stuff on multiple pitches. But, in his largest sample size at the major leagues (last season) he led the American League in earned runs and walks. So far this season he’s shown that he might deliver on the sky-high promise he showed as a prospect, but isn’t everyone capable of appearing that way against the Indians right now? Twice, the Indians grounded into inning-ending double plays with the tying run either at first or at the plate. Those represented two of the four runners stranded.

Lindor is pretty much the only player that showed up at the plate today. He singled to start the game, then added another hit before doubling to lead off the top of the ninth. That’s exactly what you want your star player to do! Set the table in a key spot! Give the rest of the top of the batting order a chance to send this game into extra innings!

The next three hitters went in order, although Lindor did manage to make it all the way to third, the only player to do so on the afternoon. Progress, you guys! Progress for a team with the sixth-fewest runs in all of baseball at the time of this post.

Why does everything hurt so much?

Because I’m overly-invested in a baseball team that has become the very thing that I refused to believe it would become.

Despite an overabundance of evidence during the offseason — we’re all intimately familiar with the details at this point — I held out belief that the Indians would still manage to win the division without trial.

Well, check it out, motherfuckers: the Indians are tied for second place in the division with the largest gap between first and second in all of baseball.

Aren’t the Twins going to regress?

They might. Probability says that they should, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to. Or, even if they do, that it will be enough to make a difference. Remember that Rangers team from a few years back with an almost-even run differential that managed to win virtually all of its one-run games? Teams have entire seasons where everything breaks their way. The opposite is also true, and so far we’re looking at a fun science-experiment season where one team of each happens to exist in the same division. Neat!

Despite my overwhelmingly negative outlook on the season, I think it’s too early to make any drastic changes. Note that I think calling up the guy who leads the International League in home runs (Bobby Bradley) doesn’t feel very drastic. Nor does putting out to pasture (or at least benching) a second baseman whose bat is no longer good enough to put into the lineup every day.

There are other similar tweaks available to this team that might keep it in contention for a wild card spot. Or, if certain former MVP and Cy Young candidates return even halfway to form, a decent shot at threatening a backsliding Twins team.

Do we really have a realistic chance to catch up?

It’s going to take a whole lot to break this team’s way, folks. We’re looking at some good-old-fashioned regression, some bold choices by the front office, and a healthy team for the rest of the season in order for this to happen.

I joked in a game thread earlier this season that the Indians might need a cardboard cutout in the clubhouse, a la Major League. This season, it would be fitting if the cutout is Paul Dolan saying “Enjoy him”, and for every win the players add a piece of clothing to his bare figure.

I’d love to look back at the tone of my conversations and posts sometime in the late fall and laugh. Laugh, feeling so foolish about panicking over a team that simply took too long to click; that, when it finally had no other choice, surged late like every other Francona Indians team; that never became an offensive juggernaut but found enough runs to support its league-best pitching staff —

— but it takes a whole lot of imagination to even think of that vantage point right now.