Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Gang That Couldn't Pitch Straight

There are many reasons why the Indians find themselves in last place more than one month into the season.

The offense is sporadic and bumbling -- they either strike out or hit homers. The team leader in RBIs (DeRosa) is batting in the low .200s, the leadoff hitter (Sizemore) leads the team in homeruns, our most powerful hitter (Hafner) is on the DL after it looked like he was FINALLY getting back into hitting shape, our second most powerful hitter (Peralta) is in a woeful season-long slump, and the team's overall fundamental approach to hitting is laughable; I can practically guarantee that no other team can match the Tribe's propensity to strand guys who get on second with none out or third with one out or less.

The defense is astoundingly poor, due in no small part to management's insistence on slapping together an alignment eerily reminiscent of a patchwork quilt put together by a blind guy. At any given time, the Tribe will field a catcher at first base, a shortstop at second, a third baseman at short, a DH at third, and a utility infielder in left. It's a miracle they don't throw out the one-armed man from The Fugitive (let's not forget that whole saga was inspired by a real-life murder that took place in Cleveland) in right field.

The starting pitching is similar to the hitting, as epitomized by Lee, Pavano, and even Laffey's outings: they either produce what I call high-quality outings, where they go 7+ innings while giving up two or less runs, or they get shelled early. Carmona's sinker isn't sinking, and Reyes has been a huge disappointment.

The situational managing has also been atrocious. I can't remember the last time the team manufactured a run, executed a successful hit-and-run (and some of the guys on the team can both hit AND run -- wake up, Wedge!), or even called for a timely pitch-out. What about pitching substutions? I'm so glad you asked, since this leads us to...

The Bullpen From Hell. This unit is, by far, the biggest reason for the Tribe's sorry showing thus far. How bad is the current crop of "relievers"? I'm looking back on the days of Ernie Camacho, Dave Otto, and Scott Scudder with something approaching nostalgia. It's hard to believe that the bullpen actually got worse once the team finally got rid of the human grease fire known as Joe Borowski... but they did. After yesterday afternoon's collapse, where The Gang That Couldn't Pitch Straight gave up a hard-fought lead for what seemps like the fiftieth time this year (and this estimate might not be too far off, as they give up leads multiple times a game), the bullpen's collective ERA is a ghastly 6.50, and they lead the league in blown saves by a wide margin. Even with the mediocre starting pitching, the Tribe's hit-or-miss offense has managed to keep them in games and/or give them the lead numerous times, only to have The Bullpen From Hell give it back without recording nary an out. Up until recently, the only decent relievers on the roster were two dudes named "Sipp" and "Chulk," and they both managed to catch the pitching equivalent of the Swine Flu yesterday, combining to produce a seven-run Toronto inning that negated some clutch-hitting heroics that had resulted in the Tribe taking the lead the previous half-inning. Relievers are supposed to put out fires, not set them and then exacerbate them. I don't know whether there are any viable options in our minor league system... but at this point, anyone not named Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Jensen Lewis, Kerry Wood, "Sipp," or "Chulk" is a viable option.

A bullpen this incendiary deserves a moniker. Here are some options:
  • Pyroclastic Flow
  • Arson, Incorporated
  • Ball Four
  • The Napalm Gang
  • The Opposing Hitters' Stimulus Plan
  • Chemical Accelerant
  • Hanging Slider
  • The Molotov Cocktail
  • Meatball Buffet
  • Ulcer Catalyst
  • The Kerosene Klan

1 comment:

darrel said...

I like "the stimulus plan." Snappy, timely, and I think it hints at the enormity of the problem here.