Wild Card Tie, Cobb will A-maize Indians in low-scoring win


In a game of inches, the stats predict that the Rays and Indians are headed for a photo finish; it may even require a visual review by umpires to determine who moves on to Fenway on Friday to open the ALDS.

Since the offensive stats [see below] are inconclusive, let’s compare the two starters and their pen mates.

Rays: Cobb rolling

Blocked by the surfeit of pitching talent in the Tampa system, Cobb [26] has become the Rays #1 RHP in the 2 slot behind LHP David Price.

Since taking a line drive off the bat of Eric Hosmer on June 15 that struck his left ear, Cobb has made a remarkable come-back.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfJ–mpiZjA

After 2 months on the DL he has been extraordinary of late, striking out 26 batters over his past 23 1/3 innings, all Ws.

Before the head injury 6/15, he had a 3.01 ERA and 76/23 K/BB ratio in 84 innings, emerging as one of the league’s best young pitchers.

He overcame the drama of Mariano Rivera’s last appearance at Yankee Stadium and pitched 7shutout innings, improving to 11-3 this season with a 2.76 ERA.

“He pitched extremely well once again…Curveball outstanding, changeup … I think he was having a hard time command-wise with the changeup early. … Then he started using his fastball more, which I thought was a great move. But overall, a fantastic performance.”

Cobb is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in his career against Cleveland; he faced the Indians once in 2013 and beat themwith 7 shutout innings on April 6th, 6-0.

On June 24 he was still on the DL with fluid build-up near the eardrum causing occasional vertigo

“I’m having my days,” Cobb said. “Today has been the best day by far. The headaches after the fact, the first few days, were pretty tough to handle. The vertigo feeling . . . was leading to some nausea. But today has been the best day… I’ve had some nightmares about it, how bad it could have been. Obviously, it has been in the back of my mind.”

When he finally returned after 2 months on the DL, the Rays were on a 6-game losing streak; he reversed Tampa’s fading Wild Card fortunes when he tossed 5 solid innings, surrendering just a lone run — a homer to Raul Ibanez –for his 7th win in 2013.

Cobb his won last three starts;

in 23.1 innings he allowed just 3 runs, 17 hits, and 26/5 K-W ratio.

Compared to Price, who kept the Rays’ World Series hopes alive with a brilliant compete game win over the Rangers last night, in his last 10 games, Cobb has been even better:

W

 L

   ERA

 IP

  H

   ER

   BB

SO

 

5

1

  2.53

   64.0

   50

  18

   25

61

 4   3  3.61     67.1    68     27     11   58

 

2013 Pitch Locations: Fastballs vs. RHBs

2013 Pitch Locations: Fastballs vs. RHBs

2013 Pitch Locations: Fastballs vs. LHBs

2013 Pitch Locations: Fastballs vs. LHBs

[SOURCE: http://www.gammonsdaily.com/alex-cobb-follows-the-shields-blueprint/]

MLB.com’s Doug Miller: “The young right-hander has evolved into Tampa Bay’s best starter down the stretch, using an excellent curveball to become a dominant strikeout pitcher in his last two wins. Entering Thursday’s start, Cobb had pitched eight innings or more in three of his last five outings.” http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130926&content_id=61809892&vkey=news_&c_id=

Sitting a few feet to Cobb’s right at Tuesday afternoon’s news conference, Maddon praised Cobb’s physical tools — his fastball, curveball and split-change-up that Maddon said are elite pitches.

“To not include Alex Cobb among the best pitchers in baseball right now would be a mistake,” Maddon said. “He is one of the best.”

Jamey Wright later added, “He’s going to be a 20-game winner some day. He’s that good.”

Some day.

Right now Cobb will settle for pitching the Rays to a win tonight in the biggest start of his career.

“It’s a Game 7 mentality. It’s win or go home, and I want the ball in that situation,” Cobb said. “I think every competitor dreams of that moment, wants the ball in that moment.”

from: http://www.gammonsdaily.com/alex-cobb-follows-the-shields-blueprint/

“In terms of fastballs, Cobb uses a heavier version of the heater to rack up groundballs in bunches. He also throws his changeup with a split-finger grip. That said, his curveball – typically a knuckle version – was picked up from the elder Shields.

Cobb uses all of his pitches with regularity. None of the three pitches is used more than 45 percent of the time while no pitch is used less than 20 percent. The fastball and curveball are used early in the plate appearance with the changeup typically used as the knockout. Each offering is thrown for strikes led by off-speed pitches. Though there is just about 11 mph of velocity separation from heater to hook, all three pitches have at least five mph of dissociation. The ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes, and in any count, likely enhances the modest amount of velocity segregation to the opposition.

In terms of location, Cobb doesn’t shy away from any part of the zone. He throws his fastball on both corners. He can also elevate or bury it as needed. The curveball is typically thrown to his glove-side while the off-speed is concentrated arm-side and down.”

Top 5 AL Ground Ball Rates
P PA Grnd%
Justin Masterson (CLE) 2,952 789 55.9%
Doug Fister (DET) 3,229 850 55.3%
Alex Cobb (TB) 2,125 554 55.0%
Rick Porcello (DET) 2,814 728 52.7%
Joe Saunders (SEA) 3,110 820 51.5%
Created by BaseballAnalytics.org on 9/23/2013

Indians: Salazar #5 starter, 100+ heater with a high ceiling

Attempting to put on a brave smile, Francona still allowed that:

“He’s not a finished product…The finished product is going to be special, but he’s comfortable on the mound. We wouldn’t do it if we weren’t comfortable.”

This is what you say when your #5 starter, a rookie, is about to determine your fate.

Danny Salazar [23] started the season in Double-A; his MLB line is a 3.12 ERA, 65 Ks and 15 Ws in 52 innings.

In 5 five September starts: 2.52 ERA, 33 Ks in 25 innings.

When you are a rookie who jumped from AA into the spotlight of a “One-and-Done” Wild Card slot playoff game you say:

“This is awesome…The team has trust in me. I’m just going to do my best there.”

His “best” will likely be 5 innings against Tampa and then things get dicey.  When his failing closer volunteered out of his role, Francona went with the famous “Closer by Committee,” which is tantamount to announcing:

“I don’t have a guy worthy of being a closer, so I will try my middle relievers and hope.”

“I’m here to help the team,” Perez said. “I went into [Francona's] office the other night and said, ‘I’m not going to cost this team a playoff spot. You need to make a change right now. You’ve got four or five guys who are throwing the [heck] out of the ball. I don’t have an ego. Make the change.’ And he did.

“Fans asked me at the start of the year about what my goals are. I told them I’d take 20 saves if we could make the playoffs. We made the playoffs and I’ve got 25 saves.”

FRANCONA ON PEREZ: http://cinesport.cleveland.com/cleveland-sports/francona-on-shaky-win-perezs-struggles/

So with the season dangling perilously by a few red stitches of a second one-game elimination, Tito Francona will send a 23-year-old rookie to the hill, who has never faced the Rays and hit the dart board, if he gets into a “closer” situation.

Francona’s game plan will be to get at least 4 or 5 “full-out” 100 MPH+ innings from the rookie; then turn it over to former Red Sox starter, Justin Masterson, for 3-4 innings, and then reach for his darts for the 8th and 9th innings.

Although just a rookie, Salazar has an overpowering fastball that can reach 100+ on the radar gun, a slider that slices out of the zone and a split-change that has action similar to a sinker. He can drastically change speeds and has been working on mixing in more offspeed pitches.

His 65/15 K-W splits, or 5-1, ratio are extraordinary as well as his .226 BAA, 3.12 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.

His stats for his recent 10 games are not as impressive as Cobb’s for W-L and Salazar was 1-1 in his last 3 starts, but his BB/SO rate is better and he yielded fewer hits in fewer innings than Cobb.

W

 L

   ERA

 IP

  H

   ER

   BB

SO

5

1

  2.53

   64.0

   50

  18

   25

61

Salazar

2  3     3.12        52.0    44     18     15   65

Due to TJ surgery [Aug. 2010] and missing most of 2011, Salazar was kept on a strict pitch count when he arrived in MLB in July:

He began 2013 at Double-A Akron, moved to Triple-A Columbus, before joining the Indians. In 21 Minor League appearances (20 starts), Salazar threw an average of about 70 pitches each time he took the hill.

In his first 9 starts with the Tribe, Salazar was 1-3, 3.09 ERA with a 57/14 K/W ratio in his first 46 2/3 MLB innings.

His sub-100 pitch counts in his last three starts indicate that Francona has not yet unleashed his emerging star and may portend a short outing against the Rays.

Date    Opp.                Innings            #Pitches      #strikes

9/18     K.C.                6                      82                    60

9/13     White Sox       3.2                   78                    51

9/25    White Sox       5.1                   89                    66

The Indians have been conservative with their potential future ace; until the last two games, he was on a tight pitch count; he says he feels less pressure now:

“That’s very important,” he said. “When I was on the pitch count, sometimes after every pitch I made, I was watching the scoreboard to see how many pitches I had. Now that I don’t have the pitch count, I don’t look, and I feel more confident.”

Salazar was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2006.  In 2013, in 21 appearances between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, he went 6-5 with a 2.71 ERA, racking up 129 Ks, 23 Ws in 93 innings.

In a  July 11 spot start, he no-hit the Jays for 7 innings, flashing his 100+ heater,  biting slider, and moving split-changeup.

“He’s a rookie throwing 100 mph,” first baseman Nick Swisher said.

Salazar had a tendency to rely too much on the 100-MPH FB and became predictable; he has made an effort to mix in more offspeed pitches.

Ubaldo Jimenez — once a flame throwing  prospect himself — has encourage Salazar to add to his pitch menu and focus on control.

“The stuff that he has is unbelievable,” Jimenez said. “But I have told him that it doesn’t matter how hard you throw. You have to locate your fastball, and you have to mix other pitches in if you want to be good.”

Salazar talked on Tuesday night before the team’s workout about his playoff debut. Salazar talked about  what he learned coming back from injury about how to deal with pitch counts. His Pitching coach Mickey Callaway discussed working with Salazar.

VIDEO: http://www.cleveland.com/tribe/index.ssf/2013/10/indians_pitcher_danny_salazar.html

While the Rays batters have never seen Salazar, the Indians, in 26 ABs, have had little to show against Cobb:

BA  .154    OBP  .241   SLG .154   OPS .395  H 4   W 3  K 8 and no HRs.

All 4 hits were singles by Chisenall, Raburn, Santana, and Swisher.

On offense the stats are a mixed bag:

Indians [listed first] take Rs, HRs, RBIs, LOB, and SLG categories [bolded]

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

TB

LOB

OBP

SLG

OPS

745

1391

290

23

171

711

.255

2240

1126

.327

.410

.737

700

1421

296

23

165

670

.257

2258

1172

.329

.408

.737

Rays [listed second] take H, 2bs, BA, TBs, and OBP categories [bolded]

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

TB

LOB

OBP

SLG

OPS

745

1391

290

23

171

711

.255

2240

1126

.327

.410

.737

700

1421

296

23

165

670

.257

2258

1172

.329

.408

.737

Remarkably, the teams are in a dead tie for OPS .737; just .002 apart in BA, OBP, and SLG and just 18 TBs out of nearly 1200.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

  • Both managers will be quick to use the hook at the first sign of trouble.
  • A low-scoring game with batters seeing a parade of new pitchers.
  • Cobb will go deeper into the game than Salazar.
  • Longoria gets the key hit for the Rays.
  • Kipnis gets a key hit for the Indians.
  • Masterson must shut down the Rays in his 3 innings.
  • Despite his speed, Bourn will not make it to Second base.
  • Rodney’s fits of wildness causes a minor gastritis attack for Maddon.
  • Chris Perez gives up the hit to pinch hitter Sam Fuld for the run that beats the Indians.

…OR, I am wrong and we move onto the meme: “TITO’S REVENGE.”

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Tags: Alex Cobb Cleveland Indians Danny Salazar Tampa Rays Tito Francona

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  • Alan Nolt

    You are right on everything but the final statement. Chris Perez will not see the field on Wednesday. I feel that the Tribe will not hit Cobb. They need to make him at least throw pitches and get his pitch count up. If it becomes a battle of bullpens I believe the Tribe wins.

    • http://bosoxinjection.com/ Earl Nash

      Alan, You are probably right; if Francona is desperate enough to go to Perez, the game is likely over. Just like when Baker brought in the kid wearing #66 last night.
      Great thanks for the astute observation and thank for reading my rantings.
      Earl