A modern development in baseball is the presentation of fever charts. A popular example at Baseball Reference shows the up and down of every victory and loss with big scoring games soaring up in green and the dismal losses headed down in red. Here’s the Indians chart for 2015. (My view of modern might be different than yours. When I started following the game in the early 60s the Sunday paper reached the apex of baseball technology by publishing a batting average list for hundreds of players.)
So far, I have not seen a fever chart of fan angst. It should start in March when we see those first pictures from Florida and Arizona that make us bloom with foolish optimism. Then it fades in April when Sports Illustrated puts your team on the cover and you know you have indulged yourself with a baseball fantasy.
As the season winds down, you can remember many ups and downs. That’s the way it is when you follow a team that flirts with .500 in the same style as that creep in the office who has no clue that he has zero chance with the interns.
Such a moment occurred in the second inning when Trevor Bauer did his Victor Cruz imitation. (This righty reliever walked 44 in in 78 innings for the Tribe in 1979, the same year he invented the Cruz Missile) Bauer entered the game having established a 7.48 ERA in his previous five starts, 20 2/3 innings. That included helping opposing batters to an .894 OPS in those games. He didn’t allow any hits early in Monday’s game but he did walk four men in a row that steamy second inning on the minimum number of pitches — 12.
So where was your fever chart at that moment? Were you sick of this team? Did you vow to put up those Christmas decorations early? You probably remembered there is a football game on tonight.
You probably did not think: we’re on the way now!
In the Indians dugout, Terry Francona and Mickey Callaway appeared to be considering letting Bauer stew in his own sweat-sweetened juice. The infielders made two collegial visits to the mound before Callaway alerted the bullpen to stretch their hamstrings. Then he trotted out to console the obviously perturbed Bauer.
MLB reporter Jordan Bastian revealed in his pregame report that Callaway has been preaching the Gospel of pitching low in the strike zone. But here we saw Bauer missing wildly high, inside, outside and anywhere but low.
“He looked really good,” Callaway said. “We had a pretty good conversation [on Friday] about pitching down in the zone. [His bullpen session on Saturday] was probably the first time that I saw that he valued that. He went out there and when he missed, he missed down in the ‘pen.
“If you’re pitching up, and you have to go down into the zone, you’re coming right through the hitting zone. Where, if you miss down, and you work your way up, you’re never in a danger spot.”
Callaway obviously felt the need to repeat this truth to Mr. Bauer in his hour of weakness (Yes, it really was nearly an hour into the game at that point) From there, the fever chart headed up and slowly turned green. The Indians, assuredly NOT a home run hitting team, blasted three against Chris Sale. Bauer abandoned the wild portion of his performance but kept preventing hits. He also prevented another loss.
A wild pitch by Cody Allen spiked the fever below the line in the ninth to give the White Sox a runner in scoring position with two out. I’m sure my temperature was near boiling, but it turns out the Indians have a new infielder with the ability to stay cool when chasing a hot grounder. His name is Francisco Lindor. It seems he will be helping us chill for many years.
Indians win 3-2.