Over the past two seasons, there was one thing as Indians fans we knew we could rely upon – the bullpen.  The offense may have been anemic at times in 2011 and 2012, and the starters may have struggled.  When you handed the ball over to the bullpen mafia though, you could relax and feel comfortable in the fact that they would inhibit the opposing team’s offense.  They had shirts, they made videos – good times!  Lately, there haven’t been many good times.  A portion of the team once nicknamed “mafia” because of their ability to instill terror in batters, seems suddenly very hittable.  It’s as if there are racketeering charges against the “family” and we’re watching a once powerful organization crumble with the external pressure of opposing hitters.

You obviously have to put some blame on the starters, even though the Royals got the final blow against the bullpen over the past two days.  Tribe starters weren’t able to survive far into games during this entire series – Corey Kluber lasted 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday, Scott Kazmir lasted 5 innings yesterday, and Ubaldo Jimenez lasted 5 today (falling apart in the sixth before recording an out).  The starters have to stay in the game longer to take some of the pressure off of the bullpen.  I don’t think this is solely because the bullpen is overworked, but it can’t be helping matters.  Kluber allowed the most earned runs of the three starters during this series (4) even though the Indians managed to win that game.  Jimenez and Kazmir both allowed three earned runs, which is enough to at least keep your team in the game (despite the early exits).  When you compare that with the bullpen – four pitchers combined for six earned runs over three innings today.  (Matt Albers made an appearance as well, but none of the runs were charged to him).  Yesterday the bullpen gave up three over the course of three innings, and on Tuesday they allowed just one earned run after Kluber’s exit.  It’s no coincidence that the game the Indians managed to win this series was the one with the least damage from the bullpen.

Bryan Shaw was painful to watch over the past two days.  After giving up two earned runs on three hits in just 2/3 of an inning yesterday, he gave up two earned runs today without allowing a hit or recording an out.  Shaw’s appearance today was just maddening to me – he walked George Kottaras after being ahead in the count, and then hit Johnny Giavotella with a pitch.  At this point the game was still knotted at seven, and Giovatella was trying to bunt pinch runner Elliot Johnson over to second.  His first two bunt attempts went foul, meaning that he was in an 0-2 hole and had to swing away.  What does Shaw do?  Hits him with a pitch.  He basically let Giavotella off the hook for his own incompetence of not being able to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning of a tie game.  At least Terry Francona had a quick hook on Shaw today (he really didn’t seem to yesterday), then he inexplicably goes to Rich Hill.  I know it was a lefty-lefty match-up, but Hill does not instill confidence in anyone.  At least he got his ERA under seven, so maybe we should be thankful for small things.  The ball ended up going to the backstop during Jarrod Dyson’s at-bat, meaning that the Indians gave the Royals yet another free pass – runners on second and third, forcing them to intentionally walk Dyson.  Francona then went to Matt Albers, who Houdinied himself out of a bases-loaded situation earlier in the series.  He couldn’t do it this time though, and Salvador Perez hit a bases-clearing double, making it 10-7.  Albers got the next hitters 1-2-3, but the damage was already done.

The Royals were last in the majors in home runs before this series; this three-game set with the Indians allowed them to scoot past the Miami Marlins for second to last in homers with 51.  The Royals hit five home runs against the Indians this week.  They could just be heating up; that rate was almost obscenely low for a team that has several good hitters.  However, consider that in the 79 games before this series, the Royals had hit 49 home runs.  That comes out to 0.58 homers per game, and since you can’t hit half of a home run, let’s just say they’d average one homer for every two games.  Even though it’s an extremely small sample size (I’m just trying to emphasize what a rare breakout these five homers were for the Royals), their homer average for this series was 1.5 per game, meaning that their home run rate tripled over this series.

Drew Stubbs, Michael Brantley, Mike Aviles and Carlos Santana all had pretty good days at the plate – multiple hits for each of them, while Stubbs, Brantley and Santana were responsible for the Tribe’s seven runs.  The offense left eight on base, but I’m hesitant to criticize them at all when they put seven runs on the board.  Seven runs should be enough to win the game most days of the week.  Mark Reynolds went 0 for 5 and is hitting just .193 over the past month.  He’s a very streaky player (or at least he was with Baltimore last season) so some of this is to be expected.  You know he’s going to take you through the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows.  In many ways, I feel like he represents this team as a whole this season.  The 2013 Indians, when they’re firing on all cylinders, cannot be stopped.  No deficit is too great, and they look like they could take on any team in the majors and beat them handily when they’re at their best.  When they’re at their worst – look out.  Slopping pitching, sloppy at-bats, and sloppy defense will make you feel like you’re not even watching a team that’s in contention.  Today was one of those days where you really got to see them at their best, and at their worst, all in one game.  They still managed to finish this road trip with a 7-4 record, but it could have been even better than that.

People are already preparing their deadline “shopping lists” of what they’d like to see the Indians pick up on the trade market.  Ken Rosenthal had a list of the best available relievers on the market, but none of the names really excite me.  Jonathan Papelbon is expensive and has declined over the past couple of years (plus there aren’t many players that annoy me as much as him).  Jesse Crain has shoulder problems, and the Brewers’ relievers, while much better of late, have had their own share of issues over the past year or so.  Even if the Indians do manage to trade for some bullpen help, it’s not going to be in the immediate future.  For now, the Bullpen Mafia needs to get tough and start putting fear back into opposing hitters.


  • Gvl Steve says:

    The team keeps handing close games over to Rich Hill, Bryan Shaw and Nick Hagadone, and they keep blowing them in spectacular fashion over and over and over again. I don’t know how much longer you can continue to do that without ruining the season. Yes, the starters only go 5 innings. But we have had an 8-man bullpen sharing the workload all year long. That is unheard of. These guys are not overworked. What they are is underperforming and the front office needs to act before the season goes up in flames. It was a string of bullpen failures in early June that started the 4-14 skid. Another lost month like that and you can kiss the playoffs goodbye. They were lucky to rebound from it the first time.

    • Sean Porter says:

      Here’s the problem: Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez haven’t been all that great either.

      The Bullpen Mafia at this stage is on par with the Sopranos crime family at the end of the last season of the show. Chris and Bobby Bacala are dead, Silvio is on life-support, Paulie Walnuts thinks a random cat is the reincarnation of Chris, and Tony is scarfing down onion rings while a guy at the diner counter wearing a bitchin’ Member’s Only jacket may or may not be coming out of the bathroom to whack him.

      And I’m officially done with Mark Reynolds. He’s as worthless as a poop-flavored lollipop at this point.

  • shaun says:

    i would be okay with reynolds but only at a much lower price…at least then you get what you pay for…6m is way too steep for a momentum killer…
    the only reliever that we have that i can stomach watching is albers…allen has been less horrible then the rest…we’re so close but yet so far…

  • Gvl Steve says:

    There is a reason a perennial 30 HR hitter couldn’t find a multi-year deal on the free agent market at age 29, and why we got him for $6MM. Reynolds is what he is. If you think that .224 average is bad, remember that’s higher than his average for any of the last three years. We’ve gotten our $6MM worth already. Look at it this way: .224 15 HR 47 RBI is more than Hafner has for NY in all three categories, and more than Hafner had all of last year at more than twice the cost. And he can play two positions. He’s still a bargain and better than anyone who has played 1st base for us in 5 years. Would you rather have Kotchman, LaPorta or Branyan back? How quickly we forget.

    • Sean Porter says:

      Congrats – you listed a bunch of stiffs. Doesn’t change the fact that Reynolds has been a complete black hole offensively AND defensively for a quarter of the schedule now.

  • DaveR says:

    I’m pretty sure Jimenez and the gang worked less innings on average last year than this year. I’d say the bullpen guys they are trotting out there just suck rather than being too tired. And there isn’t much they can do about it for this Detroit series. The Tribe lucked out with Jimenez not pitching vs Detroit. Hopefully they come away with a split or better!

  • JimM. says:

    The thing I dislike about Reynolds his that he is taking ABs away from more productive players. Yan Gomes is far and away the best defensive catcher we have at this point, not to mention hes no slouch with the bat. We already have a log jam at 1st with the Swisher/Santana/Giambi/Reynolds conglomeration (Side note:thank god the AL has the DH). To optimize our production I’d move Santana to 1st a majority of the season (hopefully allowing him to concentrate more on his swing) and have Gomes be the #1 catcher.

    That being said I think Reynolds does provide added value to the team by being able to fill multiple roles. Having a quality backup 1st/3rd baseman is a huge plus. I do however worry that he has it in him to have 200+ SOs without even hitting 30 HRs.

    As for the bullpen I’m more inclined to support a “wait and see” approach. To echo what was said earlier, we have a lot of arms in the bullpen. Most of these guys have had, to one degree or another, some success in the show. That in conjunction with injuries and their pets having drug problems (I think that’s what I read about 1 of them) I’d like to wait a sec and see if over the course of the next 2-3 weeks a hand full of guys settle down and solidify the back end of the pen.

    Starting pitching is a whole other animal. I have confidence in Kluber and McAllister (once he comes back) developing into solid/reliable starters. At this point I’m more than content with calling Masterson our “ace.” Kazmir is the wild card of the bunch having not been able to get a bead on him one way or the other. Ultimately, I’m not worried about Bauer in the long run and don’t think Carrassco will consistently contribute to the organization. Now to Mr. Jimenez. I have zero faith that Jimenez can return to his Rockies form. His assbackwards/inconsistent delivery combined with his lack of playing with any fire/passion has led me to believe his rotation spot is the proverbial “missing link” to this season. With this team a lot, i mean A LOT, can happen, good or bad, the rest of the way. You just don’t know how things are going to shape up (and I guess that’s what make this team so fun/frustrating). But I do know that we need someone in Jimenez’s spot that we can rely on. With his demeanor and lack of mechanical consistency I have no trust in him if we ever get ourselves into a high leverage situation where we have to have him start.

    But who knows, I’ve been wrong before.