A swing and a drive

September 25, 2013

For fans of the Cleveland Indians, those may be the five sweetest words in the English language. They certainly are tonight, as Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton got to use his signature home run call in the bottom of the ninth inning when Jason Giambi hit a 1-1 pitch for a 409-foot, two-run, walk-off homer, giving the Indians a 5-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Giambi, who is at age 42 by far the oldest player on the team, now has three pinch-hit home runs on the season. This was his second walk-off home run this year, and it couldn’t possibly have come at a better time. The Indians had entered the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead, only to see it vanish when closer Chris Perez gave up a game-tying home run to Dayan Viciedo. Later in the inning, with two out, Perez gave up another home run to Alejandro de Aza, giving the White Sox a 4-3 lead. After Perez gave up a single to the next batter, Indians manager Terry Francona replaced him with Marc Rzepczynski, Perez was booed as he walked back to the dugout. After Rzepczynski hit the only batter he faced with a pitch, he too was removed in favor of Bryan Shaw, who recorded the final out of the inning on three pitches (and thus, Joe Posnanski, getting credit for the win).

But the Indians weren’t going to let Chris Perez cost them THIS ballgame. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Michael Brantley singled to right. After Mike Aviles struck out, Jason Giambi came out to pinch-hit for Matt Carson, and, well, you know the rest.

Ubaldo Jimenez started the game for the Indians, and he pitched very well, giving up two runs over 6 1/3 innings. In 28 1/3 innings in September, Jimenez’s ERA for the month is 1.27, which I think we can all agree is pretty darn good.

The Indians have now won five games in a row, with five left to play. Unfortunately, their main rivals for one of the two AL wild-card slots, the Rays and the Rangers, both won tonight as well, which means the Indians neither gained nor lost any ground in the wild card race. But they are still one game ahead of the Rangers for the second wild-card slot, and according to ESPN, they have an 82.8% chance of making it to the postseason (this will go up VERY slightly, perhaps to 83%, if the Royals lose tonight).

I like those odds, I really do. But I am worried about the Chris Perez situation. In the postgame press conference, Francona said he wouldn’t hesitate to give the ball to Perez in a save situation the next time one comes up. Francona has done a masterful job of managing the team this year, and he obviously knows more about his team and his players than you or I do. But I would MUCH rather see Joe Smith (who pitched a scoreless eighth inning) as the closer now than Perez.

The Indians play their last home game of the regular season on Wednesday against the Sox. I’ll be sitting in Row U of the bleachers with my friend Wyatt. Look for us. We’ll be wearing Indians caps.

Update: Thanks to commenter Gvl Steve for pointing out a mistake I made, which I’ve now corrected. I genuinely appreciate your calling it to my attention.

26 Comments

  • Gvl Steve says:

    If chemistry counts, and it certainly appears right now that it does, you can’t mess with the bullpen roles and yank Perez from the closer role. 25 out of 30 isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible. It’s just that the 5 BS have come at crucial times. P.S. Alejandro de Aza hit the 2nd HR, not Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez singled afterward to knock Perez out of the game.

  • Graig Fravel says:

    I am so done with Perez. It’s true his percentage isn’t terrible, but when he craps the bed, he really craps the bed, and in craptacular fashion, during big games that we have to have. Anyone else remember that awful Detroit game where it was apparent batter one that he didn’t have it? At this point, like any crappy closer, he is always going to be in the back of my mind at this point.

    That said, Giambino!!!!! I had just FB messaged my wife that I would get to bed as soon as the Tribe was done blowing it….typical Cleveland despair, you know? That said, my mind flashed to his earlier walk-off against the Sox, and the moment I thought of that, holy crap! Wow, wow, wow!!!!

  • Anthony M says:

    Move Salazar to the closer role and have the next Mariano Rivera for the next 20 years.

  • Swift says:

    I’m with Gvl Steve. With 5 games left, you can’t start messing with your bullpen. I’ll be happy to see CP go after the season, but this is the cards we have, we need to go with it.

    Even more than Giambi, I love Tom Hamilton, I think he is the greatest sportscaster. My Tom Hamilton bobblehead is my prized possession, followed by my CLE t-shirt that says “And we’re underway at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario”. They need one that says “A swing and a drive…”

    I want the Indians to win a championship for so many reasons, but one is so that I can hear Tom’s call of it.

    • nikki says:

      LOVE Hamilton! If you’re on Facebook, there’s a group called “Tom Hamilton has the Best Home Run call in all of Baseball” that posts links to his calls after games. It really is a treat to listen to that man speak.

    • mondo dentro says:

      When I occasionally listen to other baseball sportscasters, I’m struck by how lackluster they seam compared to Tom. I realize I’m seeing (hearing) him through a homer filter, but still… The Tigers’ crew is dull as dirt.

  • Patrick Sands says:

    Last night was awesome! I took my dad to the weekend series finale for his birthday (both games) and it was my first time going to a tribe game in Cleveland (I live in Charlotte, NC and was brainwashed by my father when I was little). Giambi started the Friday night game and struck out at least 2 times I think and my dad was saying he needs to retire and I said to him but he is always good for a home run and generally its when we need one. This is exactly why Giambi was a great addition to this team! The emotinal roller coaster last night was crazy as I went from thinking this team has got the IT factor when they rallied in the 7th to WHY DOES THE TRIBE ALWAYS DO THIS TO ME in the top of the 9th to back to this team has IT!. Crazy Game and although I don’t get to hear Tom Hamilton all that much down in Charlotte his home run call is up there with the best of them

  • thirdsaint says:

    I wish I could’ve heard his call live but I’m stuck listening to Hawk. Hearing (or not?) his silence at Giambi’s home run was so great though. I listened to Hamilton’s call 5 times this morning and then Hawk’s silence a few more. :-D

  • The Doctor says:

    i’ve said it several times before and i’ll say it again: perez absolutely cannot be trusted to close a game that matters. unfortunately, it’s far too late to install someone else as closer.

    assuming we make the playoffs, it’s not even slightly hard to imagine a situation in which perez’s final game as an indian is him getting booed off the field after giving up a game and series ending homer.

    • thirdsaint says:

      This is what has to change in baseball. I hope it happens soon but the mindset that you have to stick with a guy because he’s been ‘the closer’ even though he clearly doesn’t have it anymore is insane. I can’t blame Francona because it’s baseball wide. I love what the Cardinals are going to do since Mujica has faltered and they are kind of going by committee. It may take another 20 years (even though stat heads have already figured out the silliness of saves) but I bet the closer role will be extinct once younger managers work their way in.

      • The Doctor says:

        agreed. i’m all for outright cutting perez right now – but more reasonably, just removing him from the closer’s role will never happen because old school baseball blah blah blah.

        anyone with half a brain knows having a committed closer who’s getting wildly overpaid is a huge waste of resources, particularly for a small market team. it’s baffling to me that the invention of a statistic has completely changed the way relievers are used.

      • mondo dentro says:

        Do the stat heads have any data indicating that a ninth inning reliever coming in with less than a three run lead is different in any way? The pressure surely seems higher, so the psychological factors might be significant. But does any data back that up?

        • Cale says:

          This made me wonder as well. I just did a quick google search and found a study done by someone at Brown. There are so many numbers and stats that I got dizzy just looking at it, but the conclusion on page 34 said this…

          The findings support a significant and positive effect of the save situation (SS) game state on closer performance, which reinforces the conventional wisdom held by players, fans and the media.

          If anyone else wants to try to decipher all the graphs and tables, feel free…

          http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Economics/2013-undergrad_theses/Performance%20Variation%20among%20MLB%20Closers%20-%20Anthony%20Bakshi.pdf

          • mondo dentro says:

            Hey, nice, um, “catch”. Nerdy fun. I have a proposal to finish, but maybe later (when I’m listening to Salazar shut make Harrelson cry tonight). Thanks!

          • mondo dentro says:

            God, I wish this blog allowed for corrections…

          • Andy says:

            All that shows is that people in the closer role have a propensity to pitch slightly better in a SS than a non SS. It doesn’t show anything about other pitchers (ie non closers) in those situations. It also doesn’t account for the difference in how any pitcher would pitch in a game with a 10 run lead vs a 1 run lead.

      • Peter says:

        Dear God,

        Please don’t let Perez pitch in a Tribe uniform again.

        Amen

  • Can someone explain why it would be “messing with” the bullpen to bring in someone else in a save situation–or better yet, to leave Joe Smith out there for the 9th? I remember how in 1997 Brian Anderson was throwing the s out of the ball in the 8th, and how the Marlins had left-handed hitters coming up in the 9th. But we had to have Mesa. Why? So it wouldn’t hurt his feelings? What about OUR feelings? Closers are supposed to be tough guys (like gunfighters, the sportscasters often say), and yet their egos are apparently so tender that they’d be deeply offended by not getting the call in the 9th–even if they’re disasters waiting to happen. Maybe not using Perez automatically would wake him up.–A Tribe fan for 60+ years

  • Tribe Fan in San Diego says:

    This is exactly why I am glad we have kept Big G around. Need somebody to take the walk? Need somebody to just stand there and get hit? Need a clutch hit? Need a clutch home run to win the game? Giambi is your man. I know his numbers are not great, but that is actually to be expected from a bench player who doesn’t play often. However, when we really need him, he comes through time and time again.

    Perez has two modes. Good and bad, with no in between. You can tell which Perez we will see in the first two pitches. If he is keeping the ball down and in control then he will get the save. If the ball is up or all over the place, please Tito pull him now….

  • DaveR says:

    I wish Perez could close out every game too but you can’t ask that of any closer. It would be tough for Francona to replace Perez right now. I think Mondo is right otherwise why not throw Smith or even Masterson in there.

    Fun Facts: Perez is #7 in Saves All-time for active AL Closers (124). Next year if he is in the AL he will be #5 with K-Rod and Rivera gone. Joe Nathan, who is also above Perez, is 39 yrs old. Perez has blown 4,4,4, and now 5 saves since he took the job full-time in Cleveland. His percentage is respectable 87.7% compared to 88.x% for most of the other guys above him. Nathan is at 90%.

    Go Tribe!

  • Bill says:

    Look at joe nathans era and whip, even look at papelbons era and whip (who is also having a bad year blown saves wise) then look a CP’s.

    Its not just blown saves that concerns me its the fact that he gives up a lot of runs and hits not bloop shots either, people hit the ball hard off of him almost every night.

    How many times has CP had a 123 ninth this year? I know it cant be many…

  • DaveR says:

    True, so next year they are either picking out of the minors, paying big for an FA, keeping Perez, or trying to convert a current staff member (14 blown to 12 saves in 2013). At least Barnes went 1-1. That doesn’t change the issue for this year though.

  • Seattle Stu says:

    i dont buy the ‘dont shake it up now’ argument one bit. If i’m tito i’m not running out a guy that i know is unlikely to do the job (and knows he is unlikely to do it = low confidence)….i’m not going to keep doing the same thing over and over hoping it will lead to a different outcome….i’m going to look at my team and put in the next best alternative….smith or salazar would be on my list….we have zero tolerance for losing given how close this is….i said months ago that someday perez will come back to bite us in a big game we have to have – we avoided the bullet last night, let’s not reload the same gun.

    save % is so misleading….what was the average opening score differential in his saves vis-a-vis others?….that would seem to marry the WHIP with the save %.