It was one of those games. If you watched last night’s contest, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
What is troubling, though, is that the lineup had absolutely no patience at the plate. Jeremy Bonderman cruised relatively unscathed until the eighth inning, when the Indians started some semblance of a comeback. Detroit, who was last in the league in walks, showed an immense amount of discipline, laying off CC Sabathia’s never-ending supply of offspeed pitches in the dirt. Personally I think Sabathia out-thought himself. His fastball-changeup combo worked wonderfully against Baltimore the previous start, but CC changed his approach because the Tigers are a fastball-hitting team. Until he learns to spot his breaking pitches in the strike zone, teams will just lay off them; instead he might as well go with his 95 mph fastball and 85 mph changeup, because those two pitches are good enough to get most hitters out. He didn’t really get hit hard by the Tigers (only two of their ten hits off him were for extra bases), but they could sit on a pitch, mostly his fastball.
Where has Jody Gerut’s power gone? I don’t care much for the modifications he’s made to his swing; gone is the uppercut stroke, replaced by one almost like the one Barry Bonds uses. Gerut is still hitting for a high average, but his slugging percentage is dropping like a rock. Singles hitters who can play good defense tend to end up as fourth outfielders, and that’s where Gerut’s future seems to lie.
Right field is one of several areas where the team could use an offensive upgrade. The others are first and third base, although the team has steadfastly (or perhaps obstinately) stood by Aaron Boone. Barring injury, he will most likely meet the plate appearance threshhold necessary for his 2006 option to kick in. While I take no issue with Aaron’s defense, an AL team simply cannot hope to succeed with a corner player hitting .195/.255/.354. As for first base, that will probably be addressed after the season, when the team will most likely deal Ben Broussard. I really don’t see a circumstance where they’d open the 2006 season with him at first base, unless they make a major acquisition elsewhere.
Rick mentioned Aubrey Huff as a possible acquisition; I’ll mention Raul Ibanez as someone the Indians could get on the cheap. Ibanez isn’t a guy that would attract a ton of attention, but he’s quietly had a very good season in a poor lineup. He currently is hitting .292/.355/.471 in a pitcher’s park. The only problem is that he’s a left-handed hitter. But he’s someone to watch out for, as he’s signed through 2006 for a relatively affordable salary.
Another guy who might be available is Texas’ Kevin Mench, although he’ll probably cost more to acquire. Mench, who didn’t really earn a permanent spot in the lineup until this season, is hitting .290/.356/.550, although those numbers are inflated by where he plays his home games. The Rangers are obviously looking for pitching, both of the starting and relieving variety. But given the relationship between Shapiro and Texas GM John Hart, I’d be shocked if they haven’t at least discussed Mench in the past few weeks. Mench isn’t much of an outfielder, but he’s right-handed and would fit nicely behind Hafner and in front of Victor Martinez. He’s also making close to the minimum.