Indians bullpen completely removing room for error

Not just blown leads, but close games turned to blowouts

Alex Hooper
May 24, 2018 - 10:18 pm
May 24, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians first baseman Yonder Alonso (17) and relief pitcher Neil Ramirez (58) react on the mound as Ramirez is relieved during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Progressive Field.

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Well, that got out of hand fast.

That is the problem with the Cleveland Indians bullpen. Obviously, they can’t get outs, save Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, when available. The problem is not that only that they cannot get outs, it is just when they cannot get outs.

No lead is safe, no tie is safe, no close deficit is safe.

It is not the case of blowing leads late, where one stopgap can fix everything. It is a matter of everything needing fixing, and there being no stopgap anywhere between starter and closer(s).

Because of how good the starting pitching is, the Indians will continue to find themselves in close games come the 5th and 6th innings. Terry Francona has high-talent relievers for high-leverage situations, but the highest-leverage situations are later innings when the game is close.

Anymore, so long as it is not a starter handing the ball off to the relievers named so far, by the time the innings are later, the game is not close.

Even after Tuesday starter Mike Clevinger allowed a go-ahead, three-run home run to Alex Bregman, the Indians still had a win expectancy of 41.2% according to Fangraphs.

Having better than a 2-in-5 chance to win a game is not horrible odds.

Clevinger allowed singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel to start the 6th inning, by no means a great predicament, before Francona made a move to the bullpen as his starter was at 105 pitches. Tyler Olson then allowed a pinch-hit RBI single to backup catcher Max Stassi, and Neil Ramirez allowed a three-hit homer to Jake Marisnick.

Win probability after the Marisnick homer: 5.7%.

Again, fairly obvious observations here as a three-run homer in consecutive innings tilted the balance of a game heavily in another’s favor. But even through their tremendous struggles, Francona has been making an attempt to let his flailing pen enter the game in advantageous situations.

When Evan Marshall entered the 6-3 loss to the Tigers on May 14th in the 7th, the Indians held a 12.1% win expectancy, down 3-1. After Edwin Encarnacion’s solo shot in the 8th, that jumped to 22%. A one-run deficit in three outs, perfectly surmountable, turned to four in the bottom half on a three-run shot from Niko Goodrum.

1.4%. That is the room for error that the manager has when going to his bullpen.

“We’ll keep trying to put them in a position where they can succeed and just – because guys will emerge,” Francona said after Thursday’s loss. “We believe that. Just when you’re going through it during the game, it’s frustrating.”

Teams win games three- or four-run games all the time, but it is the playoff teams that win the games they trail late. For now, the Indians are a playoff team, but the room for error is shrinking.