Corey Kluber was asked on Friday if facing a team back-to-back will require him to make more adjustments than usual. His answer, presumably predicated on the fact that he dominated in Game One, was a classic yes-and-no.
“I don’t think so,” said Kluber. “They’re obviously going to make adjustments based on last game. I’m going to make adjustments based on last game, and it’s going to be that cat-and-mouse game. But I think anytime you face a team back-to-back or in a short span… I mean, that’s always the case.”
Kluber ended up throwing more curveballs and fewer cutters in Game 4, but the bigger adjustment came from the Cubs. The righty reacted as per usual.
“They were definitely more aggressive this time around,”Kluber said after the game. “But that’s how most lineups approach me, so it wasn’t anything we had to figure out on the fly. We kind of stuck with the game plan we usually stay with when that’s the case. It was pretty easy to recognize early on what they doing tonight, so we kind of just adjusted to it.”
Terry Francona said that Kluber “didn’t have his best breaking ball” early, but was able to “define it” as the game went on. Given as how the Indians may need their ace in a Game 7, Francona was pleased that they were able to limit him to 81 pitches.
UPDATE: Per ESPN’s Mark Simon, Klube threw a higher percentage of curveballs than I realized.
Cody Allen had a good take on Terry Francona, saying “No matter the situation, where we’re at, who we’re playing, whether or not Trevor Bauer — he got a phone call that morning that Bauer cut his finger — he’s the same guy every day. You’ll probably find him in his office playing cards with some of the players. 30 minutes before the game. The clinching game in Toronto, he’s in there trying to win money from guys playing cards.”
By all accounts, Trevor Bauer isn’t among those risking any of his paycheck.
“He carries his backpack around with his drones and does his thing,” said Andrew Miller. “I think it’s pretty neat that people of all types… you don’t have to be a traditional baseball player that is playing Cribbage and doing whatever. You can be your own man in this clubhouse.”
Bauer gave up a large number of foul balls in his last start, the majority of which were on pitches at the top of, or just above, the zone. Hitters are almost always attempting to put the ball in play when they swing. so every foul is a potential base hit or out.
I brought this up with Bauer prior to Game 4. Was he was mostly satisfied with those pitches, or did he feel he got away with a lot of mistakes?
“I definitely missed location quite a bit last game, and there were some that I was trying to elevate,” responded Bauer. “But I think I gave up an abnormally high number of foul balls overall all season. I don’t know the numbers on that. I could be off base, but that’s how I feel. So, it’s something I’m used to.”
Adam Frazier had a high contact rate, and a high BABiP, throughout the minors and in his rookie season with the Pirates. When I asked him if there is such a thing as too much contact, he suggested that some hitters intentionally try to hit foul balls.
“I guess there is if you’re chasing pitches, and putting balls in play instead of fouling them off,” Frazier told me. “What you want is hard contact, and sometimes you try to foul a ball off and end up putting it in play. You get yourself out.”
I also asked Bauer about shaking off pitches, which he did frequently early in the game. He shook close to 10 times in the first inning alone, whereas Josh Tomlin shook just once in his entire outing on Friday. Was it a matter of ad-libbing from the plan?
Bauer responded that it’s widely known that he shakes off, and it’s simply part of the game. He goes with what he’s confident in and does his best to follow the game plan.
One can only speculate how many times he shook from the curveball, but we do know — per PITCHf/x — that he threw 20 of them, and 87 pitches overall. We also know — per MLB.com’s Mike Petriello — that the Cubs had baseball’s lowest contact rate (32.1%) and exit velocity (84.3 MPH) when swinging at curveballs this year.
Joe Maddon is well aware of his team’s trouble with the curve. On multiple occasions he’s mentioned that chasing them has been an issue in recent games. I asked if that’s something he simply needs to deal with, as it’s a year-long problem and not something that can be fixed during the World Series.
“I think it’s an industry-wide concern,” answered Maddon. “Right now the magnifying glass is on us, but if you point at every team, probably most of them have a problem with that particular issue or pitch. I also believe that we hit breaking balls in the zone well. The key component here is that you have to be able to discern.
“Those are the kind of determinations you have to make in that split-second. But I’m here to tell you, man, it’s not just us. There are a lot of teams that we’ve played against that we’d like to do the same thing against them. Then it comes down to the command of that pitcher that night. So, listen, it’s a great conversation, and it’s true. But it’s not just true of us, it’s true of a lot of teams.”
Based on the numbers, it is especially true for the Cubs.
Maddon on Jon Lester: “He’s just been a different cat all year. More comfortable in his Cubs skin.”
Three weeks ago, Corey Kluber and David Price were on the mound when the Indians and Red Sox faced off in ALDS Game 2. Earlier that day, we ran a piece here at FanGraphs on their respective pre-game warmup routines. Today, we hear from Collin McHugh. I asked the Houston Astros righthander about his routine earlier this summer.
McHugh: “I have a routine, but I can vary it. I’ll throw… let’s start with this. For an 0:05 game or an 0:10 game, I get out to the field and start playing catch at either 0:42 or 0:45. I play long toss until I feel stretched out. That can be anywhere from 120 feet to 200 feet, depending on what I feel like that day.
“Once I get on the bullpen mound, I have a 37-pitch routine. That’s if I throw every pitch exactly the way I want to. If I need to repeat a couple of pitches, it can get to 40-42. I don’t want to throw any more than that. I work my way up to game level by the last four five. Up until then, I kind of pace myself. You don’t want to go too early, too fast, and create some bad habits in the pen.
“I start with fastballs. I start from the windup and finish from the stretch. I’d say the first two thirds are from the windup, and the last third from the stretch. I move the ball around the plate. I start glove side — high glove side — and work my way to arm side. After that I go secondary pitches, starting glove side and then going arm side. I always try to finish with one good glove side fastball.
“You get eight pitches once you’re on the game mound. There, I’ll throw seven of from the windup, and one from the stretch.
“You try to time road games a little bit, but at the end of the day you just want to get through your routine. You know you’re going to have to sit for at least 8-10 minutes, sometimes up to 20, while your teammates hit. The difference between throwing for an extra few minutes out there isn’t usually a big difference, though.”
Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki — via MLB Trade Rumors — Darin Ruf might be on his way out in Philadelphia. If that happens, I can see the 30-year-old first baseman-outfielder drawing interest from at least a handful of teams. He spent much of the year in Triple-A, where he slashed .294/.356/.529, with 20 home runs. His career numbers in the big leagues are mediocre, but he’s hit lefties to the tune of .299/.379/.542, in 515 plate appearances.
Jason Kipnis was a Cubs fan growing up — he grew up in the same Chicago suburb as Steve Bartman —— but that changed when he was drafted by the Indians in 2009. His allegiances now reside firmly in northeast Ohio, which is why the sudden squelching of Wrigley’s roar sounded so good to him on Friday night.
Asked after the game about the best thing he heard from the crowd, Kipnis told a small group of reporters that it was “Silence after the last out. The guys in our dugout were screaming, but other than that it was a collective silence.”
When the crowd was loud — and it got very loud — what Kipnis heard was “kind of a white noise.” It’s something he’s grown accustomed to. As he pointed out, the Indians came through Fenway Park and Rogers Centre to get to Chicago.
In many ways, defensive positioning mirrors pitch selection. Scouting reports and tendencies are important, but in a given situation, either could go out the window. White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton touched on that when I spoke to him during the regular season.
“They allow us to read the hitters,” explained Eaton. “A report may say one thing, but the hitter may have a bad thumb, or he might be trying to get a guy over. The situation changes. The graphs we have are kind of a light outline.”
When Xander Bogaerts was coming up through the Red Sox system, many felt his future was as a third baseman. I have a specific memory of a prospect guru telling me — in no uncertain terms — that Bogaerts won’t be a shortstop in the big leagues.
Three-plus years into his MLB career, the 24-year-old native of Aruba has played 420 of his 473 games at shortstop. Defensive metrics aren’t particularly bullish on Bogaerts, but he’s turned himself into a steady-if-not-spectacular fielder.
Here is what Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said when I asked for his assessment.
“He plays well at short, but he is also a guy you would describe as an offensive shortstop,” opined Dombrowski. “I don’t think he’s hurt us defensively. I think his offense more than makes up for whatever lack of range he may have compared to some of the other guys. Say for example a guy like — and his metrics may not be good — Jose Iglesias. He has much more range, but he’s nowhere near the offensive force that Xander is. We look for him to be our shortstop next year, and for years to come.”
No one is questioning the defensive acumen of Javier Baez. The Cubs second baseman has drawn rave reviews, particularly this offseason. Among those weighing in are his club’s pitching coach, and its elder statesman catcher.
“This dude is a baseball player,” said David Ross. “He knows how to run the bases, he knows where to throw the ball. He’s got instincts ahead of where everybody else is thinking.”
“He’s a magician with the glove,” said Chris Bosio. “Omar (Vizquel) had that kind of tagging ability. He had the hands. Javy is a little bigger, and he’s obviously got a little more pop. But that awareness on the infield, the stuff he does, is a lot like Omar Vizquel.”
With tonight’s start, John Lackey became the sixth pitcher in history to start a World Series game for three different teams. Prior to coming to the Cubs, Lackey appeared in the Fall Classic with the Angels (2002) and Red Sox (2013).
So far this postseason, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen have combined for 47 strikeouts in 27 innings. They’ve allowed 10 hits and one earned run.
Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Callaway gushed about Bryan Shaw following Game 3. Not so much for that night’s performance, but rather because the righty reliever has performed well in the shadows of Allen and Miller. His solid 2016 isn’t an outlier.
“Look at what Shaw has done the last four years,” said Callaway. “Nobody has done what he’s done. And he gets better the more you pitch him. Nobody can do it like Bryan. He’s a freak of nature. He can bounce back every night.”
Earlier this year, Burke Badenhop and I were talking about closer usage and leverage. Something he predicted — not saving your best reliever for the ninth — has come to fruition sooner than either of us expected.
“As the wheels keep turning — as baseball evolves — it’s going to slowly happen,” said Badenhop. “Teams that are early adopters are probably the ones who will reap the most benefits, because everybody is probably going to start doing it.”
The “everybody” part remains to be seen, but there’s reason to believe what has happened in October — not just Francona’s bullpen usage, but Buck Showalter’s as well — could be a game-changer. Before the fact, Badenhop was skeptical it will happen in a hurry.
“I expect it will take micro-paradigm shifts,” said the journeyman reliever. “But in 20 years the game will be way different. Think about how different the game is now from the last 20 years.”
Boxing was once one of the most-followed sports in the country. Championship bouts captured the attention of millions, from coast to coast. Historically notable title bouts took place in the years the Cubs and Indians captured their last World Series titles.
In 1908, Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion of the world when he knocked out Tommy Burns in the 14th round.
In 1948, Joe Louis retained his heavyweight title for the 25th, and final, time by knocking out Jersey Joe Walcott in the 11th round.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
What does it take to be a scout? Tory Hernandez addresses that question at 2080 Baseball.
Over at ESPN, Susan Petrone asks, Who do you take to the World Series, your husband or your daughter?
The Fielding Bible awards have been announced. They can be found here at Stat of the Week
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
The first night game at Wrigley Field was played on August 9, 1988.
Satchel Paige made his World Series debut in 1948 as a 41-year-old rookie. Pitching for the Indians, who were in the process of winning their last ever title, the legendary Negro Leaguer retired the only two batters he faced. The first was Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn.
In 1951, Don Newcombe became the first African-American pitcher to lead the National League in strikeouts, with 164.
The winning pitcher in the infamous Billy Goat Curse game — Game 4 of the 1945 World Series — was Dizzy Trout.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.