Monday, April 6, 2009

Pitching, pitching, pitching

A general rule of thumb in baseball is the team that wins on a given day is the team whose starting pitcher pitches the best that day. It was true again on opening day, in the Indians' disheartening 9-1 loss to Texas. Kevin Millwood totally outpitched Cliff Lee, and it wasn't even close. Millwood dominated a good hitting Indians lineup. The Indians only had five hits, all singles. Very rarely was a ball even hit hard. There weren't many Indians who even had comfortable-looking at bats.

Lee, on the other hand, looked a lot like he looked in spring training, although everyone in the Indians' clubhouse seemed to think he was better than spring training. Lee's biggest problem that he was unable to pitch out of jams. In the second inning he had two outs and had not allowed a run to score, but then gave up four two-out hits, two of which were two-run hits. Last year Lee rarely had to pitch out of jams, but when he had to, he did.

Given the makeup of their rotation, the Indians can't afford too many bad games by Lee, because he is now the ace, and aces are supposed to win the highest percentage of starts on the staff. Millwood is the Rangers' ace, and he looked like it. After Texas' four-run second inning there was never any point in the game when it looked like the Indians were going to get to Millwood. He was removed from the game not because the Indians were starting to figure him out, but because his pitch count got over 100.

Lee was removed because his pitch count was high, but also because he wasn't fooling many Texas hitters. It should be noted, however, that the Rangers also have a very good-hitting lineup. And on this day it was more than Lee could handle.


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