Here are 16 Walk-Off Thoughts on the Indians’ 13-6 win against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.
1. Obviously, a slumping Indians lineup was going to go off against Justin Verlander, last year’s AL Cy Young runner up [/end sarcasm]. Because that’s baseball, even though some have the impression that stats, namely the advanced metrics that now play a key part in how teams make decisions, must 100 percent of the time guarantee the expected outcome. That’s part of the fun within a grinding 162-game season. It’s about, perhaps, increasing your odds by a few percentage points, not making things black-and-white.
2. Three home runs in the first three innings, all off Verlander. Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall each turned on inside fastballs. Carlos Santana took a mistakenly located curveball and crushed it. After several games of frustrations and missed chances, the Indians packed about a week’s worth of power into one hour.
3. Indians manager Terry Francona: “We were kind of due to start to swing it a little bit. I’m not sure I would have picked Verlander. But we did a good job and stayed after them. You kind of get that line moving and you get first-and-thirds. The ball was really flying and we took advantage of it.”
4. Ramirez had a career day: four hits, a walk, two home runs, six RBI. The latter two are both career highs. He hit dual three-run home runs, one in which he pulled, one that he sent the other way. He also hit pitches all over the zone.
5. That’s where a lot of his offensive value rests, at least in being able to project that he’ll sustain much of the success he’s had the last year. Per FanGraphs, his line-drive percentage and hard-hit percentage have each continued to rise since 2015.
6. Among players with at least 500 plate appearances since the beginning of last season, Ramirez’s 23.2 percent line-drive rate is 13th in the American League. It’s one spot ahead of Miguel Cabrera at 23 percent. This season, it’s at 29.4 percent, and his hard-hit percentage is up to 38.2 from 26.8 a year ago.
7. Ramirez isn’t the most lethal hitter in the league. But similar to Michael Brantley, he’s able to make solid contact at such a high rate, in so many different zones and against so many different pitchers that he’s a difficult out. Match that with how well he uses the whole field, and Ramirez becomes a fairly sustainable hitter and, as the Indians apparently saw, a worthy investment.
8. Francona: “And that’s I guess what’s reassuring when a guy has a year like he did, an entire year, like he didn’t just do it in a spurt when he got called up. He did it from start to finish and you know its’ there. It’s a really reassuring feeling. … He’s got a lot of Brantley in him from the left side. And as he knows the league, not necessarily sure that he’ll get stronger, and he might, but I think you’re going to see him do a little more damage just [with] his familiarity with what they’re trying to do to him.”
9. Ramirez was hitting .200 entering Friday’s game. He’s now at .341. That’s April baseball for you.
10. Francona: “That’s kind of what we usually say. It's such small sample sizes. Everything gets magnified. He took good swings all over the ballpark. When you drive a ball the opposite way—you say me time and time again -- when you drive the ball the other way, you're doing a lot of fundamental things correctly.”
11. It had Progressive Field chanting “Jose, Jose” in the eighth. Ramirez: “Sometimes it makes me laugh and other times it really motivates me, because it feels really good to have their support. The fans are really important to us and I want to give something back to then for what they've given to me.”
12. The weird thing with Ramirez is that his helmet has stayed on at a remarkably high rate. It’s the least sustainable thing about him.
13. Ramirez: “I don't know what's happening. I'm going to have to let my hair get longer and straighter and maybe move my head around so it'll start falling off more. The fans are asking the same thing.”
14. As for the lineup as a whole, it’s always an interesting question as to how one big hit can impact a club as a whole, whether it’s the same game or even the day before. Chisenhall hit a grand slam in the ninth inning on Friday that brought the Indians to within one. It seems like fool’s gold to believe that hit could spark a lineup of nine guys, but the beauty is that while there’s often a lot of value in quantifying everything, somethings must be left to be subjective.
15. Corey Kluber might subscribe to that theory, saying: “It was good. I think the way the game ended last night, we weren’t able to come all the way back, but I think it kind of maybe turned a couple feelings around at the plate. If that can carry over into the next day, you know, the results and putting a lot of runs on the board, it’s not always going to be the case, but they were relentless today.”
16. Francona, meanwhile, doesn’t. He’s often said that momentum in baseball is only up to the next day’s starting pitchers. On Saturday, he reiterated that: “I don’t think so. I think the next day’s starter is the momentum or the stopper. We were kind of due to start to swing it a little bit. I’m not sure I would have picked Verlander. But we did a good job and stayed after them. You kind of get that line moving and you get first-and-thirds. The ball was really flying and we took advantage of it.”