1. The Indians would enter the All-Star break as the worst team in the American League, 19 games under .500.
2. The bullpen would be the worst we have seen (and we have seen a lot of bad ones) since the days of the “bullpen from hell.”
3. The afformentioned pen would have Mike Gosling, Chris Perez, Winston Abreu, and Jose Veras in it, while Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis had pitched their way down to Columbus (with Perez doing it twice).
4. Grady Sizemore would be hitting .236 having spent a month on the DL.
5. Tomo Ohka would be in the rotation.
6. Carl Pavano would be easily the teams #2 starter and top realistic trade commodity.
7. Mark DeRosa would have already been dealt two weeks prior to the break.
8. Ryan Garko would be getting regular time in the outfield.
Shame on you Mark Shapiro. The organizational depth has shown to be a complete disaster – from the pitching to the position players. You can tell me all you want that Travis Hafner isn’t right, Jake Westbrook isn’t back yet, Grady Sizemore is playing hurt, etc, etc. But the bottom line is wins and losses; and the team you put together is 19 games under .500 in the most winnable division in baseball. With all of this said, this week, I am going to examine each aspect of the team in separate pieces to dissect just how things went so far south so fast. Today, we will start with the rotation.
We heard all spring about the depth of the rotation and the various options in case of injury or ineffectiveness. You still had AL Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee at the top. What we got from the rest was a clown show. It was one start out of Scott Lewis (60-day DL with elbow issues), a joke of a month from Anthony Reyes (now heading for his second Tommy John surgery), Jeremy Sowers and his four-plus innings routine, Fausto Carmona’s inability to throw strikes which caused him to be shipped back to rookie ball, David Huff’s ups and downs, Aaron Laffey being forced into a bullpen role and then getting hurt, a return to form from Carl Pavano, and Tomo freaking Ohka.
The facts are the facts. The Wahoo starters are dead last in ERA at 5.56. They are 12th out of 14 in innings pitched (only Baltimore and Oakland are worse). That won’t win you a lot of games.
This comes back to the organization not being able to draft and develop a mainstay quality rotation arm other than C.C. Sabathia since Charlie Nagy was drafted in 1988. (SIDE NOTE – Bartolo Colon was signed as a free agent by the Tribe in 1993 and was developed, but not drafted). If you look at today’s rotation options, it is littered with journeyman and failed draft picks with varying degrees of success. That is on the front office.
Worst of all, look what is in Columbus right now:
Zach Attack Jackson (3-7, 5.71 ERA)
Kirk Saarloos (3-10, 5,61 ERA)
Jack Cassel (5-7, 5.78 ERA)
Chuck Lofgren (3-5 5.03 ERA)
Ken Ray (2-4, 8.06 ERA)
That is not a joke. I know that the 21-year old stud Hector Rondon is now up and in his first start pitched six no-hit innings with eight strikeouts, but you get my point. Rondon is being fast-tracked because the Tribe is out of options. Pavano will most likely be dealt (he pitched another gem, eight innings, two runs and eight K’s in Saturday’s win over Detroit), and someone has to come back and take that spot. Ohka won’t last more than a start or two either. That is why the brass has no choice but to keep Jeremy Sowers as a starter in AAA (since his demotion Thursday), despite the fact that they know he can’t pitch past the fifth inning. The hope is that Westbrook will be ready in August, but nobody really knows if that will happen.
All off-season we were forced fed about how the Indians are major-league ready depth in the rotation and several guys would be competing for the final two spots behind Cliff Lee, Carmona, and Pavano. But as we have learned, there is a fine line between “depth” and “quality depth.” The thing is, if you look deeper, you will see that the organization may be in bigger trouble than you’d think.
As good as Lee is, you can bet your life that there is zero chance he lasts through next season. Even if the Indians somehow make a miraculous turnaround and get to the playoffs next year, Lee will certainly walk during his free-agent winter and cash in his chips. If the Tribe flounders, he will be dealt mid-season just as CC was last summer.
Who knows what you are going to get out of Carmona or if he will ever become the man we saw dominate in 2007. Westbrook will be coming off of Tommy John Surgery and also be a free agent after next season. Pavano, if he isn’t dealt at the deadline, will assuredly go elsewhere this offseason when his contract is up. Huff will be in the rotation one way or another, but he projects as more of a #3/4 than anything else at this point. Same goes for Laffey. Rondon is the future, and you can add hard-charging Jeanmar Gomez to the list of guys Shapiro is banking on.
But you are left with a lot of what ifs and holes.
In a market like ours, drafting and developing young pitching is probably the most important aspect of the organization. That is why this year’s #1 pick Alex White, the right-hander from North Carolina, cannot miss. It would just set them further behind.
Lord knows we don’t need that.