As if the financial imbalances of Major League Baseball weren’t bad enough to begin with, the rich seemingly got richer this winter, while our little engine that probably can’t signed Austin Kearns and Shelley Duncan to minor league contracts.
During the 2005 and 2007 seasons, the Indians were built to win with their pitching leading the way. The 2005 rotation looked like this:
Kevin Millwood – 30 starts, 2.86 ERA
C.C. Sabathia – 31 starts, 15 wins
Cliff Lee – 32 starts, 18 wins
Jake Westbrook – 34 starts, 15 wins
Scott Elarton – 31 starts, 11 wins
Only six Indians (Jason Davis making four) made starts that year and all five guys made 30 plus starts for the first time since the dark ages. The rock solid rotation handed things off to a bullpen which featured two shut-down right handers (Rafael Betancourt – 2.79 ERA and Bob Howry – 2.47 ERA) and two unflappable left handers (Arthur Rhodes – 2.08 ERA and Scott Sauerbeck – 40.04 ERA) in front of a tight-rope walking closer (Bob Wickman 45 saves). That was good enough for 93 wins.
In 2007, the season that should have been, the Tribe starters again were the big reason the team won the AL Central going away:
C.C. Sabathia – 34 starts, 19 wins, AL Cy Young Award
Fausto Carmona – 32 starts. 19 wins, 3.06 ERA
Jake Westbrook – 25 starts, 4.32 ERA
Paul Byrd – 31 starts, 15 wins
Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, and Cliff Lee all split the 5th starter spot with Laffey finishing the season as the key guy. Like the 2005 team, these starters handed their leads over to a lock-down pen. The duo of “Raffy Left (Perez – 1.78 ERA)” and Raffy Right (Betancourt – 1.47 ERA)” were borderline unhittable. Jenson Lewis had his coming our pary in July and finished with a 2.15 ERA in 26 games. Closer Joe Borowski did his best Wickman impersonation, saving 45 games despite a 5.07 ERA.
The point I am trying to make here is that we have little to no chance of anything remotely happening like that in 2010.
Right now, the Indians are sitting on a pile of #3 and #4 starters. The odds of four guys making 30 starts this season are about as good as Phil Savage coming back to be the Browns GM. Westbrook is your veteran leader, but he hasn’t pitched in almost two years. Up next is probably the maddeningly inconsistent Carmona. Justin Masterson is slated for the rotation, but is he a bullpen guy or a starter? David Huff showed some solid potential last year, but he was up and down. Laffey, a favorite of mine, must take the next step forward this year. But can he? How much more of Sowers will we see? What about Carlos Carrasco after his horrific end to the 2009 season? Will star prospect Hector Rondon break camp as the fifth starter?
Way too many questions in the rotation, even for the weak AL Central.
More depressing is to take a look at the current rotations for the Red Sox and Yankees. The Sox will trot out Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Clay Buckholz. The Yankees will follow with Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Javier Vazquez, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain.
Even in the division, the Tigers lead with ace Justin Verlander. The White Sox have Jake Peavy. The Royals have CY Young winner Zack Grienke. The Twins may not have that signature name, but they have the quality depth that the Indians lack. As we found out last year, there is a difference between “depth” and “quality depth.”
Where is the great Adam Miller when we could have used him?