In our next installment of the series, we will examine the Indians starting rotation. This was hands-down the team’s biggest question mark coming into the 2010 season. By the end, more question marks arose, while some other names emerged from nowhere to make themselves factors. So what do the Indians have today? Lets take a look.
The Opening Day Starting Five:
Jake Westbrook (21 starts as an Indian, 6-7/4.22 ERA/1.38 WHIP)
Fausto Carmona (33 starts, 13-14/3.77 ERA/1.31 WHIP)
Justin Masterson (29 starts, 6-13/4.70 ERA/1.50 WHIP/140 K’s in 180 IP)
David Huff (15 starts, 2-11/6.21 ERA/1.69 WHIP)
Mitch Talbot (28 starts, 10-13/4.41 ERA/1.49 WHIP)
Projected 2011 Rotation:
Carmona, Masterson, Carlos Carrasco (seven starts, 2-2/3.83 ERA/1.37 WHIP/38 K’s in 44 IP) Talbot/Veteran Free Agent/Jeanmar Gomez (11 starts, 4-5/4.68 ERA/ 1.65 WHIP)/Josh Tomlin (12 starts, 6-4/4.56 ERA/1.25 WHIP)
Lets start at the top. Westbrook came back after two years away due to Tommy John surgery and worked himself back into shape. He was the Indians opening day starter by default. You didn’t know what you were going to have in Carmona after his struggles in 2008 and 2009, and he was really the only other option to lead the rotation. While Westbrook was far from spectacular, he made himself into an attractive trade piece at the deadline, and considering his free agent to be status, there was no real reason for the Indians to keep him around. He was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals where he went 4-4 with a 3.42 ERA in 12 starts.
I will always be a huge Westbrook fan. A great teammate, and a better guy. If the Indians are looking to add a veteran to the rotation for next year, they could certainly do worse than the classy Westbrook.
Carmona assumed the mantle of staff leader once Westbrook was dealt. Early on, you could see that Fausto version 2007 was peaking through the clouds. He was far from perfect this season and definitely had his ups and downs, but overall, you’d have to say it was a successful year for the big right-hander. Starting off the Spring with a new pitching coach (Tim Belcher) and a new personal catcher (Mike Redmond), Fausto was borderline brilliant in Goodyear and seemed prime for a big bounce back. He was named the lone Tribe All-Star and finished the year strong, with a 1.82 ERA in September, the best of any AL pitcher who made at least four starts.
The one thing Fausto has finally learned is to throw more than just his power sinker over and over again. He has become a more well rounded pitcher, something that Belcher, the departed Redmond, and maturity can all take partial credit for.
Carmona’s club-friendly contract is one of the reasons he was so sought after at the trade deadline, and will probably be again this winter, but expect Fausto to be the Tribe’s opening day starter in 2011.
While Carmona may have had a renaissance season of sorts, Masterson on the other hand wasn’t as fortunate. In his first full year as a starting pitcher, the righty who came over in the Victor Martinez trade was a disappointment. The thing about Justin is he is a tease. He tantalizes you with his strikeout stuff and his quirky delivery, but he often times loses his arm slot, causing a wildness streak to show up.
I wrote up and down all year that Masterson should be a reliever and he fits perfectly at the back end as a power arm in front of Chris Perez, but the Indians insist on him being a starter. I think keeping Masterson in the rotation is more of an indictment of the quality of Major League ready depth in the rotation. The Indians have plenty of arms, but the quality of those arms is still in question. Maybe he proves me wrong and puts together a season the way he pitched in late August and into September. But I just don’t see it.
Talbot is still a wild card for 2011. He started off so strong, earning his spot with an excellent spring, and was arguably the Indians best starter in April, going 3-1 in his four starts with an ERA of 2.05. At the break, Talbot was leading AL rookie starters in wins with eight and an ERA under four. Then the bottom fell out of his season. On July 30th he went on the DL with a shoulder issue and was never the same. His second half was very uneven and unimpressive. Even when Talbot was healthy, he was doing it with smoke and mirrors. In 159.1 innings pitched he walked 69 in comparison to just 88 strikeouts. Not great stuff, but the Indians brass still seems to like him. I see him as more of a long man.
David Huff. What can we say about the Mad Tweeter? He basically won a rotation spot out by default and was given just enough rope to hang himself, and that’s just what he did. He made 15 starts and lost 11 of them. A 6.21 ERA, a 1.69 WHIP, and average stuff are not exactly a recipe to be in the minds of the front office. Probably the best thing Huff did this year was the Twitter debacle, which triggered the emergence of Jeanmar Gomez.
Gomez arrived for his spot start on July 18th with a poor AAA record. Instead of wetting himself, the 22 year old Venezuelan, threw seven innings without allowing an earned run, striking out four and walking one. He was impressive enough to get another shot, this time as a regular rotation member, in August. After his first five starts, his ERA was an impressive 1.84. In six August starts, Gomez posted an ERA of 3.77. But in September, the book was out on him. In two of his last four starts he allowed 14 earned runs in 8.2 innings of work. Still, Gomez looks like a solid option for the rotation in 2011. Lets not forget, he is just 22 years old.
One youngster who more than likely locked himself up a job next year was Carrasco. If not for an injury, he would have been in the mix before his September call-up. But it may have turned out to be a good thing. He got more seasoning in AAA and seemed more prepared for Major League hitters, unlike the end of 2009 where he was beaten like a pinata. Carrasco made seven starts and showed the full arsenal that made him a one time can’t miss prospect in the Phillies organization. He threw consistently around 94 mph with his fastball and showed a solid change up to boot. Seeing Carrasco come up and succeed the way he did had to be music to the ears of the Indians brass and to fans, especially considering all they have to show for Cliff Lee thus far is a backup catcher and a utility infielder.
If Carrasco wasn’t the most pleasant surprise, then Josh Tomlin certainly was. The 25 year old was not even on the radar screen heading into the season. The one thing about Tomlin, a Chad Ogea type, is that while his stuff won’t wow you in any way, he is a strike thrower who has won at every level. All he did in his first start was go seven against the World Champion Yankees, allowing one run on three hits without a walk. He seemed to never look back from there.
Tomlin made 12 starts and won six of them. While he won’t over-power anyone, he was always around the plate, forcing hitters to swing the bat. He was a WHIP machine in the minors, and posted a solid 1.25 WHIP with the big club. If Tomlin did anything this year, it was to make a name for himself in the organization and put himself in the mix for a roster spot in 2011. I am a fan if his grit, but I wonder about his long term prospects once the league learns more about him.
The Tribe definitely has a number of options for the 2011 rotation, how they shake out is anyone’s guess.
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)