April 18, 2014

Rotation Situation Is A Disaster

And I thought being swept back to back by the Twins and the Royals was rock bottom. I obviously thought wrong.

I seriously couldn’t decide where to go with this piece. The weekend in Detroit was an abject disaster. However, it was a mere add-on to a week that was a complete house of horrors from our Wahoos. Whatever could go wrong for this team, has gone wrong. The Tigers outplayed the Tribe in every single aspect of the game. They out-hit, out-pitched, out-ran, and out-defended the Indians. It was more of the same.

The Wahoos have lost nine in a row, going 0-fer during this nine game make or break road trip through three AL Central cities. It was the first time in the history of the franchise they have gone 0-9 on a road trip.

GM Chris Antonetti, who to me is dangerously close to losing his job with the way his moves last season (the Ubaldo trade) and this past winter (re-signing Grady Sizemore and then not properly backing that mistake up, not giving a third year to Josh Willingham, etc) have backfired, built this team with pitching and defense as its defining characteristic. Instead of flourishing and watching this staff grow, we are witnessing one of the worst rotations in the American League. How does a 36-49 record with an ERA of 5.15 sound to you?

Said manager Manny Acta: “We were positive about the rotation going into the season. I was anticipating that these guys would be as good, if not better.”

Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez were supposed to be the two guys at the top who carried the load. The final three guys – veteran Derek Lowe, strike-throwing revelation Josh Tomlin, and youngster Jeanmar Gomez were going to back these two up and eat innings. Well here we are, in the first week of August and Masterson and Jimenez have been nothing but inconsistent, Lowe was designated for assignment despite leading the team in wins (proving wins as a meaningless statistic), Tomlin and his 5.75 ERA have been shipped to the bullpen, and Gomez has been in AAA since late June.

Zach McAllister is currently the best starter Acta has, and he started the season in Columbus. Corey Kluber and Sunday’s starter Chris Seddon (a journeyman making his first major league start since 2007), are currently getting turns. Oh, but don’t worry, Roberto Hernandez will be ready in the middle of next week to reinforce this group. Did I mention he gave up four homers in a low-A ball game yesterday for Lake County?

The lack of depth and the failures of the staff are borderline stunning. Antonetti dealt any kind of high-minors quality depth he had when he chose Ubaldo over two first round draft picks in Alex White and Drew Pomeranz last July. Lowe did all he could do, but he bombed over the last two months. The league figured out Tomlin after seeing him for more than a full year and he no longer fools anyone. However, Masterson and Jimenez are the guys who are probably the most disturbing though.

As the guy who was supposed to have his big break out year, Masterson seems to be unable to focus and concentrate. There may be no nicer guy in the Cleveland clubhouse than Justin. However, it seems as though his mind wanders. After blowing up Friday night in a 10-2 loss (four innings pitched, 10 hits, seven earned runs), Masterson was asked about his performance. After a quick thought about how he didn’t get the job done, he strangely said “On a brighter note, my wife told me that with her cookie business she wants to donate all her former and future profit to charity. So that brightens your night just a little bit when things don’t go your way.”

I understand keeping things in perspective and maybe this is how he clears his head, but it was very odd timing. I’m sure one thing has nothing to do with another, but that is how Masterson is wired. He made six July starts and posted an ERA of 5.55. Then came Friday’s debacle. He is fifth in the AL in walks (Ubaldo leads the AL) and second in wild pitches (Ubaldo also leads the AL). Maybe there is a reason the Indians were reportedly shopping Masterson at the trade deadline. It is starting to look like 2011 was the more of the exception than the rule.

Ubaldo is the one who gets all the heat, but Masterson has been way bigger of a disappointment.

As for Ubaldo, I seriously don’t know what more to say about him other than he is an average starting pitcher, a back end of the rotation guy. It’s not his fault, he is who he is. Antonetti hitched his wagon to Jimenez, and ultimately it will cost him his job. If Ubaldo was our fourth or fifth starter, you’d look at him as an innings eater and a guy you could be looking into possibly replacing. Tomlin had an ERA over five and was getting battered around to the point that he was shipped to the pen. Take a look at his numbers compared to Ubaldo’s:

Tomlin – 19 games, 5.75 ERA/1.43 WHIP/54 K’s/23 BB’s/16 HR allowed/2.52 K per BB

Jimenez – 22 games, 5.29 ERA/1.61 WHIP/98 K’s/76 BB’s (leads AL)/18 HR allowed/1.29 K per BB (42 out of 43 in AL)

Similar enough. Jimenez obviously has more upside being a power arm, strikeout with more of a track record, but his career is going in the wrong direction at the wrong time. We’ve got one more year to see what Ubaldo can do. But I think we are seeing what he is right now.

During the season-breaking nine-game losing streak, the Indians starters went 0-7 with an ERA of 11.69 (55 earned runs in 42.1 innings pitched).

Where do they go from here? Maybe Kluber will get past his first start jitters and become what McAllister has, a consistent power arm. Maybe Hernandez will be a decent back of the rotation option and put himself into play for 2013. Maybe Masterson and Ubaldo can turn things around over these next two months. Or maybe these guys continue their downward spiral and Hernandez is the same pitcher he was last year – a guy with a five plus ERA who couldn’t be counted on from start to start.

Whatever happens the rest of the way, Antonetti looks like he has a serious problem on his hands for 2013. At worst, he needs two more legitimate major league starters for the rotation.

Then again, he may not be around to make those decisions.

(AP photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • AMC

    Nice summary of the abject disaster that is the Indians rotation. You’re absolutely right that this debacle should cost Antonetti his job because it’s already cost the Indians their 2012 season and it’s highly likely to prevent 2013 from being a productive season as well.

    Even if Antonetti had signed Willingham and let Grady walk (or limp) away, this team would still largely be in the same position it is now because of the weak rotation.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    This is a hanging sinker right in the wheel house of mgbode since we have been discussing the rotation this morning…light it up like Miguel Cabrera ‘bode!!!!

    When the team pitches they don’t hit when they hit they don’t pitch – sign of a poorly constructed roster. Add in a black hole in LF, no 3B and half a player at 1B and it gets worse.

    Btw TD what makes you think Antonetti will take the fall? Wishful thinking I would agree but wouldn’t Shapiro just trot out another minion of his to take his place?

    Btw Mrs. Masterson might want to rethink her generous act the way her husbands been pitching.

  • mgbode

    largely agree with all points here, but wanted to point out a few things.

    *you forgot about Carrasco for 2013 (coming off injury & missed year though)

    *Ubaldo had remarkably consistent peripheral numbers over the last 4 seasons of pitching (slight bump up in 2010 of course). His pitching in 2012 bears no resemblance to those numbers. He is pitching significantly worse in nearly every single category. Strangely, this actually gives me some hope he could be in for a rebound year next year.

    *Masterson is where I worry. 2011 is looking like the outlier on his career so far. I hope he rebounds and gets there again, but 2012 sure looks alot like 2009 and 2010 from a stats perspective.

    *As I pointed out in the other thread, every single starting pitcher has a worse FIP than last year. McAllister is about the same but all the others are much worse. Good bye Scott Radinsky.

    *apologies for whoever suggested it (please reply here if you read or someone else remembers), but the suggestion to move Asdrubal to 1B and get a slick fielding SS is a great idea for next season. We have a mostly GB% staff (supposedly – looking at you Ubaldo), but we can improve our IF defense. SS is a more premium run-prevention defensive position, so having an all-defense no-offense guy there probably makes more sense than Kotchman (I know Asdrubal’s #s don’t look as good at 1B, but I honestly don’t care about that. Net effect should be minimal on current makeup).

    *Let’s hope these last couple of months have some of the young guys show us they are ready for a shot at one of those bottom rotation spots next year.

  • mgbode

    ask and ye shall receive. I don’t know if Antonetti will take the fall, but he sure has got some ‘splanin to do.

  • boomhauertjs

    No way Shapiro will fire his protege after 2 seasons. Look how long it took him to fire his “partner”.
    There’s a better chance of Dwight Howard signing as a free agent with the Cavs than Antonetti being fired this offseason.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cb.everett.9 CB Everett

    The front office keeps saying how they were so “positive” about the rotation going into the season, as if that somehow gets them off the hook. Instead it only highlights how poorly they’re evaluating their “talent.”

  • mgbode

    best possibility for 2013 rotation (within reason):

    Masterson regains 2011 form.
    Ubaldo regains career-norm form.
    McAllister builds on 2012
    Carrasco comes back healthy and pitches good enough (with an innings cap)

    I cannot talk myself into Tomlin, Carmona-Hernandez, J.Gomez, or any of our current other options for the SP5. Maybe that changes by the end of the year, but it sure seems like we need to get another SP and even then rely on significant improvement from our guys.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I sure hope by now that the Indians know better then to count on ?s for the future and Carrasco is as big a ? as anyone given his missed time from a serious arm injury. He didn’t show alot until just before he got hurt so what was live and what was Memorex?

    Who is next Roberto Fausto Carmona Hernandez? Gimmie a break the guy is getting lit up in the minors. It’s no wonder he couldn’t pitch before he literally didn’t even know his own name. Maybe this explains the meltdown in Beantown back in ’07 now if only I could figure out what happened to CC Half-ton Sabathia!

    I beat up on Masterson largely because of all of the people who seem to have an over inflated view of the guy but he’s not a top of the rotation SP on most teams he just happens to be in one of the leagues worst rotations. On most other teams he’d be a #3 or #4 with the repetoire of pitches he has in his bag.

    As for this idea of Cabrera at 1B you do realize this is Asdrubal and not Miguel right? ;-) Please no I’ve seen enough half-type players (all defense no hit) and honestly I don’t think a new never played before position is what Cabrera needs. Now you mess with one of the few guys on offense who you kinda could count on daily. If anything maybe you’d shift him to 2B the problem then becomes Kipnis. Kipper could always go back to his original OF position I think there will probably be an opening in LF again. To bad Lindor isn’t a year or two further in his progression for SS.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cb.everett.9 CB Everett

    (Unfortunately) I think we’ll see Hernandez in the rotation next year. So between him, Masterson, and Ubaldo, we’ll definitely lead the league in walks, WPs, and fan frustration filled F bombs. I hope Carrasco does rally back…he holds some promise, so does McAllister.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    This is why I can’t fathom trading McAllister not now and especially not for a Dyson. Alot of “wishes” making up that rotation next year UGH. I still hold out some hope for Jeanmar Gomez why I don’t know but I think we are really kidding ourselves if we think a significant SP will be added this offseason. Even with alot of $$$ coming off the books.

  • nj0

    “The lack of depth”

    I’d argue we actually had quite a bit of depth – Masterson, Jimenez, Lowe, Tomlin, Gomez, McAllister, Hernandez, Seddon, Kluber…

    I don’t know of a MLB team that has as their 6th/7th guys something other than AAAA players, unproven rooks, or spent vets. The issue wasn’t depth, but just straight up stinking.

  • mgbode

    the trade idea was Lorenzo Cain, not Dyson. Cain has already proven to be a consistent hitter, +-defender, and gives the team more speed.

    I certainly understand the hesitation given our rotation, but I think the odds of McAllister only living up to a SP3-4 are much greater than Cain not living up to a ‘+’ OFer.

  • mgbode

    but, looking at FA, we are likely looking at another year of Kotchman who is all-D / no-hit at 1B. since there is a bigger premium for defense at SS, this idea was brought up. I like it to some degree (yes, we’d have to see if Asdrubal can handle 1B).

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yea I meant Cain well I wouldn’t trade McAllister for him either.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’d have to see a list of free agents at al positions to be honest. Personally I’d prefer to move another player rather then Cabrera.

  • mgbode

    http://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/flb/story?page=mlbdk2k12_2013freeagents

    scroll down to 1B and you might want to have a beer ready to go.

  • Harv 21

    I thought it was crazy for Antonetti to stake his young career on a high-risk gamble like the Ubaldo trade, and this off-season will reveal a lot about whether the Dolans have any idea what to do with a GM that has been so rocky, albeit in challenging circumstances. We know Shapiro loves stability, sticking with Wedge so long, sticking with the Indians when he surely had opportunities to go to bigger spending clubs. Can see him telling the Dolans to stick with Antonetti, especially if the team goes into one of their standard late-season winning periods after all is lost.

    But Shapiro and Antonetti are 3 years into their contracts; maybe the Dolans will shock us and clean house. Not sure I care, actually.

  • mgbode

    “late-season winning periods after all is lost”

    that was Wedge. Acta has the early season false-hope winning periods.

  • matt underwood

    Derek Lowe is tied for the team lead in Quality Start with 13.

    That about says it all.

  • Harv 21

    Hey, wait a sec … got it: Tag Team Managers!! Wedge will probably be available soon, maybe by mid-season next year.

    Change that “What IF?” to “Hey, Why Not?”

    [Wipes hands, smiles smugly, snaps the laptop closed]

  • clevefan4life

    Let me know when the Dolans sell the team and Shapiro, Antonetti and the rest of the folks that have ZERO ability to evaluate talent are gone. At that point, I’ll start getting excited.

  • mgbode

    can we get Hargrove for the last couple weeks of September? 2005 is still too fresh