April 23, 2014

On the 2013 Indians starting rotation and narratives

Ubaldo JimenezLast year, in spring training, I remember the WFNY crew was banging our heads against a wall trying to come up with Indians content. There ain’t no shortage of narratives and storylines this year. And that’s fun for everyone. Positives!

But today, I hope to tackle one specific topic from Jon’s “optimism” article earlier this week: the starting rotation. It’s a topic that divides a lot of fans’ and analysts’ opinions regarding the potential of the 2013 Indians. And while I know there could be millions of other arguments, I wanted to do a three-step piece today.

First, I’ll share an debate as to how exactly the Indians were “historically” bad in 2012. Then, I’ll share some intriguing narratives behind three of the starters. And finally, overall about narratives and the upcoming season.

This won’t necessarily be all stats-y, again, but that’s how it will start off for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts and expectations in the comments as well. [Read more...]

Indians’ starting staff lead the majors in ‘pace’

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Indians starting rotation is the quickest working group in MLB-

“The Indians have two of the fastest-working pitchers in baseball, with Derek Lowe (17.1 seconds between pitches) and Justin Masterson (17.2) rating behind only Phillies ace Roy Halladay in pace between pitches. In fact, the slowest member of the Indians rotation—Josh Tomlin (19.2)—is still two seconds faster than the league-average starting pitcher so far in 2012.”

Obviously it is still early, but pitchers tend to have the same pace, or relatively close all season. Lowe and Masterson have always been quick workers. Gomez only had a couple of innings to demonstrate his pace before an early exit sticking up for Choo the other day.

Cleveland’s Rotation: Deep Enough to Dream

I really don’t have anything against ESPN writer Keith Law. His article the other day really bothered me though. Particularly his comments about the Tribe’s young pitching staff.

Where I doubt Cleveland most is on the run-prevention side of the ledger. The two fluky starts by Mitch Talbot weren’t signs of things to come anyway, and now his injury exposes Cleveland’s lack of pitching depth in the upper levels. Josh Tomlin’s 2.75 ERA and three wins mask fringy stuff, including a below-average fastball and no real out pitch to miss bats; he’s likely to be homer-prone in addition to just generally hit-prone. Carlos Carrasco at least has two above-average pitches in his fastball and changeup, but he has never really had an average breaking ball and his command remains a stubborn problem. Even erstwhile ace Justin Masterson has weaknesses, including a career-long platoon split borne of his low arm slot, and while I expect him to dominate right-handed hitters I doubt he’ll sustain his current .103/.212/.103 line against them.

Grrrr. First, these are young pitching prospects we are talking about. Guys that will continue to develop. Nobody, no matter how long they have been around baseball, can say with any great certainty who will and who will not end up with a successful career in the Major Leagues. There are the occasional guys that seem to be can’t miss. (Even though some of them do miss.) But as for the rest, staying away from major injury and learning the art of pitching on the fly seem to be the major differences between perpetual prospects and legit MLB starters. [Read more...]

Carlos Carrasco Is Who We Thought He Was

Several months back, I wrote about Carlos Carrasco’s potential as a member of the Indians’ rotation going forward.  The basic takeaway: the guy can be really good, so long as he limits his homerun rate.  He strikes guys out, doesn’t walk many, and seems to be one of the more effective options for the Indians rotation for the next several years.  He just seems to let up too many home runs.

In fact, look at these strikeout and walk numbers among Tribe starters this season—usually pretty good gauges of a pitcher’s ultimate efficiency and success: [Read more...]

Tribe Starting Pitching: A Depressing Thought

Indians Tigers BaseballAs 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:

[Read more...]

DL Update: Westbrook Rained Out, Lewis Shines

Tribe Decision MakersA pair of Cleveland Indians starters were on rehab assignments yesterday as Jake Westbrook was the scheduled starter for the Double-A Akron Aeros, while Ohio State product Scott Lewis started for the Class A Lake County Captains. Westbrook is currently aiming for a late-June/early-July return to Cleveland after a couple more starts in Columbus, while Scott Lewis was reassigned back in late-April to the 60-day disabled list will hopefully return by the All-Star Break after several more minor league starts.

This all could present some tough decisions for the big decision makers in the Indians organization in the coming weeks and months, as the current rotation of Lee, Pavano, Okha, Sowers and Huff is starting to come through a little bit right now as the team is playing much better than they did at the beginning of the season. Only time will tell what the Indians starting rotation will look like by the All-Star Break or even by the end of the year with Cleveland currently 27-35 and seven games back in the Central.

Over in Akron, Westbrook’s second scheduled start for the Aeros was rained out. After delivering 3.0 innings of scoreless baseball in his previous start last Saturday in game one of a doubleheader against Altoona, Westbrook was a scratch just before gametime with the rain pounding the field and the tarp firmly on the infield grass. Around an hour later, the game was cancelled as well, forcing Akron to play a doubleheader in New Hampshire next week and moving Jake’s start to Friday night against the Portland Sea Dogs. The 31-year-old Westbrook will pitch tonight at 7:05 p.m. for Fireworks Friday at Canal Park against the Red Sox Double-A team.

[Read more...]

BREAKING: Jake Westbrook Starting for Aeros

Cleveland Indians RHP Jake Westbrook will make his first rehab appearance of the 2009 season tonight with the Akron Aeros at 5:05 p.m. as they take on the Altoona Curve in a doubleheader. Westbrook will start game one tonight, it what will be his fourth rehab appearance in his career with the currently 34-19 Aeros after being shelved for most of the 2008 and thus far all of the 2009 season with elbow problems. He underwent Tommy John surgery just last September after also suffering through hip problems, and now seems destined to be with the Indians by the end of the month.

His return will be a huge boost to the Indians rotation that now includes red-hot Carl Pavano, Cliff Lee, David Huff, Jeremy Sowers and a currently unidentified replacement for Fausto Carmona (possibly the Zack Attack). Take a look at some of the career statistics for the 31-year-old Westbrook as he looks to make it back to the team where he has won only seven games over the past two and a half seasons:

2003: 7-10 with a 4.33 ERA, 22 starts (34 games), 133.0 IP
2004: 14-9 with a 3.38 ERA, 30 starts (33 games), 215.2 IP
2005: 15-15 with a 4.49 ERA, 34 starts, 210.2 IP
2006: 15-10 with a 4.17 ERA, 32 starts, 211.1 IP
2007: 6-9 with a 4.32 ERA, 25 starts, 152.0 IP
2008 1-2 with a 3.12 ERA, 5 starts, 34.2 IP

Indians: Continuing to Temper Expectations

Let’s face it: Off-seasons are only exciting if your team of rooting interest makes moves.  The Browns?  We loved it when the team managed to acquire players like Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers.  The Cavaliers?  Mo Williams, come on down.  But all of the moving and shaking seems to stall out when it comes to the Indians and their off-seasons.

Sure, Mark Shapiro and company made several key moves for the future this year when the ship began to sink.  But what about the months of November through March?  Last winter was pretty uneventful.  And while Craig did his best to tell us that we shouldn’t expect much to happen, some of us (hello!) still hold out hope for the big splash.  And then I see things like this. [Read more...]