Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cleveland Indians - Looking at the Rotation

Continuing with the AL Central, it’s time to take a look at the Cleveland Indians and what their rotation is going to be able to do for them this season. Cleveland has put together a mostly young rotation, with one notable exception. Derek Lowe who at age 39 is seeing a great start to his season. The tribe has been very good in the early going, so far having amassed a 12-10 record and lead their division despite their rotation, and that can be attributed in large part to some good fortune and a surprising offense.

Derek Lowe has been effective in eating a lot of innings, but he hasn’t really been a good starter since leaving the Dodgers after their 2008 campaign. and hasn’t seen much of the American League since 2004 with the Red Sox. Lowe hasn’t been striking a lot of batters out (9), but has also been able to limit the walks so far as well (10) over his 31 & ⅔ innings. His .289 BABIP looks sustainable, especially because he’s been inducing a lot of ground balls. His groundball to flyball ratio is a nice 1.30 (slightly more than 9 out of every 16 balls in play are staying on the ground) which is pretty par for the course with Lowe. The thing that’s most a red flag here is that 18% of fly balls are staying on the infield for him this year, and with a 7% career mark, that probably won’t last, and with that his home run totals will start to creep back up. Lowe gives up a lot of hits, and has been able to keep the ball in the yard so far, but he’s doing so right now at a rate he wasn’t able to achieve in his best seasons, so I wouldn’t count on it for the year. I think Lowe could benefit from a change of scenery, and with the AL having not seen him in the last 7 years could look a lot better than he did in Atlanta, but he won’t keep up this pace.

Justin Masterson hasn’t been as bad as his ERA (5.40) would make you believe. He’s had two outings where he’s gone 8 innings or further and has kept the damage very minimal in both of those starts, between them however he’s not made it past the 5th, and has given up no less than 3 earned runs in each, peaking in an 8 run 3 & ⅔ inning debacle. Masterson has put up a very low (by his standards) .253 BABIP which will probably come up a bit but his walk numbers will probably come back down (17 over 30 innings), and that’ll help keep his WHIP from climbing. Masterson has been keeping the ball down slightly better than Lowe overall, but hasn’t had the same luck with the long ball so far. I think Masterson will look to build on his two great starts, and can probably compile a pretty good season despite a few rough outings here and there.

Ubaldo Jimenez has been exceedingly mediocre so far, he’s walked 20 batters in his 28 & ⅔ innings and given up 5 home runs so far. Jimenez came out of his first start looking pretty good, too many walks for my taste, but that’s a minor complaint if he’s able to go 7 innings and give up 2 runs. He has however only made 1 quality start since then, and has walked no less than 3 batters in every  game. Jimenez has also been leaving the ball where batters can put it in the seats far too much so far, roughly 10 out of every 16 balls in play are either fly balls or line drives, While Jimenez was seeing success in colorado he was able to get batters to put the ball on the ground about ½ of the time. Compounding that issue he’s walked 15% of batters he’s faced, and struck out only 10.5%. Jimenez was supposed to be an ace coming over from colorado, but he hasn’t shown us any of the guy who placed 3rd for the 2010 Cy Young since, and it’s not looking to get better. I’d expect him to right the ship here to a certain degree, but I just don’t know if he’ll do it. His stat line is so hugely divergent from what he’s done in the past that I have to assume there’s a mechanical issue he’s trying to work through, or he’s been hiding an injury of some kind since last year.

Josh Tomlin has started off the year much like Masterson or Jimenez, He looks to be righting the ship a bit now with a quality start last night and an 8 inning 1 run effort against the Mariners on April 19th Tomlin’s ERA could be as much a product of bad luck at the moment as it is a product of anything else. The biggest red flag to me is that 24% of balls in play against him hav ebeen line drives, so despite his solid strikeout (19) and walk (5) numbers over 27 & ⅓ innings, he’s getting hit hard (10 doubles and 3 home runs) when he gets hit. Tomlin’s really only 1 good start from his ERA looking a lot like last year’s, and that’s fine for a 4th starter, and if he puts up near league average production in his second full season, I don’t think Cleveland could really be upset with him.

Jeanmar Gomez has a very small sample to work from so far this year, after being ejected for throwing at Mike Moustakas but has looked very good so far. after a 10 start audition last year it looks like Gomez will get a chance to show the league what he can do in a full year’s work this season. Gomez has been very accurate with his pitches, having issued only 3 walks in 15 & ⅓ innings, and having struck out 13. He’s keeping the ball down exceedingly well, and even as that regresses, that mentality will serve him well going forward. I think Gomez needs to show us another good start or two before we can start to whisper about a breakout season, but in his 4 appearances, he’s been very good and could be a real surprise for Cleveland going forward.

I almost forgot the eventual return of Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez who has put up two good years over a 6 year career, Clearly he’s capable of great things, but I don’t see him being a huge factor this year, he’s just not dependable enough, and spending a large portion of the season in the Dominican Republic because of his legal issues probably won’t help him much.

The Tribe doesn’t have a great pitching staff, but if they can milk some real quality innings out of a few young arms as Derek Lowe comes back down to earth they’ll look pretty good  by the end of the year. That all said, Jimenez looks to have been a real bust so far

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