How many people would have thought that two weeks into the baseball season, the Cleveland Indians would be tied for first place in the AL Central with a 10-4 record, and heading to Kansas City for an early showdown series. Not even the biggest drinker of the kool-aid would have imagined that.
Yet here they are, playing very good fundamental baseball, fielding very well, and running the bases excellently for the most part. You put those things together with the tremendous starting pitching the Tribe is getting, and well, you’ll have that kind of record.
Still, the pitching still has to be a question mark. Today, Mitch Talbot went on the disabled list with an elbow problem, and will probably miss 3-4 starts. That means Jeanmar Gomez may get the start against the Royals on Tuesday, because the other candidate, David Huff, is scheduled to pitch today for Columbus.
The hurler that concerns me most is Josh Tomlin, who ran his record to 3-0 on the young season yesterday against Baltimore. Tomlin’s ERA is 2.75, but the stat that jumps out on you is his hits allowed. He’s allowed just 11 hits in 23-2/3 innings. If that were a young Nolan Ryan, perhaps you wouldn’t blink an eye, but Tomlin is not an overpowering guy.
What is means is there are a few, 5 innings pitched, 10 hits allowed outings coming in the young right-hander’s future.
Justin Masterson’s start is encouraging, especially after last season when it was thought he might be more effective as a relief pitcher. The big righty finished strong last season, and can get it to the plate at 95 MPH+, but he’s allowed just 15 hits in 20-1/3 frames. He has an ERA of 1.33, which is definitely going to rise as the season continues.
Talbot will miss some time now, but it’s difficult to believe he can pitch better than he did in his last start, when he threw eight scoreless innings against Los Angeles. Remember, he struggled in all months not named April and September last season.
That doesn’t mean these two guys cannot continue to pitch well, heck, Tomlin has pitched at least five innings in every one of his big league starts in his career, so he keeps you in the game, but they aren’t going to pitch as well as they have for the rest of the season.
On the other hand, you have to think Fausto Carmona’s stats will improve. Obviously, his numbers are skewed by giving up 10 runs in three innings on opening day, but his 6.11 ERA will come down before the season ends.
Right now, as a staff, opponents are batting .216 against the Tribe pitching staff. Surprisingly, that’s not even the AL’s best, as the Angels’ staff is holding opposing hitters to a .200 average. The Indians saw first hand proof of that last week. Cleveland’s number is tied with Texas for second best in the league.
That’s not going to last for a variety of reasons. One is the law of averages, last season, American League hitters batted .260 overall. Secondly, the Indians’ pitchers are pitch to contact guys for the most part. They are not guys who make batters swing and miss. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a fact.
If the Indians want to continue their hot start, they are going to need to continue to get the kind of offense they’ve been getting through the first 14 games. They are currently third in the junior circuit in runs scored, and they will need to remain in the top half of the league for the season to stay in contention.
Getting Grady Sizemore back should help, especially since the guys he is replacing (Austin Kearns, Travis Buck, etc.) haven’t really hit.