Most of the good feeling that has surrounded the Cleveland Indians season in 2011 has been directed at the pitching staff.
The hurlers have garnered a great deal of kudos for the Tribe being in contention for most of the season, and a possibility of a .500 record for the campaign.
However, no one should get carried away.
The Indians rank 9th in the American League in ERA, ahead of teams who are recognized as having shaky pitching: Boston, Toronto, Kansas City, Minnesota, and Baltimore.
In reality, the good feeling generated for the guys on the mound should be directed at the relief crew, which ranks 3rd in the AL in ERA and 5th in the league in innings pitched.
The starting pitching ranks both 10th in the junior circuit in ERA and innings pitched.
Why would anyone think this team doesn’t need to improve the staff going into next season? It would be crazy to stand pat during the off-season.
Especially with the elbow injury to Carlos Carrasco, who was in the rotation for most of the year.
Certainly, there have been some positives for the rotation in 2011. Justin Masterson has shown that he is indeed a starting pitcher, and has had a good season with a 12-10 record and 3.15 ERA.
That ERA is a little inflated from the past month when he may have been a little tired and/or left in some games a little longer than he should have.
Josh Tomlin showed he is a guy who can be counted on to keep his team in games on a regular basis. He went at least five innings in all of his starts except his last, after which he reported an elbow problem that ended his season. He wound up at 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA.
And picking up Ubaldo Jimenez gives Manny Acta one more starter he can count on.
After his first few starts, which were marred by an inability to throw strikes, Jimenez has been solid for the most part over the last month.
And he gives the Tribe a starter who can strike opposing hitters out, averaging a strikeout per inning.
That leaves the poster boy for inconsistency, Fausto Carmona, and a bunch of unproven youngsters as candidates for the rest of the rotation.
The other problem is that most of the Cleveland starters don’t work deep into games, which creates a strain on the bullpen. Tribe pitchers had two complete games all year long.
Jimenez is prone to high pitch counts, which prohibits him from eating innings, and Acta seems hesitant to let Tomlin go more than six innings.
Another problem for Cleveland is the bullpen is usually the most volatile part of any major league team. That doesn’t bode well for next year either.
The Indians have a closer in Chris Perez, who had 35 saves this season, and some good young set up men in Tony Sipp and Vinnie Pestano. Pestano is a great swing and miss guy with 80 punchouts in 59 innings.
Still, look for a few changes in the ‘pen. The organization will try to work southpaw Nick Hagadone into the mix for ’12, and either Zach Putnam or Josh Judy will likely be a part of next year’s roster.
The stats for the pitching staff aren’t as good as one might think this season.
Therefore, GM Chris Antonetti has to be looking to add some help for the mound next season.
Starting 2012 with the same names and faces isn’t going to lead this team into the playoffs.