While we all wish the nation a happy birthday today, the other thing that make July 4th significant to a baseball fan is that is less than four weeks away from the trading deadline in the sport.
And with the Cleveland Indians sitting just a half game out of first place in the AL Central Division, GM Chris Antonetti is very much a buyer, trying to improve his club for the stretch run.
There is debate as to what Antonetti should persue. Should he get another solid bat, some help for the bullpen or another starting pitcher?
We go with the latter, although another southpaw of the bullpen would be nice as well.
The reason we feel this way has been made evident in the last week of games, of which the Indians have won five of six contests.
Checking out the innings pitched by the starters in each of those games–
Bauer 1/3 IP
Carrasco 5-1/3 IP
Jimenez 5 IP
Masterson 9 IP
Kluber 5-1/3 IP
Kazmir 5 IP
Outside of Masterson’s complete game last Sunday, the Tribe’s starters are putting a tremendous strain on the bullpen, which could explain some of the struggles the relief corps have experienced this season.
Of contending teams, only Toronto’s starters (5.42) and Baltimore’s starters (5.67) have thrown less innings per game than Cleveland’s (5.72). And the Orioles recognized that need and traded for Scott Feldman, who threw six innings in his first start.
By contrast, Oakland and Boston led the league, both averaging over six innings per start.
Masterson has given Terry Francona almost seven innings per start this season, showing that he indeed is a workhorse, and for the most part has kept the Tribe in the game in each of his starts. However, his innings per start is by far the best on the roster.
Ubaldo Jimenez has been improved this year, there is no questioning that. Still, he is only averaging 5.22 innings per start, mostly because he is around 100 pitches at that point in the game. Yes, there have been some early exits for the righty because he’s been hit, but for the most part, he’s kept the Tribe in the game, but only for about five frames.
The same for left-hander Scott Kazmir, averaging 5.28 innings per start. Francona is being careful with him for sure, since he was pitching in an independent league last season, but he hasn’t been able to pitch deep into games.
Corey Kluber has been a pleasant surprise for the staff, but he is also throwing less than six innings in an average start. And his last two outings, he has not seen the seventh inning.
The Tribe misses Zack McAllister, who was able to complete six innings in over half of his 11 starts. He’s been replaced by Carlos Carrasco, who is averaging five innings per outing, and that includes a seven inning start vs. the Royals.
A pitching staff can endure one or maybe two pitchers who can’t go deep into games, but right now, the Tribe has an entire rotation of these guys, with the exclusion of Masterson. That’s the reason Francona loves to have as many relief pitchers as he can on the roster.
Antonetti would love to have another starter who can soak up innings on his staff. That will keep guys like Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, and the three guys at the end of the game (Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez) fresh for August and September, when playoff berths can be decided.
The bullpen shouldn’t have to pitch four innings every night.