Does Tribe Still Need Pitching

Yesterday was a good day for the Indians’ organization because the ace of their staff, Corey Kluber, won the American League’s Cy Young Award.  He is the fourth Tribe pitcher to win that award, joining Gaylord Perry, C.C. Sabathia, and Cliff Lee.

Kluber deserved the honor, leading the league in wins with 18 and finishing second in the AL in strikeouts and complete games.

We knew this last season, but Terry Francona has a legitimate top of the rotation starter going into next season.  The question is, does GM Chris Antonetti still need to add another starter, or should he be satisfied with the performance of the starters over the last two months of the season.

The answer here is you can never have too much pitching, and although the rotation was fantastic in August and September, there really isn’t much of a track record for any of the starters, including Kluber.

Before anyone goes crazy, to us, a proven track record is two to three years at a certain performance level.  And while Kluber has been solid in both 2013 and 2014, the fact remains he threw only 147 innings in the prior year because of injury, and this year he pitched 235 frames.  How will his arm react to the additional workload?

The only starting pitcher who toiled in the major leagues prior to 2013 is Carlos Carrasco, who was tremendous after returning to the rotation last season, but outside of the first half of the 2011 season, before needing Tommy John surgery, has little track record of success in the big leagues.

This isn’t to denigrate Carrasco, who has tremendous stuff.  We are only saying it is a big leap of faith to assume the right-hander will pitch the entire 2015 season the way he finished ’14.

Trevor Bauer has the next most starts in the majors with 34, the same number Kluber had this season.  His career ERA in those appearance is 4.18, which is a solid figure, but not earth shattering.

We like Bauer, and for most of last season he was the second most consistent starter for Cleveland.  But, he’s thrown less than 200 innings (186) at the big league level.  You simply don’t know for certain what he is going to do in 2015.

Danny Salazar?  He has 30 major league starts and 162 innings under his belt.

T. J. House made 18 starts and has just a little over 100 innings in the bigs.

Josh Tomlin and Zack McAllister have more of a track record than the three guys we just mentioned.  Tomlin is 29-28 lifetime with an ERA approaching 5.00 (4.89) in 477 innings.  If he could pitch like he did in 2011 (12-7, 4.12 ERA) that would be nice, but that’s the last time he was effective.

McAllister is 19-25 with a 4.38 ERA lifetime in 65 starts, a total of 363 innings.  He was solid in 2013, but had a mediocre season in ’14.  He showed promise working in relief at the end of the season, and could be taking the same career path as Carrasco.

We wouldn’t want to bank on those two as backups if one of the youngsters falter.

It may sound like doom and gloom, but these are the things Antonetti needs to think about when constructing the pitching staff.  He has to assume things will go wrong.

Think about it, Bauer and House weren’t in the rotation that opened the 2014 season.

That’s why the Tribe still needs to add another starting pitcher, preferably someone who can come in and the management can be reasonably certain they can soak up innings and pitch effectively.

The old adage is still true…you can’t have enough pitching.

KM

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