It was a bittersweet weekend for the Tribe in Detroit. They swept the Tigers in Michigan for the first time since 2008, but they lost perhaps their best starter, Carlos Carrasco, to a hamstring injury.
Carrasco will miss approximately 4-6 weeks, and already doomsayers are sending a death knoll for the 2016 Tribe.
If there is one area the Indians have shown they have a little depth in their organization, it’s starting pitching.
Heck, the Tribe didn’t even have to go to Columbus to find a replacement for Carrasco, they simply went to the bullpen to find someone who has starting experience, and won 11 games at the major league level a year ago.
We are talking, of course, about Trevor Bauer, who at the tender age of 25, has made 64 big league starts.
Yes, we know about the right-hander’s consistency issues, he seems just a capable of pitching seven strong innings as being knocked out in the fourth. However, he pitched just eight innings less than the man he replaces in the rotation.
Bauer’s problem has been throwing strikes on a regular basis, but in a lot of ways, he is much like Carrasco was before he blew out his elbow in 2011.
“Cookie” was 8-9 with a 4.62 ERA when he was injured at 24-years-old. Bauer’s numbers last season when he was 24? Try 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA.
This is Bauer’s second chance to be a starter. If he takes advantage of it, the rotation will be even stronger when Carrasco returns to the mound.
We believe Bauer will continue to improve and will be better than he was last season. He won’t be on Carrasco’s level, though.
If Bauer struggles, don’t forget two pitchers now toiling at Columbus, who could help out. Mike Clevinger is the organization’s best pitching prospect, and has mostly been very good at the AAA level.
And you can’t ignore lefty T.J. House, who missed most of last season, but came up big down the stretch in 2014. He is capable of providing solid outings in his arm is sound.
You also cannot forget that starting pitchers only go every fifth day. Let’s say Carrasco missed the full six weeks, and the Indians would play every day (they don’t) in that stretch, a total of 42 games.
In that scenario, the righty misses eight starts. Heck, the Tribe has already missed Michael Brantley, their best position player for 16 games and they survived.
Also, this injury would be more devastating to Terry Francona and Mickey Callaway if this were the post-season.
Our opinion is that you get to the playoffs by scoring runs. It is difficult to qualify for the post-season if you can’t put runs up on the board. However, pitching is preeminent once October baseball begins.
So, if the Tribe’s offense continues to get better and improves upon last year, they will be able to overcome the loss of a starting pitcher, even a very good one like Carlos Carrasco for a month and a half.
And if the Indians can make the post-season tournament, Carrasco’s arm will have less miles on it than other starting pitchers, and that could be an advantage.
We aren’t minimizing the loss. Carrasco is one of the best starting pitchers in the American League.
But this is something that good teams overcome. We still think the Tribe will be just fine.