Before the season started, and we predicted an AL Central Division title for the Cleveland Indians, one of our reservations was the bullpen.
Was it good enough to put the Tribe over the top.
Watching the games unfold, the relief corps has sprung its share of leaks.
Early in the year, Bryan Shaw was knocked around like a pinata, and you had to wonder if the heavy workload he has had over the past three seasons had caught up to him.
Cody Allen gave up two walkoff wins in one week, a seven day span that saw Cleveland lose five contests in a six game span by a single tally.
Now, Shaw and Allen seem to have returned to their norm and Zack McAllister, the other reliever Terry Francona has entrusted in the late innings is scuffling.
Our thought was the Cleveland bullpen walks too many hitters and gives up too many home runs.
Looking at statistics, that really isn’t the case.
The Tribe ‘pen has allowed 13 dingers to date, but that ranks 18th in the major leagues. As we have seen, the Cincinnati Reds lead in this dubious stat, giving up an unbelievable 33 circuit clouts to date.
Cleveland’s total is less than the vaunted Yankee bullpen, but the relief corps allowing the least bombs are the Mets and White Sox (each seven), while the Giants, Nationals, Orioles, Royals, Dodgers, and Red Sox have allowed nine.
A year ago, Tribe relievers allowed the fewest homers in the American League.
In terms of walks, the Indians’ relievers have allowed the 14th most walks (48). Again, Cincinnati’s gang of gas cans have walked a whopping 85 hitters thus far.
The five bullpens allowing the fewest free passes are Houston, the Yankees, Washington, Toronto, and Detroit.
The Indians were tied for 5th in all of baseball last season in allowing walks.
The Tribe’s bullpen is also 14th in ERA and 20th in strikeouts.
So, although there are far worse bullpens in the big leagues, there is also no doubt Cleveland’s relievers are not performing up to the standards of last season. There has been a regression.
Francona’s plan in close games in to use McAllister in the 7th, Shaw in the 8th, and Allen in the 9th. Do you know how many times he has used them that way and all three gave him a scoreless inning?
Once, on April 6th, the second game of the season and the Tribe’s first win. It hasn’t happened since.
McAllister has allowed 14 hits and struck out 16 batters in 14-2/3 innings, but he’s walked six hitters.
Shaw has given up 15 hits and fanned 19 batters in his 17 frames, but he has walked seven and allowed four homers.
Allen has allowed a scant 12 hits in 18-2/3 innings striking out 20, but he’s given 11 free passes and served up three bombs.
And Jeff Manship seems to be regressing to his career norm (5.20 ERA), giving up 14 hits and six bases on balls in 11-2/3 innings.
Perhaps it is time to give Joba Chamberlain (0.66 ERA), Tommy Hunter, and Dan Otero, who saved last night’s win some chances in higher leverage situations.
The margin for error in the American League is very slim because there aren’t any dominant teams, nor are there any bad squads.
Getting the bullpen back to the level of the last couple of years could be what puts the Indians ahead of the pack in the Central Division.