Last season, the Cleveland Indians went to the seventh game of the World Series despite missing two of its starting pitchers (Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar) for the entirety of the post-season.
It was a handicap because the starting rotation was considered the strength of Terry Francona’s ballclub.
So far in 2017, that simply hasn’t been the case.
Last night’s start by Danny Salazar just highlighted the issue once again.
The right-hander had early inning issues once again, giving up a three run homer to Jose Bautista after the hitters handed him a 2-0 first inning lead.
Then, after the Indians went up 7-3 with a five run third, Salazar couldn’t finish the bottom of the inning, giving up two more tallies before departing.
With Corey Kluber on the disabled list with a bad back and Trevor Bauer’s struggles being well chronicled, Salazar needs to pitch well to take the burden off the bullpen.
The statistics show the starting pitchers haven’t been that bad on the season thus far. In the first 33 games in 2017, Cleveland pitchers have compiled 16 quality starts, a percentage that ranks in the middle of the pack in the American League (7th).
However, those numbers are skewed by the dominance of Carlos Carrasco, easily the Tribe’s best starter this year with a 1.86 ERA.
Carrasco has six of those quality starts (out of seven appearances), meaning in the other 26 starts, Indian hurlers have put together just 10 starts of six innings, allowing just three runs.
Kluber has three of those 10, and he’s not pitching right now.
Outside of Carrasco, the other four starters have an ERA of over 5.00. Josh Tomlin and Bauer both have figures over 7.00.
Some of the issues can be from playing in a lot of hitter havens to start the 2017 season. Cleveland has played a dozen games in Texas, Arizona, Chicago, and Toronto, all pretty good places to hit.
However, as a pitching staff, the team ERA is better on the road than it is at Progressive Field.
Each of the struggling pitchers seem to have different issues.
Salazar is striking people out (53 K’s in 36-1/3 innings), but has had problems with control, a team leading 18 walks, and putting hitters away. He winds up throwing a ton of pitches because of the latter.
He’s also had issues in the first and second innings.
Tomlin doesn’t have control issues, but he’s allowed 41 hits in 30-1/3 frames. Surprisingly, he’s allowed the least home runs among the rotation, and we say that considering his history.
To be fair, since two horrible starts to begin the season, he’s been pretty good in his last four starts (24 IP, 11 ER).
And Bauer was discussed earlier this week. He has tremendous stuff, but has had extreme consistency issues in 2017. He needs to start being able to keep his team in a game through five innings to give them a chance to win.
We know that if the rotation straightens itself out and goes two times through it, the Indians could have a 10 game winning streak. That’s how good they can be at their best.
That the ballclub is 18-15 without them being special is a tribute to how good the Tribe and their bullpen is this season.