After losing the second game of the midweek series against the Los Angeles Dodgers a few days ago, the Cleveland Indians looked nothing like a good baseball team.
They were struggling to score runs and mental mistakes were occurring on a regular basis. That night, rookie Erik Gonzalez cost the Tribe three runs because he didn’t have his foot on the base in the middle of a sure double play.
It was just another in a recent patch of poor play, and we aren’t talking about physical errors.
Since then, the bats seem to have come alive, mostly because of three hitters who are scolding hot right now, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez, and Lonnie Chisenhall.
However, there is still one area of the team that has to break through and soon, and that is the starting pitching.
Terry Francona needs to get some length out of the starters. The result of this not improving? Either the bullpen, which has performed well for the most part, will be fried by the time August hits, or the Indians will not be able to outscore their opponents consistently.
Overall, Cleveland ranks fourth in the American League in team ERA, but most of that work has been done by the bullpen, one of the best, if not the team in the sport.
Outside of Corey Kluber, who is giving Francona over six innings per start, most Tribe pitchers are having problems getting through six frames when they take the hill.
Carlos Carrasco averages over six innings as well, but recently has been having some issues with a pulled muscle in his chest, and when he loses his stuff recently, he loses it very quickly.
Danny Salazar was supposed to be the #3 starter, but he isn’t on the roster currently, due to soreness in his shoulder, and a total lack of confidence.
Trevor Bauer prides himself on his endurance, but he is averaging just over five innings per start, as his pitch count gets to the 100 mark about then. He must be more economical with his pitches.
Josh Tomlin has allowed 21 more hits than innings tossed thus far in the season, and more often than not, he has struggled to get hitters out. You wonder how much patience Francona will have this summer.
In yesterday’s doubleheader sweep over Minnesota, the Indians got just four innings from their starter in each game, although Mike Clevinger’s short start was due to the rain.
The Tribe has played 66 games to date, and workhouse Bryan Shaw (no surprise) has been in half of them. The concerning thing is Andrew Miller has made 30 appearances, throwing 34-2/3 innings, which is far too many.
Here are the innings pitched by starting pitchers over the last 10 games–4, 4, 6-1/3, 5, 7, 5-2/3, 5-1/3, 2-2/3, 6, 3-1/3. That’s an average of under five innings per start.
Kluber and Carrasco contributed 24-2/3 frames in their four starts, more than half of the total for the 10 game stretch.
That’s why Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff will probably need to find a starting pitcher for at the trade deadline. They need another starter who can give the skipper innings.
We saw the bullpen leak some oil in the Dodger series, probably because of the heavy workload they’ve had over the last two weeks. Even Miller, who is usually unhittable, showed he was human in back-to-back appearances vs. Los Angeles.
The biggest thing about the rotation is that was supposed to be the Indians’ strength coming into the season. To date, they haven’t performed like expected, which is probably why the Indians don’t have the same record as the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox in the AL.
Improvement is needed from within or via a trade, because the burden on the relievers has to be lessened.