Many baseball people believe you really can’t evaluate a baseball team until 40 games have been played, a quarter of the baseball season.
If that is true of the Indians’ front office, they would see a team that has a lot of potholes that need to be filled and the quicker, the better.
Chief among the holes is the bullpen, which according to ERA, is the worst in baseball. It says something about the volatility of relief pitching that just two years ago, in 2016, the Tribe bully carried the team to the World Series.
To date, of the 185 runs given up by Cleveland pitching this season, 76 have scored in the 7th inning or later. In Tuesday night’s debacle against the Tigers, five more were added to the total, all scoring in a disastrous seventh inning.
Really, no one is pitching well in relief, other than Cody Allen, and even he melted down in New York less than two weeks ago.
Andrew Miller just returned from the disabled list and still isn’t sharp, giving up the lead in two of this last three appearances.
Miller’s injury caused a major upheaval in the ‘pen, and it appears because of it, Terry Francona started handling his relievers like it was the post-season.
He started extending the starters, with several throwing more pitches than the normally threw in a game.
For example, last season, Carlos Carrasco threw more than 110 pitches in a game just three times. In 2018, he has already done it four times. It’s only May.
Mike Clevinger never reached the 110 pitch threshold in 2017, but to date this season, he’s done it three times.
How will this affect the starting pitchers as the season goes on? It’s definitely something to keep an eye on.
The front office didn’t fill the holes created by the departures of Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith in the off-season, and that has caused a tremendous void.
The skipper tried Zach McAllister in Shaw’s seventh inning role to start the season, but the veteran has put up a 7.47 ERA and has allowed five home runs in just 15-2/3 innings. Somehow, he remains on the roster despite never being trusted to pitch in high leverage situations.
Dan Otero, a reliable reliever over the last two seasons (ERAs of 1.53 and 2.85), has the same ERA as McAllister in the same number of innings.
Another holdover from a year ago, Nick Goody, is on the disabled list, but before he went out, he allowed four dingers in 11-2/3 innings, and had a 6.94 ERA.
Right now, the most recent good outings by relievers not named Allen, were by Oliver Drake, who just came over from Milwaukee in a trade, and Neil Ramirez, a veteran signed in the off-season on a minor league free agent, and just brought up from Columbus.
It is such a dire situation, that we would call on either of them if the Indians have a lead this weekend in Houston. Guys like Otero, McAllister, and southpaw Tyler Olson would have regain trust by having a series of good outings.
The good news is bullpen arms should be plentiful at the trade deadline. Unfortunately, the Tribe will have to give up assets that could have been used elsewhere to acquire them.
Right now, it’s a wet blanket on the entire squad.