Going into the 2015 season the Cleveland Indians have a starting rotation that has been talked about as one of the best in all of Major League Baseball. Riding the momentum they built during the second half of 2014 has not only made them a trendy pick but a smart pick as well. This is a young group of starters that is either in their prime or coming into their prime. Things definitely look promising going forward.
In recent days there has been a few reported hiccups in this rotations armor. First Gavin Floyd is heading to the MRI table for his sore elbow. Josh Tomlin was scratched from his start and has already had an ultrasound on his “cranky elbow”. While both of these items may only be precautionary in the early days of spring, it does make you think about the depth of the rotation as a whole.
The meat of the rotation seems to be okay right now with the five best starters Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, T.J. House and Danny Salazar all have gotten through the early part of Spring Training unscathed to this point. The potential issues that losing Floyd or Tomlin for significant time are causes for concern. That would leave Zach McAllister, Shaun Marcum and Bruce Chen as the “Calvary”. While I am intrigued by Marcum and his bounce back potential to a useful backend starter leaning on this group for any period of time is not ideal to the success of the 2015 season.
Having depth is always a good thing. Having good depth is an even better thing. But having depth that allows you to not tax your bullpen is ideal. What I mean is that having starters that aren’t working into the seventh and eighth innings is going to burn up a bullpen and make a very good pen start to look mediocre.
In 2014 Cleveland’s starters logged 955 innings. Which was middle of the pack in the AL. The bullpen logged 513.1 innings which was the third most in the AL with Minnesota and LAA finishing ahead of them.
One of the main reasons that the starters were in the middle of the pack and the relievers were at the front of the pack was because the starting pitching was so poor at working late into games in the first half of the year.
2014 staff ace Justin Masterson threw 98 innings over 19 starts before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. In his 19 starts he pitched less than six innings eleven times. Josh Tomlin started 16 games throwing 96.1 innings. Aside from his complete game one hitter over the Mariners Tomlin only lasted more than 6 innings two other times in 2014. Zach McAllister made 15 starts over 73 innings. He pitched into the 7th inning only three times. Making it through the eighth only once, during the opening homestand against the Padres.
Danny Salazar was not much better in the early part of the year (40.2 innings over 8 April and May starts prior to his demotion to AAA) and we all remember Carrasco’s four starts in April, (doesn’t it seem really silly now that they pulled him out of the rotation after four starts. I know I never understood that) but I’m going to leave them out of this for now.
The meat and potatoes of this is that the trio of Masterson, Tomlin and McAllister started 50 games and logged 267 innings. By and large they were a very poor 50 starts and 267 innings. Adding in Salazars eight clunkers puts them at 307.2 inning in 58 starts.
Heading into 2015 the Indians cannot expect, in my opinion, to give 36 percent of their starts to a combination of Tomlin, Chen, McAllister and Marcum and win the AL Central.
The Indians signed Floyd and at first I was a little puzzled. It seemed like a signing they would make a few years ago. I mean it just smelled like Derek Lowe. Maybe even the Jason Johnson (yeah remember him) 2006 veteran signing. But this is just something that they had to do. Floyd was a solid pitcher. He got injured. Now the Indians are betting 4 million that he can be healthy. They are also betting another 6 million in incentives that he can be healthy and effective all season. This is likely to be at the expense of one of Salazar or House developing at the MLB level but that is the only way that the Indians were going to be able to build good depth at the MLB level.
Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez taught us, you’re only one hilarious GIF away from testing your depth.
This Indians rotation that is 9-10 pitchers deep is a rotation that they hope they never have to get past the sixth man in that depth for any large part of the season. And certainly not 36 percent of the starts.