End Of Season Grades: Fifth Starters
Mike B. | On 30, Sep 2011
Thursday began a two week, end of season grade and breakdown by each position. Certainly after the wild ride the 2011 Cleveland Indians took fans on, grades, projections and areas of improvement are all sought for 2012, with the goal being a playoff team next season. Today, we examine the spot starters, or fifth starters of the 2011 starting rotation. Be sure to check out our previous feature.
2-6, 4.09 ERA, 50.2 IP, 17 BB, 36 K’s
Before the 2011 season Huff had been a part of the Indians rotation for much of the last two seasons, making 38 starts over the last two seasons. A very rocky 2010 campaign, and questionable spring training, left him on the outside of the rotation when the team left Goodyear, Arizona. Huff would not head to Cleveland, but two hours south to Columbus.
He didn’t receive a call to Cleveland quickly either, being passed over when Carrasco missed time at the end of April. Instead Huff worked to control his pitches better and finally received a call to the big leagues to make what was expected to only be a spot start on July 18 against the Minnesota Twins.
Huff was expected to return to Columbus after his start, however, after seven shutout innings and helping the Tribe to a doubleheader sweep, Huff was kept on the roster and inserted into the rotation for most of the remainder of the season. Despite a return trip to Columbus in early August due to roster shuffling, Huff earned his way into the rotation.
Huff competed and gave the Indians a chance to win nearly every time he took the mound in July, August and the beginning of September. It seemed his two biggest nemesis were the rain and a lack of run support. After his original start in Minnesota, Huff only received more than two runs of support in one start.
In addition to his struggling run support, it appeared Huff tired out in September and lost command of the strike zone, forcing himself to throw fastballs in the middle part of the plate, which had been much of his problem in 2010. He isn’t the type of pitcher who can blow hitters away with a mid-90s fastball, but a finesse pitcher who needs to get hitters to chase pitches just off the plate.
Considering Huff’s second half success, and the rotation’s need for a left-handed starter, he should be considered one of the favorites to earn a rotation spot heading into 2012 spring training camp. His inability to finish strong down the stretch in September, however, has probably opened the door to a true competition.
5-3, 4.47 ERA, 58.1 IP, 13 BB, 31 K’s
Had Huff not thrown that masterful, seven inning shutout against the Twins in July, the Indians may have given the rotation spot to Jeanmar Gomez a long time ago. Gomez, who was one of the final demotions in spring training, was quickly promoted when Carrasco headed to the disabled list in late April.
Despite pitching well in his first stint in the big leagues this year, he was optioned back to Columbus after his May 5 start where Gomez cemented himself at the top of the Clipper rotation. Gomez was selected to the International League All-Star team before being recalled to start the second half with the Tribe. However, Huff’s shutout optioned Gomez back to the bushes again.
When Carrasco again had arm problems, Gomez received his third call of the year from Columbus and pitched well in August and September, winning five starts in a row before losing his final outing to Detroit. Of the options on the I-71 shuttle, Gomez is certainly the most consistent. He seems to always finish just behind someone, but he might finish this season as the hot hand to win a rotation spot for 2012 if a veteran free agent is not acquired.
0-1, 6.11 ERA, 17.2 IP, 7 BB, 14 K’s
After being acquired at the trade deadline in July 2010 from the Yankees for Austin Kearns, McAllister turned a mediocre minor league career into an All-Star season this year. McAllister was 12-3, with a 3.32 ERA in 25 starts at AAA Columbus. McAllister was a major reason the Clippers were able to win the International League Championship. He was a mid season AAA All-Star selection and named to Baseball America’s International League All-Star team at the end of their season.
While this may have been McAllister’s breakout season in the minors, it has not transferred over to his major league opportunities. In only four games this season, it is tough to evaluate his future role with the Indians. He will have to fight to take a rotation spot from Huff or Gomez for sure, as he would be considered an outside shot entering the winter.
2-6, 6.64 ERA, 63.2 IP, 28 BB, 36 K’s
Talbot was a member of the rotation for all of 2010, and won a rotation spot on the Opening Day roster, but it may soon be the end of the road for Talbot with the Tribe. The right hander struggled to find control through most of the first half of the season before he was placed on the disabled list with shoulder tightness.
After returning from the disabled list, Talbot was designated for assignment and cleared waivers. Once joining Columbus he first pitched out of the bullpen before gaining a spot in their rotation. After improving through the second half of the season, and the International League playoffs, Talbot was given a chance to start in Cleveland. It appeared to be much of the same version fans watched in the first half of the season.
Talbot finds himself on shaky ground with the Tribe. If he isn’t on the 40-man roster, he could be claimed by another team, but at this point, his roster spot may be more valuable to another player considering his chances of contributing to the big league club in the near future look to be slim.
Photo: John Grieshop/Getty Images