Starting Rotation Deserves More – From Entire Team
Laurel Wilder | On 08, May 2014
Corey Kluber set a franchise record when he struck out seven batters in a row on Sunday, May 4 against the Chicago White Sox. He set his own career-record high of striking out 13 batters in the entire game. In the same game, George Kottaras made Tribe history when he hit solo home runs in his first two at-bats as a Major League Indian. Yet, the team still lost.
On Monday, May 5, Zach McAllister pitched 6.2 innings, giving up five hits amounting to no runs, and the scoreless game was sent into extra innings. The Tribe lost in the 10th inning to a score of 1-0 favoring the Twins.
In these past two starts, Kluber and McAllister have a combined line of 14 2/3 innings pitched, eight hits, zero runs, three works, and a combined 21 strikeouts. To say these numbers are good for two of the team’s strongest starters is a massive understatement. However, the fact that the team lost both games after these starts?
There is no other word for it – disappointing.
I’m an optimistic fan. I like to look at the season as a long one, with potential and the possibility for improvement as it continues. Losses at the beginning of the season? No big deal, really. We’ll get better.
Right now, though, it’s hard to maintain that optimism. Giving up leads in late innings, a failure to score runs, and overall sloppy baseball leaves little room for enthusiasm on a daily basis. Moral of the story?
Our starting pitchers deserve more than this, more than what they’re handed, by both the relief pitchers that come after them and the offense (and, arguably, some of the infield defense, as well). They deserve a team that will back them up – and add to – their starting performances.
Yes, there have been glimpses of the team that these pitchers deserve to play with. On Friday, May 2, the Indians defeated the White Sox with a score of 12-5, with home runs from Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana. The win came after Kluber and Cody Allen dressed up like chickens during batting practice in an effort to break the team’s six-game losing streak.
The superstition and chicken-trick may have worked for Friday’s game, while the weather and some aptly-timed White Sox errors contributed to the team’s 2-0 win over Chicago on Saturday, May 3. Yes, a little back-up and help never hurt anyone, but when the only assistance seems to be achieved in the form of costumes and weather? There may be a problem.
The Indians’ redeemed themselves on Tuesday against the Twins, when Josh Tomlin earned his first win since July 5, 2012, upon his return to the starting rotation at Progressive Field. However, the Tribe scored only four runs to beat Minnesota 4-1, with most of the effort coming from Tomlin’s performance. Bryan Shaw closed the game to secure the win, though the defense did not supply much help in ensuring that that win was secured without distress.
The Indians starting pitching has been great. So, what gives?
Essentially – everything else. Well-timed hitting has not come easy this season, and response runs seem to be striking at an all-time high. Relief pitchers are delivering less-than-strong performances, with John Axford blowing Sunday’s game and giving up the run that ended the scoreless 10-inning game on Monday. In 15 games, Axford posts a 4.85 ERA, an 0-3 record, has given up seven runs (all earned), and three homeruns. Vinnie Pestano struggled early in the season, and is now in Columbus due to said performances, while Cody Allen, Josh Outman, and C.C. Lee have each given up a homerun in late inning appearances.
Bryan Shaw and Scott Atchison provided good late-inning support during Monday’s game, holding the Tribe to their 4-1 lead to end the game. Shaw posts a 1.65 ERA and has a 1-0 record on the season, while Atchison has a 2.13 ERA. Marc Rzepczynski is also doing well, throwing 2.19 in 12.1 innings this season.
Our starting pitching deserves more than what comes after them. They also deserve more than what is happening behind them.
Yan Gomes already has eight errors on the season. Asdrubal Cabrera is quickly sinking into an oblivion from which it doesn’t seem like he’ll return. The outfield is still proving to be worthwhile and effective, with Michael Brantley continuing to prove why he is such an addition to this team, and David Murphy proving to be a fairly decent offseason pick-up for the Tribe. However, the infield is struggling to turn routine plays and keep fans at ease.
So what can be done to remedy these problems? It’s one thing to say that the rest of the team needs to step up and deliver, but it’s another thing to actually decide what it would take to make that happen.
First and foremost, there need to be runs. If runs are hit, there is no need to play extra innings of baseball when a starting pitcher as thrown scoreless innings. The team’s bats need to heat up if they want to continue to win games. Lonnie Chisenhall has the highest average on the active roster, hitting .373 in 21 games. In 32 games, Brantley is hitting .269 and Murphy is hitting .261 in 31 games. Nick Swisher is down to a .206 batting average, and Cabrera is down to .205. Carlos Santana, once one of the team’s hottest hitters, is batting a paltry .144.
The Indians are listed at 26th in Major League Baseball, with a team average of .231. In team pitching, however, they are 17th, with a 3.88 ERA.
Numbers demonstrate a lot. The Tribe is excelling on the mound, especially in early innings, but faltering when it comes to providing the support those pitchers need to win games. The team needs to give their starters what they deserve. Right now, that seems to be impossible – but nothing ever is. Should the bats heat up and the team begin to put some effort forward to support their pitchers, there’s no telling what could happen. Heck, Kluber might even crack a smile.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images