Two nights ago the Indians dropped a heart breaking game to the Braves. Danny Salazar pitched well and the bullpen picked him up, but the team still lost 2-0. The weak point of the Indians this season was supposed to be the starting rotation, but now, entering the final month of the season, they have emerged as the strong point. The Tribe has five starters that have at least 18 starts on the season, and every time one of them takes the mound the Indians have the chance to win.
These five men are on pace to accomplish something that no Indians rotation has done in over 40 years. Four of the five starters have an ERA under 4.00. The last time an Indians rotation was able to accomplish this feat was 1972 when Hall Of Famer Gaylord Perry lead the team. Looking at these starters, you can see a rotation that has been one of best, top to bottom, Cleveland has seen in decades.
Justin Masterson has been the anchor of the Indians rotation for three years and he came into the season as the team’s ace. Last year he struggled through the worst season of his career, but a few adjustments and some hard work and Masterson is back on track. Some say that he is not a true ace, but he is one of the top pitchers in the American League. He is currently tied for second place in the AL in wins with 14. He is fifth in the league in innings pitched, and fourth in the league in strikeouts. He is second in complete games, and is currently leading the American League in shutouts with three. To top it all off, he was named to the American League All-Star team for the first time in his career. His 3.50 ERA leads the Indians starting staff.
Ever since the trade that brought Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland in 2011, he has taken a great deal of criticism, much of it deserved. Last season was an absolute disaster. He led the league in losses, and pitched to a career worst 5.40 ERA. Many wondered why the Indians picked up his option, even if it was just for depth. With a new pitching coach and a supposedly renewed dedication, Jimenez has had one of the biggest turnarounds on the season. He has a winning record at 9-8 and only half as many losses as he had last season. He is on pace to best last season in innings and strikeouts, and his 3.95 ERA is his best since his fantastic 2010 season.
Zach McAllister has been a big boost to the Indians rotation this season. Last year he pitched well in his rookie season going 6-8 with a 4.24 ERA. Many thought there was no way he could replicate that success, let alone get better. Some even expressed their skepticism by stating that he didn’t pass the eye test. I’m not sure how a 6’6” Texan that throws in the low to mid ninety doesn’t pass the eye test, I thought that’s what the eye test was. He has been more than solid for the Tribe this season, hopefully proving those naysayers wrong. He has battled a finger injury this season, but he is still 7-7 in 18 starts on the season. His 3.51 ERA is the second best on the team, just barely trailing Masterson.
Another huge turnaround on the season is Corey Kluber. In 2012 he was up and down, some days looking great in seven shutout innings, and others where he failed to get out of the second. 2013 has seen much more consistency in his starts. He is 7-5 in 19 starts and is certain to reach career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts. He has a strong fastball and an incredible slider that has accounted for the vast majority of his strikeouts. His 3.54 ERA is right up there with Masterson and McAllister.
The last of the top starters for the Indians is Scott Kazmir. He once had an electric fastball and amazing career ahead of him. He was a two times All-Star and former strikeout king when he was with Tampa Bay. After seasons of absolute failure from 2009-2011, he was out of the league for the entire 2012 season. His season this year started a bit shaky, He gave up six runs in four innings in his first start, and had five starts in May and June where he gave up four runs or more. He turned it around in June and July going seven straight games giving up three runs or less. He is 7-6 on the season with a 4.25 ERA.
The Indians starters this season may be the best overall group, top to bottom, in decades. They may not have a Cy Young candidate, but they have a group of guys that gives the team a chance to win every time they take the mound. Further evidence of this is in the fact that none of the Indians top five starter has a losing record.
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