Joe: We have gathered here today to discuss the Cleveland Indians starting pitching staff. Who are these people, where did they come from, what are they doing here? To start who is the ace?
Mike: What a hanging curve ball of a question! It has to be Justin Masterson. He cut his HR/FB rate nearly in half at the same time his K/9 rate fell. Which meant that opposing batters weren’t hitting the ball hard off him.
Joe: I agree, Masterson was absolutely phenomenal last season and deserved more credit than he got from the rest of the league. In fact the only reason there is any question as to who is the ace is that the rest of baseball thinks it should be the Tribe’s number two pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez.
Mike: Ugh. I hope whatever Ubaldo’s mechanical flaws were the past year and a half have been worked out this winter in the Dominican. Manny Acta said they were. What is the likely hood that Josh Tomlin opens the season at #2 and Ubaldo at #3?
Joe: I prefer Ubaldo at two and Tomlin at three. It separates the two ground ball pitchers in Masterson and Tomlin with a more powerful strikeout pitcher. It also allows the Indians to give the longer tenured player the higher respected position. Eventually Tomlin will move up in the rotation, but as long as he makes his 30 starts, it doesn’t matter which spot he has.
Mike: It’s good you bring up the groundball fact: Derek Lowe, Tomlin, Masterson and Carmona, if he pitches this year, ranked in the top 10 among qualified starters in ground ball percentage, and all four have a career ground ball rate north of 50 percent. So let’s assume the infield defense is vital to have a good staff this season?
Joe: It is important and it shouldn’t be a problem with Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera up the middle. With the top three set the questions really come down to the bottom of the rotation. Kevin Slowey, Derek Lowe, Zach McAllister, Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff are all names up for those last two spots. Who is your favorite?
Mike: For some reason, the Indians brass really like Slowey. Chris Antonetti mentioned that the club tried to aquire him several times the past three seasons. He pitched well in the Metrodome as a fly ball pitcher. In that respect he compliments Masterson and Tomlin. David Huff will be interesting to watch. They need a lefty and he could pitch well enough in the spring to earn the spot at #5.
Joe: I think the obvious 4 and 5 will be Slowey and Lowe, but look forward to seeing McAllister and Gomez. McAllister pitched well during his short time with the team last year and Gomez pitched a perfect game for the Aeros a few years ago. He also pitched well last year, but the perfect game sticks out. Of course “Fausto Carmona” could come back and mess everything up.
Mike: No Huff? Wow. Ok. Derek Lowe is so old they dont even take social security checks from him anymore.
Joe: They have to play Lowe or that whole trade was worthless. I think Slowey would be the first out of the rotation if he doesn’t work out the first couple starts. I do think we should discuss the Carmona situation here, seeing how the Indians won’t.
Mike: We have to assume he will at some point pitch this season and that the Indians will keep him. What will happen to his contract does not concern us. Do you think the Indians still pick up his option if they knew about this before?
Joe: Absolutely not. His contract was borderline to start with. With the added years to his age, he has been far overvalued. I think there are at least 7 pitchers better than Fausto currently in the Indians system and they should look to void the contract if possible.
Mike: Who can throw a 95 mph sinker? Small market teams must make these type of low risk moves (picking up his option) and hope he becomes like he was in 2007. What’s the difference if he lied? College coaches lie all the time in recruiting… We havent won a sausage since 1948; who gives a rip if he lied. Who can throw a 95 mph sinker like he can?
Joe: When a 20 something pitcher has a 5.00+ ERA you can give him another chance, because he may get a little better in the future. Past 30, there is very little chance of improvement. At this point I’d rather see David Huff get his third chance rather than Carmona get his fifth. Who cares how fast he throws when he has given up 87 home runs in 181 games.
Mike: They picked up his option before the “incident,” let’s give him an opportunity to prove what he can do. No risk to the club after this year.
Joe: I would just rather see that money and playing time given to more worthy players. Have any final thoughts on the overall quality of the rotation as a whole?
Mike: Yeah. Justin Masterson will go 28-2 with a 1.05 ERA. Josh Tomlin will go 25-4 with a 2.01 ERA. David Huff will be comback player of the year with a 1.34 ERA. Your thoughts?
Joe: Great predictions. Hopefully those ERAs don’t stem from all the unearned runs that will be scoring. I’m expecting the average innings pitched per start to go down to about 6 to properly make use of the Tribe’s tremendous bullpen, which will be the topic of next week’s Indians Argument.