Where to start?

“I think we have a solid starting staff. We have four guys who are locked in, in my opinion. And then you have three, four or five guys who have been in that fifth starting role and who will fight and be prepared. We’re definitely in a good spot.”
                                                              — Justin Masterson, in February

A lot has changed since Masterson made those comments about the Indians’ rotation battle at the onset of Spring Training. There is no denying that Cleveland entered this season with plenty of questions surrounding its starting staff, but the organization — from the front office to the clubhouse — was optimistic and confident about the group at the time.

Much, if not all, of that confidence has since been shaken and shattered.

Where does the Tribe go from here?

The Indians thought they had the makings of a group that could help the ballclub contend this season: a veteran (Derek Lowe) mixed in with a couple of up-and-comers (Masterson and Josh Tomlin), a past star (Ubaldo Jimenez) and a prospect (Jeanmar Gomez). Instead, that group faltered greatly and has been the catalyst behind this collapse.

Every team enters a season with a rotation depth chart that is eight to 10 arms deep. Sure enough, Cleveland has cycles through nine starters this season. Here is that list, and their overall showing out of the rotation, through Tuesday:

Justin Masterson: 11-13, 4.96
Ubaldo Jimenez: 9-16, 5.52
Derek Lowe: 8-10, 5.52
Jeanmar Gomez: 5-7, 5.54
Zach McAllister: 5-7, 4.31
Josh Tomlin: 5-8, 5.72
Corey Kluber: 1-3, 5.26
Roberto Hernandez: 0-3, 7.53
Chris Seddon: 0-1, 5.23

Masterson, Jimenez, Gomez,  McAllister and Kluber currently make up the rotation with roughly three weeks to play. Lowe was released. Tomlin is done for the year (and likely all of next season) after Tommy John surgery. Hernandez is sidelined with a right ankle sprain and his status is up in the air. Seddon is in the bullpen, where he is a better fit.

Given Cleveland’s slide in the standings — from first place through 70 games to tied for last in the American League Central — the question is simply: Where do the Indians go from here? After this season’s collapse, it is hard to fathom the club trying to sell 2013 as a season of expected contention. It is more likely a year that will help sort through the building blocks of the future. Again.

The 2013 rotation could include Masterson (arbitration eligible), though Cleveland will probably entertain any trade offers for the sinkerballer this winter. McAllister, Kluber and Gomez are all pre-arb. Don’t forget, pitchers such as Carlos Carrasco (returning from Tommy John) and Kevin Slowey (arb eligible after injury-marred Triple-A season this year) will likely be in the fold next spring. Lefty David Huff is still around, too.

Lowe is in the past. Tomlin is part of the distant (2014) future. Cleveland has club options on Hernandez ($6 million) and Jimenez ($5.75 million). In the Minors, upper-level arms include guys like T.J. McFarland, T.J. House (Double-A), Giovanny Soto (Double-A) and Paolo Espino (Double-A). Austin Adams? He’ll be coming back from shoulder surgery.

The Indians lack upper-level impact arms — the type that would be clearly ready to slide into the 2013 rotation for a chance to see what the Tribe has waiting in the wings. That is why it would not be surprising to see Cleveland float players like Masterson, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera or Chris Perez in trade talks this winter.

Cleveland had two top-tier pitching prospects poised for the big-league stage, but — thanks to the trade for Jimenez — they are now with the Rockies (Drew Pomeranz and Alex White).

Some free-agent pitching options this offseason include the likes of Kevin Correia, Ryan Dempster, Jeremy Guthrie, Edwin Jackson, Shaun Marcum, Brandon McCarthy, Jason Marquis, Kevin Millwood and Anibal Sanchez, among others. But, under the circumstanes, I wouldn’t expect the Tribe to be big spenders.

Shocker, you say? Come on. What team should spend big after a 90-plus loss season? The time has come again to shift the focus back to building a better foundation. The current core is not breeding confidence, especially on the mound. There is no quick fix to what has transpired here over the past two months.

It begins and ends on the mound. One or two hitters — not Josh Willingham, not Prince Fielder — could have overcome Cleveland’s rotation woes this year.

On the year, among AL teams, the Indians’ rotation ranks 11th in innings (807.2), 12th in wins (44), 13th in ERA (5.28), hits allowed (903), walks issued (313), strikeouts (546) and average (.283), and last in losses (68), runs allowed (529), earned runs allowed (474), stolen bases allowed (93), stolen base percentage (83%) and WHIP (1.51).

Dating back to July 27, when the Indians were just 3 1/2 games out of first place, the rotation has gone 8-26 (14th in both) in 43 games with a 6.88 ERA (14th) and .305 average against (14th). Over that period, the group has allowed 194 runs (14th), 169 earned runs (14th), 277 hits (12th), 82 walks (10th) in 221 innings (14th).

Dating back to July 27, here is the individual starters’ performances:

Masterson: 4-5, 7.14, 51.2 IP
Jimenez: 1-7, 6.79, 50.1 IP
McAllister: 1-5, 6.08, 40 IP
Kluber: 1-3, 5.26, 39.1 IP
Hernandez: 0-3, 7.53, 14.1 IP
Seddon: 0-1, 5.23, 10.1 IP
Gomez: 1-0, 7.27, 8.2 IP
Tomlin: 0-1, 18.00, 4 IP
Lowe: 0-1, 27.00, 2.1 IP

Masterson and Ubaldo combined have gone 20-29 with a 5.23 ERA and 1.51 WHIP on the season and 5-12 with a 6.97 ERA and 1.60 WHIP dating back to July 27.

The rotation currently has the third-highest single-season ERA in team history, trailing the 1987 (5.37) and 2009 (5.30) clubs. The starting staff is also on pace for 77 losses. In team history, only five rotations (1971, 83; 1928, 81; 1991, 79; 1924, 75; 1987, 75) have lost at least 75 games in a single season.

Something has to give, and soon. But where should the Indians start?

–JB

22 Comments

Where to start? That’s easy.

1) Fire Manny Acta.
2) Fire Chris Antonetti.
3) Fire Mark Shipiro.
4),Fire the top 5 of the scouting department org chart.

Shipiro/Anrtonetti have managed to field 2 winning teams in 11 years. The Nationals started their rise as soon as Acta was gone.

We traded for Asdrubal, then re-signed Pronk 15 minutes before the start of his 6-year stay on the DL. We traded for Choo, then traded for Ubaldo. And every home-grown prospect is either grossly overrated or always hurt (maybe we should fire the trainer also). We just don’t have enough talent or enough brains to find more.

a vertical dorwnrdwaad elbow to the base of the neck is POTENTIALLY fatal. i dont intend to doubt your ability, but maybe you should have a disclaimer attachted to this video. the last thing you need is some ignorant moron trying these out on his/her friends and possibily killing or seriously injuring someone.

And, after all that, the same rotation issues exist. My question was about the rotation, not about the number of heads you’d like to see roll.

It’s a shame that there isn’t much for you to report on anymore. I enjoyed reading your game-by-game recaps and what not.

To say that I am worried about the rotation is pretty redundant when you consider the other issues this team has (hitting, coaching, etc). I really don’t think the Indians are well served holding onto Jimenez. He is expensive and do you honestly think he will improve at all? I’d much rather see our greener guys try and fail and not cost us 6 million. He was an incredibly dumb move that cost us dearly. Same goes with Hernandez, he is washed up and hardly worth anywhere close to that kind of money. Perez seems to have signed his death warrant in Cleveland, which is a shame, because I kind of like him as long as he doesn’t make anymore hillbilly wrestling gestures.

I’m tempted to say we go all out with the money we will no longer be spending on Sizemore, Hafner, Jimenez, Kotchman, Hernandez and Lowe and take one grand shot. Buy some of those expensive pitchers and a decent right-handed bat for even just one season before we lose Choo and Cabby and Masterson; before we enter another painful five years of “rebuilding.”

Rotation: Masterson, McAllister, Huff/Carrasco, FA, FA.
Position players:
Outfield: Choo RF, Brantley CF, Canzler LF, Carrera UTL,
Infield: FA 1B, Kipnis 2B, Chisenhall 3B, Cabrera SS, Donald/Phelps and Lillibridge UTL.
Santana/Marson C (although I don’t think Santana is ultimately a catcher and may be better at 1B or DH to focus on hitting)
-Obviously make exceptions and alterations based on spring training
-The bullpen seems solid enough as is and will take only slight alterations, assuming Perez stays.

I know the free agent pool is junk this upcoming season but at least we have some money to throw around. It’s a pipe-dream, but I don’t think I want to sit through another 5 years waiting for this team to try again.

Thanks for the effort this year.

I left paragraph spaces in that comment but it didn’t include them, sorry. Looks like a jumbled mess…

I love that you can do this for a living. I coalnnttsy dream of being able to roam around Colorado, enjoying the scenery, photographing it and then actually making a living with it. These photos are gorgeous, too. I’ve done the Trinidad drive-by, too never really stopped to wander around. It’ll definitely be a stop on my Byways tour now.

This is easy: Throw a hundred million dollars at Zack Greinke.

Then: Ignore the fans, the critical insiders, and every fiber of innate common sense by picking up Jimenez’ option. Bravely double down on the anxiety by reupping Hernandez, too. Cheaply round out the rotation with another exiled wildman, Jonathan Sanchez, and gamble freely on what’s left of the reanimated corpse of Bartolo Colon. Carry a stellar 13-man ‘pen and plan to regularly hand the game over to them in the fourth.

While we’re at it, sign a passable veteran catcher and let Santana relax over at first base. Don’t carry an immobile, fragile old slugger on the roster unless it’s Jim Thome. Trade a bunch of the farm system for a solid left fielder. Trade the rest of it, along with Masterson and Perez, if necessary, for some well-researched and undervalued young starters.

Begin reconnoitering and recruiting in earnest in every remote crevice of inhabited earth for raw talent. Get a leg up on someone, somewhere already.

I think the Indians doomed themselves at the start 2010 by continually saying they were NOT rebuilding and picking up guys like Russell Branyan. They didn’t commit to either rebuilding or fielding a competitive team. This continued into 2011 and 2012, but this half-and-half thing clearly doesn’t work. Look at the record for validation. And now, as it’s been pointed out, I think our options are pretty bleak. I would surprisingly NOT draft a pitcher in early rounds. Look historically at the 1-10 overall picks from 1990-2009. How many pitchers picked that high became aces? From the 90s, the closest you have (arguably) Kerry Wood, Mark Mulder, Josh Beckett & Barry Zito & Ben Sheets. In the 2000s (arguably) Mark Prior, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, Ricky Romero, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, David Price and Stephen Strasburg. And for each of those, you have 2x as many mediocre pitchers and 3x as many guys I’ve never heard of. They should pick bats and trade away their current pieces to rebuild their system. All I ask is that they actually REBUILD, and not half-ass it another year.

Defense will lower at least Masterson’s era a point, probably the rest of the sinkerballers as well. Masterson is the best on the staff (look at the stats). Signing free agents sounds nice, but it won’t happen. History tells us we’ll talk about signing big names, we’ll sign a couple has-beens this offseason, complain about no right handed hitting, do nothing come trade deadline, and then scratch our heads trying to figure out why we are so bad. That was this year, that was last year, the year before that, and the year before that. Bring back Wedge. At least we made it into the playoffs once with him.

Good analysis JB. Masterson is worth saving, remember he received little run support in the beginning of the season. Jimenez and Hernandez are two failures who will never be winners. Jimenez puts himself in a bad position by giving up early runs almost ever time out. Hernandez had one good season and hasn’t pitched well since. Both of these guys should be traded. That leaves us Gomez, McAlister and hopefully Carrasco or Huff. With all the money the tribe should save on ending contracts with Hafner, Sizemore, Hernandez and Kotchman they should be able to get another decent FA pitcher or a right-handed power hitter. But like in the past they’ll go after cheaper over the hill or pitchers coming off a bad season instead. Another year of inconsistent pitching and lack of hitting awaitsm us.

Look fact is none of this matters as long as Dolan is the owner mark boy at the top, Chris the misfit playing GM and giving talent away for crap.Until you solve those problems, This team will continue to stink. There is no hope and for any of you allow the talk show host to the writers tell you what hope they have for this year, I expect Drennan to predict a World Series again, And the rest of the piss poor media build up a Team of HOPE. The GAUL of you to try to convince us of hope, Just like you all ridiculed us for not supporting them the first couple months, YOUR THE FOOLS< We new all along they stunk and they would fade away into the sunset like every year. But yet you try to convince us of hope in the beginning, then ridicule us for no support, and in the end tell us how bad this Team is, The media in Cleveland are all and I mean all HYPOCRITES!!!

Get rid of Acta and Antonetti. Shapiro seems untouchable but didn’t he sign Borowski in 2008 and blew millions. Raffy Perez gave a tremendous effort this season; make sure we re-sign him and Grady. We are in trouble without major changes. All winter we knew we needed hitting but all we did was sign veteran relief help! It was a crazy off season and we can’t afford to make the same mistakes this winter.

all this Team has is 4th and 5th starters, and for anyone in the media to try to convince us of something else is doing a disservice to the fans and sports, Fact is they have nothing that ever comes close to a 1 or 2 Masterson might be a 3 but the rest LOL common do you really think we are that stupid!

After losing 90 they won’t be big spenders. Funny, they aren’t big spenders after they win 80 or 90 either. Hers why they need to be. In most rebuilds teams go with their prospects. This team has ZERO prospects. The AAA or AA pitchers have no chance of pitching in the ML any time soon if at all. Do you really want to enter next year with Kluber, Hernandez, Jimenez and McAllister following Masterson with what Huff and Slowey in reserve? Are you kidding!

It’s amazing that every one of the Indians started has reached their worst case scenario. Masterson’s season so far seems to have proven that 2011 was an outlier and not a signal of things to come. Jimenez is what we all feared he was and not what we hoped he would be when the year started. Josh Tomlin was awful before his year got cut short by injury. Fausto turned out to be Roberto, but his pitching unfortunately did not change. Lowe got DFA’d, and Gomez got a ticket back to Triple A. No one on the staff came close to meeting expectations, and when it was combined with an under-performing offense we were left with one of the worst teams in the league instead of a contender for a division crown which seemed to be a possibility, if not likely in Spring Training.

I can not belief these blind fans, Are pitching is OK< Please not 1 of them had a 500 pitching percentage, I do not believe any ever had a 50% win rate in the Majors, But yet are pitching staff is Ok. I see why Dolans do not put money into this Team, I wouldn't ether if I had as dumb as fans as you people are!!!

Look, I appreciate this cat drsseed as a train conducter shit as much as you assholes, but I’m in a bad fucking mood and Vince and you assholes are gonna hear about it allright. No fuck off JIrish, why do I feel like you have celtic cross tattoed on you back?

That was a great podcast, Frank! Thank you for shnarig it! I look forward to part two. Many bits of elder wisdom can be applied to our small urban garden here in Colorado.

I am in utter veto of this new spring haeder image nonsense. Not only does Quan have more pictures of himself than I do, i have NONE at all! DESPITE the fact that we did, in fact, spend time IN BOSTON on ST. PATRICK’S DAY together. Fix this blasphemy.now.Brownly,Sagar

This staff is the 2nd worst pitching staff in baseball. It is made up of minor league all stars and nothing better. Look at teams like the Reds who lock up their home grown talent, instead of letting them walk (Votto & Bruce). They also get good players for cheap (Example: Jeff Stevens for Brandon Phillips) Sound Familiar? Scouting needs to be changed and the front office needs a total make over for this team to ever have a chance to compete.

LOOK why can’t anyone in this town be honest, This Team Stinks, It’s farm system Stinks, it’s ownership stinks it’s President stinks, it’s GM stinks, and it’s manager did stink until today when he was fired. Fact is this will take a long long time, It means on hoping someone in charge drafts some studs over the next 5 years, This Team is washed up. and to say they can trade parts is a joke, Why is it our players are stars but nobody wants them, fact is we have nothing of value to build anything quick,, If they trade anything away they will get minor league rs back in return promote several who r not ready. and the circle continues again in this town, Then the media will brainwash you all over again, asking why your not supporting this team, then the team takes a dump, and all of a sudden they are ragging on the Team, They are all flip f loppers, just like Romney, MY question is, When Romney LOSES he will leave and disappear, My question is why don;t any of the Cleveland media leave and never come back?

By events I mean etvyreing; Clan Matches, Clan Practices, Clan Tryouts, Clan Events, Community Events (Like G4O Tournament and Sarcastic Gamer’s Extra Life Event).I think that by adding a calender people will be able to see when events are coming up and remember them better. I know that I would forget about everything if I didn’t have my Google Calender.

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