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Second Thoughts Game #98: Indians 1, Tigers 5

Second Thoughts Game #98: Indians 1, Tigers 5
The Tigers celebrate a much needed win to salvage one game in their four game series with the Indians. (Photo: AP)
July 21, 2014
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Toml-out?

Josh Tomlin had trouble locating his pitches in the first inning on Sunday.  He threw a fastball that was low but over the plate toAustin Jackson, who got around on it and laced it down the left field line for a double.  Ian Kinsler drove him in on a base hit to left, again on a fastball that was right down the heart of the plate.

With Kinsler on second after he advanced on the throw home, Tomlin hung a breaking ball to Miguel Cabrera.  He was fortunate that Cabrera only flew out to center, but the ball was hit deep enough to advance Kinsler to third.

Kinsler scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Victor Martinez.  Martinez took advantage of a slider that was up, which allowed him to lift it to right deep enough to score the runner.

After that, he located his pitches.  He coasted through the second, third and first two outs of the fourth.  But his location let him down again.  After giving up a single to J.D. Martinez, he hung a breaking ball to Torii Hunter that was dispatched to the left field bleachers.

The first inning was rough, but the fourth inning really hurt.  He was coasting before giving up an innocent two out single to J.D. Martinez.  But the hanging breaking ball made the lead insurmountable.

He gave up a pair of one out singles and was lifted in favor of C.C. Lee in the fifth.

When Tomlin was recalled from Columbus before his start on May 6, he started his return to the big leagues with three consecutive quality starts.  It was a trend that he continued from his early season effort in Columbus where he tossed four consecutive quality starts (in five overall starts).  He was called to action out of the bullpen on May 21 against the Tigers and since then has thrown just two in ten starts, including Sunday.

Aside from Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, no one appears to have a lock on a rotation spot in Cleveland. WithT.J. House and Danny Salazar being recalled to start on Monday and Tuesday in Minnesota, and one of Zach McAllister or Justin Masterson expected to start later in the week, it appears that Tomlin may be in some danger of losing his rotation spot.

But he’s not the only one

Cleveland has sent eight different starters to the mound this season.  Only 45% of the 98 starts that the Indians have made this year have been quality starts, which is 23rd out of 30 teams.  They are averaging 5.7 innings per start, which ranks them 26th.  The quality start is much debated, but consider this: the Indians have lost only seven games this season when their starting pitcher throws a quality start. 

A whole lotta bull

One of the odd decisions coming out of the All-Star break was that the Indians chose to option starter Zach McAllister in favor of another bullpen arm.  This move came after they optioned T.J. House on July 11.  When a player is optioned, he is not allowed to be recalled for ten days unless there is an injury or as the team’s 26th man in a doubleheader situation.  That’s exactly what the Indians did with McAllister on Saturday.

Francona told reporters before the game on Sunday that they are unsure of their rotation going forward, but feel like they can win no matter who is on the mound.  Optioning McAllister demonstrates their uncertainty. 

Even on the rarest occasions a team does not need that much manpower in their bullpen.  Even with a doubleheader on Saturday, no relief pitcher was used more than twice this weekend and only two (Cody Allenand Scott Atchison) were used for two full innings. 

Nick Hagadone, who has been on the roster since being recalled on July 8, did not pitch this weekend.  Hagadone has appeared in two games since being recalled for a total of 1.1 innings.  C.C. Lee, Austin Adamsand Mark Rzepcyznski were all used on Sunday for the first time since the All-Star break.  Before that, Rzepcyznski pitched on July 13 and Adams and Lee both pitched on July 12 (Lee pitched for Columbus). 

John Axford and Carlos Carrasco were only used once this weekend (both pitched on Saturday).  Prior to Saturday, Carrasco had not pitched since July 10. 

Overusing a bullpen is a problem, but underusing a pitcher is also a problem.  Coming out of the All-Star break, the bullpen should be well-rested.  It was unnecessary to call for reinforcements and then not use them.   

Where did everybody go?

Pitching wasn’t the only problem that afflicted Cleveland on Sunday afternoon.  The Indians were held to four hits and four walks, the first hit did not come until a two-out double by Yan Gomes in the fifth inning.  Prior to that, the only base runners to reach for Cleveland were Carlos Santana, who led off the second with a walk, and Michael Brantley, who drew bases with two outs in the fourth.

The Indians went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.  Three of those opportunities came in the sixth inning after Mike Aviles and Jason Kipnis both singled with no outs.  Asdrubal Cabrera struck out, Michael Brantley flew out to center and Carlos Santana popped out to second.

In the previous three games, they had a combined 33 runners in scoring position and collected 12 hits (.364).

Final thought

Still, the Indians took three out of four in Detroit and find themselves still in the race in the AL Central.  Kansas City also lost on Sunday afternoon, so they have some breathing room in second place.  Overall, it was a great weekend for the Indians.

Michael Rich is a senior majoring in Communications at The Ohio State University.

User Comments

Aaron
July 21, 2014 - 5:15 PM EDT
Connor,

I agree with you his peripheral stats look good with a 3.98 FIP, but you have to dig deeper into the numbers than that. FIP only takes into account walks, K's and HR rate. It doesn't factor in the type of contact pitchers give up. If you dig into his contact #'s, Tomlin gives up a ton of line drives and as we know, has a big HR problem. Sure he's missing bats better than in the past, but he makes too many mistakes in the middle of the plate. And when he does, his stuff just isn't good enough to get away with it. To me, he has good control (therefore limiting walks), but his command in inconsistent.

He's a 5 starter at best. Someone needs to step up or a trade for a SP needs to be made because he can't be the 3 in the rotation. Here's to hoping Salazar figured it out!
Walter
July 21, 2014 - 4:03 PM EDT
Three down and four to go in order for it to be a successful trip. Take 2 out 3 from the Twins and split the 4 game set with the royals.

Prefer 2out 3 from Twins
3 out 4 from Royals

If Indains just continue to win series after series the rest of the way they would be in good position to make it to October baseball.

Connor
July 21, 2014 - 3:35 PM EDT
I think Tomlin is lot safer than House or McAllister. He's pitched decent...and his FIP is actually only 3.98, much better than his 4.5 ERA. Plus, he hardly ever walks anyone, and has one of the better K:BB rates in the league. He hasn't been great, but he's easily been the third best starting pitcher for the Tribe behind Kluber and Bauer.

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