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Swinging for the Fences: Two Tribe hurlers ready to make good

Despite long tenures with Tribe, Tomlin and Herrmann still waiting to find niche

Swinging for the Fences: Two Tribe hurlers ready to make good
December 10, 2013
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By now, fans are familiar with the nicknames  "Little Cowboy" and "The Herrmannator" as their recipients have been in Cleveland for a while now. But despite their tenure, starting pitcher Josh Tomlinand right-handed reliever Frank Herrmann have not yet had their 'golden opportunity' to prove themselves as their time with the actual big league club has been sporadic due to injuries and inconsistency. However, they may finally get that chance in 2014.

Joshua Aubry Tomlin was born on October 19, 1984 in Tyler, Texas. He attended Whitehouse High School where he played football and baseball. His collegiate career consisted of time at Angelina College and Texas Tech. He pitched at both institutions and even played as an infielder at Angelina College. In 2005, he batted .351 as a position player, however, pitching ended up being his true calling.

Tomlin was drafted in the 11th round of the 2005 draft by San Diego, but he did not sign. He did sign when the Indians picked him up in the 19th round of the 2006 draft. The right-hander got his professional career off to a good start going 8-2 with a 2.09 ERA in 15 starts for the Tribe low-A affilliate Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

His steady incline through the farm system over the next four seasons saw him compile a career minor league record of 53-24 with a cummulative 3.13 ERA.

On July 17, 2010, Tomlin made his major league debut against the Yankees and their ace and former Indian CC Sabathia and a red-hot Alex Rodriguez in search of his 600th career home run. However, it was Tomlin who was the big story in the game as he held the Bronx Bombers to just one run over seven innings as he earned the win in a 4-1 Cleveland victory.

Tomlin went on to become just the fifth big league starter to pitch at least five innings in each of his first 21 games.

In 2011, as the Indians surprised a lot of folks in the baseball world with their hot first half, Tomlin was weaving together a breakout season ending up as the team's co-leader in wins with a record of 12-7 and an ERA of 4.25 in 26 starts. Unfortunately, he saw regression in 2012 due to recurring wrist and arm issues.

He was eventually shut down in August and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. He recovered in just a year's time and was able to rejoin the big league club late in the 2013 season and make an appearance as a reliever during the Tribe's push toward a wild card berth.

Tomlin's arsenal consists of a fastball, cutter, changeup, curveball and sinker. He has never been a hard-thrower as his fastball has only ever topped out in the low 90s, so he relies on some form of deception to keep hitters from squaring up on his pitches. Although he doesn't strike out a lot of batters, he doesn't walk many either averaging only 1.9 free passes per nine innings, which says a lot about his accuracy within the strike zone when healthy.

Tomlin relies primarily on his fastball and cutter to set up his curveball, which is his main go-to pitch, especially when he gets two strikes on a hitter. He may not always be looking for a strikeout, but maybe an easy ground-out or fly-out. Over the course of his major league career thus far, his ground ball to fly ball splits are fairly close at 37.3% and 41.4%, respectively.

I think Tomlin has a real shot at becoming effective again for the Indians as a back-of-the-rotation starter, or at the very least, a long reliever. As long as there are no lingering issues from his surgery and he can find that pinpoint accuracy again, there's no reason why he shouldn't.

Maybe we'll see the "Little Cowboy" ride again.

Both Tomlin and Frank Joseph Herrman were born in 1984, but Herrmann is about four and a half months older as he was born on May 30. The right-hander grew up in New Jersey, his birthplace being in Rutherford and Kimberly Academy located in Montclair, where he attended high school. Herrmann was a standout athelete in three different sports, particularly football where he played quarterback and safety. In 2011, Herrmann was inducted into the school athletic hall of fame.

After being scouted by Big East and Ivy League institutions, Herrmann chose Harvard where he majored in economics and originally planned to play both football and baseball, but opted to stick with the latter. His collegiate highlights include pitching a two-hitter against Yale and a one-hitter against Cornell.

Herrmann did not enter the draft, but rather was signed by the Indians as an amateur free agent in 2005. He made his professional debut in 2006 with the single-A Lake County Captains, where he went 4-6 with a 3.90 ERA in 26 starts. The right-hander only pitched as a starter for the next two seasons after that before making the transition to the bullpen in 2009. 

The next season, Herrmann was called up to the majors and made his debut in June against the White Sox. He allowed no base-runners in one and a third innings of work, including his first big league strikeout against former Tribe shortstop Omar Vizquel. He made 39 successive appearances, where he went 0-1 with a 4.03 ERA.

Since then, Herrmann has bounced back and forth between the Tribe and AAA Columbus as he has battled inconsistency. It wasn't until late in 2012 when something seemed to click as he pitched in 15 games and compiled a much stronger 2.33 ERA. As luck would have it, however, the right-hander required Tommy John surgery during spring training of 2013.

Herrmann has not pitched since his brief MLB stint in 2012, but that didn't stop the Indians from avoiding arbitration earlier this month and tendering him a one-year contract. When exactly he'll be recovered and ready to pitch out of the Tribe bullpen again is yet to be seen, but he could be cleared to resume baseball activities by spring training next year.

Herrman is primarily a fastball pitcher. He can also throw a two-seamer, slider, changeup, curveball and cutter, although he has never used those pitches all at once. He hasn't used his cutter since 2010. He also brought back his two-seam fastball and slider in 2012. He shied away from his curveball and changeup in 2012, as well, but due to a relatively small sample size then, there's no clear indication that he won't use them again.

He does have some zip on his fastball, which can top out as high as 98mph, but for the most part he'll sit in the mid 90s. Herrmann is not a huge strikeout pitcher as he has averaged around five and a half strikeouts per nine innings over his brief MLB career thus far. However, during his 2012 season in AAA prior to being called up, that ratio spiked to nearly 10 as he racked up 58 punchouts in 52 and two-thirds innings.

Were his late 2012 stats an anomaly or the start of a long-awaited positive upswing in Frank Herrman's major league career? Will Josh Tomlin find a way to return to his pre-2012 form, if not become more effective as a starter for the Tribe? These guys have had tough breaks in their long tenures so far with the Indians organization, but I'm sure both are ready to start fresh in 2014 healthy and ready to pitch.

Jake's Takes

Robinson Cano signs 10-year/$240 million deal with Mariners... I won't get into my feelings about these lengthy, mega contracts right now. Let's just say I'm not a fan. It was no secret that Cano was going to get a big paycheck this offseason. Representative Jay-Z was looking to make a big score for his new agency to attract other athletes. The Mariners, who are the latest recipients of a major TV deal are looking to cash in early and try to make themselves a factor in the AL West race. Are they going to be this year's offseason darling/regular season bust, a la 2012 Marlins/2013 Blue Jays? Maybe, but they do have a better foundation in place as far as an ace in Felix Hernandez and now a cleanup hitter in Robinson Cano.

Jacoby Ellsbury inks 7-year/$153 million contract with Yankees... Hmm, so does this mean according to Johnny Damon time, Ellsbury will be a platoon outfielder for the Indians by 2020? This is definitely a not a bad signing by the Yankees as long as Ellsbury doesn't suffer any major injuries, but he doesn't make up for the losses of Cano and Curtis Granderson, whom the Mets signed to a 4-year deal. He's not a power or RBI hitter (other than his MVP-caliber 2011 season), he provides a lot of speed, as does Ichiro and Brett Gardner, and he brings additional injury concerns to a team that has enough of that as it is. I doubt the Yankees are done this offseason, but they still have a lot of work to do if they want to be the Yankees of old again.

Roy Halladay officially announces retirement... One of the best postseason games I ever watched live was game five of the 2011 NLDS where "Doc" Halladay and Chris Carpenter matched up for a memorable pitcher's duel. In the end, it was Halladay ending up on the short end of the stick as he allowed only one run, but it ended up being all the eventual world champion Cardinals needed to hang on for victory behind Carpenter's complete-game shutout effort. Now only two years later, both pitchers are retired and looking back on great careers. After seeing Halladay pitch against the Tribe this season and watching batter after batter tee off on him, I knew he had lost something that he may never get back. Glad he chose to go out on his own terms. Congrats on a heck of a career, Doc!

David Cooper re-signs with Tribe on major league contract... Cooper was an interesting option to me since Cleveland first brought him in on a minor league deal late last season, but he opted out of his contract before he received a callup from AAA. During his time in Columbus, though, he hit .314 with two doubles and six RBI in 13 games. It's a small sample size, but at least it shows that he can still swing the bat after his injury. Cooper is a guy who doesn't have a lot of power, but he can rack up doubles and RBI while keeping the strikeouts down. The only problem is he is strictly a first baseman and DH, which are big power positions. Still, if he can provide the high average, doubles and RBI, they certainly will be welcome in the lineup. 

In Conclusion...

The Indians have not been as active as other teams yet this offseason, but that doesn't mean they won't do anything. They now know they have a winning team and know what they need to improve. After making so many productive moves last offseason that contributed to their 92-win campaign, I think they deserve at least some patience this offseason. There are still plenty of options left on the trade and free agent markets up for grabs as well as internal options such as Josh Tomlin and Frank Herrmann that could have an impact in 2014.

Welcome to Hot Stove baseball, everyone! 'Tis the season!

Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.

User Comments

Jake D.
December 10, 2013 - 10:34 PM EST
Ah, thanks Josh. Must've mixed up the columns on his stats page. I finished this around 2 in the morning, so I was getting tired.
Josh
December 10, 2013 - 10:04 PM EST
Just a fact check, Cooper hit .192 in Columbus not .314. He hit .440 in the AZL and .192 in Columbus so his minor league average was .314. Other than that good stuff.
Robert
December 10, 2013 - 1:07 PM EST
The situations for Hermann and Tomlin are VERY different.

Hermann is a great story, and I imagine that he's a great guy, but his straight fastball has done nothing but get rocked at the ML level, and not much better in the minors. Given his injury, age, and lack of success, he is the epitome of a fringe prospect.

Tomlin however, has had a decent amount of ML success, and hopefully will be given a chance to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation. Sure, he's an overachiever, but still a very solid pitcher. He's also not very big and therefore, given his injury history, comes with significant durability question marks.
Rich
December 10, 2013 - 11:10 AM EST
It's not unusual for pitchers to add a couple of MPH's to their fastballs after undergoing TJ. If the Cowboy can come back with a 92 mph heater to go along with his other stuff, he could he be this year's Corey Kluber.
Andrew
December 10, 2013 - 10:46 AM EST
Hoping Tomlin gets a fair shot. I like guys who don't give up walks, and he gets a good number of ground balls. Only time he struggled thus far in the big leagues was when he was hurting.
Tony
December 10, 2013 - 9:35 AM EST
I'm a big fan of the Cowboy. Got to know him and his family well in the minors and have always loved how he overachieves and gets the most out of his abilities. Perhaps he can have a Paul Byrd type career as a solid innings eating starter. he won't impress with a blazing fastball or drop off a table curveball, but he can pitch. Herrmann is another guy who I really got to know in the minors and his backstory as an undrafted FA out of Harvard makes it easy to root for him. Two great guys and I think both will have opportunities at some point this coming season.
Roger
December 10, 2013 - 9:29 AM EST
Jake I have to admit i am a big fan of power pitchers even though i know a lot of great pitchers who didnt throw hard. That being said i do like the pure grit that josh tomlin has. impeccible control and he did win 12 games in 2011 which may be comparible to scott kazmir's 2013 season very similar era bout the same innings who know Fister even though he is 6/8 never threw that hard in detroit but managed to keep the tigers in each game he started.. tomlin does have a full season to look at as an indication of his capability as we sit here 4 months away from the regular season i am certain that tito would take Tomlin's 2011 numbers in a heart beat. He doesnt light up a radar gun but he does throw strikes and you do have to hit your way onbase. As for Herrmann i havent seen enough of him over a small sample size to have any idea of his potential he throws hard and if like many pitchers who undergo TJ he actually may add a couple miles an hour to his heater that puts him in serious territory of three digits. And as I said anything we get from Josh and Frank is dessert. as they are both plan B's i would assume

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