Sunday May 22, 2011
On the Reports, we will be occasionally featuring an up-and-coming baseball writer that has come to our attention and share their work with you, the readers. Part of our mandate at MLB reports is to provide the best baseball coverage and analysis in the business. MLB reports ultimately is designed to expose our readers to the world of baseball and the stories, facts, insights and profiles behind it. In order to meet this goal, we would like to give exciting young writers the chance to showcase their talents and provide a fresh pool of ideas to our site. In today’s premier feature, we are excited to have Shane Miller as our first guest writer with his post on the Cleveland Indians. Shane’s topic was to discuss the start of the Indians season and to review the success behind it. The direction and focus of the story was up to our writer and in today’s feature, Shane takes a look at the Indians and the pitching that has been the core of the team’s success in 2011. Enjoy!
Shane Miller (Guest Writer for MLB Reports): As the second month of the Major League baseball season is coming to an end, the Cleveland Indians to many baseball fans surprise still sit atop the American League Central division.
Well today I am here to discuss how the Indians have managed to lead the AL Central for the first two months of the season. My observation has been that pitching has been the main component to their early season success. As part of this article, I will be discussing the Indians pitching staff and how they have led their team to success beyond the wildest dreams of most baseball observers.
Pitching without a doubt has been the ultimate key to the Tribe’s early season success. The Indians pitching staff has the second best ERA in the American League at 3.45 and have managed to keep the ball in the park by giving up the third fewest home runs in the AL by only giving up 28 home runs on the season. Also the Indians have also been successful in keeping runners off the base paths giving up the second fewest walks in the AL at 127. A pitching staff that manages to keeps its walks and runs down will in most cases be successful and the Indians pitching staff of 2011 is proof that good pitching is the backbone of a winning baseball club.
A great deal of credit is due to manager Manny Acta, who has done a wonderful job with all the young pitchers he manages on the Indians. Cleveland also happens to boast one of the youngest, if not the youngest starting rotations in major league baseball.
Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and rookie Alex White make up the Cleveland Indians starting rotation. On paper, not much was expected of the Indians starting five going into the season. But success is contagious and as the season has progressed, the pitchers that few in baseball gave much credit have proven that they are for real. The fans in Cleveland are getting excited about their Indians and the team starts and ends with its rotation.
As the newly anointed staff ace, 26-year-old Justin Masterson is enjoying a break out season. So far Masterson is 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 48 strike outs and 19 walks in 60.2 innings pitched. Masterson has done an excellent job this season in keeping the free passes to a minimum and keeping the ball in the park by only allowing one home run all year. At his current pace, Masterson is a likely 2011 all-star candidate and is finally fulfilling the hype that surrounded him from the time he came up with Boston as a rookie.
Tomlin is another pitcher who is not getting enough recognition for the amazing season he has put together so far in Cleveland. Looking at Tomlin’s stats, he is 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, with 27 strike outs and nine walks in 52.2 innings pitched. The only red flag that I could find with Tomlin is that he has given up eight home runs this season. The number of long balls needs to go down as he only gave up 10 home runs in 73 innings pitched last season.
Another starter of note, the rookie White has pitched very good so far this season in the three games that he has started. White has compiled a record of 1-0, 3.60 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 13 strike outs and nine walks in 15 innings pitched. Like I indicated with Tomlin, White also has an issue with long balls by giving up three home runs in 15 innings pitched so far. This means that White is averaging a home run every five innings pitched. In my opinion, if White can keep the ball in the park he will one day become an outstanding pitcher. (*Editor’s note: at time of publishing White has been placed on the DL by the Indians with a finger injury. While the severity is unknown, White could be lost for the season by the Indians. As adversity tests character, the Indians rotation will be put to the test if White is lost to the team for any kind of extended period.*)
With two of the five starting pitchers for the Indians enjoying breakout seasons and a rookie putting up great numbers in three starts, no wonder the Indians are in first place and have a record of 27-15. The Indians bullpen has also been another source of strength of the Indians team overall. The Indians bullpen is made up of Frank Herrmann, Joe Smith, Vinne Pestano, Tony Sipp, Chad Durbin, Rafael Perez and closer Chris Perez. While again unimpressive on paper to start the year, the Indians relief corps has been lights out all year and one of the best in the game.
The closer, Chris Perez has been very good for the Tribe this season, going 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 11 saves, 11 strike outs and 10 walks in 18 innings pitched. The walk totals are very high and if Perez wishes to remain a closer long-term he needs to cut down on those walks. He is currently averaging six walks per nine innings and that needs to be at least cut in half for him to be able to remain successful.
The setup man Rafael Perez has been astounding this season with a record of 2-1 with a 1.20 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 11 strike outs and six walks in 15 innings pitched. Rafael is one of the reasons why Cleveland has one of the best bullpens in the MLB and is sneaking up behind Chris Perez to one day take the closers role away from him. If Rafael can continue pitching like he has this season, he could definitely be the closer by season’s end if and when Chris falters. Rookie middle reliever Pestano is also having a great year in the Indians pen with a 1-0 record, 1.65 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 18 strike outs and six walks in 16.1 innings pitched. Pestano has been amazing this year with a very strong 9.9 strike outs per nine innings.
Pestano has done an excellent job in limiting walks and home runs given up and has only allowed three earned runs all season. The Indians obviously have amazing pitching from the starting rotation all the way to the deepest part of their bullpen. Without some of these rookie standouts or career years the Indians might not be in this position to possibly contend in historically one of the deepest divisions in baseball. Time will tell where this team is headed but if the start of the year is any indication, the Indians will be players in the AL Central in 2011 and possibly for many years to come.
***Thank you to Shane Miller for preparing today’s article on the Indians. You can follow Shane on Twitter.***
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