Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Late-inning fireworks obscure duds on the mound

Those late-inning fireworks we've been seeing from the Tribe most of the year have been quite exciting. Superb entertainment.

But like the post-game fireworks shows the Tribe puts on most Friday nights, the sizzle will soon disappear into the night.

We found that out today, as the Indians found themselves down early yet again. But this afternoon at the Jake, there was no comeback win to be had.

With the Tribe's place in the A.L. Central standings (one-and-a-half games out as I write this), their lead in the wild card race and all those wild finishes, the demise of the Indians starting staff has been obscured.

Since the All-Star break, the starting rotation has allowed 26 earned runs in 27 innings. I don't even need my calculator to determine that is just a whisker below 9.00. The Tribe is 3-3 since the break.

Since July 1, Cleveland starters have given up 53 earned runs in 85 2/3 innings, for an ERA of 5.56. They've had 5 quality starts in 14 games since the first of the month, and one of those just met the minimum MLB requirement - Jake Westbrook's six-inning, three-run outing against KC right after the break.

The Tribe is just 7-7 in July and just 22-20 since June 1.

So, what we've been seeing for the last one-quarter of a baseball season is a .500 club that hits its way out of trouble often enough to keep its head above water.

There are mitigating factors.

Two of the five starters, Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee, had month-long injuries earlier in the season. But they have been back long enough, one would think, to have rounded into form by now.

In his only two starts this month, C.C. Sabathia has not been anywhere near the rock he's been all year. But I doubt there's cause for alarm there. Perhaps if C.C. gets back on track, the pressure will ease on the other four starters.

Then there's the break itself. Maybe the starters have lost their rhythm. Maybe. But what about all those woeful starts before the break?

The focus in the media, in fandom and in the blogsophere - including on this site - has been on the bullpen and it's middle-inning tribulations.

But the Indians pitching staff currently ranks No. 11 in the A.L., with an ERA of 4.54. Only Chicago (4.61), Texas (4.98) and Tampa Bay (5.77) are worse. Since the starters pitch about twice as many innings as the pen, it's pretty clear the relievers shouldn't carry all the blame for that bloated number.

Click here and you'll see that six of seven of the Tribe's competitors for a playoff spot rank one through six in the league in team ERA. Seattle is 10th. The Tribe's division rivals, Detroit and Minnesota rank fifth and fourth respectively. Even the Yankees, who have sent several rookies out to the mound due to early-season injuries, rank sixth at nearly a quarter of a run less than the Tribe.

It's not yet panic time. The Indians still sit atop the wild card standings and only 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers.The early-season rotation, except for the now-demoted Jeremy Sowers, was fairly solid. And C.C. will likely give the current rotation a boost by getting back to his game.

But it is time to put and end to the myth that the Tribe has a solid rotation that needs only to be complemented by a decent middle-relief crew to make the pitching staff stellar. The starters have been giving up runs early and often for more than a month now.

If late inning fireworks is what this team is counting on, this season will likely go out with something less than a bang.

5 comments:

moose said...

well said - starting pitching needs to step up SOON
how does a team get 11 hits and only one run - yes there are many teams with better pitching - everybody I think except the yankess

it is getting to be CRUNCH time

oh yes watch out for the Twins


bettergo get some SP

Dr. Peter Venkman said...

Panic at the Jake! Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes. The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.

Anonymous said...

Hi. My cousin Steve Lee (believe he knows you) referred me to this blog, knowing I am a huge Cleveland Indians fan. I used to live in NJ so I definately know how you feel. Anyhow, I just wanted to say that I think you're doing a great job with this blog.

Go Tribe...
Alan

Ron Vallo said...

Alan:

Ya. Steve and I worked together until he had the good sense to find a new job. We're still in a fantasy league together, though his team is barely in it.

Glad you like the blog. Good to commiserate. Keep checking back!

moose said...

and there goes the tigers sweep of my twins 3 games by one run - cant the tigers survive 2 injuries