Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tribe starters slinging it like it's 1968

Everyone knows the story of this season so far for the Tribe, and especially the last couple of weeks, has been the incredible starting pitching.

Tonight's dominant performance by CC was just the latest example of the Tribe's starting staff carrying the club, as once again two runs was more than enough for a Tribe victory.

In watching the Tribe over the past two weeks, I've been taken back to 1968 - The Year of the Pitcher. Even tonight's 2:08 game running time (and unfortunately the 18,000 attendance) smacks of the '60s.

The Tribe's current rotation need not take a back seat to the Tribe's rotation of 1968 - Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Sonny Siebert, and Stan Williams and Steve Hargan, who split the fourth-starter and spot-starter roles.

In the 1968 season the Tribe's starters put up the following numbers:

McDowell: 15-14; ERA 1.81; WHIP 1.08
Tiant: 21-9; ERA 1.60; WHIP 0.87
Siebert: 12-10; ERA 2.97; WHIP 1.13
Hargan: 8-15; ERA 4.15 WHIP 1.39
Williams: 13-11; ERA 2.50 WHIP 1.10

Both McDowell and Tiant had more than 9 Ks per 9 innings. Tiant completed 19 games and McDowell 11.

The pitching around the league that season was so dominant that the mound was lowered six inches and the strike zone was reduced in the off-season to take away some of the advantage that pitchers of the time held over the hitters, though their main advantage was they were just damned good.

Crazy talk about something called the designated hitter began to be uttered in public.

There were 20 teams in the league at that time and most teams carried 10 pitchers - four starters, a spot starter/long reliever (for those things they used to call doubleheaders) and five other pitchers who weren't good enough to be in the rotation (although there was likely one "relief specialist," maybe two). So that's 200 pitchers in the big leagues compared with 390 these days. Back in 1968, half of the pitchers in the majors today would have been at Triple-A.

Given the dominance of pitching in that period, the numbers that the Tribe's current starters are putting up are quite impressive by comparison.

Cliff Lee: 6-0, 0.67 ERA
Fausto Carmona; 4-1, 2.40
Paul Byrd; 2-3, 3.68
Jake Westbrook; 1-2, 2.73
CC Sabathia; 3-5, 5.47
Aaron Laffey 1-3, 1.83 (3 starts)

We all know about CC's horrid start. If his first four starts are eliminated, he's 3-2 with an ERA of just under 1.50.

Of course the pitchers have not done it alone - as the leather-fest put on by the Tribe the past few nights at Progressive Field underscores.

When making plans for the rest of the year, it's clear the Tribe will have to further emphasize the pitching/defense approach when evaluating their roster. It doesn't appear this team will ever get to the point where they are scoring runs consistently.

There have been calls for Asdrubal Cabrera to be sent back to Buffalo to get his bat in gear. But after watching him the past few nights it is clear that his presence is important to the Tribe's starters, many of whom (even Cliff Lee to some point this year) rely on the ground ball pitch as their biggest weapon. In fact, I'd like to see him at SS, coupled with Jamey Carroll or Josh Barfield at 2B to maximize the infield defense.

Jhonny Peralta, whose "dive" for one ball Tuesday night resembled the Saddam statue in Baghdad being toppled, is a large dropoff from Asdrubal, especially when he doesn't appear to be into it on any given night.

Peralta's refusal to cut down his swing when the situation calls for it, and the resultant .211 BA, make it a lot easier in my book to sit him, or better yet, trade him.

How much worse could the offense from the infielders be? And the defense would be so much tighter.

(I could question the wisdom of putting Peralta in the two spot in the batting order at this point, but it would take me off on a tangent and ruin the flow of the piece).

In the best of all worlds Jhonny could be sent packing as part of a package to get a real 3B, with both a bat and a glove.

Casey Blake could then be free to be the super sub that would best suit him and best serve the team.

In the outfield, Ben Francisco and Franklin Gutierrez must see lots of playing time. When they are both in the lineup, the Tribe essentially has three centerfielders, two of them with rightfielder arms. This is not to forget David Dellucci, but there are ways to get him into the lineup four nights a week and still get the others plenty of playing time (especially if Dellucci gives Travis Hafner a break from his own misery at DH once in a while).

Having lived through the Steroid Era it is easy to get used to seeing runs tacked up on the board with regularity.

But the kind of baseball the Tribe is playing now is the kind of baseball I grew up watching. Good pitching, timely hitting, stellar 'D', some small ball and in no time at all - usually about 2 hours and 8 minutes - you've got a "W" on the board.

UPDATE: Just read a great post on the Waiting For Next Year blog providing some evidence that the scoring drought is league-wide and may be the beginnings of a trend toward baseball the way it used to be (pre-steroids). Click on the link. It is worth your time.


Anonymous said...

Sowers is sour today !!!!

Anonymous said...

sowers is sour today !!!!

Anonymous said...

this is moose here and I have just watched the reds beat the tribe 4-2 on a dunn blast in bottom of 9. Looks like kobayasi isnot the closer answer. Once again the hitless runners strike again - 10 hits but only 2 runs. When you have no offense you better have good defense. What was that move of taking your best defense player - cabrera out - and leaving 2 error peralta in the game. Our number 3 hitter delucci had another great game. Wouldnt it nice to have any of the following Reds players - encarcion, dunn, votto, bruce - in the minors and least I forget brandon phillips

tomorrow should be interesting lee versus volquez - something tells me lee loses his first game

carmona desired a better fate

Anonymous said...

and one more - why not replace delucci with guttierrez inthe 9 th