Death, Taxes, and consistent starting pitching for the Indians. It has been the case throughout the 2010s and has continued with the new faces in the rotation this year. With the Tribes emphasis on developing starting pitching over the years, the assembly line down in Columbus has produced the likes of Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, Aaron Civale, and Zach Pleasac who make up the new battery of starting pitchers pinned together by the Carlos Carrasco as the oldest member of the staff. In their first week of action, they posted numbers that have not been seen by a Cleveland starting rotation since 1905 with all six starters logging 6+ innings and allowing 2 or fewer runs.
This got me thinking about a couple of months down the line. This rotation is playoff ready, and in Cleveland, it’s like saying the sky is blue. There are so many ways the Indians can rely on these guys, more than you would expect, especially come postseason time. The bullpen might not be terrible so far in their early showing but it’s the weakest link with the reliability of Brad Hand coming into question ( Drew Thirion’s Article highlights it here). Guys like Nick Wittgren, James Karinchak, Adam Cimber, and Oliver Perez seem to be solid pieces in their bullpen, but I don’t think anyone is completely comfortable with this bunch. How do we solve this issue, especially going into the postseason? That’s an easy answer: follow the blueprint of the Washington Nationals.
For those who don’t know, the Washington Nationals were last year’s World Series champions, and their game plan was simple from the start. Let the starters eat up as many innings as possible to avoid their god awful bullpen which was the worst in the MLB. The Nationals starters accounted for 98 and 2/3 innings throughout the playoffs, with starters like Anibal Sanchez and Patrick Corbin coming into games as relievers if called upon. This is something I can envision for Civale and Pleasac as they are still young yet can still be valuable pieces in the 6th to 8th innings if needed, as bridging the gap between late innings is so important in these postseason games. This will leave Tito Francona to be able to mix and match different relievers when the game is on the line.
I’m not saying this will be a sure thing, but there’s at least a precedence showing this can work. The depth in this rotation is a luxury other teams would die for, and why not use those pieces outside of their job description to win the whole F’ing thing. With how I see it, the Indians need to lean on their starters like nothing we have seen before at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
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