Since coming over to Cleveland in 2018, Brad Hand has been able to be the anchor of our bullpen. Well, that is since the All-Star break last year. Hand has given up 17 runs over the course of 25 1/3 innings pitched, and tonight’s game against the White Sox has been his worst outing yet.
Not only has he been giving up runs aplenty, but the velocity of his fastball has also started to drop lower than it ever has been before. To go along with this dip in velo, he’s also had minimal command over his once deadly slider, leaving it over the plate, and susceptible to opposite field gap shots.
So as a Tribe fan, should we be concerned? The answer is unequivocally yes. The Indians might have the best starting rotation in baseball but if Hand can’t close out games, those great starts will be all for naught. Fortunately for us, we have other options in the pen.
James Karinchak might be a young arm in the bullpen, but he’s deadly. He’s thoroughly dominated every batter he’s faced this year, posting an S09 of 12! To go along with Karinchak, Tito Francona could also rely more on Nick Wittgren. He’s been steadily holding down the 8th inning the past two years, but maybe he could be called upon to help close games out. Also, since many of our prospects won’t be having a true season this year, they could also be packaged into a deal to attain another lockdown lefty out of the pen. We’ve done it in the past, grabbing Andrew Miller from the Yankees and the aforementioned Brad Hand from the Padres.
Maybe this is an overreaction to tonight’s game. Maybe I should be more upset at our bats for not scrapping together a single run tonight, but you can’t waste an amazing start for Zach Plesac. If your starter gives you 8 scoreless innings, you should win 100 out of 100 times. Hopefully, Hand can figure everything out, but in a shortened 60 game season, Tito better be capable of making tough yet needed adjustments. He might need to move Hand out of the closer role. I don’t want to see Hand go, but he could be better off suited in a lower leverage situation.
On the bright side, we still took 2 out of 3 from the White Sox and head to Minnesota at 4-2. This 4 game series will be huge. We’ve got to get the job done against the big bats of Minnesota, and hopefully, Hand and the rest of the bullpen is up to the task.
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