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Second Thoughts: Indians pitchers off to rough start

With rain out on Wednesday, it's time to reflect on the pitching

Second Thoughts: Indians pitchers off to rough start
April 11, 2013
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The good news?

It’s only been eight games. Nothing is decided in eight games.

The bad news?

Those eight games have raised more questions than they’ve answered about the Indians’2013 pitching staff. The Indians are tied with the mighty Houston Astros for the most runs given up in the American League. The team has surrendered 48 runs in eight games, good for 6.0 per game. You don’t win very often when you give up six runs a game.

I want to focus on two starters in particular, Ubaldo Jimenez and Brett Myers.

Plenty of questions surrounded Jimenez and Myers entering the year. It wasn’t surprising to see Jimenez follow a great start with one that was essentially a microcosm of his 2012 campaign. The more surprising item has been Brett Myers futility. I wasn’t down on Myers following his tough spring as his track record in the majors had me convinced that he would be able to eat innings and provide decent numbers in the middle of the rotation. After watching him serve up seven home runs in his first 10.0 innings, it’s hard to keep that confidence.

The fact is, with everything going on around him, Myers is pivotal to this rotation. Getting him back on track has to be a priority.

Thus far, it looks like Justin Masterson is on track for a solid year. Zach McAllister looked good in his first start as well. After those two, things become dicey. The Indians need other starters to step up and, as discouraging as it may sound, the most likely is still Myers. It hasn’t looked pretty, but I still find it hard to believe he could have fallen this far so quickly. His velocity isn’t far off from previous seasons, but the usage of his fastball and changeup is way up. Meanwhile, he’s thrown his slider only 3% of the time because it’s gotten killed the times he has thrown it.

Historically, Myers’ slider and curveball are his best pitches. He’s never made his money on his fastball and changeup, and right now those are the pitches he’s throwing more than ever. The bigger issue seems to be that he’s completely lost the feel of his slider. These are things that can be corrected, and the hope is that that a veteran like Myers should be able to work through them. As hard as it may be, I’d preach patience at this point. Patience and optimism, because we need him.

On the other hand, I officially don’t know what to make of Ubaldo Jimenez.

I was one of the capacity crowd on hand for the Indians’ home opener. I kept looking up at the Progressive Field pitch speed monitor in shock. “Was that really an 86 mile per hour fastball?” Jimenez looked like a completely different pitcher, and managed that metamorphosis in just five days time. Impressive. He barely touched 90 on his fastball start and sat between 86-89 most of the day.

I understand Terry Francona’s answer when asked if he was worried about Jimenez’s velocity, as the team is trying to get him to stop worrying about it. Still, it’s a huge concern. If his mechanics are that shaky to where it’s basically a toss-up of what pitcher we’ll see in a given start, it’s going to be a long year for Ubaldo. It’s not a good situation for the team.

It’s hard to know what the Indians are going to get (if anything) from Scott Kazmir when he comes back. While I don’t think Trevor Bauer was as bad as his line indicated in his first start, his control needs work in AAA. The same could be said for Carlos Carrasco, though the ‘control’ he needs to work on is two-fold. After those two the depth options behind them are Corey Kluber and….Daisuke Matsuzaka?

The adage of never having enough pitching never ceases to be true. It’s just not supposed to ring true in the second week of the season.

If the rotation concerns weren’t enough, the Indians middle relief corps haven’t been good either. Matt Albers and Cody Allen have pitched a lot due to the starting pitching struggles and they haven’t been much better. Allen has great stuff and could help the team in a big way if he’s able to put out fires in the fifth and sixth innings and/or bridge to the set-up men.

Personally, I don’t think much of Albers and I don’t like using Rich Hill as a middle reliever, so to me it comes down to Allen and Bryan Shaw solidifying middle relief. It’s one thing to go down early by a couple of runs because of a lackluster starting pitching performance. That’s going to happen. It’s an entirely different thing when the bullpen can’t stop the bleeding.

There are still 154 more games to be played. The theme for the 2013 season hasn’t changed. The Indians need to pitch well to compete. A better start would have been nice, but there is plenty of time for things to turn around.

User Comments

Rick
April 11, 2013 - 11:19 PM EDT
Can't really believe some of these posts. Good Ubaldo showed up in the climate control Rogers Center DOME in Toronto.

Bad Ubaldo showed up for the April Cleveland Opener. Maybe the notoriously fussy 'can't find my delivery' has more confidence in his stuff when it's closer to 70 rather than a wet 45 degrees?

Yes these games were ugly. But common with the gloom and doom. It's off the hook. His first start in Toronto was among the best he's had in a Tribe Uniform!

Total over-reaction going on here. Carrasco has a maturity problem and a bad rap he has earned - he gets frustrated and goes head-hunting. He's done it in the minors and now has done it in what has to be one of the most moronic displays of rage in recent memory.

Doesn't really matter if he is suspended - which he should be -no matter how that complicates a bad situation for the Tribe.

The guy needs a therapist - and more seasoning in Columbus.

Ubaldo has until the All-Star break to reassure the Front Office he should get the ball. God knows being in the final year of his contract and all this front office (nor anyone else) could give him any more incentive. It's all on him.

The real scare here is Meyers. We gave him 7 mil to show up and throw BP? He has been awful. He has two weeks to get it together or he is just an expensive mistake thrown into the Pen until he pisses that away and gets cut loose.

As for Albers and Hill - that is on Francona. They have been stinking it up as well and they are only here because of their prior Tito time.

As for Cody - his stuff is electric. Look at what the White Sox did with Sale and Reed - they let those guys work through their rough spells.

Show some faith with this kid. He can be special. I would rather see him struggle with Francona up here than plant the seed in his mind ect and send him down this soon.

Even though we have a staff ERA that is pushing 8.00 - we are still only 3-5 and it is still April folks.
Tony
April 11, 2013 - 9:26 PM EDT
Budi, pretty self-explanatory why Hill is here and Capps is not. Capps is simply not very good right now. Guy had a chance to sign with any team and be added to a ML bullpen at the end of spring training, and got not one sniff, which says a ton as to what kind of pitcher he is at the moment.

Indians need Masterson and McAllister to stay steady and at least one of Jimenez/Myers to find some consistency in order to help stabilize the rotation. Problem is, I am not sure either can be relied upon right now. Some definite issues for sure. I think the talent is there, but getting it to show is anything thing.
Budi
April 11, 2013 - 9:15 PM EDT
I don't understand why Hill, not Capps, is in. Allen isn't ready yet in the Majors. Indians front office should be creative in addressing the rotation problem: thin cash, thin farm for good prospects and thin good free agent starters. They've got to move quickly before everything turns sour for the fans and déjà vu all over again.
Seth
April 11, 2013 - 4:52 PM EDT
Kazmir certainly had coaching when he was with the Angles, and was unable to get things straightened out. I just think it's easy to say "he's a head case" and "why doesn't he just listen to his pitching coach" for Ubaldo, but it's something that's a lot more physical than psychological. The only way he's going to get consistent is if he's to the point where he's NOT thinking about his delivery, and he's re-trained himself out of his bad mechanical habits.

There was an article on nypost.com about Kazmir a while back, and how he talked about how when he lost it, he had no idea how to get it back because it had always come naturally. And when his velocity and stuff decline, he didn't know how to get back it back, because there had never been some process he went through to get it in the first place. I thought it was interesting that he pinned his issues on pitching through a groin injury that got his mechanics out of whack, and Ubaldo's problems also surfaced after he pitched through a groin injury at the beginning of 2011: http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/mets/former_mets_prospect_kazmir_tries_vVxEYcq9oQWxcrFKHlYlsM/1
When they traded for Ubaldo, I figured he had an elbow or shoulder issue, but, maybe the reason was just that he had this minor injury that screwed up his motion.
Canadian Joe
April 11, 2013 - 3:55 PM EDT
Seth, I never implied it was an easy process. He has had the benefit of pitching coaches, psychologists and the like for the last 2 years. Kazmir has been to Hell and back, without the benefit of up close and personal coaching. A lot of it, he admits, he had to figure out himself. Just making the roster has been a major accomplishment for him. Ubaldo, on the other hand, has been nowhere. And he's still there !!!!
Seth
April 11, 2013 - 3:02 PM EDT
I read that there was a problem with the pitch/fx program sending the wrong readings to the scoreboard, where everything was showing up 2-3 mph slower than the actual speed. That was part of the Plain Dealer's explanation for Ubaldo's struggles, that he saw the gun readings and tried to overthrow, which flattened and slowed down his stuff even further. Which, I don't really buy that part. Myers, I didn't see the second game, but the first game, he looked like he hadn't thrown a baseball in 3 years. He's normally a ground ball pitcher, and everything was up, slow, and missing the target by huge margins. While I expected him to suck, I'm surprised at the level of suckitude.

Canadian Joe, if it were really that simple, then every pitcher would be a model of consistency. While Bauer's statement got some funny looks, "overwriting years of muscular memory" is probably a more accurate statement than "making changes to his delivery." It's not easy. Look at what happened to Kazmir. Pretty much the same track that Ubaldo took, and now a few years later he's back at least throwing close to his old velocity. It's not about being stubborn or stupid mentally.

Maybe I've just seen him on the wrong days, but Allen look like he could use more time in the minors. It's one thing to have a 96 mph fastball, it's another thing if you can't locate that fastball at all (see also Hagadone, last summer). Maybe he's just been amped up and overthrowing, or is this what Allen has looked like in the minors too? I would hope they swap Allen with Hagadone, once Hagadone's 10-day Columbus sentence is up.

Canadian Joe
April 11, 2013 - 2:41 PM EDT
I thought stretching Barnes out should have been an option in Spring Training. It appears we will need options going forward with the starting pitching, and Barnes has had some success prior. In addition, he is a lefty. We have him, let's use him.
Adam
April 11, 2013 - 2:10 PM EDT
I hope the Indians are at least giving some thought to moving Barnes back into the Columbus rotation. Really no reason to block him with Huff or Martinez. Between Barnes, Kluber, Matsuzaka and Bauer we would at least have a few guys who could replace Jimenez and/or Myers by mid-season.
Dennis
April 11, 2013 - 1:02 PM EDT
How many game suspension will Carrasco get? Is there any precedence for what he did? What is his future with the organization, does he have one? Will Scott Barnes get starts in Columbus?
Matthew
April 11, 2013 - 11:41 AM EDT
I am absolutely shocked that anyone is actually surprised by this start from our rotation. We knew going into the season that this was most likely the worst rotation in the AL except for maybe Houston. People deluded themselves into thinking Myers and Ubaldo actually had anything left in the tank, and talked themselves into believing Z-Mac is anything other than a nice 6th starter.
Canadian Joe
April 11, 2013 - 11:37 AM EDT
I'm not getting Ubaldo. He is not a rookie. He's 28 yrs. old. What is he not getting about his mechanics and necessary changes to his delivery. He was so promising in his first start, hitting 95 mph, and spotting much better. Then, he implodes in his second. This guy has been here for almost 2 yrs., and he has been a constant work in progress.He is not getting it. We need him badly. He is either stubborn or stupid. I went with the former for a while. Now I lean to the latter.
Tungsten is W
April 11, 2013 - 10:58 AM EDT
gosh, i mean we all knew the rotation was gonna be the biggest suspect of the team, but wow as bad as the starters have been i dont know if we will win another game. seriously, the offense has no chance of winning a game if its 3-0 after the first inning every game and then 6-0 after 5 innings... we all knew they would be bad, but wow this bad this soon?
of course its way early, but wow, this is very sobering...

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