Let me start by pointing out just how phenomenal our pitching is. What was the team’s biggest weakness at the start of last season has become the pride of the team. Corey Kluber delivered a Cy Young worthy performance. His 269 strikeouts were the most by any Indians pitcher since 1970. It felt like every game the Klubot was throwing 10-14 K’s and nobody had an answer for him. Not only was Kluber deadly, but as a whole the Cleveland Indians set a record for most strikeouts by a pitching staff in a season with 1450. This was a memorable year in that regard and I will always be proud of how the Indians pitched.
We saw Trevor Bauer make the leap from AAA to the bigs full time and he had a solid season. At times he may have seemed overwhelmed but nonetheless kept it together and produced for the squad. I have high hopes for him and think he’s a key component to the team moving forward.
Danny Salazar did not seem as dominant as his rookie season in 2013 and required several minor league trips to regain his form. Danny is still pretty young and I am confident he will get it together. His fastball is the stuff of nightmares for opposing batters, often reaching 100 mph. Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway are just the guys to help him take that next step.
Carlos Carrasco surprised me this season. After proving inefficient as a starter, he transferred to the bullpen midseason and was outstanding. He was given the starter’s role once again later in the year and took off running. He pitched superbly and was just as dominant as Kluber for a while. This may not be what Carlos will pitch like going forward but it is refreshing to see him have this kind of confidence.
Two players I feel that regressed were Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin. Z Mac was not overly terrible this year but I had expected him to do better. He did have some injury trouble but just didn’t seem like he had his stuff afterwards. Wasn’t the reliable starter we saw from him in years past. Tomlin is becoming a utility pitcher. Starting off in the minors, he was called up and pitched amazingly as a starter before failing to continue his success. Consistency seems to be his biggest problem as he bounced from the starter’s role and had some trouble as a reliever. It is a little concerning for me regarding McAllister and Tomlin moving forward. Still, they give us value in the bullpen and as spot starters if need be, so all is not lost.
Our bullpen was equally as impressive as our starting pitching. After some early season save blunders by John Axford, he was promptly dethroned as our closer by the formidable Cody Allen. Axford was later waived and claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Another weak link early on was Josh Outman, who was designated for assignment in June and later traded to the New York Yankees (who promptly did the same thing). Vinnie Pestano, the last remaining mobster of the Bullpen Mafia, continued his downward spiral. What was once considered our best reliever just couldn’t seem to get it together. Terry Francona saw enough and Pestano was sent down to AAA (again) and then traded to Anaheim.
Other than these guys (and the occasional poor performance by C.C. Lee), our bullpen was phenomenal. Cody Allen showed the world that he has what it takes to be a closer finishing the year with 24 saves. I’m excited to see if he can improve on his abilities and be elite. Old man Scott Atchison was one of the biggest surprises of the year. This 38 year old guy was the epitome of reliability last season with a 6-0 record and a 2.75 earned run average. Not bad for a dude who was drafted during the first Clinton Administration. Aaaaaaaaaand… we have him for another year.
Bryan Shaw appeared in 80 games last season and was equally as reliable as Atchison but with an even lower ERA. Shaw is the type of guy that gets you out of tight situations after it hits the fan. I’m going to start calling him Janitor because he always cleans up someone’s mess (and leaves it smelling fresh).
I mentioned C.C. Lee previously and that he struggled occasionally. Personally, I haven’t seen enough of him to really make a fair judgment on him. We have him for another six years or so, so I’d like to see some improvement. I have a lot of faith in Mickey Callaway and I think he can whip Lee into shape.
One last pitcher I want to mention that saw considerable playing time is Nick Hagadone. What a turnaround season he had. After being written off by many fans he was given another chance with the Tribe and he delivered. His numbers didn’t blow anyone away, but he proved to be a reliable option. If Hagadone can maintain the consistency he had last season then he will stay with the big club. We saw appearances by Blake Wood, Mark Lowe, Austin Adams, and Bryan Price, who finally made his debut. I don’t really know enough about these guys to say anything yet, but I appreciate them contributing to the Indians.
We have almost nobody of note becoming a free agent from the pitching staff other than Mark Lowe—whom we didn’t see much of anyway. I’m curious to see if the Indians add any relievers or pitchers in free agency. It seems like we’re pretty stacked at the position, but I believe a good team should always be improving at every position. Perhaps a veteran starter wouldn’t be a bad addition. We could have kept Aaron Harang during training camp and I believe he would have been a welcomed addition but now he is a free agent once again. Perhaps it would be wise to consider someone like Harang or someone like Joe Saunders.