The Indians roughed up Felix Hernandez on Sunday, tagging him for 6 runs and limiting him to only five innings of work. King Felix is not the only Cy Young winner to have troubles against the Indians this year. The Cleveland Indians have faced their fair share of elite pitchers this season, including eight Cy Young winners. Those Cy Young winners are a combined 1-7 with an 8.21 ERA against the Tribe. However, two of those pitchers (Roy Halladay and Bartolo Colon) are not on the elite level any more.
Here we will look at the 11 “elite” pitchers the Tribe have faced and how the Indians have fared against said hurlers. There are plenty of almost elite pitchers that have been omitted including Mark Buehrle, Alex Cobb, Roy Halladay, Tommy Milone, Brandon Morrow and Max Scherzer. They are all solid number two starters on a good team, but not ace level quite yet or are on the way down (such as Buehrle and Halladay). Here’s an in-depth look at those 11 starts. (Note: Game Score is a statistic invented by Bill James that measures a pitcher’s game with one number. 20 is terrible, 50 is average and 80+ is spectacular)
* denotes Cy Young winner
** denotes worst start of the season
Overall, these elite pitchers are 4-7 with a 6.31 ERA, 1.541 WHIP and an average game score of 44.8 against the Indians (an average MLB start will score a 50).
In other words, these 11 starts can be classified as:
Above Average: 1
Below Average: 4
David Price, Chris Sale and Felix Hernandez all have had their worst starts of the season against the Indians. Among this group, the only pitcher to have his best start of the season against the Indians is Jake Peavy on April 14th. It is also a great sign that these aces can only finish 5 2/3 innings on average. Signs such as consistency against elite pitching are very good indicators of future success. It shows that this team can hit not only the scrubs of the rotation, but the elite stars as well.
In prior years, the Indians offense was barely good enough to have hot starts, but once things start to unravel, nothing could be done to right the ship. So far this season, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall have faced struggles, and Michael Bourn has already been put on the 15-day DL once this season. However, the Indians have not skipped a beat and have won 17 of their last 21 games.
It is very exciting that the Indians can be this successful against elite pitching. As of May 18, the Indians are second in HR, first in SLG% and first in OPS. The Mark Reynolds signing looks to be the best signing in the MLB this off-season, and the team is really benefiting from the influx of speed that was often not found in teams managed by Eric Wedge, et al. This Indians lineup differs from prior Tribe ballclubs in the fact that anybody one through nine can produce runs. When Drew Stubbs is batting ninth for your team, your team is in good shape. The depth of this ballclub is quite refreshing with players such as Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes not being able to find consistent playing time. They are both starters on other teams in the MLB.
From the beginning of the season, I have said the Indians are capable of 90+ games and winning the AL Central. Despite the overwhelming positives from this team, this Indians team might need another bat to become a legit World Series team. If the Lonnie Chisenhall experiment does not work out, third baseman such as Aramis Ramirez or Michael Cuddyer, (mostly a right fielder at this point in his career) could be looked at. However, that sort of speculation is non-productive, and that discussion would be better suited for June.
Will this hot streak continue indefinitely? Of course not. Nevertheless, we must commend the efforts by the front office. With the budget stretched, they have done an amazing job in acquiring talent. The past three drafts have really produced solid players as well, such as Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, with many more waiting in the wings. So if any of you do not believe the Indians can be a legit playoff team, just look at the facts staring you at the face. For once, the Indians have an elite lineup and can win games with the bat alone. Moreover, everyone likes the long ball, right?