In baseball, things change a lot between opening day and the last month or so of the season. This is true for almost any year, but I started to think about this yesterday when I saw that the Indians were gathering for their official 2014 team photo. This photo (and our outlook on the season) are obviously much different from when the Indians started the season against the Oakland Athletics on March 31. We knew that one of the keys to success this season would be the starting pitching; outside of Corey Kluber, there hasn’t been much in the way of consistent stability. So I decided to put together something that talks about my thoughts on the starters have evolved (or perhaps devolved) throughout the season.
Justin Masterson: Great! We start the season with our ace on the mound. Even though the Indians weren’t able to ink him to an extension, we still get to enjoy watching him in 2014.
Corey Kluber: He showed a lot of growth last season. I’m still not 100% sure what to think of him, but at least I don’t feel nervous watching him pitch.
Danny Salazar: Wow, the sky is the limit for Salazar! He looked phenomenal at the end of 2013…we could be looking at a future ace here.
Carlos Carrasco: Very nervous about Carrasco, and not sure I want him in the rotation. I understand the reasoning though, you hate to release someone that has good raw stuff, not to mention he’s the final remaining piece from the Cliff Lee trade.
By the end of April:
Justin Masterson: Wow, Masterson has really looked shaky at times so far. What’s wrong with him? Something has to be wrong with him, right? He’s always had a few games per year that were bombs, but this seems worse than usual.
Corey Kluber: A bit shaky at times so far, but really seemed to pull it together by the end of the month.
Zach McAllister: He started the season strong, but now seems to be getting worse with each start. Is something wrong with him? Did they just figure him out?
Danny Salazar: What happened to the Salazar from last August and September? I can’t believe he’s looked so shaky, is there something wrong with him?
Carlos Carrasco: How much alcohol do I need to consume to make watching his start palatable?
By the end of May:
Justin Masterson: This is starting to get bad. Our “ace” is worse than ever, and now we probably won’t even be able to find a trade partner that still wants him.
Corey Kluber: Wow, why didn’t I really appreciate Kluber until now? He’s fun to watch…probably my favorite pitcher in the rotation at this point.
Zach McAllister: Is this DL trip for real, or are they just trying to find a way to get him out of the rotation? You know what, I don’t care…do whatever you have to do.
Danny Salazar: I’m glad he’s back in Columbus, he needs to get his head on straight. Maybe they can figure out what happened.
Carlos Carrasco: I’m so glad he’s out of the starting staff and buried in the bullpen. Use him in mop-up duty or something.
Josh Tomlin: He probably should have earned the final spot in the rotation out of spring training. At least they finally corrected this.
Trevor Bauer: I’d much rather see Bauer than Carrasco and Salazar. He really seems to have grown since last season and his control issues are improved.
T.J. House: I don’t have complete confidence in him, but it’s nice to see a left-handed starter for a change. He’s a serviceable replacement until McAllister returns.
By the end of June:
Justin Masterson: All right, I call uncle. Please don’t make me watch him pitch anymore, it’s getting painful.
Corey Kluber: Kluber is pitching today? Thank God, the one day a week where I actually have some confidence that the Indians may win.
Trevor Bauer: He hasn’t been lights-out, but he’s probably become my favorite in the rotation after Kluber. He’s one of the only ones where I don’t have a sinking feeling that his start will be a complete disaster.
Zach McAllister: I do not miss him. That was getting ugly.
Carlos Carrasco: You know what, I actually like Carrasco coming out of the bullpen. He’s looked good…maybe we finally found a spot for him.
Josh Tomlin: Outside of that start against Seattle, a lot of his outings are starting to look Ugly with a capital U. I have very little confidence when I see he’s going to be on the mound that day, and I’m still haunted by the June 22 game against the Tigers.
Danny Salazar: To be fair, I’ve completely forgotten about him for the moment. He doesn’t even come to mind when I think of pitching alternatives.
T.J. House: He’s no ace, but if it’s down to him, Tomlin, and McAllister I’d still rather see House.
By the end of July:
Justin Masterson: OH GLORIOUS DAY we actually found someone to take him off our hands *and* give us a decent piece in return. He’s St. Louis’s problem now.
Corey Kluber: We don’t need Masterson anyway because here is our new ace.
Trevor Bauer: I feel comfortable that we won’t see a complete blowout, and there’s a chance of a really well-pitched game.
Josh Tomlin: Please make it stop.
Danny Salazar: Wow, I know it’s only been two major league starts since he’s been back, but maybe his problems have been fixed? He’s limiting his walks and minimizing earned runs. I wanted a trade for some form of a pitcher under team control beyond this year, but maybe a revitalized Salazar could solve that problem.
Zach McAllister: Nope. Just nope.
T.J. House: I’m still okay with this. Not thrilled, but okay.
Carlos Carrasco: I hate to mess with a good thing, but maybe they should try him in the rotation again? I mean, how bad could it be? It has to be better than Salazar, McAllister and Tomlin…those starts in April weren’t *that* bad when you think about it.
By mid August:
Corey Kluber: Justin who?
Trevor Bauer: Starting to get excited about his future.
Josh Tomlin: How much alcohol do I have to consume to make watching his start palatable?
Carlos Carrasco: Could this be the answer to our prayers? Could it be that he’s finally found a way to bring it all together as a starter? He’s going to turn into a pumpkin, isn’t he?
Zach McAllister: Still nope.
Danny Salazar: Thanks for getting my hopes up, buddy. Oh wait, now you’re back again and you got my hopes up again. (Beats head against the wall)
T.J. House: It’s sad that one of the more mediocre options still seems like one of the more appealing options.
With the way my opinion has changed throughout the year, I wonder if there could be another shift by the end of September. When you think about it, to hover near .500 with the chaos that has taken place in the starting rotation this year is kind of impressive.