There couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to the first half of the season.
Pitching is solid. Offense is inept. Tribe loses another low-scoring game.
We probably could have copy-and-pasted that synopsis for about half our recaps so far this year.
Sonny Gray was his usual dominant self, becoming just the 11th pitcher to toss a shutout in Progressive Field, and the first since Derek Holland in 2011. Corey Kluber was nearly as good, but a two-run homer surrendered to Stephen Vogt in the 4th proved to be the difference.
The frustrating part about this season is that I want to be optimistic. It feels like you should never be out of it with the pitching the Tribe has received this year.
But the problem is the in era in which this team is playing. Everyone is getting this type of pitching. As good as we think the pitching staff has been, in terms of this era of baseball, it’s simply mediocre.
I know that’s hard to hear, but it’s reality. Kluber is a legitimate ace, even in this era of pitching dominance, but Carrasco, Salazar, Bauer? They’re league-average starters.
Yeah, it’s nice to have four pitchers that we can say are at least of average quality—we’ve certainly had years within the past decade where we couldn’t even claim that—but it’s not special. It certainly isn’t enough to overcome this lineup.
ERA+ is a statistic that normalizes ERA based on era and ballpark. It’s the best way to effectively compare pitchers across eras, or even within the same era but different environments (Coors Field vs Progressive Field, for example).
While Kluber enters the break well above the league-average mark of 100, Salazar sits at 105, Bauer at 103 and Carrasco with a below-average mark of 96.
Sure, the Tribe’s fielding hurts and when you look at things like FIP, it gives you a more optimistic view (especially for Carrasco). But basically we’re working with a league-average staff. As much as we want to feel good about their seven-inning, one-run, eight-strikeout performances, these just aren’t rare outings anymore.
The Indians of the past two years feels like the late-90s Toronto Blue Jays teams.
Imagine being a Blue Jays fan and watching Carlos Delgado anchor your lineup with 40 home runs a year (the hitter version of our Corey Kluber, a legitimate star). He was followed in the lineup by some solid hitters like Jose Cruz Jr, Shannon Stewart and Raul Mondesi (our Salazar, Carrasco and Bauer) and they even got monster years from obscure guys like Brad Fullmer and Darrin Fletcher (our Cody Anderson, hopefully).
Blue Jays fans must have watched that lineup and felt like they had a chance to win every night.
But when every team in the league puts together a lineup like that—and some teams feature Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, David Justice, Roberto Alomar, etc—you just don’t have a chance to compete in the long run.
In 2000, the Blue Jays set a record with seven different players belting at least 20 home runs. They hit 244 home runs and scored 861 runs. But the team went 83-79 thanks to a pitching staff that produced a 5.14 era.
The 2015 Indians are the 2000 Blue Jays in reverse. Breaking strikeout records and having a chance to win every night thanks to the pitching staff, but never having a real shot a competing thanks to the lineup.