“You’re eating onions, you’re spotting dimes! I don’t know what’s going on!”

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
On Twitter: @castrovince

The Indians’ rotation fascinates me.

Not in a “BEST YOUNG ROTATION EVAH!” fanboy sort of way and not in a “people are giving these guys way too much credit” cynical sort of way. I guess I’m sort of caught in-between, generally leaning toward optimism but also remembering that, in Cleveland, pessimism wins more than it loses.

Gavin Floyd is no longer a member of this rotation. At least, not for the foreseeable future.

floyd1Sure, this is not what you’d label a terrible surprise, given Floyd’s past arm issues, but, given all the reports from the Tribe this winter and early spring about his condition, one would have thought Floyd would have at least eaten up some April innings before fracturing, tweaking, snapping or otherwise injuring some element of his throwing arm.

By and large, Tribe fans, as they are prone to do, are ripping the team for signing Floyd in the first place, and, sure, fire away at an easy target there. But the Indians did seemingly go into the offseason with five viable big-league starters, so a high-dollar investment in a veteran starting arm never registered as realistic. The organization went with its long-established practice of looking for buy-low bargains. If Floyd nets nothing, it was not a failure in approach but selection.

I would, however, like to present an advanced mathematical formula I’ve concocted after some deep calculations:

$4 million for 0 innings of 2015 Gavin Floyd > $7 million for 21 1/3 innings (and minus-0.6 WAR) of 2013 Brett Myers

So… that’s improvement. I guess.

Anyway, a Floyd-less Tribe rotation is a weakened one, if only because it puts even more onus on the still-unproven likes of Trevor Bauer and T.J. House and, especially, Danny Salazar.

Some people would lump Carlos Carrasco into the still-unproven mix, because, after all, his brilliance last season was only a 10-start sample. But Carrasco’s been around long enough to have developed a genuine understanding of what kind of stuff and psyche he needs to bring to a start.

These other guys simply haven’t. Only because they haven’t been around long enough.

salazarSalazar could be one of the league’s biggest breakout candidates. Or he could be on a Carrasco-like path, in terms of the time it takes him to figure it all out – a timetable that would not align with the Tribe’s win-now feel. I’m not focused on Salazar’s struggles thus far this spring season nearly as much on the overarching sense that he still registers as a kid with great stuff but wild tendencies. He dispelled some of that sense in the second half last season, but 25-year-olds with limited-yet-meaningful histories of slow starts need to prove they can do it in a six-month sample. PECOTA has Salazar down for a 3.71 ERA and 1.5 WAR in 159 2/3 innings… or in other words, just sort of, blah. ZiPS sees 145 innings with a 3.63 ERA and 2.4 WAR, so he’s improving already!

I could not even venture to guess what the Indians ought to expect from House in a full season. Truth is, the first five seasons of his Minor League career rated as average or below, which made his surprising emergence as a dependable lefty in ’14 such an awesome story. There were things we saw from House last season – specifically, his proclivity toward groundballs and his excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.64) — that were very real. While I would venture to guess big-league batters (primarily right-handers) will do a better job squaring up against House in ’15, I’m not married to the idea. PECOTA apparently is, marking House down for a 4.97 ERA and minus-0.5 WAR in 84 2/3 innings for House. Yikes. ZiPS says 139 innings, a 4.36 ERA and 1.0 WAR. If the latter is correct, House could and perhaps should at worst be a totally serviceable option in the back end, but, again, how the heck are we supposed to know?

bauerAnd how are we supposed to know if Bauer has turned a corner? I freely admit to having reached the point of tuning out all the biomechanical essays or the rundowns of which pitching gurus or velocity training guidelines Bauer consulted over the winter. I just want to know if the dude can consistently throw strikes, and we really won’t know that until the lights come on. PECOTA doesn’t think much of Bauer for ’15, pegging him for a 4.37 ERA and 0.2 WAR in 153 2/3 innings. ZiPS is again more optimistic here, with a 4.38 ERA and 1.2 WAR in 180 innings.

ZiPS, for the record, thinks the Indians will have the third-most valuable rotation in baseball, on measure, led by a 5-WAR season from one Corey Kluber.

Maybe that happens.

Or maybe Kluber’s elbow blows out and Carrasco proves to be a fluke and Salazar and Bauer are walk-prone disasters.

Well, the injury thing is something you can apply to any team, so let’s not even harp on that. And again, I’m all-in on Carrasco. What fascinates me about this rotation is the potential for either extreme out of the Nos. 3-5 spots. What would not surprise me at all would be an end-of-spring demotion for Salazar and an early look at Shaun Marcum, who has an opt-out clause at the end of camp. Maybe Marcum ends up filling Floyd’s role as the oft-injured veteran done good.

I’ve seen the praise this Indians team has gotten from ESPN’s David Schoenfield and Jonah Keri, two guys I respect a lot. And that praise (posted, it should be noted, before the Floyd injury) is based primarily on the rotation. I love the enthusiasm about this unit, but, at the same time, I’m a Clevelander who knows how it so often goes, and I’ll admit to being a little more pessimistic about things, sans Floyd.

This rotation could amaze. It could completely unravel. Either possibility is 100 percent realistic. That’s what makes it one of the most fascinating rotations in baseball.

~AC

5 Comments

With the exception of Kluber and even Carrasco, the Indians remaining starters is more a big question mark than a fascinating rotation. After Klubers 18 wins, only Carrasco had more than 7 wins (8). Nothing is proven yet. Can only wait and see how these starters perform this season.

The plus side of the injury to Floyd is the fact that two, not just one, of the youngsters now have a real shot of staying with the club. I expect to see good things out of Tj House and Salazar. This could be the best rotation in baseball if the youngster develop as they have the potential to do.

More of the same from the Tribe, minor league talent on a big league roster. Another year of mediocrity is on our collective horizons.

“It was not a failure in approach but selection” can describe Chris Antonetti’s tenure as GM. You mention the gaffs of Myers and Floyd, aka wastes of 8.7 and 4.9% of the team’s available expenditures, respectively. That’s the problem, and no one locally calls him on it. It’s all sunshine and roses because Tito’s here. It’s a culture of zero accountability, and the fans suffer.

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