By Jonathan Peterlin
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – There’s an expression that has been around for years that encapsulates the playoffs for the Indians as they sit just two games from visiting the World Series for the first time since 1997.
“You can’t see the forest for the trees”
It’s commonly used when someone focuses on many details as opposed to looking at the overall view or impression. Enter – the 2016 Indian postseason starters.
Much has been made of the heroics of a rising superstar in Francisco Lindor and the shut down bullpen usage of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Rightfully so, but all of this would cease to exist if the Indians starters hadn’t performed at a level that replicates utter dominance.
Between Kluber, Bauer, and Tomlin the Indians starter’s have combined for a 1.88 ERA through 28 and 2/3rds innings of baseball. That mark would place them second in baseball ERA behind just Clayton Kershaw, 1.69, for the entire season and considerably better than MLB’s second best in Kyle Hendricks at 2.15.
Bauer – 4.26 ERA
Kluber – 3.14 ERA
Tomlin – 4.40 ERA
Indians postseason starters – 1.88 ERA
Kluber after game 2 on the starters performance this October: “We’ve done a good job in just embracing all of the challenges that have been in front us. We’ve met all the challenges head on. I don’t think we feel any less confident with the guys we have right now pitching than the guys we started the year off with. Everybody in here has a lot of faith in each other and that mindset is going a long way.”
The Indians starters have been through multiple catchers, as well as injuries to the rotation this season while exploring more than their fair share of “shake your head” moments, but through 5 games the front men have given every other area of the team a sense of ease a lot doubted would ever come.
It also works as a trickle down effect. With the starter’s production, it creates the perfect plan for Terry Francona to execute later in games. Tito hasn’t had to use more than 3 relievers once through 5 games and used just 2 in game 2 in the ALDS. That type of optimization and usage is invaluable to a team especially as it currently sits in a 7 game series with another potentially staring the team in the eye.
This all comes with the understanding that postseason baseball is littered with small sample size.
Quantifying why Clayton Kershaw struggles this time of year or Madison Bumgarner can resemble vintage ’68 Bob Gibson is one of baseball’s mysteries. I’m not going to do you the disservice of going through the lazy perfunctory locker room clichés of calling them all “big game players” or “clutch.”
I’ll leave it simple and just say bravo starters. Everyone else can prop up the other guys, but make no mistake about it, the Indians playoff hopes would look drastically different if not for the production they’ve gotten the first couple times through the opponents lineup than the last.