CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Consistency is key, and you know what you are going to get when Josh Tomlin takes the mound every five days.
The man that Manny Acta called his “Little Cowboy” has shown he has the ability to command a strike zone, with high-80s stuff. With the three-fastball combo (sinker, four-seam, cutter) that averaged about 87 mph on Thursday night, fans have become accustomed to seeing a few of his pitches leave the yard each night.
The question is, how much longer can they expect to, or accept, that to keep happening?
Among active starters who have pitched 650-or-more innings, Josh Tomlin ranks first – or last depending on how you look at it – in home runs per 9 innings at 1.56. Not only is he the leader, he allows .19 more homers per nine than Marco Estrada in second. Jeremy Hellickson and James Shields, .19 HR/9 better than Estrada, come in at 11th and 12th on that list.
The reason that the Indians have been able to live with Tomlin is that, obviously he gets results. He has won more games than he has lost, falling to 47-39 on Thursday.
Wins and losses on a pitcher’s record do not matter, in case you are still living in the live-ball era, but the outcome of the game does.
Generally, the explanation on Tomlin is that when he does allow homers, they are more often one-run shots. 68 of Tomlin’s 121 career home runs allowed have been solo shots, with 36 being 2-run homers, 15 3-run homers, and 2 grand slams.
Compound those numbers with the fact that the Indians are 49-32 when Tomlin allows one or fewer home runs in his start. They are 12-16 when he allows two or more. Tomlin was 3-1 in the 2016 post-season, and the Indians only dropped World Series Game 6, when he allowed his only home run of the playoffs.
All-in-all the results are not bad for a fourth starter, but there remains a bigger problem than the home runs themselves.
All of the power-related numbers against Tomlin are continuing an upward trend.
That ML-worst HR/9? Climbing. What started in 2010 at 1.23 went to 1.31, 1.57, 1.78, 1.86 since that time, and he has allowed two more through 6.1 IP in two starts this year.
In 2010, Tomlin allowed home runs on 8.5 percent of fly balls. That number has climbed to 13.3 percent, 15.3 percent, 15.3 percent, and 17.7 percent in 2016.
According to Fangraphs, the percentage of hard-hit balls off of Tomlin have risen every season since 2011, starting at 25.1 percent increasing steadily to 42.9 last year. 2011 was the last full season Tomlin pitched where his softly-hit balls were over 20 percent.
With the consistency of Tomlin’s outings, and the near-linear fashion in which hitters are squaring up and driving his pitches, the righty’s window to get those trends downward is closing. Especially with the rise of exit velocities and barreled balls.
Tomlin entered Thursday having surrendered more home runs (6) with umpire Tim Timmons behind the plate than any other umpire. His two dingers allowed on Thursday put Timmons three clear of a five-way tie for second.
That was the fourth time Tomlin has pitched with Timmons behind the plate, putting him in another five-way tie for second.