After Slow Start, Indians Rotation Rolls Momentum Into Second Half

CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Remember that time when the Indians’ starting rotation was struggling?

That time has passed for the most part, as the team’s perceived greatest strength has re-discovered the consistency that made the Cleveland rotation among the best in the league.

In their last 12 starts, Indians starters have turned in 81 innings of work (6.75 IP per outing), surrendering just 18 runs (1.5 per) in that time. The team has averaged a quality start through those games, and turned in nine actual quality starts.

Since June 28, the Indians rotation has been the second best in baseball behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a .272 wOBA compared to the AL West leaders’ .248 mark.

Sitting seven games above .500 headed into the second half, with a 2.5 game lead in the AL Central, the team has momentum from their most important position group. If the rotation continues the quality from their last home stand into the stretch run, that division lead will continue to trend towards another AL Central crown.

Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are expected to be great, and they have been. Kluber allowed three runs over as many starts, giving up one in each while going five, eight and eight innings respectively. Carrasco went seven innings in each of his two starts in that span, allowing two earned and one earned in those.

Second year starter Mike Clevinger has been a diamond in the rough not only in the past 12 games, but throughout the whole season. The 26-year old is the only of the Tribe-five to post three quality starts since June 28th, throwing six innings in each outing, allowing zero, one and one run in those starts.

Bench Coach Brad Mills noted Clevinger’s improvement throughout the year, with his walk rate declining below the league average after his sixth start, allowing him to go deeper into games.

Clevinger has also noted that being able to work through tough situations at the big league level has allowed his game to become even stronger.

“I think the added confidence just kind of allowed me to attack the zone and attack hitters,” he said. “It’s not ‘Oh no, runners on second with less than two outs.’ Now it’s ‘the runner’s on second with less than two outs. I’ve done this the past four starts. This is no news to me.’

“It’s kind of getting more comfortable with the same situations you faced in the Minor Leagues that you’re able to climb out of instead of kind of digging a deeper hole like I was early in my career. I feel like now I’m getting to the point that it’s easier to find the mistakes I’m making and getting back to the plan of attack.”

Trevor Bauer has seen great improvement since the end of May, posting four quality starts in eight attempts, with one start cut short by rain and another putting the righty an out away from the mark.

Josh Tomlin has just two quality starts in seven attempts since the start of June, and has not shown much consistency, though he ended on a positive note by allowing two in seven innings on July 6th. The right-hander remains one of the team’s two question marks going into the second half.

The biggest question mark could lead to the rotation’s biggest upswing, dependent on what version of Danny Salazar emerges when the hard-thrower emerges from the disabled list.

Indians President Chris Antonetti noted that the best player the team could acquire prior to the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline would be a healthy, effective Danny Salazar. There is no way to know what they will get from the young righty returns, though the sentiment remains true.

More from Alex Hooper | 92.3 The Fan
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