Thursday, May 14, 2009

Can I Have Some Tomahawks On That Roll?

The Indians are winning, the offense looks better with the roster (gasp) finally being managed to optimize the lineup and CP Lee looks like Cy Phifer Lee again. With all of those good things happening and with roster moves happening en masse (again), let’s get right to the Tomahawks:
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The big news of the week, obviously, is that top prospect Hector Rondon will be leaving the Akron rotation to join the movement to the bullpen. It’s a series of moves that was dissected about as well as one could possibly imagine already by Tony Lastoria, but let’s look at the Rondon move from a practical perspective as to why he may project as a bullpen arm, at least in the short term.

Ideally, the arms that you want to come out of the bullpen are ones that don’t walk too many people, but also who have the ability to induce swings and misses and notch some strikeouts…not too crazy of a concept, right?
Well, here are the pitchers with the highest K/BB rates in the system, regardless of level:
Kelvin De La Cruz – 9.50 K/BB
Paolo Espino – 6.00 K/BB
Hector Rondon – 4.67 K/BB
Josh Judy – 4.67 K/BB
Anillins Martinez – 4.67 K/BB
Zach Putnam – 4.50 K/BB
Recognize some of those names as guys that recently made the switch to the bullpen?

As for the names that you may not recognize from recent weeks, KDLC has been shut down for six weeks after blazing to a phenomenal start in Kinston, and Espino is currently bouncing around Lake County, Kinston, and Akron to fill in holes in the rotation and bullpen and is not nearly the prospect that the others are, as Tony Lastoria tells me.

But past those two is where you get into some names and may really help with Rondon and Putnam now together in the Akron bullpen after each started the season in the rotations in Kinston and Akron, respectively. Josh Judy has recently been promoted from the Kinston to the Akron bullpen and Anillins Martinez is really finding his first success in the Lake County bullpen, which means that the 9 2/3 innings he’s thrown may or may not be an indication that he should be fast-tracked.

So, of the pitchers in the organization with the highest K/BB rates, two have now been put into the bullpen with the idea that they may be able to help the scuffling bullpen.

Want an idea how K/BB rates portends success out of the bullpen?
Top K/BB rates in MLB in 2008
Mo Rivera – 12.83 K/BB
Jon Papelbon – 9.63 K/BB
Matt Capps – 7.80 K/BB

Obviously, that needs to be taken with a bit of a grain of salt as neither Rondon nor Putnam has those video-game numbers (even in MiLB), but it points out what criteria the Indians are looking at in terms of transitioning young arms to the bullpen.
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The downside of the Rondon move is not that different, though, from the move of Aaron Laffey to the bullpen as, while it may strengthen the bullpen, it unquestionably hurts the rotation. Think for a moment how the starters’ depth chart looked when the season started:
Lee
Carmona
Pavano
Reyes
Lewis
Laffey
Sowers
Huff
Jackson

That’s nine names and, as hard as it may be to believe, the thought that they’re going to have to go deeper than that when we’re in mid-May is valid as Reyes and Sowers have shown that they’re not worthy of getting the ball every 5th day, SLewis is hurt (again), Laffey has been called out of this mix to save the bullpen and Huff is still probably a couple of weeks away from making his way up to the parent club.

So, past those nine, you would have probably put Rondon and Westbrook as the other two legitimate starting options for this year…that is, until Rondon made the move to the bullpen. Thus, what we’re looking at with Sowers going back down and Reyes struggling to the point that he probably shouldn’t be in the rotation is that the Indians have to hope that Huff can step into the rotation at some point (assuming Laffey stays in the bullpen…which shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion) and that Westbrook returns healthy and ready to contribute.

At this point, that may be asking for a little too much to go right in that rotation…particularly in the back end.
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Speaking of that back end of the rotation, is anyone holding out hope that Jeremy Sowers is going to ever find success as a MLB starter?

Since his 2006 season, Sowers has gone 5-17 with a 6.16 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP over 197 1/3 innings and things actually seem to be getting worse for him as he’s on his way back to AAA with the Indians’ 5th starting spot seemingly up for grabs.

What’s so frustrating about watching Sowers go one night, then watching Lee go the next is that to watch the radar gun, the two aren’t separated by too much in terms of MPH, with both sitting between 89 and 91 with their fastballs in their last start…but, as we’ve learned from watching CP Lee turn into Cy Lee, it’s all about location.

Don’t believe me?
Here are the pitch charts for each from their last starts, starting with Lee via brooksbaseball.net:

See how Lee lives on those edges of the strike zone, spotting his pitches around the strike zone without just grooving them right down the middle?

Check out Sowers’ pitch chart (again, via brooksbaseball.net), with the balls all over the place and those in the strike zone focused right down the middle or, worse, middle up.

Yuck.
Is Sowers salvageable at this point?
That’s hard to see and knowing that he’s out of options after this year and probably pitched his way out a legitimate opportunity to start a game for the Indians with his last two games, who knows what the future holds for Sowers…but his window of opportunity to be a legitimate starting option in Cleveland is closing quickly.
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Knowing that Sowers is out of options out of this year, who else is?
Aubrey
Barfield
Carmona
Francisco
Zachson
Perez

What players are out of options after 2010?
Garko
Laffey
Jen Lewis
SLewis
Meloan
Miller
Sipp

Not sure if you find that interesting or not as the haves versus the have-nots in terms of who’s out of options after this year doesn’t make it that hard to see which players are on their last legs as Indians.
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With the win in Tampa, the Indians are 13-15 since their 1-7 start with what can charitably be called an unsettled bullpen and a still-evolving offense and now find themselves merely five games out.
Thank goodness for the AL Central…

3 comments:

Alex said...

I hope that they can find a couple of decent arms in front of Wood so they can shift Laffey back to the rotation because a rotation of Lee, Carmona, Westbrook, Pavano and Laffey looks pretty good. I hope that Jensen's 5K performance against the Sox means he's coming around. On July 1st I think the pen will be like this: Wood, J. Lewis, Perez (hopefully), Betancourt, Rondon, J. Smith and Vizcaino/Sipp.

Paul Cousineau said...

I would LOVE to see that bullpen come July, which gives our rotation more options with Laffey going back there.

It's interesting how the bullpen has really settled in since Laffey got there to take quite a few innings and how the rotation now looks to be lacking that Laffey is gone.

csusi said...

welcome to the ball club vizcaino. pitched like a true indian.