Game 148: Royals 6, Indians 4

On August 11, Josh Tomlin took the loss in Baltimore after a good, not great, pitching performance: 5 innings, 2 earned runs, and 10 hits. When that game finished, Tomlin's ERA was 2.96; since then, his ERA has been 6.05. There is, candidly, nothing to see here; with Columbus, Tomlin posted an MLE of 5.28 and, while MLE's are often confusing and troublesome, this one seems right on the money. In his first three starts, Tomlin gave up only 11 hits in 19.1 innings pitched; since then, it's 48 in 39.2 innings pitched. He's struck out only 33 batters in 59 innings this season. Tomlin's got one decent asset: he generally throws strikes, walking only sixteen men on the year. However, this is the kind of "good stat" that means nothing in context. It doesn't help to be around the plate if you're so hittable. Tomlin could nibble and walk guys and the results probably wouldn't be much worse than the repercussions of the current hit parade.

By now, I'm sure you've figured out that Tomlin pitched poorly today. The Tribe offense, reanimated by a visit to Kansas City, spotted Tomlin a 3-0 lead heading into the second. The lead was squandered and, after one of those weird death by paper cut innings, Tomlin somehow found himself down four runs-he managed to strike out the side while simultaneously giving up three singles, a walk, and watching Yuni Betancourt steal home. From there, he cruised into the bottom of the sixth, put two men on, and was relieved by Aaron Laffey. The Laff-Man, in his first appearance since July 19, gave up a two-run double to the big Hawaiian and then settled in to retire the next six batters in a row. Tale as old as time, Laffey's numbers look good (2 scoreless innings, after all) but he took the game from 4-3 to 6-3 and basically shut the door on any Indians uprising.

The whole "dead-arm Aaron" business wasn't on display today-Laffey worked up around 87 with his fastball, which is more or less his whole career, but there wasn't much separation with the change. He did get four groundouts, so perhaps that skill is reemerging.

With Carlos Carrasco pitching so well to end the year in Cleveland, it's a bit odd to look at Laffey and, to a much lesser extent, Tomlin and consider that we ever pondered the viability of a rotation built on these kinds of arms. The Indians infamous army of soft-tossers, commanded by General (T)Sowers and featuring enlistees Laffey, Scott Lewis, and David Huff, with Jeanmar Gomez and Josh Tomlin hanging around the recruiting office trying to bum smokes, has pretty much disbanded. I'm not sure any of these guys will ever pitch for the Indians again after next week; the smart money says that at least one of them will help fill out the rotation at some point in '11 or '12 but the fact that they might all be to the ether is startling. Pitching depth, waves of arms, whatever you'd like to call, it doesn't amount to much when the arms aren't any good.

Offensively, the Indians got 2 hits each from Marte and LaPorta and Choo hit his 20th homerun of the season. In 2007, five Indians went out 20 or more times; in 2008 the number was 3; in 2009 Choo hit the number on the nose as the only Indian to reach the 20 plateau and he will be the only Indian to do it again this season. Team homeruns, since 2007: 178, 171, 161, 116. Things are rotten in places besides Denmark, it seems.

The Indians are nearly done and hopefully can end the season by continuing their relatively strong play. They are 9-8 in September with a positive run differential, having won or split four of their last five series. Tomorrow they'll head to Minnesota to finish this final road trip and then will end with six straight at home against Kansas City and Detroit. Fourth place hangs in the balance, with the Indians currently holding a half game lead over the Royals. By the end of next week we'll know if Cleveland will pick fifth, sixth or seventh in the 2011 draft, a class supposedly loaded with talent, and the first draft of the Antonetti era. Onward and upward, fair Tribesmen.

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via www.fangraphs.com


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