What's Going On With Cleveland Indians' Vinnie Pestano?

By Thom Tsang
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

If you happened to have watched the Cleveland Indians‘ come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals, than you already you know that you’ve likely witnessed a strong candidate for the Dodgiest Save Of The Year award (note: not an actual award) in 2013.

For those who didn’t, I’ll summarize: called on to close out the game with a one-run lead, Vinnie Pestano gave up a trio of singles and a walk … and somewhat managed to end up with a handshake.

Okay, so there was a key running error there to help him out — David Lough getting caught in no-man’s land between third and home on the third single of the inning nearly got him doubled off to end the game in an incredibly strange (and boneheaded manner). Still, it was a borderline miracle that Pestano didn’t give the Royals a walk-off win, let alone earning his second save of the season.

So considering that he’s been one of the most effective relievers in the AL over the last couple of years, do you chalk it up to one bad outing?

In normal circumstances, sure — but this is no ordinary year for the Indians setup man/closer. In fact, Pestano hasn’t been resembled himself at all on the mound for much of the season.

Of course, there’s always the SSS caveat when it comes to looking at reliever trends as even a string of two or three bad outings can be exaggerated in the overall picture, but that picture for the right-hander says this: 4.05/1.40 ERA/WHIP over 20 innings.

That’s not what you’d call “good” by any means, though to be fair, things always like that for Pestano in 2013 — the pre-injury version, that is.

Things looked basically like business as usual for the 28-year-old in April as he’d thrown six of eight scoreless innings with a 2.25/1.13 ERA/WHIP and a .185 BAA. Since he’s come back from a sore elbow? He’s given up runs in five of 12 outings, and has thrown a clean inning just twice.

His velocity, which is still not suite up to the 92-93 mph range that he was at before his DL stint, is almost certainly part of the problem, even if it is improving (.286 BAA through five innings in May, .259 through seven innings in June). However, perhaps the more worrying trend are the free passes.

Now, not that Pestano is particularly known for his pinpoint control, but his 4.50 BB/9 (10 walks, one intentional, in 20 IP) is well above his career rate of 3.61. Not only is he throwing less hard, but combined with the fact that he’s not missing as many bats (9.9 swinging strike rate), and well … you get the big picture.

Will the return of his fastball solve the issue?

It’s hopeful, but barring a more significant issue with his arm, the trickle-down effect should be increased confidence for him to attack with it, leading to fewer walks and giving Cleveland what have been used to over the last two seasons: a dominant, shutdown reliever.

For now, though, Pestano just isn’t quite himself yet — and that makes him a liability in what had been a strong suit for the Indians.

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