By Kyle Johansen @kylejohansen on April 22, 2014
The Cleveland Indians' bullpen and starting rotation could not be more polar opposite to each other through the first three weeks of the 2014 season. The Indians' bullpen has dominated, with the help of a little luck, while nearly every member of the starting rotation has been incredibly unfortunate in a variety of different areas. Overall, Indians starters have a 4.99 ERA in 104.2 innings pitched, while relievers have a 2.61 ERA in 61.2 IP.
Despite a 3.12 ERA, John Axford has been the worst reliever in the bullpen. With seven walks and nine strikeouts in 8.2 innings pitched, Axford has been erratic as ever. His hold on the closer job appears strong, though, as Axford has converted seven of eight save opportunities. While his ERA is strong, Axford's FIP of 4.89 and xFIP of 5.24 reveal he has been very fortunate so far this season and regression may be on the way.
Cody Allen has been the best reliever in the bullpen so far as he has not yet allowed an earned run in 8.2 innings pitched. Allen has an excellent strikeout rate of 13.50 K/9, but he has also been a little wild, with four walks and one intentional walk with one wild pitch. Allen's peripherals line up with his results for the most part, as his FIP sits at 1.43 while his xFIP is 2.51.
Marc Rzepczynski has wonderful results (1.00 ERA) so far through nine innings, although his peripherals paint a slightly dimmer picture with a 3.15 FIP and 4.05 xFIP. Rzepczynski should continue to be a reliable option against left-handed hitters throughout the 2014 season.
Bryan Shaw has delivered stellar results (2.16 ERA) backed up by phenomenal peripherals (1.48 FIP, 2.77 xFIP) in his 8.1 innings pitched this season. Shaw was an underrated piece of the trade that sent Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds and Trevor Bauer over to the Indians. At 27 years old, Shaw is coming into his own and is building off a strong 2013 season that saw him throw 75 innings with a 3.24 ERA.
Who is this guy? 38-year-old Scott Atchison has excelled so far with a 1.08 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched. Atchison’s numbers appear to be legit as he has a strong strikeout rate of 8.64 K/9 against a minuscule walk rate of 1.08 BB/9. Atchison’s ascension has come out of nowhere, lengthening a strong Cleveland bullpen, and his peripherals completely back up his ERA as his FIP is just 1.48 with a 1.96 xFIP.
Josh Outman has thrown just 6.1 innings but has a 1.42 ERA despite five walks and five hits allowed, leading to an elevated FIP of 4.94 but a more palatable 3.73 xFIP. Outman has been deployed equally against right and left-handed hitters, and he has been much more effective against the lefties. He surrendered his only home run to a righty and six of his eight strikeouts have come against lefties.
C.C. Lee was signed for just under half a million dollars in 2008 out of Taiwan and briefly pitched in the Majors last year after returning from Tommy John surgery. Lee throws a heavy fastball at 93 mph and has shown strong strikeout numbers in the minor leagues with the ability to induce a lot of ground balls. Lee has thrown 3.1 innings this year, allowing three hits and one earned run.
Carrasco has a ridiculous 7.31 ERA in 16 innings, but his underlying numbers suggest this is an aberration. Opposing base runners have been stranded at a rate of just 54.4 percent, down considerably from the league average rate of 72 percent. This number will positively regress to the mean, in addition to regression in his opponents’ BABIP of .383. Carrasco has walked too many batters at 4.50 BB/9 but also has 9.56 K/9 and just one HR allowed.
Danny Salazar has 17 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched. However, he has walked eight and given up four home runs while also surrendering 19 hits, giving him an ERA of 7.71. These numbers can be partially explained by an unlucky HR/FB rate of 20 percent which will certainly regress, in addition to a large decrease in his opponents’ BABIP of .405. Salazar has ace potential and should be able to settle down eventually.
Zach McAllister has pitched extremely well as his ERA sits at just 2.28. His numbers are partially a result of McAllister lowering his walk rate from a year ago while also bumping up his strikeouts. However, he has not yet given up a home run and he’ll surrender his fair share eventually, which is why his xFIP is less than enthusiastic at 4.08. If he can continue to prevent home runs, though, his FIP is optimistic at 2.49 through 17.2 innings.
Corey Kluber has pitched reasonably well, despite what his 5.40 ERA would suggest. Kluber has an excellent 3.17 K/BB ratio and has allowed just two home runs in his 23.1 innings pitched. However, his opponents’ batting average on balls in play has been incredibly unlucky at .390 and that rate will regress considerably. Of concern, though, is an early loss of velocity as Kluber is averaging 90.9 mph on his fastball, down from 92.9 in 2013.
Justin Masterson has pitched much better than his ERA of 4.98 would indicate, as fielding independent metrics paint a much nicer picture with a 3.40 FIP and 3.60 xFIP. Masterson has 24 strikeouts in 21.2 innings and has given up just one home run. However, he’s been unlucky with opponents having a .355 BABIP, which combined with his 4.57 BB/9 has resulted in his unsightly ERA.
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