Throughout the season the bats might go silent and the starting pitching will recede occasionally, but the one dependable entity of the Cleveland Indians is the bullpen. Last night’s win over the Kansas City Royals displayed the best Tribe pen arms in action, pitching 2.2 innings of shutout baseball to slam the door shut on their Central division foes. There’s a reason the Wahoos went 30-17 in one-run games and 10-2 in extra innings last season, and that’s because of a rock-solid relief corps.
General manager Chris Antonetti exhibited his genius once again this offseason by acquiring Josh Outman to accompany Marc Rzepczynski as a fierce two-headed monster against lefties. The Indians surely need this production from left-handed bullpen arms with a HR factor of 105 for left-handed bats at Progressive Field, as the southpaws hit five percent more dingers in Cleveland than they do at the average park. Supplement this with the HR factor of 89 for right-handed hitters making lefties 16 percent more likely to go yard than righties at the lefty-encouraging stadium at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
The Tribe currently sits seventh in baseball in bullpen ERA (2.75) and fifth in BAA (.214) in 69 innings of work. Only four earned runs have been surrendered between Outman, Rzepczynski, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw combined. This type of consistency among the most active pen arms gives the Tribe a crutch to fall back on when runs are coming at a premium.
Indians relievers have been brilliant with runners in scoring position as Outman, Rzepczynski, Shaw, Allen and John Axford have pooled for 52 at-bats averaging a BAA of .116 (seven hits). Stingy pitching like this allows manager Terry Francona to play small-ball late in games to edge out wins.
Cleveland’s inherent makeup retains a dash of many different talents to challenge every type of prospective batter. This plays into Francona’s hand as well due to his love for matching righties and lefties with their counterparts.