Cleveland Indians starters throw some of the nastiest pitches in baseball, according to FanGraphs
At this point of the season it’s reasonable to expect that the stingiest pitching staff in the American League would be led by one of the game’s best starting rotations. And that is exactly what is happening in Cleveland this year, as the Tribe’s front five has been one of the most dominant rotations in baseball.
Indians starters have combined to post a 3.69 ERA, the second-best mark in the American League, while the Tribe’s current rotation of Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin and Danny Salazar has combined for a 3.14 ERA in 2016.
And just like a pitching staff is only as good as each individual piece, a pitcher is only as good as his pitches.
According to Fangraphs’ Pitch Value data, which can be found here, the Tribe’s starting five throws some of the most dominant pitches in the game.
Let’s begin with 2014 Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, who owns both the best cutter and the best curveball in the American League. On a per-100-pitch basis, Kluber’s curveball has been the 3rd-most effective pitch in the AL this season, and opposing hitters are batting just .090 against it.
Kluber also owns the AL’s best cutter, which is 50% more effective than the league’s second-best cut fastball. His cutter has so much movement that MLB’s PITCHf/x system actually classifies it as a slider, which might explain why opposing hitters have just a .488 OPS against.
Following in Kluber’s footsteps, Josh Tomlin’s cutter ranks as the eighth-most effective cut-fastball in the AL this year, which he uses to setup the league’s 16th-best fastball. This combination allows Tomlin to work the edges of the plate as he has generated a 31.6% O-swing rate (percent of pitches outside of the strikezone that are swung on and missed), the 10th-best mark in the AL.
But it’s not all about the breaking balls with this group, because Danny Salazar owns the best changeup in baseball this season. Although he already possessed a mid-90s fastball when he debuted for the Indians in 2013, Salazar’s changeup has only improved with time. Opposing hitters batted .246 against his changeup in 2013, .179 in 2014, .155 in 2015 and a paltry .077 this season. A true strikeout-pitch, Salazar’s changeup generates an absurd 24% swing-and-miss rate.
Now we turn to Trevor Bauer, who has quietly put together one of the most effective arsenals in the league this season. Each of Bauer’s five primary offerings are among the 20-most effective pitches of their kind this season. On a per-100-pitch basis, Bauer owns the League’s most effective slider, fifth-best curveball, 10th-best changeup, 12th-best fastball and 14th-best cutter.
Among all of this, let’s not forget about Carlos Carrasco, who, due to injury, has not thrown enough innings to rank among league qualifiers at the moment. That said, his curveball would currently rank among the American League’s top-five hooks.
Hat tip to Waiting For Next Year’s Michael Bode for the idea — give him a follow on Twitter.
–TribeVibe contributor Robert Davidson