Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Spring Training Notes: Could Indians' Pitching Be a Strength?

Yes, it’s just spring training and the opposing hitters are working on their swing and their timing, but there is a big surprise in…well, Surprise, Arizona, this year. The Cleveland Indians have pitching, and not only is it performing pretty well, but the group that is dealing this spring is showing a huge improvement in a couple of areas that were downright disgusting in 2012.

When the Indians’ pitching staff finished with the fourth-most free passes in baseball in 2012 (543 walks), fans seemed desperate for someone to step into the rotation who could do better than the 183 unnecessary baserunners that Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson allowed via base on balls last season.

Obviously take this with a pretty big grain of salt, but through 151 innings, the Indians have posted a 113:43 K/BB ratio over 17 games (as of Sunday). Masterson hasn’t allowed a walk through 8.2 innings, while Jimenez walked just two in eight innings. In fact, the entire team has a 2.6 BB/9 right now, a huge improvement over last season’s 3.4 BB/9 last season.

The 5.42 ERA is inflated (as are most teams’ right now) but the club is 11-6 due to the 170 hits (third in MLB), 110 runs scored (third), 23 home runs (second), and 80 walks (first) from the offense. However, the production from several names who are pitching out of their minds right now is surprising. (Note: huge small sample size alert)

  • Rich Hill: 0.00 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 8:3 K/BB in 5.2 innings (six games)
  • Nick Hagadone: 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 7:1 K/BB in 4 innings (four games)
  • Scott Kazmir: 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 4:0 K/BB in 4 innings (two games)
  • Trevor Bauer: 2.57 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 5:1 K/BB in 7 innings (three games)
  • Bryan Shaw: 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6:1 K/BB in 4 innings (four games)

If the club were to have four of those guys in the bullpen (as sending Bauer to Columbus to continue working as a starter seems a given) to add to Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez, the Indians are in business. That is a 1.09 ERA over 24.2 innings, if you’re keeping track at home.

Bullpen depth and starters who aren’t giving free passes, just another reason why the Indians continue to impress this spring. While you can argue that spring statistics aren’t a good indicator of success, the hitters are hitting well and showing great discipline and the pitchers are hitting their targets and pitching well. If they break camp doing the same thing, there is reason for hope over the entire season, even if that hope is founded upon statistics that some consider useless and unreliable.

Tags: Cleveland Indians

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