Remember the first half of the Cleveland Indians‘ season, when people were saying the words “Josh Tomlin” and “Cy Young” in the same sentence? And it wasn’t as part of a joke?
It may seem like a distant memory now, but there was a point this year when Tomlin was the steady hand of Cleveland’s rotation. As far back as just a few days after the All Star Game, he had a stunning 10-2 record and a 3.34 ERA. It was significantly more production than the Tribe would’ve expected from a 31-year-old junk-ball pitcher who’s always been a back-of-the-rotation kind of guy.
Still, the safe assumption was that Tomlin would eventually fall back to earth. While such a thing was anticipated, I highly doubt anyone thought the plummet would be this severe.
Tomlin has been getting shelled over and over again, losing his last five starts. The Indians, clinging desperately to their place atop the AL Central standings, simply can’t afford any liabilities right now. Because of this, if Tomlin struggles again tonight against the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland needs to pull him from the rotation.
There are many reasons why Tomlin should be on his last chance tonight. The easiest to point at is his performance throughout the month of August.
In five starts – again, all losses – Tomlin has given up a combined 30 earned runs. He gave up seven earned in three of these games. Many of these runs have come via the long-ball, something Tomlin has been serving up way too often. He’s allowed nine home runs this month alone, good for an average of just under two per game.
This would be an alarming trend under any situation. That it’s occurring during the home stretch of Cleveland’s season while the offense has gone anemic only makes it worse. The Indians are dealing with enough struggles just scoring one run lately. Asking them to erase the seven-run deficit Tomlin has been consistently dealing them is a bit much.
His performance, combined with how badly the Tribe needs to keep winning, is enough of a reason to make him expendable. Adding to it is the fact Tomlin likely wouldn’t even be in the rotation should Cleveland make the playoffs.
It’d be one thing if he was going to be a crucial piece of the Indians’ playoff roster. The team would be more focused on getting him in the right place, working through whatever his issues are with a hint of desperation.
However, it’s highly unlikely Tomlin would be relied on in October. Like most playoff teams, Cleveland would trim its rotation down to its four best pitchers. All due respect to Tomlin, but he doesn’t qualify for that. He’d put forth an incredibly impressive season until just past the All Star break, but will never be more than a fourth or fifth starter in a good rotation.
It’s because of this Tomlin should be on thin ice tonight. It’d be easy to say “well, he’s playing the Twins, so he should be fine.” However, the Indians still inexplicably struggle against Minnesota, so I’m not going to hedge any bets.
Should he get knocked around again, Cleveland just can’t let him stay in the rotation. The team has rookie Mike Clevinger waiting in the bullpen, and though he’s had an up and down season, there’s more upside to getting him some work than there is letting Tomlin spot opponents near-double digit leads just two innings into his starts.
Again, it was great to see Tomlin – one of the longest tenured players on this team – start the season so strong. Right now, though, he’s become too much of a burden.
The Indians are in desperate times right now as they attempt to clinch a playoff berth. As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. Said measures should include pulling a pitcher whose present day struggles are making everyone forget how impressively he started the season.