Keith Law believes the Cleveland Indians need to develop better pitching, once and for all revealing why he no longer works in the majors.
Keith Law thinks the Cleveland Indians develop routinely below-average starting pitching in Cleveland. That’s what Law, a former assistant to the GM of the Toronto Bluejays, believes the Indians problem is. While on Baskin and Phelps, Law told the hosts that the Indians need to develop average to above-average starting pitching every season to be competitive year in and year out.
Sure, that’s something we can all agree on, pitching is the most important thing in baseball. No doubt. Yet, it was the fact he flat out said the Indians hadn’t been doing that which caused many to do a double-take.
The fact they had some good fifth-starter types in Plesac and Civale is good but they as a small market, low payroll team – this ownership just isn’t going to spend a lot of money on the roster – they need to be producing better guys then this on a regular basis. Now Bieber is a different category. Bieber came on looking like a fifth-starter when he was still in the system, as he got to the majors his velocity crept up to the point where he’s far-far better than that. He’s a well-above-average starter, and I think he’s going to stay that way for a pretty long time. They need to be generating somebody like that, a league-average starter or better every year or two to stay competitive over the long haul. They’re never going to pay to get these guys in free agency and I would expect that they probably won’t’ be able to retain all these guys.
Now, yes, the Indians will eventually trade and move on from all of their players at some point, that’s been the modus operandi in Cleveland since the ’90s. Yet to say that two players like Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale aren’t “league average” starters? Are you high? In Civale’s rookie year he had a 2.34 ERA, while Plesac had a 3.81 ERA. Civale averaged about a WHIP of 1.040, which was lower than Bieber’s. Plesac, barely worse, at a 1.228.
Fifth-starter caliber guys? What? For who, the 2001 Oakland Athletics?
Law also fails to mention that the Indians have routinely developed top of the line pitchers. Since 2007, who has the most AL Cy Young Award Winners? Cleveland, with four. C.C Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Corey Kluber twice. Bieber should be the fifth modern player (sixth all-time) to take a Cy Young award home to Cleveland.
That doesn’t even take into account all the success stories of pitchers finding themselves having great seasons or careers. Guys like Jake Westbrook, Justin Masterson, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin, and Roberto Hernandez (fka Fausto Carmona) all had stellar runs with the Indians. Then there are the guys that found a second life; Kevin Millwood, Scott Kazmir, and Oliver Perez revived their careers with Cleveland.
Cleveland knows how to develop pitching. That’s how it’s been for nearly twenty years. Part of why is due to organizational consistency. Team president Chris Antonetti started with the Indians in 1999. He’s been here for 21 years. He knows the type of guys to hire by this point. Indians GM, Mike Chernoff? Over a decade with the club. Same deal. They all learned the Cleveland-way.
Terry Francona, Sandy Alomar, Carl Willis, they’ve all been here for years. Consistency is key in Cleveland. It works. To say the team needs to continue to develop pitching is fine. It’s fair. It makes sense. To say they need to do a better job at it? What? That’s insane. The Indians might be the best team in the Majors when it comes to replenishing the starting rotation when they lose guys.
For a baseball writer, you’d think Law would be aware of Cleveland’s continued success with pitching for the last 20-odd years.