The Cleveland Indians traded a two time Cy Young award winner in Corey Kluber and the inconsistent yet talented former first round pick Trevor Bauer in the last calendar year. Carlos Carrasco was a question mark coming into this year attempting to come back after missing most of last season because of his leukemia diagnosis. It looked as though what was once the strength of the Indians would become a weakness and with an inconsistent lineup this team would have to fight just to make the playoffs. Now one week into the season that narrative has been turned on its head as this rotation is possibly as strong as it has ever been. That is all thanks to the Indians uncanny ability to develop starting pitchers. Just look at the pitching lines from the Indians first six games:
Shane Bieber V. Kansas City – 6.0 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs and 14K’s
Mike Clevinger V. Kansas City – 7.0 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs and 6K’s
Carlos Carrasco V. Kansas City – 6.0 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs and 10K’s
Aaron Civale V. Chicago – 6.0 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs and 9K’s
Adam Plutko V. Chicago – 6.0 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs and 4K’s
Zach Plesac V. Chicago – 8.0 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs and 11K’s
The Indians are now 4-2 to start the year and both losses can be pinned on a combination of bullpen issues and the Indians inability to find consistency at the plate. Those issues shouldn’t overshadow the job that the Indians front office has done not just this year but since 2001 when Mark Shapiro took over as general manager. Since 2001 three different Tribe pitchers have won the Cy Young with Kluber winning it twice. Only the Houston Astros have also had three winners during that time with each Astro only winning once (baseball-reference.com). Only C.C. Sabathia in 2007 was a first round pick as Cliff Lee was an eighth round pick of the Marlins and Corey Kluber was a fourth round pick for the Padres.
The highest drafted player of the current Indians rotation is Shane Bieber who was a fourth round pick for the Tribe in 2016. Clevinger, Carrasco and Civale were all acquired by the Indians through trades with Plutko and Plesac being drafted in the eleventh and twelfth rounds by the Indians. This shows that the Indians not only draft and develop but are also able to find and develop talent from other organizations. Other teams in the league have taken notice with the Yankees hiring Matt Blake away from the Indians to be their new pitching coach this past offseason. Blake was assistant direct of player development and had been promoted to head of pitching development before he made the switch to New York. As tough as it can be to lose talent, this just shows the amount of respect that the Indians organization garners in Major League Baseball when it comes to their knack to get the best out of their young pitchers.
Long gone are the Indians teams of the 90’s that were built on the power and brawn of their hitters while trying to piece together a rotation that could keep the opposing hitters at bay. Those teams were fun and exciting as they would hit through the order and set off fireworks at the Jake. As exciting as they were, they still weren’t able to get the Indians over the hump and bring a World Series to the shores of Lake Erie. Now the Indians are built around starting pitching and an offense that at times has to scratch and claw their way for a couple of runs. They were close in 2016 as the rotation led by Kluber and some timely hitting got the Indians one game away. Ultimately, if this season ends with a loss and not a trophy at least the Indians can say that when it comes to building a pitching rotation, no one does it better.