One Tomlin streak gets snapped

Josh Tomlin was finally roughed up a little bit, allowing four runs in the 2nd inning – more than he had allowed in any game this season. That inning alone snapped his quality start streak at nine.

Over the past 20 seasons only three former Cy Young winners have posted a streak as long as Tomlin’s while in a Tribe uniform. And in the baseball-reference era (since 1919) no Indian has ever started the season with a streak longer than nine games.

Tomlin did extend another streak however. In each of Tomlin’s 22 career starts he has pitched at least five innings – a streak which, since 1919, has been matched by only Daisuke Matsuzaka and Steve Rogers. Matsuzaka holds the MLB record at 28.

Tomlin goes for 7th win vs Rays

Josh Tomlin takes the hill tonight against the Rays in search of his 7th win. Over the past 30 seasons, only eight Tribe pitchers picked up at least seven wins in the team’s first 50 games.

Tomlin’s 2.41 ERA also ranks as the 5th lowest through 50 games over the past 30 seasons. Amazingly, of the four pitchers currently ahead of him on this list, only Cliff Lee was selected to the All-Star game.

If Tomlin wishes to earn a trip to the midsummer classic, tonight would be a golden opportunity to throw his hat into the ring. He’ll be going head-to-head with Rays ace David Price, who shut down the Tribe at The Jake earlier this year.

Peavy shuts out Tribe 1-0

Jake Peavy out-dueld Tribe ace Justin Masterson, handing the Tribe a 1-0 defeat as they fall to 1-3 against the White Sox this season.

Peavy became just the 5th pitcher in the past 20 years to toss a shutout in a 1-0 victory over the Tribe.

Here’s a quick look back at the very odd group to accomplish the feat (click on the date for the box score)…

May 8, 2009Justin Verlander, Tigers – Verlander and Cliff Lee were locked in dueling shutouts until the 8th when Clete Thomas drove in the game’s only run with an RBI single. Verlander would allow just two hits and two walks while striking out 11.

June 17, 2001Todd Ritchie, Pirates – The Pirates were a full 21 games under .500 when the Tribe visited PNC park. Rookie CC Sabathia had allowed just one hit over seven innings, but was pulled after reaching the 100-pitch mark. Steve Karsay relieved and gave up a walk-off double to Aramis Ramirez in the bottom of the 9th. Ritchie scattered four hits, while striking out five.

April 14, 2001Steve Sparks, Tigers – It’s hard to believe one of the most dominant offensive teams in franchise history was held scoreless by guys like Ritchie and Sparks. Chuck Finley tossed a complete game for the Tribe, but allowed a run to score on a Bobby Higginson sac fly in the 1st inning.

July 15, 1998 Pedro Martinez, Red Sox – This was more of what you expect from a 1-0 pitcher’s duel. Martinez struck out nine while allowing just four hits. Bartolo Colon countered with a complete game of his own, but lost due to a Midre Cummings homer in the 5th.

Tomlin comfortable in Cleveland

While glancing at Josh Tomlin‘s career game log I noticed that he has yet to allow more than three runs (earned or unearned) in any of his 10 starts in Jacobs Field. That seemed like an impressive streak, so I checked it out on baseball-reference.

As it turns out, that’s not only the longest streak to being a career, but also the longest streak ever at The Jake. In his last home start he broke the record previously shared by CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee.

Tomlin’s streak is also the longest by any Indian (at League Park, The Stadium or The Jake) to begin their career in the baseball-reference era (since 1919). The previous record was seven, set by Mike Garcia in 1949.

The last Tribe pitcher with a longer streak at home – to being career or otherwise – was Gaylord Perry, who had an 11-game streak that spanned the 1973 and ’74 seasons.

Tomlin’s next home start will likely come on Saturday against the Reds.

Rays snap Masterson’s streak

The Rays finally got to Justin Masterson on Thursday, the first team to rough him up for more than three runs and the first to hand him a defeat.

His impressive start to the season ranks among the best in team history, trailing only Cliff Lee (2004) for the most consecutive starts without a loss while allowing three or fewer runs.

I included Satchel Paige on the list to the right even though he doesn’t quite fall into the same category as Masterson, but his performance was every bit as impressive and unexpected. Paige’s streak spanned the first seven starts of his career, but was broken up by relief appearances in between.

Another Masterpiece for Masterson

On August 26, 2010 – in his 26th start of the year – Justin Masterson picked up his 5th win of the season.

On April 26, 2011 – in his 5th start of the year – Masterson picked up his 5th win of the season.

What a difference an offseason makes.

Masterston is just the 9th Tribe pitcher to win each of his first five starts in a season over the post 90 years, and the first since Cliff Lee in 2008 (six straight).

Rk Strk Start End ▾ Games W CG SHO IP ER SO ERA
1 Justin Masterson 2011-04-03 2011-04-26 5 5 0 0 33.0 8 22 2.18
2 Cliff Lee 2008-04-06 2008-05-07 6 6 1 1 44.2 4 39 0.81
3 Greg Swindell 1988-04-06 1988-05-02 6 6 3 1 51.2 12 30 2.09
4 Bob Lemon 1955-04-12 1955-04-30 5 5 4 0 43.1 10 23 2.08
5 Jim Bagby 1942-04-14 1942-05-02 5 5 4 1 44.0 10 8 2.05
6 Wes Ferrell 1932-04-13 1932-05-01 5 5 5 0 47.0 12 16 2.30
7 Duster Mails 1920-09-01 1920-09-27 7 7 6 2 55.0 12 23 1.96
8 Jim Bagby 1920-04-19 1920-05-20 8 8 8 0 73.0 20 13 2.47
9 Stan Coveleski 1920-04-14 1920-05-09 7 7 6 1 61.0 13 25 1.92
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/27/2011.

It’s certainly an impressive list to be on, but when you look at Mastersons stats compared to the others it’s clear that he owns a lot to his bullpen. Masterson is averaging just over six innings per start and is the only pitcher on the list without a complete game in his streak. He also has the highest era (not that there’s anything wrong with 2.18) since Wes Ferrell in 1932.

Let’s hope Masterson (and the bullpen) can keep it up.

How the new playoff system would have looked in years past

Bud Selig recently announced that a new playoff system could be in place in 2012 which would allow five playoff teams from each league. Each league would have three division winners who automatically advance to what we now call the Division Series, while the two wild card winners would face off in (presumably) a one-game playoff for the right to face the team that finished with the best record.

If this system had been put into place instead of the current system in 1994, it would have resulted in two additional trips to the playoffs for the Tribe.

In 2000 the Indians would have qualified as the second wild card team, facing the Mariners in the play-in game. The Indians could have started Jason Bere or brought back Bartolo Colon on short rest to face either Freddy Garcia or Aaron Sele.

Instead, the Mariners disposed of the White Sox in the ALDS before losing to the Yankees in six games in the LCS.

In 2005 the Indians also would have been the second wild card team, facing the Red Sox. The pitching matchup likely would have been Cliff Lee against Bronso Arroyo, unless the Tribe used CC Sabathia on short rest.

Instead, the Red Sox were swept by the White Sox in the LDS on their way to winning the World Series.

It will be interesting to see how this new system is perceived by the fans. Personally, I’m not crazy about it.

Take 2004 for example – the Red Sox won 98 games and finished with the second best record in the AL… but they trailed the Yankees. Is it really fair to force their season to come down to one game against the A’s, who won seven fewer games during the regular season?

One-game playoffs simply don’t work in baseball (unless absolutely necessary, such as in the event of a tie). In football or basketball you can make the case that the better team will win most of the time – that’s not the case in baseball.

In baseball, the team with the better pitcher wins most of the time, not necessary the more complete team.

Using 2004 as the example again, the Red Sox were clearly the better team, but in a one-game playoff Rich Harden (the likely scheduled starter for the A’s) certainly could have out-dueled Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling.

In a one-game playoff between great pitchers, anything can happen. It might make for one night of great TV, but would it really be better for the game in the long run?

Masterson joins Lee, Feller

Somehow I managed to miss this note the other day when Justin Masterson improved to 4-0 through his first four starts of the season.

With the win over the Royals, Masterson joined Cliff Lee (2008) and Bob Feller (1951) as the only Indians in the past 90 seasons to start the season with four consecutive wins while allowing two or fewer runs in each game. Both Lee and Feller would go on to win 22 games.

Masterson continues to roll

Justin Masterson improved to 3-0 on Friday night against the Orioles, becoming just the third Indians starter to win each of his first three starts while posting an ERA under 2.00 in the past 30 seasons.

Masterson joins Cliff Lee (2008) and Greg Swindell (1988), each of whom would go on to win at least 18 games that season. In 2008, Scott Lewis also accomplished the feat, but did so only after being recalled from Buffalo in September.

While it’s nice to imagine Masterson turning in a Cliff Lee-like season (or even a Swindell season, for that matter) realistically we have to assume he’ll fall back down to earth.

Through his first three games his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is only .242. Over the course of a full season, we can expect that number to even out around .300, meaning to this point he’s probably been the beneficially of some balls simply rolling his way.

Along those same lines Masterson’s FIP (fielding independent pitching – in essence, ERA with defensive variables removed) is 2.64. However his xFIP (expected FIP) is 3.43. Like his BABIP numbers, this indicates that Masterson has benefited from a certain amount of luck through his first three starts.

By no means do I intend to take away from what Masterson has accomplished through three starts. It undoubtedly is a good sign and hopefully a confidence booster, but we need to keep our expectations realistic.

David Huff continues to struggle

On April 15 David Huff tossed a complete game against the Rangers. It was his second start of the season. Since that game he’s gone 11 straight starts without pitching into the 7th inning in any of them. Over the last 50 seasons, only four Tribe pitchers have had longer such streaks.

During that stretch Huff is 1-8 with a 7.20 ERA and an opponents batting average of .339.

Essentially everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. His accuracy has been shaky (28 K-27 BB during the streak). And he’s giving up the long ball (10 HR).

At this rate, its only a matter of time before someone is called up replace Huff. Carlos Carrasco is the most likely replacement, but keep an eye on Josh Tomlin who has a 2.81 ERA in 11 starts at Columbus.