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Josh Tomlin should be healthy heading into 2015

Josh Tomlin's return from Tommy John featured a rise in velocity, but did that make him a better pitcher?

Josh Tomlin's moment
Josh Tomlin's moment
Otto Greule Jr

Every day you'll find a look back at the 2014 season for one of the Indians or their key prospects, as we sort out what happened and what it means for the franchise going forward.

Josh Tomlin

  • Position: Right-handed SP/RP
  • Age: 30 (did you remember to wish him a Happy Birthday on October 19?)
  • Acquired: DRAFT(!), 19th round, 2006

Josh Tomlin entered #SpringTraining2014 competing for the fifth spot in the Indians rotation. Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Harang and to a lesser extent, T.J. House were his competition. It was a spot I thought he should win, but a guy with Tomlin's low ceiling isn't worth giving much of a leash to.

  • Carrasco was out of options, but I didn't think that was much of a problem. He was great out of the bullpen in 2013 and I thought he should stay there in 2014.
  • I didn't know Harang was about to pitch very well in spring training.
  • I didn't know Bauer was going to be so much better than he was in 2013, but he probably did need that additional time in AAA.

Well, Carrasco won it. The 3 home runs Tomlin gave up in 20.1 spring training innings likely had something to do with that. Tomlin wound up starting 5 games in AAA before being called up (with better velocity). For about a month and a half, his success in AAA translated. Over his first 7 starts (and one very important relief appearance) with the Indians, Tomlin had a 3.33 ERA, which given the defense behind him, was very good (3.91 FIP and 3.41 xFIP).

Ah yes, that relief appearance: Tomlin pitched 3 innings for the W against Detroit on May 21, only surrendering a (very predictable) home run to Alex Avila. Considering it was possible and maybe even likely we'd see a position player pitch the end of that game, it's a good thing Tomlin had that in him on 3 days rest. Tomlin was terrible for two starts after the 8 games mentioned above and it seemed certain that the Josh Tomlin we didn't want to see was in fact the one we were getting. And it was. BUT NOT YET!

On June 28, the 6-foot-1-inch Cowboy pitched the game of his life. It would have been the game of 99% of MLB pitchers lives. Tomlin went 9 innings, gave up 1 hit, walked nobody, and here's the most surprising part: struck out 11. He became the third pitcher in 2014 to pitch 9 innings and allow only ≤1 hit and K 11 (Cashner and that Kershaw guy). Weird.

Among the 1% of MLB pitchers who have ever pitched a better game than that is Phil Humber. And after Humber pitched said [perfect] game (also against Seattle), he had a 7.39 ERA in 24 games over the rest of the season. Tomlin didn't fare much better.

Tomlin posted a 6.35 ERA in 14 games (6 starts) after his gem. But more depressingly, Tomlin became Terry Francona's late-inning white flag. If Tomlin came into a game late in the season, you knew that:

  • Everybody except Adams and Pryce had been used
  • The white flag was out
  • A boatload of baserunners were about to be on the bases and only CaseyBlake20052007esque unclutch hitting would result in no runs being scored

By the way, Aaron Harang? All he did was put up a 102 ERA+ over 200+ innings for the Braves.

2014 Grade: C-

Tomlin was decent. Then he got a little better. Then he pitched the game of his life. There were signs that he wore down late in the season. Still though, he had very good control, walking only 1.2 batters per 9 innings. The only two ualified pitchers who beat that were Phil Hughes and Hisashi Iwakuma.

2015 Outlook

Tomlin is arbitration-eligible for a second time. At 4.033 service time, MLBTR projects a salary of $1.7MM, which I guess isn't too bad. Hopefully our success in arbitration last year means we can get him back for a couple hundred thousand less than that. If we're lucky, he makes zero starts in 2015.