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Is Trevor Bauer the best option to take over for Carlos Carrasco?

Bauer is getting the call for the #5 rotation slot. Is that the right call?

Can such a dominant force be replaced?
Can such a dominant force be replaced?
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With the loss of Carlos Carrasco to a hamstring injury, the Cleveland Indians' rotation has gone from one of the best in the league to one that has question marks in 3/5 of its spots. Cookie looks like he will miss at least 4-6 weeks, so someone is going to have to pitch in his stead. There are some options (thankfully, the Tribe has a good amount of SP depth), so who should get the call?

Well, according to Terry Francona in his presser before last night's game, Trevor Bauer is moving back into the rotation.  But Bauer wasn't the only option; here are the candidates:

Trevor Bauer: Bauer seemed to be the favorite to slot back into the rotation, and he has.  Coming out of spring training, Trevor lost his spot in the rotation when Cody Anderson and Josh Tomlin pitched well enough to become the #4 and #5 starters, respectively.  Since transitioning to the bullpen, Bauer has, at times, looked fantastic while still struggling with his command during other times.

TJ House: House took the world by storm in 2014 when he became a solid starter for the Tribe. In 18 starts, he carried a 3.35 ERA paired with a 3.69 FIP, which translated to a 117 ERA+. He was giving up just under 1 HR/9 and was striking out just over 7 batters per 9 innings. Sadly, he could not replicate his success in 2015; he only started in 4 games for the Tribe before being sent down to AAA Columbus.

Mike Clevinger: Another righty in Columbus, Clevinger was rated by MLB.com as the Tribe's #7 prospect. He is the pitching prospect closest to the majors in the Cleveland minor league system. His fastball sits around 92-95 and his slider looks to be a good secondary pitch. There are concerns that his curveball and changeup are major league ready, but if the Indians want to give a shot to someone who hasn't pitched in the bigs before, Clevinger would be the man. Last year, Clevinger pitched like a stud for the Akron RubberDucks, logging a 2.73 ERA (1.057 WHIP) over 158 innings and striking out over 8 batters per 9 innings.

Looking at these options, did Tito make the right call? First, take a look at the current pitching setup for the Indians:

Rotation

  • Corey Kluber
  • Danny Salazar
  • Cody Anderson
  • Josh Tomlin
  • VACANT

Bullpen

  • Cody Allen
  • Trevor Bauer
  • Joba Chamberlain
  • Ross Detwiler
  • Jeff Manship
  • Zach McAllister
  • Dan Otero
  • Bryan Shaw

The easiest move was to slide Bauer back into the rotation, so that may be why Tito did it. By doing so, no one would have to be sent down in order to make room for another starter. This would create a 7-man bullpen, however, and that is unlikely to happen under Tito's tenure.  But what if instead of going with a 5 man rotation, the Tribe went with a 6 man rotation? What would that look like?  And what are the benefits?

Typically, the more times a pitcher goes through a lineup, the worse they do.  Pitchers tend to be most effective either the first or second time through the lineup; by the time you hit the third time through, batters are seeing the ball better, have their timing down, and can generally put the ball into play.  Take a look at Danny Salazar, for example.  Here are the batting stats for Salazar over his career based on which time he is facing an opponent:

Danny Salazar:

  • 1st time through: .211/.278/.363 (OPS+ of 87)
  • 2nd time through: .227/.285/.362 (OPS+ of 89)
  • 3rd time through: .288/.340/.467 (OPS+ of 134)

So what if, instead of sending one pitcher to the mound on a given day, the Tribe sent two? Instead of having a pitcher #5 in the rotation, you have two consist of #5A and #5B, who work in tandem with each other to a) eat innings and b) limit the amount of times a lineup sees your "starter". Unorthodox, yes, but it could yield positive results if you have two good pitchers who can't go deep into games. Say Tito is feeling adventurous and tries this out.  Which two pitchers does he pair, and in which order? Looking at the data from the three pitchers listed above, here is how each one fares:

Trevor Bauer:

  • 1st time through: .248/.349/.392 (OPS+ of 102)
  • 2nd time through: .258/.348/.408 (OPS+ of 106)
  • 3rd time through: .217/.289/.392 (OPS+ of 84)

TJ House:

  • 1st time through: .306/.359/.389 (OPS+ of 94)
  • 2nd time through: .273/.339/.430 (OPS+ of 98)
  • 3rd time through: .323/.385/.495 (OPS+ of 126)

Mike Clevinger: Unfortunately, this data isn't available for minor league players (if it is, someone please tell me because I cannot find it). But, since Clevinger has not pitched in the majors before and hasn't been lights out in AAA, it's safe to assume that he would follow this trend of getting less effective the more times he goes through a lineup.

So, this isn't very reassuring.  Bauer, always the enigma, actually seems to get better the third time through a lineup.  House, on the other hand, gets progressively worse until batters are teeing off on him the third time through.  But what if former-starter-turned-bullpen-arm in Zach McAllister is included in the conversation.  His splits look like this:

Zach McAllister:

  • 1st time through: .223/.275/.345 (OPS+ of 67)
  • 2nd time through: .297/.359/.447 (OPS+ of 118)
  • 3rd time through: .324/.381/.572 (OPS+ of 154)

Zach's first time through a lineup is very good and is ideal to start a game with.  However, McAllister's main issue is getting through a lineup multiple times.  If he can give you 3-4 solid innings, take him out as the lineup turns over and put in a fresh arm. From the stats listed above, House would actually be preferable over Bauer. If the Frankenstein Monster Starting Pitcher experiment were to shake out, using McAllister and House as the "fifth" starter, the stats look a bit better:

Frankenstein Pitcher:

  • 1st time through (McAllister): .223/.275/.345 (OPS+ of 67)
  • 1st time through (House): .306/.359/.389 (OPS+ of 94)

In a perfect world, this can take the team through at least the fifth and hopefully the sixth inning. Bauer is maintained as the long relief should things get hairy, and the rest of the bullpen is utilized much less than if either of the two starters have a short outing. This sets up the pitching rotation and bullpen as such:

Rotation

  • Corey Kluber
  • Danny Salazar
  • Cody Anderson
  • Josh Tomlin
  • Zach McAllister/TJ House

Bullpen

  • Cody Allen
  • Trevor Bauer
  • Joba Chamberlain
  • Ross Detwiler
  • Jeff Manship
  • Dan Otero
  • Bryan Shaw

This does mean that someone in the bullpen needs to be sent down to make room for starter #5B. Since House is a LHP and could theoretically be used in relief, I would DFA Detwiler in order to make room.  The bullpen goes down to 6 at this point (which may terrify Tito and will, in all honesty, never happen), but it should be manageable if Frankenstein can do his job.