The Cleveland Indians starting rotation was harled as the best rotation in all of baseball.
It was the strong point of this team, especially with all the injuries and uncertainty early in the season.
It is filled with a Cy Young award winner and hurlers who have been in the Cy Young award discussion. It is filled with pitchers who logged 200 innings and with pitchers who racked up 200 strikeouts. It is filled with young pitchers who are on the brink of stardom.
Even with all that firepower, this rotation looks less than unhittable. At least after 15 games.
We’ll start with the bright spots before getting into the negatives (which may outweigh the positives).
In three starts, Trevor Bauer has a 1-1 record to go with a 2.29 ERA and a .97 WHIP.
On April 4, Bauer exited his start against Toronto in the seventh inning with a no hitter intact. His pitch count was at 117. It is too early in the season to risk him going any further in the game. For his first two starts, he allowed one run on one hit in 14 innings.
Most recently, Bauer got roughed up over 5.2 innings, giving up 10 hits and four runs. In an outing in which he struggled, he acknowledged that he did not mix his pitches up enough and tried to get his fastball by hitters on the first pitch knowing the batters would be aggressive on him.
Shane Bieber, in his second season, has looked fantastic, as well. He is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA and a .67 WHIP. He has surrendered just seven hits and three runs in 15 innings of work. The California native seems primed for a real breakout season after three strong starts to start 2019.
Now, the flipside of things.
The scary side.
The things that could make this season for the Indians fall apart before it even really begins.
Corey Kluber has not looked himself through four starts. He has gone into the seventh inning just once, and that was on opening day. Since then, he has gone just 12 innings in three starts.
In his only win, he went six giving up two runs-only one of which were earned.
In his last two losses, he has been roughed up in the worst way. He went 3.1 innings on April 3 giving up six and went just 2.2 innings over the weekend, allowing another six to cross the plate.
Those two starts were reminiscent of his starts in the playoffs the last two seasons. Not lasting long into the game while giving up lots of runs.
Maybe there is some thoughts there of bad starts in the playoffs.
What is a little concerning about Kluber this early is that all four of his starts have come against AL Central opponents. These are teams that he is going to see more times the rest of the season.
Carlos Carrasco has struggled even more than Kluber has. They have the same record, but Carrasco’s ERA stands at 12.60, almost double that of Kluber’s.
In 10 innings, Carrasco has given up 22 hits and 14 runs. Through three starts last year, he went 20.2 innings, 15 hits, and eight runs.
Carrasco has been such a steady force at the top of this rotation for the past number of seasons and will need to continue to do that to give the Indians a chance to win every day he gets the ball.
He has not been able to bounce back yet from a rough start, and will need to this week.
With Kluber and Carrasco both struggling, it scares fans, and rightfully so. More so now that Mike Clevinger has found himself on the 60-day I.L.
He left his most recent start after five innings due to back tightness. That puts his return date to sometime in June.
That leaves a hole in the best rotation in baseball.
With that injury, Kluber and Carrasco are going to need to get back on track. There is no more room for error. Not while the offense is still trying to figure it all out and while the bullpen is being constructed.
It is still a bit too early to panic about two of the best starters in the game, but it is getting close. There is definitely some cause for concern, though.