Do the Indians Have The Best Pitching Staff in Baseball?

Do the Indians Have The Best Pitching Staff in Baseball?

Ayden Fahlstrom
3 years ago
3 min read

After a two-game sweep of the Cubs, the Indians have now won eight of their last 10 ball games, propelling their record to 20-14. And while the bats of Jose Ramirez, Franmil Reyes, and Eddie Rosario all have something to do with that, the story in Cleveland is once again pitching.

Through 34 games, the Tribe as a whole has a 3.38 ERA, seventh in MLB. But when you look at the top of their rotation, as well as the anchors of their bullpen, you can make a case that Cleveland might have the best pitching staff in baseball.

Bieber and Co. Lead Rotation

It helps when you have the reigning AL Cy Young winner atop the rotation. Although the numbers aren’t quite as dominant as last season, Shane Bieber has shown he is still one of the best pitchers in the game.

The 25-year old ace continues to get plenty of punchouts, registering a league-leading 85 strikeouts in 55 innings of work. That amounts to a 13.9 K/9 rate, while he has just 18 walks on the year as well. Although he has allowed a team-high seven homers and his ERA sits just under three rather than last year’s sub-two, Bieber is still just as good as any other ace across the league.

However, two other pitchers are in the midst of excellent seasons. First, Aaron Civale has the best ERA among the team’s qualified starters, entering Thursday with a 2.91 ERA. While his 33 strikeouts aren’t spectacular, his 1.04 WHIP shows that the balls put in play against him aren’t very solid at all, turning into easy outs for Cleveland.

The other pitcher who deserves some recognition is Zach Plesac. While Plesac has flashed potential, he has really come alive lately, with two starts lasting into the eighth inning. The 26-year old has overcome a couple of disaster outings from the first couple weeks, bringing his totals to a 3.83 ERA but microscopic 1.03 WHIP, with just seven walks in 40 innings of work.

Throw in young pitchers Triston McKenzie and Cal Quantrill, and suddenly you have a pitching rotation that can go up against any lineup. And so far, Bieber, Civale, and Plesac have done so well far more often than not

Late-inning Lockdown

For a team who initially went into the season with a closer by committee, the Indians have been able to find the formula for juggling the bullpen and closing games down. That formula is James Karinchak as the primary setup option, with Emmanual Clase earning the save.

Starting with Clase, the young flamethrower acquired in the Corey Kluber deal has held down the ninth inning much better than some may have expected. Clase has a 1.10 ERA, punching out 17 batters in just over 16 innings and racking up seven saves. The biggest issue may be whether his low ERA is sustainable, as he has also allowed 18 hits to give him a 1.35 WHIP.

However, if Clase fades, Karinchak should be able to step into the closer role with ease. The 25-year old is one of the best bullpen arms in the game, entering Thursday with a 0.52 ERA and 0.46 WHIP in 17.1 innings of work. Karinchak also has just five walks and three hits to a whopping 33 punchouts, good for a 17.1 K/9 rate.

Other options like Nick Wittgren and Bryan Shaw have been able to provide some stability in the bullpen as well. However, having an elite setup man and flamethrowing closer make the bullpen great.


Factoring everything into the mix, it’s unlikely that the Tribe has the best group of pitchers in baseball. Certainly, the rotation that the Dodgers or White Sox have has been performing better overall, while the bullpen of a team like the Padres has been dominant. But Cleveland does have elite talent in both, giving them more of a case than you might think as we are well into the 2021 season.

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