Could the Cleveland Guardians have... too much pitching?
If you haven't been paying attention to this Guardians club, you may think they need to clean house. Heck, even if you have been keeping up with the club you may feel the same way. But one thing has become clear over the past week: The starting pitching is looking pretty, pretty nice.
Chances are you are familiar with the mainstays in Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie, Aaron Civale, Cal Quantrill, and Zach Plesac. But there are a few rookies who have been proving themselves here lately in Peyton Battenfield, Logan Allen, and Tanner Bibee.
But since the start of the season, McKenzie and Civale have been on the self, though both are hopefully returning by the end of the month. And Plesac has pitched himself down to Columbus. As a result, the Guardians are understandably underachieving - well, that and the lack of hitting. But for the sake of this article, sure, let's blame the pitching.
Over the past ten games or so, the starting rotation is starting to meet the expectations of the fans, and the results have been very a pleasant development. Dating back to the April 26 game against the Rockies (and before Monday's loss to the Tigers), the Guardians' starting pitchers have combined for a 2.95 ERA, 3.88 SO/BB, 6.78 SO/9, and a 0.98 WHIP. During that span the club has gone .500. And the numbers are even more impressive when you exclude the Plesac start, with a 2.32 ERA, 4.09 SO/BB, 6.97 SO/9, and a 0.88 WHIP.
Once Civale and McKenzie return from injury, the club will be put into an interesting spot. McKenzie has looked the part of a front-line starter in the past, but injuries have stalled that from becoming a full-time reality. Similarly, Civale has been snakebitten by injury, but he too has looked the part of a mid-rotation arm when healthy. These aren't just arms you can cast aside like Plesac; they both need to be on the team contributing to its success.
Could the Guardians deploy a starting rotation of Bieber, McKenzie, Bibee, Allen, and Quantrill? Quantrill has been pitching like a man who caught wind that he could be demoted if he doesn't pick it up. And pick it up he has.
But such a starting rotation would leave the likes of Civale, Battenfield, Xzavion Curry, Hunter Gaddis, and potentially Gavin Williams all on the outside looking in. For now at least.
Curry and Gaddis both appear to be better suited for long relief, where they don't have to face a lineup two or three times through. And Williams has only pitched a total of 10.1 innings thus far in Columbus, but has faired quite well. An August promotion may very well be in the cards for him if he continues on this path, and if other factors go in his favor.
Civale and Battenfield are quite possibly lynchpins to the team's success, at least in this hypothetical exercise. This is not to diminish what Allen and Bibee have achieved so far, but as is the case with many young rookie pitchers, teams want to protect their investments. So it's very plausible that even if Allen and Bibee remain in the rotation once McKenzie and Civale return, the club will likely monitor their innings as the season progresses. Enter Civale and/or Battenfield and the idea of them making spot starts.
No matter what, this is a great problem to have. As Francona so often says, "When you think you have enough pitching, go out and get more." This was always going to be a year where the team would have to begin making hard decisions on many of their starters.
Curry and Gaddis have made/are making the transition to the pen. Civale and Battenfield may be next. Plesac appears to have pitched his last game in a Cleveland uniform (or at least that's what many of us hope is the case).
So no, the Guardians don't have enough pitching. But it sure would be nice to package one or two of these arms, along with some of the middle infield surplus the Guardians have, to get Cleveland's lineup an outfield bat with some pop.