Grading the Indians: Pitchers

On Tuesday, I posted my final 2013 season grades for the Cleveland Indians’ position players – today I finish off the season report card by grading the pitchers:

Justin Masterson (SP): A-
Not much more you can ask for out of your top starting pitcher. Masterson bounced back from a rough 2012 campaign and put together a strong first half (10-7, 3.72 ERA) which earned a place on the All Star team. He then had an even better second half (4-3, 2.81 ERA) before missing most of the final month with an injury. Jimenez gets a ton of credit for his sensational second half – and deservedly so – but Masterson was the only pitcher to be consistent from start to finish this season.

Ubaldo Jimenez (SP): B+
Remember, this is a season grade. Surely he would get an A+ for his outstanding second half effort (6-5, 1.82 ERA). However, his first half (7-4, 4.56 ERA) was rather ordinary which knocked his overall grade down. Having Jimenez and Masterson at the top of the rotation was  key for the Indians, so it will be interesting to see if they can retain him this offseason and if Masterson can be extended.

Scott Kazmir (SP): B
Based on performance and the low expectations going into the season, he was a strong B and was another key component to a starting rotation that asserted itself. Like Jimenez, Kazmir found his way in the first half (5-4, 4.60 ERA) and then turned it on in the second half (5-5, 3.38 ERA). His ability to get a swing and miss from the left side was nice to see, and I would be all for the Indians bringing him back – even on a slight overpay.

Corey Kluber (SP): B-
Kluber arguably had the biggest start of the year back in late April in a doubleheader against Kansas City. Coming off a 9-0 defeat in game one and dropping to 8-13 on the year, the Indians had him start the nightcap and he impressed. He pitched his butt off and it resulted with settling into the rotation and proving to be a big piece. He struggled with consistency the final month of the season – though I am sure the finger injury he suffered in August had a lot to do with that.

Zach McAllister (SP): C
In a back of the rotation, McAllister is valuable as he can eat innings and is a solid performer. He struggled with a finger injury and it created inconsistency for most of the second half of the season. He’s proven in the past that he is a reliable, consistent performer, so hopefully the problem was simply a result of not being 100% and compensating for the finger injury.

Danny Salazar (SP): B+
Salazar electrified on the mound, showing a dominant fastball that reached triple digits. He overmatched a lot of hitters and came up with some big starts down the stretch. That said, he got into some trouble against better teams because of overreliance on his fastball – he also had a strict pitch count which limited his ability to pitch deeper into games.

Trevor Bauer (SP): D+
That may seem unfair since he only made four starts, and perhaps it should be more of an incomplete grade; however, he really struggled in his limited time in Cleveland as he had trouble finding the strike zone. He underwent a significant delivery adjustment during the season which the Indians feel affected his performance, but that he will be better for it long term. We can only hope.

Brett Myers (SP): F
I think everyone – front office included – needs a memory wipe in order to get that bad image of Brett Myers pitching in April and just how bad he was.  Then again, he was out of commission so early and was never seen again that a lot of people probably completely forgot about him anyway.

Chris Perez (RP): C+
Look, Perez certainly had his moments as he almost single-handedly lost two games for the Indians the last week of the season. Also, he allows way too many baserunners. So while he is a heart attack waiting to happen, when you watch him close out the ninth he still did a solid job overall. That said, he’s all but gone.

Vinnie Pestano (RP): D
It pains me to hand out that grade to Pestano since he is such a big favorite of mine and has been since I first saw him pitch in the minors for short season Single-A Mahoning Valley in 2007. But whether he was hurt or whether he just had a dead arm all year, he simply was not anything close to the Pestano from 2010-2012. This offseason and next season are huge for him in reestablishing himself or he could quickly go the Jensen Lewis route if his effectiveness has disappeared.

Joe Smith (RP): A-
Smith has been rock steady and extremely reliable as a bullpen arm for the last five seasons. Also, Smith has been one of the Indians better trade acquisitions in the past 10 years. This season he was called upon to pitch more meaningful innings in the eighth inning when Pestano struggled, and he responded with his best year of his career. He is arguably the most important cog to the bullpen and a guy the Indians really need to try and lock up and bring back.

Bryan Shaw (RP): B
Shaw had a nice first season with the Indians and really came on strong at the end of the season. The Indians have him under control for another three seasons and his versatility to pitch anywhere in the fifth through eighth innings is important for the Indians.

Rich Hill (RP): D
To be fair, Hill was signed to a minor league deal so the expectations were not really there to begin with. But somehow, someway he made it through the entire season even that he had a 6.28 ERA and 1.73 WHIP. That’s flat out amazing and shows the limited options the Indians had for lefty relief until Rzepczynski came along.

Matt Albers (RP): B-
I have to admit, I never felt Albers would last the entire season with the Indians and always felt like he would be on the roster chopping block. To his credit, he went out and had a very good season and as a free agent is going to find a good deal as a middle reliever where he maybe gets 2 years for $4-5 million.

Cody Allen (RP): B
Allen was not as dominant in his sophomore campaign, but he was still pretty darn good and was vital in the middle innings.  Depending on what happens with Smith and Perez in the offseason, it is quite possible he could go into next season as the favorite for the closer’s role – although I suspect the Indians will look externally for their closing option next season.

Marc Rzepczynski (RP): A
His time was limited to two months with the Indians, but his impact was felt from day one. His acquisition helped fill an unsettled late inning lefty setup role and the bullpen performance really took off from there. He was flat out dominant posting a 0.89 ERA in 27 appearances for the Indians. He’s been inconsistent from one year to the next over his career, which is why the Cardinals dealt him, but the Indians may have found a solid late inning matchup lefty that is cost controlled for a few more seasons.

Carlos Carrasco (RP): D
The guy has amazing stuff and is dominant in flashes, but he really struggled in the limited opportunities he got as a starter. He did pitch well in a few bullpen outings, but eight appearances is hardly enough to truly judge him as a reliever. That said, he has the inside track to a long man role in the pen to open next season because he is out of options and his stuff is too darn good to give up on just yet.