Friday, June 10, 2016

Tribe Talk 6.10.16: The Rise, Fall and Resurgence of Josh Tomlin #Indians

By Alex Hale, @DaSportsGenius7

The Baseball world today loves the power pitcher that throws in the upper-90s and has filthy stuff.  Nobody ever appreciates the Greg Maddux-type anymore that is a pitcher who locates his pitches and gets players out.  Over the past year now, Baseball has overlooked one of Baseball’s best stories in Indians SP Josh Tomlin.  As Indians fans know, Tomlin has never fit the mold of what fans think an All-Star pitcher looks like, but Tomlin is proving in 2016 that he’s the kind of pitcher that breaks the mold.  While his fastball sits more in the high 80s-lower 90s, his ability to locate his pitches and more importantly the ability to locate his secondary stuff has made him into one of the league’s more dependable arms.

What people forget is the journey Josh Tomlin has been on throughout his career.  Tomlin was originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 11th Round out of Texas Tech in 2005, but Tomlin chose to not sign.  One year later, the Indians selected him in the 19th Round in the 2006 MLB Draft and signed him.  Tomlin was an advanced arm that had experience in college that made him adapt to hitters in the lower levels in the Minors.  By 2008, Tomlin was pitching at the AAA level, just one step away from The Show.  In 2009, Tomlin played the year down at AA Akron and was respectable, but once again because of the kind of pitcher he was, not too many people expected him to be a real MLB rotation option.  Things changed quickly in 2010 when he returned to AAA and was dominant going 8-4 with 2.68 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.  This was noticed by the Indians Front Office and then manager Manny Acta and Tomlin finally debuted in Cleveland where he finished the year going 6-4 with 4.56 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.
  Although his numbers weren’t “sexy”, they were the foundation for a pitcher who would rely on consistency throughout his career.  In 2011, Tomlin got a spot in the rotation and started 26 games and improved going 12-7 with 4.25 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.  He tied for the team high in wins with Justin Masterson, although Tomlin got 12 wins in 7 less starts than Masterson.  Tomlin was one of the main reasons the Indians found themselves in July with a chance to make a run for the playoffs.  There was a lot of hope for Tomlin and people saw him as a solid starter that was consistent.  Things were looking up for Tomlin at this time.

Coming off his successful 2011 season, fans expected Josh Tomlin to be a big part of a rotation that included a then budding ace in Justin Masterson and 2011 Trade acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez.  In 2012 there seemed to be something wrong with Josh Tomlin.  His ERA soared to over 6.00 ERA and his K/BB ratio jumped up along with his WHIP, something wasn’t right.  Early in the year he had soreness in his wrist, which an MRI revealed to be inflammation of the soft tissue.  Tomlin never seemed to shake the injury off when he returned to the rotation, but in August things took a turn for the worst.  In August Tomlin learned he would need Tommy John surgery after complaining about discomfort in his elbow.  Tomlin would return in 2013 to face the White Sox in a relief appearance and threw 2 shutout innings.  It seemed like the old Josh Tomlin was back and after a Wild Card Game appearance in 2013, fans felt that adding Tomlin with Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar would give them a very good rotation going forward and there was reason for hope.  In 2014, Tomlin would return to the rotation, but again something seemed off about Tomlin still.  He was better than where he was in 2012, but the consistency of Tomlin we were used to just wasn’t there.  In April of 2015, Tomlin learned that he would need more shoulder surgery that would keep him out of action for 3-4 months and most fans were losing hope that the consistent, change of pace starter we saw Tomlin as just wasn’t coming back.

I remember back in 2013 during a rehab stint at Akron, I saw Tomlin start a game for Akron and was amazed with his location of his pitches, but even more impressed with a new nasty curveball.  I was used to seeing Tomlin locate his fastball and changeup and keeping his pitches down in the zone, making hitters hit ground balls.  Instead I saw a pitcher who knew he had the ability to locate, but also had the stuff to get guys out.  I remember walking away amazed with Tomlin and was excited for his return to the Indians.  When he did return for that relief appearance in 2013, I saw the same Tomlin pitching in that outing.  That made his whole 2014 all the more confusing.  He seemed to be lacking trust in his stuff and was trying too hard to keep the ball down and locating it.  After his 2nd shoulder surgery, I tried to keep faith he would return with a fury, but his minor league numbers in rehab appearances weren’t anything to get excited for.

In the 2nd Half of 2015, the Indians really didn’t have much to cheer about.  The hitting outside of Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis was non-existent, Corey Kluber was solid but got no run support, and the bullpen was shaky.  When Josh Tomlin returned, I think a lot of fans were rooting for him to return to at least a solid starter or at least a solid reliever out of the bullpen.  Nobody was prepared for what happened next.  Tomlin finally trusted all of his pitches and decided to just deal the ball.  In 10 starts, Tomlin finished with a 7-2 record with 3.02 ERA, .83 WHIP, and the biggest shocker, a 7:1 K/BB ratio.  Not only was Tomlin getting guys to ground out, he found out how to strikeout batters in the process by way of a new dominant curveball, the same one I saw back in 2013 at Akron.  Through 2016, Tomlin has continued that success, leading the Indians in wins at an 8-1 record, a 3.54 ERA, and 1.09 WHIP.

Josh Tomlin is one of the best stories in baseball that nobody talks about.  Tomlin shows that you don’t need to throw 100MPH fastballs or have a Curveball that has a big break on it.  Tomlin shows that locating your pitches, consistency, and most importantly HARD WORK can make you into a potential All-Star pitcher in the MLB.  To all the players and whoever else votes for Pitchers in the All-Star Game, I urge you to vote Josh Tomlin in.  Tomlin has been through it all and after a major surgery in Tommy John surgery, plus another shoulder surgery to see the pitcher he’s become today, as of right now I feel Josh Tomlin should represent the AL in the All-Star Game.  It’s amazing to see how far this man has come to where he is now, he is another reason why Baseball is the greatest game in the world.  Against all odds Tomlin has defied them all to become one of the league’s most consistent pitchers and every fan should recognize him for his resiliency and strength through the years, it’s the least he deserves.

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