Sunday, April 5, 2009

Opening day

Can the Indians win their division? Yes. They could also finish fourth, or anywhere in between. It will all hinge on their starting rotation, unfortunately. Because this is probably, on paper, the weakest starting rotation the Indians have gone into a season with in several years. Cliff Lee is the only starter in the rotation from whom the Indians can be reasonably sure what they are going to get. That, obviously, is not good.

You could probably make the argument that the Indians have the worst starting rotation _ or at least the rotation with the most question marks _ in the division, including Kansas City. Indians officials feel they have the depth to overcome injuries or poor performance by their starters, but until a Jeremy Sowers, an Aaron Laffey, or a David Huff comes up and pitches consistently well at the major league level, the starting pitching depth they offer is more one of quantity than quality.

Think about it, the Indians are asking for positive outcomes from three spots in their rotation that are huge question marks: Carl Pavano and Anthony Reyes have injury histories, and Scott Lewis is a rookie. How many wins can the Indians reasonably expect to get from those three spots? Even Fausto Carmona is not a given. He's had one really good year and one not so good year as a starter at the major league level.

It's very difficult to contend for an entire season without a starting rotation that is reasonably productive. Three things happen if your starting rotation becomes an ongoing problem: your team ends up playing several games in which it gets blown out early, it causes you to overwork your bullpen, and all that, especially the loses, can be demoralizing to the team, especially to the hitters who feel like they have to score eight or more runs a game to give the team a chance to win.

In other words, the biggest worry for Indians officials going into the season is one they should rightfully be extremely worried about: their starting rotation. Because it could potentially be the downfall of their season.


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