We had high hopes for the Indians’ pitchers in 2011. This was the group of pitchers who won everything with the Altoona Curve in 2010 — Rudy Owens, Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Jeff Locke, Bryan Morris, plus relievers Michael Dubee and Danny Moskos. This was supposed to be a great pitching year for the Indians.
Unfortunately, that’s not what really happened. There were some successes, but also some disappointments among the pitching staff. The Indians finished their season with a 76-68 record, right in the middle of the pack in the International League, and their pitching also fell into about the middle of the pack. They had a team ERA of 4.98 (8th in the league), and were 8th in hits allowed (1227), and 6th in earned runs allowed (579). Tribe pitchers walked a total of 500 batters (4th in the league) and had a 1.35 WHIP (6th in the league). They were best in the league in one category: they allowed the fewest home runs (101). And, they were second-to-last in the league in one category: they struck out second fewest batters (989, with Norfolk striking out 846).
Justin Thomas led the International League with 63 relief appearances. Tim Wood was leading the league with 23 Saves when he was traded away from the team. Those 23 Saves still tied him for second in the league. Sean Gallagher led the league by hitting 15 batters with his pitches.
Some individual prospects’ performances:
Justin Wilson led the Tribe with 10 wins — the only member of the pitching staff reaching double-digits in wins. He began with a hot April, earning a 2-1 record and a 2.25 ERA for the month, and allowing only 6 earned runs in 24 innings. He won 3 more games in May and 4 more in June, but his ERA was climbing, to 4.50 and 4.88 respectively. Wilson won game #9 on June 22nd, then sought that elusive 10th win for nearly two months. During that time, he lost 3 more games and had 4 no-decisions, and got moved to the bullpen. Surprisingly, Wilson thrived in the relief role. In 9 relief appearances (14 innings), he allowed only 5 runs, for a 3.21 ERA, and he won his 10th game of the season.
Rudy Owens was the biggest disappointment on the pitching staff. After back-to-back seasons as the Pirates’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Owens had trouble making the jump to AAA. He won his first two starts, then didn’t win again for over a month. His ERA climbed from 4.50 in April to 5.29 in May, and to 6.50 in June, and by then he had a 6-5 record. July was better — a 3-1 record with a 3.57 ERA in six starts. But he gave up 5 runs in that last win, and another 5 runs in his next start, when he could not get out of the 3rd inning. Owens went onto the DL with shoulder issues in the first week of August, and did not pitch again for the rest of the season.
Jared Hughes was a starter for the Altoona Curve in 2010, earning a 12-8 record and a 4.42 ERA. He began 2011 back in Altoona, where he made 11 more starts and earned a 3-4 record with a 4.09 ERA. When promoted to Indianapolis in early June, Hughes was sent to the bullpen, and he worked as a reliever for the rest of the season. It turned out to be a great move for Hughes. He made 35 relief appearances, with a 3-1 record and a 2.11 ERA. July was his best month, when he came into 11 games and earned a 1.80 ERA with one win and one loss. Hughes was named the Indians’ Relief Pitcher of the Year.
Tony Watson was the pitcher whose 2010 success translated into more success at AAA in 2011. Watson made 9 starts for the Curve in 2010, but completed his transition to the bullpen in 2011, with all but one of his 26 appearances as a reliever. He began with a 2.90 ERA in April, despite 2 losses. May was even better, with a 1.88 ERA and 2 wins in 11 appearances. He made two more appearances in June (one good and one not so much) before being promoted to Pittsburgh. Watson came back to Indy due to roster issues in mid-August, and pitched another 5 innings in 4 games, and allowing just one run (in the last game) for a 1.80 ERA.
Jeff Locke also began his season back in Altoona, and he did not get to Indy until mid-August. He made 5 starts, and earned a 1-2 record with a 2.22 ERA. His best start was the on on August 31st, when he pitched 7 innings, and allowed one run on just 3 hits, while striking out 8 batters.
Danny Moskos struggled at the AAA level in 2010, but this season was a strong presence in the Indians’ bullpen. He began the season with the Tribe, allowing only 2 earned runs in 8 games in April, for a 1.69 ERA. That earned him a trip to Pittsburgh, where he pitched for over 2 months. In general, he pitched well for the Pirates, though he did have some difficult outings. Moskos was returned to the Indians in mid-July, and made 6 relief appearances over the rest of the month, earning a 0.75 ERA. He pitched in 15 games over August/September, generally doing well, but had three games that were rough — allowing 3 runs, 4 runs, and 3 runs.
Michael Dubee did get promoted to Indianapolis, but only for 4 games in mid-June. His first appearance went well, keeping his opponents scoreless for 1.1 innings. But he gave up 2 runs in his next game, 4 in the next, and one unearned run in the last, before heading back to Altoona.
Bryan Morris never got up to Indianapolis at all in 2011.
And some other prospects, organizational pitchers, and veterans:
Tim Wood was the Indians’ closer and most valuable pitcher of the season. He began the season with the Tribe not specifically the closer, though he earned 3 Saves and a 5.23 ERA in April. He did more closing in May, when he picked up another 8 Saves and dropped his ERA to 1.93. After three more scoreless appearances and two more Saves, Wood was promoted to Pittsburgh. He made 13 appearances for 8 innings total with the Pirates, but earned 3 losses and a 5.63 ERA. Wood was returned to Indy, where he picked right up as the Tribe’s closer. He earned 7 more Saves in July and 3 more in August (with a 3.95 ERA in July and a 0.00 ERA in August) and was leading the league with 23 Saves when he was traded to Texas. He made only four more appearances with AAA Round Rock, and earned one more Save.
Sean Gallagher mostly started for the Tribe, though he also made 6 relief appearances. He earned a 3-12 record and a 5.48 ERA in his starts, but went 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA in relief. His best month was June, when he went 2-1 with a 3.90 ERA. In general, Gallagher gave up too many hits — 131 hits in 132 innings.
Brian Burres made 23 starts for the Indians, and was generally pretty consistent. He earned a 5-9 record with a 4.66 ERA, but he also gave up a lot of hits – 140 hits in 129.1 innings. May was Burres’ best month, with a 2-2 record and a 2.84 ERA, when batters hit .243 against him.
Brad Lincoln made 19 starts for the Indians, and also spent some time with the Pirates. He had a 7-8 record with the Indians and a 4.19 ERA. He struggled in April, but improved in May and June, before being called up to Pittsburgh at the end of July.
Garrett Olson joined the Indians in late April. He pitched in relief at first, and earned a 1.29 ERA in May. He was moved to the starting rotation in June, and continued to pitch well, with a 1.80 ERA in 5 starts. That ERA rose to 3.04 in July and to 5.71 in August, as Olson began giving up runs in bunches. He went back to the bullpen for his last 4 appearances and settled down again.
Chris Leroux made 32 relief appearances for the Indians. He won 6 and lost 3, and earned one Save, along with a 2.80 ERA. Leroux spent a little time in Altoona, a little time with the Pirates, and a little time on the DL. When he was pitching for the Tribe, he provided pretty consistent help out of the bullpen.
Justin Thomas was named the Tribe’s Relief Pitcher of the Year. He made a league-leading 63 relief appearances, earning an 8-2 record and a 3.89 ERA, with 3 Saves. His best month was August, when he made 12 appearances and won 2 games, with a 2.40 ERA. He struck out 14 batters in 15 innings in August, and 17 batters in 16 innings in June.
Aaron Thompson came up to the Indians from Altoona in August, and made one relief appearance and 4 starts. He had been starting for the Curve in the early part of the season, then was moved to the bullpen, where he was particularly effective in his last 7 appearances. When he came to Indianapolis, he was put back into the starting rotation, but because he was not stretched out, his starts were kept short — no more than 4 innings. The first two starts were the best, with a total of 8 scoreless innings and 4 hits. He allowed 5 runs on 14 hits over 7.1 innings in the last two starts.
Jose Ascanio returned from arm surgery to make 5 starts and 25 relief appearances for the Indians. He was 1-2 with one Save in relief, with a 5.79 ERA over 28 innings, allowing 33 hits and striking out 34.
Donnie Veal also returned from arm surgery, but made just 7 appearances with the Indians before having to be shut down again. He pitched 6.1 innings and allowed 4 runs on 5 hits with 7 walks and 7 strikeouts. He ended the season with three more appearances for A+ Bradenton, and made 3 starts.