Velocity dropping, homers flying for Tomlin

Player, manager trust in track record

Alex Hooper
April 24, 2018 - 10:32 pm
Apr 24, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona relieves starting pitcher Josh Tomlin (43) during the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 the Fan) – Josh Tomlin has started 2018 similarly to how he started 2017, which does not bode well for the Cleveland Indians. At 33-years-old on an expiring contract, the righty needs to rebound similarly to last year as well.

With a four-homer night in just 3 2/3 innings on Tuesday, Tomlin has allowed eight home runs in 12 2/3 on the season. The culprit against the Cubs in Tomlin’s latest outing was simply leaving too many pitches over the plate.

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“Definitely, what I'm doing right now is not working, so it's something that needs to be addressed,” Tomlin said.

Through eight major league seasons, Tomlin has established a track record as a pitcher with consistent results over the course of a season, but with peaks and valleys therein. His issue is that track record does not retire hitters, and he cannot get through lineups on the back of his stuff.

Tomlin’s career is based off of the same mantra as a real estate agent, surviving on location, location, location.

“For me, missing this much compared to another guy missing that much with 95 or 86 or 88, whatever the case may be,” he said. “That room for error, for me, is a lot slimmer than most pitches and I understand that. So that, to me, it's about missing barrels and I haven't missed too many barrels lately.”

Entering Tuesday, Tomlin has 11th in baseball in catching barrels, one for every 10.4 plate appearances. He is 29th in barrels per batted ball, with one every 12.8 events.

Overall, Tomlin is not getting smacked around in the zone on a terribly consistent basis. While teams have made him pay for his mistakes, he is just 129th in baseball with an average exit velocity of 88.6 mph, right between the likes of Yankees All-Star Masahiro Tanaka and recent no-hitter tossing lefty Sean Manaea.

As he mentioned, Tomlin does not have the velocity to get past the mistakes he makes, but that case is especially so in 2018. The soft-tosser is seeing an early season drop in velocity, which is not something new for the righty, but that drop has him at some of his lowest velocities of his career.

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That already small room for error is even smaller.

In the interim, Tomlin says he will use the same approach he used in his struggles last season.

“There is something to kind of take from last year and build off of it this year and use the information I got last year,” he said. “It might not be the same information, but use the same kind of technique of going about it and facing it head on and getting the work out in the bullpen and not veering away from what you're capable of doing.”

Tomlin’s spot in the rotation is not one that is terribly important, all things considered. The Indians are fairly certain that they will win the American League Central behind their strong pitching, and they will not need a fifth starter in the postseason.

There is more at stake for Tomlin in the meantime, hitting free agency after the year. A velocity drop going into your age 34 season as an already slow-thrower does not bode well.

That track record still exists, and manager Terry Francona still believes in it.

“There’s a lot of trust with his desire and everything to be what he needs to be,” Francona said. “He’ll get after it. He’ll figure it out. And he won’t be alone. (Pitching coach Carl Willis) will help him and they’ll get it going.”