The Indians beat Tampa Bay again yesterday, and it sounds like Cliff Lee had a great outing, probably his strongest of the year. (No, I didn’t get to watch this one.) Lee is not really a strikeout pitcher, but he racked up 9 yesterday. I have to say that with Sabathia looking like a world-beater, Westbrook and Lee looking like they are regaining form, and Byrd always giving us a chance to win- I think this is the best staff we have seen in the Jacob’s Field era. I left Carmona off intentionally. Let me explain that- I hate, (I’m using the word hate here) absolutely despise the idea of depending on a young pitcher to win games down the stretch. This is probably because of the Indians of ’95-’97.
1995- Dennis Martinez 12-5, 3.08 era, 99K’s, Charles Nagy 16-6, 4.55 era, 139 K’s, Orel Hershiser 16-6, 3.87 era, 111 K’s, Mark Clark 9-7, 5.27 era, 68 K’s, Chad Ogea 8-3, 3.05era, 57 K’s
1996- Charles Nagy 17-5, 3.41 era, 167 K’s, Orel Hershiser 15-9, 4.24 era, 125 K’s, Jack McDowell 13-9, 5.11 era, 141 K’s, Chad Ogea 10-6, 4.79 era, 101 K’s, Dennis Martinez 9-6, 4.50 era, 48 K’s, Albie Lopez 5-4, 6.39 era, 45 K’s
1997- Charles Nagy 15-11, 4.28 era, 149 K’s, Orel Hershiser 14-6, 4.47 era, 107 K’s, Chad Ogea 8-9, 4.99 era, 80 K’s, Bartolo Colon 4-7, 5.65 era, 66 K’s, Jaret Wright 8-3, 4.38 era, 63 K’s
2007- C.C. Sabathia 12-2, 3.20 era, 116 K’s Fausto Carmona 8-4, 3.92 era, 48 K’s, Paul Byrd 7-3, 4.67 era, 48 K’s, Jake Westbrook 1-3, 6.10 era, 27 K’s, Cliff Lee 5-4, 4.90 era, 49 K’s
(note: ’99 Burba and Colon had decent years, but Nagy, Gooden and Wright were not good enough to even offer the comparison, in ’01 Colon and Sabathia were a scary 1-2 combination, but the rest of the rotation didn’t perform well.)
So which starting staff would you rather have? Keeping in mind that this is only the half-way point, has anyone been as dominant as Sabathia has this year? I don’t think so. You could make a case for Colon, but not during seasons when he had enough talent around him on the staff. Since Sabathia trumps any of the #1 starters in this comparison let’s move to the #2’s.
Nagy in ’95, Hershiser in ’96 and ’97, Colon in ’98, and I’m using Westbrook for this year. (Feel free to argue all you want.) This is a tough grouping. Nagy had some pretty good run support to get his W’s, Orel’s numbers are pretty similar in both years. There was always a chance when Hershiser took the mound that he was going to throw an absolute gem. Nagy always seemed to break down in the 6th/7th inning every time. Colon was young in ’98, but showing flashes of dominance. We all know Westbrook’s potential. I would give him the edge over Nagy, maybe a slight edge over Hershiser- but that might really be a wash. I think that ’98 Colon probably would be e better pick here for a #2, based on his potential to completely shut down an opposing team.
So what about the 3’s? Hershiser in ’95 was outstanding. You could argue between him and Nagy for the #2 spot honestly. ’96 is a tough year to call. Truthfully, Martinez was the #1, Nagy #2, Hershiser #3, McDowell #4 and Ogea #5. But Dennis battled injury, and so he really didn’t start enough games to be considered the staff ace. That bumps Black Jack to the 3 hole. Not good news for the ’96 staff. ’97 would be Ogea, and ’98 would be Burba. I’m giving the ball to Cliff in the 3 spot for this year’s team. Truthfully, Orel’s season in ’95 beats anyone else on this list. I rate Lee as the next best pitcher here, again based largely on potential. Lee has been dominate in the past, and for long stretches. We need him to catch fire this season. I believe that is key for us winning this division.
In the 4 spot- Mark Clark on the ’95 team, Ogea in ’96, Wright in ’97, Bartolo in ’98, and Carmona gets the ball for this year. Forget Clark and Ogea, the real battle here is between Wright, Carmona, and Colon. ’97 was Jaret’s coming out party. Throw in the post-season and I’m tempted to give it to him. As good as Carmona has been, and I think he edges out Jaret, Bartolo was just a little better in ’98. Rebounding from injury he was scary at some points in the season.
Last, but certainly important is the 5th starter. Ogea in ’95 had a great rookie season, but fizzled a little in the end. The Martinez/Lopez combo in ’96 struggled. Bartolo is the choice for #5 in ’97 because of injury. Gooden was a quality 5th man in ’98, and Paul Byrd is the choice for 2007. If you look at the numbers, Gooden probably wins this comparison for the ’98 squad. He was a victim of terrible run support, or his win total would be much better. He was never really dominate, just pretty good for most of the season. I think Byrd is right on his heals, having started the season really well, he has had a tougher time the last month, but he still gives us a chance to win, and keeps pitching into the 6th inning every start.
So what is the verdict? Truthfully, I think this year’s staff is outstanding. (Obviously, I brought it up didn’t I?) Like I stated earlier, I don’t think C.C. has been matched. He has become the ace that not only can compete against the other team’s ace, but you expect the Tribe to win no matter who is on the hill for the other team. He is playing like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, etc. Because of that, I would give this year’s staff a slight edge over the ’95 model we all loved. Now all they have to do is finish the season the way they started it.