Surprisingly the Indians are seventh in baseball in ERA, led by the strong performance of the starting rotation. Arguably Josh Tomlin has been the Indians' most consistent pitcher this season, behind Justin Masterson, after throwing another quality start against the Royals last night. His ERA currently sits at 2.33, and his WHIP sits at a stunning 0.89.
The question that remains is whether Tomlin has changed his approach and if he can keep pitching at this level. Well, let's take a look at Tomlin's approach in 2011 compared to last season.
In 2010 Tomlin pitched to a 4.56 ERA in 72 innings with a 5.30 K/9 and a 2.34 BB/9. Tomlin pitched to an extreme fly-ball rate (50.4 percent), and his ground-ball rate (28.6 percent) was close to his line-drive rate (21.1 percent). He also had a favorable .271 BABIP, showing that Tomlin got some breaks, but not enough to affect his performance. His xFIP of 4.76 indicates that he pitched as well as he could have in 2010 given these factors.
Tomlin has made some improvements this season. This season, even though Tomlin's velocity has been down a touch and his K/9 rate is down to 5.0, it is worth noting that his swinging-strike percentage has increased to 10.1 percent from 7.9 percent in 2010. Opponents are making less contact (81.9 percent) against Tomlin in 2011 compared to 2010 (92 percent).
Tomlin has also improved his batted ball rates. He has improved his ground-ball numbers to 43 percent and decreased his fly-ball percentage to 35 percent. Those are steps in the right direction for Tomlin, who was victimized by the home run in 2010.
However, there are numbers that indicate Tomlin has benefited from all of the breaks this season. Tomlin's BABIP is at an unsustainable .182, and his strand rate is above average at 86.5 percent. I was wrong in thinking that he would pitch to an ERA close to 5.00. He has made the necessary adjustments to stay in the league, but he won't finish the year with an ERA below 4.00.
Tomlin is going to come back to earth, and Indians fans should act accordingly. Remember when Mitch Talbot got off to a great start last season? With that said, I can't deny the fact that he has helped propel the Indians to a 13-7 record and to first place in the AL Central. Just enjoy it while you can.