On the Tuesday prior to the All-Star break, at a game which this author observed from the Progressive Field press box, Trevor Bauer left his start after eight innings with the Indians holding a 4-0 lead. Then a call to the bullpen, complete with a miscommunication error, followed. Dan Otero faced Joey Votto. The Indians lost. It was not necessarily a great surprise: so often something has gone amiss for Cleveland this year after such calls to the bullpen.
As readers of this Web site are likely aware, the Indians’ bullpen has struggled mightily this season, sitting in the bottom quartile by many notable bullpen skill metrics.
The group ranks 28th in WAR (-0.9), 23rd in WPA (-1.07), 29th in ERA (5.28), and 29th in FIP (4.85). There has not been any positive regression, either. Over the past 30 days, the Cleveland relief corps has posted a 4.87 ERA, a 5.10 FIP, and a -0.15 WPA.
Bullpens are fickle beasts. The Indians’ 27th-ranked left-on-base percentage (68.7%) suggests some poor first-half fortune was bound for second-half positive regression. Oliver Perez and Neil Ramirez have been useful finds, with Ramirez perhaps building on his physical talents by learning more how to harness his high-spin fastball and breaking ball in concert. But the Indians had a clear manpower shortage in their bullpen, particularly with Andrew Miller still sidelined and out for much of the first half.
As the All-Star break approached, it felt like the Indians had to do something. Baseball knew the Indians had to do something, so if the Indians were to do something, it was not going to be done cheaply. And on Thursday, the Indians did something.