It’s Time to Move on From Josh Tomlin
This is not an easy article to write. For anyone that has paid attention to this site during its infancy or read any of my content at one of my previous places of employ, you know I love Josh Tomlin. During his time with the Indians, I have been prepared to fight tooth and nail for his place on the roster. Josh Tomlin is the metaphorical hill I’m prepared to die on.
I can’t do it. I’m raising the white flag. I’m crying, “uncle!” Storm the castle gates and do your best Ramsay Bolton impersonation. I’m done.
Josh Tomlin is done as a Major League pitcher.
To a certain extent, I always knew this day would come. For someone with his repertoire, the expiration date for Josh Tomlin wasn’t going to be very long. The fact that he’s lasted this long, nine years with the same organization, is nothing short of a miracle. But here we are. Nine years after his debut with the Indians and everyone with an opinion and a platform is writing up his obituary today, myself included.
As much as this hurts on a sentimental level, it’s time to be honest and real about the situation. Josh Tomlin needs to be replaced on the Indians big league roster.
Josh Tomlin has always been a give and take kind of player. At times he could look incredible while making opposing hitters look foolish on upper-80’s fastballs on the edges of the plate. On days when the control was lacking or called strikes were not to be had, it was a struggle. Hard hit singles and home runs eventually gave way to six or seven innings of bullpen work. But, despite his faults and shortcomings as a pitcher, the good days always seemed to outnumber the bad. You could live with these overall results coming from the fifth spot in the rotation.
But now, the bad days outnumber the good… and it isn’t even close.
Whatever made Josh Tomlin an effective Major League pitcher appears to be gone. Sure, the tenacity is there. The competitive fire still shines bright. The willingness to do whatever it takes to be a part of this team and organization hasn’t gone away. But, the actual skill, talent, or black magic that carried Josh Tomlin has dried up.
The stats don’t lie.
If you’re looking for some sort of justification beyond just the eye test when it comes to Josh Tomlin’s future, you don’t have to look far. Pick any important statistical data point for pitching and Tomlin hasn’t just fallen off, he has dropped off a cliff.
Looking at Tomlin’s numbers from 2010 through 2017 shows a pitcher who was effective but not extraordinary. In fact, based on his ERA+ and FIP, Tomlin was an average to borderline below average starting pitcher. But, as previously mentioned, Tomlin was not expected to be extraordinary pitching out of the fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation. All the Indians needed and required from him was a solid five to six innings of work and keep the games competitive. Do that and the day was a success. *click to enlarge*
Now, compare those career stats with the numbers for 2018. Brace yourself. It’s jarring. *click to enlarge*
Tomlin’s ERA is approaching 7.00. His ERA+ is 63. Fielding Independent Pitching… 8.27. An astonishing 3.9 home runs per nine innings. These are not the warning signs of decline. These are the numbers of a pitcher that has lost “it.”This is the equivalent of being hit upside the head with a 2×4, having your body wrapped in an old rug and then being dumped into a river.
Perhaps the most telling stat for Tomlin’s decline are the number of walks issued. In an average season, Tomlin walks a total of 15 batters over the course of an average season. In 2017, Tomlin walked all of 14 batters in 141 innings of work. In 2018, he has already walked 10 batters in just over one third of the innings worked. And while 10 walks may not seem like a lot, for a pitcher like Tomlin, success is predicated by control. And it’s not just walks. Think of how many counts Tomlin has gotten behind in that have led to hard hit balls. And with a 41.2% hard hit ball rate, up from his career rate of 31.8%, it’s clear to see why he has struggled.
In two of the past three games we’ve seen how Tomlin’s struggles have manifested themselves and how it continues to hurt the Indians. On Saturday, Tomlin entered into a tie game in the 11th against Oakland and proceeded to surrender three runs, two of which came via the long ball. On Monday, in what appeared to be mop-up duty against the Reds, Tomlin entered in the top of the 9th with the Indians down 5-1. After surrendering a two-run home run, the Indians trailed 7-1. After mounting a furious comeback, the Indians eventually fell 7-5. Those two runs surrendered by Tomlin ultimately proving to be the difference.
Things have moved from frustrating to laughable and now even predictable.
Josh Tomlin gave us everything he had and more.
Let me be very clear, though. While I have jumped on board the “Josh Tomlin needs to go” bandwagon, I will not stand by and allow others to tarnish his career and the things he’s done up until 2018. Josh Tomlin did more with less for longer than some players can do with more. He gave us everything. Despite being armed with an 88-mph fastball and ok enough arsenal of off-speed pitches, he succeeded.
If not for Josh Tomlin’s performance in the 2016 postseason, the Indians don’t make it to the World Series, let alone to within a few innings of winning the whole damn thing. Short handed after the loss of Carlos Carrasco and eventually Trevor Bauer, Tomlin stepped up in a huge way to help Corey Kluber navigate the AL playoffs.
Over the course of nine seasons, Tomlin has done everything that has been asked of him. Be the fifth starter? Sure. Move to the bullpen? No problem. Serve as a mop-up duty long reliever? You got it. He has never once complained, never questioned the organization, never demanded to be anything more than what he is. Josh Tomlin understood his place within the context of the team and did what he had to do to survive. He has survived for nine seasons. Longer than any current Indian. If his time has come to an end it should be looked back at fondly by everyone who got to watch him compete.
So in closing, I want to say thank you to Josh Tomlin. Thank you for being the ultimate teammate. Thank you for being a strong-willed competitor that gave it his all every time out on the mound. Thank you for being an example for the little guy, that it is possible to succeed when everyone else says you shouldn’t.
Thank you, Josh Tomlin…