Ian York analyzes the Cleveland Indians Josh Tomlin in anticipation of his matchup with the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the 2016 ALDS.
Josh Tomlin is very much a third-best choice for the Cleveland Indians. At 31 years old, the right-handed pitcher has either been ineffective (ERA+ of 87, 93, 61, and 82 in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014), injured (shoulder surgery in 2015, although he pitched well after his August return, with an ERA+ of 143), or both (Tommy John surgery in August of 2012, leading to missing all of 2013). In 2016, he ended the season with an ERA+ of 105, but at least remained reasonably healthy, pitching a career-high 174 innings.
Pitch usage and trends: Tomlin’s most common pitch is his cutter, which he threw 38.3% of the time. His velocity (the bottom chart below) is low for a pitcher in 2016, with his four-seam fastball averaging just 88.3 mph. The sinker he throws occasionally (7.9%) is about the same speed (88.0 mph), but has a little more horizontal movement. His cutter is slower still (85.8 mph), although it gained some speed and separation from his changeup velocity after the first ten games or so:
Tomlin’s repertoire to left- and right-handed batters is similar, except for his changeup, which he rarely uses against right batters. He also avoids the changeup when he is ahead in the count, using his curve more often in those situations; when behind in the count, he uses the curve less, and the changeup more often:
Pitch value: Tomlin’s only pitch that is better than league average is his rarely-used sinker. His cutter, which he uses most often, is particularly poor in terms of total bases given up per 100 pitches — 16.9 total bases/100, far worse than the league average of 9.7 for cutters. While at least he does throw the pitch for strikes, he might be better off just using it less, unless removing the deception of the cutter would make his other pitches easier to hit:
Pitch location: The charts below show the typical location of Tomlin’s pitches. With his lack of velocity, Tomlin relies on his usually excellent control, and that can be seen in the way he typically avoids the center of the strike zone. Without his location and deception, Tomlin would be hard-pressed to make a major-league roster. He throws all of his pitches for strikes, occasionally dropping his curve out of the bottom of the zone to draw swings and misses. His cutter shows two distinct clusters to left-handed batters, either ending in the bottom third of the strike zone or right on the inside edge; his sinker, though used less, shows three clusters to right-handed batters — outside bottom corner, inside edge, or outer third of the zone: