If Cleveland had a fully healthy rotation, Josh Tomlin would not be starting Game Three of the World Series. However, he is currently the third-best choice for Terry Francona. 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, resulting in a lost 2013). In 2016, he notched an ERA+ of 105 and remained reasonably healthy, pitching a career-high 174 innings. Tomlin has pitched 10 ⅔ innings in two postseason wins for Cleveland, allowing just three runs and going at least five innings in each start.
Pitch usage and trends: Tomlin’s most commonly featured offering is his cutter (38.3%). His velocity (the second chart below) is low, 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 slightly 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 of the 2016 season:
Tomlin’s repertoire to left- and right-handed batters is similar, except for his changeup, which he rarely uses against righties. He also avoids the change when working ahead in the count, relying on his curve more often in those situations; when behind in the count, he relies upon the curve less, and the changeup more:
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. While he does throw the pitch for strikes, he might be better off just using it less often, 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 is reliant on his control, which can be seen in the way he typically avoids the center of the strike zone. Without his excellent location and deception, Tomlin would be hard-pressed to make a major-league roster. When he’s at his best, 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: