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The art of hating/loving Josh Tomlin

  (Josh Tomlin--Getty Images)  
I was really ready to lay out some Josh Tomlin #hottakes today. When Curtis Granderson hit a 2-0 pitch into the right field seats for a lead-off home run, I was ready to put on a display of Twitter displeasure that would have been nothing short of legendary at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario. That's what was supposed to happen to Tomlin, am I right?

He was supposed to struggle, because he's just not supposed to be in the rotation. You know the litany of reasons why most of us, the Cleveland fans, were ready to spear the bull today, if Tomlin struggled.

He doesn't throw hard enough.

He's only on the team because of that idiotic two-year deal the Indians signed him too.

He should have been moved a long time ago.

He hasn't even made a start yet.

He can pitch in the bullpen.

His mechanics are absolute garbage.

He's held together with MacGyver-like gum and wire hangers, and pitches with smoke, mirrors and vagisil.

WE. HAVE. PITCHERS. WITH. CANNONS. FOR. ARMS! 

You remember Trevor Bauer, who was relegated to the bullpen, picked up more velocity, and outpitched both Tomlin and #4 starter Cody Anderson. You've heard of T.J. House, an actual left hander, who is healthy and deserves a look after injuries derailed his 2015 season, after as stellar 2014. And what about Michael Clevinger! STOP HOLDING BACK CLEVINGER FOR THIS FREAKIN' JOSH TOMLIN! HE COULD BE ANOTHER FLAME-THROWING ACE, AND IS DESTROYING TRIPLE A.

Oh, EHC Readers, I was ready to destroy the decision to put Josh Tomlin in this rotation.

Then something strange happened in this match up between the soft-tossing Tomlin, and one of the heralded Mets aces, Matt Harvey, who was supposed to blow the doors off Progressive Field today:

Tomlin won.

Sure, Matt Harvey was pretty darned brilliant through his first turn through the Indians' line-up. Harvey made it 4 1/3 innings pitching a perfect game before Carlos Santana walked. But after another out, the wheels fell off Harvey's sports car thanks to a Santana steal, followed by a Jose Ramirez (#JRamForever) double, followed by a lot more damage. By the time the smoke had cleared, Harvey didn't make it out of the sixth inning, because the Tribe was busy putting a five-spot on the board.

In the meantime, in true hare vs. turtle fashion, Tomlin just kept plugging along. After the lead-off home run, he struck out two of the next three hitters, limiting the damage. He gave up two two-out hits in the second (an Asdrubal Cabrera single, and a Travis d'Arnaud double), before striking out Alejandro De Aza to end the inning. He gave up a two-out double to Michael Conforto, that was sandwiched between two more strikeouts, one to end the inning. He then retired his final six hitters, before exiting the game before the sixth, with a right hamstring cramp.

But ponder this. You don't start a game since Stonehenge was built, then give up a home run on your third pitch, to your first batter, then lock everything down, even after putting runners on second and third in the very next inning?

No, he may not meet the thunder-and-lightning of the Indians "Big Three," buy you can bet everything that's important to you that his make-up is every bit as good.

Scout.com's Jim Berdysz noted today something that really stands out to me:
Can someone say stopper?

His final stat line? He went five strong innings, giving up four hits and one earned run, while striking out six, without walking a hitter.  He made 76 pitches, while throwing 50 K's, and while he gave up three extra base hits, he avoided damage by striking guys out. Other than the hamstring, talk about being ready for his start, especially after 18 days in between actual starts. I'm tempted to say that I was slightly let down, because I couldn't shred Tomlin into oblivion, so our young stud-in-waiting Clevinger could get his shot, or allow the effusive Bauer another shot in the rotation.

Talk about being a bad fan, but I can own that.

It all really leads to the question: Shouldn't we love Josh Tomlin? He's the ultimate underdog starter who is matched up in the Indian's rotation with arms of the gods in tomorrow's starter, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. I already mentioned young Bauer's velocity uptick, and even Cody Anderson got in on the trick by working out like a mad man the past two offseasons, and picking up three-plus MPH on his four-seamer. While Tomlin may have thought he and Anderson were going to be "kin" on this team, Jeff Sullivan of fangraphs was busy comparing Anderson not to Tomlin, but to Tomlin's opponent today, Matt Harvey.

And in the middle of all of this insanity is Josh Tomlin. No, he doesn't have any velocity to speak of. Instead, he mixes in fantastic location with that fastball, along with some pretty decent pitch-IQ. He knows when to throw strikes, and when not to, and he trusts his stuff, which is something the Indians were talking a lot about regarding a certain bullpen arm that was just #Shawful (props to @hipstertito, for his utter brilliance there)
Tomlin has a four-seamer, a cutter and a change, but his true plus-pitch is his big hook, and when he's locating, his K-9 over his last 169 2/3 innings has been 8.01, with a BB-9 of 1.17. For those counting at home, that's pretty close to elite. Now, we have to temper these hyperbolic terms by incorporating the fact that he seems to give up four or five homers a game, and while that MAY be hyperbole, when he makes a mistake, it's not hard to make him pay for it.

So he has to be good.

The good news? He has been, and that's something to be celebrated. As I said today on Twitter, if he's still our #5 starter in September, that can only mean one thing: playoff baseball.

Three Stars:

«««:Mike Napoli

««:Jose Ramirez

«:Jason Kipnis
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