How Did the 2016 Indians Starting Rotation Compare with How Things Are Shaping Up for 2020?

Matt Loede

It’s always fun to look back and play the old ‘remember when’ game, and when it comes to the Majors, things can change in a hurry.

With no baseball games in sight for probably at least the next 30-45 days, there’s going to be plenty of time to look back and see how rosters have developed as well as what teams that are expected to be powerhouses look like heading into 2020.

For the Cleveland Indians, they are coming off a non-playoff season in which they won 93 games, but were not able to sneak into the postseason, losing the AL Central for the Minnesota Twins, who don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

When you look at the way the Indians roster has developed over the last few years, it’s fun to look back at the team’s World Series season of 2016, and how that roster was when the season got started and how it changed.

There is a milestone with that 2016 team, that being the fact it was four years ago today that the club announced their starting rotation, a rotation that could be a bit surprising when you see how things played out in the playoffs and the World Series.

Here’s the way that 2016 decision was made between the coaching staff and manager Terry Francona.

Corey Kluber 2016 record – 18 wins 9 losses 3.34 ERA

Carlos Carrasco 2016 record – 11wins 8 losses 3.32 ERA

Danny Salazar 2016 record - 11 wins 6 losses 3.87 ERA

Cody Anderson 2016 record - 2 wins 5 losses 6.68 ERA

Josh Tomlin 2016 record - 13 wins 9 losses 4.40 ERA

What a rotation when you see where it appears the 2020 Cleveland Indians are, the fact that only one pitcher from four seasons ago is still with the rotation – that being Carlos Carrasco.

The one question that fans might have is “where is Trevor Bauer?”

Bauer was in the bullpen to start the season, but really was a starter for most of the season, as he went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 28 starts.

He also went 0-2 in the World Series against the Chicago Cubs after he had one of the most bizarre postseasons in the history of the team, slicing his finger with a drone blade during the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The now Cincinnati Reds pitcher tried to power through a start, but early on it was evident it wouldn’t happen as the cut on the finger split open and he had to be pulled.

Somehow the Indians basically with a bullpen game still won game three, and after falling in game four they won gave five to win the series four games to one.

As far as Cody Anderson went, his tenure with the Indians was defined with injury and last season he actually started two games for the Tribe going 0-1 with a 9.35 ERA.

The Indians cut ties with Anderson in November, and he is currently on the roster of the Seattle Mariners as he looks to get his career back on track.

Then there’s the case of starter Danny Salazar, who you may have forgotten was an All-Star in the 2016 season after a fast start to the season.

Salazar, went 11-6 and was named to the AL All-Star team, but didn’t pitch in the game as the Indians wanted to hold him back as he was already suffering from elbow discomfort.

The pitcher returned on a limited basis in the second half of 2016, and in 2017 was back to start 19 games to go 5-6 with a 4.28 ERA.

After coming back from injuries Salazar finally took the hill in 2020, and started one game at Progressive Field against the AL West Champion Houston Astros.

While he didn’t look terrible, he once again had an injury get in the way, as he left the game with a strained groin.

That night basically was his last with the team, as he never pitched in another game again, and instead eventually during rehab left the team to go back home to Florida to rehab on his own.

The 30-year-old made $9.5 million over the last two seasons, and over his tenure with the Indians felt like it went sour as the Injuries piled up and there was rumors that the work ethic was not where the team wanted it as he tried to get back to the Major League club.

Carrasco was hit on the hand in September against the Detroit Tigers, ending his season and many felt the teams’ as the injuries on the pitching side were already mounting up.

Tomlin won 13 games and was counted on heavily in the postseason against the Red Sox, Jays and Cubs. He’s now with the Atlanta Braves who brought him back after a solid first season in 2019 in the pen.

As for Kluber, the Indians tried as they could to ride him to a title as their ace, and he was impressive in the playoffs before not being able to close it out against the Cubs in game seven.

He went 4-1 in six starts, with the only loss coming in game four against the Jays in Toronto.

So how does the 2020 rotation (as of now it appears) match up with that rotation that got to game seven of the World Series?

Mike Clevinger

Shane Bieber

Carlos Carrasco

Zach Plesac

Aaron Civale

Clevinger is turning into an ace, as despite having knee surgery he should be ready to go when the team does finally take the field to start 2020.

The team needs a big season from him, and he’s got to take the reigns as the new ace of this staff now that Kluber is gone.

Bieber was very good winning 15 games in 2019, and was the MVP of the All-Star game in Cleveland, putting him on the map.

While Clevinger is on the shelf the team had already announced that Bieber was set to be the March 26 opening day starter against the Detroit Tigers.

Carrasco’s story is bigger than baseball, having overcome leukemia back in 2019, and returning to the mound in September to throw out of the pen for a few games to cement that he appears to be ready to return for 2020.

He’s now the ‘grizzled’ vet of the rotation, and again will be called upon to have a good season, hopefully with no injury or off the field health issues to help this team.

That leaves the fourth and fifth spots, and last season it was two rookies who came on to shine and both impress in their time with the Major League roster.

The first is Zach Plesac, who went 8-6 with a 3.81 ERA in 21 starts. He showed poise and control when on the mound, and in a year when he wasn’t expecting to be at the Major League level he came through when called upon.

Finally there’s Civale, who went 3-4 with a 2.34 ERA in 10 starts with the big league club. He was setback with a groin strain to start the spring, but has made a recovery and will be ready for when 2020 gets started.

The comparing of the rotations even from a few years ago is always an interesting and fun thing to do, and it also shows you who quickly in baseball things can change.

There are no guarantees in baseball, and it will be fun to see the ride of 2020 with this rotation and if it can live up to what we saw from this team just four short seasons ago.

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

It's strictly all potental, but I think our rotation this year is better than 2016. Let's hope we can get the season started sometime soon and find out.