Can You Trust Josh Tomlin’s Fast Start?

May 5, 2011

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Thomas Ondrey / The Plain Dealer
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Cleveland Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin is off to one of the more surprising starts in the league. He was decent last year going 6-4 with a 4.56 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, but not many expected him to be one of the elite pitchers. That’s what he is right now.
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Tomlin is 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. He is tied for seventh in wins with the likes of Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Dan Haren, and Tommy Hanson. I know A.J. Burnett and Carlos Zambrano also have four wins, but still it’s pretty elite company considering only 23 pitchers have four or more wins. His ERA ranks 14th.
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Wins are subjective because you can’t help the run support you get. ERA though is more under a pitcher’s control. Tomlin is one of eight pitchers with four or more wins and an ERA below 2.50.
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Tomlin’s WHIP is the second lowest in the league behind Josh Johnson’s 0.71. Only six pitchers (Tomlin, Haren, Jared Weaver, Kyle Lohse, Hudson, and Halladay) have four or more wins, an ERA below 2.50 ERA, and a WHIP below 1.00.
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You get the point. While he’s not considered an elite pitching talent, he is putting up numbers that put him in the conversation…until you start talking about strikeouts.
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Tomlin is tied for 81st entering Thursday’s games with 23 strikeouts. His K/9 ratio of 5.09 ranks 93rd. It’s actually slightly below the 5.30 mark he established last year. He was a little better last year for Triple-A Columbus at 6.71, but that is a far cry from a strikeout artist.
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Suddenly the foundation of Tomlin as a top fantasy option is starting to show some cracks. When you struggle to make batters miss, you put yourself at greater risk.
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Even more troublesome is his .157 BABIP, which is the lowest in the league. He also has the second lowest strand rate at 90.9 percent. That kind of luck isn’t likely to continue all year.
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The Tribe have improved so a double-digit win total isn’t out of reach. With his control the WHIP should remain an asset to fantasy owners. The ERA will definitely inflate, but it could still prove useful to fantasy owners, however without the strikeouts he is best used when he has favorable match-ups.
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He could also be used as trade bait. I consider him more valuable as an add-on to a two-for-one deal in which you’re looking to acquire the best piece in the trade. Nobody is going to give you much straight up for him, but he could be the piece to help you land a coveted player.
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