Meisel: The making of the Indians’ rotation of domination

From SABR member Zack Meisel at The Athletic on August 16, 2018:

When​ Mike Clevinger strolls past the bathroom​ stall​ in the visitors​ clubhouse at​ Great American Ball​ Park,​ his​​ brain sketches an outline of his once-reeling body.

His knees dig into the tile floor. His head hovers above the toilet bowl. His hair dangles from the sides of his navy cap.

Clevinger made his major-league debut at this venue two years ago. He wandered around Joe Nuxhall Way before an Indians employee directed him to the entrance. He darted for the wrong bullpen before Mike Napoli ushered him to the proper warmup area. And, less than an hour before first pitch, Clevinger hunched over and spewed every last drop of substance from his body, jeopardizing his attendance at his pregame treatment session.

Mike Clevinger no longer vomits before his starts — well, aside from a brief bout with a stomach bug last month in Detroit. He’s made strides in many other areas since that mid-May evening in 2016, too.

The journey hasn’t been seamless. The Indians were stationed in Cincinnati in August 2014 when they completed their trade for Clevinger, then a scuffling right-hander navigating his way back from Tommy John surgery.

These things take time. None of the Indians’ four core starting pitchers — each acquired in separate trades over a five-year span — traveled a direct path, but each lane has converged at the same intersection. And now the club boasts four of the American League’s top nine hurlers, in terms of fWAR (and four of the top 14, by ERA).

The rotation is the franchise’s foundation, the logic behind the Indians serving as either a trendy preseason pick or an obvious one during Terry Francona’s tenure in Cleveland. It’s the reason the team has weathered storms in the bullpen and the outfield this season, the reason those in the clubhouse and those in the fourth-floor offices at Progressive Field maintain confidence in the club’s chances this October and beyond.

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Originally published: August 16, 2018. Last Updated: August 16, 2018.