00_Vinnie-Pestano

Courtesy of beforeitsnews.com

Over the past three baseball seasons, just about the only thing to get national attention in Cleveland was the Indians’ vaunted bullpen. Granted, some of this attention was for all the wrong reasons, and the Indians really didn’t even rank that high in many bullpen categories, but “The Bullpen Mafia” was a bona fide thing. To all serious Indians fans — and baseball fans for that matter — the real gem of the Indians bullpen was Vinnie Pestano. As early as 2011, many questioned when he would take over for closer Chris Perez, and why he had not already.

The most likable part of Pestano is his no-bullshit approach: he throws a fastball, and he throws a slider. The fastball is fast, with tailing movement toward the right-handed hitters. The slider is about 10 mph slower, with a fair amount of both vertical and lateral movement. Despite using just two pitches, he has a habit of making hitters look silly. His career K/9 ratio sits just below 11. He fearlessly pitches inside to both lefties and righties.

So when Chris Perez mercifully went down with an arm injury on May 26th, it was obvious who would take over the closing  duties. The only problem was that Pestano was fresh off his own arm injury. The day before Perez went down, he had surrendered 4 earned runs to the Red Sox in an eighth-inning collapse that cost the Indians the game. His ERA for the year has ballooned to 4.76 and he has yet to save a game since inheriting the closer’s role (which has more to do with the way the Indians’ are playing then his general ineffectiveness). Since coming off the DL on May 17th, Pestano has a 7.00 ERA and 2 blown saves.

The reason for Pestano’s struggles is hard to pin-point. He is still striking out about 10/9 innings. His BB/9 have remained steady at around 4. His velocity is down a couple of miles-per-hour, which might be approaching the problem; generally it seems like his stuff just isn’t as electric as it was before his DL stint. This was exhibited during an epic, 15-pitch battle with Jeff Baker on Wednesday night: Pestano threw 14 fastballs during the at-bat. Sitting on a 2-2 count, he pounded the strike-zone away, while Baker fouled off pitch after pitch. Vinnie didn’t strike him out, but settled for a weak ground ball to 2nd on the 15th pitch of the at-bat (which probably should have been an infield hit). The Rangers ended up scoring once during the inning on Jurickson Profar’s broken-bat bloop double. Pestano got out of the inning with a deep fly ball to center hit by David Murphy, preserving the Indians’ 5-2 victory.

If you take out Pestano’s bad outing in Boston, he’s only given up 3 ER in 8 innings of work. But there is something lurking under the numbers. He just doesn’t look like the same pitcher that Indians fans have grown accustomed to seeing go to work in the late innings.

Pestano needs to be a rock in the bullpen for Cleveland, something to count on when so many other aspects of their season have been up-again, down-again. He needs to pitch inside, and overpower the hitters he is supposed to overpower. Vinnie Pestano needs to get his shit together if the Indians want to contend this season.

Vinnie Pestano needs to get his shit together so that I don’t ever have to watch Chris Perez attempt to close out another ball game.