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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Josh Tomlin

Josh Tomlin had a career year in 2016 bouncing back from shoulder and arm injuries the previous few seasons. Can he replicate that effectiveness in the upcoming season? The IBI's Jake Dungan examines in the latest IBI Preview Capsule.

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Josh Tomlin, RHP

Throws: Right -- Bats: Right -- Entering his age-32 season -- Contract: Second year of 2-year/$5.5 million deal (Free agent in 2018)

2016 In Review: Tomlin posted career highs across the board as far as wins (13), innings pitched (174), strikeouts (118) and walks-per-nine-innings (1.0), which led all of baseball. Following three straight years which were cut short by injuries, including Tommy John surgery and a shoulder procedure, the veteran right-hander was able to put together his first full season of pitching since 2011. Since coming back from his latest ailment toward the end of last year, the Tyler, Texas native has revitalized and, in some ways, reinvented his game specializing in being able to limit traffic on the base paths, particularly in regards to walks, and keeping hitters off-balance with pinpoint location. He did have a brief hiccup in August where he posted an 11.48 ERA in six starts, but he may have had other things on his mind at the time concerning pressing family health matters. It all turned out well, thankfully, as his parents and relatives were able to watch him pitch in the World Series. Like the rest of the team, however, the goal in 2017 is to actually capture that elusive title.

Versus Right-handers: 2016 fell pretty much in line with Tomlin's career norms as far as his splits go. Right-handed hitters had more success against him both in getting hits (120) and drawing walks (13) racking up nearly double the totals of lefties in each respective category as they hit .299 with an .845 OPS. The disparity between the hit, strikeout and walk totals is a new development, however, as those splits have been relatively even over his career. Also, the 32-year-old had a lower strikeout-to-walk ratio against right-handers this year at 5.46 compared to a 6.71 mark against southpaws while in the past those ratios have typically been reversed.

Versus Left-handers: For whatever reason, left-handed hitters have had more issues with Tomlin despite him throwing from the right side. That was especially evident last season as left-handers batted just .229 with a .685 OPS and that aforementioned 6.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Batters hitting from the left side of the plate have never had much luck against the right-hander as they only have a .248/.277/.450 slash line as long as he's been in the major leagues. Also, southpaws hit eight fewer home runs off Tomlin than their right-handed counterparts, whereas his career splits in that department have been almost perfectly even. It'll be interesting to watch and see if these abnormal splits return to their regular patterns and how they will affect Tomlin's pitching if they do.

Pitch Mix: With his velocity only topping out in the upper 80s, the key for Tomlin is location and movement in order to keep hitters guessing. Primarily, he threw a cut-fastball while mixing in his four-seamer, the occasional sinker, curveball and changeup. His groundball rate last year reached a new personal best at 43.8%. Strangely enough, despite that and the various other career bests the right-hander had put up last season, most of his pitch values actually declined as his sinker not only improved, but was his lone offering to remain in positive territory at 4.0 runs above average. His cutter and curveball's drastic decline in value from 2015 (both nearly 10 runs lower) is of particular interest and will be worth watching in the coming season to see if they rebound.

Fantasy Impact: Fangraphs' Steamer and Depth Charts don't see Tomlin lasting the full season in the rotation next year with only 23 starts expected, but they do anticipate him making the most of his opportunities posting similar numbers to 2016 with a 4.41 ERA and comparable strikeout and walk rates. They also see him compiling a 1.4 WAR in seven fewer appearances from last season where he had a WAR of 1.0. So even though he is not projected to log as many games or innings, he is still expected to be more valuable to the Indians than in 2016. As long as he has his command and ability to both keep runners off base and hold them at bay when they do get on, he can most certainly remain an effective pitcher.

Summary: Most fans came to an understanding with Tomlin last year. He's not going to strike out a lot of batters, he will give up his fair share of long balls and will occasionally get knocked around a bit, but by and large he's going to give the team a chance to win most of the time when he's on the mound. The Indians gave him a 2-year/$5.5 million extension prior to last season and, if the projections for 2017 pan out, one could say they got a bargain. Josh Tomlin has never been a standout pitcher individually as he has no All-Star appearances nor hardware to his name, however, he's still the type of pitcher every team should want on their staff: quiet, competitive, willing to take the ball whenever it's handed to him and will battle and gut his way through every start until the manager takes him out, not to mention the fine example he sets for the young arms coming up.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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