BOSTON -- Indians starter Josh Tomlin was asked to offer a theory that would explain the increased strikeout rate he has turned in this season. Before he could answer, the pitcher was also asked not to say that he had no idea why it was happening.
"But I have no idea," Tomlin said with a laugh.
Maybe it is due to having more experience, or perhaps Tomlin is making better pitches when ahead in the count. Whatever the right-hander is doing differently, it has propelled him to the top of the Tribe's rotation in terms of strikeouts per nine innings.
Pressed for an explanation, Tomlin said he believes it has to do with a better approach when he gets hitters behind in the count.
"I think I'm making better pitches 0-2 this year," Tomlin said. "That's really the only theory that's actually comprehensible. I don't know if that's the reason or not, but I've felt like I've made better pitches that look like strikes that are not strikes on 0-2 or 1-2 than I have the past couple years."
Tomlin currently leads the Indians' rotation with seven strikeouts per nine innings. Last year, the righty ranked last on the starting staff with an average of 4.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Tomlin has already reached 30 percent (27) of his 2011 strikeout total (89) in only 21 percent (34 2/3) of his 2011 innings total (165 1/3).
In three of his six starts this season, Tomlin has fanned at least seven hitters. On Monday, the right-hander set a career high with eight in a start against the White Sox. Last year, Tomlin struck out at least six batters just twice in his 26 appearances for Cleveland. His swinging-strike percentage has jumped from 13 percent last year to 17 percent this year.
"I don't care if I strike guys out," Tomlin said. "I want to get them out on two or three pitches and hopefully throw long into the game. If i strike him out in three or four pitches, I'm OK with it, but if it's 3-2, or 2-2 and he's fouling five pitches off, I'd rather not. I think it's just more of a flukey thing right now.
"I think it'll probably end up evening out throughout the course of the year. I don't think I'm going to average seven strikeouts per nine innings the entire year."