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Carlos Carrasco, Zach McAllister to Resume Rotation Battle

Roster decisions even a few days in the future usually have a way of working themselves out. So with the obligatory statement (“if nobody gets injured”) the Indians will have a decision to make on who will make up their starting rotation moving forward.

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When Scott Kazmir comes off the disabled list (strained abdominal muscle) he will be joined in the rotation by Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Brett Myers. Myers will be given an extended leash due in part to his $7 million contract but also because manager Terry Francona believes that he will come around and be an effective innings eater for his club. It is also my opinion that Myers would not have signed with the Indians without assurances of getting a long-term look as starter before any move to the ‘pen is discussed.

The final two candidates will be Carlos Carrasco and Zach McAllister. Although the Indians most likely wanted to control Carrasco’s innings (Tommy John surgery in September, 2011) early in the year in Triple-A the injury to Kazmir has opened the door. He will have two, maybe three starts to show Franconca that he is ready to re-assume his role in the Tribe rotation which means he is in direct competition with McAllister.

Carlos Carrasco’s statistics in his 21 starts prior to his injury in 2011 are very similar to Zach McAllister’s numbers in his 22 starts during the 2012 campaign:

Despite the similar statistics, the two are very different pitchers. In 2011 Carrasco generated a groundball rate of 49 percent, which ranked 17th in the AL for all pitchers with 120-plus innings pitched; by contrast, McAllister’s 2012 fly ball rate of 41 percent ranked 11th in the league among that same group.

Another similarity for both pitchers is their shared inability to effectively navigate their ways through a lineup a second and third time.

The player data above is from Baseball-Reference.com and the Major League OPS Rank was obtained using the B-R Play Index. The MLB OPS Rank is based on all starting pitchers who recorded 30 innings worth of outs through each time through the lineup.

Using OPS against as the evaluation metric we can see that both pitchers were among the best in baseball the first time through the order in their respective seasons. McAllister’s .553 OPS against ranked ninth out of 160 qualified pitchers and Carrasco’s .565 OPS ranked eighth out of 148.

Neither pitcher was able to find similar success the second time through the order as hitters seemed to adjust. McAllister’s OPS against jumped .261 points from .553 to .814 which ranked 127th out of 153 qualified pitchers and Carrasco’s OPS against spiked .331 points from .564 to .895 which ranked 136th out of 145 qualified pitchers.

The difference between the two is how they adjusted as the game progressed. Carrasco was able to recover the third time through and reduce his OPS against by 77 points from .895 to .818 and improved his ranking to 91st of 129 qualified pitchers. Meanwhile McAllister was unable to make the adjustment and saw his OPS against increase another 177 points from .814 to .891 which ranked second-worst in all of major league baseball (112 out of 113 of qualified pitchers).

It should be noted that OPS against pitchers generally increase. Looking at 2012 AL Data the OPS against the first time through the order was .726, the second time through .725, and the third time through .748.

The one notable increase in McAllister’s numbers the third time through the order is the staggering number of home runs allowed. His HR allowed rate the third time through the order is a major league worst 9.5 percent (14 homers in 147 plate appearances). The increased home run rate may be a function of fatigue and the inability to finish pitches which is an easy fix through conditioning. If the problem is in sequencing or predictability then that will require more work.

In McAllister’s first start against the Rays he held the Rays to 1-for-9 the first time through the lineup but the Rays went 3-for-9 the second time through and 2-for-7 the third time through. The good news was that none of the hits left the park.

On Tuesday Carlos Carrasco will take the mound against the New York Yankees in his first big league start since August 3, 2011 and so will begin the evaluation process between he and Zach McAllister. They will have their numbers parsed and in the end it may come down to who Franconaa believes can deliver the strongest performance later into the game.

Who will remain with the Indians when Scott Kazmir returns?

  • Zach McAllister (79%, 11 Votes)
  • Carlos Carrasco (21%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

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Tags: Carlos Carrasco Cleveland Indians Zach McAllister

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