Last night, Carlos Carrasco turned in the type of performance than can excite a fan base. He was outstanding. Over the course of 7.1 innings of work, Carrasco was a dominant force of nature and the Royals had absolutely no answer for him. However, is this something we can come to expect from Carrasco, or was last night’s showing an anomaly that is unlikely to be repeated anytime in the near future?
It’s an interesting question to consider. We all know about Carrasco’s potential. He possesses the type of arm with a plus arsenal of pitches than can turn in the type of performances we saw last night. Up until this point, however, Carrasco had never been able to combine his raw skill with the mental side of pitching. At the slightest sign of trouble the wheels would typically fall off of Carrasco, resulting in an implosion of epic proportions. We can argue to no end about how Carrasco has chosen to handle things, but the fact remains that when things have gone bad they haven’t ended well.
His stats bear this out. So far this season, Carrasco had been beaten up. Coming into last night’s game, he had put together an 0-2 record with a 15.26 ERA. His WHIP was an outrageous 2.87 and his BABIP was an even more ridiculous .441. Carrasco wasn’t just being unlucky. Opposing batters had been stepping to the plate armed with horse shoes, four leaf clovers, and about a half dozen lucky rabbit feet. For good measure, Carrasco was also walking close to 6 batters while barely striking out 3 per nine innings of work.
That’s what was so encouraging about last night’s performance. Carrasco was perfect through the first four innings and mowed through the Royals with such razor-sharp precision that it was clear he was on top of his game. It wasn’t until the fifth inning that Carrasco began running into problems. Lorenzo Cain made it to third, but Carrsco did not falter. Then in the sixth, Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon were able to make it to third and second respectively. Again, Carrasco was able to work his way out of the jam by striking out Salvador Perez to end the threat. In the seventh, David Lough reached second but just like the previous innings, Carrasco was able to prevent any damage and the implosion we had all become accustomed to never manifested itself.
But that’s the thing, was Carrasco too good? Did he perform up to a standard that will be impossible for him to repeat? Seeing as how we have never seen a performance like this from him at the big league level it’s tempting to say that there is no way he can repeat this. Then again, one needs only to look at Corey Kluber‘s recent run of success to see just how unpredictable pitching performances can be. Did anyone expect Kluber to deliver eight quality innings of work, let alone do it in back to back starts? I know I certainly didn’t.
It all speaks to the process that has been put in place by pitching coach Mickey Callaway. We have seen the plan worked to perfection with Ubaldo Jimenez, but now we are seeing memebers of the rotation finding similar success with the same type of simplified approach. Wahoo’s on First’s Steve Kinsella has laid it out time and time again – Quality of innings over quantity and pounding the lower portion of strike zone. Don’t worry about the result. Just keep pounding the lower portion of the strike zone and force hitters into difficult decisions.
The end result for Jimenez, and now Kluber and Carrasco, has been a build up of confidence. It may not have been pretty along the way, but we are beginning to see the fruits of their labor. The process works if the pitchers are willing to commit to it and so far they have. Whether or not they can keep this positive momentum going is anyone’s best guess but in regards to Carlos Carrasco we’re going to find out five days from now. Here’s hoping for an encore.