Second Time is the Charm for Carrasco and Starting Pitching
Who saw this one coming?
August 28. Final game of a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox. Series tied, one game apiece. Pivotal series against the division-leading Kansas City Royals this weekend. Neck and neck with the New York Yankees to be the closest team to the second Wild Card spot.
If you would have told me in May that Carlos Carrasco would be starting this game, I would have told you to sober up and grabbed the keys to drive
you home. If you would have followed that up by telling me I would feel confident with him taking the mound, I would have called us both a cab.
It would have been hard to believe back then that Carrasco would even be in the big leagues, let alone starting an important game in August after his abysmal start to the season. In his four April starts, he never gave up less than four runs. His walk per nine innings ratio (BB/9) was above 4.5 twice. He threw six innings only once. His ERA was never less than six.
Admittedly, I was never on Team Carrasco to begin with. He “won” the fifth spot in the rotation coming out of Spring Training by being out of options and a hard thrower. He is talented, sure. Terry Francona never misses an opportunity to tell us how “nasty” his stuff is. But there have been plenty of pitchers throughout baseball history who had nasty stuff and never panned out. I was perfectly ready to throw Carrasco in this category.
Francona, refusing to give up on the Velo from Barquisimeto, moved Carrasco to the bullpen after his fourth clunker on April 25. It has been rainbows and sunshine since. As a reliever, Carrasco posted a stellar 2.30 ERA, 8.16 K/9 and 2.92 FIP. Mostly used when the Tribe needed an inning-plus, he allowed opponents to hit a measly .214 in 43 IP.
But when the Indians traded Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals, sent Danny Salazar back down to AAA Columbus and told Josh Tomlin to work on his delivery from the stretch at the beginning of August, a spot in the rotation became available. Carlos Carrasco was the only student in the entire classroom who raised his hand when the teacher asked for a volunteer.
Here are the statistics in August for three starting pitchers:
Pitcher A looks pretty good. A bit higher of an ERA than the other two, but man, can that guy strike out hitters. No wonder, because those are the August statistics of five-time All-Star Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.
But what about Pitcher B? Who has been better in almost every category than arguably the best pitcher in the American League? Oh, right. Clayton Kershaw. That makes sense.
And now, the big reveal. John Adams, let’s hear a drumroll, please. Pitcher C is…. Carlos Carrasco. Carlos Carrasco. Of the Cleveland Indians. He has been just as good, if not better than Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw in the month of August. Talk about good company. A better ERA than King Felix. Superior WHIP to Clayton Kershaw, defending NL Cy Young award winner. Carlos Carrasco.
Tito Francona proving once again that I could never be a Major League manager.
The Indians are hoping to ride this Carrasco hot streak right into the playoffs. He undoubtedly will come back down to Earth at some point. But, assuming he continues to be productive as a starting pitcher, where does that leave him looking ahead to 2015?
Sitting in the front row of the classroom, if you ask me.
If the season ends today, what does the Indians rotation look like for next year? Corey Kluber has solidified himself as the ace, no question. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Trevor Bauer has pitched well this year. As long as he was pitching at home, and the game started in the second inning. Danny Salazar has been up and down from Columbus with mixed results. Zach McAllister has done the same, but has been lights out in AAA and recently led the Clippers to their first playoff appearance since 2011. T.J. House and Josh Tomlin have pitched their way to spot starter status.
Remember last year when Ubaldo Jiminez was one of the best pitchers in baseball the second half of the season? And when we all first realized Mickey Callaway was a master of the dark arts? After a below average couple of years, one outstanding half and I was perfectly ready to pencil him in as our number two starter heading into 2013 (if we could keep him).
Carrasco has had a below average couple years. He’s had an outstanding second half. And he isn’t going anywhere.
He won’t keep outperforming Hernandez and Kershaw. He might never develop into a front of the rotation pitcher, or even a starting pitcher at all. But the fact of the matter is, right now he’s a pitcher whose stats match up with some of the best in the game. The Indians don’t have a whole lot of those.
One thing is certain, however. If I’m a major league pitcher with loads of talent but below average results, I’m heading right up to the principal and demanding a transfer to Mr. Callaway’s class for the second half of 2015.