Red Sox Bring In Jesse Carlson

In a move that sent approximately zero shock waves through the baseball world, the Red Sox signed former Jays left-handed reliever Jesse Carlson to a split contract this week. It was such a big story that it wasn’t even reported on MLB Trade Rumors for well over a day after the news of the signing first broke. While this transaction has flown under the radar for obvious reasons, it could pay dividends for the Red Sox.

For his career, Carlson has thrown 141.1 innings with a FIP of 4.11, good for 1.1 WAR. This obviously isn’t much to get excited about, and neither is the fact that he has only pitched 13.2 innings in the big leagues since the end of the 2009 season. After two solid seasons in the Blue Jays pen, Carlson was sent to the minors before the 2010 season, and stayed there until he was recalled on August 15th. He then missed the entire 2011 campaign after undergoing left rotator cuff surgery.

Obviously there is some injury risk with Carlson, but let’s take a look at what he can do when he is on the mound. First of all, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his mechanics. The left-handed Carlson has a fairly low arm slot and springs off the mound to the first base side during his throw. This makes him a tough match-up for left-handed hitters, as evidenced by his 3.72 FIP against lefties, due mainly to his ability to keep the ball in the yard – 0.67 HR/9.

However, it is his performance against right-handed hitters that makes him a useful piece of a bullpen. While Carlson isn’t a lights out left-handed specialist, he also doesn’t embarrass himself against righties, posting a career FIP of 4.48. This means that he can give you more innings than your typical lefty specialist, as indicated by the 127.2 innings he accumulated in his two full seasons with Toronto. This was the 5th highest number of innings thrown by a lefty during that time span. There is value in a pitcher who can get left-handed hitters out but also eat up innings by staying in the game to face a right-handed hitter, not to mention that he has proven he can do it in the AL East.

It should also be mentioned that while he was a fly ball pitcher in 2008 and 2009 with GB%’s of 34.2% and 37.1%, in limited action in 2010 he did induce ground balls 52.3% of the time. This may just be small sample size noise, but he did change his pitch mix to include more fastballs, on which he does have good movement. If he can keep the ball on the ground close to 50% of the time, it should help decrease his home run total, a death sentence for the statistics of any relief pitcher.

The best part about this for the Red Sox is because it is a split contract, there is minimal risk on their end. If their evaluators decide in Spring Training that his stuff isn’t there, or he gets hurt, they can send him packing to Pawtucket with a minimal financial loss. If it does work out, they are looking at 0.5-1.0 WAR from a low-cost left-handed reliever. Due to the fickle nature of relief pitchers, it is always beneficial to have as many options as possible.

While Jesse Carlson certainly isn’t the difference maker between a 3rd place finish and October glory, he does offer the opportunity to bring some innings and stability to the pen for new manager Bobby Valentine.



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Vin
Guest
Vin
4 years 7 months ago

You honestly couldn’t find anything more interesting to write about than a mediocre reliever with injury problems?

KyleL
Member
KyleL
4 years 7 months ago

You honestly were bothered enough by it to write this ridiculous comment?

NBarnes
Guest
NBarnes
4 years 7 months ago

It’s an interesting analysis, IMHO. Lots of teams spend lots of money on ‘proven’ relievers. I think it’s important to have good reporting on some of the alternative ways a team can try to assemble an effective bullpen, especially a team with serious and credible designs on postseason play, such as Boston.

Eric
Guest
Eric
4 years 7 months ago

That is why people come to fangraphs. If I wanted to just hear about the Pujos signings all day long, or about the Miami Marlins free agency frenzy, then I would just slum it on ESPN. I love having articles like this about the 15-25th most important people on a roster.

Vin
Guest
Vin
4 years 7 months ago

Had a feeling I would get a few minuses…I just found it strange that FanGraphs would even cover a signing like this. There’s a chance Carlson doesn’t even see the majors next season–it’s just not very relevant.

I have however immensely enjoyed Ryan’s past work on this site.

Vin
Guest
Vin
4 years 7 months ago

You make a good point that minor deals like this can and do have an impact. However, I would have preferred it if you had gone into more in-depth analysis of the idea behind this signing rather than detailing the signing itself. You could have simply used this deal as an example while perhaps comparing it to others and connecting them to the overall thesis that you stated in your comment to me. Instead, it read as more of a review of a specific transaction which while not uncommon for more significant deals (e.g. the articles on the Cahill trade today), seems somewhat out of place for something as minor as this. That lead me to my initial comment; it’s rather uninteresting to read about a topic like this without it being connected to something larger.

Sorry to come so hostile originally, I hope I have now provided some explanation for my reaction.

Omar Little
Guest
Omar Little
4 years 7 months ago

If given a chance I bet he could be an effective reliever for the Red Sox.

zorob
Guest
zorob
4 years 7 months ago

AND he got into a fistfight with Posada, which helps the rivalry.

Brian S.
Guest
Brian S.
4 years 7 months ago

Rivalry=manufactued by the media to make money.

zorob
Guest
zorob
4 years 7 months ago

Well, it worked!

Howard
Guest
Howard
4 years 7 months ago

Is this an incredibly important signing? Well, probably not. But this type of analysis is the exact reason I come here and will keep coming back. Well done.

Aunt Baby
Guest
Aunt Baby
4 years 7 months ago

You would be “amiss”? Are you sure you wouldn’t be remiss?

Greg W
Guest
Greg W
4 years 7 months ago

In 2008 Jesse Carlson entered an game in the 11th inning with the bases loaded, nobody out. He the proceeded to strike out the side. I would bet that this unusual accomplishment remains the high point of Jesse’s career.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/TOR/TOR200804160.shtml

Tim Alix
Guest
Tim Alix
4 years 7 months ago

I happen to like the fact that the Sox are extending him an invite to Spring training. They could use the lefty arm in the pen. I hope he pans out – Good Luck Jesse – do yourself proud !!!!

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