Unless you’ve been living under a rock (do we have any rock-dwelling readers?), then you should be well aware that I have an infatuation with Carlos Carrasco. It actually began last year, when I commanded you dear readers not to sleep on him in April, recommended him to deep leaguers over the summer, and then despite finishing the year with a gruesome 6.75 ERA, continued the love fest heading into this season.
I considered him the most intriguing of an Indians fifth rotation spot candidate trio that included Trevor Bauer.
I boldly predicted he would be the most valuable Indians starting pitcher.
I fully let the cat out of the bag and described precisely what led to my super fandom.
I tried to understand why his ERA wasn’t 0.00 just a couple of weeks into the season.
And last, I recommended him once again to deep leaguers when he regained his rotation spot about a month ago.
Phew. Remember when he departed the month of April with a 6.46 ERA after four starts and was banished to the bullpen? Yeesh. I was embarrassed. Of course, it was only four starts, which is far too small a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusions from. How the Indians felt that 22.0 innings was all they needed to see is beyond me. His skills were actually quite strong and his xFIP sat at 3.68. What killed him was a .355 BABIP, likely driven by a horrid Indians defense, and a serious inability to strand runners.
Now pitching in relief, he was predictably much better. He threw 43.0 innings out of the bullpen, posted a 2.98 xFIP and suddenly his BABIP and LOB% moved in opposite directions — directions that expected positive regression would have suggested was imminent. With better luck now, he managed to post an impressive 2.30 ERA.
Then a month ago, a rotation spot opened up in Cleveland and luckily Carrasco’s strong bullpen work didn’t persuade the team to keep him there. They decided to give him another shot, and that shot may have very well been his last. In five starts since rejoining the rotation, he has posted a minuscule 0.90 ERA. That’s three runs allowed over 30.0 innings folks. He’s done that by striking out 34 batters, while issuing just four free passes. And would you look at that, suddenly he’s no longer hittable! His BABIP sits at .267 and he has allowed home runs on just 4.0% of his fly balls.
Obviously, he’s not this good. No one is. His LOB% currently stands at 93.2%, which is unsustainable for any human starting pitcher. But this performance serves to act as a reminder that we should never overreact to ERA marks over such a small sample of innings. There’s far too much noise hiding the signal, unless you look carefully enough.
Has he adjusted his pitch mix at all from when he started the year in the rotation to his return to it?
This was his mix in April:
And now since his August return:
Indeed, he has. He has been relying on his four-seamer less, has essentially phased out his curve ball, and increased his slider usage. This makes serious sense. His slider is absolutely ridiculous. For the year, it sports a 27.6% SwStk% and that’s no fluke. For his career, the pitch has generated a SwStk% of 25.4%. Oh, and it generates tons of grounders too. The curve ball has been fantastic as well, but not nearly as elite as the slider.
With his assortment of pitches, all of which generate above average ground ball rates, it’s about time his results match the quality of his stuff. I get that it’s hard to trust him given his history of being terrible in the rotation. But unless you believe an inflated BABIP will come back to bite him or an inability to strand runners will manifest again, there’s little reason to bet against Carrasco. Ground balls, strikeouts backed by an impressive repertoire and good control supported by a well above average rate of strikes thrown.
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