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Carlos Carrasco’s no good very bad luck

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Sometimes even the blessed among us have a couple bad turns

Baltimore Orioles v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Thanks to the work of many a bored/antsy baseball geek, we currently have two theoretical looks at what players will do in 2019. More are coming before the winter is finished, and we’ll have more to talk about. Some are likely more accurate than others, whether because of information availability or changes in swings and approaches and the like, but in general it’s a good hint at what to expect of players.

Carlos Carrasco is, obviously, graced with some sterling projections, because he is a sterling pitcher. Take a look:

Carlos Carrasco 2019 projections

Projection W L ERA GS G IP H ER HR SO BB WHIP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Projection W L ERA GS G IP H ER HR SO BB WHIP K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR
Steamer 14 9 3.40 32 32 197 175 74 23 214 48 1.13 9.81 2.19 3.34 4.5
ZiPS 16 9 3.39 30 29 180.3 164 68 22 198 39 1.13 9.88 1.95 3.29 5.3

One thing to always keep in mind is projections are generally conservative, giving more a floor to go from than a real snapshot of the future. That said, they’re pretty solidly in line with what Carrasco has actually done in the past:

Carlos Carrasco 2016-18 statistics

z ERA K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR H ER HR
z ERA K/9 BB/9 FIP WAR H ER HR
2016-18 stats 3.33 10.1 2.1 3.21 13.3 480 199 63

It makes sense of course — that’s the data projections use to get information, and he’s performed pretty much the same each year. Now, the one thing about Carrasco is that he’s typically a fun dark horse Cy Young candidate, but whether through injury or simply performance has yet to actually put that big time season together. The main reason for it? The homers. He’s allowed 21 each of the last three years. Not a dreadful number, somewhere like 36th most among pitchers in that span, but something that could definitely use some work.

A lot of his home runs make sense — he heaved a meatball of some kind, and the hitter smashed it over the wall:

That’s every home run he allowed since 2016. Again, you can see why, for a lot of them. But what about some of the lucky ones, the well-placed balls that turned into runs by some fluke or other? How can Carrasco possibly fault any of these pitches:

Some of them are a bit less than perfect, but the couple actually out of the zone, those are good pitches to get someone to swing at. And instead Victor Martinez (lowest) and Jacoby Ellsbury (furthest left) hit it out of the park.

The point being, I think Carrasco has been a bit unlucky the last few years, and some of those were just sheer luck that the guys swung and happened to connect. Like this one by Mitch Moreland:

Like, he had to be guessing on that, right? Who plans to swing at a pitch on their hands like that, right? Or this curve to Whit Merrifield:

That’s a great pitch. It starts about at Merrifield’s hip, then swings back to the inside corner. Maybe it hung a bit, but I have a hard time believing that was a well-advised swing. The results paid off, I suppose.

Or this one to Daniel Palka. That’s right. That Daniel Palka.

It’s a classic “golf it outta here” kind of dinger, but with the hideous swing and the stature of the player, it’s just the kind of hit that makes you shrug your shoulders and wonder if anything in the world will ever make sense, or if we should all just give up.

The hitters are trying of course, and they’re all incredibly good. Just because Palka or Tim Anderson or Denard Span or Eduardo Escobar got a good swing on a tough pitch doesn’t detract from Carrasco’s skill. But If some of these became fly outs or little dribblers, that’s when that dark horse Cy Young starts to edge its way back into being. If he cuts the homers down to just 14 and performs like he did in 2018, that’s a 2.90-ish ERA. Not enough to beat Chris Sale or Kluber or someone like that at their best,but it’s a nudge in the right direction.

There’s so much more to it than that, and more to any of the above homers than just a good, lucky swing - poor sequencing by Carrasco, the winding of the ball twine, atmosphere, a big lunch - but he’s still a top 10 pitcher in the league. If he hits a hot streak there’s no telling what heights he could hit. So yeah, even on the wrong side of 30, there’s a bit of upside to see in Carlos Carrasco, Shadow Ace.