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Carlos Carrasco quietly turned in one of his best seasons ever

Cookie is an ace on just about every other pitching staff, but on the Indians he was a quietly superb follow-up

Milwaukee Brewers v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Carlos Carrasco made the same number of starts in 2020 as he did in 2019, but for very obvious reason she was much more effective this time around. With his battle with leukemia hopefully in the rearview mirror, the Indians’ longest-tenured player quietly turned in one of his best seasons ever while his fellow pitchers garnered attention for either being great or making stupid off-field decisions.

It’s true that Carrasco was no Shane Bieber — because no one was — but he finished the year with a 29.3% strikeout rate and career-bests 63 ERA- and 2.91 ERA. His walk rate was up a bit (9.6% compared to 6.3% career), but if anybody ever deserves the benefit of a little bit of BABIP luck, it’s Carlos Carrasco. He got it with a .392 BABIP against, one of his lowest ever, and an additional boost from a career-high 85.2% strand rate.

For the most part, you could set your clock by Carrasco going six innings and not allowing many runs in 2020. There were almost no meltdowns all season — he finished all but three of his 12 starts with at least 6.0 innings pitched and only once he allowed more than three runs. That one bad outing came against the Tigers on Aug. 23, when he allowed four runs, two homers, and only struck out four over 3.1 innings. It was his closest outing to a clunker in a weird series where the Tigers broke their year-long losing streak to the Tribe and suddenly remembered how to hit. For Cookie it was hardly a blip.

Carrasco struck out double-digit batters “only” twice, which isn’t a terrible ratio in 12 starts, but one of the reasons he flew so far under the radar. While teammates Shane Bieber, James Karinchak, and at one point Mike Clevinger were using opponents’ whiffs to power local windmills, Carrasco was plugging away every fifth day and keeping runners off home plate with unparalleled reliability.

Unfortunately, like every other Indians pitcher, the playoffs were a completely different story. Carrasco was called upon to pitch in a do-or-die game two rematch from the 2017 ALDS against the New York Yankees offense with Masahiro Tanaka on the mound. He looked outstanding in the first inning, and even continued his success after rain caused a short delay.

However, the luck that Carrasco carried throughout the season — and his ability to hold runners on base — wasn’t enough for manager Sandy Alomar Jr. to keep him in the game when the bases started to get busy in the fourth inning. The end was result was James Karinchak giving up a soul-crushing grand slam to Gio Urshela, with the runs being credited to Carrasco. That was the end of his, and everyone else’s, season.

With everything that has happened to him in the last year, plus the ongoing pandemic and his own teammates forgoing his personal safety for a dangerous night out, Carlos Carrasco had every excuse to flop in age-33 season. He did no such thing. Instead, he went out and put up arguably his best season to date with everything working against him.

His reward for his efforts — with the impending budget crunch and his gradually increasing options through 2022 — is that he’s now being listed in trade rumors. There’s nothing more than the first signs of smoke, but Terry Pluto is about as connected as Indians media members come and he states pretty matter-of-factly that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Indians dealt Carrasco.

Chris Antonetti and Co. are admittedly better than most at knowing when to trade pitchers before their arms start to fall off, but I certainly hope a shortened season isn’t the last we see of Carrasco in an Indians uniform. Cookie is the heart and soul of the Indians, and 2020 proved that he is still one hell of a pitcher.