Inside the Wigwam: Carlos Carrasco to the bullpen?
The Bird's-eye View
Lyrics of a song can mean so many things.
Like one of the lyrics in the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
For Carlos Carrasco (0-3, 6.95 ERA), it may be time for a new beginning.
Not a career change, but rather a new beginning and role change with the Indians.
He’s experienced some highs, but far too many lows in parts of five seasons in the majors. Once ranked as Philly’s top prospect in 2007, it’s been almost three years since the 27 year-old even won a game as a starter.
Since June 29, 2011, Carrasco is 0-12 with an 8.09 ERA in his last 17 starts.
He’s had more ejections in the past 34 months than big league victories.
So, it’s time to pose a serious question.
Are the Indians trying to win now?
Then, why is the team being as patient as they are with Carrasco as a starter?
There’s no question Carrasco certainly has the stuff to be a great pitcher, but in all honesty, his time in Cleveland and in the big leagues is quickly fading. For a team that wants to win now, the Indians can’t wait around for the right-hander to find it. That’s what the rebuilding phase is for, and those days are long over for the Tribe.
Without a minor league option, the best option may be to change his role with the club, making him a permanent reliever in the bullpen.
Carrasco thrived in a relief role last year, posting a 1.32 ERA in eight appearances spanning over 13 2/3 innings. In limited spurts out of the ‘pen, he’s has shown he can be effective.
Inserting him in a role he has already had success in will only make him that much better, allowing for a fresh face to make an impact in the rotation.
One of two players could step in and fill that role. The first is 23 year-old right-hander Trevor Bauer, who is an undefeated 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in four starts in Triple-A Columbus. Yes, like Carrasco, he is still an unproven commodity, but there is reason to believe he’s ready to make a permanent impact on the major league roster.
The other option is veteran right-hander Josh Tomlin, who has also put up great numbers with the Columbus Clippers going 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in four starts.
They may not be the best options, but between Bauer and Tomlin, the Indians feel like they have depth to work with as the season progresses.
Tomlin won 12 wins with the Tribe back in 2011.
Carrasco has 11 wins in his entire career.
The bottom line is, baseball isn’t a waiting game and a change should come soon.
By the Numbers: 11
When scoring three runs or fewer, the Indians own a dismal record of 3-11. Dating back to last season, Cleveland is a combined 20-65 in the same category.
Over their last 11 games, the Tribe has scored in 26 innings. Of those 26 frames, they have allowed opponents to score the half inning later 11 times. Nothing is more frustrating than gaining a lead or scoring runs and giving runs right back, something that certainly needs to change going forward.
After starting the year 2-for-17 at the plate through his first four games, Michael Bourn has heated up at the top of the Cleveland lineup. The center fielder is batting .417 (11-for-27) with a double, two triples and three RBI over his last six games, riding a seven-game hitting streak.
Carlos Santana has yet to reach the number 11 in terms of hits on the season. The third baseman is hitting just .122 (10-for-82) with a homer and three RBI. Tell me, how is this guy still hitting cleanup?
News and notes
- Catcher Yan Gomes ended the Indians 52-inning homerless streak Sunday afternoon, launching his third home run of year in a losing effort to the San Francisco Giants. He and his wife are expecting the birth of their first daughter any day now.
- After a slow start, Bourn, Swisher and Jason Kipnis have combined to hit .333 (28-for-84) with a homer and eight RBI over their last seven games.
- Shortstop Jose Ramirez has posted huge numbers in the batter’s box to start his season at Columbus. The 21-year-old is hitting .321 (27-for-84) with four homers, 15 RBI and eight stolen bases in 21 games with the Clippers. Making an impact as a September call-up last year, Ramirez is a prospect to watch closely.
Birdman's Final Call
It may only be four starts, but it’s time to end Carrasco’s reign as a starter.
I’m not giving up on the 27 year-old, but he needs a confidence booster, and the only way I see that happening is through limited innings in the bullpen.
We all know he has the stuff, but in order to keep in a Tribe uniform and in the big leagues, he needs to regain both his confidence and mentality as a pitcher in order to be successful.
Let’s face it, it’s not like the Indians exactly made out in the Lee trade. Jason Donald was nothing more than a utility infielder, Lou Marson hit lower than .220 in his career in Cleveland and Jason Knapp never made it past Single-A.
Maybe that’s why the team is so reluctant to give up on the remaining piece of the trade in Carrasco. But the time has come to bite the bullet and change his role with the team.
Change is always welcomed, and for a team that lost out on a division title by one game last year, the Indians cannot affort to wait any longer.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like it or not, the Indians are big into stats and sabermetrics and such. Carrasco has a very good FIP and xFIP. At some point the Tribe will have to make a tough decision on him if he can't get the runs down....but with that K-rate, groundball rate and those fielding independent numbers....just can't see the Tribe making a move yet. And if they did....I'd expect Carrasco to get snatched up mighty quick by someone (if it isn't a move t o the pen that is).
Again, I am all for being patient and giving a guy an opportunity. Moreso when a team is not expected to win and rebuilding. But when a team is expected to win and they have capable (and potentially better) options available to them that can help them win waiting in the wings, it is hard to go very long with a player that has not pitched well and has lacked consistency throughout his entire career.
I'm fine if the Indians give Carrasco another 1-2 starts, but he has to start stringing together good outings. Not just have one good one and have all the pro-Carrasco folks saying "told you so". This goes beyond that. He needs to start having good outings now. Not incremental improvement going from terrible outing to not-so terrible but still bad outing.
Santana was arguably our best offensive player last year and has been worth 10 wins the last three years. One bad month and all of a sudden the Tribe is dumb for even playing the guy?!?!
accept that these players have limited ability and are hurting the team's chances, and quit throwing good money after bad, as the saying goes. Both of the Carlos's are pretty much uncoachable IMO. Carrasco has no command, has never had command, and now complains that Mickey Callaway has messed w his mechanics and that is why he sucks. Santana swings the same way whether it's 0-2, 3-0, the bases are loaded w 2 outs, or there's no outs and nobody on base. He is also uncoachable and has little or no defensive value for a contending team. They have to bring up Tomlin or Bauer and forget about Carrasco. They have to forget about Santana and bring up Roberto Perez- that dude is an excellent catcher and is tearing the cover off the ball in Columbus now that he is recovered from Bell's Palsy. Before I sign off, I also want to reiterate that Antonetti/Shapiro have to quit working in a vacuum- they have to continously evaluate the competition esp in their division. Every team in the A.L. Central made themselves significantly better this year, and the Indians front office failed to recognize it and keep up.
The only reason he isn't back in the minors is because he is out of options
Here are two options:
1) Take him out of the starting rotation and put him in the pen.
2) Release him.
Like Jim states in the article put him in the pen.
Give someone else a try before he has one good game and 12 out of the next 17 bad games AGAIN!!
Sadly the HR hurt and 4 runs in 6 innings just isn't gonna cut it if that's the best he can do. But personally think you can give him a few more starts. Good to see Salazar pitch well yesterday but want to see a couple more of those before I call up Bauer for Carrasco.
This team needs a jump start.
Hot hands in Columbus
Ramirez, Perez, and Aguilar, with Moncrief starting to heat up.
Bauer, Tomlin and House on the pitching side.
I believe some of these players can help the Indians right now.
Panic is defined as a sudden sensation of fear which is so strong as to dominate or prevent reason and logical thinking..
Is it reasonable to believe that a guy with Carlos Carrasco's ability to throw a baseball can't given the briefest history of being exceptional at doing exactly that in the few extended opportunities he's been given?
Is it logical to yank him out of the starting role and stick him in a new role and expect the progress to somehow improve?
It's not time to panic.. it's time to be patient..
BTW.. the same situation exists with the Indians other Carlos.. Give him some time..
Carrasco is working on a change to his pitching motion where he holds his lead arm higher to add deception and velocity to his delivery. It's a work in progress, but until he locks it in he's going to continue to get beat up. Bauer went through the same process last year.
Until Carrasco fixes his delivery there's no point keeping him in the rotation and letting him continue to get hammered and not give the Indians a chance to win those games no matter whether the offense scores or not.
Bauer is ready - he's shown that both in Columbus and Cleveland. His stuff is better than Carrasco. I don't see the point of allowing Carrasco to continue to put up a double-digit ERA and overwork the bullpen when he's still working on a mechanical adjustment. Put him in the pen and give him a spot start the next time we need one and see how he responds.
As I mentioned in another post, it would not be a problem if both Salazar and Carrasco find it and Bauer doesn't have room up here right away- You rarely rely on just five starters all season. In addition, I don't see Masterson being here next year, not if his agent wants $17-18M/yr, and especially if his velocity is down and stays down- under that scenario, there will be permanent room next year for certain.
As mentioned, I'd rather have an over abundance of pitching and trying to figure out what to do with it than not have enough of it - it would be a nice change and could only be seen as a strength and a good problem to have, not a weakness or an issue. :-)
I can certainly understand and appreciate your point. Two things:
1. I, too, was surprised that the Indians didn't make more of an effort to resign Kazmir, as I didn't think he would cost much (in relative terms). As I mentioned before, I would have gone for Kazmir and Jimenez before Masterson. Granted, Jimenez has had some bouts of wildness in Baltimore (though he did pitch well command-wise in his first start and one other start, I believe- he just left the ball out over the plate in his first start, leading to him losing 4-1, I think), but as I also mentioned before, I think he would have done better here than elsewhere because of the familiarity with Callaway, the weaker offenses of the Central, etc.
Certainly, though, I thought the Indians would go after Kazmir and look to sign two starters, Kazmir and one of Jimenez or Masterson. A veteran starter would be helpful right now.
2. The only concern I have with that plan about moving Carrasco out of the rotation is that I'm not sure he goes back into it. Granted, that wouldn't be the end of the world, but as I mentioned before, Carrasco would be more valuable as a starter and hasn't gotten a fair shake at it yet. Certainly, I understand the mentality has changed in regards to postseason contention; that's why I thought Salazar was on the very short leash, and despite his outing on Sunday, still think he could be the one sent down if he struggles from this point.
Bauer is perfectly aligned with Salazar at Columbus, and sending Salazar back to Columbus is not only possible (unlike Carrasco), but it wouldn't be unprecedented for a young prospect to go back down to fine-tune and improve - this happened with Wright and Colon (to Buffalo in those days, or was it Charlotte? :-), as it did with Bauer last year.
I think both Salazar and Carrasco stay in the rotation a bit longer to see which one really struggles- that's still Salazar at this point for me until he can put up some consistently good outings like he did last year; if he does, then it would be more likely Carrasco would get shifted to the pen unless Carrasco also starts doing better at the same time. If Salazar does falter though, I still see him being swapped out for Bauer, as I'm not sure the Indians will reinsert Carrasco into the rotation if they take him out, and as I said, he hasn't imploded like Salazar has.
Plus, the bullpen has been pretty solid, including Lee (outside of the HR), so I don't know if the Indians want to upset the bullpen unless absolutely necessary.
Really, I still think it comes back to the offense- I think some roster changes and lineup changes are in order. Being loyal to your guys is one thing, but at some point, they must start producing, or it won't matter who's in the rotation.
Swisher/Kipnis/Santana are killing a lot of the offensive production (Swisher failing with runners in scoring position, Kipnis walking, but not hitting, and Santana doing neither), and Brantley has not helped of late either. Nor has Raburn the little he has played. Outside of Gomes, Chisenhall, Murphy, and Bourn (after a slow start), they have no offense.
I think it would make more sense and provide a greater jolt if they adjusted the lineup and the bench by juggling the order and replacing Johnson (and maybe another player, but I don't know who- Giambi would be my pick, but they're not going to do that) with one or more of Morgan, Ramirez, and/or Aguilar.
Somehow, this offense has got to start generating- even if Bauer pitches well again up here, it might go for naught if the Indians can't score, and lately, the runs have been very hard to come by. I'd look to fix the offense, then reevaluate Salazar and Carrasco to see which one, both, or neither gets removed. I'd give each at least two more starts, while making some positional player change in the meantime and see if that gets the team going in the right direction. At that point, if need be, switch out one or both for Bauer and either Tomlin or House if two pitchers are moved out of the rotation.
By the way, good piece and good topic. :-)
First, about Carrasco...it comes down to playing the hot hand. If someone is playing well, they should be making their presence known (i.e. Trevor Bauer). He came up a few weeks ago for the spot start against San Diego and looked the best he's had in an Indians uni. And he hasn't missed a beat in his first four starts in C-Bus either.
With Carrasco struggling, I think it's best for both the team and Carlos himself to make a switch to the 'pen and ride the hot arm of Bauer to try and jump-start the club in the right direction. Now, I'm not saying to make Carrasco a reliever for the rest of his career, but solely to move him there to boost his confidence and take the pressure off him. Like you said, he realistically hasn't had that much experience when looking at it.
Which brings me to my next point, to that of playing the waiting game. The games in April mean just as much as they do down the stretch, and if the Indians truly want to win now, I believe a change in the rotation is needed. This isn't 2009 or 2010 when the team can wait and develop these players. McAllister and Kluber first broke onto the scene in 2012 when the team lost 90+ games. They won 92 last season and there is a winning mentality stressed from every corner of the clubhouse.
I tell you what this team is really missing is a veteran starter...a guy that can sit right in the middle of the rotation and eat up innings. (Having Scott Kazmir back would be perfect) But without veteran leadership (besides Masterson) in the starting five, the Tribe has no choice but to play the hot hand. Right now it's Bauer, or even Josh Tomlin who's had more successful experience in the big leagues before TJ surgery.
Offense aside (which has been inexcusable of late), I believe it starts with pitching and a change is needed sooner rather than later.
The lone instance prior to this year he was given time (in 2011, at 24 years of age) he struggled mightily as a regular part of the rotation for about a month and a half with an ERA over 5.00. Then his confidence kicked in, things started to click, and over eight consecutive starts he averaged 7 IP an outing with a WHIP under 1.00 and lowered his ERA to 3.54. The sky was the limit, and no one, utterly NO ONE, was calling for him to be tossed into the bullpen or jettisoned altogether. Instead, typical Cleveland luck descended upon poor Carlos; he got hurt right after this solid stretch of starts, and his season was over. He's been trying to put Humpty-Dumpty together again ever since, and it seems there's been one obstacle or another, and never a safe refuge.
The truth is, Carlos has had only one period in this major league life where he was completely healthy, brimming with confidence, and enjoyed the complete support of his employers and fans: that stretch in 2011. If we continue to pitch him, we may yet rediscover that Carlos Carrasco. And for the reasons you cite, we should keep trotting him out there. And there's another reason: I'm not anxious to bring Bauer up too early and risk a year of contractual control of this promising pitcher. My understanding is Trevor needs at least another month or two in Columbus before we can safely bring him up and retain another year of control. I think this aligns nicely with the time we need to see what we have in Carlos.
On matters dealing with offense, I'm in complete agreement that it is more troubling than the pitching. I never bought into last year's conventional wisdom that our hitting was above average; I felt our ranking in runs scored in 2013 was a mirage and its nearly perfect distribution unsustainable. I saw far too many games like last year's playoff game throughout the season to become sanguine about our offense. Still, we're not this bad either (although I think Swisher is in serious decline, and what we're seeing this year would be viewed as an extension of last year had he not had a good September against expanded roster pitching). If Swish isn't hitting and Kipnis isn't hitting and Santana isn't hitting and Brantley isn't hitting, there's no amount of lineup shuffling that's going to help much. And I reject the idea that Carlos's third base responsibilities (which are going much more smoothly than anyone could have hoped) has had anything to do with his offensive struggles. You make him more or less at DH and you're going to have even bigger problems with him; Carlos doesn't want to DH and will resist (rightfully so) being pigeonholed there. No, Carlos is going through a massive slump, and while he may not have gone through one quite as deep as this one, it's more evident because it's not masked by earlier AB's. He's had truly horrendous months in the past, and will doubtless have them again. Is Carlos miscast as a clean-up hitter? Surely. He actually profiles better as a Darrell Evans-type of lead-off hitter, but we all "know" you have to have a speed guy up there like Bourn. Chisenhall will be back in the lineup once we leave the NL park behind, so there's no need to crowd Santana out of third (I mean, it's not like Chiz carries a glove adroitly). The rest of any changes would be mere window dressing. We are who I thought we were. Either we're going to start hitting or we're going to be a .500 club (or worse) and that's pretty much the size of it.
1. Consider dropping the Santana 3B experiment, as it's likely hurting his offense, which is the biggest culprit for the Indians.
2. Shake up that bench: Johnson's versatility isn't very useful when he's not playing, and his versatility an be compensated for others on that bench, such as Aviles playing more OF). Or, instead of bringing both of Aguilar and Ramirez as I mentioned in my last post, you could recall Morgan and one of the aforementioned two; this way, Morgan can play more OF, Aviles can play 3B against tough LHP, and Chisenhall can get the majority of at-bats at 3B.
I'd also consider how useful Giambi will be as a player- he's not likely going to be too productive playing once every 7-10 days, and his experience and presence can still be provided as a coach, if he'd be willing to do that.
3. Shake up that lineup: Santana can't stay in the clean-up spot batting .130, especially when he isn't walking much. Kipnis in the three hole isn't doing much either, being that he's not hitting. Yes, he's walking, but the three hitter is described as your best hitter- Kipnis hasn't even been close to that. Swisher in the two hole has also faltered plenty of times with runners on base, though much of the team could improve in that department as they have failed more times than not to get runners in from third with less than 2 outs and runners in from second with nobody out.
As I said, the offense is the real problem, one that will not be fixed by any pitching change or swap. Thus, Carrasco not the real problem or the biggest problem; it's the offense. If that gets solved, the Indians will likely start thriving, even if Carrasco gives up 4 R in 6 IP as he has in his last two starts, and there's a solid chance he does better than that if he remains in the rotation based on his solid, even strong, underlying peripherals. If the offense doesn't get straightened out, it won't matter who is in the rotation, because expecting any pitcher to go out and give up 0-2 runs every start is unrealistic, and that's what it is taking for the Indians to win the majority of their games throughout this month because barely two and three guys are contributing hits, let alone meaningful hits, over much of the month.
1. The offense is the bigger issue- you're not going to win many games scoring five runs over three games no matter who is in the rotation- it could be Carrasco, Salazar, Bauer, Tomlin, House, Masterson, even vintage Pedro Martinez or Randy Johnson- you're lucky to win one game out of three.
Additional point: McAllister pitched just as poorly (I.e. Carrasco pitched just as well as McAllister did, and virtually everyone would agree that McAllister has been our best starter to date).
2. Check out the following stats regarding career starts:
Masterson: 155 (age 29 season)
Kluber: 41 (age 28 season)
McAllister: 55 (age 26 season)
Salazar: 14 (age 24 season)
Carrasco: 44 (age 27 season)
Despite the five year statement you made, Carrasco has the experience of a second-year starter or a first to second-year reliever- that's all, so experiencing growing pains with that little experience is not uncommon, especially since he hasn't pitched regularly as a starter in the Majors since 2011, and was off a whole year from pitching at all in 2012. While the suspensions didn't help, the main reason he has such little experience over those five years is the TJ surgery.
If the Indians had had that quick of a hook, McAllister wouldn't be a stater right now, as he has more career starts than Carrasco does. If the Indians had had that quick of a hook, it's likely Kluber wouldn't be in the rotation now either, as he didn't look to be an effective starter just two years ago, even the beginning of last season, the same age Carrasco is now.
Never mind the fact that 4 runs given up in his last two starts is an improvement over earlier in the year, and not bad production from essentially a second-year in the five-spot.
The real issue is that the offense is still stagnant- no pitcher, past or present, is going to fix that. The offense must start generating as it is capable of and should be by now- there are too many other guys underperforming - Swisher, Kipnis (yes, he's walking, but he's not hitting), Santana (a better question and option might be to drop the Santana playing 3B experiment and insert Chisenhall as the regular 3B, with Aviles playing 3B against tough lefties; make Santana 1B/C/DH), Brantley (his disappearance is surprising and disappointing), Canrera (not that surprised, as I didn't think he would bounce back too much- a tad better than last year, but not the offensive threat he once was).
Whether that means making wholesale changes to positions (the aforementioned Santana move), the bench (removing guys like Johnson and even Giambi and perhaps giving Aguilar and Ramirez some exposure and semi-regular playing time in the Majors to shake things up at least), or both, I'm not sure, but I think the offense is the biggest issue right now, and not one that is going to be fixed by removing Carrasco, Salazar, or anyone else for Bauer, Tomlin, House, or anyone else.
Carrasco will be more valuable as a starter than as a reliever. If he implodes within the next month, fine, at that point, move him to the bullpen, but he has certainly not imploded, as Masterson and Kluber have both had as bad and even worse outings than Carrasco, not to mention Salazar. And, the extra depth at AAA will still come in handy if Carrasco remains in the rotation for these reasons:
1. Masterson is still unlikely to remain next year; that's at least one open spot in the rotation that will need to be filled, and I doubt that the Indians will pay $17-18M/yr to fill it with Masterson, especially if his velocity remains down and he remains inconsistent.
2. You rarely go through any season with just five starters. The Tigers barely have any depth beyond their main five, and they just lost Sanchez to a blister on his finger, a type of injury that can crop up again and again over the course of a season. They've been lucky the last few years with not needing much depth beyond their main five, but it's likely that won't continue, and could be their biggest weakness and a key reason if they fail to win the Central and make the postseason in 2014.
I'd rather have too much pitching overflowing at AAA than not have enough of it (something the Indians have dealt with in recent times). Just because they have other options at AAA, and no more seasoned than Carrasco at that, does not mean that you just automatically switch him out, especially since he hasn't imploded and the fact that the offense is the biggest problem and that a pitching swap will not fix (certainly not directly, and you can't make the argument that a pitching swap will fix it indirectly either).
Bottom line: Carrasco isn't the biggest issue on this team (not even in the rotation, though Salazar's outing on Sunday's does improve his standing to a degree); swapping him out for Bauer (or House or Tomlin) doesn't solve the biggest issue- the lack of offensive production.