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Second Thoughts Game #11: White Sox 9, Indians 6

Despite early struggles, it's too early to panic

Second Thoughts Game #11: White Sox 9, Indians 6
Carlos Carrasco (Photo: AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)
April 12, 2014
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As tempting as it is to indulge in the frenzy of panic that tends to emerge after losses - or steep oneself in the intoxicating thrill of victory - it's frequently more useful to try to find the good in losses and the bad in wins; not only does this give one the sobriety necessary to make it through a season where good turns will be woven in approximately equal length as bad turns, but it's also helpful to determine what turns are noise, and which are genuinely worrisome. 

And tempting though it is to merely say, 'I Want It All,' as the 9-6 loss to Chris Sale and the White Sox reminds us, life is not a Queen song. 

That said... 

Don't Stop Carrasco Now 

Through slightly over ten innings in 2014, Carlos Carrasco's run prevention has been quite bad. 

Of course, as this author has frequently noted, run prevention is less predictive than those things that lead to run prevention: namely, strikeout rates and walk rates. 

Carrasco's strikeout rate has been - like the rest of the Indians' starting staff - stellar thus far through 2014, but - like the rest of the Indians' starting staff, and indeed the rest of the league - has been quite poor. His 4.35 walks per nine innings rate thus far is rather higher than the league average 3.23 BB/9. 

One notes, however, that this rate is actually substantially higher than his career walk rate, between both the majors and the minors. Only in the following levels/seasons did Carlos Carrasco post walk rates above 4.00 BB/9. 

Year/Level BB/9 Innings
2007/AA 5.89 70.1
2009/MLB 4.43 22.1
2011/AA 7.36 3.2

Source: FanGraphs 

Only these three season/levels, none of which had a sample size larger than 100 innings, had Carrasco post an unduly high walk rate. It's easy to assume that, because he's surrendered a rather high number of walks thus far, that there's some underlying issue; however, it's probably safer to assume that Carrasco's elevated walk rate is indicative of imperfect control combined with small sample sizes and a fair amount of statistical noise.  

Cabrera Under Pressure 

Asdrubal Cabrera's night was entirely typical of him - a double down the left field line and two strikeouts. Yet his singular hit of the night was good for two RBIs! Behold the clutch Cabrera! 

That, in essence, is what clutch means, and why 'clutch' is nothing more than a point of trivia. Clutch is performing better in high-leverage situations than in low-leverage situations - that is to say, performance relative to oneself. When measuring performance relative to oneself, there is no absolute point of reference to determine whether a hitter is good or bad in the objective sense. 

Using this definition, FanGraphs gave Cabrera a positive Clutch score for Friday's game, which given the fact that he was 1-for-4 and grounded into a double, should reflect poorly on the usefulness of clutch absolutely. 

Another Cabrera who has a negative Clutch score for his career: Miguel Cabrera. Miguel Cabrera has performed much better in low-leverage situations than in high-leverage situations over the course of his career; hence, he has a negative Clutch score. 

The conclusion from these two Cabreras, one of whom was 'clutch' in a poor offensive game, the other of whom is far from clutch over his hall of fame career, is that 'Clutch' is probably a nice thing to have; however, good performers should always be preferred to clutch performers. One is an internally-referencing term; the other is a term referring to absolute performance; hence, the latter should absolutely be preferred. 

If Terry Francona disagrees, he is free to put Michael Brantley in the lead-off spot. At least then we'll have Elliot Johnson out of there. Certainly, that would improve our chances of saying 'We Are The Champions' come October.

John can be reached on Twitter at @JHGrimmHe can also be reached by e-mail at

User Comments

April 13, 2014 - 8:42 AM EDT
Carrasco has been skipped in his next start and will be in the bullpen this week. He complained that he was tired the last couple of innings even though he ended up throwing only 86 pitches.

The Indians don't understand why he was tired since he's young, strong, and was stretched out in spring training.

Things are not looking good for Carrasco at this point. He's quickly running out of chances, and his demotion to the bullpen, although temporary, could be the first step in replacing him with Bauer.

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