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Second Thoughts Game #5: Twins 7, Indians 3

Second Thoughts Game #5: Twins 7, Indians 3
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire pulls start Kyle Gibson after a solid outing. (Photo: AP)
April 6, 2014
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The Cleveland Indians' loss on Saturday to the Minnesota Twins wasn't totally shocking -by generous estimates, they had something like a 60% chance of winning the game, given the starting pitchers, lineups, and home field advantage, which indicates a fairly substantial edge over the competition. A 60 percent chance of victory, however, also implies a 40 percent chance of defeat; it's hardly as though a four-out-of-ten chance coming true tramples comprehension.

It's also the case, however, that Saturday's loss gives us a chance to reflect on how incredibly fortuitous the run of September 2013 was. Ending the regular season on a 10-game winning streak, when even the worst teams have a 30-40% chance of winning, is nothing if not shocking.

Yet as far as losses go, this is among the more encouraging losses, particularly for the one player likely to be the target of the most fervent opprobrium - and the one who took care of everything within his control.

And Accept the Things You Can't

Carlos Carrasco gave up five runs in 5.2 IP. To restate what Yogi Berra might have said, surrendering large numbers of runs is doubleplusungood. Yet statistics like xFIP - an ERA estimator that almost exclusively takes strikeout and walk rates into account - have demonstrated that it is Strikeout rate (and to a lesser but still substantial degree, walk rate) that has the best predictive ability for future ERA. Carrasco struck out seven in under six innings - Carrasco was exceedingly skilled at missing bats. Carrasco walked two in 5.2 IP - he was adequate at preventing walks.

Carrasco's had the stuff, but what's never totally come through was the absurd strikeout rate that comes with stuff as potent as his. With Saturday's outing, he's taken a step forward to showing translating the promise demonstrated by his second-degree component statistics (i.e.: swinging strike rate).

If he keeps up that same strikeout rate, the run prevention will follow. Strikeouts are a cause, run prevention an effect - in this case (as in most cases!), the effects follow quite obviously from the causes. Carrasco's outing on Saturday, perhaps counter-intuitively, should absolutely be enheartening.

Being Fredo: A Disappointing Mafioso

The caveats of small sample size apply, now and probably for the next two months, but if the Bullpen Mafia is looking for a favor from Vinnie Pestano, they may well find themselves cruelly spurned. Pestano, though he threw two strikeouts to one walk, has prompted well-reasoned worry. 

Year Fastball Velocity
2009 88.44
2010 93.46
2011 93.33
2012 92.23
2013 91.28
2014 89.32

Source: BrooksBaseball

Pestano's stikeout rates have been fine - good, in fact - but his underlying numbers - his velocity above, as well as his Swinging Strike Rate (3.9%, relative to his career average of 12.9%) - have been absolutely alarming. It's entirely true that the Indians' bullpen is likely to be extremely good if the Pestano of 2011-12 returns; however, between his collapse in 2013 as well as his weak start out the gates in 2014, the Pestano of old may never return - a large loss for the Indians bullpen, but a genuinely sad story objectively. The game is better when its best players can play to their best, and the Vinnie Pestano of 2011 and 2012 was absolutely one of the game's best relievers. A return to form is a toast to which all the fans are hopeful to see.

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

User Comments

April 6, 2014 - 7:43 PM EDT
The problem with xFIP though is that it adjust the HR/FB ratio to a league average, not the pitcher's personal ratio. So Carrasco's career xFIP is lower than his FIP.
xFIP: 4.07
FIP: 4.50
according to fangraphs 4.07 is average to below average, while the 4.50 is below average to poor.

Plus his career BABIP is .326 which is kinda high too
Joe Chengery
April 6, 2014 - 7:22 PM EDT
I've compared Pestano to another reliever who was strong (for a briefer period), but who never regained that dominance after losing velocity (that never returned): Jensen Lewis. I fear Pestano is on a similar path.

Pestano's command has never been pinpoint/elite; he could get away with that before because his velocity was better, which led to better deception and less reaction time for the hitter. With more reaction time and less command, hitters don't have to chase as often. And when he takes some off to get it in the strike zone, it's getting hit hard.

Personally, Pestano would have started the year in Columbus and Lee would be in Pestano's place; Pestano didn't show enough to me in Spring Training to warrant a spot in the bullpen. He showed flashes, but some, if not most of those, were against Minor Leaguers and non-roster invitees, not guys on most Major League teams. The Indians can't afford to leave Pestano in there too long; while he may not have as pivotal a role in the Indians' bullpen as he did a few years ago, if the starting pitching continues to have issues, he will be called upon more than expected, and his weaknesses will be exposed, hurting the ballclub.
April 6, 2014 - 11:36 AM EDT
But what about Blake Wood? He looked great Friday night! And, what about Cody Allen.....he also looks good so far. Do you think the Indians have enough starting pitching? Will they miss Kazmir?
April 6, 2014 - 11:32 AM EDT

I wouldn't give up on the Pestano just yet. I think it's important to see how he fairs once the weather gets better. His breaking stuff is god but he's getting beat on fastball location. It's something to keep an eye on but like the hitter who is off to a low start it's still too early to say one way or the other. Also, looking at your graph on his velocity he's a couple MPH away from his normal velocity. Let's give it some time before we overreact. We have plenty of options in the minors but they should exhaust all avenues with Vinnie before then.

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