As the Cleveland Indians get under way at Spring Training in Arizona, there will be a number of questions to answer if the Tribe hopes to get back to the postseason in 2015. Though all eyes will be on their big money guys, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis, the team’s pitching rotation should not be written off as an area to watch during the spring.
With a heated battle going on once again for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, many seemingly have forgotten about 27-year old Carlos Carrasco. Slotted as the team’s No. 3 starter currently after a fantastic finish to the 2014 season, it seems that people are expecting Carrasco to continue his torrid pace right into the 2015 campaign.
Before we can truly predict whether or not he will continue that pace, let’s rewind for a second and take a deeper look into what was a breakout season of sorts for Carrasco.
For starters, he finished the season with an 8-7 record, 2.55 ERA, 140 strikeouts, 29 walks and a WHIP of .99 in 134 innings pitched. But it was his Post All-Star break performance that everyone is talking about, as he finished the second half with a 1.72 ERA and 6-4 record in 10 starts. He pitched in 17 games in the second half of the season, recording one complete game in 78.2 innings pitched.
In his career, Carrasco has a 19-26 record, 4.30 ERA and a WHIP of 1.33 in 372.1 innings pitched. While he was much better last season, the overall body of work—and fact that his 2.55 ERA was an exception to his career ERA—are reasons to be slightly skeptical in regard to his prospects of staying hot in the 2015 season.
This is not to say Carrasco cannot duplicate his second half performance, just that fans should not have such high expectations for him. When you look at Fangraphs.com, two of their main projections have him finishing with a level of production below last year. The first, Steamer, has him slated to finish at 11-9 in 163 innings pitched with an ERA of 3.54 and a WAR of 2.8 (down from 3.2 last season). The second, ZiPS, has him slated for a 6-6 record, only 119 innings pitched, a 3.71 ERA and a WAR of 1.3.
If you are thinking these are just “random projections,” think again. ZiPS uses a weight average of four years of data. It regresses a pitcher based on DIPS and BABIP rates and adjusts by looking at similar players. This is obviously in a different realm of statistical analysis than some fans tend to go do, but it basically looks like a “worst case scenario” of sorts for Carrasco this season.
Whether you are leaning toward 11-9 or 6-6, I think something everyone can agree on is to not have lofty “lights out” expectations for Carrasco in 2015. If he can come out and finish with an 11-9 record and an ERA of 3.54, those numbers would fit very nicely into the No. 3 starter spot in the rotation this upcoming season.