At the beginning of the 2018 season, The Cleveland Indians’ starting pitching was expected, with good reason, to be a strength of the team. The Tribe’s starting pitching as a whole has been superb as a whole, behind another Cy Young campaign from Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer’s breakout season, and Mike Clevinger’s continued dependability. Carlos Carrasco, however, the Indians number two man, has not yet lived up to his lofty expectations a year after posting a stellar 5.5 WAR. His recent performance, however, suggests that the Carrasco of yesteryear may be returning.
Carlos Carrasco was not bad by any stretch the first two months of the season. According to FanGraphs, he posted a respectable 3.89 FIP, which tells a better story than his bloated 4.50 ERA in that same span. Many expected more from Carrasco, however, who was easily a top ten pitcher in the league in 2017. Carrasco’s last two games suggest he is starting to find his superstar form.
Over his past two starts, Carrasco has posted a 0.75 FIP. Small sample size? Absolutely. But Carrasco has been dominant enough lately to warrant some optimism. Strikeouts, or the lack thereof seemed to be a culprit of Carrasco’s early season struggles. He posted a pretty pedestrian 8.64 Ks/9, but over his last 14 innings he has posted 13.50 Ks/9.
Recently Carrasco, whose velocity has been incrementally declining the past few years, has shown increased trust in his off-speed pitches, specifically his changeup.
According to Brooks Baseball, Carrasco used his changeup just 12.84% of the time in his first twelve starts but has used it 17.97% of the time in his last two, and the results have been undeniably positive. Over the course of the season, Carrasco’s whiff rate on his fourseam fastball has been 6.49%, but his changeup leads all pitches in whiff rate at 25.86%. His increased reliance on the changeup has proven to be effective thus far.
Carlos Carrasco takes his recent dominance on the mound next on June 16 when the Minnesota Twins visit the Indians. If the Indians are going to reach the playoffs in their weak division, and more importantly, make a deep playoff run, they need Carrasco to return to all-star form. The bullpen has been very weak, and the number five starter remains a mystery, which places greater responsibility on the Indians’ established starters. Carrasco has been the one piece of the Indians elite quartet that has underperformed, but there is definitely now reason to be optimistic about Carrasco’s rest-of-season prospects.