Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why this Fausto was better than the previous Fausto

Looking briefly at the pitching line for Carmona last night, one number sticks out more than any other:

6 BB

Yeah, that's a lot of walks.  8 of Carmona's first 10 pitches were balls.  The ChiSox scored a run in the first without the benefit of a hit.  Carmona gave up 3 runs on ONE HIT.  So his command is cruddy again, and it's the same old thing, right?


Well, maybe not.

See, one of the things that sometimes gets sloughed over when looking at last year's catastrophe was that Carmona gave up 151 hits in his 125 1/3 IP last season, including 52 for extra bases.  This would result in a 1.205 WHIP if he walked no one whatsoever.  Also, this translates into a .170 ISO (after going .104 and .114 in the previous two seasons), which means that not only was he being hit, he was being hit HARD.

If you watched Carmona any significant amount last season, first off, I'm sorry.  I'm hoping that your eyeballs have recovered from the solvent-soaking they required.  Secondly, you'll remember that Carmona's command was what we colloquially call "poopy."  He did not throw strikes, which I think led him to just throw the ball over the plate to avoid walking more people (he also hit 8 guys and uncorked 5 wild pitches), which in turn led opposing hitters to tee off on him.  Consider:

2007: G/F = 1.84
2008: G/F = 1.84
2009: G/F = 1.29

The correlation between the ground ball percentage and the increase in slugging makes intuitive sense.  I'm not going to pretend to do a real statistical analysis of this, but it makes sense.

But here's the thing about last night: Carmona started out about as poorly as you could have wanted in the first inning, walking the first two guys and giving up a run on a mid-deep sac fly.  All three outs in the first came on balls hit into the air.  Same old Fausto, right?

Except ... look, I know he walked 4 more guys, but he didn't try to come back with an aimed, grooved pitch.  He came back with HIS pitch.  With one exception, he pounded the zone low, mixing in an effective slider (if the slider is back, Fausto is that much tougher), and ended up with a 10:4 GO:FO ratio in his last 5 innings.  Yes, the pitch to Konerko was execrable.  But it was the only one.

I don't know whether part of this is Mark Redmond, or if part of this is simply being 26 now, or if he feels less pressure in a season in which the Indians are expected to lose.  I can say this: only PART of Carmona's problem last year was walks.  The other part was giving up rockets.  He didn't give up rockets with regularity last night because he threw his quality pitches.  Hopefully, he can feed that back into the loop and translate this into greater confidence to throw more strikes.

Because THAT guy ... well ... THAT guy is GOOD.

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