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This is one of those times when Real Life intervenes: between a work rush and having to run my son home from school with a fever, this column will be shorter than normal.
1) Hopeful Hope, or One Bad Pitch II
As with Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco’s first start was a Thing of Not Beauty.I will stop short of calling it Ugly, insofar as Carmona’s set the standard so inachievably “high,” but it sure wasn’t any good.Carrasco returned with a wonderful outing against the Mariners, although the 10-run outburst from the offense coupled with the truly astonishing ineptitude of the Mariners’ offense made it rather difficult to effectively evaluate his performance.He had good stuff, and he had good results: beyond that, well … the saying is that if you have two watches that say different times, you don’t actually know what time it is.You had to figure he wasn’t as bad as his first start (based on his late-2010 run of moderate success), but past that, you didn’t know.
Well, really, except for one pitch, there is virtually nothing to complain about from last night’s start.
Sometimes, the other guy is just better than you are.
1) Righted Ship
Is it fair to say that the memory of Fausto Carmona giving up 10 runs in 3-plus (the plus stands for Extra Fail!) innings on Opening Day is simply a Data Point of Badness and we can all move on with our lives now?
This game wasn’t quite as good as his previous start against the Red Sox, but it was still damned good.Instead of 2 hits, he allowed 4, and of course, instead of 0 runs, he allowed 2.On the other hand, he actually threw more strikes and struck out more batters (6 to 4) while getting more swings-and-misses (14 to 9).It’s going to be hard to top a scoreless outing when giving up a home run to Peter Bourjos, and of course he lost the game, so there is no argument for this start being “better.”Still, it’s equally hard to argue that it wasn’t high-quality.
One of the interesting things about Carmona’s pitch location was that he started only 9 of the 30 hitters he faced with a first-pitch strike.Usually, I would complain about this: it seems like one of the easier things to control about an outing.However, given his overall numbers, I wonder if maybe there wasn’t some Method to the Madness involved.The Angels of the 21st century have been an aggressive team at the plate, taking the character of their manager and hitting coach.While statheads tend to deride such things, the fact is that it has generally worked for them, and they went through a stretch where they routinely “out-performed” their “Pythagorean Projection” of how many games they “ought” to have won based on a simplistic calculation based on run differential.
The only two hitters in the lineup with OBPs under .300 hit 3rd and 4th.
1) Destination Semi-Known
I have loaned my copy of Jim Bouton’s seminal work, “Ball Four,” to my father for a while, so I am spared the effort of trying to find the exact quote, but for all the alcohol and underpants and ill-conceived behavior, the thing that sticks with me from the book is when Bouton talks about control.I can’t remember the quote verbatim, but broadly put, he said the idea of “pinpoint control” is nonsense and a myth.“You can’t hit a spot on the outside corner, exactly where you want it,” I paraphrase him saying.“I aimed for the middle, knowing I’d be off 6 to 8 inches in some direction, and that would make it a good pitch.”
This might be exaggerating a bit, but I do think that it is the exceptional pitcher who has what we’d consider great control.It bears remembering that while Bouton had an injury-shortened, unspectacular career, in his early days he was a high-effort high-quality high-velocity pitcher.He wasn’t just some journeyman, even if he career ended up there after he was hurt.The way I’ve always read this is that sure, there are a small percentage of pitchers who can hit a spot more often than not, the majority of pitchers settle for “quadrants” and leave it at that.
I was reminded of this last night watching Mitch Talbot pitch, because I swear I never saw him throw a pitch that ended up precisely where I predicted it would.He would throw a pitch, and I’d see in my mind’s eye a “path,” maybe bending down slightly from the middle toward the outside knee area, and all of a sudden at the end of the flight, the ball would “voop” somewhere else (often bending in to right-handers).He would throw a slider, and it would be singing along, and then at the end, “voop,” it wasn’t there any more.
Consider this: the Indians had as many hits on Friday as the Mariners managed for the WHOLE SERIES.And we scored 50% more runs … in that one game.Then we had two more games worth of offense.Seattle had two more games of Brendan Ryan and Ryan Langerhans.
1) Son of Rebound
Fausto Carmona’s debut was worse, but this says more about Carmona’s performance than Carlos Carrasco’s.Carrasco’s first outing against the White Sox was nothing to write home about either, unless it was to write home to say, “Boy, that wasn’t very good, was it?”Granted, the White Sox have a better offense than the Mariners, which is a bit like saying that jackals are more fearsome than banana slugs armed with salt shakers.Still, Carrasco looked lousy, and his performance Friday was in no way guaranteed.
All Carrasco did was throttle the Seattle “offense” soundly, getting three swinging Ks in the first two innings and facing one over the minimum through three because he inexplicably walked Ryan Langerhans on four pitches.After an interminable wait through a half-hour top of the 4th, Carrasco was able to retain enough concentration to toss another scoreless inning before giving up a run in the 5th, but was able to end that frame with another swinging K before collecting one last forwards-K in a scoreless 6th inning of work.
Steve Buffum grew up a Cleveland sports fan in Akron, OH. He now works as a data cudgeller in Austin, TX with his wife and three children. He also writes a theoretically-popular regular column for www.TheClevelandFan.com and is on Twitter as @stevebuffum. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org