Corey Kluber will put the finishing touches on what has a pretty good chance at being his second Cy Young of his career. It’s obvious to point out that the Indians don’t get to 101 wins this season without him, or the contributions of many. What has separated the Indians from other top teams this year and going into the postseason is having a second starting pitcher who might be a lot of other team’s ace.
All season, in October and after the postseason is over, Kluber deservedly will get plenty of appreciation. Now that his regular season is complete, it’s about time we show some appreciation for Carlos Carrasco.
First, while many Indians are very involved in the community and with charities but Carrasco’s twitter account is almost solely dedicated for his charitable causes, along with tweeting about the mini-team baseball’s he and Trevor Bauer created this year.
On roughly half the teams in baseball, it’s pretty easy to argue that Carrasco would be an ace on almost 16 of them. He finished the year with 5.5 fWAR, good for fifth in all of baseball. He and Kluber give the Indians just one of two teams this season with two starting pitcher with an fWAR over 5.0 (Nationals with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg).
Carrasco easily had his best full season in his career and easily the most important to the Indians to date.
Consider that Carrasco had elbow soreness at the end of Spring Training and there was a thought he may not start the season on time. He did start the season on time and posted a 2.04 ERA in April in 35 ⅓ innings.
He left a start early on May 15 with a pectoral strain but never went on the DL. The Indians just pushed his start back. He still posted a 3.90 ERA in May despite the issue. June was a rough month for Carrasco, posting a 5.68 ERA but still had a 3.94 FIP.
Where Carrasco became extremely important was with Kluber on the DL for most of the month of May. Despite a 4.72 with Kluber on the DL, the Indians won three of Carrasco’s five starts and Carrasco personally lost none. He struck out 34 in 34 ⅓ innings in that span with Kluber out with a 3.53 FIP with a wOBA of .290. His ERA didn’t completely reflect his performance during that time. He went at least six innings in four of his starts during that stretch and seven twice.
At the end of May, the Indians starting pitching staff as a whole had an AL worst ERA of 4.79. Carrasco’s season ERA through May was 2.89 (3.67 FIP) with 5-2 record. He pitched well during Kluber’s absence and was one of the few healthy starters that held down the fort while the staff as a whole struggled through the season’s first two months.
Once Kluber came back, Carrasco posted a 3.48 the rest of the way (134 ⅔ innings) with a 3.06 FIP and 13 of his 18 wins. During the Indians 22 game winning streak, Carrasco had a 0.62 ERA in 29 innings and collected three wins in four starts. Even more important, Carrasco was the starting pitcher the night after the winning streak ended. He got the win pitching 6 ⅔ innings and allowed four runs, most of which came late in a lopsided affair.
Carrasco’s 200 innings are a nice benchmark in an era where starters don’t go deep in games and considering his own fluky injury history. His changeup was worth 18.1 runs above average, second in the majors behind Kansas City’s Jason Vargas. His slider was also was 12.1 runs above average, 10th in baseball. He was sixth in baseball in runs above average with his curveball (7.0). He even finished the season strong en route to the most innings he’d ever pitched with a 1.86 FIP in 42 ⅔ innings in six starts (five wins).
Kluber may get his name on the hardware come November, but Carrasco deserves every bit of praise for his efforts all season long, while Kluber was on the DL, keeping the Indians rolling after their 22 game winning streak ended, a strong closing to the season, his work in the Cleveland community to his charities and of course, the fun mini-team balls that seemed to be 2017’s team bonding activity. Not bad for a guy on his last chance as late as August of 2014.