On April 24th, 2016, the baseball world was given a scare as one of the game’s more dominant starting pitchers over the past three seasons collapsed in pain after trying to cover first base. Cleveland Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco went down in agony – grabbing his knee area in what was reminiscent of the injury Garrett Richards suffered two years ago that ultimately ended his season. Fortunately for Carrasco though, he only endured a strained hamstring that resulted in a five week absence on the disabled list. Carlos has since returned to the mound and made four starts after recovering from the injury. He appears to (understandably) still be getting into seasonal form as his control hasn’t been what we’ve seen from Carrasco in the past. Despite not having his best stuff, Carlos threw 7.1 quality innings that ended in a no-decision. Let’s breakdown Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco’s June 19th start at home against the White Sox with 13 HD GIFs.
As per usual, before getting into the GIFs, let’s take a quick glance at Carrasco’s strikezone plot from the outing:
Right away you see the trouble Carlos had with his command Sunday. The biggest issue for Carrasco was locating his Two-seam Fastball. He consistently pounded righties inside with his Two-seamer and more often than not it would run too far off the plate. This didn’t always cost him, however, as he was able to induce lots of weak swings on inside Fastballs to right-handers. One of the big changes Carrasco has made in 2016 is the favoring of the Curveball over the Slider. Between both 2014 and 2015, Carlos averaged 18.8% Slider usage while averaging just 8.3% Curveball usage. So far in 2016, he’s reversed the two, throwing 11.9% Sliders and 16.9% Curveballs. They’re both plus breaking pitches as you’re going to see, it’s just an interesting tidbit to be aware of.
Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this article and check out Carrasco’s arsenal with the aid of some HD GIFs!
Carrasco features both a Four-seam and a Two-seam Fastball that each averaged 96.4mph on Sunday. He threw the Four-seam twenty-six times while throwing sixteen of them for strikes. Hitters swung at the pitch thirteen times but only whiffed on it once. The Four-seam was rather flat on Sunday. Carlos had much better success with the Two-seam despite his control issues with the offering. He threw ten of the twenty-five Two-seam Fastballs for strikes and induced four whiffs with the pitch. It’s a nasty heater that Carrasco loves to run inside to right-handers.
A good example of how badly Carlos can fool righties into offering at the running fastball that’s buzzing inside on their hands is this 95mph 0-1 pitch to Jose Abreu:
Want another example? Don’t worry, Carlos has you covered. Here’s Carrasco victimizing righty Avisail Garcia with a 92mph Two-seam Fastball that runs across the plate and under his hands:
Garcia got the same treatment later in the game, as Carrasco buried another wicked 93mph Two-seam Fastball in under his elbows resulting in his fifth strikeout of the night:
It’s nice to see a pitcher who is so aggressive in attacking hitters inside with his Fastball. It was a relentless approach that Carlos kept throughout the game. His command with the heater was iffy at best but he managed to work around the issue admirably. Not allowing hitters to get comfortable in the box by drilling them inside with running Fastballs sets up off-speed pitches incredibly well.
Carrasco threw ten Changeups on Sunday that averaged 90.0mph. Nine of the ten ended up as strikes but he only recorded one whiff with the offering. Carlos left a couple up in the zone that were hit hard, but when he located it well, as the Changeup can be a devastating pitch with great depth at its plus velocity.
Carlos shows us the vertical movement he can get on the Changeup with this 89mph 0-1 offering to Avisail Garcia that starts down the middle and drops right off the table:
The best Changeup of the afternoon from Carlos was this 1-0 offering he threw to rookie shortstop Tim Anderson that dropped from the belt to the ankles at 91mph:
Carrasco has averaged over 20.0% usage with the Changeup throughout 2015 and 2016 so it was probably an outlier of an outing where he only threw it 10.0% on Sunday. He generates some brutal drop with it while disguising it at a Fastball out of the hand with its above average velocity.
The Indians RHP threw seventeen Sliders with thirteen of them resulting in strikes. He averaged 89.3mph with the pitch while also tallying five whiffs.
Carrasco really picked on Todd Frazier with his Slider on Sunday. The first example of this abuse is this 87mph breaker that Carlos threw him in an 0-0 count:
The second example of Carrasco making Frazier look silly with the Slider came on a 2-1 count at 89mph in the first inning:
Carlos really enjoys making righties flail at the Slider on the outer half. He sends Brett Lawrie back to the dugout to think about his actions with this nasty 88mph Slider that carves the outside black:
As mentioned previously, it’s interesting to note that Carlos used to favor his Slider as his best breaking pitch in past seasons. It appears to still be as deadly as always but he’s choosing to throw more Curveballs while throwing fewer Sliders. Regardless, the pairing of the firm Fastball velocity and the sharp-breaking Slider are major keys to Carrasco’s elite K/9 ratios. Right-handed hitters beware.
Carrasco’s Curveball was pure filth against the White Sox. He threw twenty-two Curves and fourteen for strikes at an average velocity of 84.9mph. He enticed eleven swings at the breaking pitch and totaled six whiffs in the process.
Poor Todd Frazier. As if the Slider wasn’t enough to cause him suffering, Carrasco delivered this gross 85mph 2-2 Curveball that Todd swung right through for the strikeout:
The real witness to Carrasco’s Curveball filthiness was Tim Anderson. Carlos took the rookie to school and taught him lesson number one with this 82mph Curve that had Anderson leaning back like Fat Joe:
Lesson number two for the rookie was this dirty 84mph 0-1 offering that was never even close to the strikezone and still induced a futile swing and a miss for a second strike:
The third and final Curveball lesson of the day for Tim Anderson was this 84mph 0-2 breaking ball that resulted in the swinging strikeout for Carrasco:
Carlos threw the Curveball for strikes while also getting guys like Anderson, Frazier, and Jose Abreu to chase Curves in the dirt. When you have a 96-97mph Fastball in your back pocket that hitters have to respect, and you drop this beautiful Uncle Charlie into their world instead, you often get results like you see above. Batters gearing up for heat only to have the ball disappear from reality and into the dirt as they’re halfway through their swing. If these are the types of results we’re going to get from a larger share of Curveballs thrown by Carrasco, I’m all for it.
Final line: 7.1 IP, 5 Hs, 2 ER, 4 BBs, 6 Ks, 100 pitches (62 strikes), 18/29 first pitch strikes
In a general sense, Carrasco was inefficient with his pitches. There were multiple at-bats where Carlos would get ahead either 0-1 or 0-2 and fall behind hitters with the next three pitches. His four walks on Sunday were the most he’s allowed in his eight starts of 2016. It’s something we’re not used to with Carrasco. It’s safe to assume that he’s still working on his timing in his delivery with the Fastball. Carlos also only took part in one rehab start before returning from his injury, so there’s likely still some rust he’s shaking off.
Despite all this, Carrasco delivered a quality start and then some against the White Sox. I’ve been a huge fan of Carrasco’s over the past three seasons and I see nothing that tells me he won’t be a stud throughout the Summer like he’s been in the past. The stuff is certainly still there. It’s just the command that needs some polishing before he starts to dominate lineups like we’re used to seeing.
Over the past three seasons, among active starters, Carlos Carrasco has the fifth best xFIP (2.82), the eleventh best K/9 (9.83), and the eleventh best K-BB% (21.0%) in all of baseball. Buy, buy, and buy some more. I can’t get enough of this guy.
I’d like to end this breakdown with one of my favorite sequences of Carrasco’s from the outing. He starts Brett Lawrie off with a well-located Slider at the knees for strike one, busts him hard inside with the Two-seam to get him thinking inside, then dusts him off with back-to-back Sliders on the outer half for two straight whiffs and the strikeout. Beautiful:
Ian Post contributes for Pitcher List and grew up on the game of baseball by playing year-round through adolescence and pitching in college before finding his love for writing about the sport. When he isn’t providing pitching analysis, he can be found faithfully rooting for the Mariners, watching Game of Thrones, and searching for a new favorite IPA in the Pacific Northwest.