There's been a lot of talk amongst Tribe fans this week regarding the performance of Fausto Carmona and his struggles on the mound. Currently, his record is a dismal 4-9. Not good for any MLB starter, let alone your Ace. All kinds of crazy suggestions are coming from frustrated fans but let's look at the realities of this situation.
Stats can tell part of the story, so let's look at that. The headline that jumps out is an ERA of 6.17 with 96.1 innings pitched. Not good. But if you dissect that number, you can find six really bad innings in those 13 games where he just lost control of everything. If you take away those six bad innings (welcome to hypothetical land) his ERA drops to 2.8. I think any fan would take that kind of an ERA. This tells me that Carmona is a good pitcher who has gotten into some trouble. I think that is something that can be fixed.
So how do we solve a problem like Carmona? In reading posts on Twitter, some fans want to send him to triple-A Columbus for a while to get some perspective and find his groove again. Well, in baseball you have to have "options" in order to get sent down to the minors. The Tribe is out of "options" on Carmona so if they want to send him down, they have to put him on waivers and I'm sure that some other team would grab him up. Skip this one.
Next, there's talk of putting him in the bullpen. Philosophically, your starting pitcher should go six or seven innings. That leaves bullpen work for the 7th/8th and a closer for the 9th and then "Ball game!" How can you take someone who is having trouble giving up big innings - and I'm talking six to ten run innings here people - and put him in the bullpen? Nope, I'll skip this option also.
Other suggestions are just benching him for a while or moving him from the first spot in the rotation to the 4th or 5th spot. Pitchers are creatures of habit. They need to be on as regular a schedule as possible. That's why managers set up the rotation in the first place, to make sure they get the right number of days rest but are still throwing regularly. You also run the risk of Fausto getting further into his "own head" and getting deeper into trouble.
What would I do? I'm glad you asked.... I would change the way manager Manny Acta handles Carmona instead of moving him around. Managers track pitch count and usually limit the number of throws a guy makes when he starts. This is to reduce stress on the arm and also measure how well he is doing against the batters. If you've thrown 80 pitches through three innings, something is wrong. I say that instead of worrying about Carmona's pitch count, we look at his "hit count" and the runs he is giving up. Up until now, it seems that when Carmona gives up two or three runs, Acta leaves him in so he can "turn it around." Um, Manny, he ain't turning things around!
I vote that we give him a three-run leash. Once he let's two runs score, the bullpen needs to be warming up and after the third run he's pulled. Period. Stop the big inning from happening. Staunch the flow of blood before it is out of control. Frankly, Indians hitters this year have not been lighting up the scoreboard so when a pitcher gives up six or more runs it is that much harder to come back and win the game. If we hold them to two or three, it changes the mind set of the batters and they don't feel all of the pressure to hit homers and can just keep playing smart baseball.
I still believe that Fausto Carmona can be the Ace Pitcher that the Indians need if they want to make the playoffs this year. I just think that the manager needs to step away from his habit of letting guys work things out for themselves and he needs to SAVE them from themselves. I'm quite certain Fausto would rather be pulled after a small meltdown than suffer through a scoring free-for-all.
PS: Apologies to all of the "Sound of Music" fans reading this if the title of today's blog puts a chorus of nuns in your head for the rest of the day. :)