Possible Trade Partners: Cleveland Indians

The post 2008 version of Rafael Perez walks too many batters (~4/9 innings) and strikes out too few (~5.5/9 innings), and was the beneficiary of a fluky HR rate in 2010 (5.8% compared to his career 11.3%). Still, he throws with his left hand and has been very good (by FIP) in 3 out of the last 4 years. Chris Perez is coming off a good year generated on the strength of an unsustainable strand rate (86%) and an absurdly low BABIP (.236). While he strikes out a ton (9.5/9 innings) he also walks the park (4.3/9 innings). Nevertheless, he’s been worth positive value in all three major league seasons, with FIP/xFIPs hovering around 4.0, and he throws gas (average fastball at 94.6 mph).  Joe Smith is a steady righthander that came up with the Mets in 2007, and could be a solid, if not exciting, member of the relief corps.

And then there’s Fausto Carmona.

I have to admit, even hearing the name Fausto Carmona still sparks PTSD-style flashbacks of the midge game (think Johnny Depp in “Fear and Loathing”). There are few moments in my baseball watching life that I recall as more debilitating as watching Joba Chamberlain (who had been, essentially, the best pitcher in baseball) blow that game. Carmona’s performance from the midst of the swarm was something out of a Spiderman movie. And it’s not as though he just showed up for the postseason–he garnered Cy Young and MVP awards for his performance during the regular season in 2007 as well.

Year Age Tm Lg ERA G GS IP SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB Awards
2006 22 CLE AL 5.42 38 7 74.2 58 83 1.594 10.6 1.1 3.7 7.0 1.87
2007 23 CLE AL 3.06 32 32 215.0 137 148 1.209 8.3 0.7 2.6 5.7 2.25 CYA-4,MVP-23
2008 24 CLE AL 5.44 22 22 120.2 58 79 1.624 9.4 0.5 5.2 4.3 0.83
2009 25 CLE AL 6.32 24 24 125.1 79 67 1.763 10.8 1.1 5.0 5.7 1.13
2010 26 CLE AL 3.77 33 33 210.1 124 102 1.307 8.7 0.7 3.1 5.3 1.72 AS
5 Seasons 4.43 149 118 746.0 456 96 1.436 9.3 0.8 3.7 5.5 1.50
162 Game Avg. 4.43 38 30 190 116 96 1.436 9.3 0.8 3.7 5.5 1.50

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/3/2011.

So what was the difference between Carmona’s 2007/2010, and his 2008/2009? Most importantly, in the latter years, he walked more than 5 batters per 9 innings, which was roughly as many as he struck out as well (both are crappy numbers). In addition, when batters got on base, he was more apt to let them score (64% strand rate compared to ~74% in 2007/2010)…which was probably a side product of the crappier K/BB ratio. 2007 and 2010 were also the years he turned in the lowest BABIPs of his career, though at ~.280, they were reasonably close to league average.

Oddly enough (given his lack of playing time in both 2008 and 2009), Carmona has only been on the disabled list once–for a hip strain in 2008 which earned him a trip to the 60-day DL. In 2009 he lost playing time because he was crappy enough that the Indians sent him to the minor leagues. And while this is a tactic other teams have successfully experimented with in the past … Lee and Halladay are the exceptions, not the rule.

In the end, Carmona only has two seasons of five in which he put up an ERA+ above average–his incredible 2007 (148; in other words, he was 48% better than the average starter by ERA) and his 2010 (102–just slightly above average). The Indians have made noises about not wanting to trade him (which, given their state and his impending free agency, is likely a bluff meant to improve their return), but I have to wonder whether he’s really worth giving up anything significant to acquire. He could be a net positive, sure. But in a rotation that currently has one sure thing (CC Sabathia), one good bet (Phil Hughes) and two unknowns (Burnett and Nova), adding a volatile name like Carmona could add fuel to the possible fire. Additionally, while his groundball tendencies have trended downward, he is still a “pitch to contact” guy, and the Yankees infield defense is…questionable. But then again, when the alternative is Sergio Mitre, you’ve got to do something…right?

Will is a lifelong New Yorker and Yankees fan who splits his time between finance, music, and baseball. He was one of the early contributors to IIATMS, though life took him away for some time. He is very excited to be back.

8 thoughts on “Possible Trade Partners: Cleveland Indians

  1. Mike

    well at least the right side of the infield plays nice D…?

  2. Will Moller

    Really, Dan? I'd love Shin-Soo Choo or Carlos Santana. And Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson were both worth 2.7 WAR last season.

  3. dan l

    I would pass on all Cleveland players except for Masterson who will not be traded. I would rather start the season with Mitre backed up by Brackman.

  4. mikeNicoletti

    What would it take to get him is the question. If we could keep Banuelos and Montero, I'd be willing to part with at least one of our other top tier prospects. Carmona has serious upside, unlike any other starting pitcher that we could get before the season starts.

    • Will Moller

      Mike,

      Forgive me, but mind clarifying what the upside is? Most people seem to talk about pitching upside centered around the K/BB–either the guy can strike out a ton of batters, or he doesn't walk hardly anyone, or both. Carmona doesn't really have either of these abilities.

      Not being sarcastic at all, by the way–am genuinely curious.

      Will

      • mikeNicoletti

        Well posed question.

        By my eyes, when i remember seeing Carmona pitch, the ball moved a ton. He had a fastball that had plus plus movement, and one hell of a breaking ball. I may be trusting my eyes more than I should, but I think there is one other fact that makes my assertion a bit more plausible: Bigtime movement makes for poor contact, aka a low babip. I think when a guy has plus plus movement, (like carmona or the best example, Rivera) that babip is a sustainable measure of success(Rivera's .273 babip over career and Carmona's top 2 seasons).

  5. Will Moller

    Mike,

    Thanks for the answer–you know I have to agree with you on the movement, which reminded me, most of all, of Chien-Ming Wang. Trouble is, Carmona's career BABIP is just about spot on league average–.299.

    Also, you really need a massive sample size to draw conclusions about a pitcher being good *because* of their low babip. In a lot of cases, *most* cases, **almost every case** it's the other way around–an indicator that the pitcher is *worse* than they've shown–that they've been lucky.

    One way to maybe think about this is in terms of groundballs generated–more movement should equal weaker contact, right? But this isn't trending in the right direction either: 55.5% between 2009 and 2010, down from 64% in 2007 and 2008. That's still a good groundball percentage–but doesn't point to him having the asme "bite" on his fastball as before. Or, if he does, batters are better prepared for it these days, and have been able to get the bathead to the center of the ball where they used to simply hack it into the ground.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Will

    • mikeNicoletti

      One more point, i'm not saying that it's a lock, but in his two good years, BABIP was low, and there's a chance with that much movement is MAY be sustainable. Maybe not… I also looked at Wang's #'s for my response, and his was ~.010 better than league average, interesting… If i had more time i'd run more numbers. Retirement will be good for something!

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