Prediction: The Cleveland Indians’ Carlos Carrasco will win the American League Cy Young Award
This time last year, many fans were debating whether the Cleveland Indians made a smart decision in signing Carlos Carrasco to an extension. The four-year, $22 million deal seemed like a bit of a risk given the right-hander’s limited success. After struggling for quite some time, he transitioned to the bullpen and rediscovered what made him a top prospect. He then moved back to the starting rotation and continued to dominate down the stretch.
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Carrasco entered last year as a big part of the starting rotation, and the team needed him to pitch well for any playoff aspirations to become a possibility. In response to those needs, Carrasco ramped up the strikeouts and become a major force for the Indians.
Perhaps most impressively, his earned run average of 3.63 vastly underestimates his value. Fielding independent pitching, a more accurate predictor for long-term success, thought that a 2.84 earned run average would have been more accurate. The park- and home run-adjusted version of that metric, xFIP, was even more ambitious and placed his true run prevention value at 2.66 earned runs per nine innings.
In fact, 2015 was the fourth straight year that Carrasco posted fielding independent numbers that were better than his actual outcomes. While some may point to this as a flaw that exists in Carrasco’s pitching style, it is more likely that these problems stem from his high groundball rate and the Indians’ poor defence. But now with Francisco Lindor at shortstop and Jason Kipnis not being terrible, the Indians’ defence isn’t that bad. 2016 might just be the year that Carlos Carrasco’s results mirror what advanced metrics suggest.
So let’s just step back and look at a mixture of the FanGraphs Fans and ZiPS projections for next year. Substituting FIP for ERA and using the traditional statistics that matter to the Cy Young Award voters gives Carrasco credentials that look like this: a 2.80 ERA, a 15-9 record, and 228 strikeouts. Using the Cy Young Predictor Equator, which comes from The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, Carrasco ranks third in the Cy Young Award voting.
But here’s where things get interesting. David Price, the predicted winner, has only two more points than the runner-up, Chris Sale, and only six more points than Carlos Carrasco. In the predictor equation, there is a twelve-point boost for any player who “leads” his team to the division crown. If we take a peak at FanGraphs’ 2016 playoff odds page, we see that both the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians are projected to win their respective divisions while the Chicago White Sox are left in third place.
Basically, this projected fantasy world has a two-way race for the crown, and it all comes down to which player “leads” their team to the division crown. Call me biased, but I believe more in the Indians than the Red Sox. The Indians’ starting rotation is stronger and more reliable than Boston’s, and both teams seem to have similar question marks surrounding their offenses.
Following this train of thought, Carlos Carrasco and the Indians have a greater chance of making the playoffs than David Price and the Red Sox. And as such, Carlos Carrasco takes home the crown in this projected Cy Young Award race.