Cleveland Indians: Carlos Carrasco Has Been Surprisingly Prone to Home Runs This Year

Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Carlos Carrasco has been great for the Cleveland Indians despite allowing more home runs than usual

Entering 2014, Carlos Carrasco seemed to be just another bust of a prospect for the Cleveland Indians. Over his major league career to that point, he had yet to show any ability to consistently be a good, or even average, pitcher. In a last-ditch effort to reclaim some value before letting a different team try to find his inner magic, they moved the right-hander to the bullpen. 

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Lo and behold, something clicked. He stopped pitching from the windup and became better at repeating his delivery. Not only did he become a great relief pitcher, but his transition back to the starting rotation went swimmingly well. He posted a 2.55 earned run average across 134 innings of work, and his 140 strikeouts against just 29 walks gave the Indians much on which to dream.

Last year was yet another year of greatness. Advanced metrics liked his work better than traditional statistics, but the elite talent level was undeniable. His 5.02 strikeout to walk ratio was one of the best in the American League, and he played a big part in keeping the Indians relevant despite an overall disappointing season.

Unfortunately, things have been a bit worse this year. While his 2.49 earned run average is better than ever, he has seen his strikeout and walk rates turn for the worse. More importantly, he has suddenly become more prone to the long ball than ever before. In fact, he has already allowed 12 home runs in just under 80 innings this year despite only allowing 18 in over 100 more innings last year.

Interestingly enough, Carrasco has been pretty consistent in his home run problem all season. A typical pitcher will allow 1.16 home runs per nine innings, but Carrasco has allowed just a few more at 1.36 this season. This may not be much worse than average, but it is nearly double the 0.70 mark he put up over the preceding 318 innings.

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What has caused such a large change? For one, Carrasco has been allowing more fly balls this season than the past few seasons. Since 2014, he has allowed roughly two percentage points more fly balls each year, which has in part explained the increase in home runs. After all, it is a fly ball that has the potential to land in the outfield bleachers, not a grounder.

Another reason is that a greater percentage of his fly balls have been converting to home runs. This in itself is a bit odd but correctable, since he was already giving up slightly more home runs per fly ball than the average pitcher. How is this correctable? Well, it is quite difficult for a pitcher to control his home run to fly ball ratio since they pretty much all face the same type of batter. The biggest variation will come from his home stadium, but Progressive Field should have only a minimal impact considering that it is close enough to sea level and lacks the dense, moist air of the west coast.

Carrasco’s home run issue may not be a huge problem now, but it could become one in the future. The homers he has allowed so far have pretty much been solo shots. This is quite fortunate since it has minimalized the damage, although it is doubtful that his trend will continue. After all, if pitchers could control the number of runners on base when home runs happened, would they not all be solo shots? Or perhaps the home run would never have happened in the first place.

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The bottom line is that Carrasco has been fortunate that his home runs have caused relatively little damage. Despite the fact that he has allowed a long ball in just about every game he has started this year, the Indians have still been able to win most of them. If he can cut back on the fly ball totals and maybe work on his command a bit more, there is no reason to believe that this will evolve into a major issue.