New York Mets Should Buy Low on Fausto Carmona

Kevin McCarthyContributor IMay 31, 2009

BOSTON - OCTOBER 20:  Starting pitcher Fausto Carmona #55 of the Cleveland Indians delivers against the Boston Red Sox during Game Six of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 20, 2007 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

What if I told you that there was a pitcher with a high ceiling available that could be had for cheap, would that be something you might be interested in? He has had a fantastic year in the Majors already, but has been a disappointment since then. Who is this pitcher? It’s Fausto Carmona of the struggling Cleveland Indians.

Is that something you might be interested in?

The newspapers in Cleveland suggest he is falling out of favor with management, and since he is due to make a possible $39 million over the next five years (that includes three club option years; $11 million over the next two otherwise), the Indians may want to ship him off as they are cutting payroll.

If they are looking to trade Cliff Lee, who has a very reasonable contract for a player who just won the Cy Young, why would they keep around Carmona?

This means it is a tremendous buy-low opportunity for the Mets. After dazzling Cleveland in 2007 with a 3.06 ERA, he has struggled since then. In 2008, he posted an ERA of 5.44 and this season he is at 6.42. However, there are a few important things to look at that may be the cause of his problems.

First off, the amount of innings he threw in 2007 compared to 2006 is very alarming. He went from 102 innings in 2006 to 230 innings in 2007, including the postseason. Remember, the Verducci effect says that pitchers under 25 years of age should only increase their amount of innings year to year by 30. He increased by 128! This could be one reason why his 2008 season was atrocious.

Another important stat to look at is his inability to find the strike zone the last two years compared to his career norms. In 2007, his BB/9 ratio was 2.6, which is expected when his minor league average is 1.7. However, over the last few years we have seen this number balloon to 5.2 and 5.8. Sounds like someone who doesn’t trust his stuff, doesn’t it?

When a contact pitcher doesn’t believe his stuff works, he starts nibbling. When he nibbles, he starts walking everyone, and then his numbers skyrocket. Doesn’t sound like a formula for success to me.

Let’s take a look at a similar pitcher that may have had the same problem that Carmona has. His name is Mike Pelfrey. Like Carmona, Pelfrey is a contact pitcher that relies on his heavy sinker to get men out.

In 2007, Pelf did not have a good year by any means, as he had a 5.57 ERA in 72 innings of work. His BB/9 ratio was 4.83, about a run-and-a-half higher than his minor league average of 3.2. More importantly, Pelfrey was a strike out machine in college, and once he came to professional ball, he changed into a contact pitcher—which I believe he had trouble transitioning to. Once he did, we saw what he could do.

In 2008, Pelfrey got his BB/9 ratio down to 2.9 as he started trusting his stuff and throwing strikes. He finished the year with an ERA of 3.72.

What does all this mean? Well, Carmona could easily be a change of scenery type of guy. It’s possible he just needs to get out of Cleveland. Pelfrey seemed to thrive under Dan Warthen, who got through to the big guy. He got him to trust his stuff, and maybe Warthen could have the same effect on Carmona.

Carmona would have to be comfortable in Citi Field, as it is a pitcher’s haven. That would help ease his mind as well. The only negative in this is that he once had a fight with Gary Sheffield, but who hasn’t? I doubt that would be much of an issue.

So, what would it take to get Carmona? I don’t think it would take much, as he is at his lowest possible value right now. I think he would cost something like a pair of B-level prospects. Maybe he would cost Dillon Gee and someone else, I’m not sure.

If the asking price is pretty low, then Omar Minaya should pull the trigger. It’s a great opportunity to pick up a guy on the cheap that could be a No. 2 starter if he returns to form.