By far the Indian’s biggest question mark entering the 2010 season is with their starting rotation. Jake Westbrook anchors a rotation which has minimal experience and Westbrook himself hasn’t pitched since 2008. The second man in the rotation, Fausto Carmona, wound up in rookie league for part of last season because he couldn’t stop psyching himself out. The other three members have a combined 346 innings pitched at the major league level. To put that into perspective, CC Sabathia threw 230 innings in 2009 and 253 innings in 2008; needless to say, these guys are lacking in experience. So basically, the Indians, who started the past two seasons with a Cy Young winner anchoring their staff, will now rely on the reemergence of both Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona to lead their rotation.
Had you told me in October of 2007 that Fausto Carmona would go on to win only 15 games over the ’08 and ’09 seasons, I would have probably thought you were nuts. Carmona was getting a lot of attention (and Cy Young votes) after an outstanding ’07 season where he won 19 games with a 3.06 earned run average. What Carmona had in ’07 that he was lacking the past two seasons is control. In 2007 Carmona only allowed 2.55 walks per 9 innings while striking out 5.73/9. Over the past two seasons, Carmona has more than doubled his BB/9 posting 5.22 in ’08 and 5.08 in ’09. There are a few theories as to why this is so, but I won’t elaborate on those now (though I have my ideas). Suffice it to say that in order for the Indians to be competitive, Carmona had better keep the ball in the strike zone. It would be a luxury (and to me a complete surprise) if Carmona reverts back to his ’07 numbers; possible, but extremely unlikely. However, if he can keep from giving free passes and keep the ball on the ground, he could be a pretty good pitcher. He’s not a staff ace and really isn’t designed to be a prototypical #1, but he’s got #2 or #3 stuff and this spring, Carmona put up some good numbers; 26 innings pitched, K:BB of 6 and a 1.38 ERA. It’s sometimes easy to get down on Carmona, but keep in mind; he is only 26 and is just now entering his prime. I think that a lot of people have been a little tough on him. We have to remember that in ’07 his stuff was new to the AL hitters and pitching coaches. By the end of ’07, some of his tricks were revealed (the fact that his pitches have so much movement, that being patient almost assures a hitter that Carmona won’t hit the zone) and coaches were exploiting this weakness. For Carmona to resume his dominance he must develop a pitch that he can throw for strikes; his 2 seamer is just too erratic. I look for him to rebound in 2010 to a #2 starter level.