Cleveland Indians: Is Fausto Carmona's Star Starting to Fade Away?

Jim Piascik@@JimPiascikCorrespondent IApril 27, 2011

The Indians are winning despite Fausto Carmona.
The Indians are winning despite Fausto Carmona.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Quick Note: Kaela Bishop beat me to the punch posting a Fausto Carmona piece this week. You can read it here:

Also, Jim Berdysz did an excellent job arguing that Justin Masterson is the Tribe's true ace, not Carmona. You can read that one here:

Seems like all of us Tribe fans are hating on Carmona this week. 

One night he’s dealing and dazzling; the next he’s struggling and sad to watch. One night, he’s in the zone; the next, he can’t find the strike zone.

One night, he’s an ace; the next, he’s a joker.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to rooting for Fausto Carmona.

Fausto Carmona’s pitching is more bipolar than Charlie Sheen. We’ve all seen it this year, starting with Carmona blowing up against the White Sox then shutting down the Red Sox just six days later.

His whole career’s been like that. Look at his year to year stats:

2006: 1-10, 5.42 ERA (83 ERA+), 58 SO, 31 BB, 1.87 SO:BB, 7.0 SO/9, 3.7 BB/9

2007: 19-8, 3.06 ERA (148 ERA+), 137 SO, 61 BB, 2.25 SO:BB, 5.7 SO/9, 2.6 BB/9

2008: 8-7, 5.44 ERA (79 ERA+), 58 SO, 70 BB, 0.83 SO:BB, 4.3 SO/9, 5.2 BB/9

2009: 5-12, 6.32 ERA (67 ERA+), 79 SO, 70 BB, 1.13 SO:BB, 5.7 SO/9, 5.0 BB/9

2010: 13-14, 3.77 ERA (102 ERA+), 124 SO, 72 BB, 1.72 SO:BB, 5.3 SO/9, 3.1 BB/9

2011: 1-3, 5.76 ERA (65 ERA+), 21 SO, 11 BB, 1.91 SO:BB, 6.4 SO/9, 3.3 BB/9

The biggest problem with Carmona’s pitching seems to be his walks.

He’s never been a big strikeout pitcher, meaning that when he walks too many people, it hurts him even more. 2007 and 2010 saw Carmona do a good job limiting walks; not coincidentally, those were his best years. 2006, 2008 and 2009 saw his walks rise out of control; again, not coincidentally, those were his worst years.

So, what’s happening in 2011?

Carmona’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is actually below the league average, so it’s not that he’s simply been unlucky. His strikeout rate is one of his highest and his walk rate is one of his lowest.

This has typically foreshadowed good things for Carmona, but he’s getting knocked around so much it’s starting to look more and more like 2008 or 2009 all over again.

Fausto Carmona is supposed to be the ace of a pitching staff that is tied for second best in runs allowed in the American League. Thanks to that, the Tribe is off to a great start; yet it feels like it’s despite Carmona instead of because of him.

The Indians are winning on the wings of Masterson and Josh Tomlin and in spite of Fausto Carmona.

Maybe we’re all just suffering from poor perception. Let’s clear it up right now with one simple sentence: Fausto Carmona will never be an ace.

It’s just that simple. Fausto Carmona will never approach the likes of other Tribe greats like Bob Feller, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, etc. He’ll probably never even approach the greatness of Herb Score. Score would’ve been great if he hadn’t gotten hurt; Carmona’s just not great.

The thing we always cling to is that magical 2007 campaign. The truth is that Fausto caught lightning in a bottle in 2007. The stars lined up just right for Carmona four years ago and we’re still paying the price for buying into that.

Things never stay perfect and Fausto Carmona is not a Cy Young candidate.

In the end, Fausto Carmona is a good pitcher but not a great one. If he’s your third starter, you’re in great shape. If he’s your second starter, you’ll need a little luck, but you’re probably in good shape. If he’s your ace, you’re in trouble.

The Indians are off to a great start and I couldn’t be happier with the team. If they want to keep up their success, though, they’ll need to find a real ace.

Maybe it could be Alex White or someone else coming up from Columbus.

Maybe it could be making a trade for Zack Greinke (if the Brewers struggle) or Felix Hernandez (if the Mariners decide to actually move him) or someone like that. (Alright, so that’ll never happen because it would involve spending money. One can dream, though)

The big picture take-home message of this all is simple. Fausto Carmona will never be an ace or pitch like he did in 2007 and we should move on from that idea.

Once we start thinking of him as a serviceable pitcher instead of an elite one, then we’ll be able to appreciate him for what he is instead of what we want him to be. 


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