After a rough start to the season, Carlos Carrasco has already been labeled a bounce-back candidate by fantasy analysts due to his elevated BABIP. Eight starts in, it sits at .359, which is well above the expected level of .300 over an extended sample size.
In theory, over the course of the season Carrasco’s BABIP should normalize to about .300, which means a streak of good luck is in his future.
When you consider the rate at which Carrasco strikes hitters out, a low BABIP would likely lead to a truly dominant stretch.
There are two issues with the BABIP argument for Carrasco, however.
For starters, he has the Indians defense behind him.
While he isn’t penalized (directly) for their errors, their lack of range is most definitely a factor in BABIP. Through Sunday’s games, the Indians have allowed a league-worst BABIP of .343. Not surprisingly, they also rank 29th in DRS, 25th in UZR and dead last in OOZ.
In other words, if it’s not hit directly at an Indians fielder, they’re probably not making the play. This leads to a naturally inflated BABIP, which will not normalize at .300.
Dating back to the start of the 2014 season the Indians have allowed a BABIP of .317 (worst in baseball), so some decline in bad luck is likely to take place for Carrasco and the rest of the staff. But the dramatic fall back to .300 is unlikely occur.
The other issue for Carrasco is that he isn’t getting beat with bloop singles. He’s getting hit hard at a rate significantly higher than during his dominant run at the end of the 2014 season.
Carrasco currently has a well-hit average of .145 – only slightly above the .143 league average.
That isn’t necessarily a concern overall, but if we’re expecting anything close to his 2014 stretch run it won’t happen unless that number drops.
During his final 10 starts of 2014, Carrasco had a dominant well-hit average of .104 – the fifth best of all pitchers with at least 50 IP during that six-week span.
Along those same lines, Carrasco has never been the type of pitcher who induces a lot of softly-hit balls. Even during his dominant stretch run, his soft-hit average was .347 while the league average was .393.
It makes sense for a power pitcher like Carrasco to have a lower soft-hit average. You would expect sinker ballers and other pitches that rely more heavily on off-speed pitches to produce a higher number of soft-hit balls, but also a higher number of balls in play overall.
Carrasco’s soft-hit average this year, however, has plummeted to a concerning rate of .279.
Over the past two seasons combined, Carrasco ranks 113 out of 116 qualifying pitchers with a .343 soft-hit average.
So can Carrasco regain his form from late in the 2014 season?
Realistically, no. That type of dominance just doesn’t continue for long periods of time – and certainly not from a pitcher with a track record indicating he is far from that type of pitcher.
But can he at least become the No. 2 starter we hoped for this season?
Maybe. But there’s a lot of evidence stacked against him. Yes, his BABIP is high – and a lot of people looking for a quick answer to this from a fantasy perspective will stop looking there – but as we’ve established, there are good reasons for his high BABIP.
If you’re giving up more hard hits, fewer weak hits and playing with a terrible defense behind you… well, you’re going to give up a lot of hits.
Carrasco is a power pitcher and he’s certainly going to have some outings where he looks like an ace. But Indians fans should probably brace themselves for a season that features a Carrasco that looks a lot closer to the one we’ve seen the past few weeks than the one we saw last September.