Well, a lot went on in this game, eh?
I have a lot I want to say in this recap, including something I’ve been saving that was perfect for today, so we’re going to a bullet-point recap.
-It looks like the Indians offense is actually starting to come out of that fugue state it had been lost in for the past week. It’s a thing of beauty when this offense won’t quit… and this team is going to need to hit like that for the rest of the month.
-Though my commitment never wavered, I just want to reiterate my love for Jason Giambi. He’s an awful hitter at this point of his career, but in clutch situations he morphs into this ageless wonder that’ll put the honest fear of god in ya’ and he did it again today. The Indians’ offense was definitely alive today, but Minnesota just kept pulling further in front — Giambi’s tying home run just felt like something special — like the team was finally back.
-Lest any Tribe fans feel left out of the misery Minnesota fans felt, Chris Perez decided to serve up a game-tying home run to Joe Mauer (who, I should mention, went 5-5) in the 10th inning. I’ll talk more about this down below, but, suffice to say it is getting really hard to continually defend CP.
-I need to reiterate this point because it’s so important: Really nice showing by the Indians offense today… everyone contributed, and that’s what this team needs going forward. Well, everyone except the Lonnie Chisenhall Express, which is scheduled to pull into Matt LaPortaburgh any day now.
-Carlos Carrasco was ugh-ly today. U-G-L-Y, but he does have an alibi (kind of). We’ll talk about it below.
-I think Yan Gomes might be something special, and I think this may be Carlos Santana’s last season in Cleveland (that is totally my own hunch based on nothing).
-The stakes are high for this team, but they do have one last chance to prove themselves. This has to be a strong West Coast swing if the team is going to be a factor… Atlanta and Detroit road dates lurk like a bad test you know you won’t be prepared for.
Part 2: The Second Coming of Jose Mesa
I’ve been sitting on this column idea for quite some time now, and today turned out to be the perfect day for it.
Are you tired of watching Carlos Carrasco throw 97+ and showcase some of the best raw stuff this side of Danny Salazar all while getting shelled over 4+ innings? Me too, man… me too. Speaking personally, I’m also tired of watching him throw at opposing hitters’ noggins, too, but I’m just hoping he’s learned his lesson there. Are you also tired of watching Chris Perez turn his slightly-above average stuff into souvenirs? Yeah, I thought so.
Next Question: Choose One (1) Starting Pitcher:
Player A: .403 Career Winning%, 5.07 ERA, 4.5 K/9
Player B: .345 Career Winning%, 5.35 ERA, 6.1 K/9
Player C: .500 Career Winning%, 5.94 ERA, 6.8 K/9
Option D: Starting Pitcher? Oh god we’re going to lose 100 games…
The only correct answer is D, obviously, but if I forced you to pick a player, you’d probably say C, right?
Well, forget about C right now.
Given a choice between A and B, you’d probably take B, right? I would, too.
Player A is Jose Mesa, and he was a god-awful starting pitcher. Do you see that 4.5 K/9? That’s Little Cowboy [Josh Tomlin] territory right there, and Jose Mesa was anything but a Little Cowboy. The Indians realized this fact about their young pitcher and turned Jose Mesa the starting pitcher into Jose Mesa the closer. In 1995 Jose Mesa the closer saved 46 games (in a lockout-shortened year!), had a 1.13 ERA and struck out 8.2 hitters per nine innings. Was it a fluky good year that he would never come close to approximating again? Sure, but he managed to pitch into his 40s, which says something about his career, too. The point is that the Indians got a hell of a return on a pitcher that most teams would have put on the first train to LaPortaburgh.
Mesa was converted to the bullpen when he was 27 years old… right now Carlos Carrasco (Player B, above) is 27 years old and his career is clearly at a crossroads. His fastball, while 97 mph is too straight to be effective in the middle of the zone, and still a tick too slow to get by most hitters. Because he’s a starter, he needs multiple pitches and is forced to mix in a bad curveball (which generally gets hammered or misses the zone). All of this leaves Carlos without a reliable out pitch, and we see how this bears out in his multiple walk performances and his somewhat Ubaldian efficiency. It’s time the Indians realized that Carlos is not a starter.
Re-tuning Carrasco to the bullpen would do a couple important things: it would let him abandon his curveball entirely, which is addition by subtraction, it should make his pitches marginally more effective, which could yield huge gains. Could Carrasco hit 100mph if he was strictly a 1-inning guy? It’s possible, and there’s a big difference between 97mph and 100mph. I believe the bullpen also suits Carrasco better, where he can bundle all of his considerable emotion into one burst that would be perfect for the 9th inning role. Cleveland fans have long compared Chris Perez to Ricky Vaughn, when Carrasco has the potential to fulfill that role even more appropriately!
Speaking of Chris Perez, the Indians are married to him as the closer for 2013. I don’t think there’s any chance in hell he’s back next season, which means the closer will likely be Smith or Pestano, but I think it would be very interesting if the Indians threw Carrasco into that mix. Make it an open competition; I think a year in a set-up role would be ideal for Carlos anyway (if he proved to be not ready for the job). I’m legitimately excited to see what could become of the young right-hander if moved into a more condensed role, but it is abundantly clear right now that he is not and will not ever be a starter in this league.
By the way, Player C above? Mariano Rivera. I won’t expand the comparison any more than that, but he was also 27 years old when converted to closer…