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…


  • Gvl Steve says:

    You covered a lot of territory there. It is looking like Carrasco is the next Fausto Carmona (without the one good year). How he turns that ability into those results is just amazing. But when you throw every pitch in the same location, hitters will figure it out. Its that simple. You’re probably right about Perez. His salary will only go up from the current $7.3 million in arbitration next year, so a trade or non-tender is possible. Talking about Chisenhall is just too depressing. In July it looked like he was turning the corner, and then pbbbt, right back in the tank.

  • Leo O'Neill says:

    Not sure about him as a closer. Until he can keep his emotions in check (hopefully he can) he contributes little consistently. Having a role in the bullpen as long man for the rest of season might benefit. It ends him being shunted up and down to Columbus and maybe takes some of the do-or-die attitude away. He seems to blow up if he’s not perfect. Being around other big leaguers and being able to go again the next day might take the anxiety down a notch.
    Totally agree about Gomes, love watching him behind the plate. Think the pitching staff do too.

  • Andy says:

    We would be insane to trade Santana. He would be far better than anyone else we could put at 1B (assuming that Gomes would catch daily). Santana is still an OBP machine and still sees enough pitches per AB to put him in the top 10. Simply put, there is no way our offense could afford to lose Santana, even with his current slump.

    • Adam Hintz says:

      Santana is the most frustrating player to watch (personally).

      His production isn’t good enough to be worthwhile at 1B (it would be slightly below average power-wise), and he just isn’t cutting it as a catcher. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but Gomes is absolutely destroying Santana defensively.

      And yeah OBP is a great thing (I’ll never be one to knock it, that’s for sure), but when Santana’s swing gets long he’s as helpless as a level 14 Magikarp (bonus points to anyone that gets that reference). I’d be okay if the Indians kept him, and they might, but if someone wants to trade a pitcher for Santana, the Indians will do it (I think).

      • Drew says:

        Have you ever looked at how much (or lack thereof) that the Indians are paying Carlos next year? He will be an Indian next year. Unless of course we can trade him to the Astros for Mark Appel. That’s about it, though. Also, He has a very good eye. Averages 101 BB per 162 games. Yan Gomes averages 27 BB / 162 games. And OBP does matter even if both catchers have nearly identical OBPs right now. Yan Gomes has been very luck from a BABIP perspective and is due for a regression whereas Carlos is playing his about-average self. But could the Indians find a power-hitting 3B and then rotate Swisher, Gomes, and Santana between Catcher, DH, and 1B? That would be about as good as you could hope from this team for 2014.

      • Andy says:

        Here’s why your wrong. If we made Santana a 1B, his numbers would place him 5th in the AL by OPS and 3rd in the AL by oWAR. And that assumes that his numbers wouldn’t go up a bit by not having the strain of catching taking its toll on his offense. The reality is, Santana would make a a top 5 AL 1B right now and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see his numbers tick up if he wasn’t catching most of the time. The reality is that in today’s PEDless MLB, Santana is a top 20 type of offensive player and you just don’t trade those, especially from offensively challenged teams.

        • Kevin says:

          Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t WAR directly related to the position you play? If so Santana might not be 3rd in AL oWAR at 1B.

  • shaun says:

    why don’t you think allen could be more effective then carrasco?

    • Adam Hintz says:

      I think Allen could be a fine closer someday, but I don’t think he’s the best option for this team.

      Carrasco has the best raw stuff of anyone on the team save for Danny Salazar and maybe (–maybe–) Justin Masterson. If he only had to gear up for one inning at a time, his stuff would get even better: an extra mph or two on his fastball, and a little more bite on his slider. He could be devastating as a closer — all I’m saying here is that he compares favorably to two notable starters-turned-all-star-closers.

      • shaun says:

        i agree in that i do think carrasco is also a good option as a closer. its a real predicament because for very obvious reasons, perez cannot be relied upon. if anybody argues otherwise, they aren’t watching the games and should not be commenting. i have watched every single game he has closed (or tried to) not even a handful have gone 1-2-3..

  • DaveR says:

    I was thinking that way about Carrasco too but not really as a closer. More as a long(er) inning relief pitcher. Someone has to fill in for the bullpen when it gets reshuffled to fill Perez’s spot. The other problem is he’s an arbitration guy after this season. And we know how much the Indians love arbitration.

    I’m with Andy, what is the deal with the Santana trade talk? Top 20 OWAR. His contract is friendly for a couple more years. The Gomes/Santana mix is working well both on the field and in the pocket book. Let’s at least give this another year.

    • Adam Hintz says:

      You need to give up something to get something… Santana is worth something right now… and if that something can be a front-line starter, you have to think about it, right?

      • Andy says:

        And where are you going to replace his offense from? He is top 20 OWAR on a team that has severe offensive struggles. We need bats more than pitching right now and in an era where the MLB average is .253 and OBP of .317, Santana is not easy to replace (especially at his cost). We would be insane to trade him for anyone outside of a Matt Harvey level of proven young pitcher and that isn’t going to happen. Last I checked, it still takes runs to win games.

        • shaun says:

          yes but walks are useless if they don’t come around to the plate…i agree about his relative value but if you sit on it, you end up with a dud (see chris perez). last year he had a lot of value at the trade deadline and now…well….

      • Chris Burnham says:

        That is a BIG if.

  • nikki says:

    Carrasco in the pen? I love the idea. Is he closer-type material though? His stuff says yes, his head says no. I think he could be a valuable bullpen arm in the future, so I really hope the Tribe doesn’t give up on him.

    As far as getting rid of Santana — no way. Gomes is a far better defensive catcher, yes, and I think he’ll be the #1 guy in the future. But… he’ll still need someone to spell him every so often so he doesn’t get burnt out. Santana is a completely serviceable back-up for those days — keep him (and his bat) with the Tribe.

  • Jeremy C says:

    Great great great article

  • Gvl Steve says:

    I agree with Andy. Moving off catcher will improve Santana’s hitting.

  • The Doctor says:

    if we’re talking about the bullpen in mahoning valley, i’m all for it.

  • Jeremy says:

    First off, I love the article. There’s so much from yesterday’s game that’s it’s really hard to hit on everything but I think you did a good job recapping the major take-a-ways.

    Like most on here, I agree that Carrasco needs to be moved. I think he should certainly be moved to the BP this season in a set-up or long innings relief role. I don’t know if he’s closer material, but he certainly has the stuff to compete. Thus, since I tend to agree w/ you that CP#54 isn’t going to be brought back, why not give him a shot?

    As for Santana, I just think his bat is too valuable to let go. He can play primarily 1B and relieve Gomes intermittently throughout the season. He and Swish can rotate at 1st with Swish also rotating in RF with Stubbs.

  • Swift says:

    I don’t think picking between Santana and Gomes is our biggest problem. As DaveR said, I think a mix, maybe more a 50/50 mix, is the way to go. You have to carry two catchers, and if one can play 1B, so much the better.

    The big holes in offense is a real 3B (also a defensive hole), DH, and clean-up. Even if Asdrubal figures out what how to hit, he is not a real clean-up hitter. Chisenhall is a lost cause; he is neither a hitter nor a third baseman. The Mark Reynolds experiment failed, and we need a real replacement for next season. I love Mike Aviles, but he is not a big bat and he is going to get fried if we play him every day – that isn’t the role he was brought in for.

  • Sean Porter says:

    Totally on-board for converting Carrasco to a reliever… Now the argument that Carrasco doesn’t have the mental makeup to succeed in the potentially stressful environment of the bullpen might be a valid one, but remember, Chris Perez and his “interesting” personality all and all has been pretty damn successful. Food for thought.

  • medfest says:

    The question with Carrasco as a closer is does he have the rubber arm necessary to pitch three days in a row?He’s coming back from TJ surgery so that is a big question.
    Mesa’s problem as a starter was the second time through the order he would get lit up like a Christmas tree,Carrasco pitches well and reasonably deep into games when he commands his fastball,when he doesn’t it’s a base hit fest.

    Also,Perez leaving is not a sure thing,it’s hard to trade closers with large contracts and a history of arm problems,especially in the off season.Supply and demand always work in favor of the tradee when closers are involved.