APV wrote an excellent post recently comparing the Cleveland Indians performances thus far in the season to their pre-season projections. Fausto Carmona was one of the players highlighted who has performed far worse than projected. Initially slotted as the team's number two starter in the rotation, and having the lofty hopes of being the tribe's third consecutive Cy Young winner (who would have known it would actually be Carl Pavano?), he's struggled to be any sort of stabilizer in a rotation that badly needs a solid three starters until the back end sorts itself out.
The following is a look at Fausto's game logs with the use of Pitch F/X generated Pitch Sequence Labeled Strike zone Plots and traditional results to see if there is any support to the contention by some (most?) that he's starting to get back on track, which for the sake of this evaluation would mean improvement in throwing strikes, particularly early in the count. For the sake of time and space I skipped his second start against KC because it was pretty much the same as the first start.
4/8/2009 @ Texas
5.0 IP, 6 RA, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 7 H
7/11/5 (GB/FB/LD) 95 pitches
He's pretty much everywhere but in the strike zone with his first pitches. Honestly its pretty incredible how consistent he was in throwing that first and even the second pitch for balls. Well, this looks like the baseline for terrible right here. He was able to get more grounders than fly balls, but the five line drives (and the homerun) are a pretty good indication that hitters were able to tee off on him being that most were in hitters counts throughout the game.
4/18/2009 @ New York
6 IP, 4 RA, 4 BB, 1 K, 2 HR, 6 H
11/12/6 (GB/FB/LD) 103 pitches
Well we see improvement in overall less extreme wildness, but he is still missing more often than not on his first pitches, did a better job with second pitches, but was leaving way way too many pitches over the heart of the plate which as we see by the 2 home runs, 12 fly balls, and 6 line drives, it was clobbering time! like someone was jamming the Sick Of It All song over the PA at that dump of a stadium. Ugh, and the 4 walks to 1 strike out...
4/24/2009 @ Cleveland vs. Minnesota
6 IP, 5 RA, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 8 H
14/4/1 (GB/FB/LD) 104 pitches
Progress! Look at how the pitches on the whole cluster near the bottom left corner (the low inside against RHB, low away against LHB). This is good, and is likely why he was able to garner so many groundballs and strike outs this game. He also benefited from his first and second double play balls of the season (probably a testament to how crappy our defense has been thus far). Fausto came apart in the seventh inning of this game as he suffered from some bad luck infield singles and poor defense, but overall this was a good sign.
4/29/2009 @ Cleveland vs. Boston
6.2 IP, 2 RA, 4 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 5 H
15/6/1 (GB/FB/LD) 114 pitches
A second start in a row where he's able to direct his pitches towards the lower left corner of the box. We see that he was getting more of the plate this time, but was also much more wild (wide?) on a few pitches, and missed up and left more than once on first pitches, and low and right on second pitches. This could explain the terrible K:BB. He was also facing one of the premier teams at working counts and walking often. He was successful due to gaining a majority of groundballs from his balls in play. But we see one problem that has continued through all of his starts....high pitch counts. He doesn't make it out of the seventh inning and burned through 114 pitches. Whereas Cliff Lee is the master of spotting that fastball on the corner as repeatedly and accurately as my father's ability to call out a pepperoni stick buried in a bag of fresh groceries brought into the house for unpacking, Fausto doesn't really know where that damn sinker is going to end up and struggles to repeat the results from pitch to pitch.
5/4/2009 @ Toronto
6.2 IP, 4 RA, 1 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 8 H
10/16/4 (GB/FB/LD) 96 pitches
Fausto looks as though he may taken part in some afternoon "turnin' on" and cream corned wrestling at the townhomes in Kent for May Day, cause he sure wasn't getting those groundballs like usual. His fastball was rising, thankfully he was able to keep those high pitches either off the plate to left or on the outer half of the plate vs. LHB. Fausto's undoing was hitting Aaron Hill in the 7th inning following a Marco Scutaro single. After a ground out that moved both runners over, a Vernon Wells single brought both of them in and summed Tony Sipp from the bullpen. Hill was Carmona's third HBP of the season. We don't see much improvement on getting first pitch strikes, but he did a better job of correcting himself and pitching to contact (but not the GB% we hope for!) to avoid giving too many free passes. This graph looks more like his 4/24/2009 start than that the 4/29/2009 start. A step back overall, but a better pitch efficiency.
5/9/2009 @ Cleveland vs. Detroit
6.2 IP, 2 RA, 6 BB, 4 K, 0 HR, 4 H
12/6/3 (GB/FB/LD) 112 pitches
Wildly effective? He's now strung together three consecutive starts without giving up a homerun and is getting double digit outs via the groundball five consecutive starts, but his control is back out of whack. He's keeping the first pitches low in general, but often too low, and he's all over the place with his out of zone pitches. He's been good at avoiding tossing up meatball pitches over the heart of the plate (I bet Jeremy Sowers' graph would be a single blue dot in the middle of the box!), but once again his pitch count catches up to him and he can't get out of the seventh inning. Glass half full people will say he's reached the 6.2 IP mark in his last three starts, surely that's progress right?!, but the problem is he's not making it out of the seventh inning and those 6.2 IP comes with runners left in scoring position for one of our fabulous relievers to inherent.
Fausto appears to be on the right track in achieving the low left corner of pitching zone regularly, but his control has been up and down over his last four starts. He's really getting by on his "stuff" and not with control or strategy. Its been mildly effective, mostly because of the suppression of homeruns, but consistently inefficient due to high walk rates. Obviously this is true of any starter, but until Fausto can gain some control over his fastball/sinker and get first/second pitch strikes consistently I find it difficult to believe that he's going to achieve any modicum of consistency of results and demonstration of pitching deeper into games.
Updated with 5/14/09 game below.
5/14/09 @ Tampa Bay
5.1 IP, 5 RA, 3 BB, 2 K, 0 HR, 4 H
11/8/5 (GB/FB/LD) 82 pitches.
Fausto got pinched by the ump in that last inning, you see those green dots within the box on the right lower side...yeah those should have been called strikes and two of them occurred in the sixth inning. Overall, we see that his greatest skill thus far is the avoidance of home runs as its now four straight starts without giving up one of them. Control is really doing him in, even if you ignore the umps screw ups. Of the 82 pitches thrown only 48 (58.5%) went for strikes. Its nice to see most of the blue dots (balls in play) collect along the left vertical bar, those are more likely to turn into weak grounders by LHBs or jam jobs to RHBs. He had four pitches down the middle of the plate that were put in play, he's going to want to avoid that. More walks than strikeouts is not a good sign though, he's almost at a 1:1 mark, thats really really bad. I want to be positive about him, but he's not pitching any better than he did last season up to this point in the season.
Updated with 5/20/09 game below.
5/20/09 @ Kansas City
6.0 IP, 4 RA, 4 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 6 H
16/4/1 (GB/FB/LD) 107 pitches
Fausto fails to reach seven innings. His control continues to be all over the place (I posted a comment in the comment section showing his release point data for this game), but did a great job of keeping the pitches down in the zone and received tremendous results in recording 16 GBs to only 4 FBs, and kept that nil in the HR column for a fifth game in a row. When he misses the zone he missed by alot and the problem once again with Carmona was wasting pitches. I don't know what the coaching staff is trying to do, I'm hoping they aren't satisfied with his numbers thus far. He needs to be able to strike out hitters, whether that is with changing pitch selection on two strike counts or simply pitching with better command of his sinker. He continues to get by on pure stuff with little command. He's simply not showing any improvement over his last few starts.