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Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Another rough outing for Carmona


Today, yet another disaster for Fausto Carmona, who couldn't escape the first inning of his start against the Rangers. Upon his removal, Texas broadcasters Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve had the following exchange: Grieve was referring to this game, in May last year (in that same game, the umpires missed a home run, which added to the talk about adding video review to the process). In the third inning, Carmona strained his hip while covering first base, threw one more pitch before leaving the game, and didn't pitch again until late July.

Had he gotten off to a good start, though? By three measures, yes. In his first nine starts, Carmona was 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA, and he'd given up just one home run in 56 innings. His ERA and home-run rate were even better than in his Cy-worthy 2007 campaign.

Oddly, though, there was a massive red flag in Carmona's 2008 pre-injury numbers: in those 56 innings, he'd struck out only 22 batters while walking 35. As you know, it's almost impossible to survive with more walks than strikeouts. It's really only possible if you give up very, very few home runs. Which is exactly what Carmona was doing.

That sort of home-run rate can't continue, though. Even the best sinkerballers will give up a dozen or more homers in a season. And since Carmona came off the disabled list last summer, he's struggled to throw strikes and he's given up home runs: 19 of them in 164 innings. Which is a manageable number, except he's also walked 95 hitters and struck out only 98.

Which is unmanageable, and has led to Carmona's 6.92 post-DL ERA.

I see only one reason for optimism. While pitching in the minors this season -- one start apiece in Classes A and AA, plus five in Triple-A -- Carmona struck out 39 hitters and walked only seven. He also gave up five home runs in those five Triple-A starts.

Carmona did sign a long-term contract extension shortly into last season, running through 2011 with club options through 2014. It's not an immense amount of money, though; the Indians owe him $4.9 million next year, $6.1 million in 2011. Those numbers are essentially perfect, not so much that the money will a) kill them to think about if he pitches poorly, or b) kill them to think about if they wind up paying Carmona to not pitch.

Of course, no contract at all would be even better. Because we're now looking at nearly two full seasons of epic failure.