We call it The Change, but in today’s case, we might have three instances where change looks like it’s happened… but it hasn’t. Is it possible that Carlos Carrasco, Shelby Miller and Trevor May have the same pluses and minuses they’ve always had?
In fact, that’s more likely than change. As much as we look for it.
Carlos Carrasco (2% owned)
Here’s a fun fact. Carrasco has a 2.08 ERA since he lost his job in the Cleveland rotation early in the year. Of course, he moved to the bullpen, where life is easier for a guy with three plus pitches and gas. His fastball velocity went up to 97 mph and he finally got average whiffs with the pitch. Amazing, though. Amazing that at 97 mph he’s only getting average whiffs with his fastball.
But the rest of the arsenal is still pretty good. His change up has been less effective for swinging strikes in the pen (9.7%), but he’s throwing it less. But with his excellent curve (20% since moving to pen) and slider (34% in pen), he’s needed the change less.
In his first start back — a nice outing against the Yankees on Sunday with four strikeout and no walks in five scoreless innings — Carrasco threw the slider half as much as he had in the pen and replaced those with change-ups and sinkers. But with an 89 mph change, you have to wonder if he can keep up the good work when that fastball dips back to 94.
As it is, it still looks like a flat fastball (his four-seamer has two fewer inches rise than your average four-seamer) with minus command (his slider is his only regular pitch with better than 36% ball rate). So, love Carrasco for velocity and three pitches and nice home park. He’s still got those flaws and is probably a deep leaguer and a spot starter in mixed leagues — if he keeps his rotation spot.
Shelby Miller (80%)
Miller has had three starts since he lost his spot in the rotation. In those three starts, he’s struck out 12, walked one, and given up five runs in 18.2 innings. He’s back!
Well, there’s no obvious change in his pitching mix, not in terms of usage. He’s still throwing a cutter, four-seam and curve combo. Suddenly, his four-seamer is getting double-digit whiffs again. That’s what it did in 2013, so that’s good news. There’s no velocity or movement reason for it, though. He’s continued to abandon the change, too.
All of his non-fastball whiffs over the last three starts have come from the cutter. The curve has not gotten him a single whiff after giving him 7% whiffs last year. You can also see that his curve velocity has been down three mph this year, but it’s creeping back up. If he can average 79/80 on the curve again, maybe that will be a good sign for him.
That said, Miller looks like the guy he’s always been: great fastball, okay cutter, good curve, and more whiffs than you’d think with that combo because he throws the fastball a ton. His upside makes him ownable in all leagues, but you’ll want to watch the whiffs on his four-seamer going forward in case you’re looking ahead to the head to head finals and want to know how solid of an asset you have.
Trevor May (0%)
I actually used my last AL-LABR dollar on May, but I’m just looking for a warm body with some upside that might last until Derek Holland makes it back to the big leagues. And I own him in a couple super-deep keeper leagues because there’s some talent in that arm. But should anyone else care, especially since he debuted with seven walks and no strikeouts in two innings?
Maybe. For one, the debut was not completely lost. He got a whiff on the change-up! That’s not a lot to hang your hat on, but it is good news because the change is supposedly his best offspeed pitch. And it had the nice 10 mph differential you want, plus two more inches of arm-side run than his four-seamer. You’d like to see more drop on the pitch, though — it averaged the same rise as his four-seamer. The slider also had good shape, with a bunch of cut and two inches of drop.
But May always had command issues in the minor, so this debut was probably disastrous for his confidence after supposedly correcting those this year in Triple-A. Watch his walks, the drop on his change-up, and look for his first whiff on a breaking pitch. If he can improve in all three spots, he’ll be worth that keeper slot in deep keepers, and maybe even worth a deep redraft league streaming slot over the rest of the season.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.