What To Do With D.J. Carrasco?


Last offseason, D.J. Carrasco was the only player signed by Sandy Alderson to receive a multi-year deal.  Carrasco responded with arguably his worst season to date as a Major Leaguer and is not guaranteed to make the 2012 Opening Day roster.  Intended to serve as a swingman, Carrasco still could have some value to the Mets this coming season-he just has to pitch better and get a little luckier.

In 49.1 innings, Carrasco posted an ugly 6.02 ERA along with a 1.682 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9 and 4.9 K/9.  He also spent about two months in the minors, where his numbers were considerably better (46.2 IP, 3.47 ERA, 1.350 WHIP, 3.3 BB/9 and 7.1 K/9 in eight starts and one relief appearance), although that success didn’t translate to the Majors.  Still, there is some reason to believe Carrasco can be an effective member of the Mets relief corps.

For starters, Carrasco actually did one thing well last year: strand inherited runners.  Out of the twenty-six runners he inherited, Carrasco allowed six to score, a 23% clip.  If you don’t factor in the three that scored in a meaningless game against the Cardinals in late September, his numbers are even better (11.5%).

In addition, Carrasco may have been the victim of some bad luck.  His xFIP was 4.77 and his SIERA was 4.36, both significantly lower than his ERA (not great, but still lower) while also the victim of a .355 BABIP.  From 2008-10, Carrasco posted a 3.77 ERA along with a 1.322 WHIP, 3.3 BB/9 and 6.2 K/9, so there is reason to suspect that 2011 may have been an off year for D.J.

In order to have success, however, Carrasco  will have to improve upon a few things.  First, he will need to cut down on the fly balls.  From 2008-10, Carrasco owned ground ball percentages of 51.4, 47.2 and 47.5, respectively; in 2011, his ground ball rate dipped to 43.6.  Second, he needs to improve upon his secondary pitches.  Along with a fast ball, Carrasco typically throws a cutter, slider and curveball (sometimes he’ll mix in a change).  In the past, he has usually been able to rely on two of these pitches to help him get outs, but last season he struggled.  Per 100 pitches, Carrasco’s cutter was worth -2.78 runs and his curve was worth -3.11 runs.  His fastball, slider and changeup all had positive run values per 100 pitches (0.54, 0.67 and 0.74, respectively), but the problem stems from the ratio in which Carrasco throws his pitches.  Not a flamethrower, D.J. thew his fastball 36.9% of the time, his cutter 32.6% of the time and his curve 15.5% of the time.  In short, nearly half of Carrasco’s pitches thrown were hurting him badly.  He will need to have his secondary stuff working in order to make an impact this season.

The Mets shouldn’t give up on Carrasco just yet, as he is just one year removed from a solid season in the bullpen.  However, the signing of Miguel Batista should serve as a warning to Carrasco that his job is not secure.  If Carrasco returns to his 2008-10 form, he should do fine in middle relief and/or mop-up work/long relief, something every pen needs.

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