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We Walk Through the World: Next Series Pitchers Preview

Early this week, the Blue Jays continue their homestand at the Rogers Centre, where they will host the Cleveland Indians for a short set of just two games before heading out to the West Coast.  Brian Tallet makes his fourth start of the season on Monday night and will try to bounce back strongly from his disappointing start in Kansas City.  On Tuesday afternoon, Brett Cecil will try to put his rough start to the year in the Pacific Coast League behind him in his major league debut.  The Indians send Fausto Carmona to the hill on Monday and Anthony Reyes will try his luck on Tuesday.  Since Carmona's done better, and he's posted a 6.28 ERA of 6.28 and 1.640 WHIP, it would be nice to see the Jays bats take the pressure off of Cecil in his first start in the bigs.  Hopefully the offense can take today's post title (from R.E.M., by the way) to heart and take advantage of the command problems that Carmona and Reyes have had so far.


4 May

Fausto Carmona

Carmona (1-3, 6.28, 1.640 WHIP) is an hard-throwing righty pitcher who relies almost exclusively on his two-seamer.  He placed fourth in the Cy Young Award voting back in 2007.  At just 23 years old, he won 19 games despite a low strikeout rate (just 5.7 K/9), thanks to his uncanny ability to keep the ball down (64.3% groundball rate, 0.7 HR/G) and over the plate (2.7 BB/9).  You may have pleasant memories of him starting the game when Joba Chamberlain imploded during a midge infestation.  With high expectations for their top two starters in 2008 (Sabathia won the 2007 Cy Young Award), it was quite a shock to see that their best starter -- indeed, the second best starter in the American League -- last year was Cliff Lee.  While Lee was great, that was also due in part to Carmona's inability to duplicate his success of 2007, which is beginning to look more and more like it may have been a bit of a fluke year.  This assertion is supported by a 2007 ERA of 3.06, despite an FIP of 4.05 (though a pitcher's FIP should be a tad higher than ERA to account for unearned runs).

Carmona had even more trouble striking out batters last season than in 2007, with just 4.1 K/9, a figure that is unsustainable at almost any walk-rate, but especially so at Carmona's 5.2 BB/9 (a 0.79 K/BB ratio).  Coupled with a reasonably high hit-rate (9.4 H/9), it is no surprise that he finished 2008 with an ERA of 5.44.  Interestingly, provided that you don't bother to look past ERA, Carmona started 2008 out very well, with a 2.25 ERA through 56 innings (17 May), but a K/BB of 22/35.  For what it's worth, he was, once again, able to keep the ball down (63.5% groundball rate, 0.5 HR/9).  As his record, ERA and WHIP imply, Carmona has had some trouble in 2009, except he has had more trouble keeping the ball on the ground (a markedly lower 55.2% groundball rate and markedly higher 1.48 HR/9, though the HR-rate should come down considerably).  He has managed to increase his strikeout rate (5.6 K/9), but that has come with an increase in walk rate (5.0 BB/9) and the aforementioned decrease in grounders.

Throughout his career, Carmona has had strong platoon splits, keeping righthanded batters to a miniscule .343 slugging average (.234 / .320 / .343; 2.18 K/BB).  He has even struck out righties quite well (almost 7.5 K/9).  This, of course, just goes to show how much trouble he's had with lefties (.292 / .364 / .425; 1.03 K/BB).  The high batting average against is not an artifact of bad luck either, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .301.  He was even worse against lefties last year, when they OBPed .387 en route to an OPS of 832.  At the top of his game in 2007, Carmona's splits were even stronger, though that was likely driven partially by luck (.248 BABIP against vs. righties).

As mentioned earlier, Camona relies almost exclusively on his two-seamer, a hard fastball with very good downward movement (akin to a sinker), the pitch he has thrown 84% of the time this year.  He mixes up the two-seamer with his change, which also has sinking action and an occasional slider.  A similar pitcher to Chien-Ming Wang, he'll keep batters somewhat honest with a four-seamer every once in a while, but the sinker is really his bread-and-butter.


5 May

Anthony Reyes

Reyes (1-0, 7.58, 1.684 WHIP) is similar to Carmona in that he is right-handed and primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher, but the similarity ends there.  Reyes differs in that he is a flyball pitcher, who relies on his four-seamer, which is supposed to rise, as opposed to the sinking movement on a two-seamer.  At 27, Reyes still has never pitched a full season (he made 17 starts in 2006 and 20 in 2007), mostly due to an inability to be effective (career ERA of 5.09 and WHIP of 1.361).  He kept his ERA and WHIP numbers low in 2008, particularly in his six starts with The Tribe (1.83 and 1.252, respectively), though that was likely a result of small sample size (again, just six starts), and luck (an expected FIP of 5.04).  Career-wise Reyes has posted pedestrian strikeout- (6.3 K/9) and walk-rates (3.5 BB/9), but he has had far worse command of the strike zone thus far in 2009 (9 K and 11 BB through 19 innings).  Reyes did beat the Jays early this year, but not convincingly, yielding three walks and one homer against just two strikeouts over six innings.

Over the course of his career, Reyes has had reverse platoon splits, being far more effective against lefties (.268 / .311 / .449; 2.61 K/BB) than righties (.243 / .349 / .474; 1.43 K/BB).  The higher batting average against but lower on-base and slugging averages against show that Reyes has been tougher on lefties in spite of much having better luck against righties (.286 BABIP vs. lefties, .258 vs. righties), though those numbers are indicative of pretty good luck against both.

In 2007, Reyes displayed those reverse splits best, managing to limit lefties (.290 / .310 / .465; 5.14 K/BB!), but getting hit hard by righties (.234 / .361 / .463; 1.06 K/BB).  Looking at those numbers, what should jump out at you is that when righties hit him, they hit him hard, 28 of 58 hits were for extra bases for an Isolated Power (Slugging Percentage - Batting Average) of .229, which is quite high (over his career, Vernon Wells has an IsoP of .197).

As I said earlier, Reyes is mainly a four-seamer and changeup pitcher.  His fastball clocks in around 90 mph, though he can get it into the low 90's sometimes and his change is quite slower, coming in below 80 mph.  He also throws a slurve-type curveball, which has horizontal movement like a slider but the downward movement of a curve.