Carlos Carrasco is set to introduce himself to Mets fans and the media that cover the team this afternoon with a virtual press conference, much like Francisco Lindor did yesterday. And while Lindor is the superstar generational talent, Carrasco is very, very good himself, as David Capobianco outlined here at Amazin’ Avenue shortly after the trade.
Carrasco throws several pitches and has been throwing them for years: a four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, slider, and curveball, per Brooks Baseball. In terms of velocity, Carrasco’s hardest pitches were thrown in 2013 through 2015, as his four-seam fastball averaged 95.63, 96.29, and 95.74 miles per hour in those three seasons, respectively. And while the 33-year-old has seen some decline in velocity over the past few years, it has been very gradual, with his four-seam dipping just barely under 95 miles per hour in 2016 and having remained in the 94-and-change range in every season since then, averaging 94.12 miles per hour in the short 2020 season.
It’s also worth noting that Carrasco’s slider and curveball both dipped in velocity most significantly in 2017 and 2018, but both both of those pitches increased in velocity in each of the past two seasons. And his changeup’s steady drop in velocity mostly mirrors the trend of his fastball, which is good. You want a velocity gap between those pitches.
Speaking of Carrasco’s changeup, it’s a unique and highly-regarded pitch. Back in 2016, Jordan Bastian wrote a fun piece at mlb.com that asked Cleveland’s starting pitchers which one of their rotation-mates’ pitches they’d steal if they could. And when it came to Carrasco’s change, Bastian wrote:
“Carrasco’s changeup has similar fading action as Salazar’s offspeed pitch, but the difference is in the grip and velocity. While Salazar uses a circle-change grip, Carrasco holds his changeup in an altered split-fingered fastball position.”
As for the starting pitcher who said they’d love to have that pitch, it was Josh Tomlin, who said:
“I think for me it’d be Carrasco’s changeup. He’s got an unbelievable changeup. The arm action with it looks exactly like his fastball and then halfway there it disappears. He gets a lot of swing and misses on it, early contact and gets a lot of guys out on it. So I think for me it’d be probably trying to develop a Carlos Carrasco changeup.”
When it comes to pitch usage, David touched on that in his piece—specifically Carrasco’s major increase in throwing his slider while throwing his fastball less and less over time.
Carrasco dramatically increased his slider usage in 2014. Before then, Carrasco relied mostly on his fastball and changeup combo, while only mixing in his slider about 10% of the time. In 2014, Carrasco more than doubled his slider usage to 21.4%, and threw it more often than any other offspeed pitch in his arsenal....Carrasco has continued to heavily feature that slider ever since, and he continues to make adjustments to his pitch usage to adapt to his age-related decline in velocity. His fastball usage has steadily declined every year, from 55.6% in 2015 to just 39.3% in 2020, while he’s bumped up his usage of his curveball and changeup to go along with that wipeout slider in recent years.
Here’s how Carrasco has thrown all of his pitches since the 2013 season, again via Brooks.
One thing to note here: If you’re noticing the cutter listed in the mix, it’s likely a misread by the tracking technology, as just three of Carrasco’s pitches in 2020 got classified that way. In all likelihood, those three pitches were either fastballs or sliders.
There’s a small sample size caveat that must be applied to all data from the 2020 season, which was barely more than one-third the length of a full Major League Baseball season, but it is intriguing that Carrasco used his changeup 27.51 percent of the time. That’s nearly twice as often as he had been throwing the pitch just a couple seasons earlier, and it’s easy to see why he did when you look at whiff rates. When opposing hitters swung at his changeup in 2020, they missed 19.81 percent of the time—a very good rate. And in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, they missed over 20 percent of the time.
Back in April of last year, as baseball was on pause while the COVID-19 pandemic had started to hit the United States in full force, Joe Noga of cleveland.com wrote a piece about the changeup—salivating GIFs included—that touched on how good of a pitch it is.
Carrasco’s split-changeup is a unique offering that he can use to strike out left- and right-handed batters at any time and in any count, and it’s the reason Carrasco remains a key piece to the Tribe’s rotation for 2020 and beyond.
Clearly, the Mets have added an experienced pitcher who knows what he’s doing on the mound. Carrasco’s success has flown under the radar a bit over the past few years as he played in Cleveland and was part of a rotation that has featured other great pitchers—like Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, and Shane Bieber—and an attention-seeking Trevor Bauer. But Carrasco is damn good, and it’s going to be fun to watch him do his thing as a member of the Mets’ rotation.