Behind the Box Score: Carrasco’s velocity

When Carlos Carrasco exited his start on May 15 due to left pectoral tightness, there was concern over his sudden drop in velocity.

Two of the right-hander’s three starts after that minor injury have shown a similar dip in speed, both resulting in late damage against the Reds (5/24) and the Royals (6/3).

Note the steady decline in four-seam fastball (red line) velocity over the course of these three recent outings…

5/15 vs. Tampa Bay Rays (3.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R/ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 75 pitches, 41 strikes, 54.7%, four groundouts, one flyout) – Left start early due to left pectoral tightness.

  • Average four-seam fastball velocity in the fourth inning: 92.2-mph

5/23 at Cincinnati Reds (6.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R/ER, 4 BB, 6 K, 104 pitches, 62 strikes, 59.6%, six groundouts, four flyouts)

  • Average four-seam fastball velocity in the seventh inning: 93.4-mph

6/3 at Kansas City Royals (4.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R/ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 77 pitches, 47 strikes, 61%, four groundouts, five flyouts)

  • Average four-seam fastball velocity in the fifth inning: 92.7-mph

Current data from Fangraphs has Carrasco’s fastball averaging 93.9-mph, a mark that exceeds the velocities in his final inning of work for each of the three appearances – 92.2-mph on 5/15, 93.4-mph on 5/23 and 92.7-mph on 6/3.

While most pitchers will naturally experience a slight decline in pitch speed and overall effectiveness as they work deeper into a ballgame, Carrasco’s decrease may be concerning given his right elbow swelling in March and the aforementioned left pectoral tightness in May.

“His velocity dropped,” said manager Terry Francona after Carrasco’s start on Saturday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. “When it started to go, it looked like it was going quick. That’s why we got somebody [up in the bullpen] so fast.”

Carrasco underwent Tommy John surgery in September of 2011 and while he has clearly been the best pitcher on the Tribe staff, his recent lack of consistency in the later stages of his starts have been rather uncharacteristic.

“No, I didn’t [feel different in the fifth inning],” Carrasco said, despite unraveling for five earned runs after shutting down the Royals in the previous four frames. “I just got behind (in the) count.”

The late innings tend to present high-leverage situations, forcing a pitcher to perform under pressure and locate his pitches at the highest velocities. For Carrasco, the seventh has been one of his toughest innings on the young season…

Carrasco in the seventh inning in 2017: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R/ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, .273/.333/.545 opposing slash line.

Having success for the duration of an outing will be key for Carrasco based on his decline in velocity and overall performance in the late innings.

John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.

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