Andrew Carraway – Moneyball, Money, and Taking the Long View
He was the forgotten man in the Jackson rotation to begin the year, but an excellent start got him promoted to AAA – where he was forgotten again, at least as soon as Danny Hultzen and Erasmo Ramirez arrived. That’s nothing new to the cerebral Andrew Carraway. A right-hander with a fastball in the mid-upper 80s is going to be dismissed by prospect hounds, and Carraway understands this well. As a result, he’s had to work on his location, deception and sequencing to succeed in pro ball, and it’s worked pretty well for him so far.
It’s great to hear about a guy with a 96mph fastball who’s working on his command or a new pitch. But I wanted to hear from someone at the other end of the natural talent spectrum – someone whose stuff is marginal, and who needs to figure out how to work around that. Incidentally, I see that this interview with Trevor Bauer just went up today at Fangraphs. I think it’s fascinating to read them together – both are very intelligent and clearly think about pitching a lot, but the specific aspects they think about are completely different. (Bauer and Carraway faced each other in Tacoma earlier)
Interview after the jump:
USSM: What do you throw, and do you throw anything different to lefties vs. righties?
Andrew Carraway: In the past, I’ve been a fastball/change-up pitcher, last year I worked a lot on using both sides of the plate with my fastball and using the change-up a lot to lefties and righties. More recently, I’ve been working to develop my curveball and cutter a lot more, and I guess traditionally you’ll see more change-up to lefties and more cutters to righties, and so with the development of my cutter – something that breaks away from righties – I’ve been able to use that more against righties and use the change-up to lefties.
USSM: Where’d you develop the cutter? Was that something you developed in pro ball, or did you have that in college?
AC: In pro ball – when I was drafted, my slider wasn’t very good, and when I was in AA, my pitching coach Lance Painter and I talked, and it became clear that my curve and that fourth pitch needed to be better. So we started playing around with grips, working in the bullpen there, so I went into the end of 2011 with the idea that I wanted to really develop that pitch. The goal of the offseason was coming into spring training with an improved cutter, so I could come into 2012 and really feel confident using it in games.
USSM: Did that make the assignment easier? You had a pretty good season in 2011, and at the end of the spring, you were assigned to Jackson again. Was there some disappointment there, or was it a good thing – that you were able to work with Lance on the cutter a bit more?
AC: There was some comfort there, we had a lot of games together – I actually worked with him a bit in 2009. Baseball’s such a hard game. You see so many players who are so good at AAA/AA and the big leagues, so I’ve developed a lot more of a long-term attitude about it. Rather than going in to spring training with the a “AAA or bust” attitude, I really just focus on getting better – keep working, instead of an all-or-nothing approach.
USSM: Velocity’s really important to a lot of pitchers. You’re not lighting up the radar gun, but do you use that information? Is it helpful to you, or do you focus on what the hitters are doing?
AC: All the way through baseball, I’ve never had a blazing fastball, and I’ve never been a guy who’s going to be a top prospect, hitting 95 on the radar gun. It’s been something I’ve had to adjust to, knowing that I’m going to have to use something else– whether it be fastball location, which does a lot – if you have an average fastball but you can hit your spots, that does a lot.
Moving through the minor leagues, I’ve learned from my pitching coaches different ways to work with my fastball and develop pitches to go along with it, but since I played travel ball at age 10, it’s always been something I’ve had to deal with. I still have to use my fastball – no matter how hard you throw, you’ve still got to throw it.
USSM: It doesn’t have a lot of sink – you don’t get ground balls; you get fly balls and quite a few infield pop-ups. Is that something that you look for – you know you’re “on” when you’re getting infield flies?
AC: It’s more about quality of contact. When you’re using a pitch over an over, quality of contact is a great gauge. If you see the quality of contact isn’t great in a game, that gives you a bit of extra confidence. Since baseball is such a game of inches – millimeters really – if you have that little extra confidence, you’re going to have that extra boost, and that can make the pitch even better because you’ve got confidence behind it. So if you’re facing a lefty power hitter, maybe the best guy in the line-up, and everyone knows you’ve got a below-average fastball, you’ve got that extra confidence knowing you can get him out. And that’s where using the change-up first to slow him down a bit can really help, so whether it’s pop ups or slow ground balls, seeing poor contact can help you for the rest of the game. It keeps pushing you to keep throwing that pitch.
USSM: Obviously confidence is so important, but that’s tough in a league like the PCL or Cal League. You’ve been bit by the HR bug a bit this year, and you were in High Desert. Is it tough to stick to your gameplan and avoid staying away from hitters?
AC: Yeah, as long as the fly balls are weakly hit, if some of those are aided by the park, you don’t worry about that at all. If you’re giving up two 400 foot shots a game, that’s when you’ve got to say ‘What I’m doing isn’t working,’ and you look at pitch selection or getting better pitch quality in my cutter. As long as the bad starts come every now and again, then rather than change your game, you just have to make your game work better. In giving up fly balls, you still need to have that pitch that you can get a ground ball, get a double play in a first and third situation.
USSM: I’d like to talk about your mechanics, which are a lot different from other people’s. Here’s a picture of you – just talk me through this. Your front foot’s about planted, and your right arm’s cocked back here towards first base. Is this how you’ve always done it?
(Here’s the picture I showed him)
AC: A lot of it is just what’s come naturally. I’ve always thrown some across my body. When I step towards 3B a bit, your body has to do something to bring yourself back in line, so you start rotating a little more, maybe there’s more torque, more rotation in there, and maybe inadvertently that helps with deception a bit, throwing across your body the hitter’s getting a different look than normal.
In my daily routine, even in the outfield, I just try to find those fastball mechanics that feel natural and feel right to me. In college, my coach at Virginia pushed his idea, which was that because my right arm drops pretty deeply, he wanted my glove arm to be doing the opposite – to come up higher. So as my hand starts going back, my glove starts going up in the opposite direction, and it sends it to a place that people don’t see a lot. Much higher than most –most people just bring their hands apart a lot lower…
USSM: Most pitching coaches seem to like a “quiet” approach there.
My arm’s going to do what it’s naturally going to do, so he pushed my left arm to do the opposite, and maybe that pushed my body to compensate a little more, and you might be seeing that in the picture. Honestly, when I’m on the mound, majority of the time, I’m just trying to make a pitch. And the mechanics really are natural at this point.
USSM: You’ve talked on your own blog about your College World Series experience really being the peak experience you’ve had as a pitcher. What’s the adjustment like to pro ball? You’re playing every day, the season’s longer – so you could develop that bond with your teammates quicker, but on the other hand, the rosters are changing weekly:
AC: The experience we had in Omaha that year, and winning as a team, gave me so many things to learn – it was such a high achievement to do it together. SO I did learn a lot about team baseball. More and more, I’m learning that the things you learn in the routine of pro ball really does offer a lot – a lot of things I’ll take with me the rest of my life, after my career is over (hopefully that’s a long ways down the road). The players are so good – you have to give everything you have, and some days you give up 8 runs in 3, and other days you go 7, give up 1 run and strike out 10. There’s such a wide range of outcomes, and you have to find a way every day to keep improving, and keep putting yourself back on the mound and giving your team a chance to win.
There’ve been so many life lessons that I can talk about with my teammates in pro ball that are different, but that are still important and that will still be important to me down the road.
USSM: Your career after baseball’s kind of taken shape already, as you’re already working with a venture capital firm in Virginia. That seems like a very analytical, rigorous, data-driven sort of a thing – do you approach baseball the same way, or is it something completely different – a different hemisphere of the brain?
AC: It’s analytical, yes, but the ways I would compare baseball and investing is exactly what was discussed in Moneyball - looking for value where others don’t see it. There are similarities for me, because I can’t throw my glove on the field and let my stuff speak for me. I’m always looking for those little advantages – maybe they’re advantages that others haven’t seen as much, but more likely, they’re things I can learn from guys like Brian Sweeney, whose been in the majors, he’s played in Japan – he’s someone I have tremendous respect for. He knows how to get hitters out. It’s great to learn from a guy like that. Both of us are 87-90, we have to pick up on the details more than guys who are 96, so in those ways it’s similar in that those small details get so important.
It’s different in that, [in the book] when you’re looking at a company, it’s more about building a team, and moving pieces around and looking for value that way, whereas when you’re on the mound, the things you’re looking for are different. The more you think about it, the more you can pick up as the game goes along, the more it helps.
USSM: em>Ok, one more controversial, non-baseball question. We’ve had bond yields in Spain that briefly neared 8%, they’ve been down recently but are still in the 6.5% range. Is the Euro going to survive? Can the ECB do enough to save Spain?
AC: I’ve heard some smart people predict that before this whole thing’s over, three countries will leave the euro. So if a country like Greece exits, even after the billions pledged to it, I don’t think that would be all that surprising. In the bigger picture, I think the Euro will survive. If so many people are willing to fight so hard, they’re going to fight to the bitter end.
Spain’s a tricky situation, since they’ve got so many regions that are trying to do their own thing, while the central government’s trying to pull them in – it’s much harder to predict when you’ve got so many parties acting within a country.
It’s also so much larger than Greece….Germany hated bailing out Greece, but they could do it. At what point do the citizens in the north say enough’s enough?
AC: It’s so interesting in finance you see times like October of last year, when what *could happen* in Greece comes to the fore, when it’s been developing so slowly. And then a possible solution comes up, and people come together just to talk, and then everything calms for a while and you get a two month rally. And then there’s Spain’s in the news, and then there’s another “plan for a plan” and everything’s calm again. Nothing’s changed, but it comes into the news again, and everyone’s terrified again. It’s like two trains colliding in slow motion – people sometimes forget that the trains are still there – all that makes it really hard to put your money in right now. People forget about it, and react to the latest news.