Game 113, White Sox at Mariners
Roenis Elias vs. Scott Carroll, 7:10pm
I can’t be the only one who’d never heard of Scott Carroll until recently. Some of you heard his name when you read/heard the pitching probables for this game (Carroll’s first ever game against Seattle), and some of you may have seen Mike Petriello’s Fangraphs article about Carroll’s role in the worst called strikezone of 2014. Even the name is non-descript; he sounds like a fungible mid-80s swingman on a team the M’s didn’t play often – maybe Cincinnati or Philadelphia, almost certainly mustachioed.
Carroll was drafted in 2007 by Cincinnati, as a matter of fact, and spent several years kicking around the mid-minors before running out of steam soon after reaching AAA. He wasn’t a strikeout guy, but wasn’t a control pitcher either. He gave up tons of hits, but…uh, no, there was nothing counteracting that, and thus the Reds released him in 2012. The White Sox picked him up, and just 25 total appearances later, they sent him to the big leagues. The right-handed sinkerballer made his MLB debut in late April – at the age of 29 – and he’s been with the club ever since. As you’d guess, he *still* isn’t missing any bats, with a poor strikeout rate and an abysmal whiff rate. He’s allowed plenty of walks, which means his K-BB% is the second worst in baseball, behind Nick Martinez of the Rangers, and the one guy who came into spring training as a bigger long-shot to be on a big league roster by May 1.
He features a 90mph sinker, which he throws 50-60% of the time, a rare 90mph four-seamer that’s noteworthy for having a whiff rate under 1%, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, a cutter at around 87, a change-up and a curve. The change and curve aren’t bad pitches in a vacuum. He’s had decent results off of them, but a portion of that is due to when he throws them – if he gets ahead of a hitter, he’ll use his breaking/off-speed stuff, and get weak contact or the rare strikeout. But that’s been something of a challenge for him. By Statcorner’s metrics, he’s thrown a greater percentage of his pitches while behind in the count than the league average. At some level, a sinkerballer should be better in these situations than others, because if you’re just going to pound the knees, the count may not matter as much. On the other hand, Carroll’s a marginal talent, essentially the walking embodiment of “replacement level.” It’s tough to compound your problems by falling behind if you don’t have swing and miss stuff.
So Carroll’s an unlikely big league starter, is what I’m saying. Given the whole “righty throwing 90” thing, and the released-while-in-the-minors thing, and not even getting into the “blew-out-his-elbow-after-joining-the-Sox-org” thing, he’s been remarkably not awful. He’s been worth 1/2 of a fWAR thus far, thanks to a low HR rate (for the park) and he’s had some solid games. Of course, if you’ve heard of Carroll at all, it’s probably got something to do with a company he invested in called Doodlehats, and the prank teammate Chris Sale played on him earlier this year. After a June start, Sale wore a Doodlehat (which Carroll had graciously distributed to each teammate) with Carroll’s phone number written on it for his post-game interviews. That led to the rediscovery of this YouTube video he did in 2012. He’d even written a decent article on his TJ surgery rehab for a chicago blog just before this year’s spring training. There are ways for pitchers without top-shelf stuff to post great results; Dave wrote about Tanner Roark today, for example. To be fair, Carroll isn’t really using any of them. But as far as long-shot 5th starters go, he’s pretty memorable.
Carroll’s sinker makes him pretty vulnerable to left-handed bats, hence Endy Chavez today. Speaking of lefties, Michael Saunders joins Tacoma tonight on rehab as they welcome Fresno to Cheney Stadium. Gorgeous night – if you can’t make it to Safeco, head to Tacoma.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Ackley, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Chavez, RF
9: Taylor, SS
Even with the platoon split angle, Chris Taylor stays put as the starting SS. Brad Miller will get a start some day, but this is not a job share. McClendon’s made it clear, and this is just a good example, that Taylor’s his starter.
To stuff one more gratuitous fangraphs link into this sucker, you should really check out Jeff’s great piece on the M’s historically good run prevention this year – and the fact that said run prevention hasn’t been enough – YET – to lift them into a playoff spot. I think we all expected the bullpen to be better than 2013’s, but this is pretty remarkable. Also remarkable: a team in a playoff chase has given Endy Chavez so many at-bats.
Erasmo Ramirez takes the hill for the surging Rainiers tonight, while Tyler Olson starts for Jackson. The Aquasox are in Spokane tonight, and they’ll send Dan Altavilla to the mound against the Indians.