- Chien-Ming Wang:
- Fausto Carmona:
Like Wang, Carmona was once one of the toughest sinkerballers in the league. His sinker averaged a bat-shattering 93.5 mph, and induced a remarkable 64% of ground balls on balls in play (best in the American League at the time). Coupled with good control and a decent strikeout rate, Carmona certainly looked like he would terrorize the AL Central for years to come. And then he got hurt. Carmona suffered a hip injury that limited him to only 120 innings in 2008, and like Wang, he hasn't been the same pitcher since. While he certainly hasn't lost any velocity and his sinker still gets a good number of ground balls, Carmona has lost his control. His walk rate has increased from 2.55 per nine innings in 2007 to a league-worst 5.83 BB/9 since 2008. He was demoted all the way down to the Arizona Summer League in June of 2009, and saw only a slight improvement in his numbers after being called up in July. Carmona is still pretty effective against right-handed hitters, holding them to a mere .366 slugging percentage. It's lefties who give him fits, batting .331/.427/.537 against him and drawing nearly twice as many walks (47 vs. 23). I don't follow the Indians that closely, so I have no idea how he figures into their future plans. but I imagine Carmona will get another chance to make it as a starter.
- Nick Blackburn:
Blackbeard is perhaps best described as "Carlos Silva with better secondary stuff", and yet he's been more valuable to his team over the past couple of years than Wang and Carmona combined (whoa, there's a sentence I never thought I would ever write). Unlike those two, Blackburn doesn't throw particularly hard or induce as many worm-burners, and his secondary stuff is pretty pedestrian. His sinker induces ground balls at a rate of only 49%, compared to Wang's 60% and Carmona's 64% (good sinkerballers get an average of 60% groundballs on balls in play). Worse yet, he doesn't induce many empty swings, either. It's not just that he doesn't strike out many batters (few sinkerballers post above-average strikeout rates), it's that his sinking fastball has a whiff rate of only about 6%. Since he relies heavily on a very hittable two-seamer (he throws it nearly 56% of the time), it's no wonder most analysts were skeptical that Blackburn would stick in the major leagues. The key to Blackbeard's effectiveness lies in his pinpoint control: his 1.79 BB/9 rate was the third-best in the Amercian League last year. Blackbeard has finished in the top five in innings pitched the past couple of seasons despite also leading the league in hits allowed, and at best projects to be little more than a solid innings-eater. As long as he's still under team control and only making the league minimum, though, that isn't such a bad thing to have in the rotation at all.