Friday, May 11, 2007

Odd Man Out

Shapiro and Wedge may face a difficult decision when the time comes for Westbrook to return to the rotation. Fausto Carmona has taken full advantage of his 5 starts, going 3-1 with an outstanding 2.97 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Since struggling against Chicago in his first start, Carmona has contributed to wins over New York, Minnesota, and Baltimore (twice) going at least 6 innings with a 1.59 ERA in those four games.

Carmona has displayed his ability as a groundball pitcher this season with a 2.14 (60-28) groundball-flyball outs ratio with only 11 K's in 33.1 innings pitched. Despite the barrage of groundballs, the infield has only committed 2 groundball related errors with Carmona on the mound. What's even more encouraging, is Carmona has been able to overcome pitching in front of the 4th worst defense in the majors, despite relying on the defense to finish off a large majority of opposing batters.

The incumbent, Jeremy Sowers, has struggled to find his groove this year, posting a 6.56 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, and no wins in 7 starts. Sowers has not been horrible, with 4 quality starts to 3 poor ones, but has had a startling lack of consistency compared to his performance last year. The Ohio native has gotten roughed up by Baltimore and LA in his last two outings, giving up 12 runs in only 7 innings pitched.

It's difficult to say what is causing Sowers' performance to fluctuate so much this early in the season, but hitters making adjustments to a young pitcher may be a major factor. Mechanics are definitely a contributing factor, as Sowers relies on precise, consistent placement of his pitches rather than power. In his last two starts, Sowers had an obvious problem finding the strikezone or fooling many batters. I have a lot of confidence in Sowers, but I am wondering whether or not he is completely healthy right now, since he hasn't shown any mechanical problems before this season.

A trip to Buffalo to work out any kinks may end up hurting Sowers' confidence in the long run, causing him to look over his shoulder once he returns to the rotation. On the other hand, Carmona has proven he is ready to help the major league club and has been the best starting pitcher not named Charles Carsten. Sowers is young, with only 21 starts under his belt, but he at least deserves a chance to keep the job he earned last season, with or without Carmona waiting in the wings.

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