1954. 1995. And now, 2017. Those are the only three seasons in the 117 season history of the Cleveland Indians that the team has finished with 100 or more victories. The Tribe won the AL pennant in both of those seasons only to fall in the World Series. It will be up to the current squad to navigate one of the most intense MLB postseason labyrinths ever constructed if they are to improve by one victory over their 2016 counterparts.
Fittingly, win No. 100, a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins, would fall within the confines of a dominant Carlos Carrasco start. In 8.1 innings pitched, Carrasco would finish with 14 strikeouts, one walk, and allow zero earned runs. The type of signature performance most fanbases would tout alongside a season of excellence as reasons for a legitimate bid for the AL Cy Young Award. You know, if that team did not also feature the favorite for the award in Corey Kluber.
K is for Cookie; that’s good enough for me.
That has been the crux with Carrasco over his career. His steadiness has dulled any reactionary emotional responses. He is not reviled by large portions of the fanbase as Bryan Shaw and Carlos Santana are, but he is not as beloved as Kluber or Francisco Lindor either. He doesn’t have the long hair or weird ticks on the mound of a Mike Clevinger. His ridiculously team-friendly contract through 2020 allows no worries to creep in about a life without him in the rotation. The Carlos Carrasco foundation work he does is a fantastic demonstration of his heart- uplifting children to provide the tools they need to succeed in life. However, he seeks no recognition for his humanitarian efforts and many do not realize all of the good he does.
Cookie has had an ERA at 3.32 and FIP at 3.10 three times over the last four seasons. Even his worst lines in that timeframe (3.63 ERA in 2015 and 3.72 FIP in 2016) are numbers most teams would appreciate from a No. 2 starter. Again, Carrasco suffers from a comparison issue. Without Kluber, more would appreciate Carrasco’s 3.24 ERA and 3.03 FIP in 664 innings pitched over the last four years with a 1.078 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9,1 and 51-33 record (if you are into that sort of thing). Through no fault of his own though, Kluber has been better. Kluber’s 2.84 ERA and 2.77 FIP in 871.1 innings pitched with a 1.021 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/92 and 63-38 record each eclipse those fantastic stats Cookie put up. Add in Kluber finishing in the Top 10 of the Cy Young Award voting each season (winning once) and there is a reason Kluber is the team’s ace.
Still, Cookie deserves a Top 5 finish in the 2017 AL Cy Young Award voting despite few mentioning his candidacy. Corey Kluber and Chris Sale have separated themselves from everyone else in the AL. Both have fWAR above 7.0. Kluber’s bWAR of 8.0 dwarfs Sale’s 6.1, but there are enough peripheral statistics that are split where it will come down to a close vote between the two pitchers for the award. However, after them, there are a litany of pitchers vying for a spot on the voting cards with Carrasco having a great case for being next.
Carrasco is ranked fifth in the AL in bWAR (5.6) and fourth in fWAR (5.5). He is Top 5 in wins (18, 1st), strikeouts (226, 5th), strikeout rate (28.3%, 5th), strikeout-to-walk ratio (22.6%, 4th), WHIP (1.10, 4th), FIP (3.10, 4th), and sixth by a hundredth of a run in ERA (3.29). The pitcher whose numbers Cookie most closely resembles is Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Yes, this is the same Severino whom many are rightfully hoping the Yankees need to burn to win an AL Wild Card game so that the Indians will not have to face him more than once in the ALDS.
Most discussion around the Indians awards has focused on Jose Ramirez and Lindor in the AL MVP race. Or Kluber for the AL Cy Young Award. Just don’t forget that Carrasco also deserves mention for that AL Cy Young as he has been among the best pitchers in the AL this season and throughout the past four. The steady excellence should put some fear into opposing lineups. Maybe Cookie will start to gain some more vocal credit for it with a dominant October run.