Mailbag: What's happened to Fausto?
MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince answers Tribe fans' questions
-- Tim H., Nuremberg, Germany Carmona was so frustrated when he came out of his outing Saturday that he flung his hat and glove into the stands. Given his lack of conrol this season, I wouldn't be surprised if he was aiming for the dugout. The prevailing theory on Carmona's trouble this season is that, much like Cliff Lee a year ago, he's struggling to play catchup after missing significant time with an injury. The difference, of course, is that Carmona did make 10 starts before straining his hip, and he walked 38 batters in that span. He wasn't off to the best of starts, and the injury only set him further behind. It has been suggested that Carmona is battling fatigue, which would help to explain why so many of his outings dissolve in the middle innings. But fatigue might actually help Carmona avoid his real problem, which has been overthrowing in critical situations. When he does that, his sinker stays flat. And as you wrote, Tim, his inability to make adjustments within a start has been his downfall this year. Perhaps a long and frustrating year has gotten to his head. I've been following the pitching moves all year, and it seems to me the logical choice to get the call up to replace Anthony Reyes would have been David Huff. Is there a reason Huff wasn't brought up? And why wasn't Jeff Stevens a September callup?
-- James B., Ames, Iowa An elbow strain limited Huff to just 59 2/3 innings over 11 starts at Class A Kinston last year. The Indians, therefore, didn't want to put too much of a strain on his arm this year. He was eased into the end of the season, and the Tribe opted not to call him up for September. As for next year, there is some internal debate as to Huff's readiness for the big leagues. Some believe he is ready for prime time right now; others would prefer he stick it out in Triple-A for a while. Whatever the case, it's a certainty that Huff will be in big league camp in the spring, and I would suspect his first opportunity in the Majors will come at some point in 2009. The Indians also didn't want to overtax Stevens this year. He threw 89 1/3 innings between Kinston, Double-A Akron, the Arizona Fall League and the World Cup last season, and that's quite a workload for a Minor League reliever. Stevens was still sharpening his skills at Buffalo when his season was interrupted by his participation in Beijing with Team USA.
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-- Nate D., Cleveland Hafner is a full-time DH whose OPS dropped 262 points from 2006 to 2007. And he was pretty much a non-factor at the plate the first two months of this season before going on the DL with shoulder weakness that cost him more than three months of the season, which remains rather mysterious and now limits him to playing every other day. I'd say his trade value isn't exactly strong. How Hafner recovers from his shoulder problem will be a primary factor in how the Indians fare next season. The club has so much invested in Pronk, both offensively and financially, that he'll either be an MVP or an albatross. I've never seen anyone from Arkansas in your mailbag. Hopefully, I'll be the first. Now to the question: When I look at the amazing performances put together the past few years by Indians pitchers (Lee, CC Sabathia, Carmona, Kevin Millwood) and the way mediocre pitchers have good seasons (Paul Byrd), shouldn't Carl Willis be getting more respect as one of the best pitching coaches in baseball?
-- David K., Arkadelphia, Ark. I don't know that you're the first person from Arkansas to make it in the mailbag, David. But I can definitively say you're the first person from Arkadelphia to make it in here. Willis certainly has the respect of those in the Indians' clubhouse, and he'd probably tell you that's good enough for him. But you're right that the overall job he's done warrants respect. I love Franklin Gutierrez's and Jhonny Peralta's songs when they come up to bat, but there aren't enough lyrics for me to search and figure them out. Do you know what the name and artists are?
-- Michele D., Parma, Ohio I made an attempt to answer this and all the other questions I get about at-bat music over at the CastroTurf blog. I hope this link helps. I was reading the Indians.com article about Cliff Lee's 20th win and noticed the picture of him delivering a pitch. Cliff's grip in the photo is a knuckle curve grip. I've noticed at times this year that he seems to be using two different curveballs -- a harder pitch that's flatter, and a slower, big-breaking curveball. Are these the same pitch at different speeds or different pitches altogether?
-- Peter H., East Aurora, N.Y. Lee does throw a spiked curveball, and that's probably what that picture depicted. The curveball he throws has a dramatic bend as it reaches the plate. In fact, it's become an increasingly rare pitch in the Majors. Not too many guys throw a traditional curve anymore. The other breaking ball you reference is not a curve but a cutter. Lee also throws a variation of that pitch that is a more traditional slider, though he doesn't throw it often. He just began working on that pitch last season. Lee throws his fastball roughly 75 percent of the time. Among his other four pitches, he probably throws his changeup most often, followed by the curve. But everything works off the fastball, which he's commanded well enough this season to be an American League Cy Young favorite. And finally... I really do respect the attendance streak of the Red Sox, but I want to put something out there: Using 2004 numbers, average income in Boston was 13th-highest in the U.S. at nearly $46,000, while Cleveland was third-lowest at just under $28,000. The attendance total for Boston's streak was just shy of 16.3 million, while I estimate Cleveland's at 19.6 million. And Cleveland, according to the 2005 census, has over 100,000 less people. So Cleveland filled a larger park with a smaller population. And Cleveland did this without ever winning a World Series!
-- Matt C., no location given Anybody have an asterisk handy?
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.