After a few months of rehabbing an injured hip, Fausto Carmona says he's ready to make a major league start, and reports indicate that he'll soon have his chance this upcoming weekend.
Before his injury, Carmona's walk rate had seen a huge jump to 15% up from a career high of 9.6% in 2006 and a career average of 7.5%. But his ground ball rates were hovering around 70%, helping to maintain a 3.10 ERA. From what I've read online, Carmona was working on using more pitches down in the zone, resulting in more pitches in the dirt, and consequently more walks. However, Carmona has displayed good control throughout his career, and his low ERA in 2008 suggests that somehow despite the walks he still had things under control. Perhaps he was willing to risk walking hitters with 1 or 2 outs, but once he had men on base, he reverted back to his proven pitch selection.
I'm not sure if the facts completely confirm my speculation about Carmona, but here's what I've found:
Of Carmona's 38 walks in '08, 21 came with no men on base as compared to 17 with men on base. Not really a significant difference.
Of his walks with men on base, 9 walks came with men in scoring position. In comparison, he had a 13.8% walk rate with men in scoring position against a 16.5% walk rate with no men in scoring position. Once again, not really a significant difference.
Of his 9 walks with men in scoring position, 6 came with 2 outs. That puts Carmona's 2 out with men in scoring position walk rate at 17%, and his walk rate with men in scoring position with 0 or 1 outs at 10%. Now we're beginning to see some significant differences.
With no outs and no men on, Carmona walked 12.7% of the batters he faced. With no men on and 1 or 2 outs, Carmona walked 20.6% of batters. Once again, there's some significance here.
Finally, here's how Carmona's walks broke down with men on.
Man on 1st: 13%
Man on 2nd : 20%
Man on 3rd: 0%
Man on 1st and 2nd: 14%
Man on 2nd and 3rd: 14%
Bases Loaded: 14%
So, what have we come up with? Obviously, Carmona is walking a lot more hitters than he has in the past, but he's being picky about the situations he issues those walks. When he has room to make mistakes, his walks rates are consistently near 20%, while in more volatile situations he's walking closer to 12-13% of hitters.
So, despite overall elevated walk rates, it looks like Carmona has a bit of method to go along with the madness. In 9 recent minor league innings, Carmona had 0 walks, so perhaps he's ready to regain his previous form. There is some speculation that Carmona's work load during 2007 could have induced some regression in his stats, and that sounds quite plausible and falls nicely in line with his results in early '08. But with time off to rehab his hip, we'll soon be able to see exactly how much of a role fatigue played in this season's walk surge and what kind of performances to expect for the second half.
Update: Carmona also induced 15 double plays this year in 58 innings, as opposed to 32 last year in 215 innings. Either he got really lucky, or he felt confident that even after walking batters, he could make up for it with a ground ball double play. If you had a 70% GB%, wouldn't you feel pretty good about your odds of getting a ground ball when you needed one?