By Alex Hooper | 92.3 The Fan

Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – Corey Kluber landing on the disabled list was not ideal, and the Indians looked to avoid it at all costs, but they were afforded the opportunity to do so because they have another ace on the squad.

Carlos Carrasco could carry the torch as the top starter for a handful of teams in major league baseball, and he has held it while Kluber doubled-over in back pain in the early going.

Cookie showed his prowess again Wednesday in Detroit, stranding runners in many a jam over six innings, where he allowed five hits and struck out the same amount. He did so with a fever.

“That lineup, we’ve seen what they can do, especially when you give them an opening,” Indians Manager Terry Francona said Wednesday night. “He limited damage, he threw strikes.”

Francona only let Carrasco go 90 pitches because of both the sickness and where the Tiger lineup was entering the 7th. Again, Carrasco did his job, getting the ball to Andrew Miller.

Carrasco now sits in a tie for 16th among all pitchers in WAR, a statistic that accumulates over the season, at 0.8. The names ahead of him on that list have all started hot in 2017, but the few who will remain ahead through 162 games are elite.

“He’s been very good,” Francona added. “He’s been consistent. He’s been fun to watch. All of the things we talked about coming out of Spring Training, he just kind of put in the rear view mirror, and he just keeps getting better.”

The right-hander has not been Kluber, and few have, but Carrasco has been thoroughly dependable when not hampered by freak injuries. He even came close to matching Kluber’s WAR in 2015, with a 4.8 not far off from the former Cy Young winner’s 5.6.

There is no reason to believe that Carrasco will regress as the season goes on, either. Because of those concerns Francona mentioned, the lack of innings in Spring, the lack of innings at the end of 2016; there should be reason to believe that Carrasco will only improve.

Since his breakout season in 2015, granted six starts are tough to compare to full seasons, Cookie’s key numbers are mostly trending towards the positive. His walk% is at the lowest of his career, as are his AVG against, his WHIP and his batting average on balls in play. His LOB% (left on base percentage) also sits at 89.3%, by far his best, but again a number that will regress towards the mean.

The lack of having Kluber for two starts should not hamper the Indians following Carrasco’s starts either. In the same way that almost every bat in the lineup has protection behind him, Francona can hand the ball to Danny Salazar on Day 2.

Coming into Carrasco’s sixth start on Wednesday, Salazar carried the highest WAR of any Tribe starter through five starts. He now sits in a tie for 25th, just behind Carrasco at 0.7. He will most likely reclaim his position following his sixth start, presumably Friday.


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