[Hi folks. It’s TC’s eminent pleasure to welcome former commentariat member ABsinceWayBack into the masthead fold. You may remember him from one of his many awesome fanposts, and I know you’ll get a kick out of the great stuff (and gifs!) that he’ll serve up on a regular basis. -Ivan]
I saw Shane Carle throw one pitch on April 8th and stopped what I was doing. I watched him put one pitch after the other right to the mitt and couldn’t wait for the next. It didn’t take me six plus weeks of 0.75 ERA and 2.40 FIP to make me think he could be a starter somewhere in 2019. But let’s pump the brakes here. Small sample size in baseball can get you into trouble. Whether it’s three games versus the Mets (WE’RE GONNA MURDERKILL TO THE PLAYOFFS) or the Giants (seriously, we can’t beat San Fran), I have to be careful about rushing to conclusions.
If you have trouble with SSS (small sample size) as well, I will direct you to a bit that Conan O’Brien
used to do ran into the ground years ago. It was called, What in the World? They would take a highly magnified picture of something and slowly draw back until it was fully revealed. Typically what was revealed bore little resemblance to the first panel. Here’s a Braves version of something similar where the graph measures weighted runs created by a player’s month.
So a lot of this story will deal with some small sample sizes. Carle has only been with the Braves for a month and a half. And he was never considered a prospect, so research before 2018 is a little lacking.
Shane Carle was taken in the tenth round by the Pirates in 2013. He was traded to the Rockies for Rob Scahill and his 0.8 WAR. He bounced around the Rockies’ minor league system with his K/9 rate never breaking 8. His walk rate ballooned over 3 per nine innings for the last 2 years in AAA Colorado Springs. He would later be claimed back by the Pirates and released shortly thereafter. The post mortem on his 2017 revealed a bio of an average AAAA pitcher:
Carle’s future probably looks a lot like the past. Whether it’s for the Rockies or eventually another team, he’ll probably be Triple-A depth that can be called upon when necessary. There is always a slight chance that in year two of being converted to the bullpen that Carle breaks out at age 27, but that seems unlikely.
However, the Braves picked him up and he has been getting guys out ever since. So how does a tenth round pick destined to be your average AAAA guy in the Gwinnett/Atlanta shuffle even sniff the top 10 in reliever WAR? After all, this is a guy with a KATOH+ at 1.8 WAR and he has over a third of that in a month and change. (KATOH+ is an estimation of how much WAR a player will amass in his first 6 years.)
Carle sports a 94 MPH fastball and an above average slider per Brooks Baseball. His curve, when he throws it, is not bad either. Just ask Scott Schebler after being tied up in knots.
Looks great. But let's look at those minor league numbers:
Carle was a starter who had a few too many prospects pass him by. They ultimately made him a reliever. He didn’t strike out a ton but kept his walk rate down until the AAA level. Colorado Springs is a tough home park for pitchers after all and the PCL is no picnic. But those excuses aside, he just looks like a guy that doesn’t have an out pitch. So maybe Brooks Baseball is right and he improved his slider over the offseason, and that’s the reason for his improvement.
Here’s a comparison of his slider whiff rate. Left is 2016 and 2017, right is 2018. He has moved the slider off the plate and into lefties and away from righties. But he has maintained the whiff rates that he was getting at the bottom of the zone. The result is a near-untouchable .155 xwOBA and .149 wOBA.
Moving the slider off the plate has resulted in fewer line drives. Again, the samples are microscopic, but it’s working for him.
Here is that slider on the outside corner to a righty and the resultant double play.
He may be attacking low and away to righties and in to lefties, but this shows a pitcher that is throwing it pretty much wherever he wants and is missing bats. So yeah, Shane is rolling. But none of this impressed as much as the first time I saw him. This wasn’t it, but I will show you what I saw.
This might be the most easy delivery I have seen in a while. Just up, down, throw. You know I like Foltynewicz, but Carle makes Mike look like Gordon Ramsay slinging an overcooked risotto. Carle has the bases loaded and is so calm here. And he looks like he is playing catch in the backyard. But while you and I are breaking house plants and windows at home, Carle is putting it at 94 on the black.
No, I don’t think that FIP will stay in the low 2.00s forever. Somebody will catch him for a home run soon and he will show signs of mediocrity. I don’t know what Carle will become. Maybe the next Kris Medlen, maybe not. But for now, he’s cruising. With his fastball, slider, and change, he should be.