One Good Week: Carlos Silva

CARLOS SILVA, Apr.6 – Apr.13
(2GS, 0-1, 0.77 ERA, 11.2IP, 12H, 3BB, 5K)

Coming into the season, there was much hue and cry about Carlos Silva’s presence on the roster. The Twins exercised Silva’s option this offseason for $4.35 million, and then he had a terrible spring training, posting an 8.44 ERA in five starts and one relief appearance. He pitched 21.1 innings and allowed 31 hits to go with 4 walks and 2 hit batsmen. That’s 1.73 baserunners per inning. Nonetheless, he was given a spot in the rotation over Matt Garza and was slated for his 2007 debut in Chicago to open the second series of the season.

That game was cancelled due to inclement weather, but Silva was sent out the next day and pitched 5 solid innings, only allowing 1 run on 5 hits (all singles), a walk, and a hit batsman. Jermaine Dye was the recipient of the hit by pitch, so I’m counting that as a point in Carlos’ favor. Unfortunately, the Twins offense couldn’t solve Javy Vasquez and Silva left trailing 0-1, eventually taking the loss as the Twins fell 3-0 to the South Siders.

It’s fair to say Twins fans were skeptical after the first start. Everyone agreed that Silva deserved a win for his effort, but few were convinced that this would become a regular occurrence. Then Silva took the ball on Thursday and shut out the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for 6 2/3 innings, leaving the game with a 2-0 lead. Silva gave up 7 hits and walked two while striking out 4. Juan Rincon allowed the Rays to tie the game, leaving Silva with a no decision in the eventual 3-2 Twins victory, but that made two excellent starts for Silva which I felt merited a closer look.

Silva is an interesting case to look at, because he has always given up a lot of baserunners; remember the 11-hit shutout of the Angels? His WHIPs for the last three years were 1.43, 1.17, and 1.54, so the real difference betwixt a good start and a bad start for Carlos is whether those baserunners are allowed in the same inning or scattered throughout the game. This trend is continuing so far this year. Silva has only one 1-2-3 inning so far this year, and has allowed a hit in 10 of the 12 innings he has pitched. However, he has been able to keep posting zeros because only twice has he allowed more than one hit in an inning. So, when you see a 1.29 WHIP thus far this season, that’s because Silva really is allowing almost exactly one hit every inning.

The key has always been keeping the ball down and using his sinker to induce large quantities of ground balls, as well as limiting the number of walks, since there are already enough runners on without giving up free passes. So to assess how Silva was controlling the count and working ahead of hitters I looked at what count the ball was put in play and what the results were.

COUNT 0-0 0-1 0-2 1-0 1-1 1-2 2-0 2-1 2-2 3-0 3-1 3-2
Chicago 1-2 1-2 0-3 0-3
K
0-1 1-2 1-2 1-3
BB
Tampa Bay 0-2 1-1
2B
1-3
K
0-2 3-6
2B
1-6
2K
1-1 0-4 0-1
K
BB BB 0-1
# of pitches 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12+
Chicago 1-2 1-2 0-3 0-3 1-3 1-3
BB
0-1 1-1
Tampa Bay 0-2 1-3 5-10 1-10
BB
BB 0-2

Silva hasn’t been involved in very many marathon at bats. Again, this tells us that hitters don’t foul off pitches when Silva is pitching, if they’re hit, they’re going to be in play.* Also Tampa apparently loves to swing the bat, with only 3 at bats getting past the fourth pitch, while almost half the White Sox extended their at bats past 4 pitches. The other thing I noticed with this data was that those at bats that ended quickly were less likely to end with ground balls than other at bats. A closer look yielded the following:

Overall – 43% GB
1st or 2nd pitch – 11% (9 balls in play)
3rd through 5th pitch – 64% (25 balls in play)
6+ pitches – 0% (6 balls in play)

It’s a small sample size, but this whole exercise is based on two starts, so bear with me. It seems that Silva tries to get ahead with his fastball early, and if that is put in play it’s almost always in the air. Later in the at bat, the sinker plays a larger role and an impressive 64% of balls in play are on the ground. I also looked at some of the splits to see if the GB% increased with runners on base, but there was very little difference (47% with runners on base, 42% with the bases empty). Especially in the Tampa game, Silva seemed to bear down with runners on (see chart below) but not necessarily through the ground ball, I guess.

OTHER STATS BF RHB LHB Empty Runners GB% K% 1st strike 1st ball
Chicago 20 2-9 3-9
BB,K
3-9 2-9
K,BB
35% 5% 3-8
BB
2-10
K
Tampa Bay 29 3-13
K
4-14
2BB,3K
7-17
2K
0-10
2BB,2K
48% 14% 3-17
4K
4-10
2BB

Other interesting points on the first two starts; left-handers seem to get on base better against Carlos (OBP – .385 LHB, .261 RHB) but that’s also due to the fact that all of his walks were issued to lefties (is that weird?). Predictably, Silva fared much better when starting out with a first pitch strike (OBP – .391 ball, .269 strike). Carlos is not known as a strikeout pitcher, of the 20 batters who reached 2-strike counts, he fanned 5 of them (25%). Overall, Silva was remarkably consistent in the number of pitches per inning (avg. – 15.9), with the one hiccup coming in the very first inning of the year (the only inning he allowed a run).

P/Inn. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Chicago 32 12 20 7 16
Tampa Bay 16 15 12 18 12 16 10

It seems that the Tampa game was the better pitched of the two; observe the higher GB%, the higher K%, and the fantastic 0-10 with runners on base. In fact, it seems Silva was a little lucky to escape with only one run allowed against Chicago. It always seems like more runs should be allowed with all those baserunners, but, nonetheless, Silva has turned in two quality performances this week. I don’t think that anyone would argue that it’s realistic for this to continue all season, but if a few of these types of outings are interspersed with more average outings in the future, Twins fans should be pleasantly surprised.

Keep up the good work Carlos!

* After making this statement, I went and looked it up. In these two games, in 49 plate appearances, 40 balls were put in play and hitters hit 37 fouls (6 from one Darin Erstad at bat). Not as big of a difference as I thought, but technically I was correct.

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