Carmona Struggling Without Veteran Leader

By: T.J. Zuppe

At one point in the 2010 season, Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona was damn near unhittable. In fact, he was pitching so well, he was awarded the honor of being the Indians lone all-star, and represented the Tribe in the mid-summer Classic.

His numbers we’re sparkling, and more importantly he was giving the Indians something they had few and far between of — wins.

Indians Pitcher Fausto Carmona

However, over the last month of the season, Carmona has been less than his dominant self that had the Indians organization excited, once again. He seems to have fallen back into the trap of the years between 2008-2009, where he was a mediocre pitcher at best, and even had to spend time in the rookie-leagues to rebuild his psyche, and mechanics.

As managment scrambles to find a solution to Carmona’s enigma, the answer is actually very clear.

The 26-year old right-hander is struggling again with the weight of being the ace, and leader of the staff. It has become absolute, that Carmona needs to feel the comforts of a veteran arm in front of him in the rotation.

Since the Indians dealt pitcher Jake Westbrook to the St. Louis Cardinals, we have seen a steady decline in Carmona’s performance. In the four starts since the Westbrook deal, Carmona has yielded 15 earned runs in 25.1 innings of work. That works itself out to a 5.33 ERA over that period.

Opposing hitters are also teeing off at a .356 clip off of Carmona, hitting three home runs and 10 doubles over those starts.

He also seen his record go from 10-7, just prior to the trade of Westbrook, to now .500, at 11-11.

This is nothing new for Carmona, who also saw his numbers plummet to the depths of mediocrity, after long-time ace, and veteran voice C.C. Sabathia was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008. After returning from injury following the Sabathia trade, Carmona started 12 games.

He went 4-5 in those games, but his ERA was well above average, at 7.31. He greatly struggled with his command, walking 32 hitters, while striking out only 35. His ERA ballooned from 3.10, to 5.44 at years end.

What we should take away from this, is living proof that the Indians need veteran leadership in some areas of their club. At the deadline, they sent away players like Westbrook and outfielder Austin Kearns, to clear the way for a complete and total youth movement.

While making sense from a rebuilding standpoint, the end result has been a team of youngsters, with nowhere to turn for help at the major league level. Indians manage Manny Acta cannot be multiple places at once, and that is the type of leadership attitude the team lost in a player like Kearns or Westbrook.

Were those players that figured into long-term plans of the club? No they did not. But they certainly served a purpose.

Indians Pitcher Fausto Carmona

As a result, pitchers like Jeanmar Gomez or Josh Tomlin are forced to look for answers from guys like Carmona, or Justin Masterson, who are just learning to pitch in the big leagues themselves. The gray-beards positionally, are guys barely into thier 30’s, in designated-hitter Travis Hafner, and outfielder Shelley Duncan.

Hafner has been struggling to stay healthy, and Duncan is a journeyman at best.

It is not quite the blind leading the blind, but pretty damn close.

Simply put, the kids need some leaders, some voices, and some veterans peppered into their clubhouse. Former Indians’ outfielder Kenny Lofton spoke to the type of atmosphere the clubhouse had, when vets like Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield patrolled it, rubbing off on young sluggers like Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.

Today is no different, and the Indians need to address the issue, not by completely re-tooling through free-agency, and trades. Rather, they need to find those veteran teachers that will help their students be propelled to the next level in the bigs.

If not, talent like Carmona will waste away, without the proper guidance leading the way.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

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