Who Is This Carlos Silva Guy?

By R.J. Anderson //

It’s June and Carlos Silva has a 3.12 ERA and a 7-0 record through 10 starts. To enhance his portfolio, Silva is coming off a start versus the St. Louis Cardinals in which he struck out 11 batters. Suffice to say, this is not the Carlos Silva we’ve come to know over the years – the Silva with a career win-loss record a tick above .500, an ERA over 4.60, and a career strikeout per nine ratio of 3.90. The 2010 version is striking out more than six batters per nine innings, with better numbers across the board.

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The main difference between the old Silva and this one has been his pitch usage. In the past, Silva would throw his heavy sinker that sits in the low-90s and pound the zone with it about three-fourths of the time. This worked against batters of the same hand, but left-handed hitters would take advantage of his weak secondary offerings.

This season, though, Silva is throwing his fastball less than ever and pumping his slider and change-up more often. His change-up is actually his best pitch according to FanGraphs’ run values, which assign a run value to each event to which a pitch leads, whether it be a strike, a groundball, a home run, or something else.

This revolution in Silva’s arsenal is leading to increased success against opposite-handed batters and endearing him to fantasy owners thanks to the resulting newfound strikeout ability. This year to date, Silva’s inducing whiffs on 8.5% of his pitches. Consider that for a moment, while observing Silva’s swinging strike rates since breaking into the major leagues full-time:

2004: 4.8%

2005: 4.5%

2006: 4.8%

2007: 5.5%

2008: 4.9%

2009: 3.7%

2010: 8.5%

The sustainability of Silva’s success is debatable. The rarity of 3.12 ERA seasons makes it unlikely that Silva will remain quite this good heading forward. Plus Silva is a groundball pitcher and groundballs turn into hits far more often than flyballs; they just turn into extra-base hits less often. As it stands, 27.5% of Silva’s balls in play are turning into hits as opposed to a career rate over 31%. Even if one discounts a full regression to that number, the reality is that Silva’s probably going to give up hits at a higher clip heading forward than he has to date.

It’s unlikely that you or the owners in your league have shaken the perception of who Silva is, meaning selling high on him for a big return is a long shot. If someone bites, go for it, otherwise sit on Silva with adjusted expectations.

For more on Carlos Silva and other pitchers who went from good or mediocre to amazing, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

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