Last year, Manny Delcarmen's name was tossed around a lot during the trade deadline. He'd carried a low ERA through July, inspiring some NL teams to look at him as a possible closer. Right about now, the Red Sox may wish they had that opportunity back, as it's been nothing but trouble for Manny since.
After the trade deadline last year, Manny Delcarmen allowed 18 earned runs in 19 innings. The excuse? A mysterious arm injury that just "didn't feel right." This year, the story is much the same, except in a shorter period. A 1.74 ERA in April, a 1.84 ERA in May, and suddenly a 12.96 ERA in June. All of a sudden, Manny just doesn't feel right again:
"Something in my forearm," Delcarmen said in describing the injury. "It's been sore for a week. It's been getting better every day, but I'm having trouble getting extension on the ball. I'll see how the day off [Thursday] goes and we'll see on Friday."
Color me surprised.
Now, certainly arm injuries happen, and can be the cause of some lengthy struggles for pitchers, but there are a lot of things that just don't match up in Manny's case. Instead, this seems to be a typical case of a guy falling to Earth after his mediocre peripherals catch up to him, instead of a great reliever being felled by sudden injury.
In 2009, it was home runs. Generally, pitchers give up about one homer per ten fly balls--it's not really something they can control all that much, based on the fact that nobody is consistently under or over that figure. In the first half of 2009, Delcarmen gave up 68 fly balls resulting in no home runs. After that? 43 fly balls, five long balls. Not even particularly unlucky, just returning to normal. Too many walks, not enough strikeouts, and too many flies to keep his numbers down.
This year it's BABIP. A pitcher just doesn't have much control over the number of balls in play that actually fall in for a hit. It's all about keeping the ball on the ground, or out of play with strikeouts instead of walks. In April, Delcarmen had a remarkably low .071 BABIP (compared to an average of around .300), and in May, it was .193. Both entirely unsustainable. All of a sudden, in June, he hits some bad luck with a .475 BABIP, and it's an injury.
Maybe Manny really is getting injured at the exact same time his luck is turning. It's not impossible. But even if he is, it's not a reason to ignore his poor peripherals during the earlier parts of the year. Manny has been playing with fire for months, and the fact that it's now coming back to bite him should be no surprise to anyone.