Monday, July 19, 2010
Chris Carpenter's roller-coaster career
After enjoying some All-Star Game inaction, Chris Carpenter pitched like one of the league’s best on Thursday. The Jekyll-and-Hyde routine continued, as "good Carp" — that is, circa 2005-06 — emerged as the big Cardinal righty struck out only a modest share of the 27 batters he faced (six) and, more importantly, walked none ... Oddly enough, Carpenter didn’t miss a bat to a non-pitcher, though, until the sixth inning, when Matt Kemp went down on strikes, two of which were swinging. But one particular stat revealed that maybe it wasn’t the vintage Carpenter: He allowed 10 fly balls. So we’re reluctant to claim that he has regained his old form — the 2010 Carpenter is still very much a hybrid.
Even leaving aside the usual variability that's inherent in pitching statistics, Carpenter's had a roller-coaster of a career.
There are the Blue Jay Years (1997-2002), in which Carpenter went 49-50 with a 4.83 ERA.
There are the Cardinal Years (2004-2010), in which he's gone 78-27 with a 2.95 ERA.
In between, there was 2003, when Carpenter didn't pitch because of a torn labrum.
And in the midst of the Cardinal Years, Carpenter missed most of 2007 and '08 with various elbow issues (including Tommy John surgery).
Before 2007, Carpenter's numbers with St. Louis included a 3.10 ERA and a 4.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Since 2008, he's got a 2.62 ERA (2.24 in 2009, 3.16 in 2010) and a 3.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Carpenter's slightly lower (though still excellent) strikeout-to-walk ratio in these past two seasons hasn't hurt him because he's been exceptionally stingy with the home runs.
That's not really right, though. This season he's given up a perfectly average number of home runs: 15 in 134 innings. Last season, though, he was practically supernatural, giving up only seven homers in 193 innings. That ratio is not sustainable. Not even for a crazy extreme ground-ball pitcher. Which Carpenter isn't.
Carpenter was lucky (or something) last year. Only 3.4 percent of the fly balls he gave up turned into home runs. Even with that mark, his percentage as a Cardinal, entering this season, was exactly twice that: 6.8 percent. This season he's at 8.6 percent (which, as these things go, is not significantly different from 6.8 percent).
So, yeah. Carpenter's probably given up an extra home run or three this season, but I think this is basically who he is. He might not be a great pitcher. But he's very, very, very good. And when you've got a pitcher like Carpenter and a pitcher like Adam Wainwright, you don't need a whole lot else.