7 Inning Game

by on January 19, 2011 · 7 comments

No, I’m not suggesting that MLB shorten the game to 7 innings.  That would be plain silly, and it would leave less time for the consumption of ballpark food.  If anything, I’m a proponent of having more baseball on a given night as opposed to less.  No, I’m simply suggesting that the Cardinals could practically turn some games into 7 or even 6 innings affairs.  How?  Find a place to sit down, because what I’m about to suggest isn’t necessarily the first thought that comes to mind when you think of “bullpen options”.

Ask Chris Carpenter to return in 2012 as the closer.  Seriously, why not consider moving Carpenter to the closer spot?  Leave guys like Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan to lock down the 7th and 8th innings.  Before you dismiss the idea, consider that exercising the team’s option on Carp costs the team $15M in 2012.  Also consider the possibility that Carp is on a slow decline, and there is evidence from 2009 to 2010 to show it. 

Carpenter’s 2009 -> 17-4, 2.24 era, 192 2/3 innings, 144 strikeouts, 38 BB, 3.79 SO/BB

Carpenter’s 2010 -> 16-9, 3.22 era, 235 innings, 179 strikeouts, 63 BB, 2.84 SO/BB

Opponents line in 2009 (750 PAs):  .226/.272/.310/.581, 7 hr, BAbip .274, Total Bases 214

Opponents line in 2010 (969 PAs):  .244/.302/.377/.68021 hr, BAbip .282, Total Bases 331

Ground ball to fly ball ratio in 2009:  1.26

Ground ball to fly ball ratio in 2010:  1.05

Percentage of fly balls that were hr in 2009 (GB/FB = 1.26):  3.4%

Percentage of fly balls that were hr in 2010 (GB/FB = 1.05):  6.7%

Number of 3-0 counts in 2009:  19

Number of 3-0 counts in 2010:  34

Carp will turn 36 shortly after the start of the 2011, and it will be difficult for him to entirely reverse the trend indicated by the numbers above.  That’s not to say that he’ll give up 21 or more home runs, but he’s not likely to allow 7 or fewer, either.  The real focus here, though, is on what to do with him in 2012. 

His contract includes a team option for $15M or a $1M buyout.  If his numbers decline, then it’s really hard to justify picking up that expensive option.  How about restructuring his contract to pay him like a closer?  Carp takes a pay cut, but he saves face, because he’s not playing for peanuts, and he’ll still have a position of significant responsibility.  He just has to be sold on the idea.  That’s where LaRussa comes into play.  He’s been down this road before, and it worked out okay with some guy named Dennis Eckersley.   I’ll even give him some ideas on how to sell the idea.

Consider this line:  .218/.287/.323/.609 with 32 strikeouts, a 1.54 era and a 2.91 strikeout to walk ratio.  That’s what Carpenter did in the 1st inning of games in 2010.  In the 2nd inning, his era ballooned to 4.63

He’s devastating in the 1st inning.  He’s not a one-pitch guy, and batters can’t sit on a particular “out” pitch.  The Cardinals could pay him like a closer, and he could potentially extend his career.  As a bonus, TLR wouldn’t have to worry about long save situations.  It’s not like Carp would tire after 15 pitches.  He also wouldn’t have to hold back anything in “reserve” for the later innings. 

What say you Cardinal Nation?  Would you want Tony to turn the ball over to Carp in the 9th inning of a close game?

TIDBIT:  Carpenter’s 32 strikeouts in the 1st inning is his highest strikeout total for any inning.

BITS OF TID:  If Carp could come anywhere close to matching that 1st inning line I referenced above in the final inning of games, he’d be a real force.  Consider a 1.73 ERA and opponents’ batting line against of .163/.215/.294/.509 with 57 strikeouts in 62.1 innings.  That was the line for the Rays closer Rafael Soriano who just signed a 3 yr / $35M deal with the Yankees.  If Carp would/could make the transition, you can imagine what kind of value he might provide while also adding to his St. Louis Cardinals legacy.

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Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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{ 5 comments }

Erika January 19, 2011

this idea definitely stretched my baseball imagination! It is so hard to imagine that (even in decline) Carp’s #’s would be worse than any of the other available starting pitchers out there, especially since our budget will by then (hopefully) be stretched to the limit after AP signs. ;)

Dennis January 19, 2011

Erika, thanks for reading and providing feedback. The purpose of this is to stretch the imagination a bit, because it is hard to imagine Carp as something other than a #2 starter. However, fans and the front office will have to face reality at some point, and I think it’s wise to face it with an open mind. Consider this line: .242/.305/.346/.651 with 3.48 ERA, a .284 BAbip and 5 hr for 317 PAs. Forget what the stats mean, and just compare them to Carp’s 2010 numbers.

Then realize that those are Jake Westbrook’s numbers with St. Louis in 2010, and he’s getting $8M for 2011. Also, keep in mind that if the team picks up Carp’s option and signs Albert for $30M/yr, they will have $95M+ committed for 2012 to just 7 players (Carp, Waino, Lohse, Pujols, Holliday (Hunky to you), Yadi, and Westbrook).

EM January 19, 2011

Don’t think Carp would be happy with that. He’s my favorite pitcher, but he doesn’t handle aggression well…

PH8 January 20, 2011

Carp’s declining velocity is more of a concern for me than some of his slash lines. Or perhaps some cause and effect between the two…

At any rate, I’d bank more on him being able to maintain velocity for a shut down 9th inning than the stamina to still hump a 92mph fastball past a hitter in the seventh inning of a start.

Interesting idea Dennis…and let’s not forget how this has prolonged the careers of other pitchers. If Carp has two good years left as a starter, might he have four left as a closer?

Dennis January 20, 2011

I don’t know so much about “aggression”, but I’d say that Carp doesn’t channel anger very well when on the mound. Fortunately, neither is a requirement for a successful closer, though. Intensity and focus help, and Carp has the ability to bring both of those.

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