Number 2. Numero dos. Deux. The 2 spot. Second in command. The backup to the lead man. Best supporting actor. That was what Chris Carpenter was supposed to be this season. Instead, he’s been pushed to the forefront, and he’s suddenly perceived as being the “ace” once again to many fans. There’s just one problem. He’s just not THAT guy anymore, but as fans we tend to have selective memories. Now he’s the supposedly lead guy again, and it’s possible that he’s forgotten the lines. It happens. Just how bad is it? Well, Carp is 4th among the 5 starters with a 4.58 era, and he only has 1 win to his credit. Sure, he’s been the victim of some hard luck, but he’s also created some of that hard luck for himself.
Nearly all of the important stats for Carp are trending in the wrong direction. He’s giving up 10.8 hits, 1.0 hr, and 2.2 walks per 9 innings. All of those are significantly higher than what he’s put up the past 2 years, and his ERA has moved from 2.24 in 2009 to 3.22 in 2010 to 4.58 this season. Perhaps the most telling numbers for Carpenter come from looking at his innings pitched for each of his starts. In his 11 starts this season, he’s pitched 7.0, 6.0, 4.0, 7.0, 6.0, 7.0, 6.0, 7.0, 6 1/3, 6 1/3, and 8.0 innings respectively. Those aren’t exactly the numbers one would expect from the “workhorse” of the staff.
It’s more than just the numbers, too. When you watch Carp pitch, he just doesn’t have the same aura on the mound. The cutter doesn’t look quite as sharp as it used to, and the fastball doesn’t paint the corner all day long, either. He leaves the ball up in the zone a bit more frequently, and he wears a disgusted look a lot more than he does the focused scowl. He has to know that he doesn’t have his best stuff right now, yet he’s still out there grinding every single start. In broadcast-speak, he would be called a (hyperbole warning) “warrior”. In my terms, it’s called “playing like a Cardinal”. If anything, he’s earning my respect now more than he ever did in his better years, because he’s handling this season with a certain degree of class. No excuses. He’s giving credit to the opponents for hitting his best stuff on any given day.
If Carp can’t reverse his current trend, what will the Cardinals do with the $15M team option for the 36 year-old pitcher for 2012? Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse are already signed for 2012, and I can’t envision Jaime Garcia going anywhere. With Adam Wainwright set to return at some point and hopefully more pitching talent in the pipeline, I just don’t see a strong case for that option being picked up. So, it really is plausible that the Cardinals could go into 2012 without the guy who has been their ace for many years and their #2 man for the last couple seasons in the starting 5. The Cardinals really could be contemplating “dropping the deuce”.
TIDBIT: Alternatively, I suggested back in January when I wrote 7 Inning Game that it might be interesting to see Carp pull an Eckersley/Smoltz and become the closer. I have concerns about Carp’s ability to command 2 or more of his pitches coming out of the bullpen, but I like the idea of him being able to max out his velocity for one inning. Besides, this would be for 2012, and I think the Mayans would want it this way. At least that’s the way I interpreted their calendar/drinking game.
MORE BITS OF TID: Need more reading material? Check out Rob Says Really? for more opinions and such, because there is no such thing as too much Cardinal baseball info.
“DNP” TID: I’m all for donating whatever you want to donate to help the people of Joplin. After all, I’ve got friends down there, and I’ve heard a lot of stories about the devastation in the area. T-shirts, coffee mugs, and bumper stickers that are sold with the proceeds going various Joplin-related causes are great, but do you really need more crap in your house or on your car? For the price of a stamp, an envelope, and a check, you can simply pick a group and donate directly to that group. Alternatively, you can probably make the donation via the interwebz using a credit/debit card. Just keep in mind that there doesn’t need to be an extra layer between you and the cause you are supporting. Make the donation directly (and don’t forget the tax deduction), and eliminate the inefficiency created by the middle layer. Instead of spending $20 on a t-shirt, you can just send $20 directly to some group that could use the $20 more than it could use the leftovers that it would get from the proceeds of some t-shirt that you don’t need. I’ll now step down from my soapbox and return you to my irregularly scheduled blathering.
Follow gr33nazn on Twitter for more hyperbole warnings!