Chris Carpenter: Too few outs for too many pitches

by on June 1, 2011 · 0 comments

Chris Carpenter once again pitched well enough to win, yet received a no-decision. See, it’s not that Carpenter hasn’t been pitching well – or well enough to be better than his 1-5 record shows, given his 3.57 FIP (including last night’s game) – it’s that he’s seemingly working harder than ever to be “successful”.

Take last night’s five-inning, 103-pitch effort against the Giants.  Sure, he had eight strikeouts, and that’s all fine and well, and he left the game quite winnable for the home team – also a good thing.  But when Carpenter has been at his best, his absolutely dominating best, he’s never NEEDED the strikeout.  Sure, he could get them in droves with that hammer curve, but he never NEEDED them.

Carpenter’s K/9 are up this season over past seasons, BB/9 are down – generally a good thing, right?  Well, perhaps just a shift in how he’s pitching hitters, or a little more giddy-up on the heater than past seasons – or maybe he doesn’t trust his infield defense.

If the latter is the case, he’s really going to extremes to avoid them fielding batted balls.

No, the real issue is that for all the strikeouts, Carpenter is having to throw more pitches to get out of innings.  Enough more that I consider it to be an alarming increase over the last two seasons.  To wit:

2009:  13.9 pitches/inning pitched

2010:  15.1 P/IP

2011:  16.3 P/IP (including last night’s game)

Why is this a problem?  Surely the strikeouts don’t account for that rapid of an increase?  Well, yes and no.  Obviously eight strikeouts are great for getting outs with the least chance of error elsewhere, but they are not what I would call “efficient” nor have they been Carp’s bread and butter.

That has been the increasingly elusive ground ball.

Carpenter’s ground ball to fly ball ratio this season is currently an alarming 0.92 in 2011.  Yes, it’s below one.  Another alarming trend:

2009:  1.26 GB/FB

2010:  1.05 GB/FB

2011:  0.92 GB/FB

You might guess that the fly ball number includes line drives, the percentage of which are hit off of Carpenter has sky-rocketed to 24% this season, up from 16.7% in 2010.

Carp’s getting hit hard, and they’re falling.  He has a high .347 BABIP against, which we could hope to regress a bit – but line drives are line drives.  When he’s getting hit around the yard like he has and has to get his outs via the strikeout, Carp is going to have a hard time getting beyond the sixth inning.

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Some other points from last night’s game:

  • Don’t try to out-first-base-dive Skip Schumaker, Freddy Sanchez.  Hater.
  • You think Tony La Russa went and apologized to Bruce Bochy and Brandon Belt after Belt was drilled in the hand by Trever Miller? Now, there’s no way it was intentional given the situation, but it’s the same thing that has inflamed Tony all year long.
  • So I was just telling friend-of-the-site Dayn Perry (@daynperry) on Monday while watching the Cards get beat that I wasn’t excited yet about Albert Pujols hitting a home run in San Diego, or hitting a home run late in an already-gone loss on Monday afternoon. Before hopping on the bandwagon, I wanted to see AP smoking doubles off of the base of the wall on a rope – you know, kind of like he basically did in the bottom of the eighth last night off of Sergio Romo. He’s not back yet, but those are the sort of hits that get me excited about Pujols eventually, hopefully, becoming Pujols again.
  • Jon Jay hits, Pat Burrell… well, he’s always been Pat the Bat for a reason.
  • Good for Ryan Franklin.  I don’t think last night’s scoreless (and three strikeouts nonetheless!) eighth inning necessarily portends anything, but good for him. If he’s going to be on the roster, we might as well root for him to pitch well.
  • Loved Fernando Salas‘ reaction both outwardly (nothing) and reactionary (just strike the next guy out) following Nate Schierholtz‘s double in the ninth inning. Ferd’s pretty good.
  • And finally, from this morning, bad news looms on the horizon with Kyle McClellan and Matt Holliday.  Yuck.
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Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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