Set aside all concerns about the relative importance of FIP, xFIP, and quality starts. Free your mind of the shackles that ERA and ERA+ seek to limit your perspective by using. Understand that wherever you go, there you are. Once you have done all that, only then can you see the truth that has been hiding in plain view all season long. The Cardinals miss Chris Carpenter almost as much as midwest farmers miss regular precipitation. Beyond his well-documented competitive spirit, swagger, attitude, and veteran leadership, the team misses the workhorse starting pitcher who simply consumes innings more efficiently than Jonathan Broxton chews Twinkies.
During the 2011 regular season, the Cardinals played 1462 innings of baseball, and Carpenter pitched 237.1 of those innings. That works out to roughly 16.2% of all the innings handled by the pitching staff. Another way of expressing this is in terms of the 83.8% of all innings that the other 22 pitchers (plus Skip Schumaker) pitched during the season.
3613 pitches over 237.1 innings covering 34 starts
Carp averaged almost 7 innings per start and 15.2 pitches per inning. Collectively, the 2012 starters have managed an average of just barely over 6 innings per start.
- Kyle Lohse – 2176 pitches in 148.1 innings through 23 starts. Pace: 220 IP, 3217 pitches, 34 starts. 14.7 p/inning.
- Jake Westbrook – 2038 pitches in 133.0 innings through 21 starts. Pace 216 IP, 3300 pitches, 34 starts. 15.3 p/inning.
- Adam Wainwright – 2134 pitches in 138.1 innings through 22 starts. Pace: 214 IP, 3298 pitches, 34 starts. 15.4 p/inning.
- Lance Lynn – 2135 pitches in 127.0 innings through 21 starts. Pace: 206 IP, 3457 pitches, 34 starts. 16.8 p/inning.
- Jaime Garcia – 954 pitches in 66.1 innings through 11 starts. 14.4 p/inning.
- Joe Kelly – 903 pitches in 57.1 innings through 10 starts. 15.8 p/inning.
Granted, the respective ERAs for this group’s members look pretty solid.
- Lohse – 2.79 (140 ERA+)
- Westbrook – 3.79 (103 ERA+)
- Wainwright – 4.03 (97 ERA+)
- Lynn – 3.40 (115 ERA+)
- Garcia – 4.48 (88 ERA+)
- Kelly – 3.14 (125 ERA+)
The problem remains the consistent overexposure of the bullpen that frequently accounts for 3+ innings in a given game. Without a real innings workhorse to give most of the bullpen a day off every 5th game, the bullpen has regularly been burdened with keeping games close, holding small leads, or going after the victory in a tie game. For a team that has lost so much of its bullpen backbone from a year ago (Eduardo Sanchez, Lance Lynn, Kyle McClellan, and Octavio Dotel), the Cardinals should consider themselves lucky to be where they are now. Perhaps the return of Jaime Garcia will help take the strain off the bullpen phone, and maybe provide the relief corps with a fresh arm to throw into the mix. If not, then don’t be surprised to see the team struggle down the stretch despite all the offense one could ask for in a team.
Follow gr33nazn on Twitter as I continue to kick the bunneh on pitchers going deeper into games with greater p/inning efficiency!