The Hidden Greatness of Chris Carpenter

Posted: February 6, 2013 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
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CarpChris Carpenter’s 2013 season was announced over with before it even got started yesterday. But unlike a year ago, when the same injury that sidelined him yesterday first emerged, there’s no sign of a comeback waiting. More likely than not, Carpenter’s start in the National League Championship Series in San Francisco was the finale of his career.

Potential is usually a word aligned with guys half a lifetime younger than the 37-year old Carpenter, but in his case, it still is very relevant. His career will always be summed up by his gritty, clutch performances and bulldog approach. Yet there will always be a strong case of the “what if’s” surrounding him, due purely based on missed time to a continual string of injuries suffered over his career. While his legacy as one of the best postseason pitchers of all-time is secure, he potentially was injured out of a trip to Cooperstown.

But for what wasn’t, there surely was a lot that was. The case around his greatness with the organization is tough to quantify, as his numbers do not paint a complete picture of his impact on a major era of Cardinal baseball. While his raw body of work with the organization will not stack up Bob Gibson, or even Bob Forsch, he has legitimate claim to being one of the top three pitchers in club history. This would place him above some other more decorated pitchers in team history, including a few members of the Hall of Fame, which will elude him ultimately.

Here’s some a perspective on just what he accomplished in his 10-year tenure with the team, included two World Series titles, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award, the 2009 NL ERA title (2.24) and three All-Star appearances. All the same, here are few interesting takes on how the numbers can never tell the whole story.

Cardinal Wins: 95 (18th)…but…

Team Winning percentage: .683 (6th) …but even more….

Total Postseason Wins: 10 (7th in MLB history)

Those are the most striking contradictions on record, but his Cardinal record has more impressive totals.

Strikeouts: 1,085 (3rd) …11 behind Dizzy Dean for 2nd all-time

Walks + Hits by Innings Pitched: 1.12 (5th) ….mathematical tie for 3rd

Cardinal ERA: 3.07 (19th)

Games started: 197 (11th) & innings pitched: 1,348.2 (20th) …despite missing four seasons. A workhorse; twice led the NL in starts (2010-11).

Overall, his regular season marks within the franchise are rather average. But what must be considered is they were achieved when he missed all or the vast majority of three seasons (2003, 2007-08 & 2012). During a season where he made at least 28 starts, his average season line was outstanding:

15 wins, 6 losses, 3.04 ERA, 31 starts, 218.1 innings, 177 strikeouts

To take it a step further, look at his postseason body of work, one of the best of not just his era, but really…any.

Postseason total: 10 wins, 4 losses, a .714 winning %, 3.00 ERA

World Series Record: Four games, 3 wins, 0 losses, 2.00 ERA. He never lost consecutive postseason games.

The new rule at hand in Busch Stadium is that no number is retired unless the player is voted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet currently, there is one Cardinal that has been honored on the local level, without such an all-encompassing honor. His name is Ken Boyer, a World Champion and MVP for the team himself. Nobody else is wearing number 14 in St. Louis, and it would be fitting pull to at least consider it for number 29. As you can see, he’s earned it.

For more on the future of Chris Carpenter, and the Cardinals as a whole, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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