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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Carpenter’s historic strikeout-to-walk ratio


Strikeouts. They are the flashiest of all possible mound outcomes for a pitcher.

While Greg Maddux once uttered, “Chicks dig the long ball,” had he spoke about pitchers, he easily could have uttered the phrase “Chicks dig punchouts.”

Yet by themselves, strikeouts don’t always tell the complete story.

Take the Mets’ Oliver Perez. This season, the veteran lefty has fanned almost one opposing batter per inning – 58 in 60 1/3 frames. However during that same time, Perez has issued a whopping 55 free passes to enemy hitters.

So while Perez’ strikeout rate is impressive, his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.05 is actually quite mediocre. Not surprisingly, Ollie is carrying a losing record and an ERA right at six.

Closer to home, St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter is the anti-Ollie as he won his seventh straight game and 12th of the season Wednesday night. The 34-year-old went seven strong innings against Cincinnati, the sixth consecutive start he’s gone at least that long. Amazingly, the two runs allowed actually increased his ERA from 2.26 to 2.27.

Getting ahead in the count was key as Carp threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of 29 hitters. His control was impeccable as he fanned ten opposing batters for the second time this season but did not issue one walk. Carpenter has not given out more than two free passes in any of his 19 starts this season and had one or none in an impressive 13 of them.

Putting that all together from a 2009 season perspective, he has 97 strikeouts and just 19 walks in 130 2/3 innings, for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.11.

How does that stack up, you might ask?

It would be a franchise record-breaker. Not just since 1954, but forever.

In the entire storied history of the St. Louis Cardinals, no pitcher has ever delivered a full-season strikeout-to-walk ratio of over five. In fact, only seven times in history has a Cardinals pitcher accrued a ratio of at least four.

This isn’t new territory for the 2005 Cy Young Award winner. Of the seven complete seasons of a four-or-greater ratio in club annals, Carpenter had three of them.

In comparison, Hall of Famer Bob Gibson managed just one – a 4.32 ratio during his signature season of 1968. The best year from Dizzy Dean, generally acknowledged as the second-greatest Cardinals pitcher ever, was “just” 3.68. Control artist extraordinaire Bob Tewksbury (1993 and 1992) had the best two full seasons currently on the club’s books, at 4.85 and 4.55 respectively.

Still, Carpenter has competition on his own roster. Not to be outdone, if the season ended today, Carpenter’s teammate Joel Pinero’s strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.47 would also rank fourth-highest in franchise history.

Strikeout-to-walk ratio, season, St. Louis Cardinals history (minimum 100 innings pitched)

Rk Player K/BB IP Year Age G H R ER BB SO ERA
1 Chris Carpenter 5.11 130.2 2009 34 19 109 34 33 19 97 2.27
2 Bob Tewksbury 4.85 213.2 1993 32 32 258 99 91 20 97 3.83
3 Bob Tewksbury 4.55 233 1992 31 33 217 63 56 20 91 2.16
4 Joel Pineiro 4.47 148.1 2009 30 22 151 63 53 15 67 3.22
5 Lindy McDaniel 4.38 116.1 1960 24 65 85 28 27 24 105 2.09
6 Bob Gibson 4.32 304.2 1968 32 34 198 49 38 62 268 1.12
7 Chris Carpenter 4.28 221.2 2006 31 32 194 81 76 43 184 3.09
8 Chris Carpenter 4.18 241.2 2005 30 33 204 82 76 51 213 2.83
9 Chris Carpenter 4.00 182 2004 29 28 169 75 70 38 152 3.46
10 Bob Gibson 3.68 175.1 1967 31 24 151 62 58 40 147 2.98
11 Dizzy Dean 3.68 315 1936 26 51 310 128 111 53 195 3.17
12 Dizzy Dean 3.64 197.1 1937 27 27 200 76 59 33 120 2.69
13 Bob Tewksbury 3.59 155.2 1994 33 24 190 97 92 22 79 5.32
14 Rheal Cormier 3.55 186 1992 25 31 194 83 76 33 117 3.68
15 John Tudor 3.45 275 1985 31 36 209 68 59 49 169 1.93
16 Matt Morris 3.43 216.1 2001 26 34 218 86 76 54 185 3.16
17 Bruce Sutter 3.35 122.2 1984 31 71 109 26 21 23 77 1.54
18 Dick Hughes 3.35 222.1 1967 29 37 164 72 66 48 161 2.67
19 Bob Tewksbury 3.33 145.1 1990 29 28 151 67 56 15 50 3.47
20 Darryl Kile 3.31 232.1 2000 31 34 215 109 101 58 192 3.91
21 Matt Morris 3.16 192.2 2005 30 31 209 101 88 37 117 4.11
22 Bob Gibson 3.11 294 1970 34 34 262 111 102 88 274 3.12
23 Dizzy Dean 3.11 293 1933 23 48 279 113 99 64 199 3.04
24 Rene Arocha 3.10 188 1993 27 32 197 89 79 31 96 3.78
25 Matt Morris 3.08 172.1 2003 28 27 164 76 72 39 120 3.76

Across Major League Baseball this season, Carpenter ranks fourth behind former Cardinal and current Arizona ace Dan Haren (6.65), Toronto’s Roy Halladay (6.57) and Javier Vazquez of Atlanta (5.34). Carp’s current season would rank 84th-best all-time in MLB.

Speaking of all-time, the franchise career leader in strikeout-to-walk ratio is none other than Carpenter at 4.21. In fact, he is the only pitcher in team history to exceed 3.62, the mark of second-best Lee Smith.

Most impressively, the current Cardinals are represented by four in the top 15 all-time with Pineiro at sixth (3.03), Ryan Franklin at 14th (2.57) and Adam Wainwright at number 15 (2.47). In addition, Kyle Lohse ranks 26th in team history (2.28).

Strikeout-to-walk ratio, career, St. Louis Cardinals history (minimum 200 innings pitched)

Rk Player K/BB IP From To Age G H R ER BB SO ERA
1 Chris Carpenter 4.21 797.1 2004 2009 29-34 117 701 282 263 156 656 2.97
2 Lee Smith 3.62 266.2 1990 1993 32-35 245 239 92 86 68 246 2.90
3 Rheal Cormier 3.41 438.2 1991 1994 24-27 87 471 222 201 75 256 4.12
4 Bob Tewksbury 3.27 968.2 1989 1994 28-33 154 1047 424 375 125 409 3.48
5 Joe Hoerner 3.06 244 1966 1969 29-32 206 187 68 57 62 190 2.10
6 Joel Pineiro 3.03 360.2 2007 2009 28-30 59 400 181 166 62 188 4.14
7 Dick Hughes 3.03 307.1 1966 1968 28-30 68 221 101 95 76 230 2.78
8 Darryl Kile 2.79 544.1 2000 2002 31-33 82 525 228 214 151 421 3.54
9 Dizzy Dean 2.69 1737.1 1930 1937 20-27 273 1684 676 577 407 1095 2.99
10 Jack Powell 2.66 338.1 1901 1901 26-26 45 351 168 133 50 133 3.54
11 Woody Williams 2.62 588.2 2001 2004 34-37 93 551 246 231 157 412 3.53
12 Matt Morris 2.61 1377.1 1997 2005 22-30 237 1368 612 552 378 986 3.61
13 Rene Arocha 2.61 320.2 1993 1995 27-29 118 346 155 138 70 183 3.87
14 Ryan Franklin 2.57 202.2 2007 2009 34-36 187 187 68 64 49 126 2.84
15 Adam Wainwright 2.47 576 2005 2009 23-27 139 557 228 209 180 445 3.27
16 Paul Dean 2.44 669 1934 1939 21-26 124 691 307 275 144 351 3.70
17 Todd Stottlemyre 2.40 565.2 1996 1998 31-33 85 492 260 237 209 501 3.77
18 Harvey Haddix 2.39 786.1 1952 1956 26-30 127 742 355 319 228 544 3.65
19 Ron Taylor 2.38 278.1 1963 1965 25-27 142 271 124 116 78 186 3.75
20 Buddy Schultz 2.35 210.2 1977 1979 26-28 133 184 83 78 74 174 3.33
21 Bruce Sutter 2.33 396.2 1981 1984 28-31 249 351 133 120 111 259 2.72
22 Bob Gibson 2.33 3884.1 1959 1975 23-39 528 3279 1420 1258 1336 3117 2.91
23 Donovan Osborne 2.32 840 1992 1999 23-30 143 851 415 366 231 535 3.92
24 Reggie Cleveland 2.32 706.2 1969 1973 21-25 116 716 346 301 193 448 3.83
25 John Tudor 2.30 881.2 1985 1990 31-36 128 757 284 247 195 448 2.52
26 Kyle Lohse 2.28 287 2008 2009 29-30 49 297 133 126 76 173 3.95

While many have suggested the Cardinals’ urgency to win should be driven by a desire to not waste Albert Pujols’ prime years, “What about Carpenter,” I ask?

At age 34, Carp may not have too many more peak performance seasons remaining. Let’s fully enjoy them while we can.

(Thanks as always to Tom Orf for the tables.)

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