Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright led the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff all season long but fell short in individual recognition.
As St. Louis Cardinals fans know too well, their co-aces, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, finished second and third in the 2009 National League Cy Young Award voting, collecting 94 and 90 points respectively. In one of the closest three-way races ever, San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum won with 100 points in the Baseball Writers Association of America balloting.
The Cardinals two were absolutely crucial in the 91-win season posted by their over-achieving 2009 club. The two are at opposite ends of the career spectrum. Carpenter is 34, having become a professional back in 1994 while the 28-year-old Wainwright just completed his third season as a major league starter.
With just one more win, Wainwright would have reached the magic 20-win plateau that could have iced his Cy Young. He came very close. In fact, had Wainwright not been let down by his teammates in his final start, he would have been just the ninth major league pitcher this decade to win at least 20 games, fan 200 or more and post an ERA of 3.00 or less. He achieved two of three, but finished with 19 wins.
Those 19 victories were tops in the league as were his 233 innings pitched. It was the first time in a quarter century that a Cardinal led the NL in innings (Joaquin Andujar in 1984). Wainwright’s 34 starts were a career high.
Wainwright’s 2.63 ERA was fourth-lowest in the league and his home ERA of 2.05 also ranked fourth. He had an impressive 26-game run of working at least six innings and a 13-game quality start streak.
As the season lengthened, Wainwright only got stronger. In his 18 starts from July 1, he went 11-3 with a 1.90 ERA. Over his last 22 starts, the team won 16 times and lost just six.
With his 2.24 ERA, Carpenter was the first Cardinals pitcher to take the NL ERA title since Joe Magrane in 1988. He allowed just seven home runs all season long, the lowest ratio per nine innings in the majors (0.33). His 1.78 walks per nine innings was the third-stingiest rate in the NL.
In arguably the most important contests, in the NL Central Division, Carp was a perfect 11-0. In those tilts, his ERA was 1.58 and he held opposing hitters to a collective .205 batting average.
Carp was also most effective during the heat of summer, ripping off an 11-game winning streak from July 5 through September 7. Overall, the Cardinals starter finished second in the NL in wins with 17.
Carpenter’s spectacular season was diminished in the eyes of voters because of an early-season oblique injury. He sat out exactly 30 contests after pitching in game nine of the Cardinals’ season and returning to the mound in game 40. As a result, he made just 28 starts compared to Wainwright’s 34.
Best of all, the two are under team control for at least the next three seasons, ensuring they will have the opportunity to continue to excel together.
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