The offense scored just one run against four Chicago pitchers in the 5-1 loss. The lone tally was plated by starting pitcher Chris Carpenter via a suicide squeeze. It was the first successful suicide squeeze of the year for the plodding Cardinals, last in the National League in stolen bases by a substantial margin.
With 165 double plays this season, they seem sure to set a new single-season NL record. The current worst mark in league history is 166, set by the 1958 Cardinals. (The next-closest team this season, their current opponent, the Cubs, have “just” 122.)
Carpenter pitched well, but was removed from the game after seven innings and just 93 pitches. The score was tied 1-1 at the time. McClellan’s problems occurred immediately after, in the eighth.
Through 33 starts this season, which ties him for the NL lead, Carpenter has just a 10-9 record.
Looking at it another way, Friday night marked Carpenter’s 14th no-decision of the year. No other pitcher in the entire NL has more in 2011. Rotation-mates Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia, with 11 no-decision starts each, are also among the NL leaders.
The Cardinals went on to win just five of Carpenter’s 14 no-decision games, for an overall team record of 15-18 during his outings. This occurred despite Carp logging 20 quality starts (six or more innings pitched while allowing three or fewer earned runs).
With one start remaining on the final day of the regular season, Wednesday, Carpenter will almost certainly rank last in run support among Cardinals hurlers. He receives just 3.9 runs per nine innings of support. The difference is substantial – one full run per game less than his peers. The other four rotation members all average between 4.7 (Kyle Lohse) and 5.0 (Garcia).
Back to the double play issue. I have been frustrated all season long by those who have written off this historic rate as something to be expected. While the Cardinals are leading the NL in runs scored, their run-scoring rate is not approaching a league record. Further, in the construction of the 2011 team, a purposeful tradeoff of offense over defense was made.
Three Cardinals are in the top four in the league in this unenviable category, with Albert Pujols leading with 29 double plays hit into. Despite missing 37 games, Matt Holliday is next with 21 and Yadier Molina is tied for third in the NL with 20.
Behind Carpenter, the twin-killing problems began on opening day as Pujols grounded into three and Skip Schumaker added one.
In fact, the season-to-date data indicates that the Cardinals offense has hit into considerably more double plays in Carpenter starts than when other pitchers take the mound. One might expect this to have a correlation to the lower run scoring during Carp’s outings.
|2011 Cardinals||Starts||Offensive DPs||DP Rate/Start||Run Support|
Breaking the data down further provides a bit of a surprise. The Cardinals hitters have made substantially more double plays during Carpenter wins than in his losses. However, the rate of twin killings during his no-decision games is higher than both Carpenter’s overall average and of course, the team average of 1.05.
Further, note the linear comparison of run support. In Carpenter’s losses, he gets on average one fewer run than in his no-decisions. In his wins, he receives .9 of a run more than in those no-decisions.
|2011 Carpenter||Starts||Offensive DPs||DP Rate/Start||Run Support|
As exemplified on Friday, those pivotal no-decision starts are the ones that likely both Carpenter and his teammates would most like back. There seems no doubt that fewer double plays from the offense would have helped.