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

The Cardinal Nation Blog 2011 top story #19: Chris Carpenter’s extension

What difference a couple of months can make.

For much of the summer, corners of the baseball world were abuzz about the prospect of St. Louis Cardinals long-time rotation anchor Chris Carpenter being traded to a contender. The New York Yankees were one of the clubs most often mentioned as a possible destination.

Carpenter, 36, was in the final months of a contract signed prior to the 2007 season. He was already afforded full no-trade protection as a ten-and-five man, but that didn’t seem to matter. The Cardinals did not make public comments suggesting in any way that Carpenter was available, but the speculation continued.

The trade deadlines passed and Carpenter remained a Cardinal. Further, on September 12, in the midst of St. Louis’ dramatic comeback in the standings, he and the Cardinals announced a two-year extension for a total of $21 million. To read more about his background, what I said at the time and view the results of a reader poll on the deal, click here.

Of course, Carpenter’s season and that of his teammates culminated a month later with the World Championship. The Yankees lost in the first round, with pitching depth a primary culprit.

Though he struggled for wins in the first half, Carpenter heated up when the trade rumors were hottest and more importantly, when the Cardinals needed him the most. From June 23 until the conclusion of the regular season, he went 10-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 19 starts. The 10 wins were tied for fourth-most in the majors during that span and the 2.73 ERA was eighth-lowest in the National League.

Carpenter and the Cardinals came into the final day of the season with a chance to win the NL Wild Card. Setting a tone for the post-season ahead, that is what they did as Carp struck out a season-high 11 batters at Houston. His two-hit complete game shutout was his 10th as a Cardinal.

A player whose durability has been a career-long question, Carpenter was a rock in 2011. In fact, he made 34 or more starts for the second consecutive year, marking the first time in his 14-year career he has accomplished the feat. 30 of his 34 starts in 2011 were at least six innings in duration, including 21 of seven innings or longer.

Carpenter logged a team-best 21 quality starts while receiving the lowest run support among Cardinals starters – just 4.0 runs per nine innings (team average was 4.7). That and shaky relief were factors in his 11-9 record and the club’s 16-18 record in his starts.

For the first time in his career, Carp led the National League in innings pitched at 237 1/3 and he also tied for tops in the league with his 34 games started. Among National League pitchers, he finished tied for 11th in strikeouts (191), 17th in ERA (3.45), fourth in complete games (4), tied for second in shutouts, sixth in stolen base percentage (45.5%), 13th with 2.09 walks per nine innings pitched, 10th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.47) and tied for 10th in double plays induced (20).

Carpenter’s NLDS Game 5 performance should never be forgotten. He was given just one run of support so went out and tossed a three-hit complete game shutout – on the road against the regular season MLB wins leader, Philadelphia, and their ace Roy Halladay. The win powered the underdog Cardinals into the NLCS.

To finish off his fine season, Carpenter made three World Series starts, pitching 19 innings. He won two contests, including Game 7, and logged a 2.84 ERA.

With co-ace Adam Wainwright out all year, Carpenter “extended” himself more than expected with superb results, both for him personally and for his team. He is now assured of being back for at least two more chances to again finish on top.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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32 Responses to “The Cardinal Nation Blog 2011 top story #19: Chris Carpenter’s extension”

  1. blingboy says:

    Great article. What a horse. Somehow, I didn’t know, or more likely forgot, he led the league in innings pitched. At age 36.

    In addition to lack of run support and shaky relief, he didn’t get much help from the defense early on. Especially up the middle.

    Hopefully, those issues will not repeat in 2012, nor will the heavy workload come back to bite him. Whatever was behind his first half inconsistancy sure went away in the second half, especially, like you said, when we needed him most. Awesome clutch performance from a stand up guy.

    Surely, the Cards had tempting offers when when we were all but out of it. Mo and the org in general deserve credit for doing the right thing. And Chris too, for accepting a fair offer to stay and avoiding the drama.

    He will play a key role next season, not even counting whatever he does on the mound.

  2. crdswmn says:

    The man who truly deserved the “beast mode” moniker. I hope to continue to see him with the Cardinals after he retires as a coach somewhere in the system.

    Dave McKay got a job with the Cubs.

  3. desmetlax12 says:

    Was Curt Schilling in 2001 the last pitcher to start 3 world series games before Carp did it this year? That’s a rare feat these days.

    I would classify Carp’s contract as being somewhat team friendly and an example of a player that preferred the comfort of his current situation over maxing out his earning potential.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Chris Carpenter has been an essential part of success during the past 8 seasons. When Carp went down in 2007/8, for TJ surgery, so did the Cards. When we made the playoffs in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2011, Carpenter was key.
    After a huge workload in 2011, we shall have to hope he holds up during 2012. The starting rotation is aging and has vulnerabilities.

  5. JumboShrimp says:

    I love the photo of Carpenter joined by Albert, Yadier, and Lance. That’s a great one for history.

  6. JumboShrimp says:

    TLR made some good points in the Post Dispatch recently. He said the Cards played the Pujols situation just right. And, Albert’s departure was inevitable, just the economics of the industry today; I agree.

    One nice thing is we do not have to worry about Arte Moreno grabbing Chris Carpenter.

    I wonder who is really older, Chris or Albert? I bet DeWitt knows.

    • Brian Walton says:

      So does WC. It’s all in the archives… Hope you didn’t run him off with that Angels suggestion the other day… 😉

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Its really out of Westie’s control. He may want to share his thoughts here. But given the economic incentives of blogging today, Westie has to contribute where his specialized will have the most impact on readers.

        If this means sharing his profound knowledge of Albert’s swing path and innermost thoughts, then our tragic loss will be off-set by the enormous gain for Angels fans.

  7. JumboShrimp says:

    Isn’t a great relief we do not have to worry about Mo spending his brains out to sign Yu Darvish? Or Fielder?

  8. bigchieftootiemontana says:

    Great article and series as usual Brian. I bet I can guess the top three but not the order!

    Carpenter really showed what a great pitcher he is this year, even tho his wins were down it could be considered one of his best. Often he didn’t have everything working but he would make do with what was working and keep his team in the game. Add to that the dominating starts where the opposing hitters had no chance.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Thanks, chief. Yes, you are probably right.

    • crdswmn says:

      Though I understand why the story of the departure of he who shall not be named (and I don’t mean TLR) will be in the top 3 stories, I sort of feel like that is giving him more attention than he deserves. 😛

      Irrational and petty, I know, but I am up with a severe cough due to allergies and a lack of sleep is in my immediate future, so I am not feeling particularly obliging.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Hope you feel better soon. The holiday season is an especially bad time to be sick.

        • crdswmn says:

          I’m up now, but I managed to eek out about 4 hours sleep. I have tried OTC allergy meds plus OTC cough meds and still can get no relief. Absent seeing a doctor (which will have to wait until Monday), I am at a loss as to what to do except be miserable.

          So any posting I do this weekend will be under the influence of misery. 😉

          • Kansasbirdman says:

            We have so-called “urgent care” and “quick care” facilities that are kinda like ERs but deal mainly with cold, flu and allergy type issues (and thankfully as many sinus infections and allergy related issues i have they are cheaper than ER). They can usually give me a steroid shot to ease pressure (haven’t failed a PED test yet!)
            They don’t always have drs on staff but they have PA s or others that can prescribe medications

            • Kansasbirdman says:

              And Mr. Walton sir, after thinking abt Chief’s comments may I put in my humble two cents and ask that the WS win be #1?
              It does appear you have a tough decision to make with such an active and historic year.

              If you are just totally stuck on the order of the top two or three you could maybe let us vote the order we want to see and read the stories. But I have never doubted or disagreed in the past, so I am sure the order will be just as ecellent as the content of the articles like always

              • Brian Walton says:

                My list is already done and it wasn’t really difficult for me. The big picture matters most.

                I will probably run a reader poll for the top five stories at the end so you all can agree or disagree. As in most of the subject discussions, there is no right or wrong.

            • crdswmn says:

              We have those too, but the problem is that I have no health insurance. My family doctor will see me for free but only during his regular office hours.

  9. bigchieftootiemontana says:

    Yeah , actually the top three in my mind are .

    1. 2011 World Championship

    2. Pujols signs with Angels

    3. LaRussa retires

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      Good list. OF course there is Freese’s post season and the rally squirrel.

      Should the end of season comeback be a separate story is it just part of the championship story?

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