ST. LOUIS (Baseball StL) -- Watching Chris Carpenter for two starts has been enough to see exactly where he is at right now from a physical standpoint and also from a “stuff” standpoint.
He’s strong. There’s no doubt about that. Carpenter threw 77 pitches at Wrigley Field last Friday before responding well and coming back with 92 more the other night against the Houston. No one has ever doubted what Carp’s been able to do when on the mound.
It’s physically getting to the mound that’s been the tricky part since his arrival in St. Louis.
But since there have been no reports of any unusual soreness or pain after that 92-pitch stint against the Astros, it’s certainly acceptable to suggest he’s back. And when I say he’s back, I mean he is all the way back. He can be unleashed in a way that Tony La Russa did last year and the year before that and the year before that.
How’s his stuff though? After missing just about this entire season you can’t reasonably expect Carpenter to be at his usual dominant level right out of the gate. Five innings and two runs allowed preceded six innings and two runs allowed.
So, through a pair of starts, Carpenter’s got a 3.27 ERA, a .220 opponents batting average, a 0.91 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) and has walked but one batter in 11 innings.
His velocity went up a tick in start number two as well. After sitting in the 89-90 range at Wrigley Field he was mostly 90-91 at Minute Maid Park. Small? Yes. Significant? Absolutely.
That means if he can continue to make incremental improvements in that area - that requires to go far enough in the playoffs to get him more than one more start - he could get back to his 92-93 range with ease.
Carp’s movement has been terrific but his location hasn’t quite been as sharp as he’d like it. There is no one easier to read during a game than him when it comes to how he’s doing. All you have to do is watch his facial reactions. During live batting practice sessions in Jupiter, Florida he will literally curse out loud when he misses his spot.
Clearly, he won’t do that in a real game...but you can see him holding back. Chris Carpenter expects himself to be perfect every time. Every inning. Every pitch.
And his location wasn’t quite where he wants (or needs) it to be at this point. It was enough to be successful against a horrendous Astros club the other night...but if this team advances in the postseason, he’ll have to make improvements in that area or that success won’t transfer over.
This is something very few pitchers in the game would ever be able to do. Miss an entire season, come back with 11 games left, make three starts and be ready to go for the playoffs? Seriously? How many managers out there would trust someone with their season like that?
Answer. Not many.
Carpenter’s made two starts thus far in 2012. He’s got one more scheduled before the regular season is up. If he can continue to make incremental improvements in velocity and location (his movement is fine) then he could be a major asset for this club in the postseason.
But, then again, I can’t fathom there’s many people out there who are surprised by this.