Carpenter Hooked by Bulging Disc

Chris Carpenter has been shut down with a bulging disc in his neck. He’s likely to open up the season on the disabled list, and the Cardinals may have to turn to Lance Lynn for help in the starting rotation. This continues a disturbing trend in his surgery-speckled career, but using past players that have suffered this rarer injury as a guidepost can be problematic.

Over the past two years, Carpenter has been healthier than he’s ever been. The 472.1 innings he logged in 2010 and 2011 — not counting the postseason — is about ten innings more than he managed in 2005 and 2006. What happened in 2007? Tommy John surgery. The third-most productive two-year stretch had him put up 391 innings between 2000 and 2001. 2002 then brought SLAP surgery on his labrum, and follow-up surgical scar tissue removal.

Of course the “n” on this is tiny. He has just five instances of managing more than 375 innings over two consecutive seasons in his career, and major surgery or injury followed three of them. But we aren’t trying to predict how all players perform after 375 innings, we’re just observing how this one specific player has held up to larger work loads. The answer seems plain.

We shouldn’t forget how injury riddled his career has been. Here are the major issues he’s had:

* Right shoulder inflammation
* Right shoulder labrum tear (surgery)
* Right shoulder scar tissue (surgery)
* Right upper arm nerve injury
* Right elbow bone spurs (surgery)
* Right elbow ligament tear (surgery)
* Right shoulder Teres Major strain
* Right elbow ulnar nerve injury (surgery)
* Right shoulder nerve injury
* Left oblique strain
* Bulging disc in the neck

What does his latest particular injury tell us? It’s hard to tell.

Since it’s often described as a ‘general neck injury,’ we don’t have a ton of pitchers that have complained of this issue in particular. Alfredo Aceves did in 2010, and seems to have made a strong recovery since. Jimmy Haynes and Rick Reed also suffered from a bulging disc in 2003, with Kazuhito Tadano the year after.

That Haynes and Reed showed up on this list should not be comforting to Cards fans. Both saw their careers end the year they encountered the injury. Haynes was 32 but was not of the same class of pitcher. Reed, more serviceable than star, was 37 years old. Chris Carpenter is 37 years old next week.

The hitters that show up on the list don’t provide any more hope, either. Mike Sweeney and David Bell also saw the injury very late in their careers and came back as reduced players. Anderson Hernandez, Jay Gibbons and Chris Snyder are still playing, but aren’t the stars that Carpenter is.

The sample sizes involved here are tiny. We can only say that Carpenter has rarely seen work loads like he has seen the last couple of years, and that he hasn’t traditionally reacted well. We can also only say that a couple veteran pitchers have dealt with bulging discs specifically, and that they haven’t traditionally reacted well.

But Chris Carpenter specifically? Just look at that list of injuries again. He’s overcome plenty so far, don’t count him out just yet.

Thanks to Jeff Zimmerman for the injury information in this article.



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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


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geo
Guest
geo
4 years 2 months ago

Eno, I don’t get this sentence: “He has just five instances of managing more than 375 innings in his career…” Did you mean a number other than 375? I thought maybe you meant 175, but he has ten of those. Or maybe you meant at least 375 over two seasons? If so, that’s really not clear at all.

Jake
Guest
Jake
4 years 2 months ago

When I clicked this article I was sure it was going to be about Mike Carp…

Schide
Member
Schide
4 years 2 months ago

This necessitated the title change, I expect.

Ludwig von Koopa
Guest
Ludwig von Koopa
4 years 2 months ago

Although the fish pun from the title is now gone. Maybe it should be revised further to “Carpenter Hammered by Bulging Disk”?

Ludwig von Koopa
Guest
Ludwig von Koopa
4 years 2 months ago

And… scrolling down I see I’ve been beaten to the punch. Rickey’s Rickey, after all.

Uncle Randy
Guest
Uncle Randy
4 years 2 months ago

So…Roy Oswalt?

Ron Paul
Guest
Ron Paul
4 years 2 months ago

So we’re using 2-year sample sizes. I assume this is being done because it somewhat fits the career data and injury history. How many times have articles been written to analyze 2-year sample sizes for injuries? I haven’t read one before, and this one screams “fitting analysis and data around previous injuries”. The every-2-year thing makes little sense to me as an argument.

kid
Member
kid
4 years 2 months ago

I’m so sick of all these ST injuries. Can’t we bring back PEDs already?

Shaun Catron
Guest
Shaun Catron
4 years 2 months ago

Ask Braun!

CircleChange11
Guest
4 years 2 months ago

IMO, this is one of the reasons CC29 signed a “team friendly” deal. I don’t think anyone was expecting 400+ IP over his age 37 and 38 seasons.

The timing could be better, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the injury news coming out of the 2011 ST.

He’ll be back, but the big question is whether it remains a continual injury. Necks and backs tend to have lingering discomfort.

Oh yeah, getting older sucks.

rickeycanstillplay
Guest
rickeycanstillplay
4 years 2 months ago

Why did you change from the original title? Confusion with Mike Carp? That’s too bad…. Carpenter hammered by bulging disc..Meh… Not the same.

themiddle54
Member
themiddle54
4 years 2 months ago

You guys! Remember Tony LaRussa? You know, the one who had a choice: Big Texan (TM Jason Parks) and kinda-good-starter-throughout-the-minors Lance Lynn, or failed-starter-turned-reliever Kyle McClellan for his 5th rotation slot last year when Wainwright went under the knife? And how the HOF manager used his genius to pick the busted starter whose smoke and mirrors act defied his peripherals for like 7 good weeks before the smoke disspiated and we all went “ohhhhhhh yeah, THAT’S Kyle McClellan!”

Remember last June-mid-August, when the STL bullpen was in a shambles b/c the same brilliant HOF genius manager rode Ryan Franklin and Miguel Batista and Brian Tallet and Trever Miller as long and hard as he could, and then because his bullpen was utter garbage put Carpenter through successive pitch-counts of 118, 92, 124, 124, 132, 119, 100, 116, 108, 102, 98, 116, 119?

This is how the Cardinals got here.

But flags fly forever. GO TONY

flyerdog11
Member
flyerdog11
4 years 2 months ago

Yeah, La Russa should’ve used those terrible pitchers more often instead of his former-CYA-winning ace! You sure showed him!

Oh btw: Salas, Motte, and Sanchez each as many appearances in May alone than Franklin did in May AND June put together. And after a loss on May 1, Franklin only had one appearance with an aLI over 1.0. Ryan Franklin was essentially invisible after May 1.

Also, Miguel Batista had fewer appearances in May and June than any of those guys and only two more than Mitchell Boggs–despite the fact that Boggs was sent down in mid-May. Tallet and Miller were the only LHRP available before The Trade (unless you count Raul Valdes’ 5.1 innings), and STILL received fewer than 30 innings with the Cards–combined. All season.

Contrary to your idiotic ramblings, La Russa did not “[ride] Ryan Franklin and Miguel Batista and Brian Tallet and Trever Miller as long and hard as he could” in 2011; once it had become clear that they were his least effective relievers, he actually used them as little as possible and only because he didn’t have many other options, or indeed any other options from the left side.

As for Lynn vs. McClellan, even if Lynn should have gotten the fifth starter job–highly debatable, btw–it wouldn’t have made much of a difference for Carpenter. Because assuming the Cards still trade for a SP at the deadline, there’s no way Lynn would’ve thrown more innings as a starter than McClellan did (just over 6 per start.)

Now, had Lynn been a starter, McClellan would’ve been in the bullpen all season, which would’ve bumped a guy like Batista and saved everyone a few innings…but only a few, and not nearly enough to assume that Carp would be okay had Mac been in the pen.

Bottom line, La Russa did use Carpenter very heavily in 2011, but that’s because Carpenter was the best pitcher he had and that’s what good managers do–they use their best pitcher more than the rest of their pitchers. You’re basically criticizing La Russa for using his ace instead of a bunch of mediocre (or worse) pitchers. I don’t think I should have to explain how dumb that is.

themiddle54
Member
themiddle54
4 years 2 months ago

Pitchers get hurt when they pitch tired. A philosophy of using a pitcher for 110, 120, 130 pitch count outings because he’s your best pitcher is baseball malpractice. That’s not what good managers do.

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