Chris Carpenter is Back

Ok you probably didn’t need me to tell you that. And it probably could have been said weeks ago, but coming off his 10 strikeout, no walk, 13 GBs on 19 balls in play performance I thought it would be a good time to mention it.

Chris Carpenter effectively lost the last two years to injury, so coming into this year it was a question if he could stay healthy, and, if so, how effective he would be. Well yes he has stayed healthy and he has been very effective, with a K:BB ratio north of 5 and over 52% grounders per balls in play.

He throws a two-seam fastball, a slider and curve. All three are solidly above average, each worth about 2 runs per 100 pitches.

+----------+-------+-------+
|          |  vRHB |  vLHB |
+----------+-------+-------+
| Fastball |  0.44 |  0.48 | 
| Slider   |  0.35 |  0.23 |
| Curve    |  0.21 |  0.29 |
+----------+-------+-------+

Roughly speaking he throws the fastball half the time and the slider and curve each a quarter of the time. This is a relatively small fraction of fastballs, a testament to the strength of his breaking pitches. He throws his slider a little bit more to RHBs and his curve a little more to LHBs, as is to be expected. But the difference is small compared to most pitchers who rarely throw a slider to opposite handed batters.

pitches_mov

His fastball has standard two-seam movement, lots of tail into RHBs and not as much ‘rise’ as a four-seam fastball. Because of this movement, and the fact that it is often low in the zone, 61% of balls in play off of it are grounders. He gets it in the pitchf/x strikezone over 60% of the time. It is the prototypical strike/grounder pitch.

His curve has huge vertical movement; its spin causing it to drop ten inches more than it would just due to gravity. It gets 32% misses per swing, not up there with the top curves, but solidly above average. It also induces a fair number of grounders (55% per ball in play).

The location of his slider to LHBs and RHBs is interesting.

pitch_loc_sl

First off, these pitch locations are very ‘tight’ compared to other pitchers, displaying Carpenter’s good command of the pitch. Against lefties he uses it to pound the inner half the zone, almost like Rivera does with his cutter. Nothing is outside, and a fair number are right along the inside edge, rather than out over the middle of the plate. I think it is this ability to locate the pitch so well that allows him to throw it more often than most righties throw their slider to LHBs.

Against righties, he throws more of them out of the zone down-and-away. These induce a very high percentage of out-of-zone swings, resulting in whiffs and weak contact.

St Louis’s rotation has really fallen into place. Carpenter has come back strong from injury, Adam Wainwright is pitching excellently as expected, Joel Pineiro has reinvented himself as a control/groundball specalist and Kyle Lohse provides a serviceable fourth starter in a potential playoff rotation.



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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


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Karl
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Interesting fact that may only interest me: Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright’s combined 25 wins are the most by any NL teammates. Going into the playoffs, how do you think their 1-2 punch would stack up in the NL?

I still think Hamels rights the ship and cruises with Lee. If the Giants get in, I don’t think anyone would want to face Lincecum and Cain. My wild card (and I’m biased as a Braves fan) is Jurrjens and Lowe. I generally think you need to two power pitchers and timely hitting to survive in the playoffs. The Cardinals have the hitting but I’m not entirely sold on Carpenter in October.

Karl Moats
Writer, FantasySportsAtLunch.com
Check my latest post: Let Miguel Montero Catch You A Victory
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chuckb
Guest
chuckb
6 years 10 months ago

The only question about Carpenter, in October or any other time, is will he stay healthy? If he’s healthy, he’s as good as there is. I don’t know what there’s not to be sold on.

There are a lot of 1-2s in the NL. If Billingsley’s healthy, he and Kershaw are terrific (though Torre will probably pitch Kuroda or Wolf in game 1 or 2). And I’m stunned that anyone — especially a Braves fan — still can’t recognize the Braves’ best pitcher! How much does a guy have to dominate in order to get a little love?

Pete
Guest
Pete
6 years 10 months ago

“…I’m not entirely sold on Carpenter in October.”

Um, what? The guy is w/o question one of the top starters in baseball right now, if not THE top starter. He’s a groundball machine who rarely gets hit hard and misses just enough bats. He’s also walked very few hitters this season. I fail to see how this is a guy you shouldn’t feel good about throwing in a playoff series.

Bob
Guest
Bob
6 years 10 months ago

Not sold on Carpenter? You need to take a look at his playoff history. Specifically, look at how he pitched in the World Series in ’06. He almost no-hit the Tigers. Sure, Carpenter may have one big issue–as chuckb points out, it’s his health. That’s it. When his arm is right, he’s always… and I mean always… on. I can’t remember the last non-quality start he’s had.

Mojowo11
Guest
Mojowo11
6 years 10 months ago

Not to be nitpicky, but I’d definitely classify his “slider” as a cutter. As you pointed it out, he even uses it like Rivera uses his cutter to lefties.

To some degree, I suppose, what you call a pitch is arbitrary and subjective. But going just based on what it’s more similar to (based entirely on surface level observation) — other pitchers’ sliders or other pitchers’ cutters — I’d definitely say he’s a fastball-cutter-curveball pitcher.

In any case, great analysis, and I do love me some Carp. Stay healthy, Chris!

Dave Allen
Guest
Dave Allen
6 years 10 months ago

Interesting. When I can’t tell if it is a cutter or a slider I usually defer to Baseball Info Solutions. They call it a slider, but now that I poke around the web it does look like most other places call it a cutter. Anyway you are right that the distinctions are often arbitrary.

j reed
Guest
j reed
6 years 10 months ago

Considering Carpenter’s injury issues and the slider’s reputation as an arm tweaker, I’d be more inclined to think he throws a cutter.

Felonius_Monk
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Yeah, it’s definitely a cutter, however, Carpenter *does* throw a slider too.

I suspect that, in real terms, it’s difficult to separate the two pitches and, functionally, their movement and velocity is probably a near overlap. I’m guessing the ones that slot in around 87, 88 are cutters and the ones a little slower than that would technically be sliders, but given the fact that they all come from a similar arm alot, and all reside on the same spectrum of velocity/movement, it’s arguably moot.

Interestingly, looking at his FanGraphs player page, the pitches he’s thrown this season at an average of 87mph are classed as “sliders”, whilst the pitches he threw at that velo in 2006 were classed as “cutters”. The combined % of pitches thrown in 2006 of the slider & the cutter (8% and 19% respectively) is roughly equivalent to the % of pitches thrown as sliders this year (28%). He has no cutters classified this year. I wonder if the movement has somehow increased on his cutter (leading them to be lumped in with the sliders) this year as opposed to 2006?

An interesting exercise, I think, would be to try to pitchFX all his pitches that fall into the “slider/cutter” velo/movement category (all of which BIS seems to class as sliders this year, but which were separated into the two pitches in 2006), and separate them (probably pretty much arbitrarily, I guess) into higher speed (cutter) and lower speed (slider) pitches, and see if there are any significant differences in whiff rate, GB rate, when he throws them (i.e. at what stage in the count), linear weights, and whether he throws the cutter more to left-handers and the slider more to righties (which is what I suspect).

Pitch-type linear weights class both his slider (which will include some cutters, this year) and his cutter as excellent pitches (2.18 and 3.14 runs/100 above average, respectively).

Carpenter also throws an occasional changeup, btw, but seems to have dumped that pitch almost entirely this year. His cutter is very effective vs lefties so presumably he’s decided to “simplify” his repertoire and dump his weakest pitch (his only below-average one), which has also helped him to (so far) his best ever season.

And, to the guy who said he “didn’t trust” Carpenter in October – he’s been pretty damn good, in fact, in the postseason. 5-1, 2.53 ERA (his FIP is only the same as his career FIP, however).

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