Two Old Chums Set For Game Five Battle

Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter were drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays within two years of each other in the early to mid 1990s. The two friends, and mountains of men, were supposed to front a talented Toronto rotation heading into the new millennium.

However, in quite the Pulsipher-Wilson-Isringhausen fashion, the desired results were not yielded. Expectations were lofty, but Halladay struggled with command — which sounds ridiculous but remains true — and Carpenter was unspectacular when healthy, and unhealthy rather frequently.

Following the 2002 season, the Halladay-Carpenter experiment ended. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, it’s possible that one more year of patience would have benefited them greatly. That season marked the first when Halladay became Halladay, the eventual Hall of Fame pitcher that will undoubtedly go down as the best of this era.

Carpenter, meanwhile, made just 13 starts and spent three stints on the disabled list with shoulder troubles. His numbers were nothing to write home about — 5.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 5.28 ERA, 4.67 SIERA — and the Blue Jays removed him from the 40-man roster after the season. Intrigued by his potential, the organization offered him an incentive-laden, minor league deal, but Carpenter turned them down. He hit free agency, and the rest is history.

He signed with the Cardinals the next season, hoping to return by the all star break, but ultimately missed the entire year with a torn labrum. In seven years as a major league pitcher, Carpenter had struggled to stay on the mound and the injuries were very concerning from a long-term production standpoint. The Blue Jays proved prescient in parting ways with Carpenter from an injury perspective, as arm troubles later returned: he made just four major league starts in 2007-08. Where more diligence may have benefited them was evaluating his production prospects. Sure, working with Dave Duncan helped turn Carpenter into the pitcher typically worth 5 WAR over a full season, but the talent obviously existed before signing with the Cardinals.

Halladay and Carpenter have never matched up with one another, and for Blue Jays fans, the deciding game of the Phillies-Cardinals division series will serve as a reminder of what could have been. For both Cardinals and Phillies fans, having Carpenter and Halladay toe the respective rubbers gives each team its best chance of advancing. Halladay is a better pitcher, but the Cardinals have been more impressive at the plate this series, and Carpenter is no slouch. He struggled in Game Two, when he allowed four runs in the first two innings while pitching on short rest. Friday night, he’ll throw on full rest, and it will be tough for the Phillies offense to pound him for a second straight game.

When Halladay last faced the Cardinals, Lance Berkman capitalized on his lone mistake and crushed a three-run homer in the first inning. Skip Schumaker singled to lead off the second inning, and Halladay then retired 21 consecutive batters with just one ball leaving the infield. He went into robot domination mode following the longball and dissected the Cardinals lineup. Game Five will be the most important start of his career to date, which has been phenomenal but still lacks his desired World Series title.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, even typical Halladay dominance can result in a failure to advance to the Championship Series for the first time since 2007. The Phillies have been in this situation before, with an ace on the hill in the deciding NLDS contest. Back in 1981, the Phillies sent Steve Carlton to the mound with a 2-2 series tie against the Expos. Montreal tabbed Steve Rogers to pitch the final game. Rogers and Carpenter coincidentally have nearly identical career ERA- marks — 87 and 86, respectively. Carpenter has tallied 42 WAR in his career while Rogers, who made 50 more starts, has approximately 51 to his name. They are statistically similar pitchers, which makes the comparison eery.

Rogers and the Expos shut the Phillies out, 3-0, and Carlton’s squad was gone. He pitched relatively well, but wasn’t 100 percent perfect. The fear of the Phillies fanbase is that the events of the 1981 NLDS will recur. Halladay will throw well, but it won’t be enough to overcome a tough offense that just got Matt Holliday back.

The Phillies are at home, with the best pitcher on the planet throwing, yet the majority of their fanbase will swear they are underdogs.

Regardless, the Carpenter-Halladay matchup was a long time in the making, and sentimental types will find joy in seeing two old friends who, together, could have carried the Blue Jays to their own division series, pitching against each other in an incredibly important playoff game.



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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


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Cory
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Cory
4 years 8 months ago

[Warning: here comes anecdotal evidence:] It seems like Carp often struggles in the first inning or two (like Game 2), and then more or less settles down.

In a close game, it’s these first innings that will matter.

Rui
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cuck
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cuck
4 years 8 months ago
adr3
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adr3
4 years 8 months ago

This year….. Carp’s ERA is 2.65 in the first inning. Not too shabby.

WY
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WY
4 years 8 months ago

This has been true of his recent postseason starts, including Game 1 of the 2009 NLDS (2 runs), Game 4 of the 2006 NLDS (2 runs), and Games 2 and 6 of the 2006 NLCS (3 runs and 1 run, respectively). Although he did pitch some great games in the 2006 NLDS (Game 1) and 2006 World Series (Game 3).

The funny thing is that until Game 2 of this series, he had not allowed three runs in the first inning of a game since Game 2 of the 2006 NLCS. (This was noted in a Post-Dispatch article this week.) That basically amounts to all of 2009, 2010, and 2011, plus a handful of starts in ’07 and ’08.

LorenzoStDuBios
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LorenzoStDuBios
4 years 8 months ago

“Chums”. Thank you Mr. Franklin W. Dixon.

PR
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PR
4 years 8 months ago

“Halladay struggled with command”

nice reminder how young pitchers are far from finished products.

tomhaywood
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tomhaywood
4 years 8 months ago

“Rogers and Carpenter coincidentally have identical career ERA- marks — 87 and 86, respectively.”

Identical then, as much as two different numbers can be!

Barkey Walker
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Barkey Walker
4 years 8 months ago

Take it easy on him, the identity is a really difficult relation to get right.

Damaso's Burnt Shirt
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Damaso's Burnt Shirt
4 years 8 months ago

Thanks JP! I have my doubts that Carp would have been as successful with the Jays. He had the fastball and curve, but he didn’t have that power sinker and cutter that made him a Cy Young winner.

The resulting shame explains why the Jays have been patient and generous with Dustin McGowan.

SC2GG
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4 years 8 months ago

The Blue Jays are well represented in the NL playoffs as a whole with at least eight former players off the top of my head featuring rather prominent roles – Halladay, Carpenter, Marcum, Scrabble, Hill, McDonald, Dotel and Edwin Jackson (haha). No matter what, Jays fans will have someone to cheer for in the WS.

mattybobo
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mattybobo
4 years 8 months ago

The “underdog” thing is kind of hard to define sometimes. Is it more about on-the-field talent, or is it mostly psychological. I can see the argument that the Phillies have some sort of “underdog-ish” quality here, because they have more to lose. They’re the conventional-wisdom “best team in baseball” and they have been taken all the way to game five in the NLDS by a team that’s not really “supposed” to be playing in October to begin with. If the Cardinals lose tonight then they have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m not saying the Phillies would have anything to be ashamed of either, but there is certainly more pressure on them.

steex
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steex
4 years 8 months ago

Having an immense amount of pressure because you’re the “best team in baseball” and expected to win is the exact opposite of being an underdog.

Jerry
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Jerry
4 years 8 months ago

Couldn’t have imagined we’d get this exciting of a game from the DS in either league, but certainly not from this series. Philly still favored, of course, but the pitching imbalance of Doc vs. Carp is not nearly as significant as the advantage Phils had with Doc, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt vs. Carp, Garcia, Lohse, Jackson. Add in the Cardinals’ advantage in offense and this should be a very, very good game.

adr3
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adr3
4 years 8 months ago

IMO, the retooled Cards bullpen is also a slight advantage over the Phillies’. The back end was nasty down the stretch….

Danni
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Danni
4 years 8 months ago

In saying this is Halladay’s most important start yet, I think you forget Game 5 of last year’s NLCS.

Chair
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Chair
4 years 8 months ago

Nice writing. Fangraphs is da best.

Richie
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Richie
4 years 8 months ago

What was “obvious” about Carpenter’s talents going into 2003, Eric? Not being smarmy, just curious.

TimberLee
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TimberLee
4 years 8 months ago

A blast from my past – Franklin W. Dixon. He wasn’t real but he was a Canadian, just like Carpenter and Halladay are real but not Canadian. And they’re chums.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

When TLR was talking about game 5 probably being the best playoff matchup between 2 great pitchers that started in the same org, I was hoping some SABR site would have an article showing (via WAR) whether something like this has happened before.

I was trying to think of successful orgs that have had lots of young talent that has left and had continued success that might have faced their former team or teamates in a playoff series. Teams like the NYY in the mid 20th century, the A’s of the 70s, the A’s of the 2K’s, the Braves, etc.

I’m wondering if Wainwright has faced off against one of his former Brave teammates in the playoffs and things of that nature. Dave Stewart was a former Dodger and pitched against them in the 88 Was.

WY
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WY
4 years 8 months ago

Alas, Wainwright has had just one playoff start in his career, which was against Kershaw in the 2009 NLDS. As good as he’s been and as competitive as this team has been over the last several years, it seems like he’d have more.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

Yeah, he was the closer in 2006. Just ask Beltran.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

We routinely discard the HFA as being very slight in baseball, but given how the PHL edge in SP compares to StL edge in offense, the HFA “may” play a part in this game.

Nik
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Nik
4 years 8 months ago

HFA in baseball is basically balls/strikes. Although that’s not always the case – see game 2.

JG
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JG
4 years 8 months ago

In this particular case it is probably irrelevant, but some teams are built for the idiosyncrasies of their ballparks.

Or their unusual ballparks are built for idiosyncrasies of the team.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

IMO, the ball-strike aspect is the single most important thing in the game, particularly from an umpire standpoint. If there were calls that baseball wanted to be “perfect”, it would be balls and strikes.

This is particularly true in 1-1 counts where the call on the 3rd pitch significantly shifts the odds to the batters/pitchers favor depending on ball/strike call.

HFA, even if just in ball/strike calls, could drastically shift the edge to the home team in a one or done game.

However, home teams in Game 5 of MLB’s LDS are 6-8.

Bob
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Bob
4 years 8 months ago

What a duel it turned out to be. Wow.

Congrats to the Cardinals.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

Hopefully on Monday we don’t read articles stating everything the managers did wrong.

TLT let Carpenter bat, then bunted twice allowing PHL to IBB their best hitter, then allowed carpenter to throw a complete game.

Sometimes we take the “average” statistics/data too far by applying it to EVERY situation. The “average” of all the data is the middle ground between the extreme results. Isn’t it the managers job to know when to think “outside the book”?

I’m a big fan of sabermetrics and all that, but I would have rather the cardinasl season ended , either way, with Carpenter on the mound instead of Motte or Rhodes.

plakat
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4 years 7 months ago

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