Chris Carpenter: 2012 Debut

Chris Carpenter debuted on Friday night. He came away with decent results, 5 IP, 2 Runs allowed, 0 HR. Chris is usually a fantasy workhorse, but shoulder surgery has all but eliminated his 2012 season. He looks to have limited value as a streaming option this next week and has some question marks to be answered for 2013.

The big red flag that is waving over him is the drop in velocity for all his pitches. His sinker, which he threw 31 times, is down about 3 MPH from 2010 and 2011.

Year: MPH (avg)
2010: 91.4
2011: 92.4
2012: 89.4

I am not surprised at all to see a drop. Shoulder surgery has not been perfected like Tommy John surgery to the elbow. His sinker, even in previous seasons, is not fast enough to cause too many swings and misses. He will need to be able to locate his pitches and his results should be decent.

One possible problem with the drop in his sinker’s velocity is that the speed of his change up looked to not change. A change is only effective when there is enough of a difference between it and the fastball to throw the batter off. MLB mis-classified his change ups. He only threw one during the game, not 7 as was recorded. The change is seen here at 83 mph and 280 spin axis (spin vs speed is the best way to determine pitch types).

One pitch at around 83 MPH. It can be seen here in the first inning.

Some good and bad comes from this data. The good is that he is maintains a 6-7 MPH difference between his fastball/sinker and his change which he had in 2010 and 2011. The bad part is that his fastball is not even as fast as advertised. His fastball got misclassified as change ups as his fastball speed slowed down. The drop in velocity from beginning to end of game shows that he does not have his stamina back.

He has not had problems with velocity drop in the past. Here is a graph of his last start during the World Series last year.

He was able to maintain his in game velocity during a long season last year. The long season may have led to the shoulder problems.

I would be leery of starting Carpenter for the rest of the fantasy season. If the Cardinals make it to the playoffs, it will be interesting if they start him. If he does get some starts, the amount of recovery from the surgery may measurable as more data becomes available.

Thanks to for the pitch graphics.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

4 Responses to “Chris Carpenter: 2012 Debut”

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  1. BigSteve says:

    He did not have shoulder surgery. He had surgery to remove one of his ribs to relieve pressure on his nerves. It is called thoratic outlet syndrome:

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  2. GT says:

    Good analysis, as always, but it looks like Carp would get the Astros with someone replacing Bud Norris in his next turn. Sweet deal.

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