Filed under: Baseball | Tags: Chris Carpenter, Pitching, St. Louis Cardinals, World Series
The St. Louis Cardinals are world champions. Even a couple hours after the fact, it still doesn’t feel real. This team has been on the brink of elimination for two months. They fought tooth and nail to keep their season alive since the end of August. I almost feel like the only thing to do is write yet another recitation of their struggles, their comebacks and improbably successes. But that’s fairly well covered. I’ve already seen several other bloggers handle this better than I could, and I already tried when they slipped into the postseason four weeks ago.
Instead, I want to talk about a specific player. I’m not sure I’ve ever spent much time on this blog discussing Chris Carpenter and that’s a damn shame. David Freese might be getting all the headlines. He was rightfully the NLCS and WS MVP. His incredible and improbable postseason cannot be ignored. But Chris Carpenter is the reason the St. Louis Cardinals are World Champs.
Before tonight, the Cardinals had already faced three must-win games. Game 162 of the regular season. Game 5 of the NLDS. Game 6 of the World Series. Chris Carpenter threw complete game shutouts in two of these games. That’s why no sane Cardinal fan questioned who would pitch Game 7 of the World Series. Carpenter wasn’t sharp on three days rest before, but that didn’t matter. You don’t fall behind in Game 7 with Chris Carpenter sitting in the bullpen.
I’ll admit, there were several times I thought Carpenter should have been pulled. I wanted Lohse to warm up in the first inning after the Rangers jumped on Carpenter’s flagging fastball and hanging curves. I thought he should have been pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth inning when the Cardinals had two runners in scoring position. I wasn’t sure he should have started the top of the sixth. I certainly threw a fit when he batted for himself to lead off the bottom of the sixth. He looked gassed the entire game. He looked sore and broken; I was just waiting for the Rangers potent lineup to get to him.
After the NLCS, we learned that Carpenter was beginning to feel elbow soreness and there were questions about his availability for game 1 of the World Series. Carpenter denied that anything was wrong. But anyone who pays close attention knew the truth. Chris Carpenter is 36 years old. He’s had so many arm surgeries that the next one is free. He threw for more innings than anyone in the National League. The speed and movement on his pitches were down from his shutout against Philadelphia. He was laboring.
Even then, he started game 1. He started game 5. And thanks to a postponement, he started game 7. He pitched nineteen innings in ten days. It didn’t matter that his arm was hurting. It didn’t matter that he was aging or that his arm was held together with various ligaments from various other parts of his body. He kept going. He kept pitching.
I would not be surprised to find out that Chris Carpenter was playing through a serious injury. But this isn’t supposed to be a pessimistic post. Right now is no time to worry about what might be revealed by some MRI in the future. That’s not the point of this. The point is that we should all appreciate what Chris Carpenter did.
At age 36
After shoulder surgery, Tommy John surgery, and a tear in his oblique
After throwing the most innings in the NL
After throwing the most innings in his career
After starting two games in the World Series already
On three days rest
With a sore arm
With sketchy command and a weak curveball…
Chris Carpenter held the potent Texas Rangers to two runs in six innings and won game seven of the World Series.
This should not be forgotten, no matter how compelling David Freese’s RBIs and Albert Pujols’s impending free agency might be.
Filed under: Baseball | Tags: Allen Craig, baseball, marc rzepczynski, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Tony La Russa, World Series
I wish that I could convince myself that what I am about to write is simply hyperbole. I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to be this reactionary and short-sighted. But it’s impossible. I can’t stop thinking it. Tonight may have been the worst-managed baseball game I’ve ever watched. Feel free to correct me. Tell me about a game that was managed worse. It would make me feel better.
Tonight I watched the St. Louis Cardinals make a series of awful decisions that cost them the lead in the World Series. And it sucked.
Earlier this evening, I made a very quick post about Mike Napoli’s stats versus righthanded and lefthanded pitchers. It was brief, and I only made it because I couldn’t fit my point into a single tweet. Basically, Napoli’s had a strong platoon split for his entire career. He hits righthanders fine, but he crushes lefties. This season especially, he’s been one of the best hitters in baseball against lefthanded pitching. Leaving in noted lefty Marc Rzepczynski to face Napoli with the bases loaded was painfully foolish. It’s reminiscent of allowing Lohse to face Howard in game 1 against the Phillies. La Russa loves matchups, and he’s been manipulating them like crazy throughout the playoffs. Here, he sat in the dugout and watched as a mediocre lefty faced a batter who eats lefties for breakfast. The result was predictable. 4-2 Rangers.
If only that was all we saw tonight. Instead, we also witnessed Ryan Theriot pinch-bunt. Bunting isn’t a great move in general. There are few situations where it improves the chances of scoring a run. Most of those situations involve a pitcher at the plate. There’s no reason to insert a player into the lineup specifically to bunt. That’s insane. I thought about citing statistics to prove how insane that is. I don’t think that’s necessary. The insanity is self-evident. And I wish it was the most insane thing we saw.
No, the most insane move of the night was bringing Lance Lynn into the game to intentionally walk Ian Kinsler. This was the calling card of the catastrophe. It was how we all know that something was truly wrong. There’s no explaining it. Bringing in a pitcher, issuing an intentional walk, then pulling that pitcher should never happen. Never. I can contrive an elaborate situation to justify almost any managerial move–even the pinch bunt. Not this one. Clearly, the Cardinals management was lost in one of the most important games of the year.
Then to top it all off, in the top of the ninth the Cardinals send Allen Craig while Pujols (who can hit the ball a long way) is batting and Neftali Feliz (who can barely find the strike zone) is pitching. It wasn’t just predictable that Albert would swing at a ball out of the zone and Craig, slow as his tortoise, would be thrown out at 2b. It was damn near fated. Craig can’t run. Feliz is probably one of half a dozen pitchers in baseball that Pujols can’t be trusted to make contact with. Why? Why hit and run there? Craig crossing the plate doesn’t win the game for the Cards. It doesn’t even tie the game. The only reason to hit and run is to prevent the double play. DPs have been a problem for the Cards, but consider this:
Albert Pujols has struck out 704 times in his career. He’s only hit into 232 double plays. That’s actually a lot of double plays and not that many strikeouts. But the K is STILL far more likely than the GIDP.
Neftali Feliz has struck out 164 batters in his career. He’s allowed 150 ground balls. That’s right, Feliz is more likely to strike out a hitter than allow him to make contact and produce a ground ball.
There’s no reason to just expect a DP. There’s no reason AT ALL to hit and run.
After the game, the excuses came fast and furious. There was something wrong with the bullpen phone. Albert himself put on the hit-and-run. The speed at which this team covers for Tony La Russa is phenomenal. If Allen Craig could run as fast as the Cards spin their failures, the team would be coming home up 3-2.
I really don’t know what else to say about what we saw in game 5. It was atrocious. It was like watching a car accident, except car accidents are usually over much quicker.
One week ago, the entirety of sports media was fawning over La Russa’s brilliance. I wonder how many of those same writers dare question him after tonight?