The Post Dispatch carried an interview with Chris Carpenter today in which Carpenter expressed some hope that the Cardinals would pick up his option for 2012. Carp makes $15 million this year, and he’d make another $15 million if the club accepts that option.
That’s a lot of money to give to a pitcher who will be 37 years old that year and has a dangerous history of severe arm problems.
When I began looking at Carp’s statistics, I expected to see some signs of decline in 2010, but it really wasn’t there. He started more games in 2010 (35) than he ever has in his career. He also won the second-highest number of games in his career (16), although his nine losses in 2010 is his highest number as a Cardinal. Overall, Carpenter has retained most of his effectiveness in his mid-thirties.
Still, there are points of concern. Last year Carpenter seemed more hittable, and he gave up the most hits (214) in his Cardinal career in 2010. His walks were up while his strikeouts were down, leading to his lowest strikeout-to-walk ratio since coming to St. Louis. His 2010 ERA+, which measures a pitcher’s ERA as adjusted by their stadium, was by far the lowest (in other words, closer to average) than he’s had as a Cardinal. And, most alarmingly, his ERA was up by a full point over last year (2.24 versus 3.22), indicated that Carpenter was indeed declining, if ever so slightly.
Carpenter’s public lobbying for an extension from the team feels odd considering how unhappy he seemed to be last season. Carp has always been a gamer, and I’m sure the mindless, sonambulistic performance of the team put some strain on him. But the explosive fits of anger and stern showboating we saw from him seemed like an old dog that simply doesn’t like the game anymore. Winning baseball players and teams have focus, but they also have a looseness that Carpenter never displayed last year.
While the club’s silent stance on Carp’s remaining option might be irritating to him, I think it’s a wise move on the part of Mozeliak. We need to see another year of performance before coughing up another $15 million or discussing the long-term future of Carpenter’s place with the team. Very few baseball organizations have been as loyal or as generous as the Cardinals have been with Carpenter, and it’s rare that such relationships continue as long as this one has. Carpenter needs to remember that, and make his case on the baseball field, not the newspapers.