2005: Chris Carpenter
While not as legendary as Gibson, Carpenter produced some excellent seasons himself for the Redbirds. Following six solid-but-unspectacular years with the Toronto Blue Jays, Carpenter became a free agent. He signed with St. Louis but didn’t make it back to the bigs in 2013 due to multiple injuries. Reaching free agency again, he returned to the Cardinals organization, and his best seasons were ahead of him.
The very best of those was 2005, when Carpenter went 21-5 (an .808 winning percentage) with a 2.83 ERA (150 ERA+), 213 strikeouts, and a league-leading seven complete games over 241-2/3 innings. In a fairly close vote, Carp beat out Dontrelle Willis, 132 points to 112, to capture the Cy Young hardware. He also finished eighth in MVP voting and received an All-Star nod.
The following season was nearly as good, as Carpenter came in third in Cy Young voting, earned a few down-ballot MVP votes, and was an All-Star once again. He led the league is shutouts with three (times sure had changed from Gibson’s day) and WHIP at 1.069.
After two more injured-marred season, Carpenter’s 2009 campaign was another top-tier performance. He went 17-4 (his .810 winning percentage led the NL) over 192-2/3 innings while leading the league with a 2.24 ERA (182 ERA+). Carpenter was edged out in Cy Young voting by the Giants’ Tim Lincecum, 100-94, with St. Louis teammate Adam Wainwright close behind with 90 points.
The breakdown of first-place votes was an interesting 11 for both Lincecum and Wainwright and nine for Carpenter. One wonders if Carp might have snuck past The Freak to claim the award if Waino hadn’t given him such strong competition from a teammate, possibly leading to them splitting a portion of the votes.
The Present and Future
St. Louis doesn’t have any Cy Young contenders this season, and if history is any indication, it will be another 15-20 years before a Cardinals pitcher wins one. But of course, these things don’t run like clockwork, so maybe a pitcher currently on the roster or in the minors will break through and nab another trophy for the team in the near future.