Playing against the Giants this weekend (and Tim Lincecum last night) seemed like as good a time as any for Chris and I to ponder what could have been in last year’s Cy Young race. As a surprise to no one, Chris was pulling for Chris Carpenter, while I was gunning for my favorite trade pick-up that no one paid attention to at the time – Adam Wainwright.
|Photo Credit – stltoday.com|
For me, it was a tough battle. I’m not going to throw a bunch of numbers at you, because let’s face it, I’m a math teacher and play with numbers all week. Today is Saturday. I get a day off from numbers too. But I’ve been watching Waino pitch since we picked him up from Atlanta before the 2004 season. If you watched the 2006 postseason, you know that Wainwright can buckle the knees of any batter in the league with his curveball. He’s a confident, bulldog-type innings eater who carried the Cardinals through some of the weaker months of last season (AKA, before we traded for Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, etc.).
Who knew what was going to happen last year when Carpenter went down? I’m not knocking on Chris Carpenter here – the guy’s a beast. But he was injured for part of the year, and at the time we were spinning a rotation that included Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Joel Pinero, Todd Wellemeyer (shudders) and…..? The fact that losing Carpenter for those few weeks put Wellemeyer in the 4th spot in the rotation was not a good thing, but we had Adam Wainwright taking the ball every chance he got, and very rarely leaving the game without a good chance for the Cardinals to win.
Okay, I lied. I couldn’t not look at numbers. Adam had the ball in some of the biggest games of the season: opening day, the division clincher, and some games against other teams’ aces. He also had this nice little 26 start string where he had all quality starts (averaging a tidy 7 innings per), kept it under 4 pitches per at bat (3.77), and survived the entire brutal St. Louis summer while going 15-7 (and in 5 of those losses he allowed 2 runs or less – our offense had some really anemic spurts last year!). There’s a reason he had the most 1st place votes – he deserved the Cy.
Chris? Whatcha got?
|Photo Credit – stltoday.com|
Well, Ang, interesting that you mentioned Carp being hurt last year! Yes, it’s true that a torn left oblique muscle sent him to the disabled list and kept him from making a start between April 14 and May 20. And I heard that reason – he missed time the other top contenders did not – as one of the reasons why he shouldn’t win. He still made 28 starts (to Wainwright’s 34 and Lincecum’s 32).
And the fact he did miss a month makes the final numbers all the more impressive. Yes, despite not being a math teacher (sorry!), I have to use his numbers to paint the picture of how good – and Cy-worthy – Chris Carpenter was.
He finished with the second-most wins in the National League with 17 (to Wainwright’s 19). He had the league’s best ERA, 2.24. With a 17-4 record, his winning percentage of .810 led the majors. He was second in WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched, and perhaps my new favorite stat) with 1.007. (Dan Haren was first with 1.003.) He had an 11-game winning streak from July 5 to Sept. 7.
Though it rightly has no bearing on awards voting, how effective Carp would be in 2009 was definitely a question mark to start the season. He was coming back from making one start in 2007, having Tommy John surgery that July, making only four appearances (three starts) in 2008 before developing shoulder trouble and then more elbow surgery in November 2008. Yet he returned to the dominant starter he’d been in 2005 – when he won the Cy – and 2006 (plus earned a second Comeback Player of the Year award).
Intangibles-wise, Carp is an intense competitor and every bit the bulldog that Adam Wainwright is. He’s the leader of the pitching staff, and even was side-by-side with Dave Duncan watching first-round draft pick Shelby Miller throw at Busch Stadium last summer. He sets the tone for the entire rotation.
As we all know, the final Cy Young voting was very close. Yes, Wainwright had the most first place votes with 12. Lincecum was second with 11, Carp third with nine. Carp also had the most second-place votes, 14. (Lincecum had 12, Wainwright five.) Interestingly, Wainwright had the most third-place votes with 14 to Lincecum’s nine and Carp’s seven.
And, truthfully, I could just as easily have written a post defending Adam Wainwright and why he deserved the award. He is definitely all those things Angela already mentioned, plus has the numbers to prove it, and I’m greatly looking forward to seeing him pitch tonight. But Chris Carpenter deserved to win the 2009 Cy Young Award.