December 12, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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THT's latest e-bookThird Base: The Crossroads is THT's new e-book, available for $3.99 from the Kindle store. The good news is that anyone can read a Kindle book, even on a PC. So enjoy the best from THT in a new format.
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Tuesday, October 09, 2012
10 years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays made a very unfortunate decision. At the time, it was an understandable move, but my golly did it ever backfire on them badly.
On Oct. 9, 2002, 10 years ago today, the Blue Jays released pitcher Chris Carpenter.
Now, as you probably know, Carpenter had a rather nice decade for himself since then. In 2005, he went 21-5 and won a Cy Young Award for the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2009, he was runner-up in Cy Young voting with a league-best 2.24 ERA and a 17-4 record. Oh, and he finished third in Cy Young voting in 2006. He also made the All-Star game in 2010.
Carpenter has missed plenty of time in other seasons due to injuries, but when healthy he’s been among the best pitchers in baseball.
Both elements of Carpenter’s game – his ability and his lack of durability – had already made themselves apparent with the Blue Jays. Toronto thought enough of his talent to make an 18-year-old Carpenter their first round pick in the 1993 draft.
He made it to the majors within weeks of his 22nd birthday. He never really had great numbers in Toronto. However, his numbers were often good – especially for someone who was still developing. In his first full season in the majors in 1998, the 23-year-old Carpenter went 12-7 with an ERA+ of 106. It’s nothing wondrous, but definitely a nice performance for someone so young.
However, Carpenter had trouble taking that next step in Toronto. In 1999, he experienced the first of many trips on the DL. He missed almost all of June due to injury and had to be shut down in mid-September. But at least he pitched well when he was healthy.
2000 was the opposite. He never went on the DL, but he was never any good. In 27 starts and seven relief stints, Carpenter posted an ERA of 6.26 with a league-leading 122 earned runs allowed. Well, hopefully it’s just a growing pain for the 25-year-old.
In 2001, it looked like Carpenter turned the corner with his best season to date. Despite a terrible stretch of dead arm in mid-summer, Carpenter posted an ERA barely over 4 while making every start. That was nice, but then again he was 26 years old and only a little better than he had been at age 23. Was this as good as he would get?
In 2002, it looked like he’d never be that good again. His arm was clearly messed up when the year began and he had a 15-DL stint quickly followed by a stretch on the 60-day DL. He eventually came back but was very ineffective, allowing 89 hits and 27 walks in just 73.1 IP while fanning only 45. He had some rehab stints in the minors and was terrible there, too.
At 27, Carpenter was a bit old to be a prospect, and had a proven record of injury with production that just hadn’t delivered despite his promise. So Toronto cut him.
He immediately took off in St. Louis. It’s easy to say that Toronto got rid of him at the worst possible time, and that’s quite possibly true. There is another angle, though. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and his longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan had a tradition of turning around veterans pitchers and getting more out of them than one would expect. That was certainly the case in Oakland, where they had Bob Welch, Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley and others. Maybe Duncan worked his magic with Carpenter.
Or maybe it was just bad timing for Toronto. After all, even with Duncan, Carpenter missed almost all of 2007 and 2008. All that can said for sure is that looking back a decade later, Toronto’s decision to cut Carpenter didn’t work out, but they made that decision exactly 10 years ago today.
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My look at the playoffs through the lens of WPS, measuring game excitement, continues. If you're partial to analysis of game excitement, not only did the 2012 THT Annual have an article on the subject, but the 2013 Annual will as well. And they are other writers' interpretations, so if you're getting tired of my stuff, you'll have something fresh to pique your curiosity.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Nationals 0 1 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 4 Cardinals 0 4 1 2 0 1 0 4 X 12 (Series tied 1-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Nationals 14 34 7 5 8 3 12 12 0 Cardinals 5 47 9 7 5 3 1 2 X WPS Base: 171.1 Best Plays: 32.3 Last Play: 0.0 Grand Total: 203.4
Once again, a Washington run in the second drew a prompt crooked number from St. Louis, this time followed up with scores in the two succeeding innings to drain most of the suspense from the game. The Nationals crawled back within four a couple times, but WPS needs more than that to take serious notice, and the Cards' rally in the eighth put the result beyond doubt.
Even with sizable leads, the Cardinals played aggressively. Pete Kozma went first to third on a sac bunt; Jon Jay not only stole second with a six-run lead in the fourth, he hustled himself a triple in the eighth with a five-run cushion. Oh, and there was that wall-crashing catch he made in center. You've probably seen it 53 times by now. Here's number 54.
Bryce Harper is not enjoying his postseason. Oh-for-five In Game One with two whiffs; four Ks in Game Two, and when he did double, he later got thrown out trying to take third in a situation when Washington desperately needed baserunners. He's unfazed by a Cole Hamels plunking, he shrugs off clown questions, bro, but his baptism in the waters of October has made him look so far like the teenaged rookie he is.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Yankees 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 Orioles 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 X 3 (Series tied 1-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Yankees 34 5 11 37 7 12 50 30 Orioles 5 6 41 11 12 18 5 7 X WPS Base: 306.9 Best Plays: 42.7 Last Play: 3.8 Grand Total: 353.4
Yet another one-run victory for the Orioles. An above-average game in excitement, but not far above, though the attendees in Camden Yards made their disagreement with that assessment plain, not to mention audible in Delaware.
Andy Pettitte did not pitch badly in taking the loss. The TV commentators assumed he would not go beyond six innings, but he faced a batter in the eighth. His only problem was the classic matter of bunching his hits in the second and sixth. Wei-Yin Chen did not last as long for Baltimore, but was if anything better while on the bump. He gave up only one run, and that on a fluky play where Ichiro Suzuki dodged not one but two Matt Wieters tags at the plate to score.
The breaks seemed to lean the Yankees' way: the Suzuki dance, along with J.J. Hardy missing his third-base coach's "Go" signal on a two-out grounder that sneaked beneath Derek Jeter's glove, leaving him stranded at third. But Baltimore produced just enough, and snuffed enough New York chances, especially in the seventh (the most exciting half-inning of the night), to hold on for victory.
Two games, and two guaranteed Game Fours on Thursday. That always helps prospects for excitement.
Cardinals 12, Nationals 4: Just sayin', teams that lose their starting pitchers early due to injuries are 2-0 this postseason. If I'm the Giants or the A's tonight, I hope for Ryan Vogelsong and Brett Anderson to get hurt. The Cardinals blast the Nats, with two homers from Carlos Beltran. About whom, some guy from Long Island is probably thinking right now, was merely trolling the Mets from 2005-2011.
Orioles 3, Yankees 2: If you're a closer, it pays to have a short memory. Random observation based on watching Jeter misplay a couple of balls during last night's game and, for that matter, watching two decades of Yankees playoff games: Jeter could drive his car through a crowded school playground, mowing down three score students with multiple fatalities, and whoever is covering the story would talk about how, normally, he's such a great driver. They'd then describe the tragedy in the passive voice with terms like "the car just went into the kids near the swing set, there. Tough break for Jeter, who normally does not commit multiple acts of vehicular homicide."