St. Louis Cardinals NLCS: Was Pitching Chris Carpenter a Smart Move?
Looking at the task ahead of the Cardinals, was starting Chris Carpenter a smart move?
The Game 6 box score will take care of the answer; however, there is an interesting scenario, involving the Washington Nationals' playoff decisions towards Stephen Strasburg that puts the brain scratcher in perspective.
Without question, playoff pitching is completely different from the regular season—that much you know—but it's even more cumbersome if your pitcher spent the entire season coming off the mend like Carpenter_—that much you should certainly know.
Entering into the 2012 Playoffs, Carpenter had thrown a total of 17 innings this season. That's 17 innings facing professional hitters, not taking signals from a bullpen catcher with trainers watching every move, before Carpenter took the hill and hopeful command of the Cardinals' playoff destiny—It shouldn't take a baseball wizard to realize a pitcher can't be ready to face game-scenarios with that short amount of mental and physical exercising, even for a great pitcher like Carpenter.
It's a simple idea: The MLB is not the NBA. It's impossible for a team to cost through the season, only to turn on the experience-button once the playoffs pop up on the calendar—let alone a starting pitcher following suit.
Without the grind of 30 starts from April to September, the focus, the wherewithal and most importantly, the arm strength plus sharpness will not be there.
Yes, Carpenter pitched extremely well in the NLDS, handling the Nationals hitters, looking like the old slinger St. Louis remembers. But, that was only one start, and it was a start against an unproven, young team. The Giants' lineup is a different story, especially when the innings total rises, wearing down on the injured arm.
That was the issue facing Chris Carpenter and, unfortunately, one that was missed. Regardless of how Carpenter felt—or what he said he felt like—he was not ready to pitch in 2012, and it's the organization’s fault for not recognizing that.
Much like the Washington Nationals' decision on Stephen Strasburg, the Cardinals should have realized when to say when with Carpenter—that time scenario needed to be more in 2013—giving the ball in Game 6 to another pitcher, possibly Shelby Miller, relying on the bullpen to carry out the job.
However, the Cardinals didn't, leaving the tired-looking sharpness of Carpenter to lose the game—long before the error by Pete Kozma broke open the Giants' momentum.
The decision may prove to be the costly mistake of the NLCS.
If the Giants' follow Vogelsong's pitching-game plan into Game 7, keeping the dominance on the inner-half of the plate, then the mistake will haunt the Cardinals the entire offseason.