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It seemed as though Chris Carpenter’s career may have been over a little over two years ago. He pitched just 21.1 innings between 2007 and 2008 combined because of Tommy John Surgery and a major triceps strain. With a couple other surgeries under his belt at that moment in his career, the safe pick was declaring that his career was over at age 33. That is why when he went 17-4 in 2009 and had the best ERA of his career he was named the Comeback Player of the Year. And after going 16-9 the following season in 2009, the safe pick was to assume 15 wins and another solid ERA. That’s why I decided to trade Carpenter for Yovani Gallardo and a second round minor league pick in my NL Only league (doh!). Flash forward to last night. Carpenter gave up four earned runs in the first four innings at home against the Royals last night. He is now 1-7 on the season. What has been the problem?

Let’s start with some poor luck. Carpenter’s xFIP is a very respectable 3.34. It’s better than Gallardo, Jered Weaver, and Jon Lester among others. Unfortunately all three of those pitchers have been on Lady Luck’s good side when it comes to ERA. Carpenter’s ERA is more than a run over his xFIP. The luck is consistently poor across all the stats that even the elite pitchers need on their side in order to be elite. Carpenter’s LOB% is at 67% – down 11% from his Comeback Player of the Year season. And he is giving up more than twice as many home runs per fly ball than he did in 2009. If any of these numbers can start to turn for him, than perhaps his confidence and his season can too.

Dismissing Carpenter’s problems completely to just bad luck would be a mistake though. He is not executing on pitches. After having the eighth best ground ball rate in baseball from 2009 to 2010, he is 54th in that category this season. He is throwing his curve ball 7% less this year than he was last season despite the fact that all indications are that this is still his best pitch. Last night he only threw one off-speed out of twenty pitches in the first inning. He is now 36 years old. Mentally he has had to deal with the pressure of being the innings eater and ace with Adam Wainwright gone for the season.

Carpenter isn’t finished, but he is fading. Perhaps some of the luck will turn for him, but overall his numbers will be down for the second straight season and that trend should continue in 2012. Then again, he was supposed to be fading three years ago.

  • The Brewers and Red Sox game had multiple fantasy implications for what could turn it out to be the next couple of weeks. Carl Crawford left in the first inning after beating out an infield single. He has a grade 1 (least severe) hamstring strain and should be out of the lineup today. Of course Crawford’s whole game is his legs, so I’m not sure we’ve seen the last of this issue.
  • Soon after Crawford left, Shaun Marcum departed. He limped after throwing a pitch to J.D. Drew in the first and didn’t come back out for the second inning. He is still hoping to make his next start.
  • Kevin Youkilis was the third player to leave the game. He left in the fifth with sickness according to the NESN telecast. Given that he got hit by a pitch in the last series as well, he should be held out today by the Red Sox.
  • Matt LaPorta was taken out of the Indians game with what is being called a sprained ankle. LaPorta hurt it while being caught in a run down. X-Rays were negative, but there’s still a good chance he will head to the disabled list.
  • Brett Myers had his best game of the season for the Astros pitching a complete game. The Astros could be looking to deal him and Jeff Keppinger.
  • Randall Delgado made his big league debut for Atlanta. His velocity was impressive, but he was a touch wild and inconsistent at times. The moment did not seem too big for him though. Playing against the defending AL Champs, Delgado got a force at third on an attempted sacrafice bunt and did his best to keep things close.
  • The reason Delgado came up was because Tommy Hanson was placed on the DL with right shoulder tendinitis. This comes after he struck out 14 Astros in his last start.
  • Dustin Ackley singled in his first at-bat, but it was his glove that was receiving positive reviews after his MLB debut last night.
  • Joe Mauer singled in what seemed like his first at-bat. He would have driven in two runs instead of just one if Ben Revere hadn’t gone past third on a head first slide.
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