Throwback Thursday: Chris Carpenter’s 2012 Season

Note: It’s obvious I haven’t been posting often this year, and I don’t plan to write much here in the future either. But it’s been a great ride. My plan over the next several weeks is to share some of my favorite or most popular AMF posts. The first two, however, are new ones to the site — articles I wrote for the United Cardinal Bloggers postseason publications in 2012 and 2013 and both, unsurprisingly, on Chris Carpenter. First up, from “An Unexpected Journey,” which is still available to purchase.

Adding To The Legend of Chris Carpenter

As you flip through “The Legend of Chris Carpenter,” you’ll notice the elements that make any story a compelling read. Sure, there are chapters on his high school days excelling at both hockey and baseball in New Hampshire, as well as the start of his professional baseball career in 1994 and the six seasons as a Toronto Blue Jay. But those chapters basically serve as a prologue.

nlcs16s-1-web“The Legend of Chris Carpenter” doesn’t really begin until he arrives in St. Louis.

Those chapters provide quite the page-turner: good times and one-hitters and a Cy Young Award (and a coulda-been-second one) plus of course two World Series championships, combined with bad days and shoulder problems and elbow issues, Tommy John surgery and seasons (plural) lost to injury. Plus a role in that brawl in Cincinnati.

Then there’s the 2011 chapter, an up-and-down-and-ultimately triumphant tale all its own that includes Carpenter’s role as one of the leaders who spoke at the famous team meeting on Aug. 25 that started the Cardinals charge to the wild card, his two-hit shutout in Game 162, winning the showdown for the ages against his BFF Roy Halladay in Game Five of the National League Division Series, starting three games in the World Series including Game Seven on three days’ rest thanks to a fortuitously timed rain-out that moved Game Six back a day …

After all that, did this legendary tale really need more dramatics?

Yes, said the baseball gods. Yes, it did.

And thus we arrive at Chris Carpenter’s 2012 season.

It began in February at spring training and without drama. Given the career-high 273 1/3 regular and post-season innings he pitched in 2011, plans were for him to have a modified workload in Jupiter, Fla. He was even mentioned by manager Mike Matheny as the likely Opening Day starter.

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World Series Slump? Not For These Cards

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: St. Louis Cardinals’ third baseman David Freese knocks in a two-out, two-RBI double. After a stellar starting pitching performance, Jason Motte takes over and uses his trademark “straight heat” to notch the final, pressure-packed outs, and Yadier Molina gives a double-fist pump on his way to congratulate his pitcher on the mound.

No, I’m not talking about Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

But I like how that story ended, so I’m okay with the fact that the 2012 campaign started in similar fashion!

As strange as a one-game “series” start to the season is, that’s all we got to see how the weeks of spring preparation would translate to regular season action. And what we learned, in short, is that spring training tells us nothing. 

But, last night we did get a taste of the kind of numbers that do tell us something. In the opener, the numbers meant a 4-1 victory over the New-Look Marlins in their shiny new ballpark, a win for Kyle Lohse, and a complete 180 from spring training for a couple of key offensive starters.

What worked well …

Kyle Lohse. For a guy who was the wins leader last season, he doesn’t often get the credit for strength in his abilities as a starter. Add to that fact that he got tonight’s start only after Chris Carpenter’s injury, and there weren’t a lot of positive expectations.

So, a certain former Cardinal isn’t the only one starting the season with a chip on his shoulder. Lohse’s “chip,” though, resulted in 7.1 innings pitched where he surrendered just 2 hits and 1 run (which wasn’t even his fault … apparently the umpires aren’t in mid-season form yet). He didn’t issue a single walk, and he notched three strike outs. He lost his chance at a perfect game when he hit Emilio Bonifacio in the fourth. For you scoring at home, that makes his ERA 1.23 after one start.

I’ll take it. (Every five days, please, Kyle!)

David Freese. After a sub-par spring, the World Series MVP looked to be in fine form, going 3-for-5 with a pair of runs batted in, and a run scored. With Lance Berkman being intentionally walked in front of Freese, he’ll need to tap into that “Pressure? What pressure?” mentality from last postseason to be long-term protection. But this was the kind of start we were all hoping he’d have.  Continue reading