Chris Carpenter and Pitch Count Panic


Okay, so maybe everyone was just scared to go tell Carp his night was over.
  • Okay, so maybe everyone was just scared to go tell Carp his night was over.
So Chris Carpenter was, all in all, pretty brilliant last night. He shut the Orioles down, giving them just one run on seven hits and a walk, threw a complete game, and earned himself his third win of the season. Not a bad day's work for ol' Carp, eh? 

Ah, but hold on a second there, li'l wrangler. Chris Carpenter also did something last night I'm not nearly so fond of, something he's been doing an awful lot of lately, and something I'm desperately hoping doesn't become a problem down the road as the Cardinals try to stay in the National League Central race. 

Chris Carpenter threw a lot of pitches. And I'm hoping like hell it's the last time he does so for awhile. 

Carp threw 132 pitches last night in Baltimore, 91 of them for strikes. Pitch number 132, the called third strike that ended the game, was a 94 mph fastball on the corner. So chalk it up as a positive that Carpenter seemed to be lacking neither command nor stamina, even at the tail end of his long night. 

The problem, though, isn't really the 132 pitches he threw last night. It isn't exactly ideal, of course, to push a pitcher that long, but once in a while a high pitch count isn't going to kill a guy. No, the real problem is the 124 pitches he threw against Philadelphia the last time out. And the 124 pitches he threw the time before that, at home against the Royals. 

For those of you keeping score at home, that's 380 pitches in three outings, all thrown by a 36 year old pitcher with an arm that's already seen more surgeries than that girl from The Hills. The same 36 year old pitcher who has missed literal years out of his career due to injuries in the past. 

Look, I know Carpenter is the Cards' horse, and I'm sure he took a lot of pride in going out there, winning the game, and saving the bullpen all by himself. But somewhere along the line Tony La Russa or Dave Duncan need to step in and recognise that this team's best chance to make the postseason isn't to run Chris Carpenter into the ground in August so that he's useless down the stretch. If this team is going to have any chance of making the playoffs and making even a representative showing once there they need Carpenter healthy and pitching effectively. I'm not sure allowing him to throw nearly 400 pitches over three games in June is the best way to ensure that happens. 

For a team with so many injury issues as the 2011 Cardinals, it's a little puzzling to me they would allow one of their few remaining healthy bullets to push so far. Hopefully this is just blip on the radar, and Carp gets a couple early 80 pitch hooks in the near future, or the staff uses a day off to get him extra rest or something. If not, I worry that when September rolls around Carp will have long ago run out of gas. 

The Cardinals don't need heroes. They just need healthy players who can do their jobs. I hope the guys in the dugout remember that.