Too early to celebrate, but...

Look at the table below and try to figure out what the numbers within it signify.

5 4 84 86 24 61 7 3.86
4 3 66 64 20 51 6 3.75
4 3 62 59 15 48 6 3.48
6 2 74 58 13 55 3 2.75
119 111 29 89 7 3.10

Ok, now try this and see if it helps:

W L IP H BB SO HR ERA
5 4 84 86 24 61 7 3.86
4 3 66 64 20 51 6 3.75
4 3 62 59 15 48 6 3.48
6 2 74 58 13 55 3 2.75
119 111 29 89 7 3.10

Those are the preseason Chone, Marcel, ZIPS, PECOTA, and VEB community projections for one Mr. Christopher Carpenter. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. And here’s where we sit on this, the 2nd day of August, 2009.

W L IP H BB SO HR ERA
10 3 115.2 92 18 83 5 2.10

Wow! I’m not sure what more needs to be said. It’s too soon to pop the champagne cork but he’s been utterly fantastic this season. (You know he’s a terrible hitter, right? I mean Viva El Stinko! For his career he’s a .100/.129/.111 hitter w/ a MINUS 36 OPS plus!) On the mound he’s been absolutely terrific and I’ll be the first to admit being way off in my expectations of him. I thought the VEB community was far too optimistic in expecting 119 innings out of him and he’ll reach that this week (God-willing!). Right now he leads the league in ERA and is tied for the lead in HRs against. Only our very own Joel Pineiro has given up fewer walks than Carp (all these stats are among qualified pitchers, of course.) and he’s third in the league in FIP.

He’s fifth in the NL in K/BB and fourth in HR/9. He’s first in the NL in WPA and WPA/LI. Carpenter has, through about 2/3 of the season, already been worth 3.3 WAR – about $15 M. I, for one, never thought that Carp’s value would ever approach what we were paying him but he’s already been worth $1 M more than we’re set to pay him this season ($14 M) and he’s on a pace to be worth another 2.01 WAR the rest of the season ($9.0 M). Sheesh, I hope I’m not jinxing him but few of us expected to get this much production out of him and I doubt anyone expected him to be this good when he did pitch. His health and production have helped make our rotation among the most formidable in the NL and probably the majors as well. There’s no doubt that if our rotation had pitched the way it did last year -- which wasn’t horrible, btw – we wouldn’t be within shouting distance of the division lead. Now, most consider us the favorite.

Carpenter’s probably a shoo-in for the Comeback Player of the Year award and, if he holds up, should get some Cy Young consideration. Right now I would, objectively, have him behind Tim Lincecum and Dan Haren, and in the same company as Pineiro and Javier Vazquez but, if he keeps this up, he’s probably looking at a top-3 finish. Whoda thunk it? Not me, I’ll be the first to admit. Looking at those projections at the top of the screen, I thought that if we got 85 innings out of Carpenter we’d have to consider ourselves fortunate. In fact, if he’d have never pitched meaningful innings again I wouldn’t have been all that surprised.

As I said, assuming I haven’t jinxed him, his numbers should be pretty stout at the end of the year. Right now he’s averaging 6.8 innings per start (and that’s counting a 3-inning stint on April 14 where he left the game w/ an injury). In his other 16 starts, he’s averaging 7.04 innings per start and he’s set to make 11 more starts the rest of the way. That includes pitching on the season’s final day – a start he’s unlikely to make if we’ve already clinched a playoff spot – so I’m going to assume that he’ll make 10 more starts this season (ever the optimist!). That’s roughly 70 more innings. At his current pace, his numbers will look like this at the end of the season.

W L IP H BB SO HR ERA
16 5 186 148 29 133 8 2.10

Not too shabby, huh? In a league w/ Lincecum and Haren, those probably aren’t Cy Young numbers but that’s probably just b/c of the 6 weeks or so he spent on the DL in April and May. If he had pitched then, his numbers would be as good as anyone’s. Hell, they’re damned near as good as anyone’s as they are. Hopefully, those 6 weeks away from pitching will help keep his arm strong in October.

Later we send our 3rd best starter (so far this season) to the mound for the sweep against the dreaded Astros. We may need a win to stay a half game ahead of the small bears.

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