It's hard to imagine this team without what it's gotten from Chris Carpenter to this point. Are they good enough to justify DeRosa? Holliday? Fangraphs, impersonal though it is, has pegged Carp for 4.6 wins above replacement, a $21 million dent into the contract that began 2009 with the Cardinals $19 million in the hole.
As late as that April 14 injury I was convinced that any value he added to the 2009 Cardinals was a welcome bonus. That's how I wrote him up in the preseason book, and though his first start had gotten me more excited than I wanted to be that squib game was all it took for me to lose the newfound confidence. I know it wasn't supposed to be serious—I know it wasn't the result of throwing a pitch—but between the Cardinals' reputation and Carpenter's was there anyone out there who wasn't a little suspicious that he'd be back?
But since then... well, since then he's thrown 21 starts unabbreviated by injury; 19 of them have been quality starts. 15 of them have gone at least seven innings, nine of them have involved no more than one earned run, and now four of them have brought together 32 scoreless innings, 36 strikeouts, four walks, 13 hits. He's really good. He's really, really, really good. He's not the bonus innings, he's the innings, qualified, as of yesterday's start, for the year-end ERA title. Without him this team is probably a lot warier about going for broke on a left fielder, especially when it involves trading their fifth starter.
Day off #1: Accomplished. La Russa frames Franklin's day(s) off like this:
"This series is going to be one where our starters hopefully will pitch effectively and get into the last part of the game, [but] we can't push them ridiculously," La Russa said. "Our offense will have to score some runs. And there will be some guys like [Brad] Thompson, [Todd] Wellemeyer, [Mitchell] Boggs, whoever, some of the other guys who are not the normal guys will have to get some outs."
Of those guys I expect to see the most of Brad Thompson, who's been basically invisible since his stint in the starting rotation back in the 2009 Cardinals Malaise Era. Here's another gimmick stat—in WonderBrad's eight games as a regular short reliever, throwing one inning, he hasn't walked a batter. This is a career-long thing, and shouldn't come as a particular shock; when you put a guy like Thompson, who has trouble missing bats (4.7 K/9) in the bullpen, into the rotation, where he has to face the same guy more than once with his one-and-a-half pitchers—his fastball/slider/changeup all seem to move like the same pitch thrown at different speeds, and if it were a particularly impressive one that would be a great trick—he's going to become super-hittable (3.6 K/9, another .25 home runs per nine.)
I'm not saying Thompson is the answer to any question except "Who could be suspended for five games without anybody ever noticing?". But his career spent at the replacement level might be an unfair representation of his value.
(I can't finish this blurb without divulging my own self-interest, here; Brad was the first in a long line of spotlighted non-prospects, and as a long reliever he has become so anonymous that I'll always have my first impression of him as a useful middle reliever with a remarkably loopy "sinking" fastball.)
ITEM: I BLAME THE DERBY
Albert Pujols, pre-ASB: .332/.456/.723
Albert Pujols, post-ASB: .320/.433/.611
Joe Mauer, pre-ASB: .373/.447/.622
Joe Mauer, post-ASB: .356/.415/.580