In Game 1 of the World Series the St. Louis Cardinals turned to their ace, Chris Carpenter, against a Texas Rangers club that was fresh off an offensive breakout against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. Carpenter threw well that cold and blustery night. When lifted for pinch-hitter Allen Craig his line was respectable: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO. Before tonight's pivotal Game 5 start, I thought we might look more indepthly at how Carpenter attacked the Rangers lineup during Game 1.
It is no secret that Chris Carpenter, a convert to Duncanism, throws an excellent sinker. To that primary weapon Carpenter has added a cut fastball that has largely supplanted the slider he threw earlier in his Cardinals tenure. Rounding out his arsenal is a hammer-like curveball and a seldom used changeup.
Making up 44.4% of his 2011 regular season offerings, the sinker is Carpenter's most-thrown pitch. The second-most throw pitch is his cutter, which Carp used 32.8% of the time this season. His curveball is thrown 20.3% of the time. This 2011 regular pitch selection is the baseline through which we will look at his Game 1 performance against the Rangers.
Last Wednesday Carpenter attacked Texas with sinkers in a staggering fashion. 57 of Carpenter's 87 total pitches (65.5%) were sinkers. 23 of the 87 (26.4%) were cut fastballs. Carpenter threw just 7 curveballs in the outing--meaning the deuce made up just 8% of his pitch total.
Carpenter and Yadi's pitch selection in Game 1 raises many questions in my head. Did he attack the Rangers with fastballs in Game 1 in anticipation of using the curveball more in his second start of the series? Did he hold back on throwing curveballs because of arm soreness? Is it simply better to attack the Texas lineup with sinkers and cutters? Did he have a particularly good feel for the sinker in Game 1? Did he throw fewer curveballs because of the perceived slickness of the baseballs that night?
The motivation behind Carpenter's Game 1 pitch selection is difficult to know. What we do know is that Carpenter went on the record as stating that the game plan does not change with the ballpark he is playing in.
[Y]ou don't pitch to a ballpark, you pitch to your game plan, and if you don't execute and get it up, they'll hit it out. That's the bottom line.
Tonight I am going to be very intrigued by how Carpenter approaches the Rangers hitters and what that may reveal about the game plan.