As the World Series transitions to the Windy City for game three, the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs are tied at one game apiece. Games one and two went pretty much as expected with the Indians winning the Corey Kluber game and the Cubs winning the Jake Arrieta game. Sure, both games took place at Progressive Field in Cleveland (how much does “home field advantage” actually matter?), but not often does the home team go up two games to zero in the World Series, and Arrieta is one of the best pitchers in baseball (even with expected regression he experienced this season).
As fans of the St. Louis Cardinals, Kluber’s game one performance likely brought back positive memories throughout his six-plus scoreless innings on the mound — memories of newly-enshrined Cardinals Hall of Fame member, Chris Carpenter. Look no further than strike three to the very first batter of the game when you saw one of those patented “front-door twoseamers” Carpenter reaped the benefits of during his ten years donning the Birds on the Bat. Now, before we get into a visual comparison of the two pitches, let’s take a look at Carpenter’s three-year “peak” with the Cardinals (remember, he was injured for most of 2007 and 2008) as well as Kluber’s, which, potentially, could last even longer than the three years it’s at currently (he’s only 30 years old).
3-Year “Peaks” for Kluber and Carpenter
In general, I dislike the term “innings eater” because it usually describes a pitcher who isn’t all that good, but is durable enough to throw a lot of innings which in turn provides inherent value over the course of a 162-game season. Well, peak Carpenter and Kluber threw a whole lot of innings — more innings than you generally see from a starting pitcher anymore.
On top of the innings total, there is no doubting their respective performances, either, as Carpenter put up 16.8 fWAR over his three-year peak and Kluber managed 18.1 over his. I don’t mean to consider the term “innings eater” as derogatory, but neither Carpenter nor Kluber was ever classified as such. Rather, many use (or have used) the term “workhorse,” which, in my opinion, is much more fitting for both pitchers.
Repertoire Comparison (via BrooksBaseball.net)
As you can see, Carpenter and Kluber possess very similar repertoires. The only real difference being Carpenter’s breaking ball was a curveball, and he threw it more frequently than Kluber throws his breaking ball, a slider. Yet, we all know both made/make their money through their twoseamers and cutters, two pitches that complement each other well given the 4-5 MPH velocity difference and the fact that one breaks gloves side (cutter) and the other runs arm side (twoseamer).
Kluber throws a little harder than Carpenter did (93.78 versus 92.61), but it is close and we must also remember that the beginning of Carpenter’s peak (2005-2006) occurred before the introduction of PitchF/x, so we do not have solid record of exactly how hard Carp was throwing at that time. Regardless, based on performance and repertoire, a Carpenter comp for Kluber is not completely unreasonable. Given Carpenter’s status in Cardinals history, I do not think said comp would elicit a complaint from Kluber.
Semi-brief side story alert (skip past the following three paragraphs should you so choose).
During Carpenter’s peak, I was in high school here in St. Louis, and my baseball coach absolutely loved utilizing video, despite not having anywhere close to the video capabilities we have today. That being said, very rarely did he openly advise us to watch the pro’s. Now, he wasn’t necessarily against us watching Major League Baseball, he just felt like he could teach us the fundamentals of the game more efficiently than having us try to interpret them from players much better than we were.
However, he did routinely ask us to watch two things throughout a given MLB season: 1) the Home-Run Derby and 2) whenever Chris Carpenter pitched. He wanted us to watch the HR Derby because ESPN loved showing off their side-of-home-plate slow-motion replays. He was beginning the process of teaching us the concept of “rotational hitting,” and he believed these slo-mo replays, of some of the best hitters in the game, could serve as a great teaching tool for us.
The second MLB event he always talked about was the pitching of Carpenter, particularly his front-door twoseamer to left-handed hitters. Honestly, I wish I would have reached out to him for direct quotes, but I remember his distinct fondness for the run (arm-side movement) of Carpenter’s twoseamer — stating that lefties would simply give up on the pitch halfway to home plate, only to watch it tail over the inside corner at the last moment for a called strike. Of course, none of us possessed Carpenter-like twoseamers, but it was an approach he liked us to take when pitching — attack lefties inside with twoseam fastballs.
End of side story (thank you to those who read).
Now, for the fun part: the GIFs section (courtesy of @ThePitcherList). Remember, Kluber benefits from HD video and a slightly better (but definitely not perfect) camera angle, but as you will see below, each the devastating effects of both pitchers’ frontdoor twoseamers. In all three instances, the hitter had zero intention to swing despite facing a two-strike count. In fact, in each case, the hitter shifts his midsection backward (with Fowler being the most demonstrative) as if they believe the ball is on path to hitting them. That, my friends, is scientifically termed “pure filth.”
Carpenter Strikeout of Jay Bruce in 2011 (BrooksBaseball AB)
Yadi used to be much quieter with his receiving of pitches. I miss that.
Kluber Strikeout of Dexter Fowler in the 1st (BrooksBaseball AB)
Good morning. Good afternoon. Good night.
Kluber Strikeout of Chris Coghlan in the 5th (BrooksBaseball AB)
Enjoy the now best-of-five World Series.