Carpenter invaluable to Cardinals, on the field and off

Updated: September 8, 2009

Jeff Curry/US Presswire

Chris Carpenter leads the NL in ERA (2.16) and is second in wins (16) and WHIP (.097).

Chris Carpenter has been red-hot the past couple of months. But he's been nearly as valuable on his days off. Like Trevor Hoffman or Roy Halladay, Carpenter makes everyone around him better.

His leadership and ability to say the right thing at the right time around the clubhouse or dugout make him valuable to a team even when he's not out there on the mound. With the way he has gone about his business, even when he has spent time out injured, Carpenter has been able to contribute to the ballclub.

The Cardinals also have brought out the best in him. People forget that he was basically a .500 pitcher until he got to St. Louis. The system put together by pitching coach Dave Duncan and manager Tony La Russa has helped make Carpenter who he is.

He's one of those guys infielders love playing behind. He works quickly and pounds the strike zone. He has an ability to get in sync with his catchers because he basically is going to establish that fastball down and away to both right-handed and left-handed batters. That is where you are going to have to beat him.

Another thing to love about Carpenter is that he always seems to have that ace up his sleeve. He will pull out an unexpected pitch in a tight spot to get a guy out. Whether it's a down-and-in cutter to a left-handed hitter, a backdoor hook or a backdoor two-seam fastball on the outside corner to a right-handed hitter. Despite the temptation to use an effective pitch as soon as possible, he'll hold something back that the other team hasn't seen yet until he feels he really needs it. It could be a bases-loaded situation with a 2-2 count, and he'll reach up his sleeve and show them something new. To me, that mental strength is what separates him from a lot of other pitchers.

Chris Carpenter

Starting Pitcher
St. Louis Cardinals

Profile

2009 Season Stats
GM W L BB K ERA
24 16 3 30 129 2.16

With Carpenter and Adam Wainwright going 1-2, the Cardinals stack up well with a lot of the other teams in position to play into October. A lot of the other playoff-bound squads have two topflight starters, but I don't think any duo is throwing any better than Carpenter and Wainwright are these days.

You could argue that Carpenter is the best pitcher in baseball right now. For me, I'd probably go with Tim Lincecum in a must-win game, but certainly guys such as Carpenter, Halladay, Jake Peavy and CC Sabathia are all in the same sentence. To cement your reputation and make final impressions on Cy Young voters, it ultimately comes down to what you do late in the season.

When I won the NL Cy Young in 1984, I lost only once in the final three months of the season. Carpenter, who is 16-3, hasn't lost a game since June. If he can keep it going, it would be something real special. With the way the Cardinals are playing, it's possible he won't lose the rest of September. That lineup is deep and talented. The manager knows how to keep people rested. Nobody is better at using his bench than La Russa. Because of all that, and if the Cardinals can put up some early runs for Carpenter, a guy who is not going to walk people and beat himself, the game is usually over.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Sept. 7 | Sept. 6 | Sept. 3 | Sept. 2 | Sept. 1

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPSITUATION
Prince Fielder, MIL38SmoltzBot 1: 2-1, 2 Outs. 1 on.
Jayson Werth, PHI32LannanTop 7: 0-1, 1 Out. None on.
Raul Ibanez, PHI30LannanTop 7: 1-2, 1 Out. None on.
Evan Longoria, TB30GaudinTop 7: 0-2, 0 Outs. None on.
Chase Utley, PHI30ClippardTop 8: 0-1, 1 Out. None on.

The complete list of Tuesday's homers

ON DECK: WEDNESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Padres at Giants, 3:45 p.m. ET

Barry Zito has allowed more than two runs in a start just once since July 12, and that one time he permitted three on Aug. 14 against the Mets. That day, the Giants were shut out. Wade LeBlanc is set to make just his ninth career start.

Rays at Yankees, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Joba Chamberlain takes the mound with the Yankees still focused on conserving his pitch count. Chamberlain is 0-3 in his past five outings. Jeff Niemann is 3-0 in his past eight starts and has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his past four.

Reds at Rockies, 8:40 p.m. ET

Jason Hammel has compiled an 8-7 record. He is a bit fortunate to have a winning record, considering opponents are hitting .302 against him this season. Bronson Arroyo has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his past five starts.

For the rest of Wednesday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: WEDNESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
1 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Levy
Analysts: Buster Olney, Eric Young

BBTN MINUTE: WHAT TO DO WITH LIDGE?

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at Matt Holliday, whose two-run homer off Trevor Hoffman in the ninth inning lifted the Cardinals to a 4-3 over the Brewers. Holliday has been pivotal in one-run games since joining the Cardinals. St. Louis is 11-4 in one-run games in which Holliday has played:

Matt Holliday in games decided by 1 run (with Cardinals)
BA .400
HR 4
RBI 11
Hits 22

WEB GEMS

TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Clay BuchholzClay Buchholz breezed his way through the Orioles' lineup in the Red Sox's 10-0 win. In his seven shutout innings, Buchholz permitted only three hits and issued just one walk while striking out five. He is 4-0 in his past five starts since being recalled from the minors July 17.
WORST
Carlos TorresCarlos Torres could not get out of the first inning of the White Sox's 11-3 loss against the A's. Torres, who pitched seven strong innings in shutting out the Cubs in his previous start, recorded only two outs against Oakland, allowing four hits, five runs and two homers.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright squares off against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday for the fourth time in 2009. Wainwright has gotten the best of the Brewers so far, going 2-1 with a 0.77 ERA.

One of the keys to Wainwright's success has been his ability to strand baserunners. His 81 percent strand rate is the third-best in baseball among all starters, and his numbers back up his ability to retire hitters with runners on base:

Adam Wainwright (2009)
Runners on base Bases empty
BA .223 .260
OBP .292 .307
SLG .292 .389
Extra-base hits pct. 21.1 27.4
Strikeout pct. 22.5 18.8

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy Tristan Cockcroft examines the 15 games on Wednesday's slate.

Cockcroft ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound, and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Wednesday. Daily Notes

HUNT FOR OCTOBER

Here's the latest in the wild-card races:

AL WILD CARD
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Red Sox 80-58 -- 81.5%
Rangers 78-60 2.0 35.3%
Rays 72-67 8.5 1.3%
Mariners 72-67 8.5 1.3%
NL WILD CARD
TEAM W-L GB POFF
Rockies 79-60 -- 74.0%
Giants 76-63 3.0 24.6%
Marlins 73-65 5.5 5.8%
Braves 71-67 7.5 1.8%
Cubs 70-67 8.0 0.7%

For more on all the playoff races, see the Hunt for October