AFL: Chris Carpenter


Only in baseball could you find two guys with the same first name, last name, middle initial, and playing the same position for two teams in the same division that just so happen to heated rivals. Yep, its time to finish off the AFL seriers with a look at Chris Carpenter.

The Cubs stole Carpenter in the third round of the 2008 draft. Had it not been for a Tommy John surgery while in college, Carpenter would likely have been an easy first round choice. He has the frame, the mechanics, and the ptiches to be in the majors, and he will be there shortly.

This past season he started on the disabled list due to some shoulder trouble, which does not look like it will be a recurring problem. Before a late promotion to Iowa, he started 23 games for AA Tennessee, pitching 119.2 innings with an ERA of 3.16, Batters managed a .262 average off him, but only five home runs. He stuggled a bit in three starts at AAA Iowa at the end of the year, but I see no reason to worry about those. Players often struggle right after changing teams be it via trade or promotion. Carpenter has consistently averaged about eight Ks per nine innings to go with half that many walks.

Oddly, in Arizona the Cubs have been using Carpenter as a reliever and he has struggled somewhat with the change. His walk numbers are much higher, his batting average against just under .300 and his ERA is nearly 6. Of course he’s only pitched thirteen innings, which isn’t much to go on.

One number that has changed remarkably is the ground out versus air out number. Carpenter for his career has averaged about 2 ground outs per air out. In Arizona, that number is closer to 4.5. We know he is working on his changeup in Arizona, but I can’t find any charts on how often he is throwing that particular pitch. The changeup could account for some of that jump in ground ball numbers, but I think a change in approach might also be a factor. Whatever the reason, Carpenter is showing enough for me to say that he should have success in the majors when he finally arrives.

But then, since I’ve been talking about Carpenter since I started writing for Cubbies Crib, I’m sure you knew that already. So when do we all get to see this guy in Wrigley?

I have Carpenter penciled in to the Cubs bullpen for Opening Day 2011. That will very likely change by the time we get to spring training. As of now, with the talk of Cashner possibly starting and given that the Cubs opted for him to pitch in relief despite working on a new pitch in the AFL, I think Carpenter has a real shot at breaking camp with the majors. If the Cubs feel his changeup needs more work, he’ll go back to Iowa and start. And if that happens, the race is on between Archer, Carpenter, and Jackson to see who can break into the Cubs starting five the fastest. I would be very surprised if Carpenter does not make into Wrigley sometime during 2011.