Christopher John Carpenter | RHP | 1997 - 2002
Chris Carpenter was born April 27, 1975 in Exeter, New Hampshire. The Blue Jays picked him in the 1st round of the 1993 draft, with the 15th overall pick, out of Trinity High School in Manchester, NH. Alex Rodriguez was the number one pick that year. The Jays had 4 first round picks, the other three (Matt Farner, Jeremy Lee and Mark Lukasiewicz) didn't amount to much.
Chris had a quick run up our minor league system, starting in Medicine Hat, where he went 6-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 15 starts (I wish we still had the Rookie League team in Medicine Hat. It is just a 2.5 hour drive from me). Baseball America had him as a top 100 prospect for 3 years, from 1995 to 1997.
In 1997 Carpenter was called up in May to fill Robert Person's spot in the rotation, when Person was out with an injury. Chris made three bad starts, going 0-2 with a 12.71 ERA and was sent back down again. He back up in late July, when Juan Guzman went down with an injury. He finished 3-7, with a 5.09 ERA. We had a pretty good rotation back then, with Roger Clemens, Pat Hentgen, Woody Williams and Juan Guzman.
In 1998 Chris split time between the rotation and the bullpen, starting in the rotation then moving to the pen until Guzman was traded to the Orioles, at the end of July. Chris finished 12-7 with a 4.37 ERA in 33 games, 24 starts.
We had a few changes to the rotation in 1999, Clemens was traded to the Yankees, with David Wells coming back and Woody Williams (and others) were traded to the Padres for Joey Hamilton (not one of GM Gord Ash's better moves). Carpenter was a full time starter, but went on the DL a couple of times. He finished 9-8 with a 4.38 ERA in 24 starts. Fangraphs has 1998 and 1999 tied for his best seasons with the Jays, with a 3.2 WAR both years.
2000 wasn't a good year for Chris. It started off ok, he was 6-5 with a 4.45 ERA in mid-June, but a 1-4, 11.75 ERA July got him put into the bullpen. He finished 9-8 with a 6.26 ERA, in 34 games, 27 starts. He had trouble keeping the ball in the park, giving up 30 home runs, and he walked 4.3 per 9 while only getting 5.8 strikeouts. He was never a strikeout pitcher, at least for the Jays, but it is tough to be a winner with a 1.36 SO/BB ratio.
In 2001 Chris had a full, healthy season in the rotation. He made 34 starts, and went 11-11 with a 4.09 ERA. He pitched 215.2 innings and struck out 157, both his high water marks for the Jays. He started the season well, going 7-4 with a 3.67 ERA up until the end of June but had 7 straight losses through July and most of August and his ERA climbed to 4.59. He bounced back with a 4 game win streak to end the season.
Carpenter was our opening day starter in 2002, but that was about the end of the good news for him that season. He went on the DL after that first start, came off to make a start on April 21st, and went back on the DL. Chris then had a run of 11 starts from the end of June to mid-August. In August he went on the DL one more time and had to have major shoulder surgery to repair a labrum tear. In total, he made 13 starts, went 4-5 with a 5.28 ERA in 73.1 innings.
As he was going to miss the whole 2003 season, the Jays just offered Chris a minor league contract. He decided to become a free agent instead and signed with the Cardinals. It was an understandable decision on the part of the Blue Jays, Chris hadn't lived up to his ‘top prospect' status yet and there was no way of knowing if he would come back strong after surgery. Labrum surgery is still an iffy thing for a pitcher. The Cardinals, on the other hand, were willing to take a gamble on him, paying him near the major league minimum for 2003. The Jays took the opposite approach with Dustin McGowan, maybe learning from Carpenter's example.
It has worked out for the Cardinals; Chris has won 95 games for them and helped them to win 2 World Series. He won 2 games in their series win over Texas, to get win the World Series, in 2011. He's won a Cy Young and finished second and third in the voting in other seasons since going to St. Louis. He missed most of 2007 and 2008 after Tommy John surgery but has been a rotation leader for them every other season. Chris cut down his walk rate with the Cards. As a Jay he walked 3.4/9, as a Cardinal he has only walked 2.0/9, while striking out an extra batter per 9 with the Cards. Getting to pitch to opponent pitchers likely explains the extra k's.
Chris is a big guy, 6'6", 230. He throws a two-seam and four-seam fastball that can hit mid-90's, as well as a curve, change and slider. Woodman663 has a scouting report on him here. He really wasn't a great pitcher with the Jays but then the back of a top 55 list on a team that has only been around for 35 seasons is going to have guys like that. Fangraphs has him at a 12.5 WAR for his time with the Jays.
Carpenter is married and has a son and a daughter and lives in St. Louis.
Chris Carpenter's place among Blue Jay pitching leaders:
Wins: 11th, 49.
Innings pitched: 10th, 870.2.
Strikeouts: 12th, 612.
Games Started: 10th, 135.