Though the purpose of this article is to recognize the top performance by a St. Louis Cardinals major league starting pitcher during the 2009 campaign, the reality is that this could just as easily be a Cy Young Award voting analysis between Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter.
Selecting either hurler could be completely defensible based on their tremendous regular seasons. That is the time period to which the Cy Young Award voters are bound in having cast their ballots. I am not under that restriction here however, and as such, my decision is a bit clearer.
Lost in the Matt Holliday ninth-inning error in game two of the National League Division Series was Wainwright’s dominant performance. The 28-year-old right-hander threw eight innings of three-hit baseball on the road in the biggest start of his career. He fanned seven, firing strikes on 78 of his 109 pitches.
Wainwright’s outing was all the more important as Carpenter had struggled in his game one start the night before, yielding 13 baserunners and four runs in just five innings of work.
Wainwright is my choice.
To be honest, in my heart, I really wanted to recognize the warrior Carpenter for his inspiring return from two years of ligament and nerve surgeries. It would have felt good to do more than applaud his NL Comeback Player of the Year award.
I wanted to respect Carpenter for his years of leadership of the Cardinals staff, just as Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan did when they did not hesitate to give Carp the honor to be the NLDS game one starter. There was no doubt he was the right choice, despite the outcome.
In the back of my mind, I also worried about how many more seasons like this one Carpenter has remaining before his body betrays him. Though not ancient by any means, Carp turns 34 years of age in April and health is always his biggest question mark.
Yet the right winner is Wainwright.
Some relevant regular season stats for the Cardinals starters follow. They include starts, quality starts (six or more innings allowing three or fewer runs), individual record, team record in his starts, average innings pitched per start, strikeouts per nine innings and run support provided by the offense.
Starting pitchers, St. Louis Cardinals, 2009
Carpenter had the advantage over Wainwright in percentage of quality starts and won-loss percentage despite receiving less run support. The two both averaged 6 2/3 innings per outing.
Wainwright collected more strikeouts and to me had the most important advantage. The Cardinals as a team ended up winning a higher percentage of his starts. It could be the run support, but I could also interpret that to mean that Wainwright more often left his team in a better position to win.
In the second half, when the Cardinals pulled away to the NL Central championship, Wainwright went 9-3 with a 2.10 ERA. Carpenter was equally amazing, going 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA. That is how close the two are.
Either choice could be a great one, but our congratulations are offered to Adam Wainwright, our Scout.com St. Louis Cardinals Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2009.
Note: To follow our entire series of Pitchers and Players of the Year at each level of the St. Louis Cardinals system from bottom to top, check back here daily. To see the roster of winners and article schedule, click here. Players of the Year, starting with the Venezuelan Summer League, begin on Tuesday.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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