Three things to know about Carpenter

February, 21, 2012
Three things to know about new Red Sox pitcher Chris Carpenter:

1. The fastball: Carpenter’s heater topped out at 100.2 miles per hour in 2011, making him one of only 13 major league pitchers to break the 100-mph barrier.

[+] EnlargeChris Carpenter
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Daniel Bard (100.5 mph) was one of the 10 pitchers to throw the ball faster than Carpenter last season. However, as a starter, there’s good reason to believe Bard will see a drop in velocity this season. Of the 13 pitchers to hit triple digits, only Justin Verlander and Rubby De La Rosa did so as a starter.

Might Carpenter be the flame-throwing heir to Bard in the bullpen? Both Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon topped out around 96 last season.

As countless pitchers have learned, it’s not all about speed.

Consider that opponents his .391 off of Carpenter’s fastball, which he throws 70 percent of the time. Compare that to his 88 mph slider, which opponents hit .200 against.

There’s also a control issue. The harder Carpenter throws, the more wild he is. Of his four 100 mph pitches, only one was actually a strike.

Only 53.8 percent of his fastballs that were 98 mph or faster went for strikes. But when it was 97 or under, Carpenter threw 66.7 percent strikes.

2. A falling prospect: Two years ago, Baseball America had Carpenter as the No. 8 prospect in the Cubs’ system. Splitting 2010 between Class-AA and Class-AAA, he went 8-6 with a 3.41 ERA as a starter. That was good enough to move him up to No. 6 in their system going into 2011.

The Cubs elected to move Carpenter to the bullpen in 2011, and the results weren’t promising. Again pitching between two levels, he put up a 5.91 ERA. Carpenter had a 2.79 ERA during a brief stint in Chicago, but that came with a 1.97 WHIP.

As a 26-year-old reliever with an ERA approaching six, it’s easy to see why his prospect status took a major hit. Carpenter fell to No. 13 in Baseball America’s latest rankings.

Based on his relative success as a starter, it seems logical to wonder whether Carpenter might be bound for the Pawtucket rotation. However, Ben Cherington’s words indicate that Boston views him as a reliever.

“We’re really happy to have him,” Cherington said. “He’s a young power-arm reliever who we think has a chance to be a really good big league pitcher.”

3. Two surgeries and three drafts: Drafted by the Detroit Tigers out of high school in 2004, Carpenter elected to attend Kent State. But his college career hit a rough patch when he needed Tommy John surgery toward the end of his freshman season. After a second surgery 11 months later, he ultimately sat out a total of 18 months. He bounced back as a junior, and was again drafted, this time by the New York Yankees in the 18th round.

Carpenter opted to return for his senior season, earning MAC Pitcher of the Year honors. The Cubs snagged him in the third round of the 2008 draft. Eleven picks later, the Red Sox took Kyle Weiland, who was shipped to Houston this offseason.

Jeremy Lundblad

ESPN Stats and Information



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