Set to retire this off-season, Chris Carpenter will go down as one of the best postseason pitchers in the history of baseball. There are numerous articles written about his postseason legacy, but this one by HardballTalk in 2011 is one of the absolute best.
Carpenter made 18 postseason starts–compiling a 10-4 record with a 3.00 ERA. His last postseason, one in which he pitched while injured, put a slight damper on these numbers, but it also added to his legend. Carpenter was just the second pitcher in MLB history (the other being Virgil Trucks in 1945) to record a postseason win without having one in the regular season.
Well, 22-year-old rookie, Michael Wacha, is making his case to drive Carpenter’s numbers into the ground. Through four postseason starts, in his rookie season nonetheless, Wacha is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA. For perspective, Carpenter didn’t make his first postseason start until his eighth year in the MLB at the age of 30–eight years older than Wacha. Carpenter after his first four starts? 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA.
Thus, Wacha has one more win and has an ERA almost one point lower than Carpenter’s over their first four postseason starts. However, this does not even tell the whole story. Over those four starts, Carpenter allowed 22 hits–Wacha has allowed exactly half that with 11. Opponents hit .229 against Carpenter and have hit just .122 against Wacha. Carpenter had 19 strikeouts and 8 walks. Wacha has 28 strikeouts and 8 walks.
For even more perspective, I decided to look at Bob Gibson‘s first four postseason starts–all in the World Series since they did not have the same playoff format back then–as well. Gibson was 3-1 with a 2.50 ERA. He had 41 strikeouts and 9 walks. Opponents hit .218 against him–96 points higher than the batting average against Wacha thus far. Yet, unlike both Carpenter and Wacha, Gibson had 36 innings pitched over these four starts–8 IP in his first start, 10 IP in his second, 9 IP in his third, and 9 IP in his fourth. Interested in seeing the rest of Gibson’s amazing postseason statistics? Click HERE.
Michael Wacha is in really good company to even be talked about in the same sentence as Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter. Will he ever be as good as Gibson? Absolutely not. Gibson is in a class of his own and will forever be known as one of the best pitchers in the game. He, too, would have had gaudy win totals if he had played under the current playoff format.
However, given Wacha’s early start in the playoffs, since it is still his rookie season, and the fact that the Cardinals appear to be built to make the playoffs for years to come, Wacha has a really good chance at eclipsing Carpenter’s numbers early in his career and creating his own records as his career progresses.
Buckle up, Cardinal fans, the World Series is on the line–at Fenway Park. Game 6 is necessary after the Cardinals lost two of three at Busch Stadium. Wacha will be poised and ready to compete for his 5th playoff win and keep the Cardinals World Series title hopes alive.
Until next time…
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