Thanks to an extra-inning affair last night, J.A. Happ was not able to make his scheduled spot start today. As a result, the Phillies had to make room for someone else to make the start, so they cut utilityman Miguel Cairo and called up Andrew Carpenter from AAA Lehigh Valley.
Carpenter pitched extremely well in 2007 for the Clearwater Threshers, his first full season of professional baseball in the Minor Leagues. In 163 innings, he had a 3.20 ERA, struck out 116 and walked 53. He was less successful when he was promoted to AA in ’08 (5.67 ERA for the Reading Phillies), and similarly less successful when he started the ’09 season in AAA (4.76 ERA for Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs).
Nevertheless, he was one of the few Minor League pitchers the Phillies could have confidently thrown into a Major League spot start, so there he was in Washington, slated to face the disappointing — but offensively potent — Nationals.
His line in his first Major League start may not be amazing — five earned runs in four and one-third innings — but he pitched better than it indicates. We’ll investigate using Pitch F/X.
It’s worth pointing out that, because Carpenter is a pitcher who had just one inning of Major League experience prior to tonight, the data isn’t as reliable as it is for other players. For instance, the data had average confidence values of 1.37 for Brett Myers’ curve, 1.09 for his fastball, and 0.83 for his slider. Carpenter, however, had confidence values of only 0.13 for his curve ball, 0.58 for his four-seam fastball, and 0.13 for his sinking fastball. A higher number, of course, means that the data is more reliable.
First, the data (FB = Four-seam; FS = Sinker; CU = Curve):
His curve had an average speed of 83.3 MPH; his four-seam fastball 88.6 MPH; and his sinker 83 MPH. As usual, take that with a huge grain of salt since the data isn’t as reliable as it would be for a more experienced pitcher.
As you can see, there appears to be some mis-labeled pitches.
His average curve moved an average of .6 inches horizontally (towards a left-handed hitter) and 5.6 inches vertically. The average four-seamer moved -7.5 inches (towards a right-handed hitter) and 8.8 inches vertically. His average sinker moved -5 inches (towards a RHH) and 3.6 inches vertically.
A look at his overall pitch location (from the catcher’s perspective):
Carpenter threw his curve in the strike zone most of the time, but a lot of them were called balls by home plate umpire Eric Cooper. Carp also did a good job of keeping his sinker in the bottom half of the strike zone, and he worked both sides of the plate with his four-seam fastball.
Right-handed hitters were 4-for-8 (two singles, two doubles) with three walks against Carpenter; lefties were 4-for-10 (three singles, one double). As usual, we’re dealing with a small sample here, but in the future, it will be interesting to note if he has more success against lefties than righties.
Overall, he looked decent. He compares favorably to Kyle Kendrick, who also relies on a sinker. Kendrick’s sinker has slightly more vertical movement (about two inches more on average) but they both have similar horizontal movement in the 8-8.5 inch range. Additionally, both don’t have overpowering velocity with fastballs in the high 80’s mostly.
Did Andrew Carpenter pitch well enough to shorten the leash on the Phillies’ regular starting rotation, which had a 6.20 ERA going into today’s games? No, but if things continue to get worse, he’s arguably second on the list behind J.A. Happ. He could even find himself in the bullpen during the summer if the Phillies have to deal with injuries.