We can all agree that David Carpenter has had some rough outings in the past couple of weeks. Including the disaster at Fenway that I was lucky enough to witness firsthand, Carpenter has given up six runs in his past six appearances (three innings). Obviously, that is not good, but just like every other outcome and performance in baseball, we need to address the line between luck or skill as best we can to project what we think will happen going forward.
If you have read the title of this article, than you know what side of the fence I stand on. I've seen a surprisingly large number of tweets that can't wait to send him down to Gwinnett, so let me walk you through why David Carpenter is just fine.
The first thing is that he is throwing harder than ever.
*Chart and data courtesy of Brooks Baseball.
Since being transformed into a reliever, Carpenter has increased his fastball velocity every season, including 2014 where he has upped it another half tick on the gun. The increase in velocity has decreased his vertical movement on the pitch, as you may expect, but the side-to-side movement has remained standard for his four-seam. The same can be said for his slider.
There is only one small change I can find (pun intended). Last August, I wrote about how one of the keys to success with Carpenter was the use of a new change up against left-handed batters - well he has pretty much abandoned that pitch. According to Brooks, he has only thrown one all season, suggesting that he has reverted back to a fastball/slider power reliever.
Overall, he peripherals remain in good standing. A 25% strikeout rate is a bit down from last season, but he is also walking batters at a lower rate, just under 6% of the time. Home runs haven't been a problem either, remaining right on pace per nine innings from last season. All of that leads to his FIP and xFIP being close to par with last season's marks, a really good sign.
So that leaves us with - yep, you guessed it - BABIP. A .430 average on balls in play is absurdly high. With the theory that a pitcher has relatively little control on where balls land in play after they leave the bat, you expect this number to hover around the .290 neighborhood. Once this number eventually comes down, it should reflect in his runs allowed dropping as well.
Even if you want to disregard BABIP and want to believe that he is just becoming more hittable...
- His O-Swing% is up 5% from last season (good)
- His Z-Contact% is down 2% from last season (good)
Those rates are two additional ways I like to measure a pitchers "stuff". Getting batters to swing at more pitches out of the zone is a good thing. Getting batters to make less contact on pitchers inside the strike zone is also a good thing.
We have to remember that his 4.26 ERA is in a 25 inning sample and that other indicators, which are more acceptable gauges in smaller samples, indicate he has pitched much better that his ERA suggests. As an easy rule of thumb, the fewer times a ball "bounces around", the more it can be relied upon in smaller samples ( i.e., ERA includes pitcher, batter, defense and park quirks). There is nothing wrong with David Carpenter, in fact I wouldn't hang up the phone if you wanted to make the argument he is a tick better true talent wise. Unfortunately, so far, that hasn't been able to shine through his dark cloud of bad luck.