Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 4, 2006
BASEBALL: Not A Humble Carpenter

Chris Carpenter signs for five years at $13 million a year. Presumably Carpenter's long injury history (including missing the 2004 postseason) will prevent this deal from being a ceiling on Barry Zito, who is a lesser but more durable pitcher (although I would prefer not to shell out more than $65 million for Zito, given that he's really not a legitimate #1 starter, as Carpenter is).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:39 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Not just his injury history, but also he was not a free agent and appears considering the current market to have given St Louis a home team discount for the security of a long term contract. I'm sure Boras will not allow Carpenter to be central to the Zito discussions.

Posted by: largebill at December 5, 2006 11:50 AM

When I first read this post, I did a doubletake, and had to read it again. After doing so, I said to myself, "What the heck has the Crank been smoking lately? Maybe he's not getting enough sleep lately or something." Knowing, however, the vast breadth of your baseball knowledge, which dwarfs mine and just about everyone else's except for maybe pro sabermetricians (and even then, you might have some of them beat), I figured I'd better go to the stats and see what the story was.

And, well, I'll be damned. Carpenter the past three years has indeed been a superior pitcher to Zito. Carpenter is a classic late-bloomer, finally getting it all figured out in his late 20s, as does often happen. Zito, on the other hand, has been pretty good the past two years, but his 2004 was very average, and he has not been the pitcher he was from '01-'03.

A classic case of perception trumping reality, in this case mine, but also a lot of other people's, including, most likely, whoever eventually signs him. Zito, while he has been a good pitcher the past three years, is not right this second as good as Carpenter, and has been living off the rep he achieved with his great 2002 season, which was magnified by the rotation he was in at the time. In all fairness, that was a great three-man act that he formed with Hudson and Mulder, and none of them has been as good since it was broken up. Nonetheless, while the bloom is off Mulder and Hudson's respective roses, it remains on Zito's (probably because he was the one that Saint Billy of Oakland kept), and as a result, the perception of Zito definitely outstrips reality, and he'll get a ton of money as a result.

A few caveats: 1. The durability factor. I suppose this could be overstated, but it is nonetheless very important. 2. I'd like to see a few studies done on this, but my impression is that guys who are better earlier in their careers are also better late (unless it's REALLY early in their career, a la Kerry Wood), and that Zito will likely be better toward the end of his contract than Carpenter. 3. League and park effects. Zito's been pitching in the A.L.; Carpenter didn't become this good until he moved to the N.L. Zito, however, has been pitching in the Oakland/Alameida County Grand Canyon, where fly balls and all other types of hits go to die. Not sure about park effects for Carpenter (would like to hear).

Posted by: Thom at December 5, 2006 4:26 PM
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