Call Me Crazy, but Rich Harden Makes More Fantasy Sense Than Chris Carpenter

Matt ClementeContributor INovember 4, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 07:  Pitcher Chris Carpenter #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game One of the NLDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Dodger Stadium on October 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Chris Carpenter looks like a favorite to lock down his second NL CY young.  Looking ahead to next season, one wonders where he will rank amongst starting pitchers in 2010.  Is he still an injury risk?

The St. Louis ace certainly bounced back after two season lost to injury, winning 17 games and leading the league with a miniscule 2.24 ERA.  ESPN’s Matthew Berry has him ranked 8th heading into 2010, but is he a sure bet as a top 10 starter?

I do not buy it. 

Carpenter will likely not be on any of my fantasy teams next year.  Let me be clear, Chris Carpenter is a great pitcher.  In a vacuum, you would really have to be crazy not to want him on your team.  My point is, he is going to be so overvalued he is not worth the risk. 

All pitchers are risky.  Francisco Liriano (13), Jake Peavy (7), Johan Santana (1), and Brandon Webb (5) were all top 15 guys for 2009, according to ESPN.

Except for Webb, all of these had significant injury histories going with the year.  All of them spent significant time on the disabled list.  None of them won 15 games or had 150 Ks.  You had to spend very high picks on these guys to get them on your teams. 

Carpenter has at least a much risk going into 2010 as these guys had going into 2009.  Don’t believe me?  Here is a bit of perspective. 

Since 2003, when Rich Harden first came into the league, Harden actually has actually pitched slightly more innings (878.8 inn) than had Carpenter (857.7), including the minors.  Harden, who is seen as one of the most uncertain starters in the league, has started 149 games in that span to Carpenters’ 139. 

Moreover, just looking at the stats logged in the majors from 2003 to 2009, Harden has a better ERA (3.39) than Carpenter (3.88); a better WHIP, to 1.237 to 1.294; a way better K per nine, 9.4 to 7.4, and a better W-L percentage, 6.33 to 6.13.  

Generally speaking, during that span, we find that Carpenter is rags or riches, pitching 200 innings or losing an entire season (which he did three times in the last seven seasons).  One the other hand, Harden averages about 125 innings per season fairly consistently.  With Harden, you can pretty much expect half a season of useful fantasy stats.  With Carpenter, there is no telling what you are going to get.  

Plus, Much of Carpenter’s value last season came in his 17 wins, a stat any fantasy baseball analyst will tell you is the most difficult to predict.  

And, Harden is seven years younger than Carpenter. 

So, would I take Chris Carpenter next season?  Sure, but not for the $10 or more he will cost you in most auction leagues than Harden.  In draft leagues, I would rather wait five or six rounds and get Harden with more upside for about the same amount of risk.