Can a (Chris) Carpenter Help Build a Playoff Berth For the St. Louis Cardinals?

Derek CoffeltSenior Analyst IJanuary 25, 2009

Standing an impressive 6'6" tall and weighing about 230 lbs., Chris Carpenter is as big as an NFL linebacker.

He's the 2005 Cy Young Award Winner and 2006 World Series Champion.

When Chris Carpenter is healthy, he certainly is one of baseball's top pitching performers. However, even prior to his career in St. Louis in 2003, this "carpenter" had a few loose nails.

He was acquired prior to the 2003 season, and was forced to sit out that year due to a torn labrum.

He finished 2004 with a 15-5 record, and a 3.46 ERA combined with 152 strikeouts. He helped the Redbirds win their first National League pennant since 1987, but then was forced to ride the pine in September with a nerve problem in his bicep.

He missed the 2004 postseason and it's widely viewed that St. Louis would have been more competitive in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox had he been healthy. He did however receive the NL Comeback Player of the Year award.

Determined to live up to his potential, Carpenter's 2005 season was the best of his career. Going 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA coupled with 213 strikeouts, he dominated throughout the year. Carpenter's on-field performance mirrored his imposing stature. The Cardinals ended up losing to the Houston Astros in the NLCS.

His 2006 campaign was not his best, but the Cardinals held onto their postseason dreams and barely made it into the playoffs.

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Considered one of the most undeserving teams to even make the postseason with only 83 wins, the Redbirds shocked the world as they took home the World Series title from the heavily favored Detroit Tigers.

Carpenter's eight career postseason starts yielded a 5-1 record with a 2.53 ERA. Again, when he's healthy, he produces.

Carpenter's 2007 season marked a low point for the big man. After losing on Opening Day to the New York Mets, it was announced that he would need Tommy John surgery to trim bone spurs. After further complications with his elbow, he was officially put on the shelf for the year.

With all of this information compiled, Cardinals' nation has to wonder whether or not Carpenter can indeed come back from these injuries. History has shown that he has a decent track record of coming back the next year and dominating.

He did it in 2004 and then was injured again.

He came back in 2005 and had a career year.

He lasted through 2006 and helped contribute to a World Series title.

His 2007 and 2008 seasons were riddled with injuries.

Does this mean his 2009 campaign holds great things for him?

For St. Louis' sake, I hope it does.

Many baseball analysts agree that the key for the Cardinals' rotation, even their entire season, rests squarely on the health of Carpenter's shoulders.

With the recent injury to Troy Glaus, the Redbirds certainly have their work cut out for them.

Despite having significant depth at third base with prospects David Freese, Brett Wallace, and Allen Craig, they also have veterans eligible to take up the hot corner as well. Brendan Ryan, Brian Barden, and Joe Mather all have experience.

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