Assuming Carpenter's 2013 season is finished before it got started, it will mark the fifth full season Carpenter will make 3 or less starts in. It is a shame, as Carpenter has been one of the top pitchers in baseball when healthy. His 144-94 record gives him a very impressive career winning percentage of .605. What is even more impressive is the fact that he has a record of 94-55 with the Cardinals, a remarkable .683 winning percentage. Throw in his 10-4, 3.00 in 18 career postseason starts and he will be remembered as one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the St Louis Cardinals franchise.
Carpenter's career has been a story of extreme highs and extreme lows. When he was taken #15 overall in the 1993 draft at age 18, he was expected to be a top of the rotation starting pitcher, expected to help out relatively soon. His ceiling was considered to be better than fellow Jays prospect Roy Halliday. After making his debut in 1997 (13 starts), he showed signs of his potential in 1998, going 12-7 in 24 starts, 33 games pitched. After his first MLB injury held him to just 24 starts in 1999, he struggled to an over 6.00 ERA in 2000, before going 11-11, 4.09 in a 215 innings in 2001. 2002 was the season he was diagnosed with a serious shoulder ailment that could have ended his career. After missing the entire 2003 season, he joined the Cardinals and won the comeback player of the year, NL Cy Young and a World Series Championship, respectively, over the next three seasons.
I remember being in St Louis for opening day of the 2007 season. Carpenter gave up 4 runs in 6 IP of a Mets victory. That was the last game he pitched for the rest of the season, the result of having to undergo Tommy John surgery. That and other problems kept him from pitching again until the end of the 2008 season, where he pitched in 4 games, 3 starts. His 2009 (17-4, 2.24) was as good, if not better, than his Cy Young 2005 season (21-5, 2.83). He was once again the Cardinals workhorse in 2010 and 2011, winning 16 games in 2010 and leading the NL in IP and batters faced in 2011. He saved his best for the postseason, winning the decisive 5th game 1-0 in a classic pitchers duel against Halliday and the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies.
Carpenter could have been a Hall of Fame candidate if he hadn't missed all that time due to injury. His 75-25 record in his first 100 games in a Cardinals uniform is tied for the second best winning percentage in the history of MLB tied with Cy Young. (Pedro Martinez went 78-22 in his first 100 starts in Boston.) His postseason record is up there with guys like John Smoltz and Curt Schilling. If he is finished now, he will get his share of HOF votes, though I think he falls short. As I have said before, his number 29 should be retired as he has been one of the greats in the long history of the Cardinals franchise.
Carpenter, as expected, should make an attempt to return from his latest setback. I trust he will do it for the right reasons. Obviously, if he announces his retirement, he will have to forfeit his $12.5 million salary he is owed for the 2013 season. I think it will be a phenomenal story if Carpenter can make one more comeback and return to the same form he did in 2004 and 2008. But, if he does not return, he will take some heat for taking his 2013 salary and walking.