If you look at a list ranking the greatest pitchers of all time, there is a common thread with most of them: each has won at least one World Series title. When the lights are the brightest, the game’s best arms shine. However, not every ace is considered to be a “Big-Game Pitcher.” I have previously ranked my top 10 big-game pitchers of all time, but I left off active starting pitchers because I wanted to look at pitchers’ entire bodies of work.
In saying that, I fully understand that there are current starters that possess that big-game ability. Active pitchers like Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett, and CC Sabathia have had tremendous big-game success, but I think that the best big-game pitcher in the game today wears the Birds on the Bats. In my opinion, the best active big-game starting pitcher is Chris Carpenter.
Big games do not just occur in the postseason, but those are the games that most pitchers are measured on. Here are Carpenter’s postseason statistics:
These are incredible numbers, and his postseason win percentage is one of the highest in MLB history amongst pitchers that have as many games pitched as he does. He is also 3-0 in his only three World Series starts to include Game 7 of the 2011 October Classic. Without a doubt, in his nine seasons with St. Louis, he has been the go-to guy when his team needed a win, and he never cowered under the pressure.
His Mona Lisa: 2011 NLDS Game 5 at Philadelphia
In a career filled with postseason and regular season gems, this was Carpenter’s masterpiece. Everyone knows about the amazing drama of the Cardinals' 2011 World Series title run, but that ride would have been thwarted without his greatness.
Carpenter pitched a masterful complete game shutout against the Astros in Game 162, but he struggled to find his ace form in Game 2 of the Division Series while pitching on three days rest for the first time in his career. However, the Cardinals were able to tie up the series and send it back to Philly for a dramatic Game 5. To make things even more interesting, Carpenter would have to go up against his long-time friend in Phillies ace Roy Halladay. Needless to say, their offseason fishing trip was probably more awkward for Halladay.
Carpenter pitched the game of his life. He threw a complete game, three-hit, 110-pitch shutout as the Cardinals took the game 1-0 and the series 3-2.
Can I Get An Encore?
Carpenter’s 2012 season did not start the way that he wanted it to. A nagging nerve issue in his back/neck kept Carpenter from making his season debut until September. The fact that he returned at all is amazing considering that every doctor that he visited pre and post surgery said that his best bet was to prepare himself for a comeback in 2013 (if he were to come back at all).
That did not sit well with Darth Carp.
He took what the doctors told him into consideration, but that did nothing to diminish his determination. Carpenter worked incredibly hard, and he defied the odds by making a comeback for his Cardinals who were in the middle of a heated Wild Card chase.
He only pitched in three regular season games before shutting down the Nationals in Game 3 of the 2012 NLDS.
The Cardinals are one win away from their second straight NLCS appearance, and if they manage to get there, I am sure that there are big time games that will have his name written all over them.