In a sense, this shouldn't have been a surprise; Carpenter won 17 games in 2009, 16 in '10. Chris Carpenter is supposed to win games. When he's healthy, that's what Chris Carpenter does.
Until 2011, anyway. Carpenter has started 16 games this season, but Thursday's victory was just his second all season (against seven losses).
So what's been wrong with Chris Carpenter?
When I look at his numbers, I have to conclude that the answer is nothing. Or nothing except crummy luck, anyway.
In 2009 and '10, Carpenter struck out 3.2 times more batters than he walked; this year the number is 3.4.
In 2009 and '10, Carpenter gave up roughly one home run every two starts; this year it's one home run every one-and-a-half starts.
From the moment he joined the Cardinals in 2004 through 2010, Carpenter gave up a .281 batting average on batted balls in play (BABiP); this season -- before Thursday's games -- he'd given up a .334 BABiP.
Is BABiP all luck? Well, no. Not all luck. But when you see a pitcher's BABiP jump like that when he seems to be doing everything else right, you can reasonably guess that he's simply been unlucky. Especially when he's throwing the same pitches, and just as hard as ever.
Carpenter's now on pace for a 4-15 season. Anybody think that's really where he ends up? Express yourself in the poll, and extra credit for making your contrary case in the comments.
For more about Carpenter and the Cardinals, please visit Viva El Birdos.