All thanks to that slider. More than anyone in baseball, Carlton turned that nickel curve into a million dollar pitch.
“It had a real bite,” Moreland recalled. “A lot of sliders just break sideways. His not only slipped, it was broken at an angle. And he bowled it faster than anyone – 85-plus.
“He can throw it outside and break it and into the corner, or throw it down and in. He returns right hands that hit and just eats them. Ninety percent of his strikeouts are down-and-in sliders. The men pushed it as it hit the ground”
Carlton’s control amazed Moreland. “You can catch some of the [his pitches] with a pair of tweezers. He can pinpoint that fastball on the outside corner, then come in with a slider.
While catching Carlton with the Cardinals and Phillies, Tim McCarver said, “I put down three fingers [the sign for the slider] so often, I stick out three fingers when I shake hands with people.”
The last of the 300-IP pitchers (304 in 1980), Carlton was still good for 284 innings at age 39. But he wasn’t number conscious. Complete games and innings pitched are incidental. In his early years, he was an annual leader in complete games when his supporting cast was thin. But later in his career, if he had a big lead after seven or eight innings, he would ask the pitching coach to bring in someone from the bullpen who needed work.