A few things happened last night that grabbed my attention. One of them was not Michael Wacha and his departure back to Memphis, that was what I expected and was the right move for him and the Cards, but more on that later. What grabbed my attention was Matt Carpenter actually looking a little lost at the plate and expanding his zone, as well as the calmness that Mike Matheny displayed on the Phil Cuzzi call.
Starting with the Cuzzi call, I can’t say I’ve really seen a manager come out of the dugout to argue a call and change an umpire’s mind. If Cuzzi heard the ball hit the bat, it doesn’t matter if it also caught the finger. I only make a stink about umpires 3 or 4 times a year, but that call just can’t be made. Then again, it’s Phil Cuzzi. There’s a reason he’s always on the top 5 list of the worst umpires in MLB along with the usual suspects in Angel Hernandez, Joe West and C.B. Bucknor.
Jake Westbrook didn’t look ready last night. I think another start or two in the minors where the Cards could have stretched him out more would have been the best thing to do. The Cards can’t afford to lose games like that to the Marlins, but it’s hard to argue against anything they’re doing right now.
I was all set to write about how great Carpenter has been this year. I’m still going to, and I’m going to chalk up his performance on offense and defense last night to him being human, because until last night, I was starting to have doubts. I think Carpenter took more swings out of the zone last night than he has over the entire year.
Right now, the talk surrounding the Cards is what they will do with Kolten Wong in the future. I can see two different scenarios. One is moving Carpenter to 3B and bringing up Wong to play 2B. The other is trading Wong for a future need and keeping David Freese, allowing Carpenter to stay at 2B. Yet another may be to play Wong like the Cards have been doing with Matt Adams, and then go from there. These things normally have a way of working themselves out.
So getting back to Carpenter, his failures and awkwardness at the plate last night made most fans realize just how good he’s been. Without his plate discipline and setting the table for the heart of the order, the Cards would more than likely be trailing both the Reds and the Pirates in the standings right now.
I look forward to MC’s AB’s more than anyone. If the playoffs started today, I can’t think of any other player I would want at the plate, regardless of the situation. It’s not often when you can say a guy is a grinder and an All-Star, in which Carpenter will likely be both.
Getting to the numbers, the offensive stats are pretty clear. Carpenter is 2nd among NL 2B in AVG at .324 (Scutaro .332), 1st in OBP at .408, 1st in SLG at .473 and 1st in OPS at .880. Carpenter is also the MLB leader at 2B in WAR at 3.5 as well as wRC+ at 150.
The defensive metrics are a bit surprising, especially considering this is Carpenter’s first year at 2B. I would have thought he was in the top third of the league before looking, but it’s better than that. 3-time Gold Glove Award Winner Brandon Phillips has a UZR of 3.9, a UZR/150 of 9.7, and a RngR of 2.8. Carpenter actually leads Phillips in UZR/150 at 11.8 and also has a UZR of 3.3 and RngR of 1.6.
Obviously, Yadier Molina is the Cards MVP. If we just talk about position players, Carpenter would easily be second though. Factor in that Carpenter is in the top 10 in the NL in P/PA at 4.10, and it makes for a pretty good debate. Because of his approach at the plate, I just don’t see Carpenter going into a long slump at any point unless an injury occurs.
Keeping Tyler Lyons and sending Michael Wacha down was the right choice for both the team and Wacha. I have no doubt that Wacha will be back in the rotation for good next year, but there are a few things he needs to work on, and Memphis is the place for that as he continues to adjust to the rigors of pitching every 5th day. It’s hard to remember a time in which so much hype was placed on a rookie by both the media and the fans.
Right now Wacha is a good two pitch pitcher with his fastball and changeup. When he develops his curveball, he’ll be ready to live up that hype. We shouldn’t pay too much attention to the numbers he puts up at AAA because I think the Cards are going to have him throw a high percentage of curveballs just to keep on developing that pitch. He’ll probably be back up in September if the Cards can stay injury free. I would actually expect Carlos Martinez to be up before Wacha if a starter is needed.
Fans have heard it before but they do need to remember that Wacha was still pitching in college just over a year ago in which he started every 7-8 days. Limiting his innings on a 5 day schedule isn’t the something the Cards could have continually done. Wacha is a big piece of the future, and I’m sure the time he spent with Adam Wainwright while he was here will pay huge dividends when he returns, which won’t be long.