Carpenter and Wong

In case you haven’t noticed, Matt Carpenter is having a season.

With his fifth-inning double today, he became just the fourth Cardinals second baseman to reach 40 doubles in a season. The other 3 you’ve probably heard of: Rogers Hornsby, Frankie Frisch, Red Schoendienst. Hall of Famers all. Schoendienst was the last guy to do it, in 1952. Carpenter is the first Cardinal second baseman to hit 40 doubles in 61 years.

Think about that for a second. The last time this happened, Stan Musial hit .336/.432/.538 and finished 5th in the MVP voting.

Carpenter’s Isolated Power (ISO) is .160, currently tied for seventh among Cardinal second-sackers who played at least 114 games in a season. Hornsby is the all time leader, posting a ridiculous .353 ISO in 1925.

It’s amazing to that Carpenter had to fight for playing time, based on how good he’s been this season. Marp was a guy without a position last year, playing 44 games at first, 33 games at third, and 21 all across the outfield. He played 5 games at second base last year after not playing it at all during his 4 seasons in the minors. So, no problem – he’ll just become the full-time guy there and make the All-Star team.

Talk about a guy who made it impossible for his manager to leave him on the bench.

With Kolten Wong‘s promotion late last night, all talk today will be about him. And rightly so – he’s a top prospect, he’s ready, and the Cardinals can use him. Wong, however, is a second baseman. Carpenter is an All-Star at that position. So, unless the Cardinals just intend to use him as a bench player – in which case why not wait 2 weeks and bring him up when rosters expand – what’s the plan for these two players?

Would the team really consider moving Carpenter to shortstop?

It is the position where help is needed most. Cardinals shortstops have earned exactly 0.0 WAR in 2013. Considering how good Pete Kozma‘s defense has been (+6 per Dewan, #8 ranked SS by runs saved), the fact that his offense brings him down to replacement level is a big black hole on a team with Championship aspirations.

The thing is – Carpenter has not played shortstop professionally. Moving him to the SS position, in mid-August, in a pennant chase, would be extremely risky. St Louis is not risk-adverse but even for them this is a stretch. Wong hasn’t played SS either in his minor league career. There’s no way he gets thrust into the majors AND asked to shift positions. Trying to hit at this level is hard enough.

It’s much more likely that Carpenter will see additional time at third (his natural position) and Wong will play second. Maybe a late game-type substitution or a ‘day game after a night game’ scenario. Of course, that means Daniel Descalso gets kicked to the bench more often; Descalso seems to be a Matheny favorite, making juggling his playing time an interesting dynamic to say the least.

The Cardinals have been blessed with a pretty deep bench this year. Adding Wong will make it deeper. I wonder how much playing time he’ll actually get.

I’ve written about the Cardinals since 2006 from the dry heat of San Diego. I do have a twitter account and even use it periodically. MLB.tv is the greatest invention in the history of the universe, right behind wax paper.

  • Ben Chambers

    Favorite line of the whole post: “MLB.tv is the greatest invention in the history of the universe, right behind wax paper.”

    Agreed. I discovered it 3 seasons ago, and it has helped this Tennesseean keep up with the Cardinals ever since.

    The funny thing about this article is that with the way that Matt Carpenter has been playing and learning makes me believe that he could learn to play SS over the offseason and come back next year and be and all-star there too.

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