Like I continue to say, I feel more confidence when Matt Carpenter comes to the plate than I do when anyone else on the 2013 Cardinals comes to the plate. I think most of us feel that way. He works the count and grinds out AB’s like few others. Many players fear the 1-2 or 0-2 count, Carpenter doesn’t. Carpenter currently ranks 5th in the NL in P/PA (pitches per plate appearance) at 4.10. Shin-Soo Choo (4.20 P/PA), Paul Goldschmidt (4.18 P/PA) and Joey Votto (4.13 P/PA) are the top 3 in the NL. That’s good company to be in. It’s not that Carpenter just works the count, it’s his ability to continue to get hits with 2 strikes regardless of the type of pitch thrown, never fearing being down in the count. When he makes outs, many of them are line drive outs.
The one thing the Cards have lacked is speed. With the addition of Kolten Wong, the team is able to add a new dimension to the team. I didn’t understand the move last night to pinch hit David Freese for Wong for a few reasons. One, Wong hit lefties almost as well as righties in the minors. The other is that when you remove Wong, you’re losing defensive range at 2 positions. It worked out that the Cards won the game in 9 innings with Descalso moving over to 3B, which made it just straight pinch hit of Freese for Wong. I’m getting off point a bit here, but Kolten shouldn’t be replaced. The only way to know if he’s going to hit LHP’s in MLB as well as he did in MiLB is stick with him and give it time to find out.
Getting back to the point of Wong adding speed to the team now.
Like I said, I love little Carp, and it’s clear he’s one of if not the best leadoff hitter in MLB. He does everything but steal bases. Because of the incredible plate discipline of Carpenter, Wong leading off seems to make the most sense with the way this team is constructed. Carpenter would go from the best leadoff hitter to the best two-hole hitter in the NL. Wong would see a steady diet of fastballs hitting ahead of Carpenter, and when he gets on he would have pitch after pitch to steal 2B. That threat alone would more than likely give Carpenter better pitches to hit, and on and on we go. Carpenter has 64 RBI’s, 52 as the leadoff hitter. How many would he have hitting 2nd?
As much as I’d like to see the Cards go ahead and put this plan into action, I’m not sure if we’ll see this in 2013. The Cards are hot again, Wong only has a few games in MLB and this could also work in a negative way by putting more pressure on him in his young career. If Jon Jay can stay hot, having Wong hitting lower in the order isn’t the worst thing. Having his speed at the bottom of the order isn’t exactly a waste, but it won’t take full advantage of it either.
The other thing is you want to give your best players the most AB’s over the course of a season. Until Wong proves that he’s the real deal, it also makes sense to stick with what’s working. I do think Wong is the real deal and is here to stay with Carpenter as our 3B going forward. I can see a scenario in which Freese is on the Cards in 2014, but I think he would get about as many AB’s as Matt Adams is getting this year. I’ll be surprised if the Cards don’t try and move him in the offseason.
Whether it’s his lower back or his ankles or both with a few other things, Freese just isn’t getting it done. He’s stiff on defense and doesn’t cover much ground. On offense, Freese just doesn’t work to his strength by hitting the ball consistently the other way anymore. He’ll always be loved in St. Louis, but I’m not sure he’ll be a Cardinal much longer. If he’s here in 2014, it will be in a limited role unless there’s an injury to Carpenter or Wong. Daniel Descalso has to factor into that discussion as well.
We may not see Wong as the leadoff hitter in 2013, but I do think that’ll be the plan in the long run.