I’m currently reading a book about a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome (The Journal Of Best Practices) where he discusses how he dealt with it. One way he dealt with it was to have different personalities for different situations. Business Man persona for business situations, etc. Basically adapting as the situation seemed fit. The guy also evolved into a better father and husband.
With Matt Carpenter, I think we’ve been seeing that on a yearly basis. Depending on the Cardinals situation, he adapts and puts on a persona that meets their needs.
Some would say he’s simply evolving as a hitter and as a player overall, and while there’s some truth to that, I think there’s more to it.
For example, the Cards key power sources get injured this year, so he just “happens” to hulk out and bash 26 (and counting) homers this year. (I hope he gets 30. I just think he’d be one of the most interesting 30 homer hitters the Cards’ll ever have had if he makes it.)
(Also I realize that he made a pre-season bet about hitting 20 homers with Adam Wainwright, but I think that was more about Carp knowing he could do it, rather than actively trying to bash homers every time he came to the plate)
A couple of years ago, he slid over to Second Base and played there passably well for an entire season, before settling back into his natural position of Third Base.
Last year, with healthy and productive power hitters, they needed someone on base for them, and Carp was that guy. He had a .375 OBP and led the league in walks while seeing his slugging percentage decline dramatically due to a drop in doubles and homers. Narrow minded people considered it a disappointment, thinking his 2013 performance was now a fluke. As I’ve said in the past, people rely too much on homers and slugging percentage to evaluate people, and I think that is true in this case. He was patient in the lead off spot and got on base. That’s the definition of a lead off hitter in my mind.
Having analyzed the data, I think that Carp has a little Ben Zobrist in him. Zobrist, as you know, is a “have bat, will travel across the diamond and learn new positions willingly” type of guy. It’s not a perfect comparison, as Zobrists’ batting approach is more consistent on a yearly basis, but he’s willing to play just about any position, as Carp is. The only reason Carp hasn’t is because we currently have a glut of solid position players on the roster, particularly in the outfield.
So, adaptation or evolution?
While hitters are always evolving, I think Carp has adapted each year. I remember hearing at one point that he said he was going to be more aggressive this year, and that has proven true. He adapted to the way pitchers threw to him.
Thats just my opinion though.
As always, thanks for reading.