Exit Interview: Matt Carpenter

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Talking About Birds, the only Cardinal podcast that….well, whatever Nate wants to make up this week.  Nate and Ben break down the week that was with humor and insight.  Plus they have me on sometimes, which I enjoy.  Find them on iTunes or check out their site!

Player: Matt Carpenter

Season stats: 129 games, 566 PA, 81 R, 36 2B, 6 3B, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 81 BB, 108 K, .271/.380/.505,  135 OPS+,  3.4 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 16, Goat 11

Overall grade: A-

Positives: Was a 3 WAR player for the second straight year….twice had a multi-homer game….stepped it up in the last week when the Cardinals made their last push, going 5-17 with two homers and a 1.246 OPS in his last seven games….hit 16 homers against righthanders, but his batting average was basically .270 no matter what hand was used….hit .296/.404/.526 at Busch….was named an All-Star, though was unable to play in the game….had over a 1.000 OPS in May and in June….if positions affect hitting, third was the best place for him (.924 OPS)….only one time did he put a ball in play on a 3-0 count–a home run….had a 1.073 OPS in late and close situations and a .972 OPS in high leverage ones….hit .342 on the first pitch.

Negatives: Perhaps never recovered fully from the oblique strain, as he hit just .229/.316/.410 after returning in early August….only had 15 RBI in the second half….hit the worst when he played first (.231/.331/.463)….struggled in the 10 games that he hit third, with a .614 OPS….while lauded as a two-strike hitter in the past, hit just .181 in those spots (non-full count)….hit .229/.383/.354 with two outs and runners in scoring position….hit just .116/.187/.188 against the Cubs this season.

Overview: When you look at the stats over the last few years, you could make the case we really know what Matt Carpenter is now.  He’s not the insane hitter that we saw in 2013, but that’s to be expected.  Here are his lines the last three years:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2014 ★ 28 STL NL 158 709 595 99 162 33 2 8 59 5 3 95 111 .272 .375 .375 .750 112
2015 29 STL NL 154 665 574 101 156 44 3 28 84 4 3 81 151 .272 .365 .505 .871 135
2016 ★ 30 STL NL 129 566 473 81 128 36 6 21 68 0 4 81 108 .271 .380 .505 .885 135
6 Yrs 719 3016 2579 451 733 191 23 74 335 13 14 367 535 .284 .376 .462 .838 129
162 Game Avg. 162 680 581 102 165 43 5 17 75 3 3 83 121 .284 .376 .462 .838 129
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/28/2016.

He’s going to hit .270.  He’ll probably hit around 20 homers.  He’ll be an above-average force on the offense, but he’s not going to be a top-tier force.  He’ll be turning 31 next year, so a .300 average and a ton of doubles is probably going to have to stay in 2013.  There’s no doubt his OBP is still a great asset for him, which really is the main argument for him staying in the leadoff spot.

And yet, you do have to wonder.  He was hitting .298 with 14 homers in the first half before the oblique struck.  Could he have kept that up for the rest of the year, approaching .300 with 30 HR?  I don’t know.  There is no doubt that the oblique affected him, but by how much?  Would he have worn down in August, like others did?  It’s an interesting question and one that John Mozeliak really needs to answer this offseason to his satisfaction.

After all, much of the year was spent talking about where Carpenter should hit.  His OBP, coupled with an general average of the last three years, probably does lean toward first being the most productive place for him.  However, if you can get someone else that has a high OBP or you think Carpenter is more of the power/higher average guy that he was before the oblique, sliding him down to two or three makes some sense, even if it doesn’t to Mr. Carpenter.

Outlook: While parts of fandom are more open to dealing Carpenter than probably ever before, it seems unlikely that Marp holds the same value to other teams as he does to the Cardinals.  He’s an attractive chip, for sure, and if you could send him off to get a top-notch starter or key cog for the future, maybe you consider it.  I don’t know that you can do that, though.  Right now, the plan seems to be to have Carpenter play first (which, as we talked about, clouds the picture for Matt Adams) and without an addition to the team, leadoff probably still is the place he helps the team most.  However, probably more than most anyone, the moves of this offseason are going to affect Carpenter and his 2017.

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