Matt Carpenter hasn’t been within shouting distance of the infamous Mendoza line since April 7th, and to say he hasn’t made a strong accurate throw from third base since the Obama administration isn’t nearly as much of an exaggeration as it should be. He’s sporting a wRC+ of 69, and he appears dangerously close to passing Wainwright on the list of salary ballast offenders. The only thing stopping Matheny from penciling Carpenter into the lead-off spot today is the lack of a game on the schedule.
All this would be just more murky water under the Eads Bridge, if the Cardinals had no other options. That’s why it’s so infuriating to watch Jedd Gyorko‘s prime getting wasted like an audience at an Amy Schumer show – the primary difference between the two being that the latter is necessary while the former is not.
Maybe Carpenter’s hard hit ball rate, BABip, swing rate, whiff rate, and the valet at the Hyatt all indicate that he’s just going through a rough patch that simply isn’t sustainable and should normalize. Maybe he’s suffering the effects of a lingering injury or spending too many late nights keeping up with the Kardashians. Perhaps he’s forcing things a bit or accidentally grasps the wrong end of the bat at times.
I have no idea how to explain his struggles, but I also don’t see the necessity of doing so. He’s struggling, the Cardinals have an able-bodied substitute with a 219 wRC+ in extremely limited use. While Gyorko certainly won’t continue hitting .364/.500/.682, it’s difficult to envision that he’ll suddenly become a .200 hitter either. Unfortunately, that may simply be an unknowable alternate reality as long as Matheny continues to be Matheny, and that’s a shame.
Using Gyorko at 3B would give the team time to figure out what ails Carpenter or at least buy time for Carpenter to figure out what ails Carpenter. This can be done while also making use of what Carpenter can still do (or should be able to do). Matheny could conceivably pick and choose when to start Carpenter at 1B, especially when faced with a favorable match-up. While those may be few and far between, opportunities will still present themselves.
It’s also not unreasonable to use him as a defensive replacement for Jose Martinez at first base. That can be done without taking Martinez out of the game completely, because Martinez can play a corner outfield spot, and Fowler isn’t exactly turning in a career year at this point anyway. If Wong needs a day off or just a timeout for a TOOTBLAN, Carpenter can spot-start at 2B.
This isn’t exactly rocket surgery. Pham, DeJong, Molina, and Martinez have hit well enough to play every day. Ozuna is heating up, and Wong’s glove simply plays even when his bat does not. That leaves the team with two positions to fill out the lineup, and with Fowler rivaling Carpenter in the “most agonizingly painful player to watch on the field” competition, justification for running them out there every game requires either a suspension of disbelief or a lot of booze.
Maybe Gyorko isn’t the only one getting wasted…