As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season. That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning. Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review. Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season. As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!
Player: Matt Carpenter
Season stats: 130 G, 249 PA, 18 R, 11 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, 35 BB, 77 K, .169/.305/.275, 65 OPS+, -1.0 bWAR, -0.3 fWAR
Statcast: .342 xwOBA, 11.5 barrel %, 90.0 exit velocity, 42.0 hard hit %, 30.9% K %, 14.1% BB %
Best Statcast category: Max Exit Velocity (45th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Sprint Speed (25th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 5, Goat 4
Positives: Mike Shildt realized his limitations and he made only 44 starts on the season, only 11 in the second half….had his highest barrel percentage since 2018….had a career high in sweet spot percentage….hit .242 in July….hit .500 (2 for 4) as a leadoff hitter….had a 1.640 OPS (in 17 plate appearances) with a 3-1 count….two of his three homers came with the pitcher ahead in the count….hit .222 in late and close situations….hit .245 with a .759 OPS in high leverage situations….hit pinch-hit three run homers in back-to-back games….made his pitching debut, throwing 1.1 scoreless innings against the Padres in May.
Negatives: His last home run came on April 30, the second of those pinch-hit jobs….had a number of extended hitless streaks, including an 0-31 from August to September….had three hits the entire month of September….had as many walks as he had hits….went 1-18 against left-handed pitchers….had a .442 OPS in the second half….hit .106 with two strikes….had a .482 OPS with one out in an inning….had a .429 OPS against the Chicago Cubs.
Overview: Given how 2019 and 2020 (and, if you want to go back that far, the last six weeks of 2018) had gone for Matt Carpenter, it probably wasn’t a surprise to see him struggle mightily in 2021. While Twitter continued to flog him and Shildt for using him, it was pretty clear by the All-Star Break that Carpenter was, at best, a pinch-hit option with an occasional start. Yes, it was frustrating to see him out there two days in a row when first Paul Goldschmidt and then Nolan Arenado took a break against a Dodgers team that you needed to play well against, but that sort of thing happens when you are managing a baseball team. You could also argue with the idea that Carpenter was the first guy off the bench, but it’s not like there were a ton of other great options either and you could at least hope for a walk out of Carp.
Outlook: With the Cardinals not at all interested in picking up his option for 2022, it seems very likely that we’ve seen the end of Carpenter in St. Louis and, very possibly, in baseball at all. He has indicated he wants to keep playing, but it would seem his best option would be a minor league contract with an invite to spring training for a team that thinks that there is still something in the tank and they can tinker to find it. It was a sad end to the decade of Marp, but we have to remember there was a lot more good than bad. With a couple of years of distance, his time in St. Louis will probably be more appreciated and it is probable that, at some point, he’ll be putting on the red jacket as a member of the Cardinals Hall of Fame.