If it seems like Matt Carpenter is striking a lot, you’re not just imagining it.
For simplicity, I looked at Carpenter’s numbers through April of this season and compared it to the same amount of plate appearances last season. Below (and enlargeable) are Carpenter’s splits through 110 at-bats (29 games) this season and 108 at-bats (28 games) in 2013.
It’s nothing completely out of the ordinary, but some of this is pretty notable. Last year was a phenomenal season for Carpenter, obviously. He was named an All-Star, finished fourth in MVP voting and was generally a tough out for any pitcher. He could attribute that to a strong April/early May in which he struck out just 17 times in 108 at-bats. He had 16 games during that stretch in which he didn’t strike out at all and never struck out more than three times in a game, something he did just one time very early in the season.
The 2014 season hasn’t been as kind to Carpenter early on. He struck out 28 times in 110 at-bats in April. Where last year he enjoyed a number of games sans strikeouts, through April he struck out at least once in all but 10 games and struck out three times in three separate games. He’s on pace for 157 strikeouts this season. He struck out just 98 times last season. That’s quite a difference.
I’m no swing doctor, and I don’t exactly have the solution as to why Carpenter’s numbers have dropped off to start the season compared to his start last season. My guess is that pitchers are simply learning how to pitch to him. He’s hit just .264 in April compared to .287 in a comparable time frame last season.
What’s odd is that he gained a reputation of being a selective hitter last year because of his ability to take walks, but he actually had more walks (18) in April this season than in the same time frame last season (10). Carpenter’s on base percentage is still near the top of the team and he led the team in runs scored in April with 21. The next closest was Matt Holliday with 21, so there’s obviously still some merit to keeping Carpenter at the leadoff position.
Cynics may point to Carpenter’s poor showing in the playoffs last season and slow start to this season as a sign of regression, but I tend to subscribe to the notion that, like a lot of the players, he’ll heat up as the temperature does.
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