BotB Shorts: No, really, Matt Carpenter is pretty good at baseball



A couple of weeks ago, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs wrote about J.D. Martinez's pending move to Boston and why it made sense for the club. To illustrate the type of player Martinez has been since he first started hitting the cover off of the ball in 2014, Sullivan made the following chart which I screencapped and am including right here without permission though with the assumption that no one will mind.

That's a pretty good illustration of how good Martinez has been while not being the most multi-dimensional guy in the dugout. He's an elite hitter, and as Sullivan notes, when it comes to that one important skill, Martinez has few peers.


Curious, I wanted to do a similar study for Matt Carpenter, arguably the Cardinals' most valuable player since 2013. So stealing not just Sullivan's chart but also his idea (and using FanGraphs' Leaderboards), here's how Carpenter compares to the rest of the league since 2013, when he first burst onto the scene (min PAs: 1,015; sample size 334).


Matt Carpenter, 2013-2017

This looks just about how you would expect it to, right? We know Carpenter has been one of the best hitters in baseball, we know he has great plate discipline, and by WAR he's been the most valuable Cardinal. He's played all over the infield minus shortstop and he's not winning any Gold Gloves. We knew that, too, and that's reflected above. If anything, Carpenter has been unfairly maligned for his base running (at least, last year anyway), something I touched on in my Cardinals preview for Banished to the Pen, but since 2013 the metrics indicate that he's been fine on the base paths.


Consider this another reminder that Matt Carpenter has been and is a very good baseball player. I've been beating this drum leading up to the season because of the perception by some that Carpenter is no longer or never was a great player. Now, to be fair, maybe I'm amplifying these few voices beyond the influence they deserve, and last season Carpenter did have a dip in offensive production compared to 2016 and 2015.


But it should be reiterated that in spite of a career low batting average in 2017, Carpenter still had a 123 wRC+, he was still 23% above the average player, he still got on base a lot, he still hit for decent power. And, as Sullivan also noted about a year ago, before Carpenter went down with an oblique injury in the middle of 2016, he was an elite hitter. Bottom line, when healthy he hits. Carpenter is only 32, if we can assume that he will be healthy (and Carpenter recently said his sore back is improving), then we can fairly assume that he will be one of the better hitters in baseball in 2018.


Photo credit: kat_allen311