Matt Carpenter has been on one hell of a ride in 2018. It’s been a positive exponential function if you will. (sorry, Math teacher and school ramping up = math brain activated)
From March 29th through May 15th, Matt Carpenter - sometimes seen as a slow starter to begin with - had easily the worst statistical start to his career ever. In those 39 team games, he only played in 35 and only started 32. It wasn’t because he was injured (at least not publicly). He was playing terribly, by the visible stats - by that I mean the stuff that actually happened. While his exit velocity and launch angle seemed fine, his xStats seemed phenomenal, hits weren’t coming. He had a .140/.286/.272/.558 line. For a guy who is an OBP master, his OBP looked like a good batting average. His slugging was worse. His OPS total looked like a good slugging percentage. None of those are good things to hear. He had just 9 extra base hits and had struck out nearly twice as much as he walked - a rarity for the man whose knowledge of the strike zone exceeds most umpires.
From May 16th through August 7th, Carpenter has been hot. That’s understating it. His salsa has freakin’ ghost peppers in it. His batting line dwarfs Mike Trout and everyone else on earth. He has a .339/.438/.725/1.163 line in that time with 54 extra base hits and 49 walks in 74 team games, 74 games played, and 72 starts. Over 56% of his hits, over a near 3-month span, have gone for extra bases. Exactly half of those have been homers. He’s been walked intentionally 9 times. Picture that. A guy who had 9 extra base hits 39 team games into the season has been walked intentionally 9 times in the following 74 games - not because the pitcher was coming up next, but because teams were absolutely terrified of pitching to him in that situation, and should be.
So what’s next for this slugger and potential MVP winner in the team’s last 49 games of the season? Well, you know as well as I do that baseball is a crapshoot. He could hit like he did for the team’s first 39 games. He could be what he’s been for the team’s last 74 games. He could be better than that. He could be anywhere in between. He could get injured (no effing jinx, man) - let’s hope not. I’m not the praying type, but those who read this that are...get at it. Let’s look at several scenarios.
What if Carpenter hits like he did from March 29th through May 15th?
If the Galveston Grinder (my nickname for the no batting gloves wearing master of the bat) hits with as minuscule of authority as he did for the first near-quarter of the season, with 49 team games remaining he would get 176 more PA in 44 games, 40 starts. He would end the season with 647 plate appearances that netted these results:
153 games played, 144 starts
90 runs, 41 doubles, 34 homers, 78 RBI
101 walks, 157 Ks
That would still be a very successful year, but a bit disappointing as in the last basically half of a full season, he has 27 doubles and 27 homers just in that span.
What if Carpenter hits like he did for the first 113 team games of the season thus far?
If Carpenter hits exactly as he has thus far in the season - his current rate and counting stats with 49 team games remaining, he would get 204 more PA in 47 games, 45 starts. He would end the season with 675 plate appearances that netted these results:
156 games played, 149 starts .282/.393/.594/.987 107 runs, 47 doubles, 43 homers, 89 RBI 103 walks, 153 Ks
That would be a potential MVP season right there.
What if Carpenter finishes the season like he’s played since May 16th?
If Carpenter hits exactly as he has for the last 79 team games, his current rate and counting stats with 49 team games remaining, he would get 219 more PA in 49 games, 48 starts. He would end the season with 690 plate appearances that netted these results:
158 games played, 152 starts .300/.407/.636/1.043 117 runs, 51 doubles, 48 homers, 94 RBI (out of the leadoff spot???) 104 walks, 151 Ks
It’s basically a no doubt MVP, right? Anyone with a 3/4/6 season has to be a no doubter, correct?
What if he gets better?
Really? At this point, I don't blame you if you're asking yourself, "C’mon now, Ben. What effing precedent is there for him to be better than that?" When I typed those words, I literally LOL'd at myself. No. For real. Out loud, sitting here with only my dog as a witness, until now.
Well, in the last 20 games - from the All-Star Break through August 7, 2018, Carpenter has hit .360/.473/.867/1.340. There’s almost 100% certainty that he won’t do this the rest of the season. This is for fun, though. Nobody has any clue what he’d do the rest of the year, me included. If I did, I wouldn’t be writing on here. I’d be in a front office and be a billionaire (ok, millionaire at least) at this point in my life.
If Carpenter hits exactly as he has for the last 20 team games, his current rate and counting stats with 49 team games remaining, he would get 228 more PA in 49 games, 47 starts. He would end the season with 699 plate appearances that netted these results:
158 games played, 151 starts .307/.419/.681/1.100 119 runs, 45 doubles, 57 homers, 109 RBI (out of the leadoff spot???) 111 walks, 151 Ks
Now the MVP talk isn’t even close. Is it? What if Shildt starts batting a position player 9th and Carpenter still does this? Does he reach 120ish RBI from the leadoff spot at that point?
Alright, fantasy over. Go back to your consumption of the actual baseball being played. I just wanted to lay out some scenarios for you as we near the quarter pole of the season.