Matt Carpenter hit a two-run home run last night to give the Cardinals a comfortable early lead in Kansas City. It was his sixth home run in the last seven games, giving him a National League-leading 32 on the season, which is the most home runs hit by a Cardinal since Albert Pujols was in town. Carpenter also has a Trout--esque league-leading .600 slugging percentage because when he's not hitting bombs, he's hitting doubles. Thirty-three, in fact, which is tied for second in the NL behind the Braves' Nick Markakis. If the season were to end today, Carpenter would probably be the deserved NL MVP.
However, since the season does not end today, earlier this week Ben Cerutti wrote an excellent piece on what Carpenter's stats would like at the end of this season if he 1) returned to his early, dreadful production; 2) continued on the pace he's been on since the beginning of the season; or 3) finished the season on the same scorching-hot pace he's been on since mid-May. Give it a read if you haven't already. Not to give anything away, but no matter what happens, Carpenter's 2018 season will eventually be described as anything from very good to very, very great.
Something else to consider though is what if Carpenter's season did end today. Where would his home runs and doubles total rank in Cardinals history? Using the Baseball Reference's Play Index, here's every Cardinal to have hit at least 32 home runs and 33 doubles in the same season (sorted by year).
The list looks exactly liked you'd expect it to, plus cameos from Ryan Ludwick and Ripper Collins. Include Carpenter's current 183 OPS+ as one of the minimum benchmarks and we're left with a pretty exclusive list.
Taking a page from Cerutti's book, if Carpenter continues on his season's pace, he'll finish with 45 home runs and 46 doubles. That seems highly unlikely, but he's working on almost three full months of out-of-this-world production so it's not beyond the realm of possibility either. And this is the company of Cardinals he'd join if that's how his season ended.
I remember that Pujols guy. He was good.
What's more impressive, there have only been eight such seasons in the history of Major League Baseball, with all but one occurring in the modern, wild card era.
Lowering the threshold to a more conservative (and absolutely obtainable at this point) 40 home runs and 40 doubles, here's the exclusive company of Cardinals that Carpenter would join.
It's not unfair to simply call the 40/40 home runs and doubles season a "Pujols." And not to bore you with all of the names this time, but there have only been 38 seasons in which a player hit at least 40 home runs and 40 doubles in the history of MLB, and Pujols and Lou Gehrig are the only players to have done it three times.
Simply put, Carpenter is having an incredible offensive season from a slugging standpoint. Pretty much any standpoint really. If he were not to play another game in 2018, his numbers would still stand up very well with other big names in Cardinals history. Luckily, that's not the case. He's going to keep playing, ideally he'll keep producing, and by the end of the season we'll get to see where his finishing numbers rank in Cardinals history. Go ahead and assume it will be very high.
Credit to the Play Index for the stats in this post. You can subscribe here.