It is the first day of May 2018, the Cardinals have two interleague games with the Chicago White Sox on the horizon, and Matt Carpenter is off to a disastrous start. Through 105 plate appearances, he is hitting .155/.305/.274, good for a wRC+ of 68. His wRC+ is somehow still better than what Dexter Fowler and Marcell Ozuna have brought to the table, but that is of little solace. Throw in his weak arm from third and it has not been a good month for those of us who are proud members of the Matt Carpenter Fan Club.
There is hopefully a light at the end of this tunnel in the way of Carpenter's batted ball luck or lack thereof. Here, I will let Zach Gifford show you.
That's a good sign.
But what this post concerns is the second figure in Carpenter's slash line - that he has still maintained a .305 on-base percentage in spite of a batting average that is insulting to Mario Mendoza. That is a result of a 18.1 percent walk rate, which is top ten in the league, and if maintained throughout the season would be the highest of Carpenter's career.
Let it be known, Carpenter is not going to end the season with anything resembling that slash line. He's too good of a hitter, even when not at 100 percent. And if he does, it will probably be without enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title.
That aside, I looked at Baseball Reference's Play Index for players between 1871 and 2017 who qualified for a batting title while hitting under .175, but with an on-base percentage north of .300. This was the only return.
The Herman Pitz.
Mr. Pitz played just that one season in 1890, which was split between the Brooklyn Gladiators and the Syracuse Stars. He wasn't much of a hitter but he got by with a 17 percent walk rate. And, as seen on his Baseball Reference page, he was a fine looking fellow, too.
Carpenter is in very rare company right now. We don't often recognize the Gladiators or the Stars in the annals of baseball history, so if Carpenter's numbers were extrapolated across an entire season he would make somewhat notorious history. That's unlikely to happen for the reasons stated above. And with the White Sox in town boasting arguably the worst starting pitchers in baseball, now is a good time for Carpenter to start separating himself from the Herman Pitz's of the world.
Credit to the invaluable Play Index. You can subscribe here.