Earlier this week, Jeff Sullivan announced he was leaving FanGraphs for an analyst job with the Tampa Bay Rays. That's good news for him, bad news for us since I'm not sure I can think of another baseball writer who seems to do it as well and as effortlessly as Sullivan. In tribute to him, I am returning to a post I did before last season on Matt Carpenter because it directly and openly stole a concept Sullivan used to evaluate JD Martinez. Without describing Sullivan's post in full, here's the graph he used to illustrate his point which should give you some idea what he was going for.
Pretty good hitter, huh? And given Martinez's monstrous 2018 season, I bet it looks even better today. Anyway, so a year ago I used these same parameters to evaluate Matt Carpenter only I stretched it back to 2013. That looked like this:
That's also very, very good. That post closed with the following:
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.
Spoiler alert: Carpenter was one of the best hitters (and players) in baseball in 2018. Here's what the above chart looks like when distilled down to only qualified batters in 2018 (sample: 140).
Matt Carpenter, 2018
First thing, do you care about that low bar outlier representing defense? I don't. Not when we're talking about a guy who played anywhere on the diamond when asked, and not in this era of fewer ground balls in play. Overall, his 2018 closely mirrored what we saw from 2013-2017. He's striking out a little bit more but we've learned to live with that since his slugging has also been on the rise. The logical conclusion to draw here is that Carpenter is still a very above average baseball player, and he has been going back six seasons now. That's no small feat. He's in elite company. And ZiPS, PECOTA, Steamer, you name it are expecting similar production this season.
If that's still not enough then I can only recommend following Mike Trout in Anaheim or queueing up some old videos of Albert Pujols on YouTube (which, hey, one could find worse things to do). And I'll see everyone back here in 2020 for what I imagine will be another unneeded reminder that yes, Matt Carpenter is still very good at baseball.