There is concern in some quarters that so far the Matt Carpenter of 2014 does not look like the Matt Carpenter of 2013. It is very early in the season, so the concern is likely premature, but there are some signs that something is different. Whether those signs are indicators of something gone amiss with Carpenter or are merely the result of a sluggish start that will even out over time is indeterminate. Nevertheless, the following are the anomalies that I have noticed about Matt Carpenter’s first month of the regular season.
1. He is striking out more.
Carpenter has 28 strikeouts in the month of April. That is the highest amount on the team. In 2013, Carpenter struck out a total of 98 times. At his current rate, Carpenter is on pace to strikeout 156 times this season. That is an alarming increase if it holds true.
Looking at Carpenter’s pitch data for 2014, his swinging strike percentage is up about 2.4% over 2013, and his looking strike percentage is up about 5%. His contact percentage is down about 5.6%. It appears from this data that Carpenter is swinging slightly more than last season and making less contact. It also appears that he is getting more strikes called looking than before. Perhaps his reputation of having a keen batting eye and being patient at the plate has umpires calling more close pitches as strikes. Why this would be the case is unclear (other than I sometimes think some umpires are spiteful). The normally calm Carpenter was recently ejected for the first time in his major league career for disputing a called strike. One could take this as a sign that perhaps Carpenter is not getting the benefit of the doubt from umpires and that in fact he is getting hosed on close pitches.
The good news is that Carpenter is taking walks at a higher rate than 2013. It appears his keen batting eye is intact (which leads credence to my suspicion that some umpires are just being douchebags with his strike zone.)
2. He is not driving the ball as much.
Carpenter’s slugging percentage is way down from last season. He ended the 2013 season with a slugging percentage of .481. His current slugging percentage is .318. Of Carpenter’s 29 hits, 25 are singles. Carpenter had 55 doubles in 2013; he currently has 3, which is a pace of 17 doubles for the season. Again, an alarming change if it holds. Of course, Carpenter had a career year in 2013, so some regression in his numbers is to be expected. This amount of regression, however, is not expected.
3. His defense is not as sharp.
Carpenter has 5 errors at 3B. I hate errors as a stat generally, because they are too subjective, but for the purpose of this post they are necessary. His UZR/150 is also much worse than last season; it was +5.7 in 2013, it is -15.5 so far this season. UZR data this early in the season is not very reliable, so I am not too concerned about it quite yet, but visually Carpenter has looked a bit sluggish on defense during April. Third base is his natural position, but he only had 253 innings played at the position in 2013 in contrast to 1108 innings at 2B. Perhaps the re-acclimation to playing 3B is slow to develop.
These are the 3 main areas of possible concern that I have noticed. I am not alarmed by any means, as I said before, some regression from 2013 is to be expected. Also, the entire team has had a slow start to the season, so Carpenter’s numbers are not out of proportion to the performance of the rest of the team.
I wouldn’t panic about any of this this early in the season. If come June his numbers haven’t rebounded into a more normal zone for him, then perhaps there is a cause for concern. I don’t think repair is in order, just patience.
Thank you for reading.