Matt Carpenter, the St. Louis Cardinals’ utility man turned All-Star second baseman, said he wasn't too concerned about whether he would make the roster for the 2013 All-Star Game.
“You try not to think about it and I really don’t pay a lot of attention to it,” he said a few hours prior to the vote being announced. “If something good happens and you have the opportunity to play in the All Star Game, I’ll be extremely humbled and honored.”
Well, it happened—and it should have.
If the young Texan’s 2013 first half didn’t qualify as All-Star worthy, then it certainly would have been an injustice to a deserving player.
The roles of Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig are obvious. However, without Carpenter’s production as part of that equation, it’s unlikely the Cardinals would be once again perched atop the National League Central Division.
It’s easy to argue that for several reasons Carpenter is one of the most deserving All-Stars for 2013.
On becoming a second baseman
Carpenter has stepped up after being challenged to learn the middle infield by manager Mike Matheny before heading home to Texas in November 2012.
A natural corner infielder, it wasn’t an easy transformation in the beginning, but he’s already the best option the Cardinals have had at the position in years.
“Every day gets a little better,” he said.
Much like other players on the team, Carpenter is quick to credit third base coach Jose Oquendo for the countless hours of work they have put in together.
On-the-field instruction, however, can only carry a player so far.
“The one thing you can’t ever teach is experience out there and getting game repetition,” Carpenter said. “Every day I get to go out there and play gets me more experience up the middle. It’s helped a bunch. I feel good out there now.”
With learning comes growing pains, but so far Carpenter’s have been relatively painless for the Cardinals.
His seven errors at the position (six fielding, one throwing) are somewhat misleading. According to FanGraphs, Carpenter is still considered a plus fielder with a 4.1 WAR rating.
“The real-life game repetitions are the ones that are the most important,” he said. “Being able to come in and adjust to those big league games has been a good thing. I’m happy with the way it’s going so far.”
How does he stack up offensively?
Matt Carpenter is more than just a temporary defensive fill at second base.
In just three months, he’s quickly transformed into one of the game’s premiere offensive second baseman.
Instead of comparing him to Cardinals past, here’s a look at how he stacks up against current active MLB second basemen. You might be pleasantly surprised.
While he’s not a power hitter, he is leading all MLB second basemen in several key offensive areas.
Carpenter currently holds the MLB crown in batting average (.322), doubles (27), runs scored (70) and is tied for first in triples.
His .393 on-base percentage leads all NL second basemen (second in MLB).
For a team that has been weak at second base for years, those numbers mean a huge advantage for the Cardinals. Any minor defensive loss is easily offset by his offensive performance.
If Kolten Wong plans to take this job from him, he’s going to have his hands full. When that day comes, there is little doubt Matheny will still find a place for Carpenter in the lineup.
Need a rally? This is your man
Since Jon Jay began to struggle early in the season, Carpenter has become the quintessential leadoff batter.
He takes pitchers deep into counts and has seen more pitches than any other regular leadoff man in the National League (1,546). That ability to wear pitchers down and wait for just the right pitch is a valuable trait in a quality leadoff batter.
While his walk total isn’t very high, he’s shown serious maturity at the plate. As a result, he’s one of few second-year players to find themselves leading off for a major league lineup.
Carpenter bats .328/.400/.483 when leading off a game. Even when leading off other innings, he’s still an on-base machine.
He also performs well under pressure. With runners in scoring position, Carpenter bats .377 with a .467 on-base percentage.
As a result, he’s leading NL leadoff batters with 42 RBI.
Having a legitimate offensive threat at the top of the lineup has really helped to carry the Cardinals to where they sit in the standings today.
As Carpenter goes, so go the Cardinals
When Matt Carpenter has a good night, so does his team—and the numbers show it.
On nights when the Cardinals win, Carpenter is batting .355/.412/.540 with 34 RBI, 18 doubles and 56 runs scored.
When the Cardinals lose, Carpenter is hitting .266/.362/.422 with six RBI, nine doubles and 14 runs scored.
That’s a dramatic difference. Clearly, an off night for Carpenter is an off night for the Cardinals.
While he brushed off questions about whether he would be selected as an All-Star, Carpenter fully understands what an honor it will be to take the field.
When he steps onto that field for the first time as one of MLB’s All-Stars, he can rest assured that he’s not there because he won a popularity contest. He will be there because it’s where he belongs.
All quotes obtained firsthand.