Fish or cut bait is an old fisherman saying derived when fishing boat captains would have to decide who is manning the gear and who is cutting the bait and supplying the guys fishing. For the Cardinals and Matt Carpenter it means. Is he part of the line up or is he a bench player.
The career stats are there .270/.373/.463/.836 avg 15.8HRs 57.1 RBIs. A 3 time All-Star, silver slugger winner. He has been wearing the Birds on the Bat for 9 years. Coming up as a Third baseman but quickly showing versatility playing Right Field, Second base, 1st base and even a little Left Field in 2012. .
Over his career he has shown to be a steady throughout the season but generally a better hitter May thru July. Although not your typical lead off hitter in terms of stealing bases or base running speed and prowess. He has occupied the Lead off spot the majority of his career (over 3400 PAs) hitting pretty much along his career lines .279/.383/.483/.866.
His first two years given his numbers fans were excited .310/. 383/.475/.858
2014-2016 saw a drop off .272/.373/.458/.831
2017-2018 another drop off in average but an increase in OBP and Slg (which naturally lead to a higher OPS) .250/.379/.489/.868
one reason for the OBP is an increase in walks he had 257 in 2014-16 85 BB/PY and 211 in 2017-18 105 BB/PY.
What also climbed was his strike outs 370 between 2014-16 123 SO/PY. 283 in 2017-18 141 SO/PY
Home runs were also up 57 in 2014-16 19 HR/PY and 59 in 2017-18 29 HR/PY.
This year however has not gone according to his career numbers. .215/.321/.372/.693 10HRs 29RBIs.
We as fans are left wondering what has happened. Looking at a spray chart of his hitting in 2012 &13 he was an all fields hitter in terms of singles and doubles. His Triples and Home Runs were all to Center Field to Right Field. However his fly balls were mostly to Left Field his line drives were all over the from Left to Right but his ground balls were mostly to the right side.
From 2014-16 his singles were still from left to right and his Home Runs spread from Left Center to Right but his doubles and Triples were mostly to Right field. Again most of his fly balls were to Left and his ground balls were mostly up the middle and to the right.
in 2017-18 The majority of his hits were up the middle to the right side which coincided with his ground balls and line drives which were to the right side. This has lead to the "shift" being applied by almost every team putting 3 sometimes even employing ALL 4 Infielders between 2B and 1B.
Again his singles and doubles have heavily been to the right side. His HRs have actually been equally dispersed Left to right. His two Triples have been to the LEFT side Again his Fly balls to to the left side his Ground balls and Line drives to the right. I do believe part of his decline is due to trying to hit against the shift. Also his "power surge" has coincided with his increase in strikeouts.
Another factor that cannot be ignored is the injury factor
The last four years Injuries have been the concern. You have to wonder are they taking a toll on him and his ability.He has had
2016 Oblique strain on July 6 that kept him out until August 6.
2017 Bursitis in his shoulder put him on the shelf for a few games that did require surgery in the off season to clean up debris.
2018 Back spasms and soreness curtailed his last week of Spring Training.
2019 Again back tightness in Spring Training threatened the start of his season. July 2 lower back strain landed him on the IL for 9 days then 5 days later July 16, back on the IL with a bruised foot. Coming off the IL on August 4th.
Since 2016 he seems to be having back issues more frequently which gives one reason to wonder.
With only two months left in the season it will be a tall order for Carp to even match last year's .257 Average. Even further out of reach would be his .523 Slg. I would also feel safe in saying I don't see him coming close to an .800 OPS unless he can get his OBP over .400, which I don't see happening.
Can he come back?
Sure Dexter Fowler is proof of that. As Dexter Fowler has shown us it is possible. After last year when he slashed .180/.278/.298./.576 to this year (as of 8/4) .239/.338/.408/.746. At note here is the double digit rise in Slg contributing to the Double digit rise in in OPS. Now while that is not near his career mark in terms of BA. It does show that there can be a bounce back.
I think it is safe to say over their respective careers Carp has been the better hitter. So, I do think it is a better than 50% chance he can recover IF HEALTHY. (That will be the key)
Carpenter's contract extension does create a wrinkle in how St. Louis approaches his role with the team. He is under contract in 2020 and 2021 for 19.5Mil per year. with a vesting option for 2021. Moving that size of a contract for an under-performing player will be extremely difficult even if he makes a comeback and gets close to even his 2018 stats. Since he is an MLB player with more than 5 years he can't be sent down to "figure it out."(unless he would consent to it) SO you are left with 2 REAL options put him on the 25 man roster and Hope he comes around or DFA him and take the chance on someone not trying to claim him so that he could be assigned to Memphis. The Cardinals would still be on hook for his salary. SO having a player at Memphis of Springfield making 19.5Mil is not really desirable or pay him that much to sit at home and wait for Free Agency. (if he declines assignment).
Given all of that i do think he will be given the chance to get it together for the remainder of the year at the major league level.(how that will be done remains to be seen)
I also do not see him being dealt in the off season. I would fully expect for the Cardinals to do what they did with Fowler and see how he looks in the Spring. Where it goes from there is anyone's guess. If he can come back that will only help the development of Gorman giving him at least one more year to develop.
Thank you for taking the time to read my take on this.
Hit me up here or on Face book Donald A Glenn Jr. or Cardinals Nation 24/7 or on twitter @bortas2002