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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

WATCH: Carpenter says lack of identity at plate is why he struggled; New focus to not pull the ball

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Matt Carpenter hit below .230, with fewer than 20 home runs and 50 RBI last year in what was his worst offensive year of his career. He told media at St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up that he feels like he hasn’t found his identity yet as a hitter.

So this offseason, he says he hasn’t tried to pull the ball at all and try to get back to the type of player he was when he came up. Like in 2013, when he led the league with 55 doubles.

“Sometimes it takes something like last year to figure out how did we get to this point,” Carpenter says. “I’ve had a lot of good conversations, I actually have hit with some former teammates and former players and have spent some time having some deep conversations about what I can expect out of myself and the kind of swing I can have. And basically came to a point to say let’s just get back to hitting line drives and if you run into a home run, great. But avoiding striking out and just taking good at bats again, you know, last year that got away from me.”

There are a lot of positive expectations of Carpenter in 2020 if you ask his manager and teammates.

Seems a bit late to obtain such an identity, but what do I know?

QLE Posted: January 21, 2020 at 12:42 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: matt carpenter

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   1. The Duke Posted: January 21, 2020 at 07:56 AM (#5917721)
He has evolved from being a doubles hitter who used the whole field to a dead pull home run hitter in 2018 and then he collapsed in 2019.

Isn’t this normal as you age? Seems like a lot of guys turn into pull hitters as they get older and start to guess and cheat on pitches.
   2. DanG Posted: January 21, 2020 at 02:01 PM (#5917863)
Most WAR, players debuting since 2000, with most of their games at 3B:

Player         WARWAAOPSRfield   PA From   To   Age
Evan Longoria  54.2 29.5  121   90.0 7171 2008 2019 22
-33
David Wright   50.4 29.9  133  
-13.0 6872 2004 2018 21-35
Josh Donaldson 44.8 29.9  136   66.0 4476 2010 2019 24
-33
Nolan Arenado  38.7 25.1  122  118.0 4357 2013 2019 22
-28
Ryan Zimmerman 37.8 16.2  116   37.0 7129 2005 2019 20
-34
Manny Machado  36.9 21.3  119   76.0 4735 2012 2019 19
-26
Kyle Seager    30.4 12.1  113    6.0 5286 2011 2019 23
-31
Martin Prado   28.1 10.4  103   68.0 5861 2006 2019 22
-35
Justin Turner  27.9 15.8  128    0.0 3827 2009 2019 24
-34
Anthony Rendon 27.3 15.3  126   14.0 3927 2013 2019 23
-29
Matt Carpenter 26.7 12.1  126  
-16.0 4807 2011 2019 25-33 
   3. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 21, 2020 at 02:14 PM (#5917868)
Admiral James Stockdale Matt Carpenter: “Who am I? Why am I here?”
   4. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2020 at 04:57 PM (#5917936)
#1: that's the old Bill James stereotype. How true it was, how true it still is and how true it is for Carpenter are tough questions of course.

For Carpenter, some of the issues date back a few years before pretty much everything went south in 2019. First, his career is a tale of two players in part. As noted, he didn't hit for a lot of power in his first few seasons (140 ISO 26-28) while he had very high BABIPs mostly. He then really cranked up the power (ISO 237 29-32) but the BABIP started to fade (274 and 291 at 31-32). That big jump in power was fueled by a big jump in K-rate (15.4 to 21.4%). Last year the K-rate spiked, the BB-rate was the lowest since 2015, his LD% dropped (it has been fantastic for his whole career), and ISO and HR/FB dropped.

He probably can never become the early hitter again because to do that he'd have to cut his K-rate back to 15%. But if he can get the LD% back and maybe reduce the launch angle a bit, he might get the BABIP back and be closer to that guy. It seems 2017-18 must have been a slight launch angle adjustment -- his LD% was still very high but the BABIP was down which I assume means a good chunk of the LDs must have been going over the wall. Not that he wants to change that but maybe concentrating less on over the wall, more on contact, can add some LDs with more of a doubles mix. I won't be too surprised if he bounces back to being a 110-120 OPS+ hitter, maybe especially if platooned, but I don't think 2013, 2016 or 2018 Carpenter is coming back. (Career platoon splits are 862/765 and if overall productive capability is in decline, there won't be much reason to play him against LHP.)
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2020 at 06:31 PM (#5917980)
The Cardinal announcers (and national announcers) like to argue that Carpenter is one of the most penalized players in the game because of shifts, which as a fan I find really weird, because as post one pointed out, he used to hit it to all directions when he was on... the shift just plays into his strengths, but apparently he's become so pull heavy that the shift is killing him...

As an observer, I don't think it's the shift's it feels like the lack of well hit balls, he's constantly under or over in comparison to what he was before, he used to hit balls that just cleared the infielders glove, now he's hitting balls 10 feet short of the warning track that is a can of corn or two bouncers to the shortstop. I have zero idea what the data suggests, but as an observer it feels like more looping balls(fly outs) instead of shots(line drives) and as mentioned above a higher propensity to pull and a clear lack of going the other way. This is a guy who I thought could be a Tony Gwynn type of hitter (meaning high average, and challenging for batting titles with a ton of doubles) instead he's a guy who is looking to find a walk over any other way to get on base. He'll foul of multiple balls to work for the walk, protecting the strike zone, but not really trying to do much beyond that.
   6. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: January 21, 2020 at 09:16 PM (#5918047)
Carpenter's exit velocity was down. His hard hit percentage was way down. Strikeout pct up, walk pct down. He's 34. If he was a racehorse they would sell him to Japan.
   7. Sweatpants Posted: January 21, 2020 at 09:26 PM (#5918052)
There's this whole narrative of 'Why don't guys just hit ground balls to short?' The answer is: (a) It's not that easy and (b) it's the complete thing you've taught yourself your entire baseball career to avoid. If a guy has a chance to hit a homer and a double, and he goes up there trying to slap a ground ball to short, the other team is perfectly fine with that.

I think it gets blown out of proportion when people say, 'Just hit a ground ball to short.' You can't just take a 98 mph cutting fastball in on your hands and do that. Let's just say I sell out tonight, and I try it four times. The likelihood of me hitting four straight ground balls to short and ending up 4-for-4 are very slim.
-Matt Carpenter, 2018
   8. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2020 at 09:35 PM (#5918058)
On GB for his career, he's hit 240 and last year he was 240. However in 2018 he was a dismal and amazing 131 but the 2 years before that he was at 233 and 200. He had two outlier early years at 297 and 289 that kinda offset that 131 so it's hard to say he's seen any real change here. But mainly his G/F is so low that he just doesn't hit many GBs and never has. Maybe he's always pulled his GBs.

For his career, he's up the middle about half the time and pulled the ball twice as often as going the other way. He's put up a 1142 OPS pulling the ball, 948 up the middle and a lousy 538 going the other way. Like everything else his overall pulled production last year was way down to 857 but it had been a career-high 1339 the year before. He's been a pull hitter since about 2015 and it didn't seem any more extreme in 2018 necessarily but much less so in 2019.

His statcast numbers last year were terrible -- 228th in bar/PA (still some good hitters there), 312 in avg EV, 439 in GB EV. Barrels and EV are his worst in the statcast era. His hard hit% in 2019 was well below his recent career and a bit below MLB average. Statcast also has some shifts stats and, good golly, shifted on in 85% of his PAs these days but last year he had a higher wOBA against the shift than not and lower with the shift in 2018 ... and much higher with the shift in the previous 2 years but facing far fewer shifts. Statcast also has some sort of "similar by hitting profile" thing, no idea if it has any predictive value. Nobody seems particularly close for 2019 and let's hope Granderson and Candelario aren't predictive although Eric Thames would probably be fine. He's not that far from Kris Bryant who was the only other profile I've ever looked at and was also not promising. This seems only available for 2019 so it may only be telling us what we knew -- he didn't hit well in 2019.

So last year, he definitely didn't hit the ball hard but I didn't notice any evidence of issues before then.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2020 at 09:56 PM (#5918070)
As #7 suggests, it come up a lot so ... in 2019 AL (to keep pitchers out of it as much as possible), MLB hit 240 with a SLG of 264 on GBs and 298/389 on BIPs overall. In 1989, they hit 221/239 on GB (possibly not defined the same way) and 288/360 on BIP.

What about balls not in play? This split does include BB and Ks and in 1989 the AL "hit" 122/435/489 on these; in 2019 139/365/558.

Obviously what's changed is the PA composition -- way more Ks and HRs, way fewer BIPs. And while the 924 OPS of the 1989 NIP looks nice next to 923 (but less OBP) of 2019, the 658 BABIP 2019 OPS does not look enticing next to the 923 NIP OPS.

The macro question is the same as it's always been -- can we actually get rid of the Ks? ... alternatively, how much of the massive explosion in Ks in the last 30 years is due to the batters changing their approach/skill and how much due to the pitchers?

For Carpenter, hitting a GB to SS just means he's hitting one at the 3B who's standing at SS. To take advantage of the shift he either needs to take it down the 3B line (nobody can do that consistently) or bunt. Or do what he's always done and hit it in the air. It's the drop from a nearly 30% LD rate to a 25% LD rate plus the loss in velocity that seems to have killed him in 2019.

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