When the St. Louis Cardinals entered spring training this year, there was no definitive answer as to who would be their second baseman.
Matt Carpenter solved that problem this year in grand style. He has arguably been the team’s best player this season.
The hope was that he could simply be a sufficient stopgap player at second base in an effort to find a place to get his bat in the lineup. Few expected results like these.
A natural-born corner outfielder, he’s quickly become a solid defensive player up the middle. Frankly, I think he could play quality defense anywhere you put him on the field.
What has made him so valuable to the Cardinals? Plenty.
Carpenter leads the team with 151 hits—that’s second in the National League. Not only is that impressive when pitted against second baseman, it’s impressive pitted against anyone.
He leads the NL with 48 multi-hit games and is only three back of the MLB mark.
Because of that, not only does Carpenter get hits, he has an uncanny ability to string them together. He can both start rallies and keep them going on a consistent basis.
He ranks third in the NL in extra-base hits with 55; however, the 41 doubles included in that number lead the league. Teammate Yadier Molina currently holds the No. 2 spot.
Carpenter also gets around the bases more often than anyone in the MLB this season. His 92 runs scored have played a major role in the Cardinals consistent first half success.
Sure, a high run total is expected from leadoff batters, but the same can not be said for RBIs. Carpenter’s 63 RBI are the third most on the team.
Something a bit more intangible from Carpenter this season that has been vital for the Cardinals is his ability to have quality at-bats.
Through Wednesday, Aug. 21, he’s seen a total of 2,271 pitches. The next closest Cardinal is Allen Craig at 1,963.
What that means is that even his strikeouts are productive. His team-leading 53 walks just drive that point home.
Carpenter isn’t fanning on three pitches and heading for the dugout with his head hung low. He’s seeing an average of 4.10 pitches per at-bat for a ranking of fifth in the NL. No other Cardinal player is within the top 20.
Seeing a lot of pitches means Carpenter is doing his part in wearing down opposing starting pitchers for the heart of the lineup.
If Carpenter had not been the Cardinals starting second baseman, it would be difficult to imagine them in the position they are right now.
Between the home run drought and the pitching struggles, timely hitting has been the 2013 Cardinals’ saving grace.
The numbers tell the story.
There are others on the team who can say they’ve had a good season—possibly even great. But by comparison, none can say they have had a more successful season than Matt Carpenter.
Note: Stats are current through Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.