As the St. Louis Cardinals continue their playoff push through the end of the regular season, conversation has heated up regarding various end of the season awards.
More often than not, the stories are about long shots. Jose Fernandez has locked up rookie of the year. Clayton Kershaw is on the celebration tour for another Cy Young Award.
The question of Matt Carpenter as a legitimate NL MVP candidate is not just fluff. This young man is the real deal.
He’s come through for the Cardinals with his bat, his glove and most of all, his grit.
Carpenter is a scrapper. He’s asked to learn second base and comes back as one of the game’s best active second baseman.
Take over at leadoff? Sure! Now he’s raising the bar for leadoff men around baseball.
Carpenter continues to climb leaderboards within both Cardinals organization and the MLB.
While Allen Craig has gained most of the attention for situational hitting—and rightly so—Carpenter has also made some waves.
Much like Craig, his average with runners in scoring position is borderline otherworldly—.400/.477/.570 for a 1.047 OPS with RISP. His numbers with runners on base are almost identical.
There is, however, an area where they make an interesting jump.
With the bases loaded, Carpenter is batting .750/.538/1.663 in 8 opportunities with 18—yes 18—RBI. It’s not a large sampling, but it does say something about how he has played under pressure this season.
Batting .322 in the leadoff position, the Cardinals now have a serious threat at the top of their lineup. His numbers are strong at leadoff in all of the key categories: .394 OBP, 55 BB, 158 hits, 98 runs scored and 7 HBP.
That doesn’t take into account the fact that he has 61 RBI at the top of the lineup.
A good deal of his success is due to his level of patience and maturity at the plate. He’s capable of going deep into bats and isn’t shaken when he gets behind in the count.
When the count is 0-2, Carpenter is batting .327/.342/.536 with 12 doubles, 11 RBI and 36 hits. The fight he puts up at the plate not only scores runs but also energizes the big bats that hit behind him.
In the midst of all of the offense, it’s easy to forget his defensive performance.
Despite the fact that he only started two games at second base prior to 2013, his command up the middle of the infield has been very solid.
On Friday alone, he made a pair of stellar plays well out of his range, showing off both his glove and his arm. In fact, he’s played so well that he puts general manager John Mozeliak in a position this offseason to make some difficult decisions regarding Carpenter, Kolten Wong and David Freese.
Short of sending Carpenter home this winter on another mission—learn shortstop—there will likely be a serious decrease in playing time for someone.
His value to the 2013 Cardinals isn't worthy of debate. An MVP is the single player in a league who has been the most valuable to his team and as an individual player.
If Carpenter is not in the Cardinals 2013 lineup, where are they in the standings today?
Stats via baseball-reference.com and are current through Sept. 14, 2013.