This is the time of year when some St. Louis Cardinals fans like to make sweeping predictions about the rest of the season based on a month worth of games — and other St. Louis Cardinals fans like to tell the first group of St. Louis Cardinals fans that it’s too soon to conclude anything.
Put me into whichever group you prefer when I say this. But I am gravely concerned about what’s going on with Matt Carpenter. He looks an awful lot like a guy who suddenly no longer has the reflexes and flexibility necessary to be an imposing major league hitter.
Carpenter used to be known for two things: Excellent bat control and an awesome eye at the plate. He could foul of pitch after pitch until he either got a ball in the middle of the plate that he could handle or he walked, whichever came first. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. If that wasn’t obvious because of his batting average that is hovering around the .150 mark, it ought to be because of the fact that the St. Louis infielder is on a pace to strike out about 200 times in 2018.
He’s only 32. So, it doesn’t make sense that Carpenter would suddenly be over the hill. I suspect it’s more likely that his balky back and troublesome shoulder have conspired against him. I wondered when I saw that St. Louis recalled first baseman Luke Voit — and his Class AAA batting average of .205 — had been called up to the majors Tuesday if Carp wasn’t about to make a lengthy trip to the disabled list for surgical repairs. But there he was in the lineup for the game where he nearly got himself ejected after arguing about his second strikeout in two plate appearances before he hit a double that went to waste because of bad base running and poor clutch hitting. So, who knows?
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If Voit wasn’t brought up to replace Carpenter on the active roster, the only other thing to deduce is that Jose Martinez is so awful as a fielder that the Birds thought Voit would be valuable as a defensive replacement.
One thing that has continuously driven me crazy about Carpenter is his stubbornness when it comes to hitting into the radical shifts opposing teams employ against him. Carp could probably add 100 points to his batting average and on base percentage if he did what Kolten Wong did in the sixth inning Tuesday — stand flatfooted at the plate and slap the ball through the vacant third base position. People love to get into a lather at the suggestion that a guy with the potential to collect extra base hits give in and take a single. But, if you force the defense to play it straight with the threat that you’ll take the single, eventually, it’s going to have to reopen your preferred hitting lanes. It’s just that simple: Taking the single now opens up more double opportunities later.