Look back and think about the 2013 baseball season. What comes to mind? Maybe you think of Miguel Cabrera putting up the best offensive season since Albert Pujols in 2009.
Or maybe you think of Mike Trout, and his second consecutive bewildering WAR. It’s possible you think of Matt Harvey, and his sensational season on the mound. Whatever you think of, it is very possible that one very important player’s performance goes unnoticed. In fact, he doesn’t even get due credit from most of his team’s enthusiast – that’s how undervalued he is.
In roughly 675 plate appearances this season, Matt Carpenter has produced the 6th best Wins Above Replacement (WAR) total, per fangraphs.com. The only players that are significantly better than Carpenter are Trout, McCutchen, Donaldson, and Cabrera (all of those seem like “no duh” answers to me). The fifth player is a mere 0.2 WAR ahead of Carpenter, which is basically impossible to separate.
With just eight games to go, Matt Carpenter has basically been a top five player in Major League Baseball – raise your hand if you would’ve guessed that, even if the question had been asked just five minutes ago. If you don’t like judging players by WAR, or think that WAR isn’t a good enough stat by itself, Carp rates out extremely well in other stats as well.
On fangraphs.com, they’ve got a stat they’ve creatively called offense. In case you couldn’t guess, this stat judges a player’s offensive value (via weight Runs Above Average, weighted Stolen Bases, and Ultimate Base Running) provided – this includes both at the plate and on the base paths. The idea behind this is that players don’t just stop creating runs after they drop the bat.
Runners add value by tagging up, stealing bases, taking the extra-base on a hit, etc. and the idea is the run value those runners add should count for a players offensive value. Going by this stat, Matt Carpenter basically ties for seventh with +39 runs above average. Carpenter also ranks seventh with a .321 batting average, tenth in On-Base Percentage, and 11th in weighted runs created plus (wRC+).
Carpenter has the most hits in a single season at Busch Stadium, and to top it off last night Matt Carpenter tied the great Stan Musial for the most doubles by a lefty in a single season in Cardinals history and just three away from the second most by any batter. In case I’d forgotten to mention it, Matt Carpenter has done all this at second base, too.
Unlike Miguel Cabrera’s move to third base, Matt Carpenter’s willingness to move to second base has actually provided positive value at his new position – along with the ability to help out at third, first, left, and right. Carpenter is the only player to provide top ten offense, as well as above average defense at four different positions (assuming you count corner OF positions as one), and the best offensive player until Joe Mauer (who ranks 19th) to play in more than one spot regularly.
Carpenter ranks highly by both “old school” and “new school” numbers, yet no one seems to realize just how good he’s really been. Coming into this season Cardinals fans knew they had Molina, Holliday, Beltran, and Wainwright to rely on, hoped that Freese and Lynn would maintain their productivity, and had absolutely no idea what to expect from Matt Carpenter. Carpenter has emerged not only as a role player, or a solid man in the supporting cast, but as the star of the show.