Matt Carpenter’s time as a St. Louis Cardinal, has came to an end. In a touching farewell tribute, Carp addressed the organization as well as the fans thanking them for the opportunity to play for and in front of them the past even seasons.
via The Player’s Tribune (click link below)
While the past few seasons were lackluster at best, as a fan, I and many others can appreciate what he has meant for the club, the fans and the city of St. Louis.
Before diving into the article title, let’s take a look at Matt’s career.
The Cardinals selected Carpenter in the 13th round of the 2009 draft. His first season, he bounced around the organization’s low level teams. Between the Batavia Muckdogs, Quad Cities River Bandits and Palm Beach Cardinals his batting avg. was .283, and the next season after returning to Palm Beach he hit for an identical .283 in 28 games that led to a promotion to Springfield.
That 2010 season for the Springfield Cardinals was a special year for Carpenter. He batted .316 with 12 HR, 53 RBI, 26 doubles, 11 stolen bases and 76 runs scored. He earned multiple accolades being named a Topp’s AA All-Star, Texas Mid-Season All-Star, as well as Texas Post-Season All-Star. Courtesy of TCN/Scout.com he was named both Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year and Cardinals organization Player of the Year for 2010.
2011 Spring Training was a nice showing by Carpenter as he hit .333 with six extra base hits but it wasn’t enough to break camp with the club. He was assigned to Memphis where in 130 games he would bat .300 with 12 HR, 70 RBI, garnered 84 walks with impressive on-base & slugging percentages .
He made his MLB debut in June of that 2011 season, but his stint in the majors was limited to just seven games. He did earn his first career hit, but was left off of the Cardinals playoff roster when they clinched the wild card and went on to the historic run ending in a World Series Championship. The Cardinals did award Carpenter a championship ring despite his limited play for the big league club.
Opportunities presented themselves for Matt in 2012, with Albert Pujols leaving the Cardinals for the Angels during the off-season and an injury to Allen Craig. Carpenter worked on his versatility by taking reps at first base and in the outfield during spring training, and ultimately became a super utility backup and spot starter that season also adding second base to his repertoire.
In 114 games, Carpenter finished the season with a slashline of .294/.365/.463 with 6 HR and 46 RBI.
Entering the 2013 season, the Cardinals had told Carpenter to get more work in at the second base position, as he had played primarily first and third. Lo and behold, he came out of spring training as the team’s starting second baseman. That season, he was slotted into the leadoff role as well where he thrived.
On top of breaking Stan Musial’s franchise record for doubles by a left-handed hitter, Carpenter was named to his first All-Star game in 2013, and ended the year leading the entire MLB in hits (199), doubles (55), and runs (126). He also finished in the top ten in the NL in batting avg., on-base percentage, total bases, singles, triples & walks.
Matt also became the first second basemen to win the Silver Slugger Award, finished fourth in the NL for Most Valuable Player and was selected as a team finalist for the Heart & Hustle Award. General manager John Mozeliak then rewarded Carpenter for his production and work ethic by signing him to a 6-year $52M extension through 2019, with an option for 2020 worth $18.5M.
As Kolten Wong was primed to take over the second base duties in 2014, Carpenter moved back to his primary position of third. He had a good first half of the season which earned him his second All-Star game nomination. He finished the season with a .272/.375/.375 slashline with 8 HR and 59 RBI. Ironically the same .272 avg. he hit for the season prior.
That postseason, Carpenter hit safety in 10 of his 26 at bats with 4 HR, 4 doubles and 8 RBI.
The 2015 season saw manager Mike Matheny move Carpenter from leadoff to the two-hole on occasion, with Matt ending the season batting .322 with 22 HR and 50 RBI from the leadoff spot and a .225 avg. with 6 HR and 33 RBI from the two spot. It was the first time in his career that he hit over 20 bombs in a season. He led the team in both HR (28) and RBI (84) and again led the NL in doubles (44), and ended up 12th in the MVP balloting.
Carpenter earned his third All-Star nod during the 2016 season. From 2013 through May of that season, Matt led all major league leadoff hitters in hits, home runs, runs scored and runs batted in.
In July, the Cardinals placed him on the DL with an oblique strain that seemed to bother him even after his return, however he still finished the season with a .271/.380/.505 slashline, a career high OPS of .885, with 20 HR, 36 doubles, 68 RBI. He was also very versatile on the defensive end appearing in 40 games or more at three different positions.
Carpenter was named the team’s first baseman heading into the 2017 season. He was showing that he still thrived in the leadoff role, as over 2,191 career plate appearances from that spot his slashline was an impressive .291/.391/.487.
But Mike Matheny would slot him elsewhere hoping to rejuvenate the team’s offense as a whole, which brought much criticism from fans. Despite a much lower slash from other spots in the lineup, Carpenter finished that season with a .241/.384/.451 with 23 HR and 69 RBI.
After the season, Matt had an MRI on his shoulder which had given him trouble, but it was determined as inflammation that would not require surgery.
Carpenter would come out of the gate extremely slow for the 2018 campaign. Through May 15, he ranked 157 of 163 batters who had qualified for a batting title, by hitting a miserable .140 with an OPS of .558.
From that May 15 date through July 20, Matt went on a tear through 214 at-bats, hit 20 HR, 24 RBI and had a slugging percentage of .738.
The next day on July 21, Carpenter broke Lou Brock’s team record for leadoff home runs by hitting his 22nd of his career. He kept his momentum going ending the month with a MLB leading 11 HR for July, and was putting himself back in the discussion for league MVP, hitting for a career high 29 HR at the time, and leading the league in that category as well as doubles, slugging and OPS.
But then, it seemed that Carpenter was living out the song title of a popular Green Day song “Wake me up, when September ends”, as he hit .170 for the month, with only 1 HR ending his season with a .257/.374/.523 but with a career high 36 HR.
In what many Cardinals fans are still up in arms about even today, is the contract extension that was offered to Carpenter the following April, at the start of the 2019 season. The Cardinals offered him a 2-year contract extension worth $39M. There was also a vesting option for the 2022 season if Carpenter were to accumulate 1,100 plate appearances in 2019-2020.
Several injuries plagued Carpenter that season as he played in just 129 games, ending the season with a slashline of .226/.334/.392 with 15 HR and 129 strikeouts.
Not much to add looking at the 2020 season, as it was shortened due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Carpenter appeared in 50 of the 60 games on the year, with new career lows in his .186/.325/.314 slashline for the season.
It seemed Matt had totally lost his swing, and anytime he came to the plate was met with shifts that he failed to go opposite field on. The once great eye, was seeing a lot of called third strikes instead of working counts and earning the walk.
It was sad and frustrating to see a player that we all knew had talent and a ton of heart but just couldn’t figure it out anymore. The front office who had given him every opportunity, couldn’t go into the 2021 season with Matt’s lack of production in a starting gig, so they not only acquired Nolan Arenado for third base duties, but gave Tommy Edman the role of second base (after choosing not to bring back Kolten Wong), so Carpenter was demoted to being a bench player.
It was again a tough season for #13, as he finished the season with 207 at-bats and a very underwhelming .169/.305/.275 with 3 HR and 21 RBI. At season’s end, Matt became a free agent for the first time in his career as the Cardinals elected not to pick up his option for 2022.
Now to address the question of whether or not Matt Carpenter will one day be inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame given his body of work wearing the Birds on the Bat.
Major League Baseball All-Star - 2013, 2014, 2016
National League Silver Slugger - 2013 (2nd Base)
National League Player of the Month - July 2018
National League Player of the Week - 4/20/2015, 6/5/2016, 7/22/2018, 8/5/2018
MLBPAA Cardinals Heart and Hustle Award - 2013, 2014, 2015
National League Leader in Doubles - 2013 (55), 2015 (44)
National League Leader in Hits - 2013 (199)
National League Leader in Runs - 2013 (126)
Matt Carpenter MLB Career Stats
On-Base Plus Slugging
When you look at where he ranks on some of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise totals compared to other Cardinals HOFers,
Carpenter is 6th all-time among Cardinals in walks with 699; ahead of Lou Brock, Rogers Hornsby, Red Schoendienst, Yadier Molina, and other Cardinals Hall of Famers
He is 3rd all-time among Cardinals in walk percentage, walking 13.4% of the time; ahead of Albert Pujols, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, and other Cardinals Hall of Famers
He ranks 11th all-time among Cardinals in AB/HR, homering once every 28.41 at-bats; ahead of Rogers Hornsby, Bill White, Ted Simmons, and other Cardinals Hall of Famers
And he is 13th all-time among Cardinals in doubles; ahead of Curt Flood, Jim Edmonds, Willie McGee, and other Cardinals Hall of Famers
I would say given that Matt Carpenter played 11 season for the Cardinals, was versatile playing any position that was asked of him, being a fan favorite (including the season of the salsa), and accumulating the numbers that he has, that one day he will in fact join his teammates Adam Wainwright & Yadier Molina by donning the infamous red jacket given to inductees of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.
What say you Cardinals Nation? Do you think Matt Carpenter will join the All-Time Cardinal Greats by being included in that exclusive club?
Let us know in the comments. As always thanks for reading & Go Cards!
Statistics & Information Credit: Wikipedia, Baseball-Reference