St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter: NL MVP?


St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter has had a hot start to the season. However, can he sustain this hot start throughout the season and end the season as the National League’s MVP? I believe he can, let’s take a look at the stats to see if they are sustainable.

Through 19 games Carpenter’s slash line is .380/.437/.671 with 16 XBH (12 2B, 3 HR, 1 3B), 12 RBI, 17 R. These are some really good numbers even though we are not quite one month into the regular season. Last night Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny moved Carpenter into the two hole in the lineup. This move was made in effort to utilize Carpenter’s hot start and ability to get the XBH closer to the RBI producer’s in the lineup as well as to get him more ABs with runners on. While on paper I probably prefer Jason Heyward in that spot, I am a big advocate of getting Matt’s bat in a spot where it can drive in more runs and this may just be the spot for him to best succeed.

This is something to look out for as we continue through the regular season. With Carp in the two hole and having more RBI opportunities he is going to be slightly more aggressive at the plate when it comes to swinging at strikes. There will be some regression to the mean and one thing that shows that more than anything is his current BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) which is currently sitting at .403. Onne thing is for sure with Carpenter and that is it is easy to tell that he has been driving the ball exceedingly well this season as evident by his extremely high ISO of .291.

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One interesting thing about this start for Carpenter is that he is not necessarily doing much different, his current swing percentages inside and outside the strike zone (56.2% and 20.0%) are not much different than the previous two seasons. In fact Carpenter’s swings have actually returned to the level they were at in 2013 when Carpenter hit .318/.392/.481 resulting in a .163 ISO in comparison to his 2014 numbers of .272/.375/.375 and a .103 ISO. Carpenter is also having more success in making contact on pitches inside the zone with a 90.7% contact rate on pitches inside the zone. This shows that he is seeing the ball really well and making sure he is making contact when he swings, another normal thing for Matt Carpenter.

Another interesting thing about Carpenter’s hot start so far is the increase in fly ball percentage. In 2013 and 2014 he had FB% of 34.0% and 35.2, so far in 2015 Carpenter has a FB% of 40.0%. It is evident just in watching the games that Carpenter is getting more fly ball hits than the line drive variety. Most of the time this is not necessarily a sustainable way to get hits. However, in watching the games, Carpenter is normally making those fly balls no doubt gappers and not bloop hits or balls just missed by fielders.

So, when looking at the stats you see that there is bound to be some regression eventually, but there shouldn’t be much. He has not changed, he is the same doubles machine Matt Carpenter that we know and love he is just getting better. If he can continue this hot stretch throughout the season, it would be hard for the voters to ignore and I think Carpenter could potentially be the NL MVP and would propel the Cardinals into a strong division winning season as expected.