St. Louis Cardinals: Keeping Matt Carpenter in the leadoff spot

stevemcneil87
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The St. Louis Cardinals have an effective leadoff hitter, who could thrive in the middle of the order. However, maybe they shouldn’t move him after all?

The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot of questions surrounding their leadoff spot this offseason that will likely Recently the St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter has stated that he is most comfortable in the leadoff role and the statistics from last year most certainly show that. The interesting thing about Carpenter’s comments is that he stated almost opposite from his stance at Winter Warm Up.

However, even if Carpenter is willing to hit in a different spot in the lineup, is it even necessary for him to do so? Let’s dig into that.

In 1,694 plate appearances hitting leadoff, Carpenter has a slash of .300/.387/.473, with 29 homers and a 142 wRC+. In 2015, he had a 178 wRC+ at the leadoff spot, while also sporting a .389 OBP and a 10.4% walk rate. The next closest plate appearance number for Carpenter is in the second spot in the lineup, where in 506 plate appearances, Carpenter has a slash of .259/.353/.398, with just nine homers.

One thing that most people forget about is that the Cardinals may not have the perfect option to replace Carpenter in the leadoff role. What makes Carpenter most valuable in this role is his OBP which was at an all time high of .387 this past season.

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The Cardinals offense struggled at times last season, and there are a lot of questions about the offense in 2016. However, one cannot forget Carpenter’s spell in the middle of the season that likely led to the offense of the Cardinals struggling as much as it did. This has been talked about a lot here, and I believe it’s for good reason, as Carpenter’s sustained success could be the key to this offense taking off.

When you look at the top five offenses (in terms of wRC+ by Fangraphs) in the MLB last season, you see that three out of those five times had a leadoff hitter with an OBP above .350. While the St. Louis Cardinals could theoretically move a Matt Holliday or Stephen Piscotty there, as my colleague Dan Buffa mentioned. You are taking Carpenter out of where he is most comfortable.

That could spell danger for the offense of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016, the same offense that struggled when Carpenter was slumping in 2015. I think that it is too risky to take Matt Carpenter away from the leadoff role. I think that the Cardinals simply need to do a better job of lineup construction around Carpenter. They need to keep their high average guys around Carpenter, because with Carpenter’s high OBP he is going to be on base a lot.

Next: Who else could hit leadoff for the Cardinals?

I honestly think that 2016 will see a much more consistent Matt Carpenter, and the key to that is keeping him in the leadoff role. That’s where he’s comfortable, that’s where he performs, so that’s where he’ll stay.  What do you think about Carpenter and the leadoff role? Let me know in the comments section.

Thanks for reading as usual Cardinals’ fans!

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