St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Carpenter Getting Reps At Third Base
St. Louis Cardinals current first baseman, att Carpenter, has reportedly been taking ground balls at third base. This is not unfamiliar territory for Carp, but foreshadows a possible transition back to the hot corner.
The lackluster performance by Jhonny Peralta really leaves no choice for the St. Louis Cardinals and Mike Matheny but to get him out of the lineup. A .120 batting average with 2 errors already is not the type of play expected from Peralta. And a struggling lineup does not have time to let him work though his issues. His biggest kryptonite this year are off speed pitches. According to Brooks Baseball, Peralta has a 46% swing and miss rate when seeing those pitch types.
Moving Carpenter back to third, defensively speaking will improve the team. Not because he is a perennial Gold Glove talent, in fact is career UZR at third base is -6.7. But when the current third baseman is playing the way Peralta is, it is clearly an upgrade at the position. This move would also open the door for Matt Adams to enter the lineup and play his natural position at first base. While the whole left field experiment was ambitious, but he belongs at first.
Defense is important, it will inherently be masked by the offensive struggles that have shown up to this point in the early stages of the season. They haven’t been able to score more than three runs since April 12th. Something in that lineup needs to be shaken up. Something has got to change to spark a fire. Putting Big City into the lineup to replace the trio of third baseman used this season may be the answer.
Over the course of the 2016 season, Baseball Savant has Adams average exit velocity per week measured for 25 weeks. For 15 of those weeks, he posted exit velocity above the league average. If he can continue the type of solid contact, he could provide what the offense needs to turn things around.
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It remains to be seen if he will be able to do so. He has a very high swing and miss rating of 57 percent against breaking balls. He also has a 24 percent swing and miss rating against fastballs. On the year, Adams has 4 hits in 24 at bats, which does differ greatly from the 3 for 25 by Peralta.
Right now, Adams will provide more pop that could get something going. Peralta’s top average exit velocity in 2016 was 92.5 MPH. Adams had 12 weeks with an average exit velocity higher than that mark, topping at 97 MPH. Gyorko can also provide some pop with his bat, he topped at 95.6 MPH, but with Adams at first and Carpenter at third it allows him to platoon with Kolten Wong, and act as a utility backup along with Garcia.
Another option for first base is Jose Martinez. He is off to a very hot start with the bat, collecting nine hits in 20 at bats. He is primarily an outfielder, but he can be transitioned to first. His 6’6″ frame will certainly not be out of place at first. Especially if his bat is producing, there needs to be a place for him in the lineup.
Carpenter going back to third opens up a ton more options for the lineup and I think it is a very smart move. While he is just taking grounders, it is a good idea to change the lineup and get more pop. Hitters in slumps are told to just keep hitting the ball hard and it will find a gap. For a team that is struggling to produce offensively, a potential lineup that has Carpenter, Adams/Martinez, and Gyorko hitting the ball hard can turn things around.
Next: Should The Cardinals Upgrade At Third Base?
Hitting is contagious. That is one of the most accurate clichés in the game of baseball. That is why, at least for now, the exit velocity numbers matter. Making solid contact is the best way to pull the whole lineup out of this early season rut they seem to be stuck in. So again I say, move Carpenter back to third base.