The St. Louis Cardinals must find comfort swinging the bat.
This may seem like a broad topic, but I am specifically talking about players who have fallen out of their comfort zone this season because of a change in their approach. I discussed this extensively about Stephen Piscotty here, but here I will discuss another St. Louis Cardinals player whose hitting tendencies have shifted, resulting in struggles.
Matt Carpenter has said in the past that he wanted to try and hit for power, a statement created by the growing hole in the middle of the lineup and overall lack of consistent power following the departure of Albert Pujols and magnified by the loss of Matt Holliday this season.
While it worked to some effect in 2015, the positive effect was negligible, while the negative was noticeable. While his 28 home runs were a huge step up from his career high of 11 that he had in 2013, he only finished with 84 RBIs, just six more than his mark in 2013.
Carpenter’s strikeout rate spiked in that 2015 season, going from 15.7% to 22.7%. He has tamed back on that now, but the problem didn’t simply shifts from one area to another. When Carpenter was able to bring down his K rate and slowly become one of the better walk drawers in the league, his contact started to suffer.
He maintained his average and slugging percentages from 2015 to 2016, but his batting average on balls in play dropped from .321 to .307. In a sense, he is trying to swing too hard, and is missing solid contact as a result. Another more concerning trend popped up as well that demonstrated how drastically he changed his approach.
|2013||27.3 %||38.7 %||34.0 %||0.6 %||36.6 %||37.4 %||26.0 %|
|2014||23.8 %||41.0 %||35.2 %||3.5 %||31.9 %||43.4 %||24.6 %|
|2015||28.5 %||29.7 %||41.7 %||2.3 %||39.3 %||36.8 %||23.9 %|
|2016||26.2 %||30.6 %||43.2 %||4.4 %||48.1 %||32.8 %||19.1 %|
|2017||23.4 %||27.9 %||48.7 %||5.3 %||47.1 %||31.8 %||21.2 %|
Carpenter has slowly drifted away from the things that made him great in 2013. He has showed that he is a spray hitter who can put the ball where it needs to be on the field for production without needing to swing for the fences. The pressure for power and the pressure that he has put on himself has significantly changed the player.
At this point, when considering the amount of time Carpenter has tried to change himself, it may be impossible for him to replicate the kind of year he had in 2013. But he does have time to turn this into a good year. By realizing what made him great in 2013, and using some of the added power he has now, the task is to find a comfortable balance.
This will never happen if the constant pressure to produce slugging from the lead-off is present, so the first step is somehow alleviating him of that, whether it be through talking to management and teammates or from an epiphany coming from within himself, players need to be comfortable in their own skin for the team to be successful.