The struggling third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals has returned from injury and right back to the lineup. How long should the team stick with him?
Matt Carpenter has had a straight-up terrible year. There is no way to spin the numbers, it’s been bad. Long term, it is a beginning to get a bit scary that the St. Louis Cardinals signed the struggling player to a two-year extension this offseason, but for now, the team can’t worry about that.
Right now, the Cardinals need to focus strictly on the here and now and how to make it into the playoffs for the first time after three absent years.
After a disappointing weekend in Oakland, the Cardinals sit a game and a half outside of first place and while the Brewers have fallen to four games back, the Cubs look poised to run away with the division if the Cardinals can’t stay hot and keep pace. While the team does still have a half-game lead in the first Wild Card spot, they haven’t looked good and complacency will kill them if they let it.
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On that complacency thought, something to watch is going to be the recently activated Matt Carpenter. After being out most of the month of July basically to fix his swing after he went on the IL due to a bruised leg, Carpenter returned right to the lineup on Sunday after being activated. It’s easy to argue that Carpenter shouldn’t have been activated quite yet as he went a combined 2-26 in his rehab games.
As ready as Matt Carpenter can say he is, the proof is in the pudding, and he didn’t seem to have a great rehab assignment. On Sunday, Carpenter went 1-5 which is not great, but overall the offense was a bit of a faceplant.
Carpenter is now batting .215 on the year with just a .319 OBP. His .688 OPS is well below league average and it really hasn’t been good as I mentioned before. The frustrating thing is that now, as of this morning, Mike Shildt has “recommitted” to Matt Carpenter at the leadoff spot per Derrick Goold.
I understand a coach wanting to give players confidence, but wouldn’t it make sense to make sure Carpenter can actually perform again before fully committing again? Dexter Fowler has a .338 OBP and has basically been a league-average player. Tommy Edman had a .680 OPS in July (and has been worse in August) and has 114 AB’s in the leadoff spot compared to Fowler’s 26.
It just doesn’t make sense.
Edman was hot in June, he was hot for some of July, but he should not be forced into the lineup (especially in RF, a position he hadn’t played since he was 12). Dexter Fowler should be the leadoff man daily, and Matt Carpenter should not have came back straight to the leadoff spot.
There is going to be a good week or two where Carpenter is in there every day as the leadoff man, but how long should the leash be?
Easy answer: Not long.
The Cardinals are a team in the hunt and it is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that if Carpenter struggles to hit for more than a week, he should be out of there.
51 games left. That’s all there is. If the team is “all-in” for 2019, something they have already proven they are not, then Carpenter should have the shortest leash out there.
This ran a little outside of what the direct topic was, but it has been frustrating since the Deadline to see how the team has been run and managed. Mike Shildt has moved back away from accountability and is making blatant excuses for his players. Hopefully, Matt Carpenter gets hot, but if he doesn’t, he shouldn’t be in the leadoff spot for now.