Matt Carpenter again had a down year in 2020, so it now is at the stage with Carp to see if there is any possibility of a bounce back, or if this is who he now is!
Carpenter played in 50 of the St. Louis Cardinals 58 games in 2020, playing 60% of that time at third base and the majority of the remainder as the teams designated hitter. This is likely a sign of things to come, with Carp batting best as a DH and finishing with just a .633 OPS when playing third.
Overall, Carpenter posted an 84 wRC+ which ranked as the third worst on the team with at least 40 games played. His 0.3 fWAR was better than only Dylan Carlson and Dexter Fowler (who played 15 and 19 fewer games respectively). This shows there is a lot of scope for offensive improvements.
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Carp had a career-low year for batting average (.186), which sat in the bottom quartile of all qualified hitters. He has been known for being a doubles king but that also tailed off in 2020. In his career, Carp has averaged a double every four games but in 2020 that increased to a double every eight games. Historically, Carp has had an extra-base hit every 2.5 games. This significantly dropped off to one extra-base hit every five games in 2020, really setting him back.
Finally, Carp struggled in the field. He posted negative one Outs Above Average when playing third base which was a big downward trend from his plus five OAA in 2019, that was top seven in the majors.
With the Cardinals making the decision to move on from second baseman Kolten Wong, there are certainly question marks for the infield and Carpenter could well be the starting third baseman to start the year if Tommy Edman takes over at second. Therefore Carp will need to improve his defensive stats back to what he has done previously to ensure the Redbird infield can re-gain their stronghold as one of the best defenses in MLB.
Carpenter has the history to show he can hit and make a significant impact to the Cardinals offense, but after two seasons of below average ball the question marks are mounting. Though if he can re-find old form, then the Cardinals have another locked in player to add to the starting lineup for 2021.
It is all lined up to be a very interesting winter when taking account the uncertainty around the National League designated hitter, whether we can have fans in the stadiums next year and overall payroll. If we could get some bounce back performances from some of the Redbirds’ core in 2021 that would be a major help to this team!