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Matt Adams slowed down in August

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Matt Adams first full year as a starter in the majors has been a success, but Adams had a troubling August. Will September see another surge for Adams?

fix that facial hair. Fat chinstrap? Really?
fix that facial hair. Fat chinstrap? Really?
Joe Sargent

Entering 2014, Matt Adams had 410 plate appearances in the majors, most of those coming in 2013. He already has 480 plate appearances in 2014. He received his first shot at a full-time role in September 2013 when Allen Craig went down with an injury. Adams seized the opportunity, hitting .315/.344/.609 in 92 plate appearances with a wRC+ of 166. The Cardinals gave everyday playing time to Adams in 2014 and Adams has not disappointed, but he has shown some signs of slowing down in the second half of the season.

One good month last September is not enough to anoint a player as an everyday starter. Adams had done enough earlier in 2013 and throughout the minors to show he was not likely a Kozma-esque sample size fluke and the Cardinals rewarded him with an opportunity for everyday playing time in 2014. Adams provided a return on that reward this season, hitting .329/.345/.532 in the first half, good for a wRC+ of 143 to go along with good defense at first base. Adams played well enough that Cardinals felt comfortable removing Allen Craig, a right-handed alternative, so that Adams and Oscar Taveras would be cemented as starters for the remainder of the season.

Bernie Miklasz noted Adams' second half drop-off three weeks ago, writing

In 82 plate appearances since the All-Star break, Adams is batting .228 with a .342 slugging percentage and one homer.

Bernie was careful to note that 82 plate appearances is not enough to make a big deal over the situation. Adams now has 164 plate appearances since the All-Star break, and that still is not enough to be overly alarmed about, but it is enough to wonder about the grind of being an everyday player for the first time. Since the All-Star break, Adams has hit just two homers and a .232/.287/.344 slash line good for just a wRC+ of 74.

He is striking out right around 20% in the second half, the same as the first. His walk rate has more than doubled. He managed to walk just nine times in the entire first half, a rate under 3% and unlikely to continue if Adams' success were to carry over. He has walked 11 times in the second half at rate of 6.7%. The walk rate is still not very high, but it is not unusual for an aggressive swinger like Adams. His BABIP is just .284, showing he has hit into some tough luck. Adams' career BABIP is .340, and while his .376 BABIP from the first half was not sustainable, the drop is surprising. Projections believe in Adams' ability to get a lot of hits on balls in play with ZiPS projecting Adams at a .333 BABIP for the rest of the season.

This is Adams' first full season as starter and it is possible that Adams is slowing down after a full season in the field. He has already played more in the majors this season than his first two forays into the big leagues combined. Adams has 112 starts at first base out of 136 games which does not appear like a lot, but Adams also missed time on the disabled list earlier in the season. When he has been active, he has not had too many days off. The Cardinals have played 40 games since the All-Star break and Adams has appeared in every single one of them. His 164 plate appearances since the All-Star break rank third on the Cardinals behind only the other two Matts in the triumvirate. His playing time is understandable given that the Cardinals current backup at first base is Daniel Descalso, but the start off yesterday was much needed for Adams.

This season has been successful for Adams. He is hitting .296/.325/.469 for a wOBA of .343 and a wRC+ of 120 ahead of his preseason ZiPS projection of .265/.309/.464 and .336 wOBA. Adams could repeat last September's performance and render August a blip in an overall successful season, but the season is long and mid-summer heat affects all players. A few days off for a very good Cardinals' hitter as the team chases a pennant is tough to do as every win matters, but having players at their best when they do compete is of utmost importance. A refreshed Adams in 90% of the games can help the Cardinals more than a tired Adams in 100% of them.