The image for this piece depicts Matt Carpenter swinging a bat and making contact with a ball. It is, admittedly, not the best choice for an article examining his patience at the plate, but it suffices for one that takes a look at his plate coverage. So, I’m one for two and batting .500. I’ll take it.
While many dislike Carpenter for his baserunning and defense, and rightly so, the plate coverage he provides and his patience are exemplary. I thoroughly enjoy watching Matt Carpenter step up to the plate—to see a player with an eye like his is rare and something I implore you all not to take for granted.
The numbers speak for themselves. He had a walk rate of 17.5% in 2017—a career high. That was good for 4th in the Major League’s, behind Votto, Judge, and Trout. Those three players all reached double digits in intentional walks compared to Matt Carpenter’s four. If you takeaway those walks, only Votto and Judge remain ahead of the Cardinal. In addition, Carpenter played ten fewer games than Judge and seventeen fewer than Votto.
It would not be a stretch to say that Carpenter is one of the most skilled walk drawers in the last five years. He really knows the zone and waits for his pitch. Only Brett Gardner took more pitches per at-bat last year, and he was not nearly as skilled at drawing walks—10.6%.
Matt Carpenter took more pitches on the edge of the zone than any other player last year. These are balls called on the edge of the strike zone with Carpenter batting in 2017.
He simply knows the strike zone so well. It is no wonder he is a joy to watch at the plate. Frustratingly for both fans and certainly for Carpenter, he is among the league leaders in balls that are incorrectly called strikes. In fact, over the last five years, no player has had more of these calls go against him than Carpenter. It has happened over seven hundred times since 2013.
Although tough to stomach, that is a result of the number of pitches Carpenter takes on the edges of the zone. Furthermore, he is not helpless. His plate coverage is impeccable.
Notice the bright shades of blue in the nine boxes that represent the strike zone. This isn't just a pretty graphic, either. It is backed up by statistics. His Z-Contact% is 89.0%. Although that number by itself is not extremely impressive, it ranks 47th over the last three years, when you combine his ability to cover the plate with his knowledge of the strike zone and ability to draw walks, you have a pain in the neck for the players who stand 60 feet 6 inches away.
Carpenter has recently received some backlash for his suspect baserunning and defense, or lackethereof. Still, his value at the plate is remarkable. And that is before he even takes the bat off his shoulder. He is perhaps the paragon of patience in the game today.