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Matt Carpenter is Crushing the Ball

MLB: Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Just 13 games into the St. Louis Cardinals’ season, Matt Carpenter is slashing .080/.226/.200/.426 with a wRC+ of 21. The left handed hitter also has just two hits in 13 games this season. However, this is mostly due to bad luck as Matt Carpenter has been crushing the ball so far this season. In fact, he is in the 99th percentile in hard hit rate (66.7%), the 100th percentile in barrel rate (27.8%), and the 96th percentile in average exit velocity (95.2 mph). Thus, even though Carpenter has just two hits on the season, there is not much else that he can do. He is hitting the ball hard, but he is simply hitting it right at defenders. This bad luck is shown by his .059 BABIP and the 232 point gap between his wOBA and his xwOBA (.193 wOBA, .425 xwOBA).

Since Carpenter is hitting the ball hard, it makes sense that he is in the lineup at second base while Tommy Edman plays right field. This keeps Carpenter in the lineup and gives him the chance to finally start getting results. It would be dificult for Carpneter to improve on the way that he is hitting the ball, so really the only solution is for him to get his hard hit balls to drop for hits.

Even though he has been unlucky, though, there are still some early trends that can be gleaned from his first 13 games. While Matt Carpenter has been crushing the ball early this season, he has only been crushing fastballs. He has a .372 expected batting average and .982 expected slugging percentage, which is much higher than his .118 batting average and .294 slugging percentage. Against both offspeed and breaking pitches, though, he is batting and slugging below .100. It is still early in the season, so this will almost certainly improve. The question is, how much will it improve? Carpenter struggled against breaking and offspeed pitches in each of the last two seasons, so he will likely have to get most of his production from fastballs again this season.

Because of this, it will be interesting to see how many fastballs Matt Carpenter will face this season. His fastball percentage has declined every year since 2018, dropping to 54.4% last season. So far, he has seen 58.8% fastballs, but if he continues to struggle against non-fastballs, then this percentage will likely drop.

Also, Carpenter has seen his line drive rate drop to 11.1% which is significantly less than the league average of 25.6%. This has likely contributed to some of his under-performance since line drives have the highest batting average of any batted ball result. His 55.6% fly ball rate pairs well with his excellent exit velocity and hard hit rate as it gives him the highest chance of hitting home runs and doubles.

Additionally, Carpenter has also dropped his strikeout rate by nearly 3% while only experiencing a 0.7% drop in his walk rate. Thus, it seems that it is only a matter of time before Carpenter begins to see the results of consistently hitting the ball hard. Much of his lack of statistical success this season is due to bad luck. He could stand to raise his line drive rate a bit, but that does not fully explain his .059 BABIP. SO, if he can continue hitting the ball hard, then his results on contact will improve, and when paired with a nearly 13% walk rate, he could return to being a productive hitter.

It is not likely that he will continue hitting the ball so hard, but it is an encouraging sign that he has started so well, especially after being a below league average hitter for the last two seasons.