Matt Carpenter has the 4th best OBP in all of baseball.
Matt Carpenter has the 3rd best SLG in all of baseball.
So how–when the names among his on the above leaderboards are Ortiz, Goldschmidt, Machado, Altuve, Trout, Rizzo–is he 34th in RBI?
It’s because 38% of his plate appearances come with no one out and no one on.
Wouldn’t batting someone–anyone–in front of Carpenter lead to more Cardinal runs? Currently, it’s Cardinal pitchers batting in front of Carpenter, to the tune of 165/170/241. Even Ruben Tejada thinks that’s a little light.
Since there’s no obvious leadoff candidate, let an actual professional hitter bat 9th and the pitcher 8th. A Wong/Pham platoon makes sense, as Pham’s a career 361 OBP vs LHP.
This ensures Carpenter getting his 4th and 5th AB before anyone else, and he’ll still score plenty of runs with Diaz/Holliday/Piscotty to follow. (He’s just 13th in Runs, which is fine, but doesn’t justify leading him off.)
But decreasing the 38% of PA’s when he’s up with 0 out and 0 on base should be the objective for an asset whose slash line is favorable to Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo–none of whom bat leadoff for their team.
In such at bats, Carpenter is 324/402/574. You don’t have to be a great hitter to score from first base on a Carpenter double. You don’t have to be a fast runner to score from first base on a Carpenter homer.
“But he’s *comfortable* hitting leadoff.”
Stop. Hit pause on yet another viewing of The Notebook and look up his numbers with men on base: 306/449/694.
Seems comfortable to me.
(694 SLG?! Barry Bonds’ career SLG was 607.)
Ask yourself from the prospective of the Cardinals’ opposing pitcher/manager: Would you breathe easier if Matt Carpenter was leading off an inning, or batting with runners on base?
Matt Carpenter is too good to bat after the pitcher.