Trade Matt Carpenter? Great Idea … If You Hate High OBP and Power

Trade Matt Carpenter?

I don’t know when this became a thing.

But it began long before Casey Stern of MLB Network radio disparaged Carpenter on the Kevin Wheeler Show earlier this week.

Carpenter is hurting the Cardinals, Stern said. He should be in the American League. Trade him.

I don’t think so, Casey my friend.

What Stern said was nothing new. He sounded like one of the increasing number of Cardinals fans that have turned on Carpenter for reasons that are based on … well, something.

Something other than logic.

If I may clarify …  for all of the good folks who want to deal Carpenter, I just need you to answer a question: if Carpenter is traded, what’s coming back in return? I’m not opposed to trading any Cardinal. Each and every one them should be available for the right price. I just need to know what the Cards are receiving in return before I can agree or disagree with the idea of moving him.

I’m really not sure what this is all about.

Why so many (seemingly) in the BFIB have gone from whining about Carpenter being “underrated” nationally to caterwauling about M-Carp being an overrated trade piece that must be marked down and cleared out like he’s a couch that’s been on the showroom floor of a furniture store for too long.

I think at least some of this has to do with Carpenter being the Cardinals’ best hitter over several seasons. When the team is successful, the top guys are baseball heroes. But when the team struggles and fails to make the playoffs two two consecutive seasons (2016, 2017) the top players  are to blame. They’re letting us down.

Some of this is flat-out nuts. Media people and fans are clamoring for Eric Hosmer and would pay him $150 million, or $175 million or whatever agent Scott Boras demands.

Sign Hosmer!!!

Make room for Hosmer by trading Carpenter!

Good plan. Spend $125 million, $150 million or $175 million on a first baseman, Hosmer, who hasn’t come close to matching Carpenter’s value during their respective careers.

Hosmer came to the majors (Kansas City) to stay in 2011.

After a brief call-up in 2011, Carpenter was promoted by the Cardinals to stay in 2012.

Hosmer has 9.9 Wins Above Replacement for his career.

Carpenter has 23.7 WAR since 2012.

(Side note: Carpenter ranks 14th among MLB position players in WAR since ’12.)

Despite having played in 184 fewer big-league games — and having 755 fewer plate appearances — than Hosmer, Carpenter has been worth    13.8 more wins   than Hosmer.

Carpenter’s career onbase percentage is 35 points higher than Hosmer’s.

Carpenter’s career slugging percentage is 21 points higher than Hosmer’s.

In park-adjusted runs created, Carpenter is 31 percent above the league average offensively for his career. Hosmer is 11 percent above average (career.)

Carpenter’s defensive metrics are vastly superior to Hosmer’s. (Two different metric systems come to the same conclusion on that. I’ll accept that over the “eyeball test.”

Hosmer has a slightly negative base-running rating (FanGraphs) for his career.  Carpenter — with his pratfalls included — has a slightly above-average base-running rating (FanGraphs) for his career.

But what really surprises — and mystifies — me, is the inexplicable failure of many to appreciate Carpenter’s exceptional ability to get on base.

Too many Carp haters spend time whining about his so-so performance batting third in the lineup  instead of understanding and embracing the importance of having a leadoff man who gets on base with a frequency that few No. 1 hitters have matched or exceeded in modern ball.

After manager Mike Matheny moved Carpenter back to the No. 1 spot in early June last season, the results were familiar. In 389 plate appearances at leadoff, Carpenter had a superb .418 onbase percentage, and slugged .487.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a leadoff man that possesses a combination of elite onbase skill + significant power? As a leadoff hitter last season, Carpenter performed 43 percent above league average offensively. That’s pretty much the same as his career wRC+ when batting leadoff.

And you want to trade him? Why, because Carpenter can play three infield positions and is above average at first base and slightly below average at second base and third base during his career? You want to trade Carpenter because he’s adequate — not elite  — defensively?

You want to trade him because he’s a horrendous base runner? A slow runner, yes. A mistake-prone runner, yes. But in 2017 Carpenter actually reduced his number of unforced errors on the bases to 12. Four other Cardinals ran into more outs than Carpenter. A total of 44 players ran into more outs on the bases than Carpenter last season. And five others had the same amount of unforced running errors (12) as Carpenter … including Kris Bryant. (Trade Bryant!)

Since Carpenter began hitting leadoff regularly for the Cardinals in 2013, he ranks first among all MLB leadoff men with a .391 OBP over that time. He’s been on base 1,011 times in the leadoff role, more than  any No. 1 hitter in the game. Moreover, Carpenter ranks second among leadoff men in slugging (.486), second in OPS (.877), second in runs, second in RBIs,  and 4th in homers.

STATS LLC began tracking leadoff OBP in 1974.

Since 1974, here are the Top 5 leadoff career onbase percentages in the majors:

1. Mike Hargrove,    .415

2. Wade Boggs,    .413

3. Rickey Henderson,  .401

4. Joe Morgan,   .400

5.  Matt Carpenter,    .391

And Carpenter’s career leadoff OPS ranks  second  since ’74.

Ah … but who needs something as trifling as a leadoff hitter who rates up there with three Hall of Famers (Boggs, Henderson, Morgan) for his ability to get on base? Why would any team want a leadoff guy who gets on base nearly 40 percent of the time — and adds plenty of power to go with it?

Yep. Better get Carpenter out of here ASAP, and then crazily overpay for a dude who isn’t as good.

But seeing that the gentlemen who run the St. Louis baseball operation aren’t as dumb as a closet of brooms, I don’t think that will happen.

Thanks for reading and have a nice weekend …


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