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Bird Bytes: The Secret to Matt Carpenter’s Salsa? Mix and Stir With a Red Hot Bat

Matt Carpenter had a helluva July.

He was on fire …

Even before the salsa craze.

The homemade salsa didn’t make Carpenter hot — because M-Carp was already there, having raised his slugging percentage for the season to a scorching .509 by July 4.

Carpenter was so blistering on offense, he made the salsa hotter by stirring it with his bat.

That’s the secret.

Carpenter’s 11 homers were tied for third for most home runs hit by a Cardinal in July, trailing only Mark McGwire (16 in 1999) and Jim Edmonds (13 in 2004) … His July OPS of 1.222 was ninth best in franchise history for the month among Cards hitters with at least 80 plate appearances. … Carpenter’s .441 ISO was the fifth best ever by a Cardinal in the month of July … His .774 slugging percentage ranked 8th in franchise history for the month (minimum 80 PA). … Carpenter batted .333 with a .447 OBP. …

How’s this for consistency: Carpenter had six doubles, four homers, eight RBIs and a 1.436 OPS in 48 PA against left-handed pitching, and two doubles, seven homers, 13 RBIs and a 1.070 OPS in 66 PA vs. right-handed pitching. … in 29 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Carpenter had a .517 OBP, .778 slug, 1.295 OPS. … eight of his 11 homers came on the road, where he slugged an amazing .855 for July, but Carpenter slugged .613 and ha a 1.023 OPS at Busch Stadium.

I’m thinking Carpenter has a pretty good shot at winning NL Player of the Month for July.

Call me a homer, but I think Carpenter deserves the honor after leading all NL hitters in OPS, slugging, homers, extra base hits, total bases, ISO, runs scored, most times on base, and runs created. He finished second in onbase percentage, was tied for second in walks, and was tied for fifth with 21 RBIs.

Carpenter’s park adjusted runs created (wRC+ of 215) was 115 percent above league average offensively.

Just wondering …

Anyone out there still whining about Carpenter?

Reading Time, 7 Minutes:

⇒ The Cardinals are getting young, very young. For Tuesday night’s game against Colorado, the Cards had 10 rookies on the 25-man roster, plus another three who were in their second MLB seasons. That’s more than have the squad. And of the nine St. Louis pitchers that had the bullpen shift in Tuesday’s game, five were rookies.

⇒ Bullish on the bullpen? In the five games since Cardinals’ management conducted a quick but comprehensive bullpen makeover, the renovated bullpen has a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 innings.

⇒ The Cardinals’ rotation refuses to crack. Have to admire the depth, and the talent, and the competitiveness. Going into Wednesday night’s game vs. the Rockies, the St. Louis starting rotation was third in the majors with a 3.46 ERA. That’s special considering all of the turmoil that includes Carlos Martinez being on the DL three times, and Michael Wacha (strained oblique) on the mend since his last start on June 20. And yet … all of the mewling out there because the Cardinals didn;t trade three high-end prospects for Tampa Bay pitcher Chris Archer. I wonder if these folks even watch the games, or have any idea about the Cardinals’ strengths or weaknesses. Unless Archer could play third base and swat about 25 homers, drive in 90 runs and slug .528, why would anyone want to weaken the prospect pool to acquire a starting pitcher when the Cardinals already have more starting pitchers than they can fit in the rotation? If Alex Reyes is ready, and if no starters are traded away this winter, the Cardinals will have at least TEN starting pitchers to choose from in their 2019 spring training camp. The Cardinals need to fix the offense, boost the offense, upgrade the offense.

⇒ The Dexter Fowler Watch: In 54 plate appearances since Mike Shildt became manager and reinserted him into the starting lineup, Fowler is batting .200 with a .315 onbase percentage and .378 slugging percentage for a .693 OPS. That isn’t anything to get excited about. But in his 270 PA this season before Shildt replaced Mike Matheny on July 15, Fowler was batting .174 with a .270 OBP and .285 slug for a .555 OPS. So there has been some improvement.

⇒This doesn’t seem to make sense, but when Fowler starts a game for the Cardinals this season their record is 40-32. … here’s another stat that shows Fowler’s recent improvement against LH pitching: He’s put 66.7% of his swings in play (14/21) against LHP over the last 14 days, the highest in MLB. League Avg: 39.4%.

  Rookie Tyler O’Neill has started 10 games for the Cardinals this season. And in 40 plate appearances as a starter he’s batted .289 with a .300 OBP and .553 slugging percentage with three homers and seven RBIs.

⇒ Here’s a project for new batting coaches Mark Budaska and George Greer: Cardinals’ hitters need better contact rates against LH pitching. A few stats: The Cardinals have put just 24.8% of their swings in play on breaking pitches against LHP this season — lowest in MLB … they have a swing and miss rate of 43.7% on breaking pitches from lefties; worst in MLB … their 32% swing-miss rate against lefty relievers is the is the worst in the majors …

⇒ Home-run accounting:  The Cardinals have 87 home runs when the bases are empty this season, 7th most in MLB… they have 28 home runs on breaking pitches this season tied for 11th fewest in MLB … they’ve hit 10 homers on pitches out of the strike zone; tied for 10th most in MLB… their 19 homers to center field is tied or 13th in MLB … their two homers to the opposite field is tied for 6th fewest in the majors… Cardinas hitters have pulled 53 home runs to left field this season ,  9th most in MLB. They’ve pulled 37 homers to right field, 15th most in the majors… their 11 homers on changeups is tied for seventh fewest in MLB… their 28 homers on breaking pitches is tied for 11th fewest … Cardinals hitters have 46 home runs with runners on base this season, tied for 12th fewest in MLB.

⇒ Luke Weaver starts Wednesday night against Colorado’s dangerous lineup and here’s something to keep in mind: Opponents batting in the heart of the order are hitting .625 (10-for-16) against Weaver in his last two starts — worst in MLB over the last two weeks; League Avg: .257

⇒Jose Martinez  has been struggling against RH pitching for a while. His inactivity could have something to do with it. But in 89 plate appearances vs. RHP since June 12, Martinez is batting .229 with a .281 OBP and .349 slug for a .630 OPS. Not only that but his strikeout rate against them is an uncharacteristically high 25.8% against right-handers over that time.  And this: In his last eight games in facing a RH pitcher Martinez has a glaring swing-miss rate of 45.2%; that’s the 3rd worst among MLB among hitters with at least 15 PAs during this stretch, League Avg: 24.9%.

⇒ Rookie Yairo Munoz, who does many good things as a hitter, has to work on his launch angle against RH pitching. Why? Because Yairo’s overall 55.6% groundball rate vs. RH is the 14th highest in the majors this season. And his startling groundball rate of 67.4% against right-handed relievers this season is the highest in MLB among hitters with at least 156 PA.

⇒ How about some Bader Bits? Sure.  Some statistical notes on the rookie Cardinals’ outfielder:  Bader has no homers in 101 at-bats at Busch Stadium this season and is slugging only .277 at home. (The 10th lowest home slugging percentage by a MLB hitter this season.) On the road, Bader has 6 homers and a .525 slug … Bader has a groundball batting average of .361, 6th best in MLB among hitters with at least 156 PA’, and well above the league average of .246. … Bader has 14 strikeouts in 36 PAs (38.9%) in close and late situations this season; that’s tied for 14th highest in MLB among hitters with at least 156 PA. League average is 23.6% … Bader has a swing-miss rate of 26.3% on low fastballs; 9th worst by a MLB hitter. …  Bader has a line drive rate of 35.1%  on breaking pitches vs.  RHP this season; 5th highest in among MLB hitters … Bader is slugging just .230 on low pitches this season, 10th worst in among MLB hitters … But here’s Bader’s most vulnerable area as a hitter: on breaking balls thrown down and away this season, Bader is batting .097 (3 for 31). He has a hard time laying off the pitches, having swung at 60 of 112 breaking balls thrown down and away this season. That 53.6% swing rate if 23rd highest among MLB hitters… Bader has done a good job overall against LH pitching early in his career, but lefty relievers are tough on him for some reason; his 37.3% strikeout rate vs. LH relievers is 17th highest by a hitter.

⇒ Since being traded from the Cardinals on May 20 of last season, Matt Adams is back to being a formidable power hitter. While I’m truly happy for Matt, this makes me ill. He was traded as part of an management intervention because Mike Matheny refused to stop playing Adams in left field when Adams wasn’t close to being ready to play left field … mostly because Matheny wasted weeks of spring training time, failing to prep Adams to play the outfield by giving him a bunch of reps in games. Instead, Matheny tried to do it crash-course style. I’ve written about this before, but Adams is a classic example of a hitter being ruined by a terrible hitting coach and inept manager. Adams was — and is — always at his best using his surprisingly short, quick swing to pull the ball in the air …. and over the wall. But that wasn’t sufficient for John Mabry and Matheny.

No, they wanted Adams to hit to all fields to beat the shift … as if hitting a home run doesn’t qualify as beating the shift. These guys completely messed Adams up. In his last full season as a Cardinal, 2016, Adams had a pull rate of 35%. In 2017, before the trade to Atlanta, Adams’ pull rate for the Cardinals was down to 28 percent. The Atlanta coaches told Adams to go back to what works for him: PULL the ball. Use the natural stroke. And when Adams signed a one-year deal with Washington this season, their coaches advised him to do the same: pull pitches, and power them out. Since being freed from Mabry and Matheny, Adams has pulled the ball at a rate of 44 percent, and he’s hit 36 homers and 28 doubles in 507 at-bats. That’s a HR every 14 at-bats. Gee, why isn’t the big man bunting or slapping singles to the left side?

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Girsch Calls Martinez’s Strain ‘Mild;’ Says Cards Are Reviewing His Arm Care