Remember back in 2013 when we thought we found our lovable big man in Matt Adams?
We thought we hoped at least that we found a long term first-baseman or at least a reliable platoon man. Then in 2014, he puts up a solid year and solidifies our hopes. And then 2015 rolls around. Late May, he tears his quad and things go downhill from there. This year, once Peralta came back, with Jedd and Diaz tearing it up, Adams became the odd man out. Now, the Cardinals are reportedly moving Carpenter over to 1st in order to optimize the infield. What comes next for Matt Adams?
Is Matt Adams really as good as his 2013-14 seasons with the Cardinals?
Let’s get this out of the way right now, Matt Adams can’t hit a lefty. Even in the 2013 or ’14 seasons, he hardly hit over .200 combined. The best bet for Adams would be as a platoon player since he can absolutely demolish right handed pitching with a WRC+ of 140 in ’13-14… Once you look at the last two seasons though, the hammering of anything from the right side was toned down a bit. And when I say a bit, in the last 2 seasons combined, his WRC+ has dropped all the way from 140 to 96. How could it change so dramatically? What happened?
The shift killed Big City.
In 13-14, Adams hit verses the shift 290 of the 629 balls he put into play or 46% of the time. In this span though he did have a WRC+ of 138, which is still extremely good or he just got lucky. When you look at his BABIP hit to right field (into the shift) you see that he hit .319 in 113 AB. Such a high batting average when the ball is hit into the what the fielders are set up to defend is a sign of a long stroke of luck. Moving on to 2015-16, Adams faced the shift in 250 of the 350 balls he put into play (71% of the time). Also, he hit into the shift 94 times but posted a much more shift like mark of .255 with a WRC+ of 59. Overall against the shift, he compiled a WRC+ of 79 compared to an combined mark of 97. As long as teams continue to shift on Adams, I doubt he will recapture the magic.
Can there be a designated pinch hitter position?
Although he has a hard time facing the shift, he has been a god at coming in to pinch hit over the years. In 54 PA as a pinch hitter the last two seasons, he has a slash of .340/.333/.660 with a WRC+ of 162. Even against lefties, he hits very well as a PH. However, it is not very practical for the Cardinals, or any team for that matter, to keep Matt Adams purely for pinch hitting purposes. Without the versatility to play any other position besides 1st, Adams sits in a tight spot. Even at 1st, he defends very poorly or below average depending on the metric you use.
Outside of being the Cardinals designated pinch hitter, Adams will not provide them with much value. One of two things will happen for Matt Adams. The first option involves Adams in another uniform. He would provide more value for an AL team than any NL due to the DH. This means that the Cardinals would have to trade Adams. The Cardinals currently seek an outfielder and could shop Adams and other prospects in exchange for one. Option two sucks for Matt Adams. He would just continue to under-perform with the Cardinals. Hardly ever seeing playing time, he would have n opportunity to bounce back. Either way, the best option for Matt Adams is not St. Louis.
Photo: Charles LeClaire USA Today