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St Louis Cardinals: Matt Carpenter has changed the leadoff role

Matt Carpenter Hitting

There’s something interesting about the Cardinal’s batting order: the team’s best all-around hitter and most versatile player is also their leadoff hitter. That man is Matt Carpenter.

Traditionally, when you think about a classic leadoff hitter, usually a couple traits come to mind. I mean think about it. What do Ichiro Suzuki, Ricky Henderson, and Craig Biggio three of baseball’s all-time best leadoff hitters have in common? Those three legends hit for contact to reach base and they have great speed to steal lots of bases. Well, when you look at Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter, neither of those traits accurately describe his game.

Hit for contact? Nope. Carpenter is second on the team in hits behind Stephen Piscotty. Steal lots of bases? Nope. Carpenter doesn’t have a single stolen base this year.

However, just because he isn’t the traditional leadoff hitter does not mean that he shouldn’t be batting leadoff. Instead, hitting leadoff is exactly where Carpenter belongs and when we look at his overall statistics more comprehensively we can see how he is revolutionizing that spot in the batting order.

Carpenter is first on the team in runs (45). First on the team in doubles (21). First on the team in triples (4). First on the team in RBIs (34). First on the team in total bases (128). First on the team in walks (45). First on the team in batting average (.301). First on the team in on-base percentage (.419). First on the team in oWAR (3.0). I’m sure I’m missing some more advance sabermetrics in which he also leads, however, the trend is glaring: Carpenter is the team’s best and most balanced hitter overall.

The most impressive stat that Carpenter leads is his RBIs. Usually, the leadoff hitter isn’t counted on to drive in runs. After all, the hitter in front of him is the pitcher. However, somehow, someway, in the few opportunities he is given to drive in runs, Carpenter has perfectly served as the bridge between the bottom of the order and the top of the order.

Another impressive facet of Carpenter’s game is his ability to draw walks while still being considered a power hitter. Currently, Carpenter’s walk to strikeout ratio is 45:48. Yep. He almost has a 1:1 ratio between walks and strikeouts. He is also 3rd on the team with 10 home runs. These two impressive statistics combined tell why Carpenter is the best hitter on the team. He is very selective with the pitches that he sees every at-bat and when the pitcher makes a mistake he capitalizes on it, rather than swinging for the fences every time up.

In a couple years, we might completely get rid of the idea of the leadoff hitter being the fastest guy on the team. Right now, as advance sabermetrics start to have a bigger role in today’s baseball, more teams will realize that their leadoff hitter should be their best overall hitter who can reach base the most consistently. When that happens, we will be able to look back on how Carpenter has revolutionized the leadoff role.

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire – USA TODAY Sports