Matt Carpenter is one of the most underrated players in the game of baseball. I know this is a loaded statement, but if you hear me out I bet you will agree too. I don’t think there is a single player in Major League Baseball who symbolizes their team in the way Matt Carpenter represents the identity of the Cardinals. He is gritty, versatile, pesky, efficient and he stays under the radar. When the Cards signed Carpenter to a 6 year $52 million dollar extension last spring the teams Chairman Bill Dewitt said, “He’s the type of player you’d like to think could finish his career as a Cardinal”. This was high praise, especially for a player that had just completed his first full season in the big leagues and was not a highly touted prospect. But, Carpenter’s extension was awarded due to his work ethic, leadership qualities and locker room presence, not his statistical achievements. I will admit, Carpenter did regress last season, but if you dive deeper into the numbers he had a much better year than many gave him credit for.

When Carpenter had a triple slash of .318/.392/.481 during his first full season in the show while slapping 55 doubles, scoring 126 runs, amassing a 6.6 WAR and finishing fourth in the MVP voting, a lot was expected of him entering 2014. Carpenter did not perform as well in 2014, his triple slash was .272/.375/.375, he hit 33 doubles and posted a 3.0 WAR, but he was still one of the best third basemen in all of baseball. Carpenter will never be the 30 home run 100 RBI guy in the lineup, but he gets on base at an unbelievable rate, which is just as important. Carpenter was third in the MLB with 95 walks last season, and his 99 runs scored and .375 OBP were good for second best at his position. On top of this, Carpenter was third in the majors with 4.37 pitches seen per plate appearance, third with 9 sacrifice flies and fourth amongst third basemen with 93.9 runs created (the runs created statistic was created by Bill James to explain the number of runs a hitter contributes to his team). I am not making the argument that Carpenter had a better year than he did in 2013, because that is blatantly not true, but he is still an under appreciated asset who does not get as much credit as he deserves. If the Cards are smart they will stick Carpenter at the top of the lineup once again next season. With Jason Heyward, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams and Yadier Molina potentially hitting in that order behind him, look for Carpenter to be the spark of a high octane offense and score around 120 runs once again in 2015.

MLB: NLDS-St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates