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The Lake News Online
by Mike Thomas
Carpenter Having One of the Best Seasons by a Card's Leadoff Hitter
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Matt Carpenter has had a breakout season in his first season as a starter. Last year, in Carpenter's solid rookie campaign, he was a utilityman. Carpenter played first base, third base, left field, and right field. He even played a couple games at second base last year. The Cardinals management decided to try Carpenter out at second for the 2013 season. Jose Oquendo worked with Carpenter in the offseason and spring training to help him adapt to the second base position. Carpenter is a natural third baseman. in 2009, the Cardinals made a similar move with Skip Schumaker, moving him from the outfield to second. In spring training, Carpenter beat out Daniel Descalso to win the second base job.

Carpenter has been solid defensively, although he's not going to be in the Gold Glove conversation. He has turned out to be better defensively than Schumaker was. Carpenter has made 8 errors at second, but leads NL second baseman with 91 double plays turned. Carpenter is also 5th in the NL with 326 assists at second base, despite making 23 starts at third, with 40 games total at third. He doesn't embarrass himself on defense.

Early in the season, Jon Jay was slumping, so Mike Matheny moved Carpenter to the leadoff spot. Carpenter lacks the speed of a prototypical leadoff hitter, but gets on base frequently. The move worked and the Cardinals offense ignited with Carpenter at the top. The Redbirds lead the National League with 700 runs scored. Carpenter leads the NL in runs(114), hits(178), doubles(48), and in multi hit games. Carpenter is sixth in average, 8th in on base pct., and 5th in total bases. He also has 70 RBI's this season, mostly as a leadoff hitter. Only Lou Brock in 1967 and Pepper Martin in 1936 have more RBI's in a season, both having 76.

Here's a list of great leadoff seasons by a Cardinals hitters and were Carpenter ranks:

Player                  Year   AVG OBP SLG   R     H    2B  3B  HR  RBI  SB   TB

Pepper Martin      1933  .316   .387  .456  122  189  36  12    8     57    26   277

Pepper Martin      1936  .309   .373  .469  121  177  36  11   11    76    23   268

Curt Flood            1963  .302   .345  .403  112  200  34   9     5     63   17    267

Lou Brock            1967   .299  .327  .472  113  206  32  12    21   76   52    325 

Lou Brock            1970   .313  .361  .422  114  202  29   5     13   57   51    280

Lou Brock            1971   .313  .385  .425  126  200  37   7     7     61   64    272

Lou Brock            1974   .306  .368  .381  105  194  25   7     3     48   118  242

Garry Templeton 1979   .314   .331  .458  105  211  32  11    9     62   25   308

Lonnie Smith       1982   .307   .381  .434  120  182  35   8     8     69   68   257

Vince Coleman    1987   .289   .363  .358  121  180  14  10    3     43  109  223

Fernando Vina     2001   .303   .357  .418   95   191  30   8     9     56   17   264

Matt Carpenter     2013   .317  .386  .480  114  178  48    7    10   70    3    270

I probably could of put up several more of Brock's seasons, as he was the best leadoff hitter in Cardinals history. Despite the lack of stolen bases, Carpenter's 2013 season ranks up there with any season of any leadoff hitter in Cardinals history. Carpenter is not a player like Brock or Coleman. He does have the highest average of all these players in a single season. His on base pct. for this season is only behind Martin's 1933 season. Carpenter's slugging pct. out of the leadoff spot is the highest in team history. With one more double, Carpenter will tie Scott Rolen's 2004 season of 49 doubles for 10th place in team history. That's a pretty prestigious list that includes Stan Musial, Joe Medwick, Enos Slaughter, and Albert Pujols. Carpenter has already broke Pujols record of most hits at the new Busch Stadium in a season last Sunday.

I would still say that Yadier Molina is the team's MVP this season because of his all around play and his great defense at catcher. That been said, Carpenter has a solid case as the team's most important player this season. Without Carpenter being the sparkplug out of the leadoff spot, this team wouldn't be as good this year. I doubt Carpenter wins the NL MVP, but I think he will get plenty of votes this fall. He has exceeded the wildest of expectations for this season. I thought he would be pretty good as an everyday player, but I didn't expect him to be a MVP candidate. Carpenter made his first All Star team this year as well. If the Cardinals win another championship this October, Carpenter will be a big reason why.







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