St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter had a great regular season. The former 13th round draft pick put up a .318/.392/.481 batting line. He led all second basemen in batting average and on-base percentage, and trailed only Robinson Cano in slugging percentage.
His 7.0 fWAR was the sixth best in the majors. All in all, he has a solid case for NL MVP. Carpenter’s production is especially amazing considering that he signed for $1,000 as a fifth-year senior out of Texas Christian University back in 2009.
However, the 2013 playoffs have been a different story. In 71 plate appearances, Carpenter has mustered just a .188/.239 /.250 line. His strikeout and walk rates are 22.5 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively.
During the regular season, they were 13.7 percent and 10.0 percent. He’s not a power hitter, but the streak of 16 games without a home run is the fourth longest of his career.
The competition is tougher during the postseason. Of the 12 different starting pitchers Carpenter has seen this postseason, 11 of them had a regular season strikeout rate above the league average. Every one of them possessed an FIP- better than the league average.
Throw in the bevy of excellent relievers that every team other than the Detroit Tigers has shown this postseason, and you can see that Carpenter has faced a lot of tough pitchers.
If you need further proof, here it is. According to BaseballSavant 13 percent of pitches Carpenter saw were fastballs traveling 94 miles per hour or harder. In the postseason, this number jumps to 23 percent. He’s produced just one hit on these pitches, a groundball single against A.J. Burnett in game one of the NLDS.
Still, even with the tougher competition, Carpenter’s baseline production level is much higher than his dismal slash line.
Slumps happen. Matt Carpenter has been through some pretty bad ones, even this year. In the ten games from July 25 to August 3, he put together a .077/.119/.103 line.
What did he do in the next 10 games? Only hit .370/.408/.522. My point is that slumps come and go in an unpredictable fashion. The competition is tougher this time of year, and Carpenter has struggled somewhat against power pitchers.
However, don’t count him out based on a sample that is less than 10 percent of his total plate appearances this year.