Home Baseball The Aggressive Hitter Matt Carpenter

The Aggressive Hitter Matt Carpenter

by Robert Frey

Everyone is the St. Louis community knows Matt Carpenter is struggling.

According to STL Hat Trick, Carpenter is striking out more (26.8%), his contact percentage has dropped nearly 10 percent (82.3% in 2017 to 72.7% in 2018 as of Sunday), and his expected weighted on base average(xwOBA) is over 100 points higher than his weighted on base average(wOBA).

Adding more context, Carpenter has seen more changeups (in terms of percentages) since he became a full time starter in 2013, 14.33 percent of pitches throw to Matt are changeups(as of Sunday). His wOBA is .311 on said pitches while his xwOBA is .385. Another large difference.

In terms of swings, Carpenter has offered at a changeup 60 percent of the time lately. Here’s a breakdown of his swing percentages by pitch (via Brooks Baseball).

Now a look at the percentage of whiffs per season so far this season:

The percentage of missing at breaking pitches is quite alarming, but the positive side is that Carp is swinging at fewer of those pitches. As for offspeed pitches, one of every three changeups Carpenter swings at goes into the catcher’s mitt. Not so pleasing. He’s also missing more fastballs, too.

While this further validates his lower contact percentage, Matt also has a lower swing percentage, meaning he takes more pitches. Overall, he swings at 32.7 percent of pitches, his lowest since 2014.

Where’s a potential solution? Take more swings, especially at the first pitch.

One thing that pointed out in my research was the lack of swings on first pitches from the Cardinal’s infielder. On first pitches this season, Carpenter has watched over 85 percent of pitches into the catcher’s mitt. He’s a breakdown of results by first pitch for him.

While most of those pitches are balls, almost 40 percent of those pitches are called strikes.

Interesting. Matt has plenty of opportunities to swing at a good pitch, yet he seldom does. Now, us fans may think that he must not see many fastballs on the first pitch, and if he does, they are out of the strike zone.

The results are quite the contrary. Here’s a chart breakdown of what pitches Carpenter sees on the first pitch this season.

According to the chart, Carpenter sees nearly 70 percent of fastballs on the first pitch. Maybe most of the pitches are off of the plate, or maybe he gets a first pitch fastball, and it’s nowhere near the strike zone.

Let’s take a look at a heatmap of first pitch fastballs to Matt this season.

There are a few pitches that are out of the zone. However, there’s plenty of fastballs that are in the zone and in a likeable spot.

Over his career, he is slugging .526 on those pitches. The league this season is slugging .569 on first pitch fastballs (as of Sunday night). Being more aggressive has worked for the Red Sox this season, and they were the most patient team last season. Carpenter fits that profile of a patient hitter, changing his approach could lead to greater success.

Cardinal fans would like to see Matt Carpenter improve upon that batting average and slugging percentage. As mentioned earlier, he’s ran into some bad luck, due to the difference in his xwOBA and wOBA. However, the game changes, and hitters must make adjustments to stay ahead of the curve. It’s time for an adjustment, Matt, swing at those first pitch fastballs in the zone.

(Pie charts and heatmaps from BaseballSavant)

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