The Cards future is based on Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter sucked in 2019.  I wanted to come up with a more sophisticated way of saying that but as a Cardinals fan and a baseball fan there are really no other words that encapsulate the horrible season the Cardinals third baseman had.  He stunk, he knew and we knew it.

An MLB player having a regression year happens, pitchers begin to understand how to pitch to him or an injury slows them down.  The regression level Carpenter saw when compared to 2018 though was astronomical. You may call it Dexter Fowler-esque.

WAR WRC+ ISO SLUG

2018- 5.0 2018- 141 2018- .266 2018- .523

2019- 1.2 2019- 95 2019- .166 2019- .392

Analytics driven stats destroy Carpenter..  The acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt was made to solidify the middle of the order behind Carpenter.  Carpenter, well known for starting the season slow, started about as slow as you can possibly start.  Starting the season hitting just .204 along with a .328 OBP during the first month and a half of the year.  Things didn’t get much better for Carp as his struggles forced the organization to move Carpenter from the top of the order.

The point is, Carpenter sucked last year.  There are no ways around it. Entering his age 34 season Carpenter’s regression seems real.  The scariest stat is his 12% walk rate in 2019. Carpenter was known for his ability to get on base and that took a huge hit last season dropping his OBP a staggering 40 points!  St. Louis needed Carpenter to step up his power in 2018 so a likely regression from 2017 OBP was going to happen. His approach at the plate changed and he has not been able to get back to where they need it to be.  

The question is which Carpenter are they going to get enteing 2020?  A change in his swing is the early story of spring training so hopefully he can regain his batting eye.  Being locked into a contract that is going to pay him $18.5 million over the next three seasons will force him into the order.   He has to retool his approach at the plate, find that batting eye that forced opposing pitchers to put the ball over the plate and allow him to extend and drive the ball. If he bounces back to even a shadow of the player that became a cornerstone in the lineup from 2012-2018 the Cardinals will be able to wait on the further development of their young players.  

Carpenter’s role on the Cardinals will be an interesting case in how the season will develop.  If he continues to struggle the organization will be forced to play Tommy Edman more at 3rd base which would most likely lead to more playing time for Lane Thomas in the outfield.  If they go another route the Cardinals could be forced to push Dylan Carlson up whether they believe he is ready or not. I am a believer in waiting for the development of minor league talent.  In today’s baseball world patients is not a virtue. Talented players are put into positions to sink or swim. The players that swim, jump straight into the limelight of the profession. The Cardinals giant marketing push of Harrison Bader heading into 2019 was an example of a team that saw a spark in a young player and rode with it.  That didn’t work out very well, which could halt the organization from pushing the talented Carlson to the big club. 

The Cardinals didn’t add Anthony Rendon or Nolan Arenado to the team due to the fact that they had Carpenter written in at 3rd base in permanent marker.  A team that should be looking to always be moving forward has shown an inability to move on from players and coaches that have impeded the growth of the organization.  Carpenter’s play will be the biggest factor to determine the success and direction of the franchise for the next three years. While I hope he is successful, I’m not going to hold my breath.  

The Cardinals should have moved on from Waino

Comeback stories are awesome.  Seeing a player that everyone had given up on overcoming their struggles to be successful is what makes for great sports stories.  Adam Wainwright was the feel-good story of the year for the St. Louis Cardinals. The ending of this story has been written and it’s time to move on.  

Adam Wainwright is a future Cardinals Hall of Famer. He will be fondly remembered by all that were able to watch his amazing career.  Closing out the World Series striking out Brandon Inge or maybe even more memorable his nasty curveball that finished off future teammate Carlos Beltran to get to that World Series will be embedded into Cardinals fans forever.  Memories are great but right now the Cardinals have to be looking to the future.  

Let’s go over his 2019 season.  Wainwright was one of the most effective pitchers down the stretch for the St. Louis Cardinals.  His 2.97 ERA in the months of September and October helped St. Louis win the division and perhaps overachieve by making it to the NLCS.  Wainwright’s overall numbers were solid, 14 wins, 2.2 WAR, 4.39 xFIP and 171 innings pitched. The Cardinal’s veteran pitched well enough to reach all of his incentives, making his contract worth $10 million.  His numbers at the end of the season paid for his price tag. 

The Cardinals need to add more pitching depth.  You have two young guys at the top of the rotation in Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson along with Miles Mikolas.  The rest of the rotation is a question mark. Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes are both having a problem staying healthy their entire careers.  Daniel Ponce De Leon seems to never be a part of the conversation. Austin Gomber had an injury derail his season. Jake Woodford and Genesis Cabrera are both not ready to be full time.  

I don’t believe the Cardinals will go all in on Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg there are a number of affordable arms that can bring upside for multiple years while you discover what you have with your young starters. Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Zack Wheeler Hyun-Jin Ryu, Michael Pineda and Dallas Keuchel are just a few of the names that will be available at a moderately affordable price.  

Let’s say the Cardinals don’t like the idea of giving up a compensatory pick.  That would eliminate Wheeler and Odorizzi. Let’s also say Dallas Keuchel still wants that big contract that he couldn’t find last offseason, the Cardinals won’t want to do that.  Why not make a call to Hyun-Jin Ryu. Just 33 years old, Ryu has a much bigger upside.  

The price for Wainwright’s return is fair.  All of the aforementioned free agent pitchers will cost you more than $5-million plus incentives.  I am not upset about the price, I am upset because we have seen the highest upside we will see from Wainwright and where did that get the Cardinals.  Making it to the NLCS is great, personally I think they overachieved based on the full season performance. The Cardinals have to focus on a new direction.  They have to move on from the players that have peaked. Adam Wainwright peaked in 2019. To expect Wainwright to not go through negative regression is overly optimistic.  You are giving away a rotation spot to a 38 year old that depends on location. It’s time to try something new, it’s time for the organization to make a move to change the consistency of mediocrity. The emotions of Wainwrights 2019 success have masked management’s eyes.  They are not seeing that it is time to focus on the future. Keeping Wainwright around to be a “mentor” to the young staff will stunt the progression of leadership that you need from a guy like Jack Flaherty.  

Wainwright will be back in 2020.  He may have a great season. When you look at the rotation though he will be at the top of the question marks.  Can he be what he was in 2019? Is that really what the fanbase wants? Isn’t it time to be better? I am not rooting against Wainwright. I am just ready to move on from his era.