With the game winning run in last night’s 5-1 Cardinal victory, Matt Carpenter added on to his stellar season. He has been one of the biggest surprises of the baseball season, but the question is, “Is Matt Carpenter the National League MVP?”
We will start with the numbers and story lines behind the Cardinals’ second sacker.
Entering Spring Training, the St. Louis Cardinals had an issue at second base. Skip Schumaker left for LA, Daniel Descalso was in the middle of the shortstop competition and Kolten Wong was still developing. In steps Matt Carpenter. A third basemen by trade, Carpenter spent all of 2012 with the big league squad. In just one full season he had split time in five different spots, but spent only 18 innings at second base. After an off season and spring training of work with Cardinals’ third base coach and former super-utility player Jose Oquendo, Carpenter earned the starting job.
As the season kicked off, Carpenter bounced around the batting lineup until finally landing in the lead-off spot, a slot that opened up due to a slow start by center fielder Jon Jay. Once his roles were locked in, Carpenter absolutely took off. He earned an All Star spot, the first of his career, and in games since taking over in the lead-off spot on May 2 he is hitting .325 with an on base of .395 and 92 runs scored.
On the season as a whole, his numbers are just as impressive. He leads baseball in runs scored with 114, he is best in the NL in doubles, 48, and hits, 177, and has been on base an astounding 245 times, fifth best in the NL. Defensively, Carpenter has been solid considering the situation. He has turned a National League leading 90 double plays as a second basemen, and has committed just 8 errors at second this year.
So, does all of this make Matt Carpenter a serious contender for the NL MVP? Perhaps the best way to see is to look at the most recent second basemen to win an MVP award. Dustin Pedroia won the award in 2008, his second full season in the bigs. He lead the American League in hits, runs and doubles (Sound familiar?) while hitting .326 and throwing in a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger for good measure.
Carpenter is not going to win a Gold Glove for his defense this season, that will go to Brandon Phillips, and he may not even win the Silver Slugger, that may go to Phillips as well, nor will he hit 17 home runs or steal 20 bases like Pedroia did in ’08, but he should garner support for MVP none-the-less. His incredible commitment to a position change, his impressive plate discipline and bat control, and his will should put him near the top of many MVP ballots.