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Matt Carpenter’s insane rate of improvement

The Cardinals infielder will crush 200 homers in 2019. You heard it here first.

St Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Matt Carpenter is like a rich person that wins the lottery. He’s the 11th grader who was already popular, and then becomes the first kid in class to get a car.

Carpenter didn’t need to hit home runs; he was already awesome at baseball. Since 2008, there have been 74 position player seasons worth more than 6.5 fWAR, and all of them are Mike Trout. In 73 of those 74 instances, the player hit at least 18 home runs. The outlier was Matt Carpenter in 2013, when he posted 7.2 fWAR with just 11 bombs.

But as it turns out, he discovered his power stroke and became even better. Carpenter has 31 blasts this year, leading the National League. He’s also the league leader in doubles (33), slugging percentage (.598), and wRC+ (161). It’s a cruel joke of the universe when a player who does everything well except hit for power all of a sudden becomes the league’s best power hitter, while some players are stuck being Alcides Escobar.

Of course, Carpenter’s power surge is a very recent development. Through May 20th, he had only three home runs. Here’s his performance by month in 2018:

Matt Carpenter, 2018 Monthly Splits

Month HR BA OBP SLG
Month HR BA OBP SLG
March/April 2 0.155 0.355 0.274
May 5 0.297 0.379 0.582
June 8 0.313 0.404 0.636
July 11 0.333 0.447 0.774
August 5 0.323 0.475 0.871

With the forgivable exception of August (he’s only eight games in), Carpenter has improved in each category in every single month so far. That’s a nearly impossible rate of progress with no sign of slowing down. Seriously, he’s already hit five homers this month, and it’s only been a little more than a week!

Everything we know about regression tells us this can’t continue forever. Surely, he’ll cool off sooner or later. It could be next week, next month, or next year. But let’s suspend belief and assume he continues not only his current level of success, but also his ridiculous rate of monthly improvement. In this scenario, here’s what the rest of August and September look like:

Crazy August and September

Month HR BA OBP SLG
Month HR BA OBP SLG
March/April 2 0.155 0.355 0.274
May 5 0.297 0.379 0.582
June 8 0.313 0.404 0.636
July 11 0.333 0.447 0.774
August (prorated) 18 0.323 0.475 0.871
September (projected) 21 0.388 0.570 1.045

Should this happen, he would finish the season with a .301/.438/.697 slash line and 65 home runs. That’s a 1.135 OPS, the best since 2004 Barry Bonds (1.422, wow!).

Clearly, this would be one of the greatest offensive seasons ever. Carpenter is already an MVP candidate, and a Bonds-like September would seal the deal. But what if Carpenter keeps on getting better? What would 2019 look like at the same rate of growth?

Carpenter’s Extremely Realistic 2019 Projections

Month HR BA OBP SLG
Month HR BA OBP SLG
March/April 2019 25 0.452 0.665 1.219
May 2019 28 0.517 0.760 1.394
June 2019 32 0.581 0.855 1.568
July 2019 35 0.646 0.950 1.742
August 2019 39 0.711 1.045 1.916
September 2019 42 0.775 1.140 2.090
2019 Total 200 0.614 0.903 1.655

200 home runs is a nice, round number. By September, he’s averaging more than two total bases per plate appearance. Best of all, his on base percentage surpasses 1.000 in August and September, despite this being impossible. A season like this would probably be worth 25-30 WAR, estimating conservatively.

This is obviously, definitely going to happen. Math says so.


Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983