Matthew Martin Lee Carpenter
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 200 lb.
- School Texas Christian University
- High School Lawrence E. Elkins High School
- Debut June 4, 2011
Matt Carpenter became the first second baseman in St. Louis Cardinals history to win a Silver Slugger Award, leading the NL in hits, runs scored and doubles in 2013, the same year he established himself as a regular and the team's leadoff hitter. He is a three-time All-Star who has roamed all over the Cardinal infield.
Matt helped his team to a USA Today national high school title in 2002, then hit .289/.391/.366 in 50 games as a part-timer in his freshman year at Texas Christian University. In 2006, he became a starter at third base and hit .349/.432/.411, with only one home run, fielding .977. As a junior, he was 5 for 27 with 8 walks and a double before his season ended due to injury. He redshirted and returned in 2008 to bat .283/.381/.522 with 11 homers and 48 runs scored in 63 games; he was named second-team All-Mountain West. As a fifth-year senior, he put up a batting line of .333/.470/.662 with 51 walks and 58 runs scored in 58 games. He tied for 15th in NCAA Division I in walks and set a TCU single-season record with 23 doubles, finishing second in school annals in hits (263) and doubles (57) and 4th in RBI (159).
Carpenter was drafted in the 13th round in 2009 by the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit .283/.370/.390 in 70 games split between three teams (the Batavia Muckdogs, Palm Beach Cardinals and Quad Cities River Bandits) in 2009, then had a very good season in 2010, hitting .309/.418/.471 in 133 games between Palm Beach and the Springfield Cardinals, putting him on the map as a prospect. He hit 31 doubles and 15 homers that season, scoring 93 runs while playing third base. He led the Cardinals' farm system in hits (153, 9 ahead of another Matt, Matt Adams), runs scored (7 ahead of Daniel Descalso) and OBP (.003 better than Aaron Luna). He was named the Texas League All-Star DH (Mike Moustakas was picked at third base) after finishing among the league leaders in average (.316, 4th, between Corey Brown and Paulo Orlando), walks (64, 4th, between Andy Parrino and Luna), OBP (.412, 3rd, after Luna and Brown), runs scored (76, 5th), fielding at third base (.973, 1st), assists (222, 1st), chances (293, 1st) and games (104, 1st). He was subsequently named Cardinals' Minor League Player of the Year.
2011: Breaking in to The Show
In 2011, he was with the AAA Memphis Redbirds, hitting .300/.417/.463 in 130 games with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 70 RBI. He went 1-for-15 (a double off Kerry Wood being the lone hit) in his first taste of the big leagues and was not on the postseason roster as the Cards went on to win the World Series. He led the Pacific Coast League with 84 walks (3 more than Cole Gillespie, 8th-most in the affiliated minors) and was 4th in OBP (between Collin Cowgill and Brandon Allen). In the St. Louis chain, he was tops in OBP (28 points more than anyone else), 3rd in doubles (behind Ryan Jackson and Nick Stavinoha), 5th in hits (130) and tied for 5th in RBI.
2012-2021: With the St. Louis Cardinals
With David Freese emerging as the Cardinals' third baseman of the future thanks to an outstanding postseason in 2011, Carpenter was turned into more of a utility player before the 2012 season. He only played 6 games in the minors, spending the majority of his time with the big league squad, where he appeared in 114 games, hitting .294/.365/.463 with 22 doubles and 6 homers in 296 at bats. He split his time between first base, where he subbed ably for an injured Lance Berkman, third base and the outfield, also playing a few games at second base. He had a hit in his only at bat in the Wild Card Game against the Atlanta Braves, but was 0 for 4 as the Cards defeated the Washington Nationals in the NLDS. He was the hero of Game 3 of the 2012 NLCS on October 17th. Against the San Francisco Giants, he replaced an injured Carlos Beltran in the 2nd inning and, in his first at-bat in the 3rd inning, he took Matt Cain deep for a two-run homer as the Cardinals won, 3-1. Carpenter had been 4-for-4 lifetime against Cain prior to the game.
Installed as the Cardinals' starting second baseman and leadoff hitter in 2013, Carpenter had an outstanding season, figuring among the National League leaders for hits and runs scored all year. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time and, on September 4th, tied a Cardinals team record held by Rogers Hornsby, Frankie Frisch and Sparky Adams with his 46th double of the season. Adams was the last to accomplish the feat, back in 1931, and there was almost a month of the season left for Matt to annihilate the mark. Indeed, he finished with 55 doubles, leading the NL (11 more than teammate runner-up Yadier Molina), as did his 199 hits (8 more than Daniel Murphy) and 126 runs scored (19 ahead of Shin-Soo Choo). He hit .318/.392/.481 in 157 games, driving in 78 runs from the leadoff spot. He was also 6th in the league in average (between Jayson Werth and Andrew McCutchen), 7th in OBP (between Freddie Freeman and Troy Tulowitzki), 3rd in total bases (301, behind Paul Goldschmidt and Hunter Pence), tied for 9th in walks (72, even with Adam LaRoche), third in extra-base hits (behind Goldschmidt and Jay Bruce), 8th in OPS+ (between Choo and Brandon Belt) and first in double plays turned at second base (97). He was shut down by the pitching of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Division Series, going 1-for-19 with a skinny single. He was better in the next two rounds, hitting .261/.333/.435 with 4 runs scored and 2 RBI in the NLCS and .296/.286/.333 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI in the World Series, which St. Louis dropped to the Boston Red Sox. At season's end, he won his first Silver Slugger Award and finished 4th in voting for the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player Award behind McCutchen, Goldschmidt and teammate Molina.
During spring training 2014, Carpenter signed a six-year extension, with an option for a seventh, for $52 million. That made him the fifth member of the team signed for the long term, with pitcher Adam Wainwright, outfielders Matt Holliday and Allen Craig and Yadi. He played 158 games that season, leading the National League with 709 plate appearances and 95 walks. He hit .272 with a .375 OBP, scored 99 runs, hit 33 doubles and 8 homers and drove in 59 runs. He hit .375 in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, with 3 homers and 7 RBI, then hit .200 with another homer as the Cardinals were eliminated by the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. He started the 2015 season red hot, as after 27 games, he was hitting .333 with a NL-leading 14 doubles, 5 homers, 23 runs scored and 20 RBI. The Cardinals had the best record in the majors at that point, so it came as a surprise when he had to take some time off in early May with what the Cardinals medical staff termed as "extreme fatigue", characterized by light-headedness, dehydration, an accelerated heart rate and difficulty with sleep. He did not miss much time, as he played 154 games, and the Cards kept their baseball-best record to the end. He hit .272 again, scored 101 runs, led the NL with 44 doubles and added 28 homers and 84 RBI in what was another tremendous all-around season. In the Division Series, he hit .235 with a homer and 3 runs scored as the Cards were upset by the Chicago Cubs in four games.
In 2016, he was back starting at third base at the beginning of the season. He was hitting .281 with 39 runs scored in 54 games on June 6th when the Cards shuffled their infield in order to accommodate Jhonny Peralta, coming back from a torn ligament in his thumb. Peralta's replacement at shortstop, Aledmys Diaz, was playing extremely well, so the Cardinals decided to place Peralta at third base, with Carpenter heading back to second base, and Kolten Wong being sent to the minors. While he was now playing second base, he was named to his third All-Star team as a third baseman. He had to miss the game, as he was placed on the disabled list on July 7th with a strained oblique muscle. He was replaced as the sole Cardinals representative on the All-Star roster by rookie teammate Diaz. In 129 games, he hit .271 with 36 doubles and 21 homers, scoring 81 runs, with almost equal time at third, first and second base. On April 27, 2017, he hit his first career grand slam in memorable circumstances, as it was a walk-off homer off J.P. Howell which provided the Cards an 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in the 11th inning. He had become the team's starting first baseman that season, but it was an off year, as his batting average fell to .241 in 145 games, although his OBP was unaffected due to his drawing 109 walks, the first time he had received more than 100 in a season. He scored 91 runs and hit 23 homers while driving in 69 runs.
On June 26, 2018, he was 5 for 5 with 5 runs scored against the Cleveland Indians, becoming the second Cardinal ever to do so; Stan Musial had done it in 1948. On July 20th, he hit three home runs and two doubles from the leadoff spot in an 18-5 win over the Cubs, driving in 7 runs and scoring 4. He was just the second player in history to obtain that combination of extra-base hits in a game, after Kris Bryant, and the first leadoff hitter with 16 total bases. The 16 total bases also tied the team record set during Mark Whiten's four-home run game in 1993. All his damage was done in the first six innings, after which he left the game. He also led off the game with a homer for the 21st time of his career, tying Lou Brock's team career mark. The following day, July 21st, he homered in both ends of a doubleheader to make it six straight games with a long ball, tying a franchise record previously set by Mark McGwire. The year had started poorly for him, hitting just .140 after 140 plate appearances in mid-May, but he was on fire since. He was named the National League Player of the Month for July on the strength of a .333 average and 11 homers and he was also the Player of the Week in the NL for the first week of August. He tied a major league record on August 26th when he recorded 4 doubles in a 12-3 win over the Colorado Rockies; one had to go back to 1937 and Joe Medwick to find another Cards player with that many in a game. He finished the season with 36 homers and 81 RBI, 42 doubles, 111 runs scored and 102 walks; his modest .257 average was quite irrelevant given all his other contributions. He finished 9th in the MVP vote.
The Cardinals acquired All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt before the 2019 season, moving Carpenter back to third base full-time. On April 10th, he signed a two-year contract extension with an option for 2022, with $37 million in guaranteed money. On June 17th, he showed everyone how to beat a defensive shift when he took advantage of a defense by the Miami Marlins that had no infielder posted on the left side of second base to bunt down the third base line and beat out a double, as pitcher Elieser Hernandez had to run it down into short left field. He then scored when the Marlins were unable to field a pop-up by the next batter, Paul DeJong. Overall, it was a disappointing year, as he hit just .226 with 15 homers and 46 RBI in 129 games. He lost playing time to rookie Tommy Edman and saw his OPS+ plummet from 143 to 91. Still, the Cardinals won a division title, but he saw only limited action in the postseason, going 1-for-5 in their Division Series win over the Atlanta Braves, and 0-for-8 when they were swept by the Washington Nationals in the NLCS. His decline continued over the next two seasons, as he hit just .186 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and .169 in 2021. He still received copious amounts of playing time however, appearing in 50 of 58 games the first year, and 130 the next. He was a regular in the Wild Card Series against the San Diego Padres the first year, but was not used in the Wild Card Game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021.
2022- : Moving On
Carpenter became a free agent at the end of the 2021 season, following the completion of his contract, and the Cardinals did not make an effort to retain his services. After the settlement of the 2021-2022 lockout, the Texas Rangers signed him to a minor league contract and gave him a look in spring training in March 2022. He was sent to the AAA Round Rock Express to start the season and batted .275 in 21 games there, with 5 doubles, 6 homers and 19 RBIs. That raised the interest of other teams, and he asked for and received his release on May 19th, signing with the New York Yankees a week later. They immediately brought him up to the Bronx, as they were suffering a rash of injuries, and he stepped right in, with one of the best first ten-game stretches by anyone in franchise history: he went 8 for 24 with 6 homers, 10 runs scored and 13 RBIs. His performance forced the team with the best record in the majors at the time to give him playing time. When he hit his 6th homer - his second of the game in an 18-4 demolition of the Chicago Cubs on June 12th, he was only the second player since 1900 to have 6 of his first 7 hits in a season be homers (the first was Trevor Story during the amazing start of his career); he added a double later in the game and finished with a personal best 7 RBIs. It was also his first game in the field, at third base, his other appearances having all come as the DH. He ended the first half with an otherworldly stat line: a .354 average in 31 games, 13 homers, 23 runs scored and 34 RBIs for an OPS of 1.300. The magical comeback story came to a crashing end on August 8th, when he fouled a ball off his leg in a game against the Seattle Mariners, breaking his foot. He had begun to cool down a bit, as his average now stood at .305 in 47 games, with 15 homers and 37 RBIs, but his OPS+ was still 220. He was expected to miss at least a month, and in fact did not return during the regular season. He did make it back in the postseason, but could have used some low pressure games before being tossed into the playoff cauldron, as he went a combined 1 for 12 with 9 strikeouts in the Division Series and ALCS.
Carpenter became a free agent after his unexpected rebirth season and found at least one team willing to suspend disbelief and consider that the numbers he had put up with the Yankees were not a complete freak. On December 20th, the San Diego Padres offered him a one-year deal for $6 million, combined with an option for a second season at the same base salary, and various potential bonuses that could bring the deal's total value to $21 million. He was expected to be used mainly as a DH with an occasional game backing up at first or third base.
- 3-time NL All-Star (2013, 2014 & 2016)
- NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2013/2B)
- NL Runs Scored Leader (2013)
- NL Hits Leader (2013)
- 2-time NL Doubles Leader (2013 & 2015)
- NL Bases on Balls Leader (2014)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (2015-2018)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2018)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 3 (2013, 2015 & 2018)
- Tied MLB record by hitting four doubles in a game, August 26, 2018
- AJ Cassavell: "Friars find flexibility, lefty bat in deal with Carpenter: Veteran signs 1-year contract with player option for '24 after resurgent year in Bronx", mlb.com, December 20, 2022. 
- Bryan Hoch: "Carp continues resurgence with 2 HRs, 7 RBIs for Yankees", mlb.com, June 12, 2022. 
- Richard Justice: "Carpenter's incredible surge? MVP worthy", mlb.com, August 15, 2018. 
- Jenifer Langosch: "Carp in rare company with 3 HRs, 2 2Bs: Cards 1B makes history with 7-RBI game, ties franchise record for most leadoff homers", mlb.com, July 20, 2018. 
- Doug Miller: "Carpenter fractures foot, but hopes to return in '22", mlb.com, August 9, 2022. 
- Bob Nightengale: "After rough 2019 season, Cardinals' Matt Carpenter banking on a comeback season: 'I still have a lot left'", USA Today, February 26, 2020. 
- Joe Posnanski: "Always an unlikely star, is Carp MVP material? Cardinals veteran has slugged his way into the national spotlight", mlb.com, August 6, 2018. 
- Dylan Svoboda: "How this 36-year-old suddenly started hitting like Barry Bonds", mlb.com, July 21, 2022.