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Matt Carpenter producing as a pinch-hitter

The bottom of the sixth, with the bases loaded and two out, was a pivotal moment in the St. Louis Cardinals’ Monday night’s game against the visiting San Francisco Giants. Cards manager Mike Matheny pulled starting pitcher Jake Westbrook despite the right-hander having thrown only 79 pitches and holding a narrow 3-2 lead.

Matt Carpenter pinch hit and delivered a two-run single against San Francisco’s ace Matt Cain that helped propel the Cardinals to an 8-2 win.

The rookie began slowly in the pinch-hitting role, as Carpenter was only three for his first 17 before hitting safely twice and walking in his last three pinch-hitting appearances. The left-handed hitter is still a long way from the team’s rookie pinch-hit record of 20, set by Joe Frazier in 1954.

Still, despite the relatively low quantity of hits, Carpenter has made them count with eight pinch runs batted in. An initial report that they are the most by a Cardinals rookie since at least 1950 was later disputed.

With the definition of rookie dependent on both on at-bats (130 or less) and time in the majors (45 or fewer days active prior to 9/1), definitive rookie-only data pulls are challenging.

Given that, researcher Tom Orf prepared the following list of all 40 occurrences of a Cardinals pinch-hitter having at least eight RBI in a season since 1948. At the right is the year of their career and at-bats in prior years (for some), followed by the players’ ages at the time.

In an oddity, Frazier maintained his rookie status for eight years. After being in military service from 1943-45, he appeared in nine games for Cleveland in 1947. Frazier did not return to MLB until 1954. Still a rookie, he had 13 pinch-hit RBI with St. Louis that latter season.

Though Carpenter had 15 St. Louis at-bats last year, he is still a rookie in 2012. In 1962, Fred Whitfield became the only one to make this list by having his pinch-hits in the same season he first came up.

Eight or more pinch-hit RBI, season since 1948, St. Louis Cardinals

Year Pinch-hitter PH RBI Career Year # Previous ABs Age
2012 Matt Carpenter 8 2 15 26
2007 Chris Duncan 8 3 290 26
2006 Scott Spiezio 8 11 33
2004 Marlon Anderson 10 7 30
Roger Cedeno 9 10 29
Ray Lankford 8 14 37
2002 Eduardo Perez 10 7 32
Miguel Cairo 10 9 28
2000 Thomas Howard 11 11 35
1999 Thomas Howard 8 10 34
1998 John Mabry 8 5 27
1996 Willie McGee 9 15 37
1994 Gerald Perry 10 12 33
1993 Gerald Perry 14 11 32
1992 Gerald Perry 10 10 31
1991 Gerald Perry 13 9 30
Craig Wilson 11 3 125 26
1988 Curt Ford 9 4 27
1987 John Morris 8 2 100 26
1984 Tito Landrum 12 5 315 29
Steve Braun 12 14 36
1981 Dane Iorg 8 5 31
1979 Dane Iorg 8 3 147 29
1978 Roger Freed 12 7 32
1977 Roger Freed 8 6 31
1973 Tim McCarver 10 14 31
1971 Bob Burda 8 6 32
1970 Vic Davalillo 18 8 33
Carl Taylor 12 3 292 26
1967 Bobby Tolan 9 3 162 21
1965 Bob Skinner 15 11 33
1962 Fred Whitfield 8 1 24
1961 Carl Sawatski 14 9 33
1960 George Crowe 13 8 39
Carl Sawatski 10 8 32
1959 George Crowe 20 7 38
1957 Joe Cunningham 13 3 313 25
1956 Bobby Morgan 9 6 30
1954 Joe Frazier 13 2 14(1947) 31
1953 Peanuts Lowrey 13 12 36

It is good for the career of Carpenter, a natural third baseman, for him to excel in the off-the-bench needs. The Cardinals lack experience among their reserves this season and going forward, this role seems to be the 26-year-old’s niche.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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32 Responses to “Matt Carpenter producing as a pinch-hitter”

  1. Brian Walton says:

    … and reminding us that the game has a way of quickly balancing out matters, representing the potential tying run, Carpenter hit into a double play in the ninth inning Tuesday night…

  2. blingboy says:

    1. There is a very good reason for hitting your OBP leader ahead of your SLG leader rather than the other way around. Not that hitting a Matt Holliday second is smart, necessarily. But when you don’t have a #2 hitter, and you have to use middle of the order guys there, its smarter to hit your OBP leader ahead of your SLG leader and dumber to hit your SLG ahead of your OBP. But there are about 120 million reasons not to, I guess.

    2. Our D up the middle looks really good this year. Furcal’s declining range is probably the weakest link. That’s saying something. But from my vantage point, we get hurt by it fairly regularly. Too many balls up the middle go through on the SS side of the bag. Perhaps he could be positioned a bit differently, and see if Freese can compensate. Not too many go through between short and third. Just a thought.

    3. Furcal is the only leadoff hitter we have. For next year that needs to be a priority. And somebody besides our SLG leader to hit second.

    4. How about this – Lance’s next start let somebody else pitch the 1st, then bring in the big guy. 🙂

    After all those wins, now we lose one, and I’m all full of criticism. I’m a bad fan and a bad person. I know, no need to tell me. Hopefully it is thoughtful and constructive criticism.

    Super Joe tonight.

    • crdswmn says:

      Quite a number of balls got past a certain second baseman last night……

      I know I am criticizing the Sacred Cow so I will stop. He made a great throw, so that’s all that matters I guess.

      I said this on Twitter last night but it just seems to me that you can pick out the weakest pitcher in every series and predictably he will be the one who hamstrings the Cardinals offense. Our hitters can take batting practice off elite pitchers (Kershaw, Cain) but look like Little Leaguers against the Barry Zitos of the world. Maybe other teams will catch on to this and start pitching the batboy and the towel guy, and the trainer………..

      I know it is easy to criticize but for me it is cathartic. I imagine (wrongly, of course) that the players read my words and think to themselves that they must do better to please me. 🙂

      • blingboy says:

        “Quite a number of balls got past a certain second baseman last night……”

        Not as many as got past him in the batters box, unfortunatly. 0fer leading off.

        • Brian Walton says:

          That was a rough call in the seventh. A full-count pitch came up and in on Skip. As he tried to get out of the way, he was hit by the pitch, but the umps ruled him out because in their opinion, he tried to swing.

  3. blingboy says:

    I’m no baseball expert, but if you need a top notch leadoff guy, it seems like there are two ways to go.

    The hard way is developing the next Lou Brock.

    The easy way is developing the next Ernie Broglio.

    • crdswmn says:

      Well, if you judge a lead off guy by OBP, the guy with the highest is Matt Holliday. But I doubt anyone is advocating him for lead off. The next highest is Skip, so the decision to bat him lead off last night made sense, he just didn’t execute. Descalso has the better glove at 2B, so playing Skip every day loses you the better D on a staff of ground ball pitchers. The next highest OBP is Lance Berkman, not an option. Jon Jay has an OBP of .376 why not bat him lead off? He can be streaky, I know, but the only other options are David Freese (.377) Molina (.367) Craig (.362) or Beltran (.357).

      • blingboy says:

        Furcal is the only guy who has performed at leadoff, but if he is a bit gimpy, then we don’t have anybody, at least against lefties. Skip only had a handful of PAs against lefties this year, so I was skeptical. The arguement for it was that he has hit the guy well in a handful of ABs in past years. bleh.

        Jay goes in an immediate slump whenever he is put at leadoff. DD seems to do poorly there as well. And you can’t try a Matt Carpenter because you have to sit down a bopper to do it.

        I’m not suggesting putting a middle of the order guy at leadoff. I was making a seperate point about which middle of the order guy should hit second, if you have to have one second.

        As to the final four choices, obviously, for leadoff you’d have to take the guy with most stolen bases, right? 🙂

        • crdswmn says:

          If you consider a guy with an OBP of .336 as performing. As for slumps, Furcal has been in one for quite some time. I would put Jay at lead off and see how he does. If he slumps, then put Furcal back I guess. There is no good answer you just have to go with the tides at the moment.

          Craig is hitting second at the moment. Leave him there.

          • blingboy says:

            Jay would be ok given the choices.

            Craig hitiing second behind an ineffective leadoff might set a new record for solos. Like last night. But you’re right leave him there.

            At least Mike only has one big contract to work around. Last year TLR had two immovable objects.

        • Brian Walton says:

          I am also not excited about any of the choices, but Jay is no worse leading off than he is anywhere else. His career OBP batting #1 is .353 vs. .356 overall.

  4. blingboy says:

    Brewers coming from behind ahead 3-2 in bottom of 8th. Cinci may never win again.

  5. blingboy says:

    Craig out with injury.

    Jay cf

    Carpenter 1b

    Holliday lf

    Beltran rf

    Freese 3b

    Molina c

    Descalso ss

    Greene 2b

    Kelly p

  6. blingboy says:

    MCarp is a hand at GIDPs. Two ABs is a row.

  7. blingboy says:

    Its hard to type with a bag over my head.

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