COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals turned to Matt Carpenter during the offseason and asked him to spend time learning how to play second base. The goal was to get the young man's bat into the lineup every day. Shortly after the season started, coach Mike Matheny tasked Carpenter to apply his craft to the leadoff position in the batting order. Quietly, Carpenter has become one of the best in the National League at both in 2013.
Fans that are voting for the All-Star game starters may not be taking notice, however.
Carpenter's defense has been coming along but is far from highlight-worthy. While he has consistently manned his position for the Cardinals, he is still learning the position defensively. He is not seen as a liability by any means, though there are better defenders at the position at this point in his development.
The Cincinnati Reds' Brandon Phillips, regarded by many as the best second baseman in the National League, leads the vote total with just under 25 days left to vote. Marco Scutaro of the San Francisco Giants, fresh off his MVP performance in the World Series last season, also has garnered more votes than Carpenter. While both are winning the popularity contest, neither is actually outperforming the 27-year old Cardinal.
The Power Numbers
The first things fans like to point out are the "power numbers." Phillips has more home runs and runs batted in than Carpenter at this point. However, when you take into consideration that Phillips hits in the middle of the order for the Reds while Carpenter is leading off for the Cardinals, the RBI total is hardly comparable. Based on slugging percentage alone, Carpenter holds nearly a 20-point lead over Phillips, due in large part to Carpenter's lead over Phillips in doubles, triples and walks. Overall, Carpenter's power numbers are, at the very least, equally impressive.
Looking at the most basic of stats, batting average, will lead fans to realize that Carpenter sits atop the league once again, tied with Scutaro entering the June 10 games. Fans that dig deeper will find Carpenter well ahead of the pack in on base percentage and hits and second only to the Atlanta Braves' Dan Uggla in walks. Carpenter is reaching base at a rate greater than 40% as he sets the table for the Cardinals' lineup.
The value of a player can easily be measured by the runs he scores or produces on a regular basis. Carpenter leads all National League second baseman by more than 10 runs scored and ranks in the top five in runs batted in.
As an all-around player, Carpenter deserves to be recognized as the best in the National League for the first half of 2013. Voters tend to vote with their heart, for a player that is the best over recent history or for a fan favorite that's personality transcends his play on the field.
Should fans decide to vote for the best player this season, Matt Carpenter is a shoo-in.
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- Marco Scutaro