By The Numbers: Matt Carpenter, Max Muncy, Christian Yelich
Remember when everyone was worried about Matt Carpenter?
Well, you can hardly be blamed if you don’t, as the scorching hot Carpenter slugged yet another dinger on Wednesday night, giving him five over his last six games. He’s up to 31 for the season, not only already a career-best, but tied for fourth overall in the league. Now boasting a .281/.393/.598 batting line, Carpenter is in the midst of his best career season at age 32.
But if we travel back to May 15th, Carpenter was spinning an entirely different narrative, slashing a miserable .140/.286/.272 with a 28.6% strikeout rate. Even knowing things should get better based on his 39.5% hard-hit rate and .178 BABIP, it was becoming increasingly difficult to remain confident that a turnaround was coming.
Of course, a turnaround is exactly what we got, but things have far exceeded even the most bullish Carpenter truther’s dreams. After flipping on that proverbial switch in mid-May, he’s batting a ridiculous .338/.438/.729 line while mashing 28 of his 31 bombs. The power is supported by a 55.3% hard-hit rate and 48.8% fly-ball rate, while the strikeout rate has dropped to a palatable 20.2% mark to go with a 14.9% walk rate. Over this span he’s arguably been the league’s best hitter, besting all comers with a .475 wOBA and 205 wRC+. Yes, better than Mike Trout, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, and Jose Ramirez. For the overall season, Carpenter’s .429 xwOBA now ranks top-five among batters with at least 250 plate appearances.
Carpenter’s peripherals have often endeared himself to the sabermetrics community, but it hasn’t translated to particularly notable fantasy results since his breakout 2015 campaign. It’s safe to say he’s coming through in 2018, and while he’ll presumably slow his pace at some point, there’s little reason to doubt what Carpenter moving forward. Enjoy the ride, folks.
Let’s check in the future prospects of some other guys who have endured hot stretches this season.
Max Muncy is striking out 52% of the time over the last 14 days
Not too long ago, Muncy was the talk of the town, but regression may finally be taking shape for one of the year’s biggest surprise stories. Over the last 14 days, Muncy is batting a putrid .114/.184/.229, and if that wasn’t bad enough, he’s fanning at a cringe-worthy 52.6% clip. Yikes. Furthermore, given the acquisitions of Manny Machado and Brian Dozier, Muncy has also seen his spot in the batting order drop, failing to bat higher than sixth in August.
Of course, this is a small sample size, but it’s the latter part that might be the most concerning. With the Dodgers sporting so many quality offensive pieces these days, they don’t necessarily need to wait around to see if Muncy will turn this thing around. If this slump continues, he could find himself riding the pine more often than we would like.
At the same time, it’s hard to ignore just how good Muncy was in the first half. His .413 xwOBA still ranks among the best in the league, and a 47.2% hard-hit rate and .305 ISO is nothing to scoff at. His 27.9% HR/FB rate always screamed regression, given he’s previously never come close to that in either the majors or minors, but all that hard contact and a 44.3% fly-ball rate supports the notion that this season’s power binge isn’t a complete fluke. Even in the midst of this two-week slump, Muncy is still showing a 66.7% hard-hit rate.
Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle, which was arguably the expectation all along. Given the influx of talent, Muncy’s situation is riskier than it was a month ago, and it’s probably too late to sell in most leagues. Still, it’s hard to see the Dodgers totally pushing him aside, and at the very least, he should remain a solid source of power as long as he keeps up the high hard-hit rate. But the days of Muncy-mania may sadly be in the rear-view mirror.
Christian Yelich is posting the highest wOBA of the second half (.552)
While the defacto second half hasn’t been kind to Muncy, the opposite has been the case for Yelich. Yelich has put up a league-best .552 wOBA since the All-Star break, mashing seven home runs over that span. The result has been a ridiculous .438/.464/.863 slash line over 84 plate appearances.
Not surprisingly, these eye-popping marks have been aided by a .509 BABIP, but overall we have to be pleased with what Yelich has accomplished over the first four-plus months of the season. A trendy draft pick upon joining Milwaukee and their hitter-friendly ballpark, Yelich may still be hitting more ground balls than we would like (54.5%), but otherwise, it’s hard to nitpick what he’s accomplished. He’s batting a cool .322/.383/.540 with 79 runs, 18 home runs, 60 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases — a true five-category threat.
In particular, the power has been encouraging, as he’s already matched his home run total from 2017, and is showing the highest hard-hit rate (46.8%) and ISO (.219) of his career. There hasn’t been a huge disparity between his home/road dingers (11 have come at home), but considering that’s as many as he hit at Marlins Park all last season, the new digs could be having a positive effect.
That said, in spite of all the improvements, the lack of fly balls puts a cap on Yelich’s power levels. But much like the Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi, it’s the whole package that makes Yelich valuable, and he’s everything we hoped for and then some. And don’t look now, but he’s producing a promising 38.1% ground-ball rate this month. If that keeps up — look out.