Tag Archive | "David Freese"

The Cardinals Will Have a Strong Left Side of the Infield for Years to Come

AledmysDiaz

 

Over the last week, the Cardinals have made two moves that have locked up and solidified the left side of the infield for years to come. It has also, for the first time in years, guaranteed strength at two positions that have not always been the strongest positions on the team.

The Cards have had a sort of rotating door at shortstop for years. For the short period when Rafeal Furcal was healthy, the team was getting production. But when he was hurt, they had to rely on the likes of Ryan Theriot and Pete Kozma. Those experiments did not pan out and SS has remained a weak spot on the lineup.

Somewhat similarly at third base, David Freese has been good when healthy, but Cardinal fans are very privy on his health issues and it became impossible to rely on a full season from Freese, regardless of what kind of production he gave when he was at a hundred percent.

Last week, the Cardinals signed Matt Carpenter to a 6 year, $52 million dollar extension. The contract particulars per year include:

  • 6 years guaranteed
  • $52 million guaranteed (including a $1.5 million signing bonus)
  • 2014:  $1 million
  • 2015:  $3.5 million
  • 2016:  $6.25 million
  • 2017:  $9.75 million
  • 2018:  $13.5 million
  • 2019:  $14.5 million
  • 2020:  Club option for $18.5 million or $2 million buyout

Last year, Carpenter put up MVP numbers. He is 28  years old and his current contract will carry him until he is 34 years old. Those are some prime years the Cards will get from the third baseman, and hopefully some career stats will come with it.

Along with the extension, the Cards signed Cuban free-agent shortstop Aledmys Diaz to a 4 year, $8 million dollar contract. Diaz is a very promising signing, but isn’t quite the guarantee that Carpenter is. There are some major questions surrounding him. Can he stick at SS? Is his bat good enough to transfer to another position? Where does he start next season?

The signing is ultimately a good risk for the Cardinals, and in comparison to other recent Cuban defectors, is a bargain for the team.

Another benefit of the Diaz signing was the prior signing of Jhonny Peralta in the off-season. By signing Peralta to a 4 year, $52 million year contract, they have locked up the position for years to come. And that hasn’t changed at all. It does make the Diaz singing slightly confusing. But it is definitely a good problem for the team to have.

Other safety nets on the left side of the infield

Greg Garcia

The minor leaguer has been in the wings for years, waiting for his chance to come up. Last year with Memphis he hit an impressive .281/.386/.403. The high on base pct and the ability to steal bases positions Garcia to be a solid top-of-the-order player.

Pete Kozma

Most Cardinals’ fans would be happy to never see Kozma be a regular-day starter again. But desperate times may call for desperate measures. And with DL stints inevitable, Kozma could fill in at times. He is also still young, so development and improvement are possible.

Oscar Mercado

Mercado was drafted 57 overall last year by the Cards. The 18 year-old is a slender 6’2, 175 pounds. He is an option later down the road, but has promising upside. A Bleacher Report scouting report ranks him on the 80-point scale at:

Hitting: 35/55

Power: 30/40

Speed: 50/50

Defense: 45/60

Arm: 50/55

So a lot of questions remained unanswered. But they are good questions to have. Along with having two proven All-Stars at third and shortstop next year, the Cardinals also have many more options in the future.

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Freese Trade Provides Needed Reality Check

The Cardinals pulled the trigger on one of the most roundly debated moves in many years Friday afternoon, by trading third baseman David Freese to the Anaheim Angels. It is a decision that is good for business, but more difficult for the heart.

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With all due respects to Colby Rasmus, perhaps no Cardinal in recent memory has had a steeper roller coaster ride than Freese did over his career. It was a five-year run highlighted by one of the greatest postseason performances of all-time, balanced in the middle by All-Star effort and local celebrity. Yet it also saw some dark recesses of freak injury and spoiled expectation.

However, perhaps he never received a fair shake either. After his incredible October in 2011, he instantly, he became one of the great hometown heroes in the city’s history; the prodigal son turned Cardinal great. It was an irresistible combination that was further in his encore season. In 2012, he hit 20 home runs and made his first All-Star team, a performance which further extended his heroic nature.

Yet what became painfully true was that his peak created that skewed image.  At best, Freese was a sensation, whose had a four week run that raised him to a level of expectation that he never should have been at long-term. Expectations overextended the reality, and when his year in the clouds came back to Earth, the reality became even harder to take. Then, when complicated with active nostalgia and the hope that his peak could be regained, his continued struggles with the strike zone, along with growing compensation due, amplified frustrations to a point where a change of scenery was a must for both side.

Ultimately, change had no choice but to come. He had become a man out of place, as well as out of time. Freese never looked comfortable in 2013, and was creating void far too wide to ignore. His numbers plummeted across the board, and his defensive range followed as well. For a team with few, but glaring, needs that the Cardinals already have, another year with Freese potentially underachieving was not an option. He became a man without a role in the lineup; a presence at a run producing position that could not drive in runs, as well as a single-dimensional player that did neither well enough to warrant a regular position.

And now, he leaves as he came in many regards. He was the return for Jim Edmonds in the trade that sent him to St. Louis after the 2006 season. In the full-circle nature of the life, there is some interesting closure in the departure of Freese. Edmonds arrived in St. Louis as an exciting defensive presence that immediately revived a stagnant Cardinal club. The return for him is yet another former Angel that will bring the same type of ability to a Cardinal outfield that Edmonds did in 2000. Peter Bourjos is a welcome upgrade from the overrated ability of Jon Jay in center and a needed ground covering presence between Matt Holliday and the likely duo of Allen Craig and Oscar Tavares in right. He is an instant upgrade, and in all truth, a steal in regards to return on where Freese’s stock seemed to be.

But now, the slowly grinding reality of trading away one of the preeminent faces of the city to Anaheim will set in, where he will not-so ironically join the last man that left an emotional void in the Cardinal fanbase when he departed. Yet the question begs to be answered, how does the . The organization that turns pages with more ease than any other will do just that, and a fan base that has had a more complicated time in doing so will have to once again.

For Freese, there will always be country within Cardinal Nation. And now with, both his highs and lows in the rearview, his legacy will begin to set itself; as a complicated, yet great flash in team history, and one that will one day have a place within the walls of Busch again, just not in the now.

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Déjà vu Threatens Cardinals All Over Again

Down 2-1, and faced with nothing elimination games ahead in their Divisional Series match up with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cardinals find themselves in a familiar place. But not the type of “they’ve been behind before” postseason rhetoric that has been tagged to the club so often recently, rather it directly correlates to the way their season ended last time around. While the pitching alignments get the buzz, it is the lineup that is once again failing the Cardinals.

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It has now been two full games since the Cardinals had a lead at any point versus Pittsburgh. Along the way, the Cardinals have been buried by the same type of timely hitting from the Pirates core that the Cardinal collective has been prided on. Pedro Alvarez, Russell Martin and Marlon Byrd have collaborated to drive in more runs (16) than the Cardinals have combined for as a club (11).

Basically, they are being beat at their own game. After a season where the Cardinals were the second most productive team offense, hitting for a .269 average, they have torpedoed to a .219 average through the first three games of the series. Carlos Beltran’s once again outstanding October effort aside, as well as solid showings from Yadier Molina and Matt Adams, the rest of the lineup has brutally underperformed. Highlighted by a 1 for 11 (.091) spin by Matt Carpenter, a 2 for 12 effort by Matt Holliday (.167) and a pair of 2 for 10 showings from Jon Jay and David Freese, the same type of large scale outage that sunk the team over the last three games of 2012 has made an untimely return.

There is a huge difference in the 2012 postseason Cardinals than any past incarnation however, and it is a simple see: it is not a deep team. Whereas in years past there were Allen Craig, Lance Berkman and Matt Carpenter among others to supply hits off the bench, there is no such presence of that sort this year. Look no further than the final two batters in yesterday’s game, Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso, who, respectively, hit .217 and .238 on the year. It’s a striking showing that their were no other bats available to take those opportunities, and proves resoundingly the depth the team lost when Craig was lost for what looks to be the season. The bottom line is simply, what starts is what has to produce, and the group failings to do so (a .192 average from the starting lineup over the past 18 innings) is creating a brutal case of déjà vu.

Over the past the last three games of last season’s National League Championship Series, the Cardinals mounted one run across three games, which unfolded in the same home, then road-road sequence. While the team is guaranteed to score more runs than last with yesterday’s output, there is still simply too much pressure put on the pitching staff to win games.

Game four sees a continuation of yesterday, with Michael Wacha going to the mound for his first postseason appearance of his career. While he has been effective against the Pirates, and is the best available option to start this game, even with his best efforts will be for nil if the team continues to leave runners on base

In a most poetic situation in how the year has unfolded, it is the young arms that have been leaned on to pitch in high leverage situations, and while the rookie staff as performed impeccably throughout the year, they still are young. The postseason is made for veterans to deliver, and for all of the strides the team took this season, it finds itself on the verge of ending in not only the same fashion, but at an earlier clip if it cannot work out the order of things by 5:00 this evening.

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Carpenter, Beltran and the Cardinal’s Pandora’s Box

The big question regarding the Cardinals going ahead is how will all of the assets they have fit into one roster. While there is no clear solution to that question yet, one thing that is for certain is that the biggest variable is the team’s most versatile player, Matt Carpenter.

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Whenever the 2013 season comes to a close, the season’s steadiest question will quickly become its loudest: what is going to happen with Carlos Beltran? The club’s most high profile free agent-to-be has made no secret of his desire to return with the team next spring, but while admitting that it is on the club’s radar of decisions to be made, John Mozeliak has not public committed to what extent the team would be willing to go to in order to pursue a continued relationship between player and team.

The reasons for this are simple; despite an unquestionably strong tenure in the Cardinal uniform, including two All-Star Games and 55 home runs, neither age (he will turn 37 next year) nor positional alignment fit easily into the picture going ahead. Reasons for this have included most prominently the presence of Oscar Taveras at Memphis, but perhaps more quietly the price tag of a potential part-time presence in the outfield. Add in the urge to find more at-bats for Matt Adams, while not sacrificing Allen Craig’s presence in the lineup as well, and there are a plethora of optimal situations that make a Beltran return a tough situation to imagine.

But on the other side of the equation, there is the question of if the team can afford to let him go as well. He has been a dependable power threat in a season where they have been few and far between for the team. And the issue of if Taveras both returns healthy from the nagging ankle issue that ended his 2012 early, as well as how he transitions to the Majors, loom as well. If either of those issues looms, an absence of Beltran could create quite a hole for the team, which could have been avoided.

However, the presence of Carpenter could alleviate any and all of these issues. While he has risen to his call as a second baseman in a resounding fashion, he is only a year removed from being the team’s ultimate utility man. In the upcoming years, the everyday lineup of the Cardinals has the potential to fluctuate on nearly a matchup-to-matchup basis, due to the meeting of the veterans and emerging farm system at the MLB level.

A regular feature of this mix will be Carpenter, who Mozeliak made it abundantly clear the team will be pursuing a long-term pact with soon. However, his position going ahead could best be considered being deployed again as an everyday utility weapon, in the style of how Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist has been used over the years.  The best starting spot for this could prove to be right field, where alternating Carpenter in a few times a week gets a chance to use himself, David Freese and Kolten Wong together, in addition to allowing Allen Craig or Matt Adams to stay in a first base. A move back to second or third gets the uber, “Coming Atractions” duo of Wong and Taveras on the field together as well.

While the possibilities of the Cardinal lineup are very diverse in the next few years, there is a chance that the full potential is oddly not reached by keeping one of its current All-Stars in the mix, while maximizing the abilities of another showcases more of the team’s full potential can currently being imagined.

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David Freese could be right-handed version of Matt Adams for St. Louis Cardinals

The moments of brilliance for St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese come in flashes.

MLB: NLCS-San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals

He hit one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers and just Monday he delivered a vital pinch-hit, two-run double to extend the Cardinals lead to 8-5 in the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers.

But those moments are not enough for a player who the Cardinals have tried to make a cornerstone at the third base position. They are more fitting of a pinch hitter, such as first baseman Matt Adams, who has been a left-handed, pinch-hitting weapon for the 2013 Cardinals.

Sure, Freese is a good guy, he is considered a good teammate and he combined for a .295 batting average in 2011 and 2012, topping out with 20 home runs and 79 runs batted in during the 2012 season, but he has since become an average player, at best.

He started the 2013 season in a horrible rut. He bottomed out with a .163 batting average April 29 and a 20-game hitting streak between May 17 and June 11 raised his average to .284, but he is now back down to .265 with just six home runs and 46 RBIs.

Those aren’t horrible numbers and were good enough when the Cardinals did not have a replacement infielder outside of the .255-hitting Daniel Descalso, who also has a paltry .310 on-base percentage.

However, Freese also has a -0.4 Wins Above Replacement value, meaning he has played slightly worse than would be expected from a typical third baseman, and the Cardinals now have a replacement, although he comes in the form of a second baseman.

The team called up second baseman Kolten Wong from Triple-A Memphis last week, and manager Mike Matheny has started him in three of his first four games.

With Wong getting regular playing time at second, regular second baseman Matt Carpenter has had to move elsewhere. At first, Carpenter got a needed day off, but Matheny has continued to put Wong in the starting lineup so Carpenter has moved to his original position at third base and Freese has moved to the bench.

Freese isn’t buried on the bench, however. Matheny has given other regular starters extended time off throughout the season. He sat center fielder Jon Jay for several consecutive days in April and early May when he was struggling to fix his swing, and shortstop Pete Kozma didn’t play for several days in a row in late July and August when he went in an extended slump at the plate.

But a long-term view of the Cardinals infield suggests Freese could be the odd man out if Wong takes the starting job as second baseman and Carpenter becomes the everyday third baseman.

Carpenter plays solid defense and occasionally replaced Freese late in games in 2012 because Matheny wanted a stronger defensive player at that position in the late innings. Plus, Carpenter has hit .312 with 61 RBIs and has a WAR value of 5.1.

More than anything, the Cardinals figure to get more consistent production with Wong and Carpenter in the lineup than Freese, who has always been a streaky hitter.

Yes, he hit .390 in the 2011 postseason and was the Most Valuable Player in the National League Championship Series and World Series that year, but his batting average had also dropped from .326 to .297 in the six weeks that led up to the playoffs.

Instead of the everyday third baseman, Freese could take on the role Adams has for the Cardinals throughout the season. Adams has played in the field in just 46 of the 76 games he has played in during the 2013 season, but he has hit .277 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs while primarily coming off the bench.

Freese has some power and could give the Cardinals a reliable right-handed pinch hitter, which has been a lacking aspect of the team for much of the season.

Freese is a good player, but his value to the Cardinals might be higher in the late innings off the bench than throughout an entire game at third base.

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With Wong Promotion, Cardinals Go All In

After Thursday’s thrilling walk off win, the Cardinals continued to make the future the present, by promoting second baseman Kolten Wong from Triple-A Memphis. The latest pull from the club’s minor league talent pool is sure to spark an immediate debate about who should be in the daily starting lineup (a la Matt Adams), but what’s for certain is that the club is completely committed to putting its absolute best talent into this pennant chase much sooner than later.

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It has not been John Mozeliak’s style to pull prospects into up and to have them not contribute. But already this week, the club has promoted top pitching prospect Michael Wacha to bolster the bullpen, and has already flirted with Carlos Martinez in a similar role, and he’ll most likely return to that capacity when the rosters expand in a few weeks. On the heels of the team’s non-involvement in recent trade deadline, it has become clear that the team is going all in on using its system to add what’s needed, and will be pulling as much of its top talent as possible to the 25-man roster.

No matter how it is viewed, there are not 25 better players in the organization than Wong. The 2011 first round pick hit .303 in 412 at-bats in his first season in Triple A and made his second consecutive MLB Futures Game at the All-Star Game, all while clearly being in a holding pattern due to the success of Matt Carpenter at second base.

And while he is clearly qualified and ready to be with the Cardinals, the timing is curious for a variety of reasons, mainly because there still isn’t a clear route to him regularly contributing to the team…or is there? While Carpenter has not relented, David Freese has continued to yield more and more grasp on his everyday value to the team. In 391 plate appearances, Freese has hit six home runs on the season, which is just one more than Daniel Descalso has managed in 150 less opportunities in a utility role. Run in the fact that he is also due for an arbitration-mandated raise this winter, and it suddenly makes a lot of sense why Wong is here now.

Wong’s presence on the roster also adds a much needed boost to the depth of the team. While Adams has been a constant impact presence from the bench all year, the team has struggled to find identity and consistent impact outside of its regulars mostly. Wong will give Mike Matheny a similar flexibility that Wacha can bring to the bullpen: a flex option that can put higher level of available talent at all times.

A regular bench of Adams, Descalso, Wong, the backup catcher (Johnson or Cruz) and the returning Shane Robinson makes for much better strategic usage of the full roster throughout later games. The fact that Yadier Molina will be on a managed time schedule for the remainder of the regular season will also factor into the caliber of lineup options that are available, further the need to have as much impact possible spread around the rest of the lineup as well. The less than thrilling 7-8-9 combination of Johnson, Kozma and the pitcher spot showed that having more offense punch available is a must. And as this week’s matchups with the Pirates have proven, the entire roster maybe needed to win on a day-to-day basis, let alone series and season.

While the long-term implications of the presence of Wong on the roster are clear and unavoidable, in an immediate sense, his presence is just as strategic as it is symbolic. Time will tell, in an immediate sense, just how that strategy plays out.

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St. Louis Cardinals better without designated hitter

The St. Louis Cardinals lost one a spot for one of their many sluggers Friday when they mercifully returned to Busch Stadium to face the Miami Marlins.  The loss of the designated hitter in their return to National League play might actually help the team.

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The Cardinals 6-5 Independence Day loss on Thursday to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finished the worst two-week stretch of the Cardinals’ 2013 season.

They went 2-8 against nearly the entire American League West Division. The Texas Rangers swept the Cardinals at home, the Houston Astros split a two-game series in Houston, and the Cardinals lost two of three on the road to the Oakland A’s and the Angels.

The Cardinals had the designated hitter available for all of those games except the three against Texas since the rest were played in American League ballparks, but the Cardinals were actually worse with the extra hitter. They lost a key bat off the bench, and the DH created an unbalanced lineup that disrupted what had been the National League’s best team.

The Cardinals scored four or fewer runs in six of the recent 10 games against the American League teams, but the larger factor was how much the designated hitter disrupted the team’s lineup, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny still couldn’t get all of his hitters regular at-bats.

For much of the season, the pitcher’s spot appeared to be a roadblock that simply didn’t allow first baseman Matt Adams to play every day. At 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 260 pounds, Adams has the look of a designated hitter. He could walk up to the plate four times a day, hit a homerun, get a base hit and his team would get a win more often than not.

But that wasn’t how interleague play worked out this season. Adams went 7-for-30, including six starts, in those 10 games, but rightfielder Carlos Beltran, first baseman Allen Craig, third baseman David Freese or leftfielder Matt Holliday were often placed in the DH role while Adams played first.

Holliday had a pinched nerve in his neck during the series against the Angels, and Matheny surely wanted to give the other hitters half a day off while he could, but the disjointed lineup showed on the field as the Cardinals made seven errors in those 10 games, or nearly one-third of the 36 errors they have committed this season.

Plus, Matheny shuffled the batting order to try to fit in the extra bat. All of a sudden catcher Yadier Molina was a regular sight in the No. 2 spot and Holliday dropped to the No. 5 spot.

Second baseman Matt Carpenter was about the only hitter not moved from his regular spot atop the lineup, and he mashed during the 10-game stretch, hitting .340 with eight hits for extra bases and 10 runs batted in.

The Cardinals lineup returned to normal Friday outside of a day off for Beltran to rest. Centerfielder Jon Jay filled the No. 2 spot, and the team broke out for four runs in the first three innings to establish their lead for a 4-1 win.

The lineup felt comfortable again, and it will be even more so with Beltran as a regular presence near the top of the order. Yes, Matheny will still have to be creative to get Adams enough at-bats, but the Cardinals played 20 games above .500 with that problem. They were six games under .500 when American League rules allowed the team an extra hitter.

The Cardinals have enough good hitters to produce an American League lineup, but as a whole they are still a National League team. Perhaps they can get back to their dominating ways now that they’re back in their own league.

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Yahoo: Is The Time Right To Trade Freese?

Recently, I took the time to look into the scenario of trading hometown hero David Freese while the time is right for the St. Louis Cardinals.

MLB: NLCS-San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals

To say the idea is not well received, especially by Yahoo fans, would be an understatement.  However, the reasons to move now are compelling and the idea seems to be a popular one around the internet these days.  In the article, I explain:

The Cardinals have a few needs as they enter the second half of the season. While the bullpen has seemed to calm down and settle into their roles quite nicely, the rotation has been battered by injuries and could use an inning-eater of a pitcher to help hold it down. In addition, despite his ability to hit with runners in scoring position, the team could utilize a substantial upgrade at shortstop over Pete Kozma. A combination of Freese and a prospect could yield a starting pitcher and above-average shortstop in most scenarios.

The team wants to upgrade at a few spots as they enter the second-half of the season.  If you expect to get something in return, you will have to give something up.  Freese may be the right piece given all the variables.

Do I want to see Freese traded away? No.

Am I willing to entertain the idea if it improves this team? You bet.

Read the Yahoo piece here and feel free to use the comments there or here to let me know your thoughts.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by 
clicking here.

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Matt Carpenter sets pace for increasingly impressive St. Louis Cardinals team

The St. Louis Cardinals have one of the most balanced attacks in all of Major League Baseball. Their pitching staff leads in earned-run average, the defense has the fewest errors in baseball and the lineup is ranked fourth of the 30 teams, but every power-producing engine needs a spark plug.

MLB Chicago vs St. Louis

For the Cardinals, that’s Matt Carpenter.

Carpenter began the season as a post-Tony La Russa version of Skip Schumaker. Originally a third baseman, manager Mike Matheny wanted him to move to be the starting second baseman in 2013 in a move similar to 2009 when Schumaker, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, moved from the outfield to second base.

Carpenter has committed four errors through 58 of the team’s first 61 games while playing a combination of second base and third base, but he has quickly become an incredibly valuable asset.

Centerfielder Jon Jay began the season as the leadoff hitter, but he struggled to get his season started at the plate (his batting average was .204 in April). Matheny had enough of starting every game with one out, so he moved Jay to the seventh spot in the order May 2 and replaced him in the leadoff spot with Carpenter.

Carpenter was hitting .288 when he became the full-time leadoff hitter, and he’s since gone on a tear. He’s raised his average to .333, including 17 multi-hit games since Matheny moved him to the leadoff spot full time.

His rise to the top of the lineup coincided, not coincidently, with a Cardinals hot streak. The team compiled a 20-7 record in May and has won five of eight games in the first week of June.

They also had baseball’s best batting average (.289) in May, meaning the hitters behind Carpenter also hit well.

Catcher Yadier Molina led the team with a .394 average, but rightfielder Carlos Beltran, third baseman David Freese and shortstop Pete Kozma all hit .267 or better, not to mention Jay’s .284 average and 15 runs batted in, which tied him with Beltran for second most on the team in May.

“I feel like every time I get on there someone drives me in,” Carpenter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after Monday’s 7-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, in which he went 3-for-5 with three runs scored.

In addition, the move down in the order has been as beneficial to Jay as the move up has been for Carpenter. The Cardinals had their cake and ate it, too.

Jay’s batting average improved from .204 May 1 to .286 May 21 before a recent slump that included consecutive hitless two-game series against the Kansas City Royals.

But certainly, the leadoff spot is what makes the rest of the game go. Carpenter gets on base, and Beltran, Molina and Matt Holliday drive him home to establish crucial early leads, which in turn allow pitchers to be more aggressive early in games.

But it all starts with Carpenter, who is quickly putting together one of the most impressive seasons of any Cardinals leadoff hitter since David Eckstein hit .295 with 90 runs scored, eight homeruns, 61 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 2005 on a team that won 100 games.

He’s also tough. Diamondbacks pitchers hit him three times Wednesday, and he came back the next night with four hits in five at-bats.

Carpenter has done exactly what any team needs from a leadoff hitter. He is the ignition that has put the Cardinals on pace toward another historically good record.

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The Curious Case of Matt Carpenter

Entering the season, the 2012 emergence of Matt Carpenter was thought to have created only one dilemma for the upcoming year: a battle for who would get more time at second base between himself and Daniel Descalso. Yet just barely two months into the season, Carpenter has put that debate completely to bed and is now working on changing the much bigger picture of the organization going forward.

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The 27-year-old has changed the entire impact of the club this season. From taking ownership of the second base role, to surprising becoming one of the most productive leadoff hitters in baseball, he’s changed the dynamics of the team in a very immediate sense. Coming into today, he’s in both the top 10 in the National League in batting average (.323) and hits (17), as well as leading it in doubles with 18. These are totals that truly bloomed after he was moved into the leadoff spot. After that early May transition, his average from the leadoff position has sat at .336. It is a role he has entrenched himself in the role since, and given the Cardinals production in a spot in the lineup they have struggled to maintain an answer at for several years.

All the while, he has maintained the versatility that made him the weapon he was a year ago. He has made starts at four different positions this season, yet ironically, with his increased production, the long-term questions about his permanence in a role are beginning to set in. And they are questions are proving to have no easy answer.

Since he was drafted two years ago, Kolten Wong has been “next” in the long-term plans at second base. And by hitting .306 in his first two summers as a pro, he’s done nothing to dispel that. Yet Carpenter’s play has put a new factor in play at second base, which doesn’t create the same urgency that Daniel Descalso and Skip Schumaker’s presences created at the position when he entered the system. In a similar fashion, Carpenter’s way was delayed as a minor leaguer by the rise of David Freese, who he has outperformed in the early going of 2013; a time that has created yet another “who’s the odd man out” scenario for the uber-deep Cardinals roster.

Yet this time around, the answers aren’t as simple. In many other cases before, there has been an ascendency that has solved the issue. Shelby Miller takes over for Kyle Lohse. Lance Berkman fills in for Albert Pujols, who then Allen Craig ultimately fills in for him. Eventually, Oscar Taveras is slated to take over for Carlos Beltran. These have all been situations where an aging or expensive player is succeeded by versatile presence or a waiting in the wings youngster.

Yet in this case, there is no easy answer. All of the involved parties have two things in common: they are proving their worth regularly and are cost controlled. Carpenter himself isn’t arbitration eligible until 2015, and won’t see the open market until 2018. He is perhaps the most attractive player in the entire scenario: a versatile fielder and bat, that is low cost and still trending up as a proven Major Leaguer. And for as long as he continues to be the igniter for the Cardinals, he has also surprisingly made himself one of the most likely to stay long-term Cardinals of them all.

There will likely come a time when all three are teammates. There will also come a time when a decision has to be made about who stays, and who goes. But if the last five months have proven anything, betting against Carpenter in any scenario could be fool’s gold. He’s creating quite the career of taking best laid plans, and shattering them.

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