Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Carpenter Feels He's 'The Right Fit' for Cardinals' Leadoff

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Carpenter Feels He's 'The Right Fit' for Cardinals' Leadoff

Article excerpt

JUPITER, Fla. * If there has been a constant for Matt Carpenter as he's explored and experimented the past three seasons with who he can be as a hitter, it's where he hit in the lineup and how he feels about staying there.

When he led the league in hits, he batted leadoff. When he led the league in walks a year later, he batted leadoff. He twice made the National League All-Star team and while he did it at two different positions in the field, why, he was still always at leadoff. When, in 2015, he led the Cardinals in home runs and RBIs, he did so from the leadoff spot.

What he has been is No. 1 at No. 1.

"I take a lot of pride in setting the tone for, OK, you're getting the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup today and here goes, right now," Carpenter said, sitting nearing the team's batting cage early Wednesday morning. "I'm so adamant about the leadoff with this team because I feel like that's what is going to make us the best team. If we get to a point where we think we're a better team with me hitting in a different spot, then I'm always going to support that. I truthfully believe I'm the best leadoff hitter in the National League. Until somebody shows me that they can do a better job, I think that needs to stay that way."

It won't start that way, but this month could end that way.

The Cardinals open their 28-game Grapefruit League schedule Thursday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium against Miami. Carpenter is expected to play but bat second. Tommy Pham is listed at leadoff on manager Mike Matheny's initial lineup.

Matheny has urged his players not to put too much weight on where they hit, though he has allowed that spring training offers him a chance to see if reordering the lineup is a way to goose production. He said the lineup will be "a little more fluid than usual." That's because the Cardinals have seen a decline in offense during the past three seasons, and they relied on historically overwhelming pitching last season to win 100 games despite scoring the seventh-fewest runs. The idea has been discussed that a way to boost production starts at the top and moving Carpenter toward the middle of the lineup.

"I want to to use a good term in baseball today I want to optimize our lineup," Matheny said. "When I told you guys I'm not married to one particular idea, it's 100 percent true. I don't have this idea that it has to look this way or this guy has to be moved here. Put them out here. Put them in different spots. See how it looks. See how they respond. And see how it comes together.

"I think it will be obvious if it does."

For the past three seasons, Carpenter has been as he said: the best leadoff hitter in the National League. His .378 on-base percentage since 2013 is the 12th-best in baseball and highest of any leadoff hitter. His .453 slugging percentage is the highest of any full-time leadoff hitter in that time, and his 132 doubles lead the majors since 2013. …

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