NEW YORK (BVM) – At this time last season, it looked like Matt Carpenter’s career was coming to an end. The 36-year-old had finished the year with just three home runs and a .169 average.
After the 2021 season, the St. Louis Cardinals declined Carpenter’s option for the 2022 season, leaving him with the option of playing on a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. In May, however, the three-time All-Star was released and picked up by the New York Yankees.
The Yankees gave Carpenter a chance at the major league level. The gamble by the Yankees has paid massive dividends. In just 122 at-bats Carpenter has hit 15 home runs, with a .322 batting average, .435 on base percentage, and a .791 slugging.
— MLB (@MLB) July 30, 2022
The revival of his swing didn’t happen overnight. According to The Athletic, Carpenter met with several hitting instructors across the country to help remake his swing. This happened for about five months during the off-season. Despite all this work teams remained skeptical. With the Rangers, Carpenter waited for a call-up that never came. He invited his agent and family to some of his finals games with the Rangers AAA team, games he thought would be his goodbye to professional baseball.
The Yankees had long had interest in the veteran left–handed hitter. Yankee Stadium is famous for the short porch in right field, which lefties like Carpenter have used to their advantage for years. New Yankees hitting coach, Dillion Lawson, has put a focus on “hitting strikes hard.” This has done wonders for the entire Yankee offense, from Aaron Judge having one of the best seasons in recent MLB history, to DJ LeMahieu and Jose Trevino emerging throughout the year.
With Carpenter getting a chance to change his approach, the Yankees’ veteran has seen all the benefits that it has provided. His “barrel” percentage, or percentage of hits that get the barrel of the bat, has gone up from 11 percent to 17 percent so far in the 2022 season, according to Baseball Savant.
This approach has made Carpenter much more aggressive within the strike zone, where he’s swinging at 62 percent of pitches, the most of his career. Despite what this may make you believe, his strikeout percentage has actually gone down, from 31 percent in 2021 to 24 percent in 2022. The change has even resulted in the Yankees designated hitter working the most deep counts of his career. Not only has this tired out opposing pitchers, but it’s made it more likely that he was going to get a good pitch to hit.
With the fear that Carpenter would be overpowered in the later years of his career, he has actually adjusted to the fastball well during his time with the Yankees. Despite traditional wisdom, it’s helped Carpenter swing earlier on in plate appearances. His swing adjustments help him hit pitches early in the count, which has led to his impressive slugging percentage.
The Yankee veteran has been one of the most surprising stories in the sports world this season. A former all-star who put in the work to change his swing to match his needs, and who was given great production to the current best team in baseball.
Despite the Yankees recent trade for Andrew Benintendi, Carpenter will keep finding himself in the starting lineup if he keeps hitting well, or at the very least, he’ll be trusted to pinch hit in big situations.