August 10, 2022

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Carp demolishing everything in resurgent '22

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NEW YORK — Since joining the Yankees on May 26, Matt Carpenter has been one of the most dangerous hitters in the Majors. Both in the starting lineup and off the bench, Carpenter has consistently strung together quality at-bats and put pressure on opposing pitchers. Sunday afternoon was no different, as he tallied two nearly identical looping doubles into the right-field corner against Royals starter Zack Greinke. His efforts woke up the Yankees’ offense after a stagnant start, though they ultimately lost, 8-6, at Yankee Stadium.

In only 41 games this season, Carpenter has hit .321 with 15 home runs and 36 RBIs, with 23 of his 35 hits going for extra bases. Especially with Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton missing time in recent weeks due to injury, Carpenter’s versatility and poise at the plate have paid major dividends for the winningest team in baseball. 

“He’s got a great approach, great eye at the plate and he controls the strike zone,” said manager Aaron Boone. “When you do that, you usually get yourself in a good position. More often than not, you’re going to get yourself in good counts because you’re controlling the strike zone, and then he’s got the swing that allows himself to handle mistakes, whether they’re secondary pitches or good fastballs.”

Throughout his resurgent season, a key to Carpenter’s success has been his ability to hit fastballs with authority. Carpenter is currently batting an impressive .349 against fastballs in 2022, a pitch he is thrown 53.9 percent of the time. He hit .200 on fastballs in 141 plate appearances in 2021, with his previous career high in batting average against fastballs being .324 in 2013. His effectiveness against the fastball this year has resulted in 15 extra-base hits, with 10 being homers.

Paired with a career high in exit velocity and barrel percentage, Carpenter has forced opposing pitchers to change their approach when he’s in the box. On Sunday, he was thrown only three fastballs out of 11 pitches faced.

“My swing’s in a good place, and I’m just not missing pitches that I need to hit,” Carpenter said when asked if he had made any specific changes to his approach or swing.

Even with his dominance against fastballs, Carpenter continues to thrive as pitchers adapt how they attack him at the plate. Chasing pitchers away from their fastballs, Carpenter has thrived against breaking balls as well, tallying the best season of his career against such pitches. Facing breaking pitches 26.2 percent of the time in 2022, Carpenter is batting .308 with four home runs and has the highest exit velocity of his career against such pitches. His first double of Sunday’s game came on the second of two curveballs Greinke threw him in the third inning.

“When you can stay on guys’ heaters, it makes them vulnerable and they have to throw other stuff,” Carpenter said. “It puts you in a good spot.”

While his success against varying pitch types has been impressive, an underrated storyline has been Carpenter’s success almost exclusively coming from pulling the ball. Carpenter is pulling the baseball 56 percent of the time in 2022, which is 10.9 percent higher than his career pull rate and 19.3 percent higher than the league average. With the shift remaining prominent across the Majors, pulling the ball at such a clip would seem counterproductive. However, this anomaly proves how locked in Carpenter has been at the plate, particularly in the power department.

With career highs in average exit velocity and barrel percentage, Carpenter has found holes in opposing defenses and the Yankees’ offense has reaped the benefits. He has posted a .807 slugging percentage — 284 points higher than his previous best in 2018 — while batting .321 and getting on base 43 percent of the time, all career highs. Even in a crowded outfield, Carpenter’s bat and postseason experience will be pivotal down the stretch for the Yankees regardless of his role.

“He’s back to being the All-Star-level hitter that he’s been most of his career,” Boone said.

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