Closing Time: What's wrong with Matt Carpenter?

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/8953/" data-ylk="slk:Matt Carpenter">Matt Carpenter</a>’s hits have been few and far between this season (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Matt Carpenter’s hits have been few and far between this season (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Walks are a key part of offense, and Matt Carpenter sure walks a lot these days. But how come nothing else seems to go his way?

Carpenter had another no-show Thursday, an 0-for-4 game with three strikeouts. For the first time in his career, he’s less than an average batter — and it’s not even close. An average OPS+ is 100; Carpenter currently checks in at 64. (Only 15 regular players are doing worse.)

Carpenter’s walk rate has sailed to 17 percent this year, even higher than his career rate of 13.2 percent. But he’s also striking out a bloated 27.4 percent of the time, and nothing’s happening when he does make contact — .147 average, .284 slugging. Obviously that .183 BABIP is criminally unlucky, but we also suffered through last year’s .241/.384/.451 disappointment.

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Perhaps Carpenter isn’t healthy — recall, he had shoulder and back issues in spring training, and he was hurt much of last year. Perhaps his patience at the plate is coming with a penalty; maybe he’s conceding count leverage too quickly. His zone-swinging percentage is at an all time low.

If you want to build a pro case for Carpenter, you point to the low BABIP, the solid line-drive rate (26 percent), and the hard-hit rate that’s over career norms (that overlaps with line-drive rate, so choose the path you prefer). And he’s still just 32.

In some of my deeper leagues, I feel locked to Carpenter, his position flexibility, his back class. But in the shallower leagues, I can’t blame you if you feel you need to bench him or cut him outright. Very early in a fantasy season, it can become too late. This story has been moving in the wrong direction for over a year now.

• We’ve had some fun with Christian Villanueva, but you worry about when the other cleat might drop.

Villanueva has an anemic .171/.275/.271 slash against righties, and he’s also made six errors — it’s so hard to be charged with an error these days — and has a fielding percentage just over .900. Sure, he’s crushing left-handers (eight homers in 28 at-bats, 1.026 slugging), but no one is that good. Eventually the platoon crushing will slow down, the right-handed performance will probably improve — but the Padres might be onto someone else by that point. Keep in mind, Villanueva entered the season without a pedigree or a job slotted for him.

Villanueva needs to find his swing quickly, but the projected schedule isn’t going to help much. The Padres are set to face just one lefty starter in the next nine games, and two out of the next 12. The only thing working for him right now — Chase Headley hasn’t done anything either (.120/.241/.140). Ah, this Padres lineup.

If you’re looking for a third-base replacement, perhaps you could kick the tires on Jeimer Candelario (35 percent owned), Yolmer Sanchez (16 percent, also slots at second base) or Colin Moran (six percent).

• You can blame this on the pitcher if you want. But maybe the Philly Phanatic isn’t much of a pitch framer.

• When do the Orioles officially start the Manny Machado sweepstakes?

Machado had two more hits Thursday, including his 10th homer, as Baltimore scored a rare victory. But the Orioles are already buried under 10 feet of snow in the take-no-prisoners AL East, and Machado is surrounded by disappointing bats in the Baltimore lineup (he’s the only regular exceeding expectations, which says a lot).

With free agency pending and Machado’s demands expected to be prohibitive, a trade is almost a fait accompli at this point. But did Baltimore screw up by not proactively addressing this reality over the winter? Even if Machado were to shift to a less-fun home park, that would probably be mitigated by an improved supporting cast. If we redrafted from scratch today, he’s a clear lottery pick.

• It’s a new day for Matt Harvey, a new #HarveyDay. New team. New uniform number, 32. And he’ll start for the Reds on Friday, at Dodger Stadium against Kenta Maeda.

The Dodgers have been mediocre on offense (.710 OPS, 19th in baseball), in part because of some soul-crushing injuries. So this assignment isn’t as daunting as it would have looked a month ago. But Harvey’s health and three years of backsliding leave a mark with me; I’ll be slow to this comeback story, if I get invested at all. Heck, I might stack some DFS Dodgers tonight.

Will it be Harvey Day or Harvey Danger? Share your projected stat lines in the comments.

• The Angels and Brewers both got their closers back, but their initial assignments came in the eighth inning. This probably means nothing; it’s just the show-me game.

Keynan Middleton should be back in the ninth by the weekend — no matter how much Mike Scioscia wants to mess with us — and although the Brewers bullpen has been superb without Corey Knebel, the Crew still views Knebel as the final gun in a very deep relief corps. Get them back in the lineup, handshakes are imminent.

Follow the Yahoo fantasy baseball crew on Twitter: Andy BehrensDalton Del Don, and Scott Pianowski

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