Back in the preseason Chris Carter landed at 195 in our top 200 because he was basically a masher at the plate who did little else for your fantasy team. However, we did point out that he had a lot more Chris Davis in his game than that stat line showed. Here’s a quick excerpt from my write-up of Carter this preseason:
If Carter can improve his contact rates, his line could look a lot more like Davis’ second half (adjusted for 600 PA): .245 BA, 70 R, 34 HR, 96 RBI. If you can grab that type of potential in the later rounds of your draft that’s a risk well worth taking.
His first half didn’t show much improvement at the plate, but let’s take a look at the numbers in table format.
|2013 – Season||.223||.320||.451||.227||36.2||12.0|
|2014 – 1st Half||.205||.281||.465||.260||32.7||7.9|
|2014 – 2nd Half||.315||.379||.685||.370||26.2||9.7|
He stayed true to his self in the first half (except for the walks), but he’s really busted out in the second half in terms of batting average. And he’s cutting down on his strikeouts! Really the two are connected as more balls in play generally leads to a higher batting average, but his decreased K% and increased BB% also indicate Carter is swinging at better pitches. BrooksBaseball.net tracks this in a stat they call Plate Discrimination. Let’s take a look at Carter’s Discrimination month by month for 2014.
Carter has improved his feel for the strike zone as the year’s worn on (BrooksBaseball.net)
Focus on that upward trending black line, which shows Carter’s Plate Discrimination on hard offerings for 2014. Notice how it’s trending up? The other two lines (breaking and offspeed) bounce around a lot more due to small sample sizes — Carter has seen 59% hard pitches, 30% breaking pitches, and 11% offspeed pitches — but even those have some upward trends. If you ignore the first data point on each line, which stands for March (odd because I don’t see any March games for Carter), we still see the upward trending black line but we also see a mostly upward trending yellow line (offspeed) and a somewhat stable blue line (breaking).
Summary: Carter is understanding the strike zone better and swinging at better pitches. Given this, it would be reasonable to expect his LD% and HR/FB rate to increase and his IFFB% to decrease. Swing at better pitches and you should make better contact, right? Lo and behold, they do.
- LD% — 1st Half: 19.4% | 2nd Half: 21.2%
- HR/FB — 1st Half: 21.1% | 2nd Half: 23.1%
- IFFB% — 1st Half: 16.7% | 2nd Half: 10.3%
To recap what we’ve learned about Carter, he’s gradually developed a better understanding of the strike zone and a keener batter’s eye, thus allowing him to make consistently better contact, which has fueled his second half surge.
A .351 BABIP in the second half indicates his .300+ batting average won’t stick around (you already knew that), but he’s no longer the .220 hitter that drained your team’s numbers. This year the cumulative batting average for the 16 hitters with a K% between 24.2-28.2%, +/- two percentage points of Carter’s second half K% (26.2) is .270, and that seems like a perfectly reasonable estimate going forward. Always a fly ball hitter Carter has seen his FB% spike a little in the second half, but he still has 35 HR potential if he puts the ball in play as much as he has been recently.
So while he may not be the second coming of Crush Davis, circa 2013, a .270/35/95 line in today’s era is pretty valuable, and that’s the kind of player Carter has become.