St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter is quietly putting together an MVP-caliber year. He leads the NL in hits, doubles, and has the highest on-base percentage among lead-off hitters. He has 58 multi-hit games, the highest in baseball. None of that would matter if it weren’t for the Secret Weapon.
Carpenter reported early to spring training with a challenge from the Cardinals: Learn the second base position and win the job before opening day. The Secret Weapon was also there early in Jupiter, FL. He is Jose Oquendo, who established Major League records for fielding percentage and fewest errors by a second baseman in 1990. His career fielding percentage at the position is .992. Oquendo is known by that nickname among Cardinals fans everywhere, not only for his awesome play at second, but for his ability to play any position on the field, which he did during the 1988 season.
The two worked on footwork and positioning, especially for double plays, which Carpenter didn’t have much experience with. He was drafted as a third baseman and made the big-league club as a utility player in 2012 because of his bat. The transition to second base has not been a cakewalk, but with Oquendo’s help and Carpenter’s strong work ethic, it has been a success. Carpenter was selected as an All-Star by NL Manager Bruce Bochy after running a strong second to Brandon Phillips in the fan vote.
This conversion to second base is an experiment the Cardinals tried before with Skip Schumaker with some success. Carpenter has surpassed the team’s expectations and is playing like a veteran at the position. He makes all the routine plays but can also surprise with his range, snagging what look like sure base hits, both up the middle and to his left.
When you’re putting together an MVP-worthy season at a position you never played regularly before like Carpenter is, it helps to have the Secret Weapon in your arsenal.