If Matt Carpenter’s season is over after he fractured his foot on Monday in Seattle, he at least joined some elite company. His shocking resurgence at age 36 has put his name alongside some of the best hitters in franchise history.
In 47 games and 154 plate appearances this season, Carpenter, an outfielder and designated hitter, has hit .305 with 15 home runs and 37 runs batted in. He has a 1.138 on-base plus slugging percentage, which leads all Yankees hitters, including Aaron Judge, and puts Carpenter into some truly special territory. The only previous Yankees batters to finish a season with an OPS higher than 1.100 in 150 or more plate appearances? Babe Ruth (12 times), Lou Gehrig (7), Mickey Mantle (3) and Joe DiMaggio.
While those Hall of Famers had far more playing time — as has Judge — it still serves to illustrate just how well Carpenter has hit in his short time with the team since signing as a free agent in May.
“I have no doubt in my mind that he’s going to still make an impact on this team even while he’s hurt,” Carpenter’s teammate Jameson Taillon told reporters after throwing seven solid innings in Monday’s 9-4 win over the Mariners. “He’s come in here right away and made an impact on a lot of people.”
Taillon added: “He’s not afraid to talk pitching with the pitchers. He’s not afraid to give honest feedback. He’s one of the best guys that I’ve been around and played with, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds his way back and makes an impact.”
Carpenter’s injury occurred in the first inning of Monday’s game when he fouled a fastball from Logan Gilbert directly into his left foot, striking out. He limped back to the dugout in obvious pain. Tim Locastro replaced him in the lineup.
Carpenter was in a walking boot after the game and told reporters that he had not yet been given a timetable for a possible return.
“My mind-set is that this won’t be the end for me here this year,” he said. “I’m hopeful that I can come back and contribute.”
Carpenter, a 12-year veteran who was an All-Star three times in his time with the St. Louis Cardinals, has hit as many as 36 home runs in a season, but his production had fallen off dramatically in recent years as a result of injuries. Over his last three seasons in St. Louis, he batted .203 with a .671 OPS
After Carpenter turned in a subpar 2021 season, the Cardinals declined to pick up his $18.5 million club option for 2022, paying him a $2 million buyout instead. He signed with the Texas Rangers in spring training and was assigned to Class AAA Round Rock, where he hit .275 in 21 games. The Rangers then released him on May 19, in a mutual decision with Carpenter, because of his lack of opportunity to join the big league club.
A week later, he signed with the Yankees to little fanfare and modest expectations.
“He’s someone who’s been on our radar the last couple of months,” Manager Aaron Boone told reporters at the time. “We’ve been eyeing him for a while as a left-handed bat off the bench. Just a professional guy from the left side, and we feel he can help us.”
Carpenter ended up being a lot more than a left-handed bat off the bench. Whether his dream season is done will be a big question. The Yankees still have the best record in the American League, at 71-39, but the Houston Astros have erased what was once a fairly large gap between the teams.