If Matt Carpenter’s season is over after breaking his foot Monday in Seattle, at least he joined 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, is hitting .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 in truly special territory. The only former Yankees hitters 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.
Even though those Hall of Famers had far more playing time — as did Judge — it still serves to illustrate how well Carpenter has hit in his short time with the team since signing as a free agent in May.
“I have no doubt he’s still going to have 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 is not afraid to give honest feedback. He’s one of the best guys 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 fielded a push from Logan Gilbert right into his left foot. He was visited by a trainer and struck out on the next pitch, limping 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 mindset is this won’t be the end for me here this year,” he said. “I hope that I can come back and contribute.”
Carpenter, a 12-year veteran who was a three-time All-Star in his time with the St. Louis Cardinals, has hit as many as 36 home runs in a season, but his production had dropped dramatically in recent years as a result of injuries . Over the last three seasons in St. Louis, he hit .203 with a .671 OPS
After Carpenter turned in an underwhelming 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, due to his inability to join the big league club.
A week later, he signed with the Yankees to little fanfare and modest expectations.
“He’s somebody that’s been on our radar for the last couple of months,” manager Aaron Boone told reporters at the time. “We’ve been looking at him for a while as a left-handed bat off the bench. Just a professional guy from the left and we feel he can help us.”
Carpenter ended up being much 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 quite a gap between the teams.