Q&A: Mike Carp, 1.364 OPS [Small Sample Size]

The sample size is small — just 24 plate appearances — but the numbers still jump off the page. Four weeks into the season, Mike Carp is hitting a stratospheric.455/.500/.864. Seven of his 10 hits have gone for extra bases.

The 26-year-old outfielder will obviously come back to earth, but he still might be one of the best under-the-radar acquisitions of the off-season. The Red Sox acquired him from the Mariners in February for a PTBNL.

Carp was an enigma in Seattle. In parts of four seasons, he hit .255/.327/.413 and occasionally drove baseballs long distances. What he didn’t do is prove that he could stay healthy and provide consistent production. Jettisoned to Boston, he is intent on proving he is capable of both. Only time will tell, but Carp is swinging a hot bat.

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Carp on his hot start: “Being healthy is a big part of it. I missed a lot of time last year with the shoulder injury, so it’s about finding my rhythm. The more reps I get, the better I see the ball and better rhythm I have.

“I wasn’t getting at bats the first couple weeks of the season, but I’ve gotten a few lately and that’s helped me lock in a little more. I feel great at the plate. I’m just trying to stay short and use the whole field. I’m going up there with a good plan and sticking to it. I kind of got away from it [Saturday] and had a rough night, but I rebounded [Sunday] and got back to what’s working for me.

“I’m itching for as many at bats as I can possibly get, but I also understand the concept of a team. We have a very deep bench and it’s nice to be able to keep guys fresh.”

On hitting at Fenway Park: “Hitting here is great. The fans, the team, the ballpark — that short porch in left field is very inviting to a left-handed hitter, especially one with some power. You can stay inside the ball and put it off the wall. For me, it’s all about reaction to the pitch. I try to use my hands on pitches away.

“I utilize the whole field. There are different dimensions at Fenway than at Safeco, and I’m able to use the opposite field to my advantage. I can hit a double off the wall, where as at Safeco it was a lazy fly ball that was caught.”

On hitting in pitcher-friendly parks:
“You try not to think about that. You have a job, and that’s to hit the ball hard. That’s what I tried to do at Safeco. If the ball happened to fall in, it did. If it didn’t, tough luck. All I can do is try to make solid contact, and if the ball carries out of the ballpark, kudos to me.”

On his set-up and mechanical adjustments: “I have a taller stance and my hands are high. Basically, I’m trying not to stretch too far. Sometimes I get into the habit of leaning. I want to keep that rhythm of standing tall and staying back. I’ve always been a stand-up hitter with my hands high, and it’s worked so far in my career.

“If my hitting coach sees something, he’s going to say, ‘Hey, you’re doing this.’ You obviously listen to what he says, because any advice is not bad advice. You take what you can and try to apply it. Also, if I have a bad game, I’ll go back and look at the tape to see what I’m doing with my hands and my feet. I’ll make an adjustment from there.”

On video and preparation: “On game-day I’ll look at what the pitcher has done in his last few starts, particularly against left-handed hitters. You watch for tendencies. I’ll see if he likes to come in with a cutter, or if he’s a change-up guy I’ll make sure I’m staying back. You always want to have a plan before you step into the box.

“I watch a lot of video. I want to take advantage of technology as much as I can. It’s there for us, so why not utilize it? Anything that can help me be a more productive hitter.”




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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA


10 Responses to “Q&A: Mike Carp, 1.364 OPS [Small Sample Size]”

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  1. Eric R says:

    “just 24 plate appearances”

    Isn’t that even beyond small sample sizes. Aren’t there typically dozens of such starts that end up meaning nothing every year [plus the occurrences where is doesn't happen to start the season, I'm sure Omar Infante will keep up the .672 wOBA he put up in the last week]

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    • Dave (UK) says:

      Very true, however the article makes no attempt to analyse those 24 plate appearances or draw any conclusions based on them.

      The article is an interview with a baseball player about his work. Just take it for what it is.

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  2. Mr Punch says:

    On the other hand, Carp’s apparent ability to be a productive player in limited service may point to a real value. Some guys lose a lot of effectiveness when they come off the bench; a player who doesn’t is what teams need as a 4th/5th outfielder, pinch hitter, etc.

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  3. Doug Merrill says:

    Just want to congratulate you on this site, first time on it, was referred by a fellow Red Sox fan. Keep up the good work, you provide a valuable service. Thank you.

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  4. Bill says:

    Letting Carp go was another in a long line of stupid moves by the Mariners.

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  5. BalkingHeads says:

    “any advice is not bad advice.”

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  6. Eric M. Van says:

    Well, he’s had three more PA: K, HR, pinch HR. He’s now hitting .480 / .519 / 1.080.

    People routinely fail to grasp that the significance of any performance is not simply a function of the sample size, but that of the sample size and the divergence of the performance from the norm or expectation. (Bill James pointed this out long ago, citing Roger Clemens’ 15-K, 0 BB game early in his career as something that an ordinary pitcher was very unlikely to ever accomplish).

    So it’s not actually true that anything at all can happen randomly in a 27 PA big league sample. If that sample has the hitter making contact 18 times and recording 3 line drive singles, 5 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 homers, you could calculate 95% and 99% confidence intervals on the hitting skill that could produce that, and the lower limits would, I think, be interesting.

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    • joser says:

      And it’s worth noting that there’s a genuine penalty for pinch-hitting, so a player who has a small sample precisely because he’s not a regular but is succeeding at the plate in spite of that may be showing you something more significant than the same number of PA from a starter at the beginning of the season.

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