Detroit Tigers: Kerry Carpenter’s swing needs to be refined for true success

Sep 9, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Kerry Carpenter (48) bats against the Kansas City Royals during the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Kerry Carpenter (48) bats against the Kansas City Royals during the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers Kerry Carpenter needs to refine things to find success.

The Detroit Tigers gave outfielder Kerry Carpenter a chance in 2022. The left-handed outfielder swung the bat well for the team after a great start to the season with the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.

Carpenter played 31 games for the Detroit Tigers, where he accumulated 113 plate appearances. He slashed .252/.310/.485 with four doubles, a triple, and six home runs to his credit. He was able to find some barrels and show off his ability to drive the ball deep.

The lefty walked just six times in 2022, punching out in 32 of his at-bats on the year. While some feel Carpenter is walking into a possible big-league performance again in 2023, I’d encourage a quick pump of the brakes.

Carpenter will likely get some chances, but it feels like there will be better options for the Tigers to pursue down the line. A couple of solid swings are good, but there’s more to it, and Carpenter seems easily and affordably replaceable.

Detroit Tigers Kerry Carpenter may face struggles if he does not make changes.

For Carpenter, there are some reasons to be concerned about his long-term performance. First up, the BB: K ratio is not great. Six walks, but 32 punchouts are not ideal. The beginning of his tenure with the Tigers was filled with many swings and misses, getting beaten by the opposing pitchers.

However, the six home runs and big swings helped some of the fanbase overlook some of the plate discipline issues. But it’s deeper than that. Carpenter’s swing can produce home runs, yes. He’s able to get on plane with pitches, but the bat path only works on a limited path.

Carpenter’s barrel seems to lag a bit in the swing, which can lead to disconnects. When he’s balanced and can get extended, the results are great. But when I slow down his swing and look at it, it feels like the barrel is often trailing behind in the swing.

Something about the swing rubs me the wrong way. The lower half opens up coming out of a leg lift load, but the upper half lags. It’s like there’s a disconnect between both halves of the swing.

It appears that, at times, he struggles to get a ton of barrel speed through the zone. He’s able to hammer pitches on one plane rather than being able to adjust to pitches and adjust the swing. If it’s there where he wants it, bingo; if not, chalk it up as a strike swinging.

Looking at Carpenter’s Baseball Savant page and the zone-by-zone breakdown, it’s easier to see where the strikes are, where the whiffs are, and where they are not. Looking further through the zone breakdowns, it’s easier to see where Carpenter “wants” to hit and where he does his damage.

It correlates with the swing path. He wants to get extended over the plate, and hammer pitches in the middle third, and does the best damage with barrels in the outer & upper third of the zone. It speaks to him trying to get that barrel out there and drive it.

Here’s an example of Carpenter being able to get the job done.

If you notice, the catcher sets up on the outer third with a glove target near the middle/upper third. Carpenter keeps the hands back, with the bat angled, then steps and separates. The lower half steps towards the pull side.

As the foot gets down, he rotates the hips and throws the hands through the zone. He gets the barrel out over the plate extended and drives it. Slow the video down, and it’s easier to see how the swing works as he drives this one.

To me, there’s talent there. There’s strength and juice. But it’s a very one-dimensional swing. If I’m a big league pitcher up against Carpenter, hammer him up and in and then go soft away. He’s someone I would pitch as a “book” guy.

There’s reason to believe his performance can be salvaged. He turns it over and drives it when he gets extended. The swing needs to be refined so that he can hunt fastballs and control the barrel enough to hit in more areas of the zone.

Like your local travel ball dad always says, let the ball travel. For Carpenter, he needs to be able to let the ball travel, controlling the barrel to still get through it and drive it. Right now, if it’s not in his spot, he’s going to swing through it.

Making some swing adjustments will help his performance and also cut down on those punchouts that plague his swing decisions. It’s a work in progress. But if the Tigers truthfully want Carpenter around, changes need to be made.

Hopefully, a new hitting coach and new philosophy will be a good remedy for Carpenter.

Could the Detroit Tigers choose to move on instead?

The catch here is that the Detroit Tigers have several left-handed outfield capable bats on the 40-man roster. Carpenter, Riley Greene, and Akil Baddoo. Harold Castro is in the mix, and Willi Castro & Victor Reyes as switch-hitters.

Carpenter’s defense is not great. The tools in the batters’ box can be refined and changed, but the defense needs work too. The Tigers may not be willing to see it through with Carpenter, opting for other players in his place.

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There’s also talk that the Tigers may be willing to explore trading for Jess Winker to add him into the mix as well, another left-handed outfield bat. Decisions need to be made, but Carpenter needs to make changes if he wants to stick with the Tigers organization.