Chris Carter's raw power numbers have come as little surprise for the Brewers this season, but it's where he's hitting his home runs that has been noteworthy.Entering Milwaukee's matchup against San Francisco on Tuesday, Carter ranks third in the National League with 17 homers -- putting him on pace for
Chris Carter's raw power numbers have come as little surprise for the Brewers this season, but it's where he's hitting his home runs that has been noteworthy.
Entering Milwaukee's matchup against San Francisco on Tuesday, Carter ranks third in the National League with 17 homers -- putting him on pace for 44 this season -- and had struck out in 32 percent of his plate appearances. But unlike most high-homer, high-strikeout batters, he has displayed an impressive ability to drive the ball with power up the middle and to the opposite field more than he pulls it.
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Of the right-handed-hitting Carter's 17 homers, only five have gone to left field, according to Statcast™. The rest have landed past the fence in either center or right-center field.
This is a new trend for the Brewers' first baseman, who was more of a pull hitter to the outfield in his three seasons with the Astros before signing with Milwaukee this past offseason.
"I've always been able to hit it anywhere, it's just been more pull-dominant before," Carter said. "Most of my homers were coming to left."
Possibly lured by the short porch in left field at Houston's Minute Maid Park, 15 of Carter's 24 home runs last season came to the pull side of the field. The year before, 28 of his 37 homers went out to left field.
At 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, Carter has the power in his simple yet explosive stroke to deposit the ball over the fence to any part of the field, and he regularly showcases that during batting practice. The increased opposite-field power numbers are the result of both his approach at the plate and how opposing pitchers attack him.
"I've worked more consciously to hit fastballs away," Carter said. "I think teams have been attacking me away, so that's more so trying to go with how other teams are pitching me and gameplanning from there."
Carter's assessment is accurate. According to Brooks Baseball, only 32 percent of pitches he has faced this season have been on the inner half of the plate or balls inside. Pitchers are much more likely to attack Carter low and away, with the most common being just low and outside of the plate.
Tied for fourth in the Majors with 82 strikeouts entering Tuesday's game, Carter is still pretty much the same swing-and-miss candidate he has been throughout his career (strikeouts in 33.2 percent of his career plate appearances). His plate discipline, however, has improved while with Milwaukee -- baseball's most picky team at the dish.
Carter has chased 23.4 percent of pitches out of the zone, according to Fangraphs, which is the lowest percentage in his career. And while connecting with 78.1 percent of swings at pitches in the strike zone, he is having a career-best year in terms of contact.
"I think we're just trying to get better pitches and not swing at pitches that are tough to hit, and chase," Carter said. "We want to make pitchers come to us instead of going up there swinging.
"Those are good pitchers' pitches. You're not supposed to hit them. So even if you do, it's probably going to be a weak hit anyway. We're better off taking them and getting balls called, and seeing the next pitch."
The label of a "three-true-outcome hitter" -- a batter who is likely to either walk, strikeout or hit a homer in any at-bat -- is often given to Carter, but he's continuing to work on evolving.
"I've heard that, but that's not what I try to talk about myself as," Carter said. "I'm trying to become a more complete hitter, and [I'm] trying to change that this year and do better with it."
Maybe part of that development can be seen in Carter's six infield hits -- good for third on the team, according to Fangraphs. Then again, maybe not.
"I don't really know if some of those were actually infield hits," Carter said. "That's a little generous."
Curt Hogg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee.