Mike Carp has now played 162 games. That is a full season. So we now have a full season worth of data on the 26 year old 1st Baseman/Corner outfielder. This age is desired as well, as he is basically at his peak and we cannot really say “he is young, he should improve”. So what do the numbers say about Carp? What kind of player do the Mariners have?
Perhaps the best way to measure Carp is to compare him to first baseman in 2011 (so we get a full season worth of data). As far as Fangraphs WAR goes, he is in between Freddie Freeman’s and Eric Hosmer’s 2011. They both hit more than he has, but they had terrible UZR ratings. If you don’t like defensive metrics (or just dislike UZR in particular), his 108 wRC+ is just below James Loney’s 2011 number. This was 6th worst out of qualified 1st baseman. So certainly Carp is a below average first baseman according to these metrics.
However, one should remember that he was the opening day left fielder. So how does Carp stack up against other corner outfielders (I specifically narrowed the search to left fielders)? Offensively, Carp was between Logan Morrison and Brett Gardner’s 2011 in wRC+ (for those unfamiliar with runs created, it is a formula that estimates runs based on OBP and SLG. wRC+ is an average like OPS + that compares the runs created number to league average and adjusts for ballpark). Carp’s number is better than 11 2011 corner outfielders. Carp’s fWAR (1.3) is the same as Alfonso Soriano’s 2011, and better than 9 qualified players. The thing you have to remember about Carp is that he is a terrible defensive outfielder. He has always had bad defensive ratings there and we all remember the goofy play on opening day. Which also brings up the injury risk. Eric Wedge was clear that the Mariners were going to use Carp at 1st base after he returned from his injury because they were afraid he would get hurt again. I actually like his defense at 1st. He seems to have the range and ability to play it pretty well.
So it seems Carp’s bat plays better in left field, but his defense is better at 1st. Plus, I wouldn’t bench Casper Wells for him, but I would bench Eric Thames for him (we could either assume that left field isn’t too much different than right field, although the arm is probably more important and Carp has a weak arm, or could just move Casper Wells to right).
So it appears that Carp is just a stopgap player. He is good enough that he isn’t a weak link or embarrassing, but you will always want to improve over him if he is a starter. He isn’t arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season and isn’t a free agent until after the 2016 season. So Carp could be a bench piece for the next competitive Mariners club.