Strikeouts were always going to be part of the deal with Chris Carter. We knew that he was going to whiff a lot, but hoped that the rest of his game - most notably his power - would make up for the k's. So far, that has not really been the case. Sure, he has hit 6 home runs, but his overall line of .227/.303/.454 is just not getting the job done. In Oakland, last year, Carter's line of .239/.350/.514 was good for a wRC+ of 137, whereas his current line is only at 106. Combined with his atrocious defense, Carter just has not provided much value for the Astros in the opening month.
And the difference is primarily the strikeouts. Last year, Carter ended with a very high 31.9% strikeout rate. This year, it has jumped to 42.2%. He is also not walking nearly as much, with his walk rate dropping from 15% to 10%. He has essentially traded extra walks for more strikeouts, which is not a trade you want to make. Last year proved Carter can be a productive hitter while striking out in 30% of his at bats. This year is proving that there is a cap to how many strikeouts he can endure before it eats away at his effectiveness, particularly when they come at the expense of walks..
To illustrate this, I altered his numbers, giving him 6 extra walks, and 6 fewer strikeouts. That puts his walk rate at 15%, roughly the rate he walked last year. This also drove his strikeout rate to 36%, still higher than last year, but at least in the ballpark. The associated decrease in at bats and extra times on base increased his overall numbers to .241/.357/.484, for an OPS of .841. Not quite on par with last year, but closer to what we thought we were getting.
The good news is that after the opening series, in which he went 0-11 with 7 k's and 0 walks, Carter has essentially been that guy, going .256/.337/.512. The bad news is that over the span, his strikeout was still near 40% and his walk rate was just 11%. I'm fine with strikeouts. As I've pointed out ad nauseum, the Astros have been just fine offensively, despite the team strikeouts. But Carter could be so much more, if he stopped striking out at a historically alarming rate, and merely at a generally alarming rate. Let's hope he can get that figured out.