Teacherman-Taught, Kerry Carpenter Is Schooling Pitchers in Motown

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Kerry Carpenter has quietly emerged as a productive big league hitter. Largely flying under the radar on a middling-at-best Detroit Tigers club, the 25-year-old outfielder is slashing .286/.347/.521 with 16 home runs and a 139 wRC+ in 285 plate appearances. Since debuting in the majors last August, he has 22 round-trippers and a 135 wRC+ over 398 plate appearances.

His success has been equal parts unexpected and untraditional in execution. Selected in the 19th round of the 2019 draft out of Virginia Tech, the left-handed-hitting Carpenter was an unranked prospect going into last season, only to bash his way to Detroit with 30 dingers in just 400 trips to the plate between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. He believes the lion’s share of the credit for his out-of-the-blue offensive explosion should go to a hitting instructor who employs unconventional methods.

Carpenter discussed his path to big league success when the Tigers visited Fenway Park last weekend.


David Laurila: How did you go from a low-round pick to a guy putting up solid numbers against big league pitching?

Kerry Carpenter: “The short story is that I didn’t play very well at Virginia Tech. I got drafted in the 19th round and that’s about where I should have been drafted. It’s not as though I slid; I just didn’t have great numbers there in my junior year. I was in a bad mental spot, to be honest. I had a big slump that I couldn’t get out of for so long. I always thought I was better than a 19th-round pick, but again, I just didn’t play very well.

“What happened is that I went to Double-A, and one of my buddies that I played with there [in 2021] basically said, ‘Hey, I have this hitting guy I work with, and this is how you can hit better and reach your full potential.’ He ended up pestering me enough that I went to hit with the guy. Aaron Judge actually hits with him.”

Laurila: Who is your buddy, and who is the hitting coach?

Carpenter: “My buddy is Jacob Robson. The hitting coach is Richard Schenck. He works out of St. Louis and goes by Teacherman.”

Laurila: I’ve seen Teacherman criticized on social media. I understand that he’s somewhat unconventional in his methods.

Carpenter: “Yeah. He’s different. That’s why some people don’t like him much. He teaches different things. But I went to him and the things he was teaching me started to click. I did really well last year in the minors, and it’s kind of been that way ever since.”

Laurila: What did he teach you?

Carpenter: “It’s this term he calls launch quickness. Basically, how quick from the second your brain tells you to swing, you actually swing. What it does is make you quick, so you can make a lot better decisions.”

Laurila: How can you train that?

Carpenter: “Basically, feeling a full stretch. Really practicing being quick, and not strong. It’s not a quick load; it more that it makes your hands quick when you stretch that much. You kind of release the stretch like a rubber band effect.”

Laurila: Did your bat speed improve?

Carpenter: “I’m not sure about bat speed. It’s really just the quickness from how late I can let the ball travel before I make a swing decision. That’s basically what changed. I can swing at a lot better pitches and make a lot more hard contact.”

Laurila: Charlie Blackmon told me earlier this summer that the time from when your bat starts moving forward to the time it makes contact isn’t the same as bat speed. They are two different things.

Carpenter: “Exactly. He’s right.”

Laurila: You mentioned letting the ball travel. Are you still trying to catch the ball out front as much as you can?

Carpenter: “It depends on each pitch, but I like to let the ball get deep, so while I do it at times, I don’t try to go get it out front. That’s kind of always been my approach, letting the ball travel, especially fastballs; I’m primarily trying to hit fastballs the other way. So the approach hasn’t really changed, it’s more that I can get to pitches quicker and drive them.”

Laurila: And you credit the work you did with Richard Schenck for that?

Carpenter: “Yeah. Honestly, I don’t think… actually, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t learned the things he teaches. I still talk to him a good amount. I text him video of my swing, and stuff like that. He’s been a huge part of my success.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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6 months ago

I love his videos. I think he’s done a good job of verbalizing and breaking down what many elite hitters are already doing. Weight transfer, hand movement, and bat path… His videos are very accessible, too.