The recent trade that sent reliever/spot starter Blake Hawksworth to the Los Angeles Dodgers for middle infielder Ryan Theriot has unleashed a lot of passionate blogging, both for and against. Rather than jump into the middle of that scrum, I’d like to look at a few of the comments in these blogs directed at other players, and perhaps set the record straight. For a specific example, let’s use Dayn Perry’s The Theriot Problem. I’m not picking on Dayn, he can defend his overall position – but there are a couple of unnecessary passing comments that just chap my hide.
“Skip Schumaker last season was dreadful at the plate and equally as dreadful in the field.”
Interestingly, this statement in its entirety is true, but the two parts when taken separately just aren’t.
Let’s take a look at Mr. Schumaker’s offensive production, broken down month by month
|Sept + Oct||104||24||4||0||1||6||.255||.317||.330|
Did Skip Schumaker really have a dreadful year at the plate ? No. He did have a dreadful month (April) and a not-so-good month (July). He also rocked August and June as well as he ever did, but that was largely hidden by the offensive funk of the previous two months dragging down his seasonal averages. I’m writing off the post-callup part of the season (Sept/Oct) due to the general malaise that was spreading through the clubhouse at the time.
Looking a little deeper we notice that Schumaker struck out once every 8.26 plate appearances. To put this number in perspective, consider that Albert Pujols struck out once every 9.2 plate appearances and Yadier Molina (one of the best in the National League) at just over 10. Then there’s Colby Rasmus at a whopping strikeout every 3.1 plate appearances. Yes folks, that’s one per game. While it may not necessarily help me in making my point, Brendan Ryan’s strikeout rate was about the same as Schumaker.
Criticizing Schumaker’s defense at second base is fair, but when you do so please consider that he is still a work in progress at the position. No, that is not an excuse, but among the converted outfielders, Schumaker is one of the best. OK, I didn’t actually look that up because I couldn’t think of another outfielder turned middle infielder, but I’m not going to let that stop me from making my point!!! The last time we saw something like this sort of transformation, it was Mike Shannon moving from right field to the hot corner, making room for Roger Maris. Nobody is going to put Shannon down in the record books as a great third baseman, but he played the position effectively and helped a good Cardinals team become very good, taking two trips to the Fall Classic.
Are there better second baseman ? Absolutely ? In the Cardinals system ? Perhaps. We lost a wonderful chance to see whether or not Daniel Descalso can play second base in the major leagues when he was called up in September. Thanks to some head-scratching late season moves, Descalso saw time at third base so we are left to wonder if he might be the future Tommy Herr or Julian Javier. On the plus side, this gives us plenty to argue about over the long winter break.
On a team that aspires to win its division, he’s a fifth outfielder, not a starting second baseman.
Psst. I hate to bring this up, but Schumaker was the starting second baseman for the 2009 team that did win their division. They should probably have beaten the Dodgers and faced the Phillies in the NLCS, but they didn’t. I realize that this might make me sound like a Tony La Russa mouthpiece, but just because he said it doesn’t make it untrue.
We can’t lay the blame for the 2010 season at the feet of Skip Schumaker. All he is guilty of is having a couple of bad months and not hitting over .300 like he had the previous two years. If Schumaker’s performance is the criteria for determining fault, let’s heap a big dose on Brendan Ryan, Brad Penny, the injured Kyle Lohse, the fragile one David Freese, Colby Rasmus, Randy Wynn, Felipe Lopez and Pedro Feliz. Heck, Schumaker doesn’t even make my top 10 “it’s my fault” list.
More troubling is the other part of Dayn’s comment – fifth outfielder ???? Really ?
I guess he hasn’t noticed that Schumaker was the best defensive outfielder on the active roster once Ryan “Gold Glove” Ludwick was traded to San Diego. No, I’m not going to quote some spreadsheet metric to back that up, that’s just an opinion from watching Schumaker play the outfield – and that darn cannon of a right arm that he possesses. At worst, Schumaker is a fourth outfielder, and a pretty darned good one at that. I have to go back to he mid-80’s before I find a fourth outfielder that is as good as Schumaker (that would be the rather uncomfortable platoon of Tito Landrum and Andy van Slyke).
Would I rather have Schumaker in the outfield than at second base ? Absolutely. Are the Cardinals better with him on the active roster ? Again, absolutely. I will agree with Mr. Perry about rather having Ryan Theriot play second base than shortstop, and that’s what might actually happen if some a trade cannot be worked out for Brendan Ryan. I’m also not willing to give up on Daniel Descalso quite yet. But I cannot accept the notion that Schumaker is a fifth outfielder. I just cannot dismiss his abilities quite that easily.
While we’re on the topic of setting the record straight, let’s look at Yadier Molina, month by month.
|Sept + Oct||73||18||4||0||1||14||.277||.342||.385|
Molina’s season is much easier to defend. He did get off to a bit of a slow start, but was still productive behind David Freese and Colby Rasmus in the lineup. Molina had an absolutely brutal month of June. Looking back at the schedule, perhaps he should have been given just a bit more time off, but the wheels were quickly coming off the wagon at that point in the season, and Molina’s presence behind the plate was far more important to the team than any offensive production that may or may not have been occurring. Molina’s turnaround, starting around the All Star break is astonishing, and when you throw in a gold glove performance behind the plate and a certain moment in Cincinnati,
there’s no reason to take away any of the luster of his brightly shining star. In fact, quite the opposite – his star should be shining just a bit brighter now than it did at the start of the 2010 season.