In defense of Skip Schumaker (and Yadier Molina)


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

Month PA H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG
April 96 18 4 0 1 3 .212 .302 .294
May 96 26 5 1 0 9 .271 .327 .344
June 82 23 2 0 1 7 .311 .350 .378
July 69 15 2 0 1 7 .246 .333 .328
August 71 20 1 0 1 10 .303 .352 .364
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.

Month PA H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG
April 88 20 3 0 2 15 .260 .341 .377
May 96 22 5 0 0 13 .256 .333 .314
June 79 13 2 0 1 7 .183 .256 .239
July 92 21 3 0 1 8 .259 .341 .333
August 93 28 3 0 1 10 .329 .355 .400
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,

Yadi the Enforcer

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.

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2 Responses to In defense of Skip Schumaker (and Yadier Molina)

  1. Kathy Carlgren says:

    Dayn is usually an idiot and biased. He is the “enquirerer” of the baseball world in You made many valid points and I will make another. The Cardinal organization generally does not invest heavy money in 2nd base. In my lifetime we have usually put our least amount of money there, but have been blessed by many great 2nd basemen anyway. Schu is a great player and a glue guy, that is why he remains on the team. No he is not a gold glover at 2nd, but his effort is amazing and I expect that he will get better as he plays there and hopefully injury free. We did not see much improvement there this season, but he did fight some injuries that would have effected most infielders. Not crazy about the Theriot deal if he is to be our starting shortstop, but am holding out to see what comes of a possible Ryan deal to fortify that middle infield issue. The truth is when Spring Training rolls around, we fans of Cardinal Nation know that we have a better than average chance at seeing post season baseball. Our guys usually find a way to get there, at the very least we push it until the end of the regular season. Not every club has that luxery.

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  2. Dennis says:

    As usual, I agree with pretty much all of your points, Bob. I really like the idea of Skip as the 4th outfielder, and I do think it’s unfortunate for him that he’s been asked to play out-of-position to his detriment.

    Maybe I’m wrong about this one, but I still think of Albert Pujols as the most successful example of an outfielder converting to being an infielder. He was actually listed originally as a utility player, but he played more games in the outfield (78) his 1st year than anywhere else, and he played 118 and 113 games there the following 2 years respectively.

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