Here’s a look at the players who held down second base for the Cardinals in 2010:
Skip Schumaker –
Skip Schumaker is one of the many disappointing mysteries from the 2010 Cardinals team. This was supposed to be a big year for Skip. He had the second base experiment behind him, making a smooth transition from outfielder to everyday second baseman in 2009 without missing a beat. He had his personal offseason hitting coach, Mark McGwire, with him all season long. He was coming off a season in which he set career highs in walks (52), on base percentage (.364), and doubles (34); good numbers for any leadoff hitter. So what happened? The Cardinals and Schumaker are still trying to figure that out as they look ahead to 2011.
In 2010, Schumaker, who had hit above .300 for 3 straight seasons, saw his average drop to .265. His on base percentage naturally followed, dropping to .328. His doubles were nearly cut in half (down from 34 in 2009 to 18 in 2010), and even his fielding took a hit (9 errors at second base in 2009, 16 in 2010).
These are the areas that need to be addressed. The team isn’t asking him to hit 15 HRs and drive in 80 runs. It’s asking him to set the table for Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Perhaps Schumaker was just pressing a little too much. With the big contract handed to Matt Holliday last year, it probably went unnoticed by most fans that Schumaker got a nice pay raise too, up to $2 million in 2010 after earning a total of $1.53 million over his past 4 seasons combined. Whatever the problem was, it needs to be fixed. Given the Cardinals’ recent history of finding inexpensive options at second base, it looks like the starting job will belong to Schumaker once again in next season. Let’s hope Skip returns to his old form in 2011.
Tyler Greene –
Tyler Greene’s second “tryout” with the big club was nearly identical to his first back in 2009. In 2010, he appeared in 4 less games (48 in ’09, 44 in ‘10), had 4 less at bats (108-104), had one less extra-base hit (8-7), had 3 more RBIs (7-10), and had nearly the exact same average (.222 in ’09, .221 in ’10). Consistent, but definitely less than the team and Greene were hoping for.
2011 might be the last chance this former 1st round pick gets to prove himself in the big leagues, at least as a part of the Cardinals’ organization. The team can’t waste too many more seasons waiting to see if Greene’s minor league production will translate to major league success. Greene has had a fair amount of success in the minors over the past 6 years, hitting .264 over his career and reliable for about 10-15 HRs with 45-50 RBIs. St. Louis would take those numbers from a middle infielder in a heartbeat. The problem of course is that Greene still hasn’t become successful at the plate in the big leagues. It would be interesting to see what he could accomplish if given the chance to start on an everyday basis, much like the opportunity Brendan Ryan got a couple years ago. But Ryan earned that chance by playing solid defense and becoming consistent at the plate. Greene has struggled at the plate, and he committed 8 errors in his role as a utility player.
If Tyler Greene can find some consistent playing time in 2011 and gain some confidence, it’s not a stretch to believe he could become a 20 HR, 60 RBI type of player. But his window of opportunity could close fast if he doesn’t prove he can hit at the major league level.
Aaron Miles –
Aaron Miles continued to defy the odds and put together another quality season. Miles actually was unsigned for quite some time early in the year, only to be given a minor league contract when the Cardinals ran into some injury problems.
After a few successful weeks in the minors, he was called back up to the big leagues. Though his run production wasn’t great (14 runs, 9 RBIs) he hit .281 (.282 is his career average) and had an on base percentage of .311 (.321 is his career OBP). Mile also turned in a solid year defensively, committing only 2 errors in 50 games at second base, and a total of 4 errors in 63 games overall. So the Cardinals got exactly what they expected out of the ever-consistent role player.
Miles is not an everyday player at second base and really has never been a fulltime starter in the majors, but he remains a good option for Tony La Russa, who likes to have reliable veterans that he can plug into the lineup when he so chooses.
Felipe Lopez –
Felipe Lopez, now a member of the Red Sox organization, was perhaps the most disappointing player on the Cardinals 2010 squad. He started off the season pretty well, but his production plummeted after his injury in late April, and ultimately lead to his release from the team.
Lopez hit just .231 for the Cardinals, well below his .266 career average. The Cardinals were hoping to get the version of Lopez they got during his first stint with the team in 2008, where he hit .385 with a .426 OBP in 43 games down the stretch.
Despite the disappointing season, Lopez did produce a couple of memorable highlights during the 2010 season. In mid-April, he pitched a scoreless frame in the 18th inning of the Cardinals marathon 20-inning loss to the Mets. Not often are position players asked to pitch in a tie ballgame, but Lopez was and allowed just 2 base runners in the inning. In mid-August, Lopez launched a tie-breaking 2-out homerun in the top of the 11th inning at Wrigley Field, salvaging a win for the Cardinals as they battled to stay in the playoff picture.
Allen Craig –
Allen Craig is a third basemen turned outfielder, but as Cardinals fans know, any player can wind up just about anywhere on the field in any given situation, and for one game, Allen Craig played second base.
Much like Tyler Greene, the Cardinals are hoping Craig’s minor league success carries over to the big leagues. Craig has been a force in the Cardinals’ minor league system, with 4 seasons of 20+ HRs and 80+ RBIs. His career average in the minors is .308…and his lowest average for any given season was back in 2007 when he hit .292.
During his first chance in the majors, Craig often looked like he was pressing. He had many key at bats in late inning situations and it just looked like he was trying too hard. He only had 114 at bats, hitting just .246 with 4 HRs and 18 RBIs. The Cardinals and their fans can only hope that over the next season or two, Craig will get more comfortable at the plate and become a .300, 20 HR, 80 RBI type of player to help replace the void left in the Ryan Ludwick trade. But it will be interesting to see how many opportunities Craig will get in 2011. Colby Rasmus and Matt Holliday are everyday outfielders, and Jon Jay will likely be given every opportunity to play the majority of the games in right field after his incredible rookie campaign.