2011 Key Player: Skip Schumaker

Skip Schumaker is a true Cardinal. St. Louis made Schumaker its 5th round selection in the 2001 draft, and 4 years later he made his big league debut. Schumaker played shortstop at U.C. Santa Barbara before being converted to an outfield as a pro. He spent the next eight years shagging fly balls before he returned to his infield “roots” in 2009…becoming the Cardinals’ everyday second baseman. The reason for the move was twofold: 1) the Cardinals had a surplus of outfielders, and 2) the Cardinals needed more offensive production from second base.

After a successful 2009 season, and really two others before that, Schumaker significantly struggled at the plate in 2010. 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. But in 2010, the career .291 hitter, who had hit above .300 for three straight season, saw his average drop to a career low of .265. Skip’s on base percentage naturally followed, dropping from .364 to .328. As a result, he scored 19 less runs in 2010 than he did in 2009, and those 19 runs could’ve arguably helped the Cardinals win the additional 5 games they needed to catch the Cincinnati Reds last year. His doubles were nearly cut in half (down from 34 in 2009 to 18 in 2010), and even his fielding took a hit — nearly doubling from 9 errors at 2nd base in 2009 to 16 last year.

The Cardinals are faced with a lot of question marks going into the 2011 season, and Schumaker is one of them. Will he return to his reliable self… a .300 average with a good OBP to set the table for the likes of Pujols, Holliday, and Berkman? Or will he continue to struggle at the plate as he did last year? For now, Skip is penciled in as the leadoff hitter. For the Cardinals’ team…and specifically its offense…to have a successful year and take a run at the division crown, Schumaker is going to have to set the table for the big bats behind him. Having Albert Pujols hit with no one on base doesn’t do any good.

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