Posted on 31 May 2012.
I like the band Green Day. Deal with it.
They have a song called “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” that I can picture another green, well actually Tyler Greene to be more specific, humming over the last few years.
I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone
I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
When the city sleeps
And I’m the only one and I walk alone
I walk alone
I walk alone
I walk alone
I walk a…
My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone up there will find me
’til then I walk alone
Someone “up there”, aka in the big leagues, did find him and give him a chance going into the 2012 season. Many of you know Greene’s story, the 29-year old former first-round draft pick that could never quite live up to his potential. 2012 was D-Day so to speak, finally the time Greene was expected to put up or shut up. He is out of minor league options. It is now or never for him, or as I like to call it…
St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak made a commitment to Tyler Greene coming out of spring training, indicating the club was committing to him as their starting second baseman. That was a strong commitment with the incumbent starter, Skip Schumaker, re-signed and solid 2011 producer Daniel Descalso also available to man the position. It showed just how highly management valued Greene’s skill set and potential. The prevailing thought was Greene could thrive under the more nurturing managerial presence of Mike Matheny than he did under the iron fist of Tony LaRussa.
Slight problem…Greene performed very poorly in spring training and to start 2012. Matheny showed from the outset he would not be Mozeliak’s puppet, and play whoever performed best, regardless of Greene being out of options. Greene started just 10 of the team’s first 27 games.
April was a very rough stretch for Greene. He earned only 35 ABs, 7 Hits, 13 K’s, 1 SB, 1 HR, and 4 RBI’s. April slugging % was a putrid .314. The Greene experiment was not working out quite as well as Mozeliak had hoped.
Then the injuries started mounting and Greene earned starts due to the fact that he was on the 40 man roster and physically able to play 9 innings. Greene has started 17 of the last 23 games through May 29th.
May numbers look a little better than April. 3 HR, 8 RBI, 5 SB, .239/.299/.507, and 6 doubles in 71 ABs. In addition, Greene has made some great defensive plays, even in key spots of close ballgames. It offers hope for a team depleted with injuries. Is Greene trending in the right direction to become an impact player, or is it just a stretch of decent following a stretch of bad?
The lineup card starts to get pretty crowded when Allen Craig, Jon Jay, Matt Carpenter, and Lance Berkman return. Schumaker is an outfielder by nature, and Descalso has been hitting very poorly, but can be a better defensive option. Kolten Wong may be just a season away from big-league ready, so the window of opportunity for Greene is now.
A deeper look at Greene’s numbers provides some valuable insight.
For the season, Greene has put the ball in play 71% of the time. Over the last 31 days that jumps up to 75%, but you still want your speed guys to put it in play 85-90% of the time. He will continue to be a batting average liability due to low walk rate (8%) and high number of strikeouts (25%), but he has shown nice power when makes contact and good speed when he gets on base.
For the 2012 season, his line drive % on balls-in-play is 28%, which is very solid. He is hitting 32% fly balls and 17% of those have left the yard. Even if that normalized to near league average of 10%, he would be on pace for 16 home runs in 500 ABs. More important than Greene hitting home runs (in my opinion) is that he continues to hit line drives and get on base for the other guys in the lineup.
Baseballhq.com tracks hard hit ball %. So far this season, Greene has a 33% rate of hard-hit balls. His prior three seasons he posted rates of 16, 26, and 18% during his big league ABs.
From a defensive standpoint, FanGraphs has Greene as a -3.1 UZR (falls between “Average” 0 and “Below Average” -5), and a -3 Defensive Runs Saved this season through 218 innings at 2B this season. By comparison, Descalso has a -1.6 UZR and 1 Defensive Run Saved in 139 innings at 2B. In other words, Greene can still improve his defense and he needs to hit that much better than Descalso to stay in the lineup.
Greene is a very polarizing figure among Cardinal nation. It seems most fans either desperately want to see him succeed or are calling for his head after every mis-step.
He certainly is a key piece in the Cardinal engine for the 2012 season, particularly as the team looks to navigate through all of their injury issues. This is finally the year he either has to live up to expectations or pack his bags while the Wong Express makes its way towards St. Louis.