Cardinals re-sign Schumaker, but why?

This columnist has a piece of advice for anyone out there who has an athletic child. If your child has the choice of playing football or baseball, push him toward baseball. Always baseball. You say he could skate before he could walk and already has a 105-mph slapshot at age four. You need to put a stop to that right now and give the kid a bat.

Why? Because of Skip Schumaker.

Skip Schumaker has been one of the worst players in all of baseball the last two seasons. Over that span he has produced less than half a win in total value. And for those efforts, the St. Louis Cardinals rewarded him with a new two-year contract last week.

I just don't understand what possible reason the Cardinals could have for bringing Skip back. His defense at second base is awful. His defense in center field is hardly better. His defense in either outfield corner is average, which is to say good enough if he could hit. But, hey! Guess what else Skippy can't do. That's right, kids! He can't hit! He has no power, he isn't fast, he's never met a back-foot breaking ball he didn't want to swing at.

I suppose the Cardinals will spin him as a utility player, thanks to his versatility and ability to play multiple positions and all that. But Skip Schumaker adds nothing to the Cardinals. Yet here we are, staring down two more seasons of watching him hit grounder after grounder to the right side and dive into first base because it makes him look like he's really, really trying out there.

With Albert Pujols gone, the Cardinals' front office needs to be both smart and creative if they're going to find a way to keep the 2012 team from going the way of the 2007 team, the last defending champion we've had here in St. Louis. But instead of creative, we get one of the worst players in all of baseball coming back on a two-year deal. The Cards could really use Carlos Beltran's bat in the outfield, and they certainly have a little extra cash to spend. But noooo. We get our fifth outfielder spot locked up good and early so as not to miss out later when the rush begins on replacement-level players.

So, in conclusion, parents: Raise your babies to play baseball. Because someday, somewhere, some foolish GM with a pile of money and no idea what the "R" in WAR (wins above replacement) stands for just might pay your little one to provide, well, nothing.— Aaron Schafer

DAILY RFT READERS' COMMENTS

Nice to see the Pujols Dividend is being spent as wisely as the Peace Dividend. KittyLitterKing

Everyone at my office refers to Skippy as "two-hopper to second." Handsome Jimmy

 
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11 comments
curt
curt

I'm a huge cardinals fan and skip is the worst signing of this decade, hes horrible, what a waste of a roster spot, bring up a double A utility player and you've got someone that could outplay skip hands down, every time La russa stopped skips nose would go up his hindend, terrible player!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You mean he hit 300 ground balls to the right side.

Anfieldkop7
Anfieldkop7

Couldn't agree more. A .300 average doesn't mean much when 80% of your hits are singles.

B. Ruby
B. Ruby

One more thought, with reference to the crack, "....the Cardinals' front office needs to be both smart and creative if they're going to find a way to keep the 2012 team from going the way of the 2007 team." Despite some bad moves by Walt Jocketty in the 2006-07 off-season (like extending Mark Mulder for 2 years at $11.5 million before they knew whether or not Mulder healed from shoulder surgery, re-signing Preston Wilson and his bad knee for $1 million, and signing head case Kip Wells as a $4 million free agent) the 2007 Cardinals might have pulled off a division championship if not for a slew of injuries to the team's core.

Despite losing Chris Carpenter to season-ending injury on opening day, and subsequently losing Scott Rolen to a shoulder injury in mid-season, and 2B Adam Kennedy in mid-August, AND with Jim Edmonds performing like the walking wounded all season, and Albert Pujols virtually playing on one leg late in the season, the Cards were only one game out of first place on Labor Day. Ryan Ludwick was a "creative" solution to the team's outfield injury problems. So was calling up Rick Ankiel in August, as Ankiel exploded on the scene and gave the Cards some life for about a month. Without the decimating injuries, the Cards might have repeated as division title winners. Then, with a 1-2 starting pitching punch of Carpenter and Wainwright in the post-season, and a rejuvinated Jason Isringhausen in the bullpen (Izzy had a great comeback seson on 2007 after his hip injury), who knows? The Cardinals might have had some playoff success. As we have learned from 2006 and 2011, getting a ticket to the dance is the first and most important step.

That aside, despite the defection of albert Pujols to LaLa land, the 2012 Cardinals project to be in a better position than the 2007 club was to repeat. Absent serious injuries (a caveat for any campaign) the club is poined to compete. The starting rotation is solid, particularly because Rafael Furcal will be starting the season with the club, thus improving the defense. With Furcal and Descalso likely the middle infield tandem, and with a much better and deeper bullpen from the start, perhaps ground ball pitchers like Jake Westbrook will do even better; Westbrook was plagued last year by defensive miscues behind him and bullpen explosions.

Moreover, with the lineup is fairly balanced with a likely batting order of Furcal, Jay, Beltran, Holliday, Berkman, Freese, Molina, and a platoon of Descalso and Tyler Greene. when Craig returns from the disabled list and rehab he will bring depth and threat off the bench.

I'm looking forward to how the 2012 team develops and performs.

Cparmscards
Cparmscards

dont worry about it cubs fan,or write about it

B. Ruby
B. Ruby

Does Aaron Schafer really get paid to spout his poorly-reasoned sports biases? (Dec. 22 edition, “Cardinals Re-Sign Schumaker, But Why?”) Does the Riverfront Times need a sports commentator who actually knows something about pro baseball and can look at all sides of an issue without making a fool of himself? Or is the tabloid content to settle for paying someone for his exaggerated opinions which conveniently leave out any essential elements which could harpoon his faulty conclusions?

I have never met Skip Schumaker nor do I work for the Cardinals. I agree with SmokinCards above too, that Mr. Schafer apparently does not understand WAR because Schumaker was above-average for his pay level. I am a former member of SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) but even many SABR members do not regard “WAR” (“Wins Above Replacement” value, for those unfamiliar with SABRmetrics) as a be-all, end-all method of evaluating a player, not the way Schafer apparently does. It is necessary to look at that measurement while applying some further context to player analysis. Schumaker’s acceptance of an $800,000 annual pay cut (about 35%) brings him more into line with what many veteran bench players get nowadays anyway, so Mr. Schafer’s premise for Schu’s WAR as a measurement of his 2012 value is stale; Skip is even more of a bargain at his reduced 2012 and 2013 salary.

Perhaps Mr. Schafer’s overreaction comes from his conjecture that the Cardinals would not sign someone like Carlos Beltran. But that is often the short-sighted problem of a critic who wants to prematurely ejaculate his opinions and grade a team’s roster long before the club’s personnel moves are completed and months before the “off-season” is over. Unless I am mistaken, no one wins a trophy for being the first to put together an off-season paper tiger. The trophy comes with winning the World Series, which was also presumably a factor in Mozeliak’s recent “MLB Executive of the Year” Award.

Such short-sighted writers fail to understand that team construction is often a slower, ongoing process, sometimes stretching to the middle of the following regular season…as it did for St. Louis in 2011, when GM John Mozeliak had to wait until the right players were healthy and available at the trade deadline to fill several team holes, and at a cost the Cardinals could afford both in budget and in trade compensation.

But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised over Schafer’s hard-on for Schumaker and blind criticism for LaRussa and Mozeliak; I did some research and found his noxious May 23, 2011 rant, “How to Ruin a Roster Without really Trying,” in which he rips Schumaker incessantly. I have seen no column by Schafer expressing how wrong his judgment was about LaRussa’s use of player talent, or Mozeliak’s roster resurrection.

Next, the assertion that Schumaker is an average defensive outfielder in RF or LF, and that Schumaker’s defense in CF is “hardly better” than at 2B, are exaggerations which belie Mr. Schafer’s credibility and undermine his opinion. Perhaps he didn’t know that the late Cardinal coach and defensive guru George Kissel praised Schumaker (a former pitcher) for his strong, accurate throwing arm. Others in the Cardinal organization (and non-Cardinal pro scouts) have consistently rated Schumaker’s outfield arm the strongest and most accurate in the entire organization (second place in the organization now that the Cards have acquired Carlos Beltran). Furthermore, Schumaker’s good outfield instincts and solid fundamentals give him value as a late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield. I would trust the opinions of organization people and scouts outside the Cardinals about Schumaker’s outfield defense before putting any credence in a negative amateur observation.

Apparently some amateur observers skew their opinions about Schumaker’s total glove and arm skills simply because he sacrificed and made himself a target for fan derision for the benefit of the team. LaRussa wanted Adam Kennedy gone and the team lacked a better 2B option in the organization…and the team further didn’t have the budget space to add a veteran to that position. Moreover, the club was supposed to have a defensive replacement at 2B in the late innings (like Felipe Lopez was contemplated in 2010, and Punto was projected for 2011). But other injuries largely prevented LaRussa from using guys like Lopez and Punto more at 2B, and those injury shortfalls also often required that a platoon player like Schumaker had to play a lot more against LH pitching than anticipated.

Yes, Schumaker was an inferior defensive second baseman, ranking near or at the bottom of the defensive metrics in the last three years (although he was quite a bit better defensively than Luis Castillo and Dan Uggla in 2009, and had a better UZR than Uggla overall in 2009-2011). Still, Schumaker was the primary starting second baseman for a World Series winner. And Schumaker served a useful temporary purpose as the Cardinals determined that they would be better off developing their own long-range second baseman (such as their first-round 2011 draft pick Kolten Wong) rather than overspending for worn-out veterans like Orlando Hudson, whose defensive and on-base skills have largely declined.

As for Mr. Schafer’s complaint about Schumaker’s lack of power, perhaps he fails to recognize that in a post-steroid testing era, power costs a premium, even for a utility player. Plus the reality that home-run hitting utility players might lack other positive characteristics, like defensive skill, versatility and on-base capability. Even with a wrist injury-hampered 2010, Schumaker’s career BA / OBP against RH pitching is .306/.359. His career batting line against RH pitching and clutch-hitting skills (See RISP numbers below) can be an effective tool in the hands of a good manager.

What Mr. Schafer further conveniently ignored (or is neglectfully ignorant) is Schumaker’s 2011 batting average of .304 and OBP of .402 with runners in scoring position. In 2-out RISP situations, Schumaker batted .306 with a .457 OBP. And in Schumaker’s career, under RISP pressure he has a .299 BA/.368 OBP. He learned, with time and experience, how to hit under pressure.

Mr. Schafer’s flawed “analysis” (if one wants to call it that) apparently does not take into account the value of a player’s previous under-pressure and playoff experiences. Post-season, Schumaker has a .370 BA/.414 OBP/.481 SLG/.895 OPS. (That must kill Schafer to see that someone he obviously hates enjoy some post-season success.) Schumaker’s game-winning RBI double off the always-tough former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay was the lone run Chris Carpenter used to beat the Phillies in Game 5 of the NLDS. Without that, the Cards might have lost the initial playoff series, and missed out on World Series drama and a championship. A cheaper replacement player (whether a rookie or a vagabond veteran similar to the now-retired Randy Winn) might not have come through as well as Schu did in the 2011 post-season pressure.

Finally, John Mozeliak and others in the organization recently attested to Schumaker’s value as a team leader, both on the field and in the clubhouse. He is respected. Of course, that alone is not a major reason to re-sign Schumaker. But his leadership, work ethic and the admiration from teammates are factors which, added to Schumaker’s other positive attributes cited above (particularly his career BA in RISP situations, a critical skill for a reserve player), explain very simply what Mr. Schafer apparently fails or refuses to understand.

Schumaker is merely returning to the role at which his skills are best used, as a utility player and reserve outfielder who is best suited for platoon hitting roles against right-handed pitching, and his $1.5 million salary per year for two years is a drop in the bucket. Why the unnecessarily bitter rant about that, unless it’s because Schafer simply hates Schumaker and can’t think or write with any sense of balance or objectivity?

If the Riverfront Times is interested in similar-sized (or longer) sports columns by a more knowledgeable and less emotionally biased writer, I am available. I have a sports background and training from KMOX Radio, which came under the supervision of Jack Buck and Bob Costas. I would be happy to replace Mr. Schafer.

Jimi
Jimi

That is a what a cohesive article looks like Mr. Schafer. I too feel Skip doesn't always get the respect he deserves from casual fans. He is "clutch", a quality that isn't easily measured but I appreciate Mr. Ruby's use of RISP to illustrate it. I sighed in relief when Shu came to bat in Game 5 of the NLDS, because I knew he would go to battle just like he always has. Tony knew the value of grit. I like many others questioned his choices at times but I didn't wonder why he would want Aaron Miles, Mark Grudzielanek or Nick Punto on his team. Those guys, like Skip, give each game everything they have and do it even though they rarely make headlines.

Main531man
Main531man

A middle infielder with a career average of .290. Three million is a bargain.

LDurbin
LDurbin

You are a true douche, mr Schafer.

SmokinCards
SmokinCards

Aaron, you obviously do not understand what the WAR stat means. The fact that Skip was a 0.6 on WAR means the team would win .6 games more with him in the field than over the AVERAGE replacement. That means he is although just slightly, he is above average! Skip plays hard, handles the bat well and doesnt try to do more than his skill allows. He brings a ton to this team and to the clubhouse. Why dont you go watch the Cubs.

Jmaalski
Jmaalski

This writer needs to find a new job because true Cardinal fans knows exactly what skip brings. He's a good talent who hit 300 until the injuries. He got some clutch hits and he battles every at bat. He also gives you better defense than you give him credit. Good sign Cards.

Teel Bobby
Teel Bobby

The writer of this article is not much of a cardinal fan,Skip has played very good in the field and was always a tough out, he played where ever he was needed,and batted where ever he was put in the lineup.The most important thing is he played ball, never complaned. Baseball needs more Skips.

 
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